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Lexington and Concord
April 1775 – Lexington
As the first sounds of the drum reach our ears, we all tense. And as soon as the first redcoat comes around the bend in the road, everyone's eyes dart back and forth nervously and at least half of us are itching to just shoot them and be shot and be done with the whole matter. On both sides, fingers twitch toward triggers, though we’ve all been ordered not to fire until fired upon.
“Lay down your arms!” the redcoat commander orders us.
No one moves. A fly buzzes in my ear and I long to swat it, but I don’t dare.
At first the commander looks slightly put out that we’re not falling over each other in our haste to obey his orders, but he recovers quickly.
“Disperse, rebels!” he barks.
Yeah, right. Again, we stand stock-still and barely breathe. This time, he’s somewhat disconcerted. He glances nervously at his soldiers and then back at us, a solid line of Minutemen standing across the road, completely blocking his path. He doesn’t want to be made a fool of in front of his soldiers, he doesn’t want to start a battle, but how many options does he have to get us to move? One: ask politely. Nope, didn’t work. Two: ask rudely. Nope, that didn't work either. Three: turn tail and take a detour. Not a chance; he’d be regarded as a coward for the rest of his career and maybe even his life. Four: attack. But he can’t attack unless we do first, which he really doesn’t think we’re going to do. And he's right. We may be colonists -- although hopefully not for long -- but we're not stupid. I can see a vein in his temple pounding furiously as he assesses his choices. None of them are really valid. We could be standing here all day.
But we don’t. A shot suddenly rings through the air and we all jump. Who fired it? I didn’t know then and I suppose I’ll never know.
Some of us who are especially trigger-happy immediately and instinctively release a stinging volley of bullets toward the redcoats. For some people, I guess, that’s an effective solution to every problem: shoot it.
The redcoats fire too, and through the haze of smoke hanging in the air, I see several people lying on the ground. They are clearly dead. Without pausing to think, I fire wildly over my shoulder while sprinting full-out for the safety of the trees. It’s a free-for-all, with the redcoats shooting every which way and us rebels fleeing for cover like frightened rabbits.
I hate that they’ve beaten us, but once one person starts running they all do. Next time, I swear to myself, I’ll stand and fight. I won’t retreat, I’ll stand brave and defend my country, my liberty, and my right to run away in terror if I want to. And if that means dying, well, better to go down fighting than fleeing.
April 1775 – Concord
I hadn’t expected my resolve to be tested quite so quickly, but within days – hours really – we were marching down to North Bridge, which the redcoats intended to destroy, in order to stop us reaching Concord. We had large stores of rebel gunpowder in Concord, and if the redcoats got their hands on it, it would be the end. So, obviously, we had to stop the redcoats from destroying the bridge.
Now, I was expecting to be routed again, judging from Lexington, but apparently I wasn’t the only soldier who had made a resolution of bravery. So when the firing started, we stood our ground. Pretty soon, what do you know, the British were running away while we pursued them with much whooping.
But it wasn’t over. The redcoats began to retreat to Boston, with much beating of the drum and marching in step; really a fine demonstration of military order and discipline. Not that it helped them much. Have you ever heard of such stupidity?
The whole way, we followed them, picking them off from behind bushes. They would try to shoot back, but they got maybe two or three of us the entire time, whereas by the time their disorderly column (if you could be so kind as to call it that) straggled into Boston, we’d reduced their numbers by maybe half or so. Those that remained were nursing painful injuries, many of them.
I really can’t say I’m terribly sorry. Those British only got what they deserved.