By Daniel Brigman Copyright 2013
The news is ablaze with the explosions in Boston. To make it worse they occurred on the day set apart to celebrate Patriot’s Day. Instead of honoring our heritage we are focused on the tragedy at the marathon. Quite a shame. Usually there is at least some reference to Revolutionary times in the media during this week, but with the bombing there is nothing. Our ancestors deserve better.
Although “Patriot’s Day” is always honored on a Monday in Boston, the true Patriot’s Day occurs on a Friday this year. On April 19th, 2013 it will be 238 years since the beginning of the War for American Independence. I pray that April morning in 1775 will never be forgotten. If most of the media will not honor the events of that day I certainly will. Below is an excerpt from my new book Forever 1776…permit me to go back to 1775 and honor one of the most important days in America’s history.
The reports reaching London from most of the british officers was that the colonists were “cowardly and would never fight the crown.” This assumption would explain the hubris shown by the english. Within the 13 colonies, for the majority, the People just wanted to get along with the british. A significant percentage of the population were “tories” and supportive of the crown. It probably would have remained that way if king george wasn’t such a tyrant and our forefathers weren’t so violently in favor of freedom. It was the actions of the british government that ultimately incited revolution. As british occupation became more vile the tide of independence grew.
In April of 1775 Massachusetts was showing signs of possible rebellion. On April 14th, Lieutenant General Thomas Gage received orders to take decisive action to end the unrest in the area. On April 19th, he sent Colonel Francis Smith to seize the munitions rumored to be stored in Concord, some 18 miles inland. Smith was given 700 elite fighting men to complete the task. Colonel Smith was probably chosen because of his “slow” demeanor. Gage did not want an aggressive officer to complete the un-envious task of disarming the already agitated community.
The town was not surprised by the oncoming British. Paul Revere and several Patriots made sure the Colonists were ready by their historical “midnight ride.” At about 5 am Captain John Parker’s Lexington Militia met them head on in the town of Lexington. The American Minuteman was born. Despite the courage of Captain Parker’s men the militia was dispatched rather easily by the red-coats. Ten Americans were killed and nine wounded in the first, but not last, encounter of the day. Full of confidence the british continued on toward Concord.
As the morning progressed it became apparent that Colonel Smith and the redcoats were in a fight. Militias were now gathering in larger and larger groups. Word of the gun fight at Lexington spread like Sunday gossip. The reports of American “cowardice” now seemed grossly exaggerated. Smith was unable to properly gather his troops heading across the bridge into Concord. They were scattered throughout the farms searching for the store of muskets, powder and balls that were rumored to be in the area. Unbenounced to them at the time, the small skirmish at Lexington had lit a fuse to a powder keg the british were not anticipating.
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.
By Rudyard Kipling from “Hymn” Sung at the Completion of the Concord Monument, April 19, 1836
House to house news of the impending invasion spread. Some ran to safety; while some stayed to fight. Many came from outlying areas. Jonas Clark, Pastor of the local congregation insisted arms be stored in his church. Many of the men ran there to get a musket and take cover. By the time soldiers hit the bridge it was apparent the british may have stepped into a hornets nest.
Among the “uprising” were all sorts of People. Samuel Whittemore was no stranger to war. He had fought the French in two separate campaigns and was a Captain to boot. At the advanced age of 68 he left his wife, children and grandchildren to tend the farm while he volunteered for the Indian Wars of 1763. In that conflict he had procured two dueling pistols from the arms left by a dead officer. It was a prized possession. When word of the invasion reached Samuel’s ears he was already in his 80th year. Perhaps he felt too old to run but history would prove he definitely wasn’t too old to fight. Instead of evacuating with some of the women and children he stayed.
Samuel took his time to dust off his prized pistols believing, more than likely, he would soon take his last breath. Dying for the cause of Independence gave his life new meaning. He made peace with his Maker and prepared for battle as he had done many times before. This time had special purpose behind it. Samuel’s wife was already passed, his children grown but he had a fevered desire for his grandchildren to grow up free. He loaded and powdered up his pistols. He drew his long sword and prepared to face Liberty’s enemy. Despite the insistence of his fellow Minutemen, Samuel stayed near his house directly in front of the road the soldiers would be traveling. He intended to meet them head-on.
Once the british realized they had bitten off more than they could chew reinforcements were called for. Another 700 came. The Minutemen were far more organized and larger in number than Gage or Smith had imagined. The british crossed the bridge and headed toward Concord and outlining houses. This was no longer an operation to squelch uprising…it was battle. Only their supreme conditioning and experience saved any of them. Rumors of the Americans giving “no quarter” motivated them even further.
As the day wore on the british went from aggressors to retreating for their lives toward Boston. Along the way they burned some of the houses in their path. Word of this most certainly had reached Samuel and his fellow “insurgents”. Samuel believed deeply in Independence. On April 19th, 1775, for the first time in his life, Samuel Whittemore, former Captain of his majesty’s Dragoons, took up arms against the empire he once fought for. He shot both his prized pistols and hit the mark. Two soldiers fell dead. He then drew his sword and pierced one or two more before they were on him. Still full of fight the red-coats had to stab him some 13 times with their swords before he would stop. And this was after he was shot point blank with a .69 caliber ball in the face tearing part of his cheek off.
After the soldiers were driven from the area townsfolk who had witnessed Samuel’s demise came back to gather the body. What they found was more surprising than the man’s fight to begin with. He was still alive! Not only alive, they found him trying to reload his pistols for the next attack. He wrapped his jaw together the best he could and he was taken for medical attention. The british had been routed. Many red-coats died trying to take arms that day but Samuel lived on. In fact he lived on to see his 99th year. The disarmament failed. Americans kept their guns. The American Revolution had begun.
*About the author: Daniel Brigman is a political writer and author of the upcoming book, Forever 1776, on our Revolutionary past and connecting with and defending our Constitutional Republic today. It is scheduled to be available on Patriots Day (April 19th, 2013) at www.Forever1776.com.