Author Topic: The Second Strike - by Three'oEight  (Read 108 times)

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The Second Strike - by Three'oEight
« on: April 10, 2014, 09:48:38 PM »
The grim events at Lexington and the tragic loss of life there was just the beginning of a chain of events that would have an everlasting impact in the colonies. If nothing else had happened on April 19, it might have gone down as just another failed protest by an unhappy few. But soon, the noble few gathered on Lexington Green would be joined by thousands of men pouring out from every nearby village and town.

Earlier that morning, Dr. Samuel Prescott had managed to elude British soldiers and warn the town of Concord. He continued on to Acton where he met Captain Isaac Davis. Captain Davis was the local gunsmith and had set up a shooting range behind his shop where the Minutemen would practice often. He also took it upon himself to outfit each of his men with cartridge boxes to aid quick reloading and bayonets, something most of the Colonials did not possess. Davis was of the opinion that the Minutemen should be equally equipped as any regular soldier rather than being limited to the standard hunting muskets and powder horns of the time. Because of his efforts, the Acton Minutemen were among the best equipped in the region and could be counted on to lead any action that might be necessary to secure freedom and prosperity.

When Captain Davis left his home that morning, he left behind his wife and 4 sick children. It was a somber moment as Davis stood on the threshold of his home, perhaps for the last time. At a loss for words he simply turned back and said, "Take good care of the children" before marching down with his men to face an uncertain future. Of course he could've stayed home that day and saw to the needs of his own family, but the men and women of 1775 saw themselves different than we do in the 21st century. We look at the world today from the inside out, as a man or woman surrounded by a larger community. But they understood that a strong community was essential to the needs of any few. Every part of their survival had always depended on working together as a greater whole.

So when Isaac Davis marched on into Concord he was not alone. By the time his small company made it into town, men from Bedford and several other neighboring communities joined them. They continued on the road towards Lexington until they began to see a long line of Redcoats marching towards them like a fiery serpent, bayonets glistening in the morning light. Knowing their small numbers could do very little, they decided they had best proceed cautiously and not show any aggression towards the regulars who might take out their anger on the citizens of Concord. As the Redcoats approached, Capt. Davis and the Minutemen did an about face and marched back into the town ahead of the regular troops. Some said it looked like a parade as the two groups marched into the town, each playing their own cadence on pipes and drums.

The Minutemen didn't stop inside Concord, but proceeded all the way out over the North Bridge. They finally stopped on Punkatasset Hill overlooking the town where they could cautiously watch and wait for more reinforcements to arrive. Soon after, Lt. Col. Smith of the Redcoats sent several light companies of men to secure that same bridge. Another company he sent to the south bridge to make sure the Minutemen stayed back while he ordered the remainder of his army to search the town for contraband. He also sent 3 companies of men farther out past the North Bridge to the Barrett Farm where cannon and muskets were thought to be hidden. As the soldiers approached the barn, they took little notice of farmers out plowing the fields, even though their plows were concealing a crop more valuable than corn or wheat as muskets lay in the trenches.

Back inside Concord the Redcoats weren't having much luck either. Having marched nearly 20 miles on empty stomachs, many took refuge in taverns and inns where they demanded food and drink. Major Pitcairn is said to have ordered a glass of Brandy and stirring it with his finger exclaimed he hoped to stir Yankee blood before nightfall. At least the Redcoats paid for their meals, although some refused to accept such blood money.

After some time, the Redcoats did manage to find some of the supplies that had been hidden away throughout the town. They found a few barrels of musket balls that they broke open and threw into a pond. Of course the thrifty colonists would simply dredge them back out again the next day. A few cannon were discovered and had their trunnions broken off so they couldn't be re-mounted and the wooden carriages were piled up in the center of town along with other contraband to be burned. On the top of this pyre they maliciously tossed the town's Liberty Pole as a final insult. Liberty Poles were often erected as a sign of unity and defiance against Tyranny, a tradition 100s of years old. From it's peak would fly colorful flags or other pennants meant to inspire the community together and public notices might be nailed to it's base.

As Concord's flagpole began to burn, a breeze spread the embers to ignite the meetinghouse nearby. One old woman chastised the regulars for setting the fire and demanded they put it out before the whole town burned. After the debacle in Lexington they quickly complied though not before the men on Punkatasset Hill saw the smoke arising over the town. This would prove to be one of their biggest mistakes of the day.

Up on the hill, Captain Davis, Major Buttrick and other Colonial officers were discussing what their next course of action should be when Joseph Hosmer noticed smoke billowing from below. He asked the officers "Why are we standing here while Redcoats are burning our town?" Captain Davis, when asked if his men were ready to defend it exclaimed "I have not a man who is afraid to go" and proceeded to march down the hill, his men and the other officers falling in behind.

Seeing their approach, the Redcoats on the North Bridge started to get nervous and began pulling up planks to prevent a crossing. They quickly halted this action when they realized they were out of time and remembering they still had men across the bridge on Barrett's Farm. Captain Laurie of the Redcoats sent a runner to warn Lt. Col. Smith of the Minutemen's approach, then ordered his own men to fall back into a street fighting formation and hold the bridge. While this may have been a useful tactic in the town, out on the narrow bridge it meant the Colonials could spread out along the riverbank and engage in a much wider angle. Soon he would come to realize this mistake.

By the time the Minutemen came within range, one can only imagine the intent shown on their faces after seeing the smoke from town and then witnessing men trying to tear up their bridge. Yet still Major Buttrick repeated his standing order not to fire unless fired upon. It wasn't long before a panicked few Redcoats fired warning shots into the water. In a matter of seconds, the remaining troops hearing the shots began to fire themselves, although most of their shots whistled harmlessly over the heads of the Minutemen. Unfortunately, a few met their mark. Abner Hosmer was shot in the head and fell to the ground near the front of the line. Standing next to him, Captain Isaac Davis, who had so selflessly equipped and trained the Acton men to defend Liberty took a musket ball to the chest, covering those men in his blood.

While historians might argue that the true War for Independence would begin a few hours later, for the men on the North Bridge, it had already begun. Those simple farmers and tradesmen were now soldiers in the cause of Liberty and Major Buttrick finally yells out to his men "Fire, fellow soldiers, for God's sake, FIRE! Fire as fast as you can!" In just 2 minutes, half the British officers are wounded, 2 men lay dead or dying, a sergeant and 4 others are also injured. The Redcoats immediately begin to fall out of formation, some stumbling to safety, others in full retreat having been humbled by superior marksmanship they had always underestimated in these ragged farmers and tradesmen. They would not be underestimated again.

When Smith finally arrives near the North Bridge he sees his men in full flight and quickly tries to organize a "tactical" retreat. But the Minutemen show more discipline than the Redcoats had previously in Lexington. They reassemble at the bridge, replace the missing planks and a few take care to honor the dead and carry the bodies of Abner Hosner and Isaac Davis to a nearby house, laying them out on the dining table. They clean the blood off as best they can before Davis's wife can be brought to say her goodbyes to her husband for the very last time. Do you think she took good care of the children? Are we?

When the Redcoats finally make it back to the bridge, they are horrified by what they see. The ground and planks of the bridge are covered in blood and 2 of their fellow soldiers have been left there to die. One appears to have been butchered, his scalp and even his ears severed grotesquely. What kind of savages would commit such an atrocity? And yet the Minutemen holding the bridge simply stand aside and let the Redcoats pass by unmolested, once again the standing order being, "Do not fire unless fired upon." But they carry a story of the brutality they see, not fully understanding what had actually taken place. A young man named Ammie White whom was thought to be "mentally unfit" had come upon one of the Redcoats moaning in agony from his wounds and ended his life.

We don't know Ammie's particular motive in killing the man, but it's imagined he was simply putting him out of his misery as one would an injured horse, using his hatchet, the only weapon he had. By the time the Redcoats return to their army the story becomes exaggerated into one of men being scalped, their ears taken as trophies. This would have an unfortunate affect on the conduct carried out by British soldiers the remainder of the day.

When all of Lt. Col. Smith's men are finally assembled once again in Concord, he gives them time to rest up and nurse the wounded before heading back to Boston. All manners now aside, they strip bed linens from the citizens, taking whatever horses and wagons they need to cart the British officers back home. Regular soldiers will still have to limp back on foot if they can. But all this time they spend in Concord has given the Colonial's even more time to spread the alarm and gather reinforcements. By the time Smith is ready to leave Concord he no longer has the advantage of numbers. Soon no stone wall, tree or shadow will be empty of staring eyes or pointed muskets in judgment of the foul deeds of this day.

Now think for a moment the high price Captain Isaac Davis placed on Liberty. When life threw him a challenge, he didn't sit around and complain like most of us do. He got on his feet and did something about. This is what inspires me to tell you this story. Because if Isaac Davis could do so much for me, then how can I go back home playing video games or watching TV all day when Liberty is at stake for us all? I can simply think of nothing better I could be doing with my time now than sharing this heritage with you. I hope you will make good use of it.
"We have always looked upon men as a set of beings naturally free - that a people can never be divested of those invaluable rights and liberties which are necessary to the happiness of individuals, to the well-beings of communities or to a well regulated state, but by their own negligence, imprudence, timidity or rashness. They are seldom lost, but when foolishly forfeited or tamely resigned." ~Jonas Clarke