Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Shot Heard Round the World

(Source)
19 April, 1775 - Willie Cruikshank rested his hunting rifle on the stone wall in front of him. He could hear musket shots farther up the road, up towards Lexington where the day's events had begun. Cruikshank's militia company had hurried to this position and were just getting settled in. The day was turning hot.

Around the bend in the road Cruikshank could see dust rising above the trees. The lobsterbacks had to be close. He removed his hat and ran his sleeve over his forehead, the day was getting warmer and the run up from Menotomy had him sweating.

"Steady Willie, don't bounce around so much. Those bloody lobsterbacks might see you. Steady lads." Sergeant Sullivan muttered to the other men nearby. He liked Willie, even if he was a Scotsman, and didn't want the lad to feel singled out.

"Sully! I can sees 'em. There the bastards are!" Young McGilvary could barely contain himself as the red coated column began to come around the bend in the road.

"Be still Mac! Jesus, Mary and Joseph can't you lads be quiet?" Sergeant Sullivan's first thought was that the British looked dirty and tired. He almost felt sorry for them. Almost, but he'd had to flee Ireland on account of the English. There was no pity in his breast this day.

"Willie, you take the first shot. Aim at the fancy boy on the horse..."

Cruikshank laid his cheek against the stock of his rifle and focused on the horseman. An officer, he guessed. Soon to be a dead 'un. Willie seldom missed.


Lieutenant Anthony Williams-Beckworth of the Grenadier Company of His Majesty's Fourth Foot* slumped in his saddle. It had been a very long day. Up well before dawn, getting the men down to the boats and then across to the mainland, he had been very busy. He had wanted to leave his horse behind but Captain Adams had told him in no uncertain terms that he wanted his officers on horseback.

While it had been difficult getting the horses across, he was glad they had. He was tired, his men looked exhausted. The march back from Concord had been a passage through Hell itself. As far as he could tell, his platoon had suffered only a single casualty. Light losses to be sure, but tell that to Jackson's mother.

This was the lieutenant's first fight, his first excursion into the field, truth be told. Seeing the perpetually cheerful Jackson shot down right in front of him had nearly caused him to vomit.

Who knew there was so much blood in a man?


Corporal Wilkerson tramped wearily along next to the lieutenant's horse, The captain had taken him aside that morning and bade the corporal keep an eye on the new officer. At first he'd been annoyed at having to babysit this youngster, little bastard couldn't be more than 17. "I joined the regiment before this lad was even conceived," Wilkerson thought to himself.

At that point the experienced corporal thought he saw something just up ahead.

"Look alive lads, the damned rebels seem to be about!"

Cruikshank settled himself, a breath in, let some of it out...

When the powder in the pan flashed and the rifle kicked back into his shoulder, it was, as always, a surprise. "A good steady squeeze is the way to go laddie," as his old Da' always said.

He couldn't see shite because of the powder smoke but he didn't have time to gawp anyway, he needed to reload, and fast.

Eric Johnson Photo (Source)

Wilkerson saw the flash and then the smoke from a shot just ahead, couldn't be more than a hundred paces away. Before he could react he heard a muffled grunt and then a choking sound coming from his right. And why was he wet all of a sudden? It wasn't raining.

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Lieutenant Williams-Beckworth felt as if he'd been shoved back slightly, then his hands went to his throat as suddenly he couldn't breathe right, perhaps he should loosen his cravat. But then, then, he realized that something, something...

As the lieutenant slid to the road, his world went dark.

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Wilkerson turned just as the lieutenant began to slide from his horse, his waistcoat was soaked in blood, his horse's neck was soaked in blood. My Lord, my lieutenant's been shot, what will the captain say?

As he reached for the lieutenant he felt his arm swatted away, as if the lieutenant didn't want to be touched. Odd though, the lieutenant has both hands to his throat, how did he...

Wilkerson stared in some puzzlement at his shattered right forearm. Then he realized, he too had been hit.

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The other non-commissioned officers had no time to assist the corporal or his lieutenant, the rebel fire was coming in thick and fast.

"Form up you bastards!"

"Present your firelocks! Fire! Fire at will!"

Eric Johnson Photo (Source)
But the rebels were already melting into the trees. A small group of fusiliers began to jump over the wall to pursue but were ordered back onto the road.

"Retreat, fall back lads, keep your intervals. Steady lads, steady!"

As night fell Corporal Wilkerson regained conscientiousness. His arm was on fire and his throat was parched. In the wan light of the moon he realized that he was alone on the field, his mates had left him for dead.

Struggling to his feet, he looked about for his musket. There, under that body. Rolling the dead man off, he began to lift his weapon out from under the corpse, then the moonlight fell on the man's face enough to recognize him.

Wilkerson sank back to the ground with a sob. The dead man was his lieutenant. The boy he was responsible for. Damned infernal rebels, they will pay.

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Two months later, less two days, the rebel who had slain the young lieutenant, Private Willie Cruikshank did pay. He lost his life at the end of a British bayonet as he tried to flee from a bloody hill just outside Charlestown. A hill known as Breed's Hill, where the battle to be remembered in later years as The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought.

Corporal John Wilkerson was there as well, his wounded right arm just beginning to feel right again. The corporal had gone up that hill two and a half times, he'd been forced back twice. Angry, wanting revenge for his dead lieutenant, wanting revenge for the humiliation of the retreat from Concord. So many good lads lost that day.

But as the sun set on another bloody day of this young revolution, Corporal Wilkerson's war was over. As was his life.

He and 206 other British infantrymen lay dead upon the bloody slope. Nineteen officers had also perished. 828 other men of the Royal Army had been wounded, some would die of those wounds.

135 of the rebels had perished (20 after being captured). A further 305 had been wounded. So yes, the rebels had "paid" for Concord and Lexington. But the bill to the British Crown was far too steep. Any further victories such as this and His Majesty's army in the Colonies would be bled white.

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Though Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem "Concord Hymn" was written to commemorate the events of 19 April 1775, the "shot heard round the world" refers to the first shots fired by the Colonial militia at the North Bridge outside of Concord, Massachusetts.

That shot had actually been fired earlier in the day, at Lexington green. To this day, no one knows who fired that first shot. The British soldiers present deny having fired, given the strict discipline of the British, I believe they did not fire first.

The British did not mention seeing those militia gathered on the green firing the shot either. Perhaps it was someone coming late onto the scene, who saw the militia standing as the British officer in command demanded they lay down their arms and disperse.

Perhaps that individual, in rage or in frustration, loosed that first shot. Which caused the redcoats to loose a volley on the men to their front. Of whom eight perished and ten were wounded. Some in sight of their homes.

Who fired that "shot heard round the world" that day? Who knows?

A long, bloody revolution followed but in the end, a new Nation was born.

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By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.
The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.
On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.
Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

"Concord Hymn" - Ralph Waldo Emerson**



* The 4th Foot is recorded as having been present in this source.
** Source for the Concord Hymn

18 comments:

  1. Well done and fun. Great post!

    Depending on how you define the term, I believe it was either Ralph Branca or Bobby Thomson.

    Sorry, couldn't hep m'self.

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  2. Keep up with the history posts, Chris! I am enjoying them immensely!

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  3. Great post!

    Makes me sick to think that we're deliberately, with malice and aforethought, throwing it all away!

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    1. Thanks Juvat.

      I too am sickened by this willful destruction of our heritage and wonder what sort of legacy we're leaving to our kids and grandkids.

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  4. I am not sure which is worse, a generation that has no grasp on our history, or a political movement to destroy the monuments to heroes of the past and to rewrite a revisionist version of our history based solely on their liberal socialist viewpoint. I frequently quote George Santayana "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

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    1. A generation with no grasp of history is the product of that political movement. Shame on the youth for not thinking for themselves, a pox on that political movement.

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    2. Could it be that parents today feel their children are so threatened by human predators that they have organized children's activities to the point where they're not allowed to think for themselves?
      No... wait!!!
      Even so-called adult supervisors of children want to create "safe" places for them to gather, even when they become young adults.
      Sadly, there are people being paid to tell us that this is what is best.

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    3. One of the biggest problems in society, IMHO, is the way the "know it alls" tell us to raise our young. Products of a liberal college education, no skills, no experience and no kids, yet they're the experts!

      Don't get me started.

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  5. "What a glorious morning this is!!" so said Sam Adams commenting on the events of the day. It seems today we are not too far off from the numbers of that day. The true Patriots of this country are in the minority and must bring the rest along kicking and screaming. We are not blinded but still see the "Shining city on the hill" Reagan saw. We know that this all could be lost within a generation and at times it seems we are seeing it slip away. The "youth", a term that from my standing, is quite large. They are a product of a extremely liberal, leftist education system. They have been separated from our history and heritage, being taught by the anti-war, anti- American hippies of the '60s. Just look at who is the Sec of State. The hildabeast is not a candidate for President because she 'wants to make this country great again' but for her own personal gain. We are a long way from when JFK said "...but what you can do for your country." Today's 'youth' have no idea who said that.

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  6. I, for one, am grateful for what those men did on those days.

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  7. Usually check your posting earlier in the day but recent surgery put paid to that. Enjoy your history postings immensely... keep them coming. More people nowadays need to read stuff like this since so many are clueless... makes me wonder what will happen. Oh by the way thanks for your service and that of your fellow posters also. While I'm not a vet both my parents were WWII.. dad USAAF and mom USN.

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    1. Thanks, hope the surgery went well. I do like doing the history thing, it's always been my favorite topic.

      Sounds like you come from good stock, as they say.

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  8. Just remember, people, without the individual right to own and bear arms the battles of Concord and Lexington would have been impossible! Shove that little fact in the face of those who would curtail or eliminate the 2nd amendment and ask them to explain EXACTLY how those battles could have occurred/been fought otherwise.

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    1. In point of fact, the idea was to seize powder and shot from the colonists just to prevent such an uprising. Reminds me of the progressives trying to ban ammunition sales. What's the difference between that and the march to Concord.

      No difference at all, say I.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)