John Parker (July 13, 1729 – September 17, 1775) was an American farmer, mechanic, and soldier, who commanded the Lexington militia at the Battle of Lexington on April 19, 1775. Parker was born in Lexington to Josiah Parker and Anne Stone. His experience as a soldier in the French and Indian War (Seven Years War) at the Siege of Louisbourg and conquest of Quebec most likely led to his election as militia captain by the men of the town.
He was in poor health from consumption (tuberculosis) on the morning of April 19. Tradition reports his order at Lexington Green to be “Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.” He witnessed his cousin Jonas Parker killed by a British bayonet. Later that day he rallied his men to attack the regulars returning to Boston in an ambush known as “Parker’s Revenge.”
This was his only military action in the American Revolutionary War. He was unable to serve in the Battle of Bunker Hill in June, and died of tuberculosis in September. Parker’s grandson donated his musket to the state of Massachusetts. It hangs today in the Senate Chamber of the Massachusetts State House.
The Parker Homestead formerly stood on Spring Street in Lexington. A tablet marks the spot as Theodore Parker’s birthplace; Theodore, a relative (grandson) of Captain John, was a transcendentalist and minister who was good friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
Captain John Parker is still the symbol of one of the largest mutual companies, Sentry Insurance.