The Battle of Lexington and Concord

Becoming a Detective

Who fired the first shot at the Battle of Lexington and Concord?

There are a series of documents that follow. It is your job to determine the type of evidence included within this file, the credibility of each piece of evidence and how the evidence fits together. Finally, you will be asked to come up with a plausible explanation of who fired the first shot at the Battle of Lexington and Concord and how you came to that particular conclusion.


Investigating the Evidence

  • Document A: Letter from Joseph Warren (President pro tem), April 26, 1775
  • Document B: Affidavit sworn by 34 minutemen on April 25, 1775
  • Document C: Excerpt from the novel April Morning by Howard Fast, published in 1961
  • Document D: Entry for April 19th 1775, from the diary of British Lieutenant John Barker
  • Document E: Newspaper account from The London Gazette, June 10, 1775
  • Document F: From the diary of Ezra Stiles, pres. of Yale College, August 21, 1775
  • Document G: From The United States: Story of a Free People, published 1963
  • Document H: British Ensign Jeremy Lister, personal narrative written in 1782.


Searching for Clues

Please answer the following questions about each document or download the formatted Case File (Word Format | PDF format).

  1. Who authored the document? When was the document authored? What type of document is this? Who was the audience for the document? Why was it created? Who was the aggressor in the incident according to the document?
  2. What questions did you ask while evaluating these sources?
  3. On what points do the accounts agree?
  4. On what points do the accounts differ?
  5. Which of these sources aligns most closely with what you already knew about the Battle of Lexington and Concord? How so?
  6. Which of these sources is most reliable in determining what actually happened on Lexington Green? Why do you think so?
  7. Describe the difficulties in developing an accurate account of historical events like this?
  8. If you were asked to write your own historical account of the events, how would you go about doing so?



Cracking the Case

Based on your analysis of the eight documents and citing evidence to support your answer, please write a paragraph answering the following question: Who fired the first shot at the Battle of Lexington and Concord? Please indicate whether you were satisfied with the evidence and list any additional questions that have been left unanswered through your investigation.