Friday, April 19, 2019

This Day In History: The American Revolution Begins

Cowpen's Flag, 13 stars, 13 stripes.
It seems like I must have been about eight years old when our family visited the bridge where the opening salvo of the American Revolutionary War took place. It was called "the shot heard round the world."

The British had sent 700 Redcoats, led by Major Thomas Pitcairn, to capture Patriot leaders in the region of Boston and to seize the arsenal in Lexington. To their surprise they found 77 armed Minutemen waiting for them on the town's open green. The Colonial patriots were ordered to disperse. Tensions were high, and while the patriots appeared to be drifting off the green a shot was fired. The next instant musket smoke covered what was now an instant battlefield, the Battle of Lexington. The brief encounter resulted in 18 American casualties, eight dead or dying and ten others wounded.

The British only lost one soldier in the early morning encounter. Over time, despite being better trained and better equipped, they would eventually learn the challenges of fighting a war across the ocean and a long way from home.

What follows are some quotes from this period of upheaval that led to the birth of our American Republic.

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Spirit of '76 by Archibald Willard. Public domain.
Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! 
By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.
John Dickerson

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Let tyrants shake their iron rod,
and slavery clank her galling chains.
We fear them not, we trust in God,
New England's God forever reigns.

The foe comes on with haughty stride.
Our troops advance with martial noise.
Their veterans flee before our youth,
and generals yield to beardless boys.
--William Billings

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British over-confidence is best expressed in this letter from Major Pitcairn to the British Secretary of State John Montago:

"Vigorous measures at present would soon put an end to this rebellion. The deluded people are made to believe that they are invincible.... When this army is ordered to act against them, they will soon be convinced that they are very insignificant when opposed to regular troops."

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"The Redcoats are coming! The Redcoats are coming!!"

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This statement by a British officer, after the Battle of Lexington and Concord, says a lot: "Whoever looks upon them as an irregular mob will find himself much mistaken."

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I was myself was too young to appreciate history and the import of this "place" where the actual first fighting began in our war for independence. While our parents read the placards and historical signage, I was down in the creek looking for crawdads. I caught a very cool little eel-like creature and brought it up to show my parents who were up on the bridge. When I opened my hand, the leech was fastened to my palm. It was my first experience with these blood-suckers and it made an impression.

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These are the times that try men’s souls... Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered.
Thomas Paine

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