The Battle of Lexington (Short Story) Chapter 1

“Ben…BEN…BEN!!!” Robert Monroe ran down the dirt road towards the farms’ small cottage hollering as loud as he could.

Benjamin Parker was a twenty-three year old full grown man strong in the chest and arms that only working a plow and dealing with mules could build, not to mention all the other hard labor born by the farmers in New England. Not only did Ben work the farm, but he had to manage it, his father having been killed in a fight at the Buckman Tavern in Lexington five years earlier.  Life had not been easy for Ben, his mother and two sisters, but somehow they had survived and the struggle had taught Ben to be a responsible hard worker.

Ben heard his cousin calling from the top of the farm’s lane and opened the door to watch him approach. Robert ran all the way to the door step and tried speak while sucking in air to calm his lungs. “The Devils are coming!”

“Say again?” Ben asked not believing what his cousin just puffed out.

Robert took a big breath and said more calmly, “The Redcoats are coming. They are marching from Charlestown to Concord to destroy the munitions supplies. Uncle John wants us to meet him at the Buckman Tavern before dawn. He said to bring the muskets and powder he had you store. We are going to protect Lexington and flight’em.” Robert took a quick breath then continued, “They’ve gone too far. I heard earlier that those devils slashed a man across the face nearly killing him for only asking a question. They mean war and we are going to give it to them!”

“I’m sure it’s an exaggeration, but I will do as John commands.” John Parker, Ben’s deceased father’s brother and the brother of Robert’s mother was a veteran of the French and Indian War and captain of the Lexington Militia. His call was law for the militia members. All the members had pledged to defend the citizens of Lexington and surrounding farmland. The militia had been called up to fight Indians before the war, called to fight during the war and were now prepared to defend against the ever threatening war against the Queen and her armies. “Go to the barn and hitch up the wagon. I will send my sisters out to help load the muskets.” Word had come a month earlier that the British were looking for and destroying any militia munitions stores. The main stockpile in Concord had been distributed to militias in neighboring towns to hide to prevent the British from finding it all in one place. Part of that stockpile, John had had Ben store in his barn.

“Yes Sir!” Robert was excited for the fight. He had not stopped talking about the British, their atrocities and any possible movements towards a war for months. Ben on the other hand had more responsibilities than the average twenty year old. But as the company’s sharp shooter, John had promoted him to sergeant which gave him authority over Robert who was also a year younger than himself.

As Robert ran for the barn, Ben turned back into the cottage closing the door. His mother was sitting in her rocking chair knitting, she rarely moved from the spot in the last five years after father’s death. “Mother, it seems like I have to go. The British are moving towards Concord and Uncle John has called the militia into action. I do not think fighting will take place but just in case, we need to be ready.”

“I understand.” His mother was tuff, as a frontier life required, but she did not hide her emotions completely. Her eyes glistened as she understood what a war could mean. She had lived though the French and Indian War and she understood now that sending her only son to fight another war could end tragically. If a fight did break out some would never return. But the truth of the matter was even though tension was building no one expected a fight to start this soon. “At least John is more level headed than his brother was. Hopefully he can keep the tension from boiling over.” His mother continued to rock in her chair while trying to hold her emotions in check.

Ben’s two sisters were sitting in front of the fire place reading books. Both had stopped to listen once Ben reentered the room. “Robert is hitching up the team. Mollie and Anna go help him while I collect my things and talk to mother.” They both jumped up and ran out the front door. They were in the same mind set as Robert, easily persuaded by every rumor that made it out to the farm lands. Once they were gone Ben spoke again to his mother, “I do not think this is going to turn into a fight and I should be home tomorrow night. I doubt the British want a fight and John will not let us start one. The call for the militia is just a precaution.” As he spoke Ben grabbed the his cartridge bag which held paper, black powder and lead balls for making cartridges that decreased his loading time. He slung it over his head and one shoulder, allowing the bag to hang at his side for easier access. Ben’s hunting musket leaning against the door frame was an old musket called a Club Butt Country Fowler or Fowler for short. His father had used this same musket during the French and Indian War. After returning home to his young son and wife, Ben’s father had then trained Ben how to shot with it. Ben had learned to concentrate, how to steady his aim and to follow through after shooting. His long hours of practice under his father’s tutelage had enabled him in becoming an excellent shot despite the inaccuracy of muskets. He rarely missed and after his father had been killed, the old Fowler had been the reason why Ben, his mother, and sisters had not starved to death the first winter. It was an old musket, much outdated by the more accurate Brown Bess used by the British Infantry Regulars or even the newer Fowler that Ben had stockpiled in the barn. His musket was outdated, but he knew his Fowler inside and out, had upgraded it for cartridge shooting himself and he had yet to miss a shot that was within the range of the gun. After training with the militia, his Fowler had earned him the sharp shooting position. He did not always score a kill while practicing, but he was always able to hit his target out to 75 meters, a feat yet to be seen in Lexington or the surrounding area.

“Hopefully you are right. Be careful none the less. There are men like your cousin Robert looking for a fight, and when men get into a room with guns, no good will come of it.” She replied without looking up from her knitting.

“I will mother.  Goodbye.” Ben said then turned around and walked out the front door.

 The barn was a short walk from the house. As he entered he saw the wagon team hitched up and Robert was helping his two sisters to load the last of the muskets and discussing the latest rumors. Ben cut short the newest one about the man that was almost killed earlier today. “I have never seen you hitch a team so fast!”

“Well, John did say to hurry.” Robert replied matter-of-factly.

“Are you coming home soon?” Asked Anna, she was ten and saw Ben as a father instead of a brother.

Mollie fifteen remembered father and after he had died took it upon herself to raise Anna as their mother was mourning. Mollie had yet to relinquish that role. “He will be okay, won’t ya Ben?” She replied trying to be okay herself.

Ben rested his musket against the side of the wagon and grabbed both his sisters in a big hug. “Don’t worry about me. I’m the best shot in all of Lexington. Besides, I don’t think those Redcoats are marching all the way over here to just start a fight.” He released this hug and looked down into Anna’s face. “You be good and help Mollie with the chores and obey your mother and Mollie. Mother is having a hard time and needs your help.”

“Yes sir” Anna replied like a little soldier saluting her older brother.

Turning to Mollie he said, “You are in charge while I’m gone. Remember to milk the cows in the morning and collect the eggs. I should be back tomorrow night. But if not, you will have to finish the planting. I left a musket and powder in the storeroom for hunting. If a war does start tomorrow, protect our farm.”

“I will.” Mollie said. He hugged them both again then picked up his musket.

“Since you are going to Lexington you should go see Elizabeth.” Mollie said as Ben climbed into the wagon. “I saw the way you two were looking at each other last week in Martin’s Store.”

After sitting down next to Robert and taking the reins from him, Ben replied with a smile, “I cannot hide anything from you. Yes I was hoping to be able to call on her. We have been talking for a while and I suppose I will talk to her again tomorrow.”

 “I think you will do more than talk.” Mollie said.

“You go’a marry her?” Anna asked innocently.

Ben chuckled to himself as he replied, “I was thinking about talking to her father. But don’t go spreading any rumors just yet. Goodbye girls…HEYA” Ben cried as he flicked the reins and started the horses moving out of the barn and down the lane.

As they turned from the lane to the road leading into Lexington, the light of the house and barn were quickly hidden behind the dense woods. Robert was back to his favorite topic and talking about the latest rumors and “facts” to him of the atrocities committed by the Loyalists and the army. Ben suddenly got the feeling that it would be long time before he was home again. He turned and look back at the small amount light from home flickering between the trees.

“Ben…Ben, are you listening to me?”

Ben turned back to look at the road, “Yes…”

“I said that those red devils were out riding ‘round this morning and when Josiah Nelson asked about regulars coming out, an officer pulled his sword and just about cut the man’s scalp off. They nearly killed him. What do you think about that?”

“I told you before it’s just a story. The British do not want a war here as well as the war with France.  We can’t sustain a war with them either.”

“Well I think we can, I am ready, and I will kick them out for good!”

“Are you ready to die?” Ben asked. Ben was not one for violence. Having seen the death of his father and how it had affected his mother and family had painted a true picture of what death could mean and he did not want that to come to his family or friends.

Ignoring Ben’s question, Robert continued, “We will kick them all the way back across the ocean where they belong. They keep imposing new rules and laws that we have no say over. You don’t have to deal with the curfew out here where there are few patrols, but in the city we do. And…” Robert then went on to count off the numerous atrocities that the British had committed throughout New England. Ben paid little attention. He had heard them all before. As a farmer he did not have the time to concern himself with the political affairs of the rich, and the city dwellers had time to get rallied up into a frenzy over the crimes of the Queen. He was just worried about the safety of his family and Elizabeth. Thinking of Elizabeth brought a smile to his face and he thought of her the rest of the way to Lexington in the darkness.

 Benjamin and Robert arrived at the Buckman Tavern just after midnight. He guided the wagon around the tavern to the backside keeping the muskets from any late night prowlers’ view. Candles were burning, and the light was spilling out of the darkened glass windows all around the tavern. Ben and Robert jumped down from the wagon and pounded on the back door.

 After several seconds of waiting a muffled voice spoke though the closed door, “Who is it?”

“Benjamin Parker and Robert Monroe.” Ben replied quietly. The door opened and Mr. Buckman let them in. Once Ben and Robert walked past Mr. Buckman, the older man looked out the door to make sure no one was looking then closed the door and placed a board across it held in place by metal hooks to keep unwanted people from entering.

“John is in the dining hall with a few others. He will see you there.” Mr. Buckman said as he walked back to the kitchen. Ben and Robert walked into dining hall to meet with John.

The dining hall was warm from the fire burning in the hearth. Candles at several tables filled the room with light, though the corners were darkened. Saw dust covered the dirt floor. All the tables were empty except for one in the middle where John sat with two other members of the militia.

John raised his hand to welcome Ben and Robert but quickly had to pull it back as a fit of coughing took him over. John was a strong proud man. He had fought in the war, raised a family and ran a farm, but tuberculoses was killing him now. After several coughs he welcomed the boys with a winded voice, “I am glad you could come. Did you bring the muskets?”

“They are in the back of the wagon, along with a barrel of powder and four hundred rounds.” Robert replied.

“Good. These two here will help you unload. Bring the muskets and the rest into here. As the men show up they can get their equipment. After you four have all the equipment in here, get yourselves a musket, powder and 30 rounds. We shouldn’ need the muskets, but if we do, we shall give them hell.” John looked at the musket that Ben was carrying. “Still using that old thing?”

“I never missed with it.”

“Well I suppose if you like it, then I will let you keep it. Go bring in the muskets, then get some sleep. I want us ready before sunup.” The two sitting stood up and the group left John at the table.

 It didn’t take long to unpack the wagon. Afterward Ben sat in one of the darkened corners in the dining room making cartridges while Robert slept. After filling his cartridge bag with fifty rounds, ten extra for precaution, Ben rested his head against the wall and dozed off.

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