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Lexington vs. Concord: Shot heard ’round the ’burbs

Wars don’t always start with a bang, but both Concord and Lexington can claim with some justification that the American Revolution began inside their borders on April 19, 1775. That was the date, commemorated every year on Patriot’s Day, of the first battles between the patriots and their British oppressors. The first shot that day is thought to have been fired by a British soldier in Lexington, but the first time the patriots fired back was a few hours later, in Concord. One’s opinion of where the Revolution started depends, quite literally, on how exactly one defines war.

While it’s amusing to see the two towns continue to politely parse the history 239 years later, the dispute reflects a kind of pedantic approach to history that obsesses over arcane details instead of the big picture. By the time of Lexington and Concord, virtually all of New England was effectively in a state of rebellion. Maybe the war really began in Portsmouth, N.H., where colonists took a British fort by force in late 1774. Maybe it actually started at the Boston Tea Party in 1773. Maybe it’s impossible to settle on a precise moment when the revolution began. All of those events, including the battles at Lexington and Concord, were significant. The semantic dispute between Concord and Lexington over where the war began makes for fun entertainment, but oversimplified history.

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