Gusts of wind blow my white hair into my eyes, making it hard to read the monument. I finally decide to just tuck it behind my ears, even though it looks unladylike. There that’s better. A tear comes to my eye as I read: “Here on the 19th of April 1775 was made the first forcible resistance to the British aggression. On the opposite bank stood the American Militia. Here stood the invading Army and on this spot the first enemy fell in the War of Revolution which gave Independence to these United States. In gratitude to God and in the love of freedom this monument was erected. AD 1836 (Coughlin).” I quickly wipe the tear away before anyone around me can notice, and pull the hair back out from behind my ears.
As I hobble home from the Battle Monument (Coughlin) , flashes of my past come back to me. I can’t help but wonder what life would be like had Katherine lived through that night. Would we be in jail right now? Katherine always liked to talk; she might have ended up telling our little secret. Is it a good thing she died? I silently cursed myself for even thinking of her death as an advantage.
“It started with King George taking away our rights. Maybe if he had left us with our privacy then things wouldn’t have gone downhill so fast (Weber 11),” said Brother John with a snarl. “Well if those Enlightenment thinkers would have been more involved he might have listened to us (Weber 8),” retaliated William. “You both are right, but really it all started with the Proclamation of 1763; a lot of people owned land over in the Indian’s territory (Weber 8),” I jumped in. William turned to give me the “you shouldn’t be speaking about such things, you’re a woman” look. Oh William, I thought. If only he knew how involved I really was in the war.
Apparently Brother John didn’t feel the same way, because he chuckled and said, “Well Charlotte, I think you’re absolutely correct. That law was a gateway law; after Parliament found out they could get away with making stupid laws they made more. Like the Quartering Act. How could they possibly think that we would house and feed their troops (Weber 9)? To make it worse they passed the Sugar Act that same year (Weber 9). After that we were all poor, we definitely couldn’t support their troops.”
Brother John was right; after all of the acts and laws King George passed we were all poor. The worst was the Stamp Act. The Stamp Act required colonists to buy a stamp that had to be put on all kinds of printed materials (Weber 10).
“Yes, and that’s why in October of 1765 our congress condemned the new taxes. Of course Parliament repealed in March, but it didn’t help any after they passed the Declaratory Act; people still hated them (Weber 14),” stated William, clearly not happy with the fact that I was included in this conversation. Well, too bad William, I thought.
“You’re absolutely correct. The new taxes and laws pushed us over. I’m surprised we didn’t do more than boycott at that time. Places like New York were hit hard, and they’re the ones who started boycotting (Weber 13). Luckily we were smarter around here; if we hadn’t been the war would have started earlier,” replied Brother John, who was having trouble controlling himself on this subject. “What about the Townshend Acts? When Charles Townshend convinced Parliament to put the taxes on all of our imported essentials people started getting really fired up (Weber 14). I’m almost certain that the war could have started then as well,” I retaliated.
“Well, it obviously caused something to start because in 1770 we went through The Boston Massacre (Weber 17). Of course if Lord North hadn’t asked Parliament to repeal the Townshend Act that same day it might have become much more than a small massacre (Weber 19),” William responded.
Brother John smiled, “Things died down after that. Well, until the Tea Act in 1773 (Weber 20). Of course Samuel Adams and the other Sons of Liberty took care of that with the Boston Tea Party.”
We all chuckled at this because we knew that the incident caused more trouble than it was worth. After the Boston Tea Party, Parliament passed the Coercive Acts, closing the port in Boston until we could replace the tea, and causing Massachusetts to lose their self-governing rights (Weber 22). After the Coercive Acts colonists could no longer hold random meetings, and British couldn’t be tried in the colony (Weber 22). Many people lost it, and the Quebec Act didn’t help. People who owned land past the Mississippi River lost their land, and we were all told not to settle where the land had been (Weber 22). That was when colonists representing all of the colonies joined to write a petition to the King, and to denounce fourteen British laws (Weber 24). Colonists decided that what one member of Parliament called “solutary neglect,” was not going to be good enough for us anymore.
“By the fall of 1774 Patriots had stocked up enough ammunition for the companies of fifty men here in Massachusetts (Weber 25),” William whispered. None of us were laughing any more. I could see a small tear start to form at the corner of his eye, yet somehow I knew he had more to say. “Patrick Henry gave his “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech in March of 1775, and then in June George Washington was named commander in chief of the U.S. Militia,” William pulled a tattered handkerchief from his shirt pocket and wiped away the tear. He was now staring into the distance with a look of anguish obvious in his tired eyes. “Right after Washington was appointed one of our troops moved to Bunker Hill…” William trailed of, obviously speaking more to himself than to us.
“I think it’s time for us to go home now, William,” I whispered in his ear. “Goodbye, Brother John. It was nice speaking to you,” I said politely.
“The British are coming!” screamed Paul Revere as he rode by. What’s going on? Panic fleeted throughout my nineteen-year-old body. To my left I can see William pulling his boots on as fast as he can and grabbing his gun. “Goodbye, Charlotte,” he whispered while pulling me in for a quick kiss. “Wait, William!” I exclaimed too late as he ran out the door.
Suddenly my door flies open and in comes a man I had never seen with a smile upon his face. “Let’s go. Grab William’s spare uniform and get dressed quickly,” said the man in a familiar, but not manly, voice. “Katherine!” I exclaimed, “Are you crazy?” Katherine rushed over and started helping me get dressed.
“We can’t just sit around and wait for our husbands to get killed. We have to do something!” Katherine said. “We can’t just go out there and get ourselves killed either. Do you even know how to use a gun? I know I don’t,” I said, trying to reason with her. Of course with Katherine reason never wins.
One hour later we’re waiting in a nearby tavern for instructions from the commander when several British run in and start arresting us. Where is Katherine? “Charlotte!” screams Katherine from behind me. “Shut up!” yells the Red Coat, pulling out his gun. “No!” I yell. But I’m too late. Tears stream down my face as I run with about eighty other men to our meeting spot. We’re greeted by 240 British soldiers shortly, a look of determination in all eyes around us. We stood staring for what seemed like forever, and then somebody finally fired a shot. By the end of the night there were eight of us dead, and only one of us. The British captain, Pitcairn, had an injured horse as well, but it was obvious who had suffered in this battle.
I wake up with sweat dripping down from my temple. My weak, old body struggles to sit up and wipe the tears and sweat from my face. My mind drifts back the hymn the town sang at the dedication earlier in the day. It was a hymn that everyone would forever remember.
“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”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1836