Famous Sayings #185 — ‘The Shot Heard ‘Round the World’

April 19, 2020

It was the shot heard ‘round the world

the shot heard round the world, Patriots Day, April 19 1775, American Revolution, Revolutionary War, famous sayings, British, colonial militiamen, minutemen
Image by The National Guard via Flickr. United States Government Work.

It’s been a while since I’ve made a Famous Sayings Post — or any post, for that matter ­— but this installment is connected to April 19. In Maine and Massachusetts, today is Patriots’ Day, the anniversary of a very important event in American history (“Patriots’ Day”). If you’re a history buff, you already know what I’m talking about, but let’s review …

What Was the ‘Shot Heard ‘Round the World’?

The “shot heard ‘round the world” refers to either the Battle of Lexington or the Battle of Concord, depending on who you ask. Those are the two cities in Massachusetts where the fighting between British troops and colonial militiamen began at the start of the American Revolution (also called the Revolutionary War).

The British moved on Lexington in search of a weapons cache. At dawn on April 19, 1775, at least 700 British arrived in the town and they were met by at least 70 militiamen on the town green. At the end of that battle, eight militiamen were killed, nine were wounded, and only one British soldier was injured (History.com Editors).

It was unclear which side shot first. Paul Revere, one of the men commissioned to warn townsfolk of the British arrival, witnessed the battle, but he could not determine which side fired the first shot. Testimonies from others, including British soldier William Sutherland and minuteman Sylvanus Wood, accused the opposite side of firing first (Brooks).

Ultimately, the phrase refers to the fighting of the North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts, because it comes from an important poem. The Battle of Concord was notable because it saw the first organized American response, the first British fatalities, and the first British retreat (Various).

Which Poem Made the Phrase ‘Shot Heard ‘Round the World’ Famous?

The phrase “Shot heard round the world” comes from the opening stanza of “Concord Hymn,” an 1837 poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote the poem at the request of the Battle Monument Committee for the 1837 dedication of the Obelisk, a monument in Concord, Massachusetts, that commemorates the April 19, 1775, Battle of Concord. The poem was read at Concord’s Independence Day celebration on July 4, 1837. The poem was also sung that day as a hymn by a choir to the tune “Old Hundredth.”

Emerson had some special connections to the Battle of Concord. For one thing, his grandfather William Emerson, Sr., witness the battle at the North Bridge from his home, which was less than a hundred paces away. Ralph Waldon Emerson would letter live in that home, which was later called The Old Manse.

“Concord Hymn” was originally titled “Hymn: Sung at the Completion of the Concord Monument, April 19, 1836,” when it was featured in Emerson’s first edition of Poems. However, Emerson must have confused the date with the earlier anniversary of the battle; also, the obelisk in Concord has an inscription that mentions that the structure was erected in 1836 (Various).

What Other Events Are Also Referred to as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World’?

The phrase has also been applied to other historical or relatively significant events, including:

  • The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1914, which is the most significant event since it marked the beginning of World War I (Martin). Serbian Gavrilo Princip murdered Franz Ferdinand, who was heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and shot the heir’s wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg.
  • The game-winning walk-off homerun in Major League Baseball by New York Giants outfielder Bobby Thomson on October 3, 1951. Thomson hit his homerun off a pitch from Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Bobby Thomson to propel the Giants to win the pennant playoff series.
  • Paul Caligiuri’s winning gale for the United States men’s national soccer team on November 19, 1989. The men’s team was playing in the final qualifying round for the 1990 FIFA World Cup. The win was important because the United States had not qualified for the World Cup finals since 1950.
  • Gene Sarazen’s double eagle (albatross) on the 15th hold in the final round of the 1935 Masters. He ultimately won the tournament in a 36-hole playoff (Various).

Works Cited

Brooks, Rebecca Beatrice. “Where Did the Shot Heard Round the World Happen?” History of Massachusetts, 5 January 2012, https://historyofmassachusetts.org/where-did-the-shot-heard-round-the-world-happen/. Retrieved 19 April 2020.

History.com Editors. “Battles of Lexington and Concord.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2 December 2009, Updated 14 January 2020, https://www.history.com/topics/american-revolution/battles-of-lexington-and-concord. Accessed 19 April 2020.

Martin, Gary. “The shot heard ’round the world.” The Phrase Finder, https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/shot-heard-around-the-world.html. Retrieved 19 April 2020.

Nix, Elizabeth. “What was the ‘shot heard round the world’?” History.com. A&E Networks, 22 January 2015, Updated 30 August 2018, https://www.history.com/news/what-was-the-shot-heard-round-the-world. Accessed 19 April 2020.

“Patriot’s Day in the United States.” Timeanddate.com. Time and Date AS, https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/patriots-day. Accessed 19 April 2020.

“The Shot Heard Round the World.” National Park Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, Last Updated 26 February 2015, https://www.nps.gov/mima/learn/education/the-shot-heard-round-the-world.htm. Accessed 19 April 2020.

Various Authors. “Concord Hymn.” Wikipedia, Last Updated 14 February 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concord_Hymn. Accessed 19 April 2020.

Various Authors. “Shot heard round the world.” Wikipedia, Last Updated 10 April 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shot_heard_round_the_world. Retrieved 19 April 2020.


Have any thoughts on the subject? Time’s yours.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.