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writes Washington, "had not been as precipitate as it was,—and God knows it could not well have been more so,—the ministerial troops must have surrendered, or been totally cutoff."
The distant firing from the main land had reached the British at Boston. The troops which, in the morning, had marched through Roxbury, to the tune of "Yankee Doodle," might have been seen at sunset, hounded along the old Cambrige road to Charleston Neck, by mere armed yeomanry. Gage was astounded at the catastrophe. It was but a short time previous that one of his officers, in writing to friends in England, scoffed at the idea of the Americans taking up arms. "Whenever it comes to blows," said he, " he that can run the fastest, will think himself well off, believe me. Any two regiments here ought to be decimated if they did not beat in the field the whole force of the Massachusetts province." How frequently, throughout this Revolution, had the English to pay the penalty of thus undervaluing the spirit they were provoking!
In this memorable affair, the British loss was seventy-three killed, one hundred and seventyfour wounded, and twenty-six missing. Among the slain were eighteen officers. The loss of the Americans was forty-nine killed, thirtynine wounded, and five missing. This was the first blood shed in the revolutionary struggle; a mere drop in amount, but a deluge in its effects,—rending the colonies forever from the mother country.
The cry of blood from the field of Lexington went through the land. None felt the appeal more than the old soldiers of the French war. It roused John Stark, of New Hampshire—a trapper and hunter in his youth, a veteran in Indian warfare, a campaigner under Abercrombie and Amherst, now the military oracle of a rustic neighborhood. Within ten minutes after receiving the alarm, he was spurring towards the sea-coast, and on the way stirring up the volunteers of the Massachusetts borders, to assemble forthwith at Bedford, in the vicinity of Boston.
Equally alert was his old comrade in frontier exploits, Colonel Israel Putnam. A man on horseback, with a drum, passed through his neighborhood in Connecticut, proclaiming British violence at Lexington. Putnam was in the field ploughing, assisted by his son. In an instant the team was unyoked, the plough left in the furrow, the lad sent home to give word of his father's departure, and Putnam, on horseback, in his working garb, urging with all speed to the camp. Such was the spirit aroused throughout the country. The sturdy Virginia up in Brms 129
yeomanry, from all parts, were hastening toward Boston with such weapons as were at hand ; and happy was he who could command a rusty fowling-piece and a powder-horn.
The news reached Virginia at a critical moment. Lord Dunmore, obeying a general order issued by the ministry to all the provincial governors, had seized upon the military munitions of the province. Here was a similar measure to that of Gage. The cry went forth that the subjugation of the colonies was to be attempted. All Virginia was in combustion. The standard of liberty was reared in every county ; there was a general cry to arms. Washington was looked to, from various quarters, to take command. His old comrade in arms, Hugh Mercer, was about marching down to Williamsburg at the head of a body of resolute men, seven hundred strong, entitled "The friends of constitutional liberty and America," whom he had organized and drilled in Fredericksburg, and nothing but a timely concession of Lord Dunmore, with respect to some powder which he had seized, prevented his being beset in his palace.
Before Hugh Mercer and the Friends of Liberty disbanded themselves, they exchanged a mutual pledge to reassemble at a moment's warning, whenever called on to defend the liberty and rights of this or any other sister colony.
Washington was at Mount Vernon, preparing to set out for Philadelphia as a delegate to the second Congress, when he received tidings of the affair at Lexington. Bryan Fairfax and Major Horatio Gates were his guests at the time. They all regarded the event as decisive in its consequences; but they regarded it with different feelings. The worthy and gentlespirited Fairfax deplored it deeply. He foresaw that it must break up all his pleasant relations in life; arraying his dearest friends against the government to which, notwithstanding the errors of its policy, he was loyally attached and resolved to adhere.
Gates, on the contrary, viewed it with the eye of a soldier and a place-hunter—hitherto disappointed in both capacities. This event promised to open a new avenue to importance and command, and he determined to enter upon it.
Washington's feelings were of a mingled nature. They may be gathered from a letter to his friend and neighbor, George William Fairfax, then in England, in which he lays the blame of this " deplorable affair" on the ministry and their military agents; and concludes with the following words, in which the yearna Sao alternative
ings of the patriot give affecting solemnity to the implied resolve of the soldier: ''Unhappy it is to reflect that a brother's sword has been sheathed in a brother's breast; and that the once happy and peaceful plains of America are to be either drenched with blood or inhabited by slaves. Sad alternative! But can a virtuous man hesitate in his choice ?''