This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
April 19 is the 109th day of the year (110th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 256 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1775, the American Revolution beginsAt about 5 a.m., 700 British troops, on a mission to capture Patriot leaders and seize a Patriot arsenal, march into Lexington to find 77 armed minutemen under Captain John Parker waiting for them on the town’s common green. British Major John Pitcairn ordered the outnumbered Patriots to disperse, and after a moment’s hesitation the Americans began to drift off the green. Suddenly, the “shot heard around the world” was fired from an undetermined gun, and a cloud of musket smoke soon covered the green. When the brief Battle of Lexington ended, eight Americans lay dead or dying and 10 others were wounded. Only one British soldier was injured, but the American Revolution had begun.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his “Concord Hymn”, described the first shot fired by the Patriots at the North Bridge as the “shot heard “round the world.”
A British officer, probably Pitcairn, but accounts are uncertain, as it may also have been Lieutenant William Sutherland, then rode forward, waving his sword, and called out for the assembled throng to disperse, and may also have ordered them to “lay down your arms, you damned rebels!” Captain Parker told his men instead to disperse and go home, but, because of the confusion, the yelling all around, and due to the raspiness of Parker’s tubercular voice, some did not hear him, some left very slowly, and none laid down their arms. Both Parker and Pitcairn ordered their men to hold fire, but a shot was fired from an unknown source.
According to one member of Parker’s militia none of the Americans had discharged their muskets as they faced the oncoming British troops. The British did suffer one casualty, a slight wound, the particulars of which were corroborated by a deposition made by Corporal John Munroe. Munroe stated that:
“After the first fire of the regulars, I thought, and so stated to Ebenezer Munroe …who stood next to me on the left, that they had fired nothing but powder; but on the second firing, Munroe stated 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 British troops the smoke preventing our seeing anything but the heads of some of their horses and discharged our pieces.”
Some witnesses among the regulars reported the first shot was fired by a colonial onlooker from behind a hedge or around the corner of a tavern. Some observers reported a mounted British officer firing first. Both sides generally agreed that the initial shot did not come from the men on the ground immediately facing each other. Speculation arose later in Lexington that a man named Solomon Brown fired the first shot from inside the tavern or from behind a wall, but this has been discredited. Some witnesses (on each side) claimed that someone on the other side fired first; however, many more witnesses claimed to not know. Yet another theory is that the first shot was one fired by the British, that killed Asahel Porter, their prisoner who was running away (he had been told to walk away and he would be let go, though he panicked and began to run). Historian David Hackett Fischer has proposed that there may actually have been multiple near-simultaneous shots. Historian Mark Urban claims the British surged forward with bayonets ready in an undisciplined way, provoking a few scattered shots from the militia. In response the British troops, without orders, fired a devastating volley. This lack of discipline among the British troops had a key role in the escalation of violence.
Nobody except the person responsible knew then, nor knows today with certainty, who fired the first shot of the American Revolution.
Witnesses at the scene described several intermittent shots fired from both sides before the lines of regulars began to fire volleys without receiving orders to do so. A few of the militiamen believed at first that the regulars were only firing powder with no ball, but when they realized the truth, few if any of the militia managed to load and return fire. The rest wisely ran for their lives.
65 – The freedman Milichus betrayed Piso’s plot to kill the Emperor Nero and the conspirators were all arrested.
1012 – Martyrdom of Alphege in Greenwich, London.
1529 – At the Second Diet of Speyer, a group of rulers (German: Furst) and independent cities (German: Reichsstadt) protests the reinstatement of the Edict of Worms.
1587 – Francis Drake’s expedition sinks the Spanish fleet in Cadiz harbor.
1713 – With no living male heirs, Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, issues the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 to ensure that Habsburg lands and the Austrian throne would be inherited by his daughter, Maria Theresa of Austria (not actually born until 1717).
1770 – Captain James Cook sights the eastern coast of Australia.
1770 – Marie Antoinette marries Louis XVI in a proxy wedding.
1775 – American Revolutionary War: The war begins with the battles of Lexington and Concord.
1782 – John Adams secures the Dutch Republic’s recognition of the United States as an independent government. The house which he had purchased in The Hague, Netherlands becomes the first American embassy.
1809 – An Austrian corps is defeated by the forces of the Duchy of Warsaw in the Battle of Raszyn, part of the struggles of the Fifth Coalition. On the same day the Austrian main army is defeated by a First French Empire Corps led by Louis-Nicolas Davout at the Battle of Teugen-Hausen in Bavaria, part of a four day campaign which ended in a French victory.
1810 – Venezuela achieves home rule: Vicente Emparan, Governor of the Captaincy General is removed by the people of Caracas and a Junta is installed.
1839 – The Treaty of London establishes Belgium as a kingdom.
1855 – Visit of Napoleon III to Guildhall, London
1861 – American Civil War: Baltimore riot of 1861, a pro-Secession mob in Baltimore, Maryland, attacks United States Army troops marching through the city.
1892 – Charles Duryea claims to have driven the first automobile in the United States, in Springfield, Massachusetts.
1919 – Leslie Irvin of the United States makes the first successful voluntary free-fall parachute jump using a new kind of self-contained parachute.
1927 – Mae West is sentenced to 10 days in jail for obscenity for her play Sex.
1928 – The 125th and final fascicle of the Oxford English Dictionary is published.
1942 – World War II: In Poland, the Majdan-Tatarski ghetto is established, situated between the Lublin Ghetto and a Majdanek subcamp.
1943 – World War II: In Poland, German troops enter the Warsaw ghetto to round up the remaining Jews, beginning the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
1943 – Bicycle Day – Swiss chemist Dr. Albert Hofmann deliberately takes LSD for the first time.
1945 – Diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and Guatemala are established.
1948 – Burma (now Myanmar) joins the United Nations.
1950 – Argentina becomes a signatory to the Buenos Aires copyright treaty.
1951 – General Douglas MacArthur retires from the military.
1954 – Constituent Assembly of Pakistan decides Urdu and Bengali to be national languages of Pakistan.
1955 – The German automaker Volkswagen, after six years of selling cars in the United States, founds Volkswagen of America in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey to standardize its dealer and service network.
1956 – Actress Grace Kelly marries Prince Rainier of Monaco.
1960 – Students in South Korea hold a nationwide pro-democracy protest against their president Syngman Rhee, eventually forcing him to resign.
1961 – The Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba ends in success for the defenders.
1971 – Sierra Leone becomes a republic, and Siaka Stevens the president.
1971 – Vietnam War: Vietnam Veterans Against the War begin a five-day demonstration in Washington, D.C..
1971 – Launch of Salyut 1, the first space station.
1971 – Charles Manson is sentenced to death for the Sharon Tate murders.
1975 – India’s first satellite Aryabhata is launched.
1984 – Advance Australia Fair is proclaimed as Australia’s national anthem, and green and gold as the national colours.
1985 – FBI siege on the compound of The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord (CSAL) in Arkansas
1985 – U.S.S.R performs nuclear test at Eastern Kazakhstan/Semipalatinsk.
1987 – The Simpsons premieres as a short cartoon on The Tracey Ullman Show
1989 – A gun turret explodes on the USS Iowa, killing 47 sailors.
1993 – The 51-day siege of the Branch Davidian building outside Waco, Texas, USA, ends when a fire breaks out. Eighty-one people die.
1993 – South Dakota governor George Mickelson and seven others are killed when a state-owned aircraft crashes in Iowa.
1995 – Oklahoma City bombing: The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA, is bombed, killing 168. That same day convicted murderer Richard Wayne Snell, who had ties to one of the bombers, Timothy McVeigh, is executed in Arkansas.
1997 – The Red River Flood of 1997 overwhelms the city of Grand Forks, North Dakota. Fire breaks out and spreads in downtown Grand Forks, but high water levels hamper efforts to reach the fire, leading to the destruction of 11 buildings.
1999 – The German Bundestag returns to Berlin, the first German parliamentary body to meet there since the Reichstag was dissolved in 1945.
2005 – Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is elected the 265th Pope of the Catholic Church following the death of Pope John Paul II. The new Pope takes on the regnal name Benedict XVI.
2011 – Fidel Castro resigns from the Communist Party of Cuba’s central committee after 45 years of holding the title.
* Beginning of the Independence Movement (Venezuela)
* Bicycle Day
* Christian Feast Day:
Ælfheah of Canterbury
Emma of Lesum
George of Antioch
Pope Leo IX
April 19 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)
* Dutch-American Friendship Day (United States)
* Earliest day on which First Day of Summer or Sumardagurinn fyrsti can fall, while April 25 is the latest; celebrated on the first Thursday after April 18. (Iceland)
* King Mswati III’s birthday (Swaziland)
* Landing of the 33 (Uruguay)
* National Health Day (Kiribati)
* Patriots’ Day (Traditional) (Massachusetts, Maine, and Wisconsin)
* Primrose Day (United Kingdom)