This one bothers me, because it goes against everything I stand for as a New Englander whose family came from England in the early 18th century not long after the Mayflower. I am proud of having ancestors who lived through those times and defended their country against the exploitation of the English king.
I have also read Howard Fast's April Morning, which is a beautifully realistic account of the battle of Concord and Lexington, told from the point of view of a young man just about the age I was in this life. I began believing that I had stolen the plot of my account from his, except for the twist that represented the end of that life.
But recently I re-read Fast's book, and it is actually quite different from my life. Certainly there are common elements - the look of the countryside, the fear and excitement of the coming of the redcoats, marching down the country road, hardly more than a lane. I was around fifteen or sixteen, and was crouching (as Fast also describes it) behind the stone wall bordering the road, alongside the other defenders, clutching my gun, listening to the martial music as the British troops came closer and closer, with two drummers and a fife player at the head, flanked by men carrying the British flag.
Someone from our ranks fired a shot at the file of advancing soldiers, and then we all began firing from behind the wall, rising to shoot, then ducking back again to reload. I fired my gun at the advancing army, and blam! - hit the young drummer boy just above his big drum, right in the middle! His eyes widened in fear as he looked down at the blood spurting from his belly, dropped his drumsticks to clutch his middle, then sagged and fell forward onto his drum on the ground. No one paid any attention to him, but stepped - or stumbled - over him unconcernedly as they continued to advance over his recumbent body.
I was horrified at what I had done! He was a boy, really, a youth of my own age, and I had killed him outright! I dropped my gun as though it were red hot, turned and fled away from the wall and into the field behind it. No one followed after me, all being too intent on loading and firing as fast as they could at the still advancing troops.
I ran away up the hill and into the woods at the farther edge, still appalled at the indelible image burned into my retina of the amazed look on the boy's face, his blue eyes wide with disbelief, the gradual crumpling of his bleeding body as he crumpled to the ground.
I must have crouched there in the woods all day until I finally realized that the noise of the guns had stopped and a dead silence lay over the darkening countryside. I don't remember much of the rest of the story except for my death. And this is the part that horrifies me. What I remember is the bright sunshine of an early morning. I was standing, surrounded by men, under a tree with a limb jutting out about a foot and a half above my head - then being asked to stretch my arms up on either side of the limb, of someone then tying them together at the wrists, and then being shot by a firing squad about ten feet away. No, not of British soldiers - of our own men, for treason! - for running away!
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