The Battle of Lexington (Short Story) Chapter 2

It seemed to Ben he had just closed his eyes when Robert was shaking him awake. “Come on, most of the militia are in the commons. John wants us to form up there.” The commons was a large open field on the edge of town where the citizens of Lexington could meet together for festivals and dances.

“Okay, okay, I’m awake. Do you know what time it is?” Ben replied as he sat up.

Ben re-slung his cartridge bag across his shoulder and grabbed his musket leaning against the wall as Robert replied, “It is about four fifteen. The sun should be up in half-an-hour. John wants us out there now.” Ben then followed Robert out the front door to the commons area.

The light from the rising sun was just starting to chase the night away but the sun had yet to peek over the horizon. Ben immediately saw John who was standing in front of a small crowd forming in the commons. Everyone in the group held a musket, some holding them by the barrels, some resting the butts on the ground. Most of the militia was made up of farmers but a few lived in Lexington and ran their own stores and shops. All were dressed in normal 1775 fashions, most wearing a triangle hat while some went without. Many of the men present were cousins or another form of relative of Ben’s as Uncle John had convinced his family to make up about a fourth of the Lexington Militia. Ben could see a discussion taking place between several of the non-relatives and John, while the last of the militia were still arriving. Several citizens of Lexington had also shown up to see what was taking place. Ben hoped they would be disappointed as no fighting would take place.

As the two young men approached they could hear the discussion taking place between John and Mr. Buckman. “We will not shot at the British unless they shot first. We will be outnumbered and out gunned.” John was saying.

Mr. Buckman replied, “I say we open fire as soon as they come into range. I knew Mr. Nelson and I have a round meant for one of those devils.”

“Mr. Buckman, I have explicit orders to not engage the British unless provoked…”John bent over as a fit of coughing over took him. “…I intend to follow those orders.”

“Very well, I will respect your authority as our captain. However, I disagree.” Mr. Buckman conceded.

“Thank you, Sir.” John replied. “We will wait for a few more minutes for everyone to arrive. We will mingle with the citizens here and we shall not be discovered. If the regulars open fire we shall defend this commons and the town.”

“No fight?” Robert whispered to Ben.

“Not today it sounds like,” Ben whispered back. “and all the better. I intend to go call on Ms. Blacksmith later today.”

“When are you going to talk to her father?” Robert asked

“Soon, we do not see eye to eye about this conflict with England and I think he holds it against me.”

“Well if you would take more of a stance against the Redcoats, he might be more willing to accept your proposal.” Robert said with an edge in his voice that implied he agreed with Mr. Blacksmith.

“It is not that I’m afraid to fight, I just do not see the need to shed blood.”

“Well if them devils are willing to, then I will give it back and gladly!”
“I know you are.” Ben said bringing an end to the conversation.

After several more minutes the commons area had filled with about a hundred people conversing on the edge near the woods. Some were leaning against stone walls and wooden fences waiting to see the parade of British regulars in their fancy uniforms. Seventy-seven militia were formed up around John as he spoke giving the orders to not load or fire unless the British decided to meddle with the citizens. Some of the militia looked like they did not like the orders given by John, but no one said anything. A few of the citizens also disagreed with John’s orders as they called from near the tavern to “Give them damned Redcoats a taste of hell!” and other such degrading and derogatory slangs.

As John was speaking a private on the edge of the militia looked out towards the end of the commons and cried out in shock, “Them devils are coming up the road!”

As the private yelled out, the group of militia looked down the road and saw six companies, about three hundred men marching in formation towards Lexington. Too late to disperse among the citizens John cried out, “Form Up!” as loud as he could, though some men could not hear him due to his weak voice created from his coughing. After several militia members repeated the order, they formed into two ranks, prepared for any engagements.

Ben was hoping the British would not enter the commons area. The road to Concord turned left just before the commons and was out of range of the muskets. If the British chose to ignore the militia and continue marching there would not be a fight, but as the Redcoats drew to the turn, the first company turned right entering the commons coming straight for the militia in a flanking maneuver which positioned themselves for a fight.

As the sun broke over the horizon, it saw a company of British Redcoats marching in a flanking maneuver for an engagement towards two lines of seventy-seven colonial militia. John spoke as loud as he could, “Stand your ground; don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have war, let it begin here.”

Just as the British reached the hundred meter volley range of the Brown Bess muskets, a single shot rang out from behind the militia near the group that had been haggling them to fight earlier. The bang of the shot caused the company of British Regulars to go wild. The first line of Redcoats broke out with irregular firing. 

“They’re only shooting powder!” Robert said laughing “They are only trying to scare…” Before he could finish his sentence the second line fired a full volley and a ball smashed into his forehead spraying blood out onto the grass and Ben. Robert dropped to his knees and fell face first into the grass instantly dead.

Through the billowing smoke from the volley of fire, the British charged at full sprint, their bayonets shinning in the morning sun. They screamed out with rage and the intent to kill, “HUZZZZZZZZZAH!” As they charged sporadic gun fire shot forth as one or two regulars would stop to discharge their muskets at the colonials.  

The sounds of the battlefield faded and Ben’s field of view narrowed as he saw only the charging line of British Redcoats. His heart pounded in his head. The call for retreat sounded faintly in the back of his mind and most of militia turned and ran for the wood line yelling in fear.

Ben stood his ground, zoned in on the leading assaulter directly in front of him; he reached into his cartridge bag with his free hand and pulled out a round. Raising it to his lips he used his teeth to tear the paper off. The frizzen was open, ready to be filled with a small amount of black powder which he poured from the hole he had torn in the round. He closed the frizzen and dropped the butt to the ground. The remaining powder he poured down the muzzle and followed it with the lead ball and paper which had made up the cartridge. He continued to watch his quarry draw closer, his heart slowed as the moment of attack drew nearer.

Ben pulled the ramrod free of its clamps in a single pull and rammed the shot securely into the breech. He tapped the ramrod down twice ensuring the powder and ball were secure to prevent a misfire. Through muscle memory from countless drills by his father he replaced the ramrod into it’s securing hooks so that he would not lose it. Pulling the butt tight into his shoulder, he rested his finger on to the trigger. His non-firing hand steadied his aim like he was a statue. The whole loading process had taken ten seconds, five seconds faster than he had ever done.

Ben looked down the barrel at the man in front of him who was nearing bayoneting range.  He compressed his trigger finger and everything in the world froze in place, the man charging, Ben’s heart beat, the sweat dripping from his forehead. In the eternity of time that passed, the wind brushed his cheek and the lock was released slowly flying forward. As the lock struck the frizzen, life went back to real time. Sparks shot out of the frizzen igniting the small amount of powder contain in it. The sparks in the frizzen ignited the powder packed in the breech causing the packed powder to explode. The lead ball absorbed the momentum sending it forth from the muzzle.  Flying faster than Ben could see the ball struck the charging man in his left shoulder. The man spun in the air as he fell to the earth.

Two more shots rang out on Ben’s left as other militia caught up to Ben’s faster reflexes, bringing him out of his concentration of firing his first shot at another human.  Before the British Regulars charged into the remaining few militia, Ben and the remainders turned and followed their retreating comrades. The British having routed the militia stopped their assault and fired at the fleeing colonials until they had all run into the cover of the woods.

Dodging trees and jumping over underbrush, Ben sailed deeper into the welcoming darkness the woods provided from the morning and battle that had lasted mere seconds.  He stopped several meters in with the rest of the retreating militia and turned to watch the British as they regrouped and moved about the commons.

Several British Regulars started cheering and slapping each other on the back offering congratulations. The man that Ben shot was the only wounded soldier. Three others soldiers were seeing to him. They dressed his shoulder wound and helped him to his feet. Ben had had no desire to shoot the man, but he felt no remorse for attempting to kill now. Ben knew a war had been started and he felt sad for his lost cousin and the many more lives that this day would claim before either the militia or the regulars could find respite with the setting of the sun. Ben sat amongst his countrymen watching the British commanders gain control of their men and again felt that he would not see his home for a long time.

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