Determining the Deposition in 1775

By Monique Politowski

This week in 1775, the battles of Lexington and Concord were fought in Massachusetts.  The Massachusetts militia and Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith’s group of British troops suffered casualties, but it is still unclear which side fired the first shot that began the American Revolution.

Record Group 360, The Papers of the Continental Congress, compiled 1774 – 1789  has various copies of depositions from different witnesses of the event which include those of Captain John Parker (National Archives Identifier: 595246), Edward T. Gould (National Archives Identifier 1938489), James Barrett (National Archives Identifier: 1938489), Robinson Bradury, Samuel Spring, Thaddeus Bancroft (National Archives Identifier: 1938489), John Hoar, Abraham Garfield ,William Hosmer, Benjamin Monroe, Isaac Parks, Gregory Stone, and John Whitehead  (National Archives Identifier: 1938489), and Nathan Barrett, John Barrett, Samuel Barrett, John Brown, Joseph Butler, Nathan Buttrick, Joseph Chandler, Jonathan Farrar, Stephen Hosmer Jr., Thomas Jones, Ephraim Melvin, Isaac Pierce, Edward Richardson, Silas Walker, Francis Wheeler and Peter Wheeler (National Archives Identifier: 1938489). Each deposition reveals a unique account of the hostilities at Lexington and Concord.


While they all reveal differences in their accounts, they uniformly maintain the consensus as stated by Captain John Parker, that the British “fired upon and killed eight of our party, without receiving any Provocation therefor from us.”

To read more about these depositions and to perhaps come to your own conclusion see, Massachusetts State Papers, 1775-87 within the Papers of the Continental Congress.  The National Archives also offers Teachable Texts: Who Fired the Shot Heard ‘Round the World? featuring John Parker’s deposition .

3 thoughts on “Determining the Deposition in 1775

  1. Reading through these depositions is a great way to commemorate Patriot’s Day. Thanks for this post!

  2. These depositions were collected and sent south by the Massaschusetts Provincial Congress, the Patriot government in the colony’s countryside. For historical purposes it’s important to read them alongside (a) reports from British officers besides the captured Lt. Gould, and (b) depositions collected decades later by local historians from Americans who had been in the fight—in a few cases the very same men represented in these documents from 1775. Generally the American accounts from different periods agree, but these early documents left out a lot about the provincials’ preparation and watchfulness. That created a picture of farmers just minding their own business (at dawn, standing in military formation, with loaded guns).

  3. Great Job Monique! This is facinating and allows all of us to better understand the real treasures which we are untrusted to protect!

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