"You go home to-morrow. Will it be long before we shall see you again? I may want such strength as you can give," she said.
"I trust that in God's good time we may meet again. How soon I may be here or what may bring me I do not foresee; but be assured, Miss Newville, I shall ever be your friend."
"I do not doubt it. Good-by," she said.
She heard his retreating footsteps growing fainter.
"Oh, if he had only said, 'I love you,'" the whisper on her lips.
"I could die for her; no, I'll live for her," he said to himself, as he walked towards the Brandon home.
THE MIDNIGHT RIDE.
Abel Shrimpton, loyal to the king, hated Samuel Adams and John Hancock and the Sons of Liberty, holding them responsible for the troubles that had come to the people. In Mr. Shrimpton's attractive home, made beautiful by the presence of his daughter, Tom Brandon had been a welcome visitor, but the relations between Mr. Shrimpton and Tom were changing.
"The Regulation Act," said Tom, "which in fact makes the king the government, deprives the people of their liberties."
"People who abuse their liberties ought to be deprived of them," Mr. Shrimpton replied.
"We are not allowed to select jurors. The law takes away our right to assemble in town meeting, except by permission, and then we can only elect selectmen to look after town affairs," said Tom.
"The people have shown they are not fit to govern themselves," said Mr. Shrimpton. "They allow the mob to run riot. It was a mob that smashed Chief Justice Hutchinson's windows. Your gatherings under the Liberty Tree are in reality nothing but mobs; you have no legal authority for assembling. It was a mob that assaulted the king's troops on the 5th of March; a mob threw the tea into the harbor, and I strongly suspect that Tom Brandon had a hand in that iniquity. The king stands for law and order. The troops are here in the interest of good government, by constituted authority, to enforce the law and put down riots."
"Just who had a hand in throwing the tea overboard no one can find out, but I am glad it was done," said Tom.
"So you uphold lawlessness, Mr. Brandon?"
"I stand against the unrighteous acts of Parliament. We will not be slaves; we will not be deprived of our liberties. If King George and Lord North think they can starve the people of this town into submission, they will find themselves mistaken," said Tom.
"I hope he will compel every one of you to obey the laws, and that whoever had a hand in destroying the tea will suffer for it," Mr. Shrimpton replied.
Tom saw the smile fade from the countenance of Mary as she listened to the conversation. Her quick insight, and acquaintance with her father's surly temper, enabled her to see what was withholden from Tom's slower perception.
"Mary," said Mr. Shrimpton, after Tom took his departure, "I want you to stop having anything to do with Tom."
"Because I don't like him."
"But I do like him."
"No matter. He's an enemy to the king. I have good reason to believe he had a hand in throwing the tea overboard. If he did, he is no better than a thief. He willfully, wantonly, and with malice aforethought stole the property of others from the holds of the ships, and destroyed it. It was burglary—breaking and entering. It was a malicious destruction of property of the East India Company. It was a heinous affair—not mere larceny to be punished by standing in the pillory, or sitting in the stocks, or tied up to the whipping-post and flogged, but an offense which, if it could be proved, would send every one of the marauders to jail for ten or twenty years. Now I don't want the name of Shrimpton mixed up with that of Brandon. So you can cut Tom adrift."
"I don't want any buts. You will do as I tell you if you know what is good for yourself."
"Have you not, father, said in the past that he was an estimable young man?"
"But he is not estimable now. He meets others in secret to plot mischief. I have had spies on his track. He is a lawbreaker, a mischief-maker, and sooner or later will be in jail, and possibly may be brought to the gallows. Now, once for all, I tell you I will not have him coming here."
Mr. Shrimpton said it with a flushed face, setting his teeth firmly together as he rose from his chair.
"Very well, father," said Mary, wiping the tears from her eyes.
She knew how irascible he was at times,—how he allowed his anger to master reason, and hoped it might pass away. Through the night the words were repeating themselves. What course should she pursue? Give up Tom? What if he did help destroy the tea; was it not a righteous protest against the tyranny of the king and Parliament? He did not do it as an individual, but as a member of the community; it was the only course for them to pursue. Tom was not therefore a thief at heart. Was he not kind-hearted? Was he not giving his time and strength to relieve suffering? Had he not just as much right to stand resolutely for the liberties of the people as her father for the prerogatives of the king? Must she stop seeing him to please her father? It would not be pleasant to have Tom call upon her, and have her father shut the door in his face; that would be an indignity. Should she withdraw her engagement? Should she plunge a knife into her own heart to please her father? Never. Come what would, she would be true to Tom. She would not anger her father by inviting Tom to continue his visits, but there were the elms of Long Acre, Beacon Hill, the market, and other places, where from time to time they might meet for a few moments. True love could wait for better days.
There came a morning when the people saw a handbill posted upon the walls which said that the men who were misleading the people were bankrupt in purse and character. Tom Brandon's blood was at fever heat as he read the closing words:—
"Ask pardon of God, submit to our king and Parliament, whom we have wickedly and grievously offended. Let us seize our seducers, make peace with our mother country, and save ourselves and children."
He knew that the sentiments of the handbill were those of Mr. Shrimpton, and suspected that his hand had penned it. The rumor was abroad that the king had sent word to General Gage to seize the two arch leaders of the rebels, Adams and Hancock. The following evening Tom and other Sons gathered at the Green Dragon, laid their hands upon the Bible, and made a solemn oath to watch constantly the movements of the Tories and soldiers, and give information to Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Doctor Warren, and Benjamin Church, and to no others.
There came a day when a great multitude assembled in town meeting, in the Old South Meetinghouse, to listen to Doctor Warren's oration commemorative of the massacre of the people by the troops. Citizens from all the surrounding towns were there to let General Gage know they had not forgotten it; besides, they knew they would hear burning words from the lips of the fearless patriot.
Tom Brandon and Abraham Duncan, looking down from the gallery upon the great throng, saw Samuel Adams elected moderator. He invited the officers of the regiments to take seats upon the platform. Tom wondered if they were present to make mischief. The pulpit was draped in black. Every part of the house was filled,—aisles, windows, seats,—and there was a great crowd in the porches. Tom was wondering if it would be possible for Doctor Warren to edge his way through the solid body of men, when he saw the window behind the pulpit opened by one of the selectmen and the doctor, wearing a student's black gown, enter through the window. The audience welcomed him with applause. For more than an hour they listened spellbound to his patriotic and fearless words. At times the people made the building shake with their applause. Some of the king's officers grew red in the face when he alluded to their presence in Boston to suppress the liberties of the people. One of the officers of the Welsh Fusilliers sitting on the stairs was very insulting. Tom saw him take some bullets from his pocket and hold them in the palm of his hand to annoy Doctor Warren, but instead of being frightened, he very quietly rebuked the officer's insolence by letting his handkerchief drop upon the bullets. Bold and eloquent were his closing words.
"Fellow-citizens," he said, "you will maintain your rights or perish in the glorious struggle. However difficult the combat, you will never decline it when freedom is the prize. Independence of Great Britain is not our aim. Our wish is that Britain and the Colonies may, like the oak and the ivy, grow and increase in strength together. If pacific measures fail, and it appears that the only way to safety is through fields of blood, I know you will not turn your faces from your foes, but will press forward till tyranny is trodden under foot and you have placed your adored goddess Liberty on her American throne."
The building shook with applause when he sat down.
"It is moved that the thanks of the town be presented to Doctor Warren for his oration," said the moderator.
"No, no! fie, fie!" shouted a captain of the Royal Irish Regiment, and the other officers around thumped the floor with their canes.
Tom's blood was hot, as was the blood of those around him. Some of the people under the galleries, who could not see what was going on, thought the officers were crying fire, to break up the meeting. Very quietly Samuel Adams raised his hand. The people became calm. The officers left the building, and the town went on with its business. The people were learning self-control.
When the meeting was over, Tom and Abraham walked along Cornhill, and turned down King Street on their way home. They saw a crowd around the British Coffee House tavern,—the officers who a little while before had left the Old South Meetinghouse, laughing, talking, and drinking their toddy. Tom soon discovered they were having a mock town meeting. One was acting as moderator, pounding with his cane and calling them to order. They chose seven selectmen and a clerk. Then one went upstairs and soon appeared upon the balcony wearing a rusty and ragged old black gown, a gray wig with a fox's tail dangling down his back. He bowed to those below, and began a mock oration. He called Samuel Adams, Doctor Warren, and John Hancock scoundrels, blackguards, knaves, and other vile names. His language was so scurrilous, profane, and indecent that Tom could not repeat it to his mother and Berinthia. Those who listened clapped their hands. Tom and Abraham came to the conclusion that most of the officers of the newly arrived regiments were too vile to be worthy the society of decent people.
Tom was boiling hot two nights later, at the treatment given Thomas Ditson of Billerica, who had come to market. A soldier persuaded the guileless young farmer to buy an old worn-out gun. The next moment he was seized by a file of soldiers and thrust into the guardhouse for buying anything of a soldier against the law. He had only the bare floor to sleep on. In the morning, Lieutenant-Colonel Nesbit ordered the soldiers to strip off Ditson's clothes, and tar and feather him.
It was a pitiful spectacle which Ruth Newville saw,—Colonel Nesbit marching at the head of his regiment, the soldiers with their bayonets surrounding a man stripped to the waist, smeared with tar, covered with feathers, the fifes playing, and the drums beating the Rogue's March.
"It is disgraceful," she said, with flashing eyes, to her mother. "Colonel Nesbit ought to be ashamed of himself. If he ever calls here again, I'll not speak to him."
Fast Day came, and again the eyes of Miss Newville flashed when she saw the king's troops parading the streets; the drummers and fifers taking their stations by the doors of the meetinghouses to annoy the people, playing so loud they could scarcely hear a word of what the minister was saying.
"Do you think, father, that General Gage will win back the affections of the people, or even retain their respect by permitting such outrages?" Ruth asked.
"Perhaps it is not the wisest course to pursue. Quite likely the officers of the regiments did it of their own notion," Mr. Newville replied.
If Lord North and King George thought a show of military force would overawe the people of Boston town, they were mistaken. Possibly they did not reflect that military repression might beget resistance by arms; but when the regiments began to arrive, the Sons of Liberty resolved to prepare for whatever might happen. They appointed a committee of safety to protect the rights of the people.
* * * * *
Winter was over, and with their singing the birds were making the April mornings melodious. The Provincial Congress was in session at Cambridge, and Samuel Adams and John Hancock had left Boston and with Dorothy Quincy were with Reverend Mr. Clark in Lexington. Abraham Duncan discovered that General Gage had sent Captain Brown and Ensign De Berniere into the country to see the roads. Sharp-eyed Sons of Liberty watched the movements of the soldiers. They saw Lord Percy march his brigade to Roxbury, and return as if for exercise, with no one opposing them.
[Footnote 53: Captain Brown and Ensign De Berniere, March 20, visited Concord and Worcester and intermediate towns, dressed as citizens. The vigilant Sons of Liberty were cognizant of all their movements and notified the patriotic citizens, who had them under surveillance every moment. Ensign De Berniere has written a narrative of the journey.]
"We can march from one end of the continent to the other, without opposition from the cowardly Yankees," said the boasting soldiers.
Paul Revere, Tom Brandon, Robert Newman, and a score of the Sons of Liberty were keeping watch of the movements of the redcoats. They saw the sailors of the warships, and of the vessels which had brought the new troops, launching their boats and putting them in order. They knew General Gage wanted to seize Samuel Adams and John Hancock, and quite likely the military supplies which the committee of safety had collected at Concord. Paul Revere rode out to Lexington on Sunday to see Adams and Hancock, and let them know what was going on in Boston.
"The launching of the ship's boat means something," said Mr. Adams. "It looks as if the troops were going to make a short cut across Charles River instead of marching over Roxbury Neck."
"We will keep our eyes open and let you know the moment they make any movement," said Revere.
"Quite likely Gage will set a patrol so you can't leave Boston," said Hancock.
"I'll tell ye what we'll do. If the troops leave in the night by way of Roxbury, I'll get Robert Newman to hang a lantern in the steeple of Christ Church; if they take boats to make the short cut across Charles River, I'll have him hang out two lanterns. I'll tell Deacon Larkin and Colonel Conant, over in Charlestown, to keep their eyes on the steeple."
* * * * *
It was Tuesday morning, April 18. Abraham Duncan wondered how it happened that so many British officers with their overcoats on were mounting their horses and riding out towards Roxbury, not in a group, but singly, or two together, with pistols in their holsters.
"We will dine at Winship's tavern in Cambridge, and then go on," he heard one say.
He also noticed that the grenadiers and light infantry guards were not on duty as on other days.
He hastened to inform Doctor Warren, who sent a messenger with a letter to the committee of safety.
It was evening when Richard Devens and Abraham Watson, members of the committee of safety, shook hands with their fellow members, Elbridge Gerry, Asa Orne, and Colonel Lee at Wetherby's, bade them good-night, and stepped into their chaise to return to their homes in Charlestown. The others would spend the night at Wetherby's, and they would all meet in Woburn in the morning.
Satisfying to the appetite was the dinner which landlord Winship set before a dozen British officers,—roast beef, dish gravy, mealy potatoes, plum-pudding, mince pie, crackers and cheese, prime old port, and brandy distilled from the grapes of Bordeaux.
"We will jog on slowly; it won't do to get there too early," said one of the officers as they mounted their horses and rode up past the green, and along the wide and level highways, towards Menotomy, paying no attention to Solomon Brown, plodding homeward in his horse-cart from market. When the old mare lagged to a walk, they rode past him; when he stirred her up with his switch she made the old cart rattle past them. The twinkling eyes peeping out from under his shaggy brows saw that their pistols were in the holsters, and their swords were clanking at times.
"I passed nine of them," he said to Sergeant Munroe when he reached Lexington Common; and the sergeant, mistrusting they might be coming to nab Adams and Hancock, summoned eight of his company to guard the house of Mr. Clark.
Mr. Devens and Mr. Watson met the Britishers.
"They mean mischief. We must let Gerry, Orne, and Joe know," Mr. Devens said.
Quickly the chaise turned, and they rode back to Wetherby's. The moon was higher in the eastern sky, and the hands of the clock pointed to the figure nine when the officers rode past the house.
"We must put Adams and Hancock on their guard," said Mr. Gerry; and a little later a messenger on horseback was scurrying along a bypath towards Lexington.
In Boston, Abraham Duncan was keeping his eyes and ears open.
"What's the news, Billy?" was his question to Billy Baker, apprentice to Mr. Hall, who sold toddy to the redcoats.
"I guess something is going to happen," said Billy.
"What makes you think so?"
"'Cause a woman who belongs to one of the redcoats was in just now after a toddy; she said the lobsters were going somewhere."
"Is that so?"
"Yes; and they are packing their knapsacks."
Abraham whispered it to Doctor Warren, and a few minutes later William Dawes was mounting his old mare and riding toward Roxbury. She was thin in flesh, and showed her ribs; and the man on her back, who dressed calf-skins for a living, jogged along Cornhill as if in no hurry. The red-coated sentinels, keeping guard by the fortifications on the Neck, said to themselves he was an old farmer, but were surprised to see him, after passing them, going like the wind out towards Roxbury, to the Parting Stone, then turning towards Cambridge, making the gravel fly from her heels as she tore along the road.
* * * * *
Berinthia Brandon, sitting in her chamber, looking out into the starlit night, saw the faint light of the rising moon along the eastern horizon. Twilight was still lingering in the western sky. In the gloaming, she saw the sailors of the warships and transports were stepping into their boats and floating with the incoming tide up the Charles. What was the meaning of it? She ran downstairs and told her father and Tom what she had seen; and Tom, seizing his hat, tore along Salem Street and over the bridge across Mill Creek to Doctor Warren's. The clock on the Old Brick Meetinghouse was striking ten when he rattled the knocker.
"The boats are on their way up the river with the tide," he said, out of breath with his running.
Abraham Duncan came in, also out of breath.
"The lobsters are marching across the Common, toward Barton's Point," he said.
"All of which means, they are going to take the boats and cross Charles River, instead of marching by way of Roxbury," said the doctor, reflecting a moment.
He asked Tom if he would please run down to North Square and ask Paul Revere to come and see him.
A few minutes later Revere was there.
"I've already sent Dawes, but for fear Gage's spies may pick him up, I want you to take the short cut to Lexington and alarm people on your way; you'll have to look sharp for Gage's officers. Tell Newman to hang out the two signals."
Revere hastened down Salem Street, whispered a word in the ear of Robert Newman, ran to his own home for his overcoat, told two young men to accompany him, then ran to the riverside and stepped into his boat. The great black hull of the frigate Somerset rose before him. By the light of the rising moon he could see a marine, with his gun on his shoulder, pacing the deck; but no challenge came, and the rowers quickly landed him in Charlestown.
[Footnote 54: In the Tales of a Wayside Inn, the poet Longfellow represents Paul Revere as impatiently waiting beside his horse, on the Charlestown shore, for the signal lights:—
"On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere. Now he patted his horse's side, Now gazed at the landscape far and near, Then, impetuous, stamped the earth, And turned and tightened his saddle-girth; But mostly watched with eager search The belfry tower of the Old North Church, As it rose above the graves on the hill, Lonely and spectral and sombre and still. And lo! as he looks, on the belfry height A glimmer, and then a gleam of light! He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns, But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight A second lamp in the belfry burns!"
From the narrative of Paul Revere in the archives of the Massachusetts Historical Society, we learn that the signals were seen before he reached the Charlestown shore:—
"When I got into town, I met Colonel Conant and several others; they said they had seen our signals; I told them what was acting, and I went to get me a horse; I got a horse of Deacon Larkin. While the horse was preparing, Richard Devens, Esq., who was one of the Committee of Safety, came to me and told me that he came down the road from Lexington after sundown, that evening; that he met ten British officers, all well mounted and armed, going up the road."]
Robert Newman, sexton, had gone to bed. The officers of one of the king's regiments, occupying the front chamber, saw him retire, but did not see him a minute later crawl out of a window to the roof of a shed, drop lightly to the ground, make his way to the church, enter, turn the key, lock the door, climb the stairs to the tower, and hang the lanterns in the loft above the bell. It was but the work of a moment. Having done it, he hastened down the stairway, past the organ, to the floor of the church. The full moon was flooding the arches above him with its mellow light; but he did not tarry to behold the beauty of the scene; not that he feared ghosts would rise from the coffins in the crypt beneath the church,—he was not afraid of dead men,—but he would rather the redcoats should not know what he had been doing. He raised a window, dropped from it to the ground, ran down an alley, reached his house, climbed the shed, and was in bed when officers of one of the regiments came to make inquiry about the lanterns. Of course, Robert, being in bed, could not have hung them there. It must have been done by somebody else.
[Footnote 55: Paul Revere in his narrative says "a friend" made the signals. It has been claimed that John Pulling, and not Robert Newman, hung the lanterns. The evidence favoring Newman and Pulling is in each case circumstantial. Both were Sons of Liberty and intimate with Revere. Newman was sexton in possession of the keys of the church. It is said that Pulling obtained them; that the suspicion was so strong against him he was obliged to leave the town secretly, not daring to apply for a pass. Newman was arrested, but General Gage could find no direct evidence against him. I have followed the generally accepted opinion, favoring Newman.]
Paul Revere the while is flying up Main Street towards Charlestown Neck. It is a pleasant night. The grass in the fields is fresh and green; the trees above him are putting forth their young and tender leaves. He is thinking of what Richard Devens has said, and keeps his eyes open. He crosses the narrow neck of land between the Mystic and Charles rivers, and sees before him the tree where Mark was hung ten years before for poisoning his master. The bones of the negro no longer rattle in the wind; the eyeless sockets of the once ghostly skeleton no longer glare at people coming from Cambridge and Medford to Charlestown, and Paul Revere has no fear of seeing Mark's ghost hovering around the tree. It is for the living—Gage's spies—that he peers into the night. Bucephalus suddenly pricks up his ears. Ah! there they are! two men in uniform on horseback beneath the tree. He is abreast of them. They advance. Quickly he wheels, and rides back towards Charlestown. He reaches the road leading to Medford, reins Bucephalus into it. He sees one of them riding across the field to cut him off; the other is following him along the road. Suddenly the rider in the field disappears,—going head foremost into a clay pit. "Ha! ha!" laughs Revere, as the fleet steed bears him on towards Medford town. He clatters across Mystic bridge, halts long enough to awaken the captain of the minute-men, and then rattles on towards Menotomy.
[Footnote 56: "After I passed Charlestown Neck, and got nearly opposite where Mark was hung in chains, I saw two men on horseback under the tree. When I got near them I discovered they were British officers. One tried to get ahead of me, and the other to take me. I turned my horse quick and galloped towards Charlestown Neck, and then pushed for the Medford road. The one who chased me, endeavoring to cut me off, got into a clay pond. I got clear of him and went through Medford over the bridge up to Menotomy. In Medford I awaked the captain of the minute-men, and after that I alarmed every house till I got to Lexington."—Revere's Narrative.]
It is past eleven o'clock. The fires have been covered for the night in the farmhouses, and the people are asleep.
"Turn out! turn out! the redcoats are coming!"
Paul Revere is shouting it at every door, as Bucephalus bears him swiftly on. The farmers spring from their beds, peer through their window-panes into the darkness,—seeing a vanishing form, and flashing sparks struck from the stones by the hoofs of the flying horse. Once more across the Mystic on to Menotomy, past the meetinghouse and the houses of the slumbering people, up the hill, along the valley, to Lexington Green; past the meetinghouse, not halting at Buckman's tavern, but pushing on, leaping from his foaming steed and rapping upon Mr. Clark's door.
"Who are ye, and what d'ye want?" Sergeant Munroe asked the question.
"I want to see Mr. Hancock."
"Well, you can't. The minister and his family mustn't be disturbed, so just keep still and don't make a racket."
"There'll be a racket pretty soon, for the redcoats are coming," said Paul.
"Who are you and what do you wish?" asked Reverend Mr. Clark in his night-dress from the window.
"I want to see Adams and Hancock."
"It is Revere; let him in!" shouted Hancock down the stairway.
"The regulars are coming, several hundred of them, to seize you!"
"It is the supplies at Concord they are after," cried Mr. Adams.
A moment later other hoofs were striking fire from the stones, and another horseman, William Dawes, appeared, confirming what Revere had said.
THE MORNING DRUMBEAT.
"Ring the bell!"
Samuel Adams said it, and one of Sergeant Munroe's men ran to the green, seized the bell-rope, and set the meetinghouse bell to clanging, sending the alarm far and wide upon the still night air.
In the farmhouses candles were quickly lighted, and the minute-men, who had agreed to obey a summons at a moment's warning, came running with musket, bullet-pouch, and powder-horn, to the rendezvous. They formed in line, but, no redcoats appearing, broke ranks and went into Buckman's tavern.
* * * * *
Silently, without tap of drum, the grenadiers and light infantry under Colonel Francis Smith, at midnight, marched from their quarters to Barton's Point, together with the marines under Major Pitcairn.
"Where are we going?" Lieutenant Edward Gould of the King's Own put the question to Captain Lawrie.
"I suppose General Gage and the Lord, and perhaps Colonel Smith, know, but I don't," the captain replied, as he stepped into a boat with his company.
It was eleven o'clock when the last boat-load of troops reached Lechmere's Point,—not landing on solid ground, but amid the last year's reeds and marshes. The tide was flowing into the creek and eddies, and the mud beneath the feet of the king's troops was soft and slippery.
"May his satanic majesty take the man who ordered us into this bog," said a soldier whose feet suddenly went out from under him and sent him sprawling into the slimy oose.
"By holy Saint Patrick, isn't the water nice and warm!" said one of the marines as he waded into the flowing tide fresh from the sea.
"Gineral Gage intends to teach us how to swim," said another.
With jokes upon their lips, but inwardly cursing whoever had directed them to march across the marsh, the troops splashed through the water, reached the main road leading to Menotomy, and waited while the commissary distributed their rations. It was past two o'clock before Colonel Smith was ready to move on. Looking at his watch in the moonlight and seeing how late it was, he directed Major Pitcairn to take six companies of the light infantry and hasten on to Lexington.
* * * * *
From the house of Reverend Mr. Clark, Paul Revere, William Dawes, and young Doctor Prescott of Concord, who had been sparking his intended wife in Lexington village, started on their horses up the road towards Concord. From the deep shade of the alders a half dozen men suddenly confronted them.
"Surrender, or I will blow out your brains!" shouts one of the officers.
Revere and Dawes are prisoners; but Doctor Prescott, quick of eye, ear, and motion, is leaping his horse over the stone wall, riding through fields and pastures, along bypaths, his saddle-bags flopping, his horse, young and fresh, bearing him swiftly on over the meadows to the slumbering village, with the news that the redcoats are coming.
[Footnote 57: Longfellow in his poem has Revere riding on to Concord bridge.
"It was two by the village clock, When he came to the bridge in Concord town."
Revere's account reads:—
"We had got nearly half way; Mr. Dawes and the Doctor stopped to alarm the people of a house. I was about one hundred rods ahead when I saw two men, in nearly the same situation as those officers were near Charlestown. I called for the Doctor and Dawes to come up; in an instant I was surrounded by four.... We tried to get out there; the Doctor jumped his horse over a low stone wall and got to Concord. I observed a wood at a small distance and made for that. When I got there, out rushed six officers on horseback and ordered me to dismount."]
"Tell us where we can find those arch traitors to his majesty the king, or you are dead men," the threat of an officer.
Paul Revere sees the muzzle of the pistol within a foot of his breast, but it does not frighten him.
"Ah, gentlemen, you have missed your aim."
"You won't get what you came for. I left Boston an hour before your troops were ready to cross Charles River. Messengers left before me, and the alarm will soon be fifty miles away. Had I not known it, I would have risked a shot from you before allowing myself to be captured."
From the belfry of the meetinghouse the bell was sending its peals far and wide over fields and woodlands.
"Do you not hear it? The town is alarmed," said Revere.
"Rub-a-dub-dub! rub-a-dub-dub! rub-a-dub, rub-a-dub, rub-a-dub-dub!" It was the drummer beating the long roll.
"The minute-men are forming; you are dead men!" said Dawes.
The drumbeat, with the clanging bell, was breaking the stillness of the early morning. The officers put their heads together and whispered a moment.
"Get off your horses," ordered Captain Parsons of the king's Tenth Regiment.
Revere and Dawes obeyed.
"We'll keep this; the other is only fit for the crows to pick," said one of the officers, cutting the saddle-girth of Dawes's horse, turning it loose, and mounting Bucephalus. Then all rode away, dashing past the minute-men on Lexington Green.
"The minute-men are forming,—three hundred of them," reported the officers to Colonel Smith, who was marching up the road.
[Footnote 58: "We heard there were some hundreds of people collected there, intending to oppose us and stop our going out. At five o'clock we arrived there, and a number of people, I believe between two and three hundred, formed on a common in the middle of the town." "Diary of a British Officer," Atlantic Monthly, April, 1877.]
The bell and the drumbeat, the lights in Buckman's tavern and the other houses, the minute-men in line by the meetinghouse, had quickened the imagination of the excited Britishers.
"The country is alarmed. It is reported there are five hundred rebels gathered to oppose me. I shall need reinforcements." Such was the message of Colonel Smith to General Gage.
He directed Major Pitcairn to push on rapidly with six companies of light infantry.
"Jonathan! Jonathan! Get up quick! The redcoats are coming and something must be done!"
[Footnote 59: There were two Jonathan Harringtons. The fifer to the Lexington minute-men was sixteen years old. He died March 27, 1854, the last survivor of the battle, and was buried with distinguished honors. See Hist. Lexington.]
Abigail Harrington shouted it, bursting into her son Jonathan's chamber. He had not heard the bell, nor the commotion in the street. Jonathan was only sixteen years old, but was fifer for the minute-men. In a twinkling he was dressed, and seizing his fife ran to join the company forming in line by the meetinghouse; answering to their names, as clerk Daniel Harrington called the roll.
John Hancock and Samuel Adams hear the drumbeat; Hancock seizes his gun.
"This is no place for you; you must go to a place of safety," said Reverend Mr. Clark.
"Never will I turn my back to the redcoats," said Hancock.
"The country will need your counsels. Others must meet the enemy face to face," was the calm, wise reply of the patriotic minister.
Other friends expostulate; they cross the road and enter a thick wood crowning the hill.
"Stand your ground. If war is to come, let it begin here. Don't fire till you are fired upon," said Captain John Parker, walking along the lines of his company.
The sun is just rising. Its level beams glint from the brightly polished gun-barrels and bayonets of the light infantry of King George, as the battalion under Major Pitcairn marches towards Lexington meetinghouse. The trees above them have put forth their tender leaves. The rising sun, the green foliage, the white cross-belts, the shining buckles, the scarlet coats of the soldiers, and the farmers standing in line, firmly grasping their muskets, make up the picture of the morning.
Major Pitcairn, sitting in his saddle, beholds the line of minute-men, rebels in arms against the sovereign, formed in line to dispute his way. What right have they to be standing there? King George is supreme!
"Disperse, you rebels! Lay down your arms and disperse!" he shouts.
Captain John Parker hears it. The men behind him, citizens in their everyday clothes, with powder-horns slung under their right arms, hear it, but stand firm and resolute in their places. They see the Britisher raise his arm; his pistol flashes. Instantly the front platoon of redcoats raise their muskets. A volley rends the air. Not a man has been injured. Another volley, and a half dozen are reeling to the ground. John Munroe, Jonas Parker, and their comrades bring their muskets to a level and pull the triggers. With the beams of the rising sun falling on their faces, they accept the conflict with arbitrary power.
"What a glorious morning is this!" the exclamation of Samuel Adams on yonder hill.
Seven minute-men have been killed, nine wounded. Captain Parker sees that it is useless for his little handful of men to contend with a force ten times larger, and orders them to disperse.
The redcoats look down exultantly upon the dying and the dead, give a hurrah, and shoot at the fleeing rebels.
[Footnote 60: "We then formed on the Common, but with some difficulty. The men were so wild they could hear no orders. We waited a considerable time, and at length proceeded on our way to Concord, which we then learned was our destination." "Diary of a British Officer," Atlantic Monthly, April, 1877.]
Jonas Parker will not run.
"Others may do as they will, I never will turn my back to a redcoat," he said a few minutes ago. He is on his knees now, wounded, but reloading his gun. The charge is rammed home, the priming in the pan, but his strength is going; his arms are weary; his hands feeble. The redcoats rush upon him, and a bayonet pierces his breast. He dies where he fell.
With the blood spurting from his breast, Jonathan Harrington staggers towards his home. His loving wife is standing in the doorway. He reaches out his arms to her, and falls dead at her feet.
Caleb Harrington falls by the meetinghouse step. A ball plows through the arm of John Comee, by Mr. Munroe's doorway.
The Britishers are wild with excitement, and remorselessly take aim at the fleeing provincials. They have conquered and dispersed the rebels. Colonel Smith joins Major Pitcairn, and, glorying over the easy victory, they swing their hats, hurrah for King George, and march on towards Concord.
BEGINNING OF A NEW ERA.
Roger Stanley, asleep in the old farmhouse on the banks of Concord River, was aroused from slumber by his mother.
"Roger! Roger! the meetinghouse bell is ringing!" she shouted up the stairs to him.
With a bound he was on his feet, raised the window and heard the sweet-toned bell. He understood its meaning, that the redcoats were coming. Quickly putting on his clothes, he seized the powder-horn and bullet-pouch which his father carried at Louisburg.
"You must eat something, Roger, before you go," said his mother.
A moment later and his breakfast was on the table, bread and butter, a slice of cold beef, a mug of cider.
"There's no knowing when I shall be back, mother, for if the war has begun, as I fear it has, I shall be in the ranks till the last redcoat is driven from the country."
"I know it, Roger. Your father would have done just what you are doing. I know you'll do your duty. You won't show the white feather. Here's some lunch for you," she said, putting a package into his knapsack.
Her arms were about his neck; tears were on her cheeks as she kissed his lips.
He ran across the meadow to the village. The minute-men and militia were gathering. In the stillness of the morning they could hear the report of guns far away, and knew that they of Sudbury and Acton were hearing the alarm. People were hurrying to and fro in the village, loading barrels of flour into carts, removing the supplies purchased by the Committee of Safety. Reverend Mr. Emerson was there with his gun and powder-horn. Many times Roger had listened to his preaching. It was gratifying to see him ready to stand in the ranks with his parishioners. He told the women not to be frightened, and smiled upon the boys who took off their hats, and the girls who courtesied to him.
They heard, far away, the drumbeat of the advancing British.
No messengers had arrived to inform the minute-men of Concord what had happened at Lexington; for Doctor Prescott did not know that British muskets had fired a fatal volley.
From the burial ground Roger could look far down the road and see the sunlight glinting from the bayonets of the grenadiers, as the red-coated platoons emerged from the woodland into the open highway.
Major Buttrick with the minute-men and Colonel Barrett with the militia formed in line by the liberty pole.
"Prime and load!" his order.
Roger poured the powder into the palm of his hand, emptied it into the gun, and rammed it home with a ball. Never had he experienced such a sensation as at the moment. He was not doing it to take aim at a deer or fox, but to send it through the heart of a fellow-being if need be; to maintain justice and liberty. He could die in their defense; why should it trouble him, then, to think of shooting those who were assailing what he held so dear?
"I am doing right. Liberty shall live, cost what it may," he said to himself as he poured the priming into the pan.
On in serried ranks came the British.
"We are too few, they are three to our one. We must cross the river and wait till we are stronger," said Colonel Barrett.
They were only two hundred. They filed into the road, marched past the Reverend Mr. Emerson's house to the north bridge, crossed the river, and came to a halt on a hill overlooking the meadows, the village, and surrounding country. They could see the British dividing,—one party crossing the south bridge and going towards Colonel Barrett's house to destroy the supplies collected there; another party advancing to the north bridge. Roger saw groups of officers in the graveyard using their spy-glasses. A soldier was cutting down the liberty pole. Other soldiers were entering houses, helping themselves to what food was left on the breakfast-tables or in the pantries. Colonel Smith and Major Pitcairn rested themselves in Mr. Wright's tavern.
"I'll stir the Yankee blood before night, just as I stir this brandy," said Pitcairn, stirring the spirit in his tumbler with his finger.
A party of British crossed the south bridge, made their way to Colonel Barrett's house, and burned the cannon carriages stored in his barn.
Roger was glad to see Captain Isaac Davis and the minute-men of Acton march up the hill to join them. Captain Davis was thirty years old. He had kissed his young wife and four children good-by.
"Take good care of the children, Hannah," he said as he bade her farewell.
Twice a week he had drilled his company. He was brave, resolute, kind-hearted. His men loved him because he demanded strict obedience. They had stopped long enough at his home for his young wife to powder their hair, that they might appear neat and trim like gentlemen when meeting the British. They were thirty-five, all told. Keeping step to Luther Blanchard's fifing of the White Cockade, and Francis Barker's drumming, they marched past the men from Concord and formed on their left.
"Order arms!" They rested their muskets on the ground and wiped the perspiration from their foreheads.
Men from Westford, Lincoln, and Carlisle are arriving. They are four hundred now. The officers stand apart, talking in low tones. The redcoats had crossed the bridge to the western bank.
"Let us drive the redcoats across the river," said Captain Smith.
"I haven't a man that is afraid," said Captain Davis.
He was heavy-hearted in the early morning when he kissed the young wife and took the baby from the cradle in his arms, but is resolute now.
"Attention, battalion! Trail arms! Left in front! March!" Luther Blanchard pipes the tune, and the battalion—the men of Acton leading—descends the hill.
The redcoats had recrossed the river and were taking up the planks of the bridge. A moment later muskets flash beneath the elms, and maples along the farthest bank and there is a whistling of bullets in the air. Roger's heart is in his throat, but he gulps it down. Another volley, and Captain Davis, Abner Hosmer, and Luther Blanchard reel to the ground. Never again will Hannah receive a parting kiss, or the father caress the baby crooning in the cradle.
[Footnote 61: "The fire soon began from a dropping shot on our side, when they and the front company fired almost at the same instant." "Diary of a British Officer," Atlantic Monthly, April, 1877.]
"Fire! For God's sake, fire!" shouts Major Buttrick. Roger cocks his gun, takes aim at the line of scarlet beneath the trees and pulls the trigger. Through the smoke he sees men throw up their arms and tumble to the ground. The scarlet line dissolves, the soldiers fleeing in confusion. No longer is Roger's heart in his throat. His nerves are iron and the hot blood is coursing through his veins. King George has begun the war; no longer is he his subject, but a rebel, never more to owe him allegiance.
* * * * *
The forenoon wore away. The British were returning from Colonel Barrett's, having destroyed the cannon carriages, thrown some bullets into a well, and broken open several barrels of flour. It was past noon when they formed in line once more to return to Boston.
"We will head them off at Merriam's Corner," said Colonel Barrett.
The planks which the British had removed from the bridge were quickly replaced. The minute-men crossed the stream, turned into a field to the left, and hastened over the meadow to the road leading to Bedford. It was past three o'clock when they reached Mr. Merriam's house. Roger saw the British marching down the road. Suddenly a platoon wheeled towards the minute-men and brought their guns to a level. There was a flash, a white cloud, and bullets whistled over their heads. Once more he took aim, as did others, and several redcoats fell. Before he could reload, the serried ranks disappeared, marching rapidly towards Lexington. The minute-men hastened on, and at the tavern of Mr. Brooks he sent another bullet into the ranks of the retreating foe.
[Footnote 62: "We set out upon our return. Before the whole had quitted the town we were fired on from houses and behind trees, and before we had gone half a mile we were fired on from all sides, but mostly from the rear, where the people had hid themselves in houses till we passed." "Diary of a British Officer," Atlantic Monthly, April, 1877.]
"Scatter now! Get upon their flank! Pepper 'em from behind walls and trees!" shouted Colonel Barrett, who saw that it would be useless to follow the retreating enemy in battalion order, but each man, acting for himself, could run through fields and pastures and keep up a tormenting fire.
Acting upon the order, Roger and James Heywood ran through a piece of woods towards Fiske Hill. They came upon a British soldier drinking at a well by a house.
"You are a dead man," shouted the redcoat, raising his gun.
"So are you," said Heywood. Their muskets flashed and both fell, the Britisher with a bullet through his heart, and Heywood mortally wounded.
From rock heap, tree, fence, and thicket the guns of the minute-men were flashing. The soldiers who had marched so proudly, keeping step to the drumbeat in the morning, were running now. No hurrah went up as at sunrise on Lexington Common. There was no halting at Buckman's tavern, where they had fired their first volley. Their ranks were in confusion. Officers were trying to rally them, threatening to cut them down with their swords if they did not show a bold front to the minute-men, but the Yankees seemed to be everywhere and yet nowhere. Bullets were coming from every direction, yet the British could see no men in line, no ranks at which they could take aim or charge with the bayonet. They were still twelve miles from Boston, and their ammunition failing. They were worn and weary with the all-night march, and were hungry and thirsty. The road was strewn with their fallen comrades. The wounded were increasing in number, impeding their retreat. Their ranks were broken. All was confusion. Every moment some one was falling. Blessed the sight that greeted them,—the brigade of Earl Percy, drawn up in hollow square by Mr. Munroe's tavern, with two cannon upon the hillocks by the roadside. They rushed into the square and dropped upon the ground, panting and exhausted with their rapid retreat.
[Footnote 63: "They were so concealed there was hardly any seeing them. In this way we marched between nine and ten miles, their numbers increasing from all parts, while ours was reducing by deaths, wounds, and fatigue, and we were totally surrounded with such an incessant fire as it is impossible to conceive. Our ammunition was likewise near expended." "Diary of a British Officer," Atlantic Monthly, April, 1877.]
Roger halted a few minutes on Lexington Green, where the conflict began in the morning. He saw the ground stained with the blood of those who had fallen,—crossed the threshold where Jonathan Harrington had died in the arms of his wife. Across the Common the house and barn of Joseph Loring were in flames, set on fire by the British.
Earl Percy's troops were ransacking the houses a little farther down the road. In Mr. Munroe's tavern they were compelling old John Raymond to bring them food, and because he could not give them what they wanted, sent a bullet through his heart.
[Footnote 64: "We marched pretty quiet for about two miles, when they began to pepper us again. We were now obliged to force almost every house in the road, for the rebels had taken possession of them and galled us exceedingly; but they suffered for their temerity, for all that were found in the houses were put to death." "Diary of a British Officer," Atlantic Monthly, April, 1877.
Earl Percy made the tavern of Mr. Munroe his headquarters.
"A party entered the tavern and, helping themselves, or rather compelling the inmates of the house to help them to whatever they wanted, they treacherously and with ruthlessness shot down John Raymond, an infirm old man, only because he, alarmed at this roughness and brutal conduct, was about leaving the house to seek a place of greater safety." Hudson's Hist. of Lexington.]
Once more the British were on the march.
Roger, rested and invigorated, ran through a pasture, crouched behind a bowlder, rested his gun upon it, and sent a bullet into the ranks. He was delighted when Doctor Joseph Warren came galloping over the hill. The doctor said he left Boston in the morning, rode to Cambridge and Watertown, then hastened on to Lexington. He was glad the minute-men and militia had resisted the British. While talking with Roger and those around him, a bullet whizzed past the doctor's head, knocking a pin from his ear-lock.
The rattling fire of the minute-men was increasing once more,—answered by volleys from Percy's platoons. The British, smarting under the tormenting fusilade, angry over the thought that they were being assailed by a rabble of farmers and were on the defensive, became wanton and barbaric, pillaging houses, and murdering inoffensive old men.
Roger was delighted to hear from Jonathan Loring, one of the Lexington minute-men, how his sister Lydia, fearing that the British would steal the communion cups and platters belonging to the church of which her father was deacon, took them in her apron, ran out into the orchard, and hid them under a pile of brush.
Pitiful it was to see Widow Mulliken's house in flames,—wantonly set on fire by the red-coated ruffians.
Roger saw a soldier deliberately raise his gun, take aim, and send a bullet through the heart of Jason Russel, an old gray-haired man, standing in his own door. Again, at closer range, he took aim at the retreating column.
His indignation was aroused as he listened to the story told by Hannah Adams, a few minutes later. She was in bed in her chamber, with a new-born babe at her breast, when two redcoats entered the room. One pointed his musket at her.
"For the Lord's sake, do not kill me," she said.
"I am going to shoot you," the soldier replied, with an oath.
"No, you mustn't shoot a woman," said the other, pushing aside the gun, "but we are going to set the house on fire, and you must get out."
With the babe in her arms, she crawled downstairs and into the yard.
The soldiers scattered the coals from the fireplace around the room, and left, but the older children ran in and put out the flames.
At Mr. Cooper's tavern was a ghastly sight; upon the floor lay the mangled bodies of Jason Wyman and Jesse Winship, two old men, who had come from their homes to learn the news. They were drinking toddy, when the head of Earl Percy's retreating troops arrived, and fired a volley into the house. The landlord and his wife fled to the cellar. The British swarmed into the tavern, mangled the bodies of the two old men with bayonet thrusts, and scattered their brains around the room.
In the morning Roger had felt some qualms of conscience as he took aim at the scarlet line of men by Concord River, but now to him the redcoats were fiends in human form. It gave him fresh courage to see Samuel Whittemore, eighty years old, come running with his musket, taking deliberate aim, firing three times, and bringing down a redcoat every time he pulled the trigger. But a soldier leaped from the ranks, ran upon and shot the old man, stabbed him with his bayonet, beat him with the butt of his musket, leaving him for dead.
[Footnote 65: He was not dead, however, but lived many years.]
Roger swung his hat to welcome Captain Gideon Foster of Danvers, and his company, who had marched sixteen miles in four hours, coming upon the British at Menotomy meetinghouse. A moment later they were in the thick of the fight.
It was a thrilling story which Timothy Monroe had to tell, how he and Daniel Townsend fired, and each brought down a redcoat, and then ran into a house; how the British surrounded it, and killed Townsend; how he leaped through a window and ran, with a whole platoon firing at him, riddling his clothes with bullets, yet escaping without a scratch.
Again Roger rejoiced when he learned that before Earl Percy reached Menotomy a company of men had captured his baggage wagons, killing and wounding several British soldiers, and that the attacking party were led by Reverend Philip Payson, the minister of Chelsea.
It was almost sunset when Roger held his horn up to the light once more, and saw there was little more than enough powder for one charge, and that there were only two bullets in the pouch. He decided to put in all the powder and both bullets for his parting shot. Another half hour and they would be under the protection of the guns of the frigate Somerset. The minute-men were getting so near and were so determined that Earl Percy ordered the cannon to unlimber and open fire, while the soldiers, almost upon the run, hastened towards Charlestown.
Roger, having reloaded his gun, made haste to overtake them. Looking along the road, he saw a crowd of panic-stricken people—men, women, and children—fleeing from their houses. The picture of the scene of Menotomy had stamped itself into his memory. This last shot should be his best. Not now would he crouch behind a fence, a tree, or bowlder. He would confront the murderers like a man. He walked deliberately forward. He was by a farmhouse, so near the last file of soldiers which had halted to ward off the minute-men a moment, that he could see the whites of their eyes. He aimed at the cross-belt of a man in the middle of the file, and pulled the trigger. He caught a glimpse of a man falling, but found himself reeling to the ground. A bullet had pierced his breast. The British passed on. A woman came from the house, and looked down into his face.
"A drink of water, please marm," he said.
She ran to the well, sank the bucket into it, brought a gourd full, and came and crouched by his head while he drank.
"Thank you, marm."
He looked up into her face a moment.
"I think I am going," he whispered.
She pillowed his head upon her arm, laid back the hair from his manly brow, and fanned him with her apron.
"Please tell her," he whispered.
She bowed her head to catch the word.
The mild blue eyes were looking far away. A smile like the light of the morning came upon his face. One more breath, and he was one of the forty-nine who, during the day, gave their lives that they might inaugurate a new era in the republic of God.
Thomas Gage, governor, commanding his majesty's forces in America, was sitting in the Province House, greatly disturbed in mind. The expedition to Concord had not resulted as he expected. The troops had marched out bravely, destroyed a few barrels of flour, disabled half a dozen old cannon, burned some carriage wheels, but had returned to Boston on the run like a flock of sheep worried by dogs. The Tories had informed him that a couple of regiments could march from one end of the continent to the other, but the events of the preceding day were opening his eyes to a far different state of affairs. Till within a few hours the country had been at peace: farmers following the plow; blacksmiths hammering iron; carpenters pushing the plane. All had changed. Thousands were under arms, gathering at Cambridge and Roxbury. The Colonies were aflame,—not only Massachusetts, but New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The troops which marched to Concord so proudly were back in Boston,—not all: twenty-three had been killed, two hundred wounded and missing. Eighteen of the officers had been killed or wounded. Governor Gage could not gainsay the fact that the citizens were victors. They had followed the troops to Charlestown till nightfall, like a swarm of angry hornets. A great army was closing around him, cutting off his supplies. No more fresh beef or mutton would be for sale in the market; no teams would bring potatoes and cabbages for the soldiers. What would King George say? What would the ministry think? What would they do? How would the people of England regard his administration of affairs? The unexpected had happened. He had not dreamed of such an uprising. What course should he pursue? All Boston was in commotion. People were packing their goods on carts, loading them on boats to flee from the town. Women were wringing their hands, children crying, fathers walking the streets with careworn faces, not knowing whither to go or what to do. Officers were gathering at the Province House awaiting orders and talking of what had happened, and smarting under the thought that the retreat had been a flight and almost a panic. It was a humiliating reflection that disciplined soldiers had been put upon the run by a rabble of countrymen. Earl Percy, after a sleepless night, weary and travel-worn, was gladly welcomed by Governor Gage. He told the story of the retreat.
"If it had not been, your excellency, for my timely arrival, I fear few of Lieutenant-Colonel Smith's troops would have escaped, as they were completely exhausted, their ammunition gone, and the men upon the run. I am free to say that I was completely astonished. I formed my brigade in hollow square, and his men threw themselves on the ground with their tongues lolling from their mouths," he said.
"It is plain that you marched none too soon," the governor replied.
"I cannot account for such a sudden uprising. I saw very few rebels. There were no organized bodies of rebels to be seen,—not more than twenty or thirty in a group; but they were all around us, firing from fences, rocks, trees, ditches, houses. If we charged and drove them, they were back again the moment we resumed our march. I must admit they were brave and persistent. They were like so many wasps," said the earl.
"I learn," said the governor, "that several thousand armed men have already gathered at Cambridge and Roxbury. A loyal citizen informs me they have been arriving through the night in great numbers. It seems probable that we are to be hemmed in by the provincials for the present, and must make preparations accordingly."
Fast and far the alarm had gone. Twenty-four hours and it was one hundred miles away, and Robert Walden of Rumford with bullet-pouch, powder-horn, and musket was on his way, as were Colonel John Stark, Captain Daniel Moore of Derryfield, and hundreds of others in New Hampshire, Israel Putnam, Thomas Knowlton of Connecticut, and their fellow-citizens, all animated by one thought,—to resist the armed aggressions of the myrmidons of the king. There was a brave heart behind Rachel's quivering lips when she pressed them to Robert's.
"Roger is sure to be there. Tell him I think of him every night before I go to sleep." Little did they know that he was being borne to his last resting-place on the banks of the winding river.
Robert was glad to learn when he reached Medford that John Stark was to be colonel of the New Hampshire troops.
Tom Brandon was working day and night to help people obtain passes from General Gage and leave the town. More than five thousand closed their houses and took their departure. The governor would not allow any one to take their guns or swords, or anything which would in any way contribute to the success of the provincials.
[Footnote 66: For a week after the affair at Lexington and Concord, Governor Gage refused the request of the people to leave the town, but the growing scarcity of provisions compelled him to permit their departure.]
The soldiers from Rumford, having unbounded confidence in Robert Walden, elected him lieutenant. When General Artemus Ward, commanding the troops at Cambridge, asked Colonel Stark if he had a trustworthy young man whom he could recommend to execute an important order, Lieutenant Walden was selected and directed to report at general headquarters. He was kindly received and informed he was to negotiate with the British for an exchange of prisoners.
Mounted upon his horse, Lieutenant Walden rode to Charlestown Neck, and from thence to the top of Bunker Hill to obtain a view of Boston and the harbor. He saw the warships were swinging at anchor in the stream. Across the river were the silent streets of the besieged town. He could distinguish the home of Captain Brandon, and the Green Dragon Tavern,—its doors closed. It was not these buildings, however, that most interested him, but a mansion on the slope of Beacon Hill, with its surrounding grounds,—the Newville home. The window of Miss Newville's chamber was open, the curtain drawn aside. His spy-glass made it seem very near. How would she greet him were they to meet again? Would she be changed by the changing circumstances? Would she, daughter of a loyalist, deign to notice him, a rebel? Blessed vision! A figure in white appeared at the window. It was she for whom he could lay down his life, if need be. Oh, if he could but reach out his hand to her,—hear once more the voice that had thrilled him in the past! She stood by the window, looking upon the flowers blooming in the garden. The vision was but for a moment, for the window was soon closed and the curtain drawn. He descended the hill, rode through the village to the ferry landing, displaying a white flag. It was answered by the waving of another on the deck of the Lively warship. Then a boat brought a lieutenant of the fleet to the shore.
"Who are you and what do you want?" the curt question of the Britisher.
"I am commissioned by the commander-in-chief of the provincial army to ask if it will be agreeable to General Gage to make an exchange of prisoners?"
"The rebel army, you mean."
"I said provincial, but if it suits you any better to think of the Americans as rebels, I will not object. We are rebels against tyranny and oppression, as I trust we always shall be. We have several officers of the king's troops in our hands, and you have some of our men. If an exchange is desired by General Gage, I am empowered to arrange the details," Robert said with calm dignity.
The Britisher bowed, and the boat pulled back to the ship, returning again after a time with an officer commissioned to make arrangements for the transfer.
The sun was nearing the hour of noon, three days later, when Lieutenant Walden, accompanied by General Putnam, Doctor Warren, and a detail of soldiers, conducted the British officers and men to the ferry landing, meeting Major Moncrief and other British officers, with the provincial prisoners in their keeping. The British soldiers, with tears upon their faces, thanked Doctor Warren for the kind treatment they had received. The Americans had no thanks to give for what they had received on the strawless floor of the jail, the prison fare for food. Lieutenant Walden had engaged a dinner in the tavern. The landlord set forth his choicest wine. Putnam and Moncrief, being old acquaintances, chatted of the days at Ticonderoga while partaking of the viands and quaffing glasses of madeira.
"While the white flag is waving we will not let our differences mar the pleasure of the hour," said Doctor Warren, who delighted the company with his wit. Dinner over, there was a shaking of hands, expressions of personal good-will, and courteous salutes. With the furling of the white flag they were enemies once more.
Ships were arriving from England bringing General William Howe, General Henry Clinton, and General John Burgoyne, with several thousand troops to carry on the war. Every morning Miss Newville heard the drums beating the reveille and in the evening the tattoo. Many officers called at the hospitable home of Honorable Theodore Newville to enjoy the society of his charming daughter, who received them with grace and dignity.
With no fresh provisions in the market, the dinners given by Mr. Newville to the generals Howe, Clinton, and Burgoyne was not so elaborate as that to Lord Upperton, but more appetizing than those on shipboard while crossing the Atlantic. It was a pleasure to General Howe to escort Miss Newville to the dining-room, sit by her side, and listen to a voice that charmed him by its purity and sweetness. A lady so highly endowed, and with such grace of manner, would adorn any home,—even the drawing-room of her majesty the queen.
The home of Mrs. Martha Duncan, with its shrubbery and garden neatly kept, was selected by General Howe as a residence. He hoped it would not greatly inconvenience her; he would gladly remunerate her for any trouble he might make. It would be a pleasure to have her for a hostess. His own servant would attend to his personal wants.
"Of course, mother," said Abraham, "we cannot prevent him from taking possession of our home; we may as well make the best of it, accept the inevitable, and spoil the Egyptians if we can. He seems to be a gentleman, a man of honor, and will, doubtless, pay us well. Besides, possibly we may learn something that can be turned to good account, if we keep our eyes and ears open, and our wits about us."
"It will be only a plain table, my lord, I can provide. Since the provincials have closed around us, the market has been bare of provisions," said Mrs. Duncan.
"I am aware of it, madam, but I doubt not you will be able to furnish appetizing food, possibly a joint of roast mutton from the flocks of sheep accessible to us on the islands in the harbor, a fresh mackerel or cod. We are not yet shut in from the sea, and possibly we may soon have free access to the surrounding country, for I hear there is much discontent among the provincials, and their numbers are rapidly melting away, now that the first excitement is over," responded Lord Howe.
"Possibly I may be able to provide early vegetables,—lettuce, dandelions, greens, asparagus, and water-cresses, my lord, if you will allow my negro servant, Cato, to pass the patrol to Charlestown," said Mrs. Duncan.
"I will give him such permission," he replied, writing a pass, directing the sentinels along the wharves, and the marine patrol in the harbor, to pass the negro servant, Cato.
Not only Cato, but Mrs. Duncan and her son, Abraham, ship-carver and artist, were attentive to the wants of General Howe, receiving shining guineas in return. It was a pleasure to the British commander, just arrived from England, to talk with a young gentleman so well informed and of such attainments as the son of his hostess.
"I dare say, Mr. Duncan, you are quite well acquainted with the country around Boston?" said his lordship.
"I have been up the Charles and Mystic by boat many times, my lord, and visited Cambridge to enjoy the festivities of Class Day, and the orations of graduates at Commencement. I have rambled the Roxbury fields and pastures for strawberries, and am pretty well acquainted with the various localities."
General Howe spread out a map and asked many questions in regard to the surrounding hills, valleys, woods, and cleared lands. He was surprised to see how well Mr. Duncan could sketch them in with his pencil upon the map which Ensign De Berniere had drawn. Lord Howe introduced him to Generals Pigot and Clinton, who were pleased with the intelligent replies to their questions.
There came a day in June when Abraham heard General Howe say to the other commanders that the Charlestown Hills ought to be occupied at once, for fear the rebels might seize them. Were they to do so, Boston might be bombarded, and the ships driven from their anchorage.
"Doctor Warren and General Ward ought to know that," Abraham said to himself.
There were only a few words in the letter which Abraham Duncan tucked under the cuff of Cato's coat-sleeve the next morning, when he stepped into his boat to cross the river and gather young asparagus and water-cresses for General Howe's dinner. Cato was directed to hand the slip of paper to Deacon Larkin's negro, Jim, who would know what to do with it.
Faithful and true to their kind-hearted masters were Cato and Jim, passing the letter from hand to hand, till it reached Doctor Joseph Warren in consultation with General Artemus Ward and the committee of safety in Cambridge.
"Bunker's Hill is to be occupied at once."
[Footnote 67: The two eminences in Charlestown were named Breed's and Bunker's Hill respectively,—that upon which the redoubt was constructed was Breed's Hill; the rail fence behind which the troops from New Hampshire fought was on the slope of Bunker's Hill.]
That was all, except an ink blot.
"It is authentic,—from a trustworthy Son of Liberty," said Doctor Warren.
"It has no signature," said General Ward.
"Therefore is not treasonable. Besides, it does not state who is to occupy Bunker's Hill,—the British or ourselves," the doctor replied.
"How do you know it is genuine—from the writing?"
"No; the hand is disguised. Nevertheless, I know the writer. He informs me that the British intend to take possession of Charlestown Heights."
[Footnote 68: General Gage at the outset saw the value of Charlestown Heights from the military standpoint, but was not able to make any movement to take possession of the ground till the arrival of his reinforcements.]
"Are you sure it is authentic information?"
"I have no doubt of it. The writer is in position to learn what they intend to do. He is a very quiet man, but has his eyes and ears open. It is not the first time he has shown his devotion to our cause. You say he has not signed it; true he has not written his name, not even the initials, yet his signature is upon the sheet,—the insignificant ink-blot. It would not be accepted as testimony in a court-martial, but it is sufficient for me," said Doctor Warren.
With the letter came a copy of a proclamation issued by General Gage. No longer were the selectmen of any towns in the Province of Massachusetts to have anything to say. Martial law was to supersede civil authority. The provincial soldiers were rebels and traitors who must lay down their arms at once and go home, if they would hope for pardon; but there was no pardon for Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who must pay the extreme penalty of the law for inciting the people to rebel against their kind and lenient king.
"We ask no favor of King George; he began the war, we will end it," said the soldiers as they read the proclamation.
If the British regarded Charlestown Heights of such importance, why should not the provincials seize them? It must be done. Twilight was still lingering on the western horizon when the troops selected for the expedition paraded on Cambridge Common. Colonel William Prescott was to command them. He had fought at Louisburg, and was cool and brave. With uncovered heads the regiments stood in front of the meetinghouse while Reverend Mr. Langdon, president of the college, offered prayer. Lieutenant Walden, having been upon Bunker Hill, led the way, followed by soldiers from Connecticut and Massachusetts, and two carts loaded with picks and shovels. They marched in silence. Lieutenant Walden conducted them across the Neck and up the slope of the Hill. It was nearly midnight before it was decided just where Colonel Gridley should mark out the contemplated fortifications. Lieutenant Walden conducted Captain Nutting and ten sentinels to the ferry landing. They were but a little distance from the frigate Somerset at anchor in the stream. Farther up, towards Lechmere's Point, were the Glasgow, Cerberus, and Symetry. Down the river, off Moulton's Point, lay the Lively and Falcon.
[Footnote 69: The orders to Prescott contained no definite instructions in regard to which of the hills should be fortified, and the veteran engineer, Gridley, doubted whether it would be best to begin the works on the highest eminence or the lower one, nearer the shipping. It seems probable his intention was to construct works on both hills, but a lack of picks and shovels compelled him to confine his work to the single redoubt on Breed's Hill.]
Leaving the sentinels to guard the shore, he rode to the summit of the hill, where the men were hard at work, delving in silence with pick and spade. There were not sufficient implements for all, but when one was out of breath, another took his place, and before the first glimmer of dawn appeared, the trench had been made breast deep.
"Four o'clock and all's well!" came from the sentinel on the Somerset, but a moment later a sheet of flame and a white cloud burst from the side of the Lively, and the roar of a gun broke the stillness of the morning.
The thunder rolled far away, arousing the British army, the people of Boston, General Gage, and Lord Howe from their slumbers. Berinthia Brandon, from her chamber window, beheld the warship Lively shrouded in smoke. Upon the green hill, where, the day before, the farmers had been swinging their scythes, and where the partially cured hay was lying in windrows, she could see a bank of yellow earth. Again the thunder of the guns jarred her window, but at a signal from the Somerset the firing ceased.
Before sunrise all Boston was astir, moving towards Copp's Hill, gazing from windows and roofs upon the growing fortifications. Generals Gage and Howe ascended the steeple of Christ Church and looked at the embankment with their telescopes. A little later officers were hurrying along the streets with orders to the several regiments to be ready to march at a moment's notice. Drums were beating; battalions moving towards Long Wharf, the selected rendezvous, from whence the troops were to be transported in boats to Moulton's Point, ascend the hill, and send the provincials flying from their chosen position.
[Footnote 70: The headquarters of General Gage were in the house of Mr. Galloup, on Hull Street, a stone's-throw from Christ Church. The house, a two-story wooden building with a gambrel roof, is still standing (1895).]
Such was the information brought to the Brandon home by Abraham Duncan.
"You will have a splendid chance to see the battle from the housetop," he said to Captain Brandon.
Cannon carriages were rumbling through the street, passing the Brandon home, wheeling into the burial ground, and coming into position. The gunners loaded the pieces and lighted their port fires, waved their lint-stocks, and touched them to the priming. Flames and smoke belched from the muzzle of the guns with deafening roar, sending the missiles upon the fortification.
While the cannoneers were reloading the guns, Berinthia, upon the housetop with a telescope, saw a man leap up from the intrenchment and stand in full view upon the bank of earth, swinging his hat and shaking his fist.
"Oh father! mother! it is Tom! He's swinging his hat! Just see him!" she cried.
Again the cannon flamed, but with the flashing Tom leaped back into the trench and was safe from the shot.
"I'm glad he's there. He's got the true stuff in him," said Mr. Brandon.
"I'm afraid he'll be killed!" exclaimed Mrs. Brandon, manifesting the mother's solicitude and love.
"I glory in his pluck," said Berinthia.
People came from other sections of the town to behold the impending battle.
"May we presume to trespass upon your hospitality, Captain Brandon," asked Mr. Newville, "and, if you have room, see this approaching contest from your housetop?"
"Certainly. We give you and your family hearty welcome. We doubtless shall see it from different political standpoints; you are truly loyal to the king; my sympathies, as you know, are with the provincials, but that shall not diminish our personal friendship or my hospitality," Captain Brandon replied, escorting Mr. and Mrs. Newville and Miss Newville to the top of the house and providing them seats.
The forenoon wore away; Mrs. Brandon was busy preparing a lunch, and Chloe soon had the table elaborately supplied with ham, tongue, the whitest bread, appetizing cheese, doughnuts, and crumpets. The company partook of the collation, drank each a glass of wine, and then ascended to the roof again.
Berinthia informed Ruth that Tom was in the redoubt. She had seen him through the telescope, standing on the embankment and waving his hat.
Lieutenant Robert Walden, at the moment, was five miles away, in Medford town, delivering a message to Colonel John Stark to hasten with his regiment to Bunker Hill.
The meetinghouse bell was ringing the hour of noon when the drummer beat the long roll for the parading of the regiment. The men filed past the quarter-master's tent and each received a gill of powder in his horn. And then with quickened step they crossed the Mystic and hastened along the road.
With the shot from the Symetry screeching around them, tossing the gravel in their faces, the men from New Hampshire crossed the neck of land, ascended the hill, and came into position by a low stone wall surmounted by rails. Lieutenant Walden's company was nearest the Mystic River. Captain Daniel Moore's came next in line. The regiment with Colonel Reed's New Hampshire regiment extended to the foot of the hill, in the direction of the redoubt.
"You will inform Colonel Prescott that I have arrived with my regiment and am in position," said Colonel Stark.
Riding towards the redoubt, Robert saluted General Putnam, who, mounted on a white horse, was going along the lines, telling the men to keep cool, save their powder, and aim at the cross-belts of the British.
It was a pleasure once more to meet Doctor Warren, who had been appointed general, but who had come as a volunteer to take part in the battle.
Colonel Prescott thanked Lieutenant Walden for the information sent by Colonel Stark. He did not doubt the men from New Hampshire would be as true as they were in the battles of Louisburg and Ticonderoga.
[Footnote 71: There is no evidence that Colonel Stark was directed to report to Colonel Prescott or any one else; neither is there any evidence to show that Putnam was in command. We only know that Prescott was directed to occupy Charlestown Heights. Later in the war Putnam, by virtue of his rank, would have been in command, or possibly Warren, but Warren was there only as a volunteer, having been appointed general the day before the battle. It seems probable that no one exercised supreme command, but Prescott, Putnam, Stark, and Reed acted individually with their separate commands, as the exigencies of the moment demanded.]
Dismounting from his horse and giving it in charge of a soldier, Lieutenant Walden walked along the trench, looked over the embankment upon the British troops landing at Moulton's Point and forming in two columns, one of which, he concluded, was intending to march along the Mystic to gain the rear of the redoubt and cut off the retreat of those within it. If such were the contemplated movement it would be mainly against the regiments of Stark and Reed. The other body of troops seemed to be forming to advance directly upon the redoubt.
While he was thus gazing, a hand clasped his arm; turning, he beheld Tom Brandon.
"I've been wondering if you wouldn't be round here somewhere," said Tom.
"And I have been wondering where you would be," Robert replied.
"And so you are a lieutenant?" queried Tom, looking at the epaulet on his shoulder. "I congratulate you.
"The whole family are on the roof to see the battle," he continued.
"Perhaps you can bring them a little nearer with my telescope," said Robert, handing him the instrument.
Tom rested it on the embankment and looked towards the house.
"There's a crowd of 'em on the roof," he said, "father, mother, and Berinthia. There's a man with a white wig,—Mr. Newville, I guess; and there's a girl talking with Berinthia—Ruth Newville."
With quickened pulse Robert adjusted the glass to his vision. Others than those mentioned by Tom were upon the roof, but one figure alone engaged his attention. Oh, if he could but know how she regarded the impending battle! Possibly since the events on Lexington Green and at Concord bridge her sympathies had been with the king. No, he could not think it. The instincts of one so noble, good, and large-hearted must ever be opposed to tyranny and oppression. Whether favoring or opposing the course of the Colonies, what matter to him? What probability of their ever meeting again? If meeting, would she ever be other than an old acquaintance? Never had he opened his heart to her; never by word or deed informed her that she was all the world to him. To her he would be only a friend of other days.
He could see a tall man in a general's uniform walking along the British lines. He halted, took off his cocked hat, stood erect, and said something to the soldiers. He concluded it was General Howe, telling them they were a noble body of men, and he did not doubt they would show themselves valiant soldiers. He should not ask them to go any farther than he himself was willing to go. Robert and Tom could hear the cheer which the soldiers gave him.
The columns began to march,—that commanded by General Howe along the bank of the Mystic; that by General Pigot straight up the hill towards the redoubt.
Robert ran to the spot where he had left his horse, but it was not there. He hastened down the slope, past the Connecticut troops under Colonel Knowlton, and reported to Colonel Stark, who was directing his soldiers to take up a rail fence in front of his line and reset it by the low stone wall, and fill the space between the fences with hay from the windrows.
"It will serve as a screen," he said.
Stepping in front a short distance, he drove a stake in the ground.
"Don't fire till the redcoats are up to it," was his order.
The sun was shining from a cloudless sky. They upon the roof of the Brandon home saw the scarlet columns of the British moving along the Mystic and towards the redoubt, the sunlight gleaming from their muskets and bayonets, the flags waving above them, the men keeping step to the drumbeat; the great guns of the fleet and those on Copp's Hill flaming and thundering; white powder-clouds floating away and dissolving in thin air. They saw puffs of smoke burst from the heads of the advancing columns and heard the rattle of muskets. Cannon-shot plowed the ground and tossed up the gravel around the redoubt. Only the six cannon of the provincials were replying. Nearer moved the scarlet line. Again a rattling volley, with no answering musket shot from fence or embankment. What the meaning of such silence? Suddenly a line of light streamed from the river to the foot of the hill, and like the lightning's flash ran along the embankment and round the redoubt. A rattle and roar like the waves of the sea upon a rocky shore came to their ears across the shining waters. Men were reeling to the ground, whole ranks going down before the pitiless storm. The front ranks had melted away. For a few moments there was a rattling like scattered raindrops, and then another lightning flash, and the British were fleeing in confusion.
Mr. Newville clenched his hands.
"I fear the king's troops are discomfited," he said.
Mrs. Newville with a long-drawn sigh covered her face with her handkerchief as if to shut out the unwelcome spectacle.
"The redcoats are beaten!" Berinthia exclaimed.
"It is too soon to say that, daughter. The battle is not yet over; the king's troops would be cowardly were they to give up with only one attempt."
Like a statue, her hands tightly grasping the balustrade, her bosom heaving with suppressed emotion, Ruth gazed upon the spectacle, uttering no exclamation. Taking the telescope, she turned it upon the scene, beholding the prostrate forms dotting the newly mown fields. It was not difficult to distinguish Lord Howe, the centre of a group of officers. He was evidently issuing orders to re-form the broken lines. Colonels, majors, and captains were rallying the disheartened men. In the intervals of the cannonade from the fleet a confused hum of voices could be heard, officers shouting their orders. Beyond the prostrate forms, behind the low stone wall and screen of hay were the provincials, biding their time. Officers were walking to and fro,—one middle-aged, with a colonel's epaulets, evidently commanding the troops nearest the Mystic River. A subordinate officer of manly form was receiving orders and transmitting them to others. Where had she seen one like him? Long she gazed with unwonted bloom upon her cheeks.
Again the scarlet lines advanced,—the foremost platoons halting, firing, filing right and left, that those in the rear might reach the front. Unmindful of the bullets pattering around him, the young officer walked composedly along the provincial line, from which came no answering shot. Seemingly he was telling the men to wait. Suddenly, as before, the screen of hay became a sheet of flame, and the scarlet ranks again dissolved like a straw in a candle's flame, whole ranks reeling and falling, or fleeing to the place of landing.
Mr. Newville groaned aloud. Again Mrs. Newville covered her face. Captain Brandon, Mrs. Brandon, and Berinthia, out of respect to their guests, gave no sign of exultation; but from windows, roofs, doorways, and steeples, like the voice of many waters, came the joyful murmur of the multitude, revealing to General Gage, up in the tower of Christ Church, the sympathy of the people with the provincials.
No exclamation of satisfaction or disappointment fell from the lips of Ruth, still looking with the telescope towards the provincial line by the Mystic, and the manly figure of the officer receiving instructions from his superior.
There was a commotion among the troops in the burial ground before them.
"Fall in! Fall in!" General Clinton shouted. They hastily formed in column and marched down the steep descent to the ferry landing. From the tower of Christ Church, together with General Gage, Clinton had seen the discomfiture of Lord Howe and General Pigot, and, with three hundred men, was hastening to reinforce them, stepping into boats and crossing the river.
The people on the housetops needed no telescopes to see what was going on across the stream. Slowly the lines re-formed, the men reluctantly taking their places. They who had fought at Ticonderoga, who had won the victory on the Plains of Abraham at Quebec, never had faced so pitiless a storm.
"It is downright murder," said the men.
They upon the housetops could see the British officers flourishing their swords, gesticulating, and even striking the disheartened soldiers, compelling them to stand once more in the ranks. Twice they had advanced, encumbered with their knapsacks, in accordance with strict military rule; now they were laying them aside. There were fewer men in the ranks than at the beginning of the battle, but the honor of England was at stake. The rabble of undisciplined country bumpkins must be driven from their position, or the troops of England would be forever disgraced. General Howe had learned wisdom. He had thought to sweep aside the line of provincials behind the low stone wall, gain the rear, cut off the retreat of those in the redoubt, capture them, and win a notable victory. He had not expected such resistance, such a destructive fire as had greeted the light infantry along the banks of the stream. In the two attempts, he had discovered the weak place in the provincial line,—the space between the redoubt and the low stone wall. In planning the third movement, he resolved to make a feint of advancing once more towards the wall, but would concentrate his attack upon the redoubt, and especially upon that portion of the line least defended.