The Shot Heard ‘Round the World is a term that has come to be used as a name for several different historical events. While one person may think of the Shot ‘Heard Round the World as one event, another could think of an entirely different event when they hear the phrase and both could be correct. This is just one interesting example of how a phrase can catch on and take on a new meaning even hundreds of years after it was first used.
The Shot Heard ‘Round the World #1: The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was driving in a motorcade in Sarajevo, Bosnia when a bomb was thrown toward his vehicle. The driver of the Archduke’s car noticed the bomb and successfully diverted it. However, it exploded in the street, injuring roughly twelve people, including a member of Franz Ferdinand’s entourage.
The would-be assassin then swallowed a cyanide pill and jumped in a nearby river. The cyanide only succeeded in making him ill. Furthermore, the river he chose to jump into did not even come up to the man’s knees. He was caught and arrested. The Archduke and his entourage continued on to the City Hall without further incident. While there, Franz Ferdinand decided to go on with his plans for the day and include a stop at the local hospital where the injured member of his party was taken. He was unaware that there were six more men in the city who were waiting for an opportunity to kill him.
When they left City Hall, the drivers had not been told that Archduke Franz Ferdinand wanted to stop at the hospital. Therefore, they took the wrong route. When the drivers were made aware of their error, they stopped-right in front of Gavrilo Princip. Gavrilo was in Sarajevo to attempt to assassinate the Archduke. When the car stopped, he pulled out a pistol and fired two shots into the vehicle. He then swallowed a cyanide pill and tried to shoot himself. Members of the crowd stopped him from committing suicide and his cyanide failed to kill him, just as it had not killed the first conspirator. Princip was arrested and taken into custody.
Meanwhile, in the Archduke’s vehicle, he and his wife, Sophie were noticing each other’s wounds. Sophie had taken a bullet in the abdomen and Franz had taken one in the neck. It is said that Archduke Franz Ferdinand begged his wife to live for their children. His wish was not granted. Both Sophie and Franz died of wounds sustained in the shooting. This shot that killed Franz became known as one of the Shots Heard ‘Round the World because it is often accredited with sparking World War I.
Shot Heard ‘Round the World #2: The Battle of Lexington Green
The Battle of Lexington and Concord began at the Battle of Lexington Green. On April 19, 1775, groups of British regulars marched toward Concord, Massachusetts with the intent of finding and destroying militia munitions stores there. When the militia (and a few civilians) caught wind of this, they prepared to resist the regulars. Neither side expected or was prepared for a true battle. In fact, the regulars were not sent to fight the militia at all.
Nevertheless, tensions mounted when a contingent of regulars, led by Major John Pitcairn met a group of militiamen, led by Captain John Parker on Lexington Green. Both leaders ordered their men not to fire. However, someone did and a battle ensued. It is unclear who fired the first shot or from which side it came. It hardly matters. What matters is that it sparked the first battle of the American Revolution and that is why the first shot fired on Lexington Green is sometimes known as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.”
Shot Heard ‘Round the World #3: The Battle at Old North Bridge
The second part of the Battle of Lexington and Concord occurred on the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts. British Captain Walter Laurie and close to 100 regulars were left to defend the Old North Bridge. A group of roughly 400 militiamen waited in a hill nearby until they saw smoke coming from the town. They believed that the British were burning buildings (in reality, they were burning canon mounts). At that time, they charged the bridge, forcing Laurie and his men to fall back to the other side.
Much like the situation on Lexington Green, neither side was given a command to shoot. A shot rang out regardless and other men began firing almost immediately. This shot was the first of all the shots mentioned in this article to be known as the Shot Heard ‘Round the World. However, it is arguably more suited for the shot fired on Lexington Green.
The term Shot Heard ‘Round the World has come to signify the impact an event has on the world. For example, all of the shots mentioned above had something to do with the start of a war that changed the world. So, metaphorically speaking, it was “heard” ’round the world. It has even come to be used to describe very important moments in sports history.