Thursday, April 19, 2007

April 19 is Patriots Day

Frankly, April 19 should be a national holiday to celebrate the "Shot Heard Round the World."

I sometimes think "what would I have done on that morning" after the rider came down the road shouting that the British were marching to Concord. Would I have put down my farm tools, grabbed my musket, hugged my kids, kissed my wife goodbye and run off to join my fellow militiamen as they streamed to Lexington and Concord?

One of my favorite sayings is "There are things that happen in a second that take a lifetime to explain." This is one of those "seconds" that affected the life of many people in New England. Many acted to support the cause of liberty and most of them returned to their families. Some husbands and sons did not return, dying after the skirmishes along the road to Lexington and Concord.

In Westminster MA, about 20 miles west of Concord, Norman Seaver (my ancestor), his brothers Ethan, Daniel, and Moses, and his son Benjamin (also my ancestor) gathered their arms and marched off toward Concord. They all soon returned and several of them served later in the War.

My ancestor Isaac Buck was a young man of 18 who served the entire war - he was part of Henry Knox's regiment that went to Fort Ticonderoga and hauled the cannons to Dorchester Heights in the middle of the winter of 1775-6. I posted his biography here and his Revolutionary War service records here.

However, the man that I wish I was descended from is my very distant cousin - Samuel Whittemore. Here is an article about him from an obituary notice of the Columbian Centinel (a newspaper in Boston) of 6 February 1793:

"Died at Menotomy, the 2d instant, Capt. Samuel Whittemore, AEt. 96 years and 6 months. The manly and moral virtues, in all the varied relations of a brother, husband, father, and friend, were invariably exhibited in this gentleman. He was not more remarkable for his longevity and his numerous descendants (his progeny being 185, one of which is the fifth generation) than for his patriotism.

"When the British troops marched to Lexington, he was 79 years of age, and one of the first on the parade; he was armed with a gun and horse-pistol. After an animated exhortation to the collected militia to the exercise of bravery and courage, he exclaimed, 'If I can only be the instrument of killing one of my country's foes, I shall die in peace.' The prayer of this venerable old man was heard; for on the return of the troops he lay behind a stone wall, and discharging his gun a soldier immediately fell; he then discharged his pistol, and killed another; at which instant a bullet struck his face, shot away part of his cheekbone; on which a number of the soldiers ran up to the wall, and gorged their malice on his wounded head. They were heard to exclaim, 'We have killed the old rebel.'

"About four hours after, he was found in a mangled situation; his head was covered with blood from the wounds of the bayonets, which were six or eight; but providentially none penetrated so far as to destroy him. His hat and clothes were shot through in many places; yet he survived to see the complete overthrow of his enemies, and his country enjoy all the blessings of peace and independence.

"His funeral will be held to-morrow at 4 o'clock P. M. from his house at Menotomy, which his relatives and friends are requested to attend."

We have all benefited from the heroism of Norman Seaver, Isaac Buck, Samuel Whittemore and many more patriots. May God bless them all! And may we remember them for what they did on a spring morning in New England.

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