Prologue to Redcoats and Rebels
The Village of Concord
April 19, 1775
A sharp clatter of hooves awakened Charles Gueneer. Moments later, he heard a loud bellow from below. “Redcoats are afoot! Take arms.”
Charles leapt from his bed, rushed to the nearest window, and threw up the sash in time to see a shadowy horseman dash out of his barnyard and gallop down the road.
“I heard him, Charles,” whispered his wife Monique, as she struggled to light her bedside candle.
“This well may be the first day of a long and bitter war,” Charles said sadly, as he finished dressing and reached for his boots. “We’ve been preparing for the past eight months. The British know about our militia drills and our acquisition of arms and munitions. It is common knowledge in Boston that General Gage plans to send an armed force to search for the cache of weapons we have hidden in Concord. He also hopes to arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams.”
“Please be very careful, Charles,” Monique pleaded.
“I will! Don’t worry,” he said, smiling at her. How like a wife to caution her husband to be careful as he marches off to fight in a war.
As Charles left his home in the pre-light of dawn and trudged to town through a low-hanging mist, defiant church bells began to ring and muffled drums rapped out a call to arms. Sleeping villagers were jolted awake by the ringing bells—the signal of approaching danger. Charles heard a few nervous gunshots and frowned at the useless waste of powder and lead. Ten minutes later, as he reached the village green, about fifty militiamen were forming battle ranks. Charles had arrived none to soon. He had barely taken his position in the formation when they all clearly heard the sound of many marching boots. Minutes later, a Redcoat column emerged from the fog and headed directly toward the Rebels on the green.
“Follow me, men.” ordered Captain Parker, the commander of the Lexington Militia.
Parker led his militiamen to the north end of Lexington Common, near the Bedford Road.
“Form a single line,” Parker ordered.
Stationed near the center of the short line, Charles squinted through the mist at the Recoats as they approached in well-disciplined lines. There certainly were a lot of them!
The mounted Redcoat officer who led the first platoon halted his horse a short distance from the spot where Charles stood. He drew his sword and pointed it at Parker’s militia.
“Lay down your weapons! It is an act of treason to fire on a British soldier!”
“Disperse you damned rebels, disperse,” shouted another.
When no militiaman moved, he suddenly shouted a command, “Fire!”
Charles felt a musket ball whistle past his ear, and a second later, Captain Parker shouted, “Take cover! Every man for himself!”
Charles hastened to a nearby low stone wall, vaulted over it, and then ran faster than ever before! Living was more important than anything else! After running for several minutes, Charles stopped, gasping for air and shivering, and a wave of shame engulfed him. Then he thought, how could a simple farmer like him, or any well-meaning, hastily-trained civilian, hope to defeat the world’s best soldiers. Perhaps victory was impossible. His mad dash from death’s yawning jaws had convinced Charles of one thing. He admitted to himself that victory would never be achieved until a day came when men like him refused to trade their birthright or their freedom for mere existence.