He learned the night before the British planned to march through Lexington on their way to Concord to seize supplies and weapons. Parker assembled the members of the Massachusetts militia to resist them.
At dawn, the Redcoats approached Lexington Common. An advance guard of the British faced off against the militiamen. Parker was later reported to have said:
Stand your ground. Don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.
That first shot was fired, and when it was all over eight militiamen were killed, including John Parker's cousin Jonas Parker. Ten Americans and one British soldier were wounded. The outnumbered militia fell back, and the British regulars marched on to Concord. In Concord, 500 Minutemen forced the British troops to retreat. Parker rallied his men and found a spot from which to attack the retreating Redcoat. Hiding behind boulders and trees, they exacted an awful retribution in an ambush known as ‘Parker’s Revenge.’
John Parker was born July 13, 1729, in Lexington, Mass. He fought in the French and Indian War, then settled down as a farmer, mechanic and town officer. He and his wife, Lydia Moore Parker, had seven children.
His grandson, abolitionist Theodore Parker, inherited his eloquence, inspiring some of the most well-known speeches by Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.
The statue The Lexington Minuteman, erected in 1900, is said to be modeled on Capt. John Parker, though there are no known likenesses of him.
John Parker died five months after the Battle of Lexington, on Sept. 17, 1775.