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Commemorate the anniversary of the “shot heard ‘round the world,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson later called it, that ignited the Revolutionary War on April 19, 1775 with these five suggested books to read from our Read the Revolution series.

American Spring: Lexington, Concord, and The Road To Revolution
by Walter R. Borneman

American Spring

Walter R. Borneman's book American Spring looks at the first six months of 1775. As political tensions between the colonial resistance and the British Government grew into military violence, ordinary people faced dramatic and profound decisions. Which side would an individual support as the conflict deepened and spread, the forces of the government or of the resistance? Would he or she attempt to remain neutral or become an active supporter, perhaps even by taking up arms? As thousands of Americans faced these decisions, leaders on both sides of the argument took up their pens. The newspaper and pamphlet debate in British America during the political crisis of the late 1760s and early 1770s produced a rich and complex variety of arguments. In this section, Borneman discusses one particular strain of this debate, between a defender of the government position, Daniel Leonard, and his now-more-famous adversary, John Adams, who advocated the position of the resistance.

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Ethan Allen: His Life and Times
by Willard Sterne Randall

This image shows the book cover of Ethan Allen: His Life and Times by Willard Randall. The title and Willard’s name are written on the bottom of the image. The top of the image is a sculpture of Ehtan Allen shown from the chest up.

In April 1775 news of the Battles of Lexington and Concord spread across the colonies, reaching Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys, a confederation of local militias Allen commanded in what is now Vermont. In the aftermath, Allen and the Green Mountain Boys joined additional men from Massachusetts and Connecticut to complete an important mission: seize cannons from two British strongholds and bring them to Boston to aid the Patriots' defense. Their subsequent capture of Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point became the stuff of legend, as did the life of the Green Mountain Boys' enigmatic leader. In Willard Sterne Randall's biography, Ethan Allen: His Life and Times, the author sheds new light on this lesser-known hero, beginning with the launch of his critical mission.

The Day the American Revolution Began: 19 April 1775
by William H. Hallahan

The Day the American Revolution Began

In the early morning hours of Wednesday, April 19, 1775, British troops crossed Boston Harbor with the intention of marching to Concord, Massachusetts to seize military supplies stored in the town by Patriot militiamen. Anticipating the British actions, an alarm was raised throughout the countryside by American silversmith Paul Revere and dozens of other riders who warned the colonial militia and minutemen that the regulars were on the road to Concord. By 5 am, the simmering tensions between the American colonists and the British government would reach their breaking point. The events of April 19 would change the world forever. This day, immortalized in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poetry as the ’shot heard round the world,’ is recounted by military historian William H. Hallahan in The Day the American Revolution Began: 19 April 1775. Hallahan’s play-by-play of the days and weeks that followed the Battle of Lexington and Concord moves from Boston to New York, to Philadelphia and ultimately to London, as the colonists and King George first hear the news about that fateful day.

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Eyewitness Images from the American Revolution
by Arthur S. Lefkowitz

Eyewitness Images from the American Revolution

In his book Eyewitness Images from the American Revolution, Arthur S. Lefkowitz has gathered over 50 paintings, drawings, and engravings by soldiers, sailors, officers and artists who worked from first-hand knowledge of the events. Richly illustrated with many rarely-reproduced works of art, Eyewitness Images also tells the stories of the artists behind the works, introducing many less-celebrated figures of the war and revealing some of their methods for creating art amidst the dangers of war. The following passage describes the formation of a partnership between two Connecticut artisans, the New Haven silversmith Amos Doolittle and his portrait-artist neighbor Ralph Earl, in their creation of four views of the first Battle of the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Lexington and Concord, which occurred on April 19, 1775.

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Lexington and Concord: The Beginning of the War of the American Revolution
by Arthur B. Tourtellot

Lexington and Concord book

While it is well-known that the American Revolution began with the two engagements between Massachusetts militia and the British Army at Lexington and Concord, what is not as well-known is the hurry, surprise, and confusion leading to those battles. In Lexington and Concord: The Beginning of the War of the American Revolution, Arthur B. Tourtellot takes us on an intimate journey into the events of April 18th through the 20th, 1775. Starting with an overview of the two towns and the situation of the British Army in Boston, he ends the book with a discussion of the immediate aftermath of the battles and how they sparked an armed rebellion. In between, he follows the “midnight riders”, statesmen, soldiers, and civilians involved in an almost hour-by-hour look at the battles. In chapter four Tourtellot provides a detailed description of the Lexington common and the people present at the moment the British Army approached.

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A photo of our Lexington-Concord gallery

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Remembering the First Shot of the Revolutionary War

April 19, 2020 marked the 245th anniversary of the first shot of the Revolutionary War – later called the “shot heard round the world” – at the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts.
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Explore the Museum of the American Revolution’s Virtual Museum Tour to immerse yourself in the history of the nation's founding through 360-degree panoramic images, high-resolution images of objects and artifacts, and a guided audio tour.
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