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John Monroe, Patriot

John Monroe was a Minuteman living at Lexington, Massachusetts. Captain Parker of the Lexington Company received word that British forces were heading their way. On the morning of April 19, 1775, shortly after Paul Revere's Midnight Ride, which helped to alert the countryside, British regular troops arrived at Lexington. The following article from the April 28, 1825 Eastern Argus describes the skirmish at Lexington. This event would eventually become known as The Shot Heard 'Round The World. Monroe told his story for the 50th anniversary of the battle:

"I, John Munroe, of Lexington, a collector of tolls for the Middlesex Turnpike, being in the seventy-seventh year of my age, on oath do depose and say that I was a corporal in the Lexington company of militia, which was commanded by the late captain John Parker, in the year 1775; that, for some weeks previous to the 19th of April of that year, the company was frequently called out for exercise, and desired to furnish ourselves with arms and ammunition and to be in constant readiness for action.

On the morning of the 19th, at about 2 O'clock, as near as I can recollect, Francis Brown, who was sergeant in the same company, called me out of my bed, and said, the British troops had left Boston, and were on their march to Lexington. I immediately repaired to the place of parade, which was the common adjoining the meeting house, where sixty or seventy of the company had assembled in arms. Capt. Parker ordered the roll to be called, and every man to load his piece with powder and ball. After remaining on parade some time, and there being no further accounts of the approach of the regulars, we were dismissed, but ordered to remain within call of the drum.

About daylight, Capt. Parker had information, that a regiment of British troops were near, and immediately ordered the drum beat to arms. I took my station on the right. While the company's were collecting, Capt. Parker, they on the left, gave orders for every man to stand his ground until he should order them to leave. Many of the company had withdrawn to a considerable distance, and, by the time sixty or seventy of them had collected, the drum still beating to arms, the front ranks of the British troops appeared within twelve or fifteen rods of our line.

They continued their march till within about eight rods of us, when an officer on horseback, Lt. Col. Smith, who rode in front of the troops, exclaimed, 'Lay down your arms, and disperse, you rebels!' Finding our company kept their ground, Col. Smith ordered his troops to fire. This order not being obeyed, he then said to them, 'God damn you, fire!' The front platoon then discharged their pieces, and another order being given to fire, there was a general discharge from the front ranks. After the first fire of the regulars. I thought, and so stated to Ebenezer Munroe, Jr. who stood next to me on the left, that they had fired nothing but powder; but on the second firing Munroe said, they had fired something more than powder, for he had received a wound in his arm; and now, said he, to use his own words, 'I'll give them the guts of my gun.' We then both took aim at the main body of the British troops, — the smoke preventing our seeing any thing but the head of some of their horses, and discharged our pieces. After the second fire from the British troops, I distinctly saw Jones Parker struggling on the ground, with his gun in his hand, apparently attempting to load it. In this situation the British came up, run him through with the bayonet, and killed him on the spot. After I had fired the first time, I retreated about ten rods, and loaded my gun a second time, with tow balls, and on firing at the British, the strength of the charge took of about a foot of my gun barrel.

Such was the general confusion, and so much firing on the part of the British, that it was impossible for me to know the number of our men who fired immediately on receiving the second fire from the British troops; but that some of them fired, besides Ebenezer Munroe and myself I am very confident. The regulars kept up a fire in all directions, as long as they could see a man of our company in arms. — Isaac Muzzy, Jonathan Harrington, and my father Robert Munroe, were found dead near the place were our line was formed. Samuel Hadley and John Brown were killed after they had gotten off the common. Asabel Porter, of Woburn, who had been taken a prisoner by the British on their march to Lexington attempted to make his escape, and was shot within a few rods of the common. Caleb Harrington was shot down on attempting to leave the meeting-house, were he and some others had gone, before the British soldiers came up, for the purpose of removing a quantity of powder that was stored there.

On the morning of the 19th, two of the British soldiers, who were in the rear of the main body of their troops, were taken prisoners and disarmed by our men, and, a little after sunrise, they were put under the care of Thomas R. Willard and myself, with orders to march them to Woburn Precinct, now Burlington. We conducted them as far as Capt. James Read's where they were put into the custody of some other persons, but whom I do not now recollect."

John Monroe.

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