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The History of the United States from 1492 to 1910, Volume 1
The Shot Heard Round the World
by Hawthorne, Julian

Franklin was sixty-seven years of age at this time; no man was then alive more worthy than he of honor and veneration. For twenty years he had guarded the interests of America in England; and while he had been unswerving in his wise solicitude for the colonies, he had ever been heedful to avoid all needless offense to England. The best men there were the men who held Franklin in highest esteem as a politician, a philosopher, and a man; and in France he was regarded as a superior being. No other man could have filled his place as agent of the colonies: no other had his sagacity, his experience, his wisdom, his address. He was not of that class of diplomatists who surround every subject they handle with a tissue of illusion or falsehood; Franklin was always honest and undisguised in his transactions; so that what was long afterward said of a lesser man was true of him: "Whatever record spring to light, he never will be shamed." No service rendered by him to his country was more useful than the exposure of Hutchinson; none was more incumbent on him, as protector of colonial affairs. But in the rage which possessed the English ministry upon learning how Massachusetts had parried the attack made upon her liberties, some immediate victim was indispensable; and as Franklin was there present, they fell upon him. A fluent and foul-mouthed young barrister, Alexander Wedderburn by name, had by corrupt influence secured the post of solicitor-general; and he made use of the occasion of Franklin's submitting the petition for the removal of Hutchinson and Oliver, to make a personal attack upon him, which was half falsehood and half ribaldry. He pretended that the Hutchinson letters had been dishonorably acquired, and that their publication was an outrage on private ownership. Incidentally, he painted Hutchinson as a true patriot and savior of his country; and called Franklin an incendiary, a traitor, a hypocrite, who should find a fitting termination of his career on the gallows. This billingsgate was heaped upon him before an unusually full meeting of the lords of the privy council, the highest court of appeal; and they laughed and cheered, while the venerable envoy of the colonies stood "conspicuously erect," facing them with a steady countenance. Such, and of such temper, were the aristocratic rulers of England and of America (if she would be ruled) at this epoch.

America's friends in England were still stanch; but the ministry found no difficulty in giving events a color which irritated the English people at large against the colonies, and against Boston in particular; and they had little trouble in securing the passage of the Boston Port Bill, the effect of which was to close the largest and busiest port in the colonies against all commerce whatsoever. Fuller said that it could not be put in execution but by a military force; to which Lord North answered, "I shall not hesitate to enforce a due obedience to the laws of this country." Another added, "You will never meet with proper obedience until you have destroyed that nest of locusts." Lord George Germain, speaking of revoking the Massachusetts charter, said, "Whoever wishes to preserve such charters, I wish him no worse than to govern such subjects." The act passed both houses without a division, and Gage was appointed military governor, in place of Hutchinson, who was recalled; and four regiments were quartered in Boston. The wharfs were empty and deserted; the streets were dull, the shops were closed; but the British Coffee House in King Street was gay once more; and King George in London, felt that he was having his revenge, though he was paying a round price for it. But Boston, having shown that she could do without tea, and without commerce, was now about to show that she could also do without George.

Nobody but Americans could govern America. The people were too intelligent, too active, too various-minded, too full of native quality and genius to be ruled from abroad. If they were to fall under foreign subjection, they would become a dead weight in the world, instead of a source of life; as Adams said, every increase in population would be but an increase of slaves. And that they preferred death to slavery was every day becoming increasingly manifest. They felt that the future was in them, and that they must have space and freedom to bring it forth; and it is one of the paradoxes of history that England, to whom they stood in blood-relationship, from whom they derived the instinct for liberty, should have attempted to reduce them to the most absolute bondage anywhere known, except in the colonies of Spain. She was actuated partly by the pride of authority, centered in George III., and from him percolating into his creatures in the ministry and Parliament; and partly by the horde of office-seekers and holders whose aim was sheer pecuniary gain at any cost of honor and principle. The mercantile class had borne their share in oppression at first; but when it became evident that tyranny applied to America would kill her productiveness, the merchants were no longer on the side of the tyrants. It was then too late to change the policy of the country, however; George would have his way to the bitter end; the blind lust to thrash the colonies into abject submission had the upper hand in England; reason could not get a hearing; and such criticisms as the opposition could offer served only to make still more rigid and medieval the determination of the king.

It was the policy of the English government to regard Boston as the head-center of revolt, and to concentrate all severities against her. It was thought that in this way she could be isolated from the other colonies, who would say to themselves that her troubles were none of their affair, and that so long as they were treated with decency they would not antagonize all-powerful England. Arguing from the average selfishness of human nature, this policy did not seem unwise; but the fact was that in this case human nature manifested an exceptional generosity and enlightenment. Although the colonies, being on the coast, must depend largely for their prosperity on commerce, and commerce is notoriously self-seeking, nevertheless all the American settlements without exception made the cause of Boston their own, sent her supplies to tide over her evil days, and passed resolutions looking to union and common action against oppression. South Carolina had every selfish ground for siding with England; her internal affairs were in a prosperous condition, and her traffic with England was profitable, and not likely to be interfered with; yet none of the colonies was more outspoken and thoroughgoing than she in denouncing England's action and befriending Boston. The great commonwealth of Virginia was not less altruistic in her conduct, and did more than any of her sister provinces to enforce the doctrine of union and independence. New York, a colony in which aristocracy held a dominant place, owing to the tenure of large estates by the patroons, and which necessarily was a commercial center, yet spoke with no uncertain voice, in spite of the fact that there were there two parties, representing the lower and the upper social class, whose differences were marked, and later led to the formation of two political parties throughout the colonies. In Pennsylvania, the combination of non-fighting Quakers and careful traders deadened energy in the cause, and the preachings of Dickinson, the venerable "Farmer," were interpreted as favoring a policy of conciliation; but this hesitation was only temporary. The new-made city of Baltimore was conspicuous in patriotism; and the lesser colonies, and many out-of-the-way hamlets and villages, were magnificent in their devotion and liberality. The demand for a congress was general, and Boston was made to feel that her sacrifices were understood and appreciated. She had but to pay for the tea which had been thrown overboard, and her port would have been reopened and her business restored; but she staked her existence upon a principle and did not weaken. There were, in all parts of the colonies, a strong minority of loyalists, as they called themselves, traitors, as they were termed by extremists on the other side, or tories, as they came to be known later on, who did and said what they could to induce submission to England, with all which that implied. But the practical assistance they were able to give to England was never considerable, and, on the other hand, they sharpened the senses of the patriots and kept them from slackening their efforts or modifying their views.

Gage, a weak and irresolute man, as well as a stupid one, was making a great bluster in Boston. His powers were despotic. Soldiers and frigates were his in abundance; he talked about arresting the patriots for treason, to be tried in England; and Parliament had passed an act relieving him and his men from all responsibility for killings or other outrages done upon the colonists. He transferred the legislature from Boston to Salem; and urged in season and out of season the doctrine that resistance to England was hopeless. Upon the whole, his threats were more terrible than his deeds, though these were bad enough. Meanwhile Hutchinson in England had been encouraging and at the same time misleading the king, by assurances that the colonies would not unite, and that Boston must succumb. At the same time, Washington was declaring that nothing was to be expected from petitioning, and that he was ready to raise a thousand men and subsist them at his own expense, and march at their head for the relief of Boston; Thomson Mason was saying that he did not wish to survive the liberties of his country a single moment; Prescott of New Hampshire was affirming that "a glorious death in defense of our liberties is better than a short and infamous life"; Israel Putnam of Connecticut announced himself ready to treat the army and navy of England as enemies; and thousands of citizens in Massachusetts were compelling royal councilors to resign their places, and answering those who threatened them with the charge of treason and death with--"No consequences are so dreadful to a free people as that of being made slaves." Jay's suggestion to form a union under the auspices of the king was disapproved: "We must stand undisguised on one side or the other." Gage's orders were ignored; judges appointed by royal decree were forced to retire; and "if British troops should march to Worcester, they would be opposed by at least twenty thousand men from Hampshire County and Connecticut." Gage, finding himself confronted by a population, could think of no remedy but more troops. He wrote to England that "the people are numerous, waked up to a fury, and not a Boston rabble, but the freeholders of the county. A check would be fatal, and the first stroke will decide a great deal. We should therefore be strong before anything decisive is urged." He had, on the 1st of September, 1774, captured two hundred and fifty half-barrels of provincial powder, stored at Quarry Hill, near Medford. Forty thousand militia, from various parts of the country, took up arms and prepared to march on Boston; and though word was sent to them that the time had not yet come, their rising was an object lesson to those who had been asserting that the colonies would submit. Gage had ten regiments at his disposal, but was trying to raise a force of Canadians and Indians in addition, and was asking for still more re-enforcements from England. The employment of Indians was a new thing in English policy, and was a needless barbarism which can never be excused or palliated. Gage fortified Boston Neck, thus putting all within the lines at the mercy of his army; yet the starving carpenters of the town refused to erect barracks for the British troops. Outside of Boston, the towns threw off the English yoke. Hawley said he would resist the whole power of England with the forces of the four New England colonies alone; and every man between sixteen and seventy years of age was enrolled under the name of "minute-men," ready to march and fight at a minute's warning.

On the 5th of September, the first American Congress met in Philadelphia. Almost all the eminent men of the country were present--Gadsden of South Carolina, Washington, Dickinson, Patrick Henry, Lee, the Adamses, and many more. They agreed to vote by colonies. Their business was to consider a constitution, to protest against the regulating act in force at Boston, which left no liberty to the citizens; to frame a declaration of rights, and to make a statement to the king of their attitude and demands. The session was long, for the delegates had to make one another's acquaintance, and to discover a middle course between what was desired by separate colonies and what was agreeable to all. Great differences of opinion and policy were developed, and there were not wanting men like Galloway, the Speaker, who aimed at paralyzing all resistance to England. But the longer they debated and voted, the more clearly and unanimously did they oppose the tyrannous acts of Parliament and the extension of the royal prerogative, and the more firmly did they demand liberty and equality. Separation they did not demand, but a free union with the mother country, to the mutual enrichment and advantage of both. By a concession, they admitted the right of Parliament to lay external duties and to regulate trade; but they strongly indorsed the resistance of Massachusetts, and declared that if her oppression were persisted in, it would be the duty of all America to come to her aid. With the hope of influencing the merchants of England to reflect upon the injustice of the present trade restrictions, they voted to cease all imports into England, and to refuse all exports therefrom, though the loss and inconvenience to themselves from this resolve must be immeasurably greater than to the older country, which had other sources of supply and markets for goods. In all that they did, they were ruled by the consideration that they possessed no power of enforcing their decrees upon their own fellow-countrymen, and must therefore so frame them that the natural instinct for right and justice should induce to obedience to them. Their moderation, their desire for conciliation, was marked throughout; and when a message was received from Boston, reciting the iniquitous proceedings of Gage, and proposing, if the Congress agreed, that the citizens of the wealthiest community in the new world should abandon their homes and possessions and retire to a life of log huts and cornfields in the wilderness--when this heroic suggestion was made, the Congress resisted the fiery counsel of Gadsden to march forthwith on Boston and drive Gage and his army into the sea; and bade the people of Boston to be patient yet a while, and await the issue of the message to England. But although they were conscientious in adopting every measure that could honorably be employed to induce England to reconsider her behavior, they had little hope of a favorable issue. "After all, we must fight," said Hawley; and Washington, when he heard it, raised his hand, and called God to witness as he cried out, "I am of that man's mind!"

Their final utterance to England was noble and full of dignity. "To your justice we appeal. You have been told that we are impatient of government and desirous of independence. These are calumnies. Permit us to be as free as yourselves, and we shall ever esteem a union with you to be our greatest glory and our greatest happiness. But if you are determined that your ministers shall wantonly sport with the rights of mankind: if neither the voice of justice, the dictates of law, the principles of the constitution, or the suggestions of humanity, can restrain your hands from shedding human blood in such an impious cause, we must then tell you that we will never submit to be hewers of wood and drawers of water for any ministry or nation in the world."

In order to cripple America, the new province of Quebec was enlarged, so as to cut off the western extension of several of the older colonies. At the same time discrimination against the Catholics was relaxed, and the Canadians were given to understand that they would be treated with favor. The Americans, however, were not blind to the value of Canadian friendship, and sent emissaries among them to secure their good will. "If you throw in your lot with us," they were told, "you will have been conquered into liberty." In Virginia, Lord Dunmore had been appointed governor, and in order to gratify his passion for wealth, he broke the injunction of the king, and allowed the extension of the province westward; but this was the result of his personal greed, and did not prevent his hostility to all plans for colonial liberty. Nevertheless, his conduct gained him temporary popularity in Virginia; and still more did his management of the war against the Shawnees, brought on by their attacks upon the frontiersmen who had pushed their little settlements as far as the Mississippi. These backwoodsmen were always on the borders of peril, and aided in hastening the spread of population westward.

The proceedings of the American Congress produced a sensation in England; they were more moderate in tone and able in quality than had been anticipated. They could not divert the king from his purpose, but they aroused sympathy in England among the People, and from Lord Chatham the remark that the annals of Greece and Rome yielded nothing so lofty and just in sentiment as their remonstrance. The non-representative character of Parliament at this juncture is illustrated by the fact that three-fourths of the English population were estimated to be opposed to the war with America. It was also pointed out that it would be difficult to find men to fill the regiments, inasmuch as all the ablebodied men in England were needed to carry on the industries of the country; there were no general officers of reputation, and many of those holding commissions were mere boys, or incompetent for service. There were three million people in America, and they would be fighting for their own homes, and amid them, with the whole vastness of the continent to retire into. On the other hand, it was asserted that the Americans were all cowards, and incapable of discipline; that five thousand English soldiers were more than a match for fifty thousand provincials. They had no navy, no army, no forts, no organization. They would collapse at the first real threat of force. The English ministry and their followers vied with one another in heaping contempt and abuse upon the colonists. It was in reply to them that Burke made one of his greatest speeches. Burke was an artist in sentiments, and cannot be regarded as a statesman of settled and profound convictions; his voice regarding America had not been consistent or wise; but ever and anon he threw forth some worthy and noble thought. "I do not know the method," he said in his speech, "of drawing up an indictment against a whole people." Franklin, in March, after listening to one of Lord Sandwich's shallow and frothy vilifications of America, "turned on his heel" and left England. With him vanished the last hope of reconciliation. "Had I been in power," exclaimed Hutchinson, "I would not have suffered him to embark."

The colonists everywhere were collecting arms and ammunition, storing powder, and diligently drilling. Whatever the leaders might say, or refrain from saying, the mass of the people believed in the immediate probability of war with England. In every village you could see the farmers shouldering arms and marching to and fro on the green, while an old man played the fife and a boy beat the drum. They did not concern themselves about "regimentals" or any of the pomp and glory of battle; but they knew how to cast bullets, and how to shoot them into the bull's-eye. In their homespun small-clothes, home-knit stockings, home-made shirts and cowhide shoes, they could march to the cannon's mouth as well as in the finest scarlet broadcloth and gold epaulets. Their intelligence, their good cause, their sore extremity, made them learn to be soldiers more quickly than seemed possible to English officers who knew the sturdy stupidity of the English peasant of whom the British regiments were composed. And while the Yankees (as they began to be called) were learning how to march and countermarch, and do whatever else the system of the British regulars called for, they also knew, by inheritance, if not by actual experience, the tactics of the Indians; they could make a fortress of a rock or a tree or a rail fence, and could shoot and vanish, or fall, as it seemed, from the empty air into the midst of the unsuspecting foe. They were effective not only in bodies, but individually; and in the heart of each, as he faced the foe, would be not only the resolve to conquer, but the holy thought of wife and children, and of liberty. They were as fit to be led by Washington as was he to lead them. Professing to despise them, Gage nevertheless protested against taking the field with less than twenty thousand men; upon which David Hume scornfully observed, "If fifty thousand men and twenty millions of money were intrusted to such a lukewarm coward, they never could produce any effect." It was resolved to supersede him.

The men of Portsmouth had seized a quantity of powder and arms, which belonged to them, but had been sequestered in the fort. The British, as a set-off, marched to Salem to capture some stores there; they did not find them, and proceeded toward Danvers. A river, spanned by a drawbridge, intervened, and when they arrived, the draw was up. There stood Colonel Timothy Pickering, with forty provincials, asking what Captain Leslie with his two hundred red-coated regulars wanted. The captain blustered and threatened; but the draw remained up, and the provincials all had guns in their hands, and looked able and willing to use them, if occasion demanded. But the captain did not think it best to give the signal for combat, and meanwhile time was passing, and no soothsayer was needed to reveal that the stores were being removed to a place of safety. After an hour or so, Colonel Pickering relented so far as to permit the captain and his regulars to cross the bridge and advance thirty yards beyond it; after which he must face about and return to Boston. This he did; and thus ended the first collision between the colonies and England. Nobody was hurt; but in less than two months blood was to be shed on both sides. "The two characteristics of this people, religion and humanity, are strongly marked in all their proceedings," John Adams had said. "Resistance by arms against usurpation and lawless violence is not rebellion by the law of God or the land. If there is no possible medium between absolute independence and subjection to the authority of Parliament, all North America are convinced of their independence, and determined to defend it at all hazards." The British answer to utterances like these was to seize a farmer from the country, who had come to town to buy a firelock, tar and feather him, stick a placard on his back, "American liberty, or a specimen of democracy," and conduct him through the streets amid a mob of soldiers and officers, to the strains of "Yankee Doodle."

As the last moments before the irrevocable outbreak passed away, there was both a strong yearning for peace, and a stern perception that peace must be impossible. "If Americans would be free, they must fight," said Patrick Henry in Virginia. One after another, with singular unanimity, the colonies fell in with this view. New York was regarded by the British as most likely to be loyal; New England, and especially Massachusetts, were expected to be the scene of the first hostilities. Sir William Howe, brother of the Howe who died bravely in the Old French War, was appointed commander-in-chief in place of Gage. The latter was directed to adopt the most rigorous and summary measures toward the Boston people, whose congress was pronounced by Thurlow and Wedderburn to be a treasonable body, deserving of condign punishment. Orders were given to raise regiments of French Papists in Canada; and the signal that should let loose the red men for their work of tomahawking women and children was in suspense. It was now the middle of April.

The winter season had been exceptionally mild. In the country neighboring Boston the leaves were budding a month earlier than usual, and the grass was deep and green as in English meadows. The delicate and fragrant blossoms of the mayflower made the wooded hillsides sweet, and birds were singing and building their nests in the mild breezes, under the cloud-flecked sky. The farmers were sowing their fields and caring for their cattle; their wives were feeding their poultry and milking their cows; New England seemed to have put off her sternness, and to be wearing her most inviting and peaceful aspect. Innocence and love breathed in the air and murmured in the woods, and warbled in the liquid flowing of the brooks. In such a time and place, Adam and Eve might have begun the life of humanity on earth, and found in the loveliness and beauty of the world a fitting image of the tranquillity and tenderness that overflowed their guileless hearts.

But Eden was far away from New England in the spring of 1775. Committees of Safety had been formed in all the towns, whose duty it was to provide for defense against what might happen; and two eminent leaders, Samuel Adams and John Hancock, had been to Lexington and Concord to oversee the dispositions, and to consult with the fathers of the colony who had met in the latter town. A small quantity of powder and some guns and muskets had been stored in both these places; for if trouble should occur with the British, it was most likely to begin in Boston, and the minute-men of the province would rendezvous most conveniently at these outlying settlements, which lay along the high road at distances of fourteen and twenty miles from the city. No offensive operations, of course, were contemplated, nor was it known what form British aggression would assume. Defense of their homes and liberties was all that the New England farmers and mechanics intended. They had no plan of campaign, and no military leaders who knew anything of the art of war. They could be killed by invaders, and perhaps kill some of them; they were sure of the holiness of their cause; but they were too simple and homely-minded to realize that God had intrusted to them the first irrevocable step in a movement which should change the destinies of the world.

In Boston, during the 18th of April, there had been bustle and mysterious conferences among the British officers, and movements among the troops; which might mean anything or nothing. But there were patriots on the watch, and it was surmised that some hostile act might be meditated; and plans were made to give warning inland, should this prove to be the case. At the British Coffee House, that afternoon, the group of officers was gayer than usual, and there was much laughter and many toasts. "Here's to the Yankee minute-men!" said one: "the men who'll run the minute they see the enemy!" General Gage stalked about, solemn, important and monosyllabic. Lieutenant-colonel Smith was very busy, and held himself unusually erect; and Major Pitcairn, of the marines, was often seen in his company, as if the two had some secret in common. The plain citizens who walked the streets fancied that they were shouldered aside even more arrogantly than usual by the haughty redcoats; and that the insolent stare with which they afflicted the handsome wives and pretty maidens of Boston was grosser and more significant than common. But the evening fell with matters much as ordinary, to all appearance; and as the town was under martial law, most of the population was off the streets by nine o'clock.

But soon after ten that night, a man was riding at a hand-gallop past Medford, heading west. He had been rowed across Charles River just at the beginning of flood tide, and had landed on the Charlestown shore a few minutes before the order to let none pass had reached the sentry. Turning, with one foot in the stirrup, he had seen two lights from the North Church tower, and a moment afterward had been on his way. Half a mile beyond Charlestown Neck he had almost galloped into the arms of two British officers, but had avoided them by turning suddenly to the right. Now the old Boston road was smooth before him, and he threw off his three-cornered hat, bent forward in his saddle and spoke in his horse's ear. His was a good horse, and carried an important message. A house near the roadside showed up dark and silent against the starlit sky; the horseman rode to the door and struck the panels with his whip. A window was thrown open above: "Who's there?"--"Paul Revere: the British march to-night to Lexington and Concord: Warren, of the Committee of Safety, bids you hold your men in readiness."--"Right!"--The horseman turns, and is off along the road again before the captain of the Medford minute-men has shut the window.

It is but a short fourteen miles to Lexington; but there are a dozen or twenty farmhouses along the way, and at each of them the horseman must pause and deliver his message; so that it is just midnight as he comes in sight of the outskirts of the humble village. There is a dim light burning in the window of yonder hip-roofed cottage beside the green; Adams and Hancock must be anticipating news; Adams, indeed, has the name of being a man who sleeps little and thinks much. The night-rider's summons is responded to at once; and then, at the open door, there is a brief conference, terse and to the point; the pale face of a woman looks from the window; a message has brought Dawes and Sam Prescott, ready mounted, to accompany Revere on his further journey. Young Jonas Parker, the best wrestler in Lexington, has drawn a bucket of water at the well-sweep and is holding it under the nose of Revere's horse. "Well, my lad," says Paul, "are you ready to fight to-morrow?"--"I won't run--I promise you that," replies the youth, with a smile. He was dead five hours later, with a bullet through his vigorous young body, and a British bayonet wound in his breast, having kept his word.

Meanwhile the three horsemen are off, bearing now toward the left, for Lincoln; but there, as luck would have it, they encountered half a dozen English officers, who arrested Dawes and Revere and took them back to Lexington. Prescott, however, was too quick for them; in the flurry and darkness he had leaped his horse over the low stone wall, and was off across the meadows which he had known from a boy, to Concord. It was then between one and two o'clock; and the latter hour had hardly struck when the ride was over, and the bells of the meeting-house were pealing from the steeple. Two-o'clock-in-the-morning courage is the test of a man, as Napoleon said some years later; be that as it may, here are the Concord minute-men, Hosmer, Buttrick, Parson Emerson, Brown, Blanchard, and the rest; they are running toward the green, musket in hand, bullet-pouch on thigh, ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred and more; and there comes Barrett, their captain, with his sword; the men range out in a double rank, in the cool night air, and answer to their names; if the time has indeed come for action, they are ready to make good the bold words spoken at many a town meeting and private chat for weeks past. They have been comrades all their lives, and know each other; and yet now, perhaps, they gaze at one another curiously, conscious of an indefinable change that has come over them, now that death may be marching a few miles to the eastward.

And in truth, while they were discussing what might happen, death was already at work at Lexington. Eight hundred grenadiers and light infantry, the best soldiers in America, had marched into the village shortly before dawn. For an hour or more, as they marched, they had heard the sound of bells and of muskets, now near, now far, telling that their movement had been discovered; and they hastened their steps; not as apprehending resistance from the Yankee cowards, but lest the stores they were after should be hidden before they could get at them. And now, here they were, advancing with the regular tramp of disciplined troops, muskets on their shoulders, bayonets fixed, and a slight dust rising from their serried footsteps. They looked as if they might march through a stone wall. But could it really be true that these men meant to kill American farmers in sight of their own homes? Were English soldiers really enemies of their own flesh and blood? As they approached the common--an irregular triangle of ground, with a meeting-house at the further end--the alarm-drum was beating, and muskets firing; and yonder are the minute-men sure enough, running together in the morning dusk, and marshaling themselves in scanty ranks under the orders of Captain Parker. Young men and old are there, in their well-worn shirts and breeches, cut and stitched by the faithful hands of their wives and daughters, and each with his loaded flint-lock in his hands. There are but fifty or sixty in all, against sixteen times as many of the flower of the British army. The vanguard of the latter has halted, and has received the order from Pitcairn to load; and you may hear the ring of the ramrods in unison, and then the click of the locks. And yonder comes the rest of the host, at double-quick, the hoarse commands of their officers sounding out of the gloom. What can less than threescore minute-men do against them? At all events, they can die; and history will never forget them, standing there in front of the little church where they had so often prayed; and their country will always honor their names and love them. They stood there, silent and motionless, protesting with their lives against the march of tyranny. How few they were--and what countless millions they represented!

Out rides Pitcairn in front of the grenadiers. You can see the red of his tunic now in the gathering light, the sparkle of his accouterments, and the gleam of his sword as he swings it with a commanding gesture. "Disperse, ye villains!" he calls out in a harsh, peremptory voice: "Ye rebels--why don't you lay down your arms and disperse?"

Would they obey?--No: for they were neither villains nor rebels; they had come there as a sacrifice, and they would not go thence until the crime had been committed, and their country had definitely learned, from them, whether oppression would proceed to the last extremity, or not. It was only a few harmless, heroic lives to lose; but so much must needs be done. It was not an easy thing to do; there was no one to teach them how to do it scenically and splendidly. They must simply stand there, in their own awkward way, shoulder to shoulder, motionless, gazing at the gallant major and the heavy masses of uniformed men beyond, waiting for what might come. The Lord of Hosts was on their side; but, as with our Saviour in the Garden of Gethsemane, He seemed remotest when most near. Their wives and children are there, looking on, straining their eyes through the obscurity, with what throbbings of agony in their hearts, with what prayers choking in their throats!

The major snatches a pistol from his holster, levels and discharges it; and "Fire!" he shouts at the same moment, at the top of his lungs. He had omitted the "Ready--present!" and the soldiers did not all fire at once; first there were a few dropping shots; but then came the volley. The regulars shot to kill. Down came Jonas Parker to his knee, to be stabbed to death before he could reload; there fell old Munroe, the veteran of Louisburg; and Harrington, killed at his doorstep, and Muzzey, Hadley, and Brown. In all, before the stars had faded in the light of dawn, sixteen New Englanders lay dead or wounded on the village green. And the British troops had reformed, and huzzaed thrice, and marched on with drum and fife, before the sun of the 19th of April had looked upon their work. The Revolution had begun.

It was seven o'clock when, with the sun on their backs, the British invaders came along the base of the low hill, crowned with pine and birch, that lies like a sleeping serpent to the east on the way to Concord. They were a trifle jaded now from their all-night march, and their gaiters and uniforms were a little dusty; but the barrels of their guns shone as bright as ever, and their spirits were good, after their glorious exploit six miles back. Glorious, of course: yet a trifle dull, all the same; there would be more fun shooting these bumpkins, if only they could summon heart to put up a bit of a fight in return. "Maybe we'll get a better chance at 'em out here, colonel--eh?" the major of marines might have said, with his Scotch brogue, turning his horse to ride beside his superior officer for a mile or so. "I don't think it, sir," that great soldier would reply, puffing out his cheeks, and wiping his brow with his embroidered handkerchief. "The sight of his majesty's uniform, Major Pitcairn, is alone enough to put to flight every scurvy rebel in Massachusetts. If you want to get within range of 'em, sir, you must wear mufti."

During the early morning hours, the minute-men standing under the liberty pole in front of Concord meeting-house had been gradually re-enforced by parties hastening in from Lincoln, Acton, and other outlying hamlets, until they numbered about two hundred men. But as the British drew near, eight hundred strong, the Americans withdrew down a meadow road northward, until they reached a hospitable edifice with a broad roof, pierced by gables, standing at the upper end of an avenue, and with its back toward the sluggish Muskataquid, or Concord River. A few rods to the left of the site of this manse was a wooden bridge, spanning the stream, known as the North Bridge. The manse was occupied by the Reverend William Emerson, the minister of the town, and from its western windows was an excellent view of the bridge. One of these windows was open, and the pastor himself, with his arms resting on the sill, was looking from this coign of vantage when the minute-men came up, crossed the bridge, and stationed themselves on the rising ground just beyond. He remained there, a deeply interested spectator, during the events which followed.

The British, finding Concord deserted, divided into three parts, one going to a bridge to the south of the town, one remaining in the town itself, and the third marching north, where it again divided, one party of a hundred guarding the approach to the north bridge, on the further side of which the Americans were embattled, the other proceeding along the road to the house of Captain Barrett in search of arms. A couple of hours passed by, and nothing seemed likely to happen; but it was noticed that there was the smoke of a fire in Concord, a mile to the south and east. Smith and Pitcairn were there, with the main body of the troops, and they had been making bonfires of the liberty pole and some gun carriages: the court house was also in a blaze. But to the Concord men, waiting at the bridge, it looked as if the British were setting their homes afire. The women and children had been sent into the woods out of harm's way, before the regiments arrived; but some of them might have ventured back again. Vague rumors of the bloodshed at Lexington had been passed from mouth to mouth, losing nothing, probably, on the way. The men began to ask one another whether it was not incumbent on them to march to the rescue of their town?

By accessions from Carlisle, Bedford, Woburn, Westford, Littleton and Chelmsford they had now grown to a strength of four hundred; the force immediately opposing them was less than half as numerous. They evidently did not expect an attack; they had not even removed the planks from the bridge. They despised the Yankees too much to take that easy precaution.

But though the British at this point were few, they were regulars; they stood for the English army in America: and for more than that--they stood for all England, for Parliament, for the king, for loyalty; for that enormous moral force, so much more potent even than the physical, which tends to prevail because it always has prevailed. These farmers did not fear to risk their lives; their fathers, and some of themselves, had fought Indians and Frenchmen, and thought little of it. But to fight men whose limbs were made in England--in the old home which the colonists still regarded as theirs, and had not ceased to love and honor, for all this quarrel about duties and laws of trade--that was another matter: it was almost like turning their weapons against themselves. And yet, if there were any value in human liberty, if the words which they had listened to from the lips of Adams and Warren and Hancock meant anything --now was the time to testify to their belief in them. They were men: this was their land: yonder were burning their dwellings: they had a right to defend them, and their families. What said Captain Barrett--and Isaac Davis of Acton, and Buttrick? And here was Colonel Robinson of Westford too, a volunteer to-day: but what was his opinion?

The officers drew together, conferred a moment, and then Barrett, who was in command, and the only man on horseback, gave the word: "Advance across the bridge: don't fire unless they fire at you." The companies marched past him, led by Buttrick, Davis and Robinson, with their swords drawn. The men were in double file.

Seeing them actually advancing on the bridge, the British condescended to bestir themselves, and some of them began to raise the planks. Upon this, the Americans, who meant to cross, broke into a trot. Mr. Emerson, leaning out of his window, with the light of battle in his eyes, saw three or four puffs of smoke come from the British, and two Americans fell. Immediately after there was a volley from the regulars, and now Isaac Davis was down, and moved no more; and Abner Hosmer fell dead near him. The Americans were advancing, but they had not fired. "Father in Heaven!" ejaculated the good parson, between his set teeth, "aren't they going to shoot?"

Even as he spoke, he saw Buttrick leap upward, and heard his shout: "Fire, fellow soldiers!--for God's sake, fire!"

The men repeated the word to one another; up came their guns to their shoulders, and the sharp detonations followed.

They reached the ears of the minister, and he gave a sigh of relief. They echoed across the river, and rolled away toward the village, and into the distance. Nor did they stop there--those echoes: the Atlantic is wide, but they crossed it; they made Lord North, Thurlow, and Wedderburn start in their chairs, and mutter a curse: they penetrated to the king in his cabinet, and he flushed and bit his lip. More than a hundred years have passed; and yet the vibrations of that shot across Concord Bridge have not died away. Whenever tyranny and oppression raise their evil hands, that sound comes reverberating out of the past, and they hesitate and turn pale. Whenever a monarch meditates injustice against his subjects, the noise of the muskets of the Concord yeomen, fired that men might be free, falls upon his ear, and he pauses and counts the cost. Yes, and there have been those among ourselves, citizens of the land for which those yeomen fought and died, who also might take warning from those ominous echoes: for the battle waged by selfishness and corruption against human rights has not ceased to be waged on these shores, though the British left them a century ago. It seems, at times, as if victory inclined toward the evil rather than the good. But let us not be misled. The blood of the farmers who drove England out of America flows in our veins still; we are patient and tolerant to a fault, but not forever. The onlooker, gazing from afar, fears that we will never shoot; but presently he shall be reassured; and once our advance is begun, there will be no relenting till the last invader be driven into the sea.

There is a deeper lesson yet to be learned from Concord fight. It is that the noblest deeds may be done by the humblest instruments; and that as Christ chose His apostles from among the fishermen of Galilee, so was the immortal honor of beginning the battle for the liberation of mankind intrusted to a handful of lowly husbandmen and artisans, who knew little more than that right was right, and wrong, wrong. There were no philosophers or statesmen among them; they comprehended nothing of diplomacy; they only felt that a duty had been laid upon them, and inspired by that conviction, they went forward and did it. The judgment of the world has ratified their act, and has admitted that perhaps more subtle reasoners than they, balancing one consideration against another, taking counsel of far-reaching prudence, flinching from responsibility, might have put off action until the golden moment had forever passed. But what the hands of these men found to do, they did with their might; and therefore established the truth that the spirit of God finds its fitting home in the bosoms of the poor and simple; and that the destinies of mankind are safe in their protection.

Two English soldiers were killed or mortally wounded by the fire of the Americans and several others were hit. A panic seized upon the rest, and before the farmers had crossed the bridge, they were retreating in disorder upon the main body in Concord. Barrett's men were surprised by this sudden collapse of the enemy, and did not pursue them at that time, nor intercept the small force further up the road, all of whom might easily have been killed or captured. Perhaps they even felt sorry for what they had done; at all events, they betrayed no bloodthirstiness as yet. But when Smith and Pitcairn, after much agitation and irresolution, ordered a retreat of the whole force down the Boston road, firing as they went upon all who showed themselves, and robbing and destroying dwellings along the route: when the winners of Concord bridge, and their fellow minute-men, who now began to be numbered by thousands rather than by hundreds, saw and comprehended this, the true spirit of war was kindled within them, and they began that running fight of twenty miles which ended in the hurling of the British into the defenses of Boston, broken, exhausted, utterly demoralized and beaten, with a loss of two hundred and seventy-three men and officers, Smith himself receiving a severe wound. Ten miles more would have witnessed their complete annihilation. No troops ever ran with better diligence than did these English regulars before the despised Yankee minute-men; they lost the day, and honor likewise. It was in vain that they threw out flanking parties, in an effort to clear the woods of the American sharpshooters; the latter knew the war of the forest better than they, and the flanking parties withered away, and staggered helpless from exhaustion. It was in vain that Lord Percy, with twelve hundred men, met the flying horde at Lexington, where their officers were trying to reform them under threats of death; his cannon could delay, but not reverse the fortunes of the day. Lord Percy soon became as frightened as the rest, and realized that speed of foot was his sole hope of safety. Gasping for breath, reeling from fatigue, with terror and despair in their hearts, foul with dust and dripping with blood, a third part of the British army in New England were hunted back to their fortifications as the sun of the 19th of April, whose first beams had fallen upon the dead at Lexington, went down in the west. Less than fifty Americans had been killed, less than forty were wounded. Some of these, however, were helpless persons, who were wantonly murdered in their houses by English soldiers, their brains dashed out, and their bodies hacked and stabbed. Women in childbirth were not exempt from the brutal fury of the flower of the British army; and an idiot boy was deliberately shot as he sat on a fence, vacantly staring at the passing rout. All, or most of the towns in the neighborhood of Boston contributed their able-bodied men to the American force during the day; but there was never more than a few hundred together at one time, fresh relays taking the place of those whose ammunition had been used up. Some of these squads performed prodigies of endurance; one of them arrived at the scene of action after a march of fifty-five miles. No man under seventy or over sixteen would stay at home; and Josiah Haynes of Sudbury was marching and fighting from earliest dawn till past noon, when he was killed by a grenadier's musket-ball. He was born five years before the Eighteenth Century began.

At West Cambridge the Americans were met by Joseph Warren and General Heath, who organized the heretofore irregular pursuit, and made it more disastrous to the enemy than ever. Warren, in the front of danger, was grazed by a bullet; but his time had not yet come. Fortunately for the British, Charlestown Neck was near, and once across that they were for the present safe. In fourteen hours they had learned more about America than they could ever forget. The Americans, for their part, had not failed to gather profit and confidence from the experiences of the day. The paralysis of respect and loyalty to England was at an end. The antagonists had met and measured their strength, and the undisciplined countrymen had proved the stronger. At any given point of the retreat, the English had always been the more numerous; but they showed neither heart nor ability for the contest. The British Coffee House in King Street that night presented a scene in marked contrast with that of the night before.

The rumors of the battle, and messages of information and appeal from the leaders, were disseminated without delay, and in a space of time wonderfully short had penetrated to the remotest of the colonies. Everywhere they met with the same reception; all were eager to join in the work so hopefully begun. Within a day or two, the force beleaguering Boston numbered several thousand; but as many of these came and went between the camp and their homes, no precise estimate can be made. They were without artillery for bombardment, without a commissariat, and almost without organization; and no leader had yet appeared capable of bringing order out of the confusion. But not a few men afterward to be distinguished were present there: the veteran John Stark, Benedict Arnold from Connecticut, Israel Putnam, who rode a hundred miles on one horse to join the provincial army; and Joseph Warren, were on the ground, and others were to come. Boston was effectually surrounded; Gage and his officers were afraid to order a sortie; and after a few days allowed the non-loyalist inhabitants to leave the city, on their promise not to take part in the siege. The chief deficiency of the Americans, or that at least which most obviously pressed upon them, was the want of money: Massachusetts had hitherto avoided paper; but it was no longer possible to stand on scruples, and a bill to issue a hundred thousand pounds was passed, and a quarter as much in bills of small denominations, to pay the soldiers. The other colonies adopted similar measures. In New York, eighty thousand pounds' worth of stores and supplies for Gage was seized by the people, and no ships were allowed to leave the harbor for the succor of the enemy. In Virginia, Patrick Henry and the young Madison, just out of Princeton, were prominent in opposing Governor Dunmore's efforts to establish "order." In Pennsylvania, men were raised and drilled, and patriotic resolves adopted; and Franklin arrived from England in time to be elected deputy to the second American Congress. The men of South Carolina announced themselves ready to give "the half, or the whole" of their estates for the security of their liberties, and voted to raise three regiments. Georgia, with only three thousand militia, and under threat of an Indian war on her frontier, fearlessly gave in her adhesion to the general movement. In North Carolina, the news from Lexington stampeded the governor, and left the people free to work their will. But the next notable achievement, after the Concord fight and the running battle, was the capture of Ticonderoga by Ethan Allen.

The design was formed in Connecticut, less than ten days after Lexington. Ethan Allen was a Connecticut boy; but had early emigrated with his brothers to the New Hampshire Grants, as Vermont was then called. These grants, given by the governor of New Hampshire, were called in question by New York, and officers from that colony tried to oust the settlers; in their resistance, Allen was the leader, and attained local celebrity. Parsons of Connecticut conferred with Benedict Arnold on the scheme of capturing the old fortress; and communication was had with Allen, who, being familiar with the Lake George region, and at the same time of Connecticut stock, was esteemed the best man to associate with the enterprise. Parsons and a few others raised money on their personal security, and set out for the north, gathering companions as they went. Ethan Allen met them at Bennington, with his company of Green Mountain Boys, and was chosen leader of the adventure, Arnold, who had a commission from Massachusetts, being ignored. On the 9th of May, the party, numbering about eighty men, exclusive of the rear guard, which was left behind by the exigencies of the occasion, landed on the shore near the fortress. Ticonderoga was a strong place, even for a force provided with cannon; but Allen had nothing but muskets, and everything depended upon a surprise. It was just sunrise on the 10th when Allen addressed his men with "We must this morning either quit our pretensions to valor, or possess ourselves of this fortress; and inasmuch as it is a desperate attempt, I do not urge it, contrary to your will. You that will undertake voluntarily, poise your firelocks!" The response was unanimous. The wicket of the stronghold was found open; the sentry snapped his gun at Allen, missed him, and was overpowered with a rush, together with the other guards. On the parade within, a hollow square was formed, facing the four barracks; a wounded sentry volunteered to conduct Allen to the commander, Delaplace. "Come forth instantly, or I will sacrifice the whole garrison," thundered Allen, at the door; and poor Delaplace, half awake, started up with his breeches in his hand and wanted to know what was the matter.--"Deliver to me this fort instantly!"--"By what authority?" inquired the stupefied commander. The Vermonter was never at a loss either for a word or a blow.--"In the name of the great Jehovah, and the Continental Congress!" and presenting the point of his sword, he cut short further parley and received the surrender. Fifty prisoners, with guns and stores, went with the fortress, for which the British had sacrificed forty million dollars and several campaigns; and not a drop of American blood was spilled. Ethan Allen is a picturesque character, and the capture of Ticonderoga is one of the picturesque episodes of the Revolutionary War, and a valuable exploit from the military point of view; but it lacks inevitably the moral weight and dignity of the Concord fight. Indeed, the significance of the entire struggle between Britain and her colonies was summed up and typified in that initial act of unsupported courage. What followed was but a corollary and expansion of it.

On the same day that Allen overcame Delaplace, the second Congress met in Philadelphia. It was a very conservative body, anxious that the war might proceed no further, and hopeful that England might recognize the justice of America's wish to be free while retaining the name of subjects of the king. But affairs had now got beyond the control of congresses; the people themselves were in command, and the legislature could do little more than ascertain and register their will. The present Congress, indeed, had no legislative powers, nor legal status of any kind; it was but the sober mind of the several colonies thinking over the situation, and offering advice here, warning there. It could not dispose of means to execute its ideas, while yet it would be open to as much criticism as if it possessed active powers. Naturally, therefore, its tendency was to be timid and circumspect. It is memorable nevertheless for at least two resolutions of high importance; it voted an army of twenty thousand men, and it named George Washington as commander-in-chief. And when he declined to countenance the proffered petition to King George, the ultimate prospect of reconciliation with England vanished.


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