"If They Mean To Have A War, Let It Begin Here!"
Context: On the evening of April 18, 1775, an expedition of British light infantry and grenadiers set out for Concord, Massachusetts, to seize provincial stores of ammunition. Paul Revere made his famous ride, and there were other messengers warning the colonists. Shortly after midnight on April 19, John Parker had drawn up at Lexington a small company of minutemen. Contemporary descriptions of the encounter between these men and the British troops vary, but they seem to agree that the British fired first and that the Americans, as ordered by Parker, simply dispersed. It is therefore doubtful that Parker ever uttered the words as they are printed above. His attitude from the beginning was far from belligerent. In a deposition in his own handwriting, dated April 25, 1775, he states that upon hearing that regular troops were marching from Boston to seize the provincial stores, he "ordered our militia to meet on the common in said Lexington to consult what to do, and concluded not to be discovered, nor meddle or make with said regular troops (if they should approach) unless they should insult or molest us, and upon their sudden approach, I immediately ordered our militia to disperse and not to fire:–Immediately said troops made their appearance and rushed furiously, fired upon and killed eight of our party without receiving any provocation therefor from us." No mention of beginning a war! Nevertheless, these gallant words still typify the spirit of American Independence:
"Stand your ground. Don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here!"