Friday, April 19, 2019

Lexington and Concord - Day of Battle

(Source)
Tom and Will Clark were brothers, Tom being the older by a year. Both had been farm hands in a small village in Essex, had been until they were old enough to escape that life and take the King's Shilling,

They were big lads, and strong from all that farm work growing up, so big and strong that they were made grenadiers. Elite soldiers, so they were told, who now stood shivering with the rest of their company on the shore of Boston's Back Bay. Waiting for the boats which would take them to the "mainland" as their company sergeant major, Bill Lewis, called it.

Neither brother knew whether it was very early in the morning or very late at night (both being damned near the same thing Tom thought). They only knew that while Spring had technically arrived, the nights and mornings still bore a sharp chill.

"Alright lads, steady, our boat's right there, let's go sailing!" Sergeant Major Lewis called out.

"Sarn't Major, haven't ye had enough of boats for the time being?" Will joked, all were well aware that the sergeant major had been sick as a dog the entire Atlantic crossing.

"That's enough out of you Will Clark! Move laddies, let's get aboard!"

The crossing was uneventful, the grenadiers stood quietly as the sailors rowed them across the water. When the boat finally grounded on the opposite shore, the men scrambled over the sides, into the cold water, and formed up quickly.

"My bloody boots are soaked through, this army life will be the death of me yet." Will grumbled to his older brother, hoping that the sergeant major hadn't heard him.

"Jesus Will, keep your voice down..." Tom Clark began, only to be interrupted by Sergeant Major Lewis, who missed nothing and heard everything in "his" company.

"So Will Clark, chattering like a magpie again are we? The army might not be the death of ye, but I swear that I will kill you myself if you don't shut your gob!"

"Yes, Sarn't Major, sorry Sarn't Major."

As Lewis turned and walked to the front of the company, to make sure the leftenant didn't make a complete hash of things, Will Clark stuck his tongue out.

"Stick it out again Clark and I'll have you flogged."

With that Will shut his mouth, wondering if the sergeant major was some sort of demon, the man never missed a trick.



The sun was well up before the assembled troops moved off, whereas it had been quite brisk before, as the dew evaporated in the bright sun it was growing quite hot. Nothing like a brisk march and a wool coat to warm a fellow up!

A small village green was just ahead, from his position near the flank of the column, Tom Clark could see there was a small body of men formed upon the green. In civilian clothing but he could see that these men were armed. "What deviltry is afoot this fine morning?" he wondered.

An officer rode out ahead of the column and directed the men to their left, ordering them from march column to line formation. When that maneuver was completed, the officer ordered the men to halt. The command rippled down the column behind them as well, repeated by each commander in turn.

Then the mounted man faced the grenadier company and ordered...

"Company will fix bayonets!"

The grenadiers reached back and gripped the sockets of their bayonets. Tom could see that his brother Will looked very pale, obviously he had seen the armed men as well.

"Fix!"

A ripple of movement down the line...

"BAYONETS!"

With bayonets now fixed, the grenadiers stood like statues, the officer wheeled his horse towards the men on the green and ordered them to lay down their arms and disperse at once, in the name of the King!

The armed civilians seemed to waver, ever so slightly. Tom could not understand how these few civilians, armed with what appeared to be older versions of the musket the grenadiers carried and not a few fowling pieces as well, thought they could withstand the might of the British Army.

Tom watched the officer turn his horse again and trot back to where the company was formed.

"Charge your BAYONETS!"

With a yell, the grenadiers threw one foot forward and leveled their muskets, bayonets at the ready. At that moment, Tom saw a puff of smoke, powder smoke, by a stone wall off to the right of the green. Then he heard the sharp buzz of a ball pass nearby. Dear Lord, they're shooting at us. Are they insane?

A number of men, Will included, fired off their muskets in the general direction of the slowly disappearing smoke.

"Hold your fire, hold your fire!" Sergeant Major Lewis screamed as he used his spontoon to slap some of the men's muskets up. Tom had never seen the man so furious. In an instant, the command was given to advance.

As the drums rolled, the grenadiers stepped off. A single, ineffective volley was fired by the civilians, many of them began to run.

"Company, HALT!"

"Present your firelocks!"

"FIRE!"

A volley rang out from the company line. Tom felt the big musket kick back against his shoulder as he immediately began to reload. As the smoke rolled away, he could see a number of the civilians down on the ground, some writhing in agony, some as still as the grave.

"Company will advance!"

The drums rolled and the grenadiers moved forward again. Many of the civilians had vanished into the houses surrounding the green. Some still stood, reloading.

"At them lads! Give 'em cold steel!" The officer on horseback shouted.

With a yell the grenadiers rushed forward. One or two of the civilians were bayoneted where they stood. Will pursued one man right to the door of one of the houses and bayoneted the man in the lower back. Will watched in shock as the man fell, Will's bayonet still in his back. There was so much blood.

Tom Clark rushed up and pushed Will aside. Grabbing his brother's musket, he placed a foot on the civilian's back and yanked back on Will's musket. As the man groaned and tried to rise, Tom handed Will's musket back to him, then pushed the wounded man back down.

"Stay still laddie, your fight's over."

The man tried to sit up, groaning, "Damned lobsterback bastard, rot in Hell!"

Shocked, Tom hit the man in the face with the butt of his musket, killing the wounded civilian.

"You had your chance mate, come on Will, we need to rejoin the company."

Will Clark was in shock, he had stabbed a man, then watched his brother kill him. What in the world was going on? This couldn't be happening, it's such a beautiful day. Why are we killing our fellow Englishmen?



The company quickly reformed and stepped off in march column once more. All along the road Tom could see men off in the distance, seemingly in a hurry to get somewhere. The march continued unopposed as the day grew hotter. Tom was worried about Will, he was quiet and seemed to be staring off into the distance, following the man in front of him without really paying attention.

They went into Concord, smashed up a number of cannon carriages and caissons, a couple of the lads set fire to a haystack. It all seemed like great fun, though Tom was wondering what they were going to do next. The officers all seemed angry, apparently what they had marched out of Boston for was not to be found, at least not in the quantities the officers seemed to expect.

Reforming, the column moved off down the road they had come into Concord on. Not far away Tom heard musket fire, serious musket fire, volleys were being exchanged close by, though he couldn't see where.

Tom began seeing bodies of formed men on the nearby ridge lines and moving parallel to the road they were on, some of the older men, the veterans. were looking a bit worried. It seemed to Tom that a war might be starting this very day, were these men insane?

As the company rounded a bend in the road, a volley rang out from behind a nearby stone wall. As Tom looked in that direction, he heard a high-pitched scream and saw their young leftenant pitch from his horse, blood staining the man's trousers nearly the same color as his jacket. The young man died before he hit the ground.

Sergeant Major Lewis quickly took control and ordered the men to face right and present their firelocks. As he ordered a volley, Tom saw nothing but smoke from where the civilians had fired from, they had vanished as quickly as they had appeared.

"Reload lads, quickly now!"

As ramrods rattled down barrels, as men bit off cartridges, another volley came from the opposite side of the road. More men in the company went down, some were unmoving, some were helped onto their feet as the Sergeant Major got the men moving again. They had to get out of this enclosed space and get to where they could form up properly and hit back.

The day went on like that, agonizing hour after hour, until they met up with more British troops coming up from Boston. The civilians, the rebels as one officer had called them, had faded back into the countryside. Leaving the King's troops battered, bloodied, and exhausted.

Tom and Will marched back to Boston, wondering what the day had meant. Wondering how their fellow Englishmen could hate them so. Will was changed, he was quieter, life wasn't so funny any more.

While Will had been shocked at how he had bayoneted a fellow human being earlier in the day, along the march he had gone from being confused to grimly determined. He had expended nearly all of the rounds from his cartridge box. Tom remembered watching his brother calmly load and fire throughout the long day, had remembered his brother's grunt of satisfaction as he saw at least one man go down when he fired.

Will was no longer the frightened boy he had been that morning, he was now a soldier.

War had come to the King's American possessions, again.


(Source)

42 comments:

  1. You can tell a tale, no doubt about it!

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  2. And so it begins.......... oh those civilian "weapons of war" they must be banned for the "children"........ Molon Labé! Nice bit of reading Sarge, very nice.

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    1. We're on the precipice, again.

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    2. "We're on the precipice, again." Yes we are. This next fracas may make that donnybrook of the mid-1800s look like a rugby scrum. I hope that enough people of the donkey persuasion come to their senses soon enough to prevent such an eventuality.

      Thanks for the post.
      Paul L. Quandt

      p.s.: I totally agree, you write extremely well.

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    3. It's not the donks, per se, but the Hammer-and-Sickle people that are the real problems. Though many are disguised as donks.

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  3. Nicely told, Sarge - you do have a way with words - must be from reading all them AF tech manuals that have the big words in 'em'

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    1. Hahaha!

      That has to be it Tom. Thanks.

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    2. Oh Lord, when Sarge was in the Air Force, the Army was using cartoons with buxom babes to inform the Army maintainers how to maintain tanks and deuce and a halfs. Naturally he shines in comparison...:)
      Say, have you noticed how few Army guys blab on your website?

      One great mind thinking about the genesis of the Revolution. Good post.

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    3. Well, RHT447 was Army, XBradTC stops by once every couple of years, but yes, the Army seems sadly underrepresented in these parts. Any soldiers out there I missed? Sound off!

      Actually I have two Army cartoon manuals somewhere, one is land navigation, the other is how to knock out a tank if all you have is standard infantry stuff. I thought those might be useful some day...

      Thanks, Cap'n!

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    4. Well, I was Army, bookended by my two USAF stents.

      Paul

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  4. Another nice piece of writing, Sarge (although, one quibble - the sun was just rising as the British column approached Lexington). There is a marker at the spot where the British landed in the marshes at Lechmere to march the 11 or so miles to Lexington. There are now two city blocks and a shopping mall between there and the Charles River 1,500 feet away! As an aside, I had the privilege for several years at the annual reenactment of firing that phantom shot that started the melee on the Green.

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    1. Dang, you're right. I claim artistic license (though I will fix it in the book, if I ever actually get there).

      Have you see the film April Morning with Tommy Lee Jones? Too many leaves on the trees, wasn't early spring when they filmed it, probably summer!

      Thanks WS!

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  5. I went there last summer, very moving. You write well.

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  6. So many irons (stories) in the fire. Which one to finish first? Pick one, finish, and publish!! Old NFO and LB can help can help.

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    1. I don't lack for material, only time.

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    2. I'll say it again since you've twice mentioned it, "the fire in which all men burn." It's name is time.

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  7. I agree with Rob that the Concord battlefield is a very moving place. It is so ironic that "The Shot Heard Round the World" was fired in what is today such an anti-gun state. That the march on Lexington and Concord were to deprive the citizens of their arms and powder is lost on most folks today. Why people would give up access to tools that initially secured their (and our) freedom and how such brave souls morphed over time into such sheep is just beyond me.

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  8. Hmmm.... Redcoats came to grab our guns then. Now, Red-Flag laws have come to grab our guns today. As you and (nny)US said, Irony...

    Though it is interesting, watching and reading reports of resistance. Over a million 'high capacity' (which the rest of the world calls normal capacity) magazines sold in California and to Californians in one week. Absolutely no 'high capacity' magazines turned in after bans enacted in both New York and New Jersey. Massachusett citizens (not subjects, though darned close to becoming them) have resisted for a long time against the crown, I mean the State. All over, where red flag laws have been passed, elected county officials have sworn to not enforce them, even in some of the most liberal states (which we are now finding out are only liberal because of a few metropolitan areas.) The anti-gun message has been shown to be false, and more than false, a down-right danger to life and liberty. And armed citizens have even stood up (and then found to be acting lawfully) against local, state, and federal forces, though civilian lives have been lost. (Lavoy Finicum is right up there with Ruby Ridge and Waco as examples of government tyranny.)

    Lest we forget, and lose any more rights, and thus truly become the subjects that 'our betters' in Congress and in the Deep State think we are, rather than citizens.

    It is coming to the time when we will unfortunately have to remind these cretins that they serve us, and that they are the subjects, not the other way around.

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  9. He has died for us. God be praised. Our passage from children of God to Men of God has almost been completed.

    (Because, well, I expected a Good Friday posting today and instead you tossed in another important historical post, where men became free of other men, for a bright, shining moment.)

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  10. Raised the colors this morning. Now noon and can see no other flags on our street. Time to water the Tree of Liberty.

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  11. Another good one, Sarge, but then, your previous efforts have made us come to expect good writing.
    I hate to be pedantic, but I have a minor quibble. Buck is no longer with us, and I'm not suggesting I could come close to filling his (USAF-issue) shoes, but the best proofreading involves more than the author's eyes, so....
    "The armed civilians seemed to waiver, ever so slightly." That should be "waver".
    I've been out of state for work, & just checked the blog tonight. It was a bit of a surprise to see the book cover at the top of a previous post, especially after what I'd said in our last email exchange. I'd better go buy a lottery ticket, as it looks as if my foresk--uh, foresight, that's what I was saying--is working. (Forgive the slip: I was once a sailor, after all.)
    Excellent story for the anniversary!
    --Tennessee Budd

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    1. Dang! Good eye Tennessee, I corrected it.

      That book is outstanding, I'm almost at the first American tank attack. (Normally I read quicker, been very busy lately.)

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    2. Paul, the book in question is "Treat 'Em Rough: The Birth of American Armor, 1917-20", by Dale E. Wilson (capitalization is from the book cover). See the Chant post of 16 April to have a look at the cover.
      Sarge, I've been a language freak pretty much all my life, & such things just sometimes jump out at me. I'm glad you don't take umbrage at such things. Just think of me as a resurrection (timely pun intended) of Clippy, that annoying, anthropomorphic, animated paperclip character that Microsoft created, and, mercifully for all, killed off some years ago. I'm just a Southern, hillbilly version--sort of a Clippy-Bob. Same as the old character, but with a mullet & holding a can of cheap beer. (No, I don't have a mullet, and never have.)
      --Tennessee Budd

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    3. Paul - What Tennessee said. Also see my post from the 16th of April.

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    4. Tennessee - Hahaha! Clippy! Haven't seen that in ages.

      On a serious note, improving as a writer is my goal, I have some very fine editors here, you included.

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