Traveling in the time of Covid (5)

You may be wondering why of late I have been writing about the American Revolution so avidly. I guess it’s because my formative years were mostly spent watching movies of typical Cowboys and Indians genre in various downtown theaters in the ’50s, like Ideal and State on Avenida Rizal or Lyric and Capitol on Escolta after Sunday Mass at Quiapo Church in the company of my Ate who loved movies. And every so often, my movie treat would sometimes even be a double feature.

Growing up under such circumstances, inevitably, United States history became a favorite subject in school, as I would be able to relive epic battles in my mind as the pages of history books unfolded while I was doing my homework. So, of course, when my long-delayed visit to my family in the East Coast finally became a reality, I resolved to soak up on historical sites whenever and wherever I could.

Taking off from last week’s narrative about the simmering powder keg in Boston, my next stop was Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts where, on 19 April 1775, the “shots heard around the world” rang out between two armies — on one side the British Army, mightiest army in the world, and on the other, the Patriots, a ragtag band of farmers, workmen and merchants, to signal the start of the American Revolution.

At Lexington Green where the initial clash occurred, it was actually not much of a battle to begin with. Despite Paul Revere’s frantic ride throughout the night to warn the colonists, as immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Paul Revere’s Ride,” that the “British are coming,” the Lexington militia regulars, after waiting for hours for the supposed arrival of the British, dwindled to only 77 men when about 700 troopers finally came. Greatly outnumbered and uncertain of what to do, the colonials never stood a chance as eight immediately fell dead after the first volley, prompting them to make a hasty retreat.

(Historical trivia: Actually, Revere never really uttered those words. He was with two other riders, and he was captured by a British patrol at about 1 a.m. before reaching Concord. Another rider, Dr. Samuel Prescott, eluded the British and went on to warn the militiamen in Concord.)

Concord, however, was a different matter. Sufficiently forewarned and reinforced by the Minutemen (the equivalent of today’s Special Forces, ready for action in a minute) and militia from neighboring towns, this time around the British were in for a fight, and the tables were turned, with about 1,700 British troops against 4,000 Patriots.

I visited North Bridge, which overlooks a narrow river crossing at the Minute Man National Historical Park, a frequented historic site in Concord marking the Patriots’ initial triumph over the British. It has a monument dedicated to the Minutemen commemorating the skirmish over a short arching bridge.

On 19 April 1775, at about 9:30 a.m. 96 British soldiers guarded the bridge to ensure a passageway for the main British contingent searching for stored weapons in the area, while on top of a small hill was a company of about 400 Patriots. After a short winding trek uphill, I reached the summit, which offers from that vantage point what I imagine was probably also the same unimpeded view for the colonials of the bridge manned by the outnumbered British soldiers.

Alarmed by smoke rising from the center of Concord and fearing that the British were razing their homes, the Patriots marched down the hill, but were met by a volley that felled two of their compatriots, prompting them to return fire, killing three regulars and wounding nine others. Outnumbered and fearing greater numbers of reinforcing militia, the British decided to withdraw to Boston, only to be met by withering fire from the militia all throughout the trail that is now known as the Battle Road, which spans about five miles.

By the end of the day, the British suffered 73 dead, 174 wounded and 26 missing compared to the Patriots, who lost 49 militiamen, with 41 wounded and five missing — a resounding victory that fueled the Americans’ aspirations for freedom.

Until next week… OBF!


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