By Elaine Marie Cooper
April 19, 2020 was the 245th Anniversary of the start of the American Revolution. Just twelve years prior to this 1775 event, the American colonists had fought side by side with the British soldiers against the French. But the years that followed created discontent among the colonists who believed the monarchy in Britain had unfairly taxed them on everything from paper to playing cards. (You can read about the Stamp Act at my March post at Heroes, Heroines, and History https://www.hhhistory.com/2020/03/from-stamp-act-to-revolution.html )
The laws in America went from bad to worse as England’s Parliament issued restrictions on the colonists that made them realize they did not have the same rights as their British counterparts across the ocean. To make matters worse, no one in Parliament represented the colonists for voting purposes.
For the hard-working, independent-minded colonials, this was an affront not to be tolerated. As emotions grew, talk of revolution grew as well.
|The Jason Russel House in Menotomy
Rumors and secret meetings had abounded in Lexington, Concord, Menotomy Village and other small towns nearby the British-held port city of Boston. Quiet talk of war permeated the conversations, increasing the anxiety of the colonists as they knew conflict approached closer every day. When it exploded into full scale skirmishes on April 19, 1775, the dye had been cast. The American Revolution had begun.
Rumor had reached the British that the colonists had a hidden store of gunpowder in the town of Concord. In an effort to confiscate the powder, British soldiers left Boston, then travelled west through Charlestown before they marched in the dead of night through Menotomy Village, MA. As the local residents awakened to the vibration of soldiers marching down the main road on their way to Concord, bells sounded the alarm and residents seized their muskets, preparing to make their stand. These lands were their homes and they intended to defend their families and farms to the death, if need be.
|Concord Bridge where shots were fired
Just west of Menotomy was Lexington, where the first shots were fired on the town green. The color of the spring lawn was watered with the red blood of the local men and boys who had risen before dawn to defend their town. Eight patriots were killed and several wounded. One British soldier was also injured.
The British forces proceeded towards Concord. Wise patriots had actually moved the weaponry & gunpowder elsewhere before the enemy troops arrived. But that didn’t stop the confrontation immortalized in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem, “Concord Hymn.” Two British soldiers were killed in the battle at the Old North Bridge. Their graves near the bridge are decorated with flowers to this day, courtesy of the British Embassy.
As the exhausted British troops retreated down the road toward Boston, colonists who had learned to fight behind trees and stone walls, picked off numerous red-coated soldiers along the way. In the meantime, reinforcements for the Brits were on the way down the main road from Boston. Once they joined forces west of Menotomy Village, the battle grew even uglier. By the time the conflict reached the Jason Russell farm in Menotomy, the fiercest battle of the day—and the deadliest for both sides—occurred at the Russell House.
Menotomy Village is today called Arlington, Massachusetts. When I grew up there, I frequently walked by the Jason Russell House. It was now designated a historical site with a sign out front and, as a young girl, I wondered what had occurred there. It was not until I grew up that I learned the full story of this major incident, hidden from most history books. I was so moved by what I learned, I determined to write about it in novel form. I wanted to bring the characters alive on the page through words that would help my readers understand that these were living, breathing humans who sacrificed so much for the birth of America.
I’ve written about this story in the multi award-winning Fields of the Fatherless. I hope that reading about this little-known battle will help you appreciate our ancestors who shed their blood to create a free America.
April 19 is now a public holiday called Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts and Maine. In Wisconsin, schools are required to teach students about the events and notable people of the American Revolution.
It is regrettable that most of these United States do not commemorate the first day of the war that birthed America. We should never forget. I will do my part to help Americans remember.
Elaine Marie Cooper has two historical fiction books that released in 2019: War’s Respite(Prequel novella) and Love’s Kindling. Love’s Kindling was recently named a Finalist in the 2020 Selah Awards. It is the second book in the Dawn of America Series set in Revolutionary War Connecticut. Cooper is the award-winning author of Fields of the Fatherless and Bethany’s Calendar. Her 2016 release (Saratoga Letters) was finalist in Historical Romance in both the Selah Awards and Next Generation Indie Book Awards. She has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul and HomeLife magazine. She also penned the three-book historical series, Deer Run Saga. Her upcoming release, Scarred Vessels, is about the black soldiers in the American Revolution. Look for it in October 2020. You can visit her website/ blog at www.elainemariecooper.com