John Parker Day is observed on April 19 each year. A farmer and mechanic, John Parker, was chosen as a French and Indian War veteran as the captain of about 70 volunteer militiamen in his hometown of Lexington, Massachusetts. On that fateful morning in April 1775, events unfolded and set a group of colonists on a quest for freedom that earned Captain John Parker a place in history books and earned him this special day.
History of John Parker Day
Born on July 13, 1729, John Parker was a long-time resident of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. During the French and Indian Wars, Parker worked the land as a farmer near Lexington Bay, Massachusetts, where he gained his first taste of military life.
The first battle in the American Revolutionary War (fought by the United States in pursuit of their independence from Great Britain) began on April 19, 1775. British General Thomas Gage ordered the firearms at Concord, Massachusetts to be seized. After Paul Revere and William Dawes halted in Lexington during their nocturnal journey, Parker received word of the British approach.
Parker gathered around 70 volunteer militiamen on Lexington Green early on April 19. He urged his men to let the British pass and not fire on them unless the other side fired first. Around 5 a.m., British Major John Pitcairn came with some British regulars—the term used to describe British forces. Colonel Francis Smith led a group of 700 British regulars to Concord to seek firearms. Pitcairn and a group advanced to Lexington ahead of Parker and his troops then battled the British once more, using the same tactics and killing numerous British soldiers. Parker’s soldiers were eventually stopped but not before the British suffered significant fatalities. This second combat, known as ‘Parker’s Revenge’ and featuring Lexington militiamen, is not as widely known as the initial battle of the day.
By the time they arrived in Boston, the British had 300 dead, wounded, or missing troops. Less than 100 Patriots had died. Unfortunately, Captain Parker would not live to see his country gain the independence he fought for. He had been suffering from tuberculosis, known at the time as consumption. On September 17, 1775, he died from his illness.
John Parker Day timeline
Parker is born on July 13 into the family of Josiah Parker and Anna Stone.
The American Revolution gets underway in the early hours of April 19.
Captain Parker leads the Lexington Company into what will be known as the Lexington Battle.
He dies of tuberculosis on September 17, at the age of 46.
John Parker Day FAQs
What were Captain John Parker’s famous words?
Parker ordered the militia to stand their ground and not fire unless they were shot at first. The speech ran somewhat like this “Stand your ground. Do not fire unless you are shot upon. But if they want to start a conflict, they should start here.”
What other famous words came from the Battle of Lexington?
“Lay down your arms, you cursed rebels, or you are all dead men!” shouted a British lieutenant as he rode ahead of his forces, swinging his sword in the air at the patriots.
Who was victorious at the Battle of Lexington?
The British won the Battle of Lexington because they drove the provincials off the field, but Captain Parker and his men would get their retribution after the British departed from Lexington.
How to Observe John Parker Day
Visit the park
Visit the Minuteman National Historical Park to remember John Parker and the Battles of Lexington and Concord. View battle memorabilia and listen to accounts of the conflict.
Read a book or watch a movie
If you can't make it to Lexington, there are other options for you. Learn about the conflict by reading a book or watching the made-for-TV film “April Morning.”
See the statue
On Lexington Battle Green, there is a statue that represents the militia in general but also represents Parker. While visiting the statue, take in the Men's Minutes Memorial Line, which has inscribed words attributed to the war.
5 Amazing Facts About John Parker
Two decades of bliss
He and his wife were married for at least 20 years and had seven children.
Parker worked as a mechanic and a farmer.
He led the militia
At the start of the American Revolutionary War, Parker led the Lexington Militia.
A history of bravery
He took part in the Siege of Boston which lasted 11 months from April 19, 1775, to March 17, 1776.
Gone too soon
Parker died of tuberculosis aged just 46.
Why John Parker Day is Important
Heroes of the revolution
John Parker Day is a day set aside to honor America's valiant soldiers who fought bravely during the American Revolution. Their sacrifices deserve to be honored and celebrated.
The independence of the U.S.
John Parker Day is also an opportunity to commemorate America's independence. The American Revolution is an important part of the nation’s history.
To remember Parker
Parker is an American icon. John Parker's Day is observed to honor the legacy of a man who tirelessly fought for his state.
John Parker Day dates