April 19

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A few new stories..

History is a little bit like the complexity of human beings themselves.  You can live with someone for decades and still discover habits and stories that feel entirely new.  Lexington and Concord is something like that for me.  Most of us know the bare essentials:  General Gage sent some eight hundred British soldiers off to Concord, in order to confiscate colonial weapons and supplies.  Early in the morning, those soldiers killed some of the Lexington militia, and sent them running to re-group. At Concord, they found some flour and burned a few buildings, and as the Doolittle plate (below) hints:  Colonel Smith and Major Pitcairn were beginning to get the sense they would soon be outnumbered by New England militia.  They scurried back to Boston — and they barely made it, leaving 73 killed and 174 wounded.

New material..

One of the most able British military commanders stationed in New England at the time was Hugh Smithson, Lord Percy, second Duke of Northumberland.  Percy was charged with coming to the assistance of Colonel Smith’s troops, but because of delayed orders, Percy got a late start on the morning of April 19.  He did have the foresight to understand the colonials would “de-plank” bridges so as to slow his progress, and Percy brought along carpenters to repair the anticipated destruction.  Though by all accounts a compassionate leader of his own men, Percy had contempt for what he believed to be American cowardice.  He truly believed a show of overwhelming force, and perhaps a little military arson, would intimidate the American countryside.  When he returned from Lexington, he had new respect for the American resistance.  He had underestimated his enemy.  He honestly believed  the New Englanders would never fire on the king’s troops.  Ponder that one for a moment:  here was a genteel aristocrat who actually believed putting on the king’s red regimental was something like wearing Superman’s cape.  The country people would simply bow and scrape to it, no matter how much injustice they had suffered.

Crafty Old Men

Percy was delayed by patriots who removed planks from bridges in Cambridge, and even after Percy’s men had repaired the bridge, his supply wagons were too heavy to cross without more substantial repair.  As a result, ten of his soldiers were left behind to defend the wagons.  The militia companies of New England were age-stratified.  The young men had all ran off towards Lexington and Concord, but the older men of Menotomy saw a largely unguarded wagon train and took it captive, scattering the guard across the countryside.

The Beauty of the Enemy

Young Mary Hartwell was alone in her home when the king’s troops marched by.  Her husband, a sergeant in the Lincoln militia, had been warned by Dr. Prescott about the advance of the British army, and he was out preparing for battle.  Mary went on with her daily chores and then watched the enemy marching by her home.  “The army of the king marched up in fine order, and their bayonets glistened in the sunlight like a field of waving grain.  If it hadn’t been for the purpose they came for, I should say it was the handsomest sight I ever saw in my life.”

Trust Papa

After the colonials began fighting back at Concord, and the British were carrying off their wounded, Elisha Jones, from the second story of his home, pointed a musket at the British soldiers passing by, but his wife “knocked it from his hands before he could fire.”   Jones subsequently went downstairs to observe the action, and a passing Redcoat took aim at him, missing his head by a yard.

Sometimes, it seems, male instincts about danger should be honored.  A subject for further research:  did Mrs. Jones ever apologize to her husband?

Mother Batherick

After the old men of Menotomy captured Lord Percy’s supply wagon, six British soldiers went running wildly through the woods, leaving their muskets in a pond, and stumbling upon an old woman digging dandelions.  They begged the woman, “Mother Batherick” to accept their surrender.  She took them to the home of Captain Ephraim Frost and left them with this admonition: “If you ever live to get back, you tell King George that an old woman took six of his grenadiers prisoners.”

Banding Together

The strength of America, on bright display the morning of April 19, rests  on three realities we need to cultivate once more..

  • Faith:  Though rife with some denominational division, New Englanders very much saw the providence of God in everything around them.  Today’s secular humanists may lament religious superstition, but they are without cosmic, social glue.  It’s difficult to build any sort of real culture without a supremely powerful Judge – a Creator of creation — promising future justice, and mercy.  “Thy will be done in heaven AND ON EARTH..”
  • Leadership.  There is “little David” moment in most human conflict.  The odds seem overwhelming but someone turns to the crowd — a Samuel Adams or a Patrick Henry — and they appeal for the calm that comes from courage.  “This thing,” the visionary says to a nervous crowd, “CAN be done.”
  • Unity.  There is a reason the enemies of America want you to identify fiercely and solely with your age, your gender, your ethnicity.  It’s an ancient strategy: divide and conquer.  Consider your husband, your neighbor, your boss as the enemy, and then trust the government “who is here to help you.”  King George and his lackeys weren’t there to help.  They were there to enslave, to tax, to plunder.  But it didn’t work because they couldn’t succeed in sufficiently dividing Americans.

Let us pray we all re-learn the lessons of April 19..

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This post was written by Jim Riley


  • Kelley Mack says:

    Unite! “If the people will lead, the leaders will eventually follow.” -unknown.

  • Juan Alvarado says:

    Thank you Mr. Riley for writing this article about the American Revolution and the American Patriots who stood up to tyranny on that day. The true American History needs to be taught in schools. Not this fake 1619 project garbage. God Bless you Mr. Riley, God Bless America.

  • Rochelle Coles says:

    Such terrific and interesting stories, Jim! My daughters (7 and 10 years) and I are currently studying the American Revolution and recently finished America’s Paul Revere. There is so much truth and beauty in our history; and I’m grateful for the opportunity my children have to learn the real version of it. I will share your well-researched and beautifully written article with them, tomorrow. You’ve made us excited to dig in and learn more. Thank YOU so much, Jim, for all you do. We appreciate you!! God Bless.

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