One character from the War of Independence that I’ve found interesting, even intriguing, is Captain John Parker.
Captain Parker’s main claim to fame comes from his role as the Captain of Colonial Militia for the area around Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts.
Parker was a militia captain served served in the French and Indian War in two campaigns against the French in Canada. He learned something of the military tactics that the French’s Native American allies used against the British and the American Colonial Militia in that war.
Calling the militia “American” is accurate as far as it goes. The term refers to location more than it does to nationality. American independence would not be achieved until 1783 when a peace treaty was signed with Great Britain. Although independence was declared in 1776, it could not be fully granted until Great Britain recognized the defacto independence of what was becoming the United States of America.
On April 19th, 1775 Captain John Parker and the militia from around Lexington gathered on the village green. They were there in response to Paul Revere’s famous cry, “the British are coming, the British are coming” and indeed they were.
Why were the British coming?
Things had reached the boiling point between Great Britain and it’s American colonies. Things were particularly tense in Massachucets where a number of incidents had already occurred; notably the so-called Boston Massacre where British troops fired on an American mob and The Boston Tea Party where Americans dressed as Native Americans dumped tea into Boston Harbor to protest the tax on tea. Taxation without representation in the British Parliament was a key motivator in understanding the roots of the conflict.
By April 1775 the General in charge of the British troops in Boston was Thomas Gage. Gage sent troops from Boston to disarm the militia in Lexington and Concord. He sent Colonel Francis Smith to do the job and Smith sent a Major John Pitcairn with an advance guard, presumably to scout and perhaps to clear the way for the main column.
It was Pitcairn and the advance guard of British Regulars that faced Parker and the Lexington militia across the green. The situation was tense. Both sides thought of themselves as Englishmen or British subjects rather than enemies like the French were in the French and Indian War.
This point should not be lost on us.
There were armed men on both sides; both legally so. The Colonial Militia was an important part of the British military establishment supplementing the regulars as they did in the French and Indian War, as well as providing local security against French and Indian raids especially in the frontier areas of the colonies.
Englishmen were facing Englishmen in an armed stalemate. The tension was must have been palatable.
It’s important to note that both sides had orders to not engage the other in a firefight. From the British point of view this probably meant that the militia would disarm without any kind of violence. From the militia’s point of view that was not going to happen and their hope was the British would turn around and go back to Boston and come up with a Plan B.
What happened next was the catalyst that ultimately would change everything.
Major Pitcairn was an interesting fellow. Pitcairn was among the more reasonable British officers which usually meant they thought the colonials did have a point in regards to the big picture, but as soldiers their duty was to follow orders.
Pitcairn, like the vast majority of British officers also had a disdain for the colonial militia, some of it deserved. Nevertheless, contempt for the militia is something that would not serve Pitcairn well. Pitcairn assumed that the militia he had contempt for would simply disarm because they feared facing British regulars which to some extent was true. That was not the case on April 19th, 1775 when Captain John Parker was in command of his militia.
So across the green, armed countrymen faced each other, no doubt waiting for the other side to blink. Pitcairn gives the order for the militia to disperse and disarm and Captain Parker utters the words that would usher in the shot heard around the world. Parker said to his militia, “Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”
I confess that those words bring tears to my eyes. Here were farmers, tradesmen, laborers, husbands, fathers, brothers, dressed in civilian clothes armed haphazardly, standing their ground against 600 British Regulars led by a man who held them in utter contempt.
No-one knows with absolute certainty who fired the shot heard around the world. It does seem that at the very least Pitcairn and the contempt he held for the militia led him to lose control of his men who, no doubt, shared his contempt for the ragged militia standing in their way.
As a rule British soldiers at that time were taught to rely more upon the bayonet than musket fire. They were drilled and drilled again to stand against the finest armies in Europe, and frankly, they excelled at their craft.
Usually, an initial volley would be fired and the soldiers would then advance with the bayonet hoping the shock and awe would cause the other side to run in terror. It was an effective tactic especially against an enemy who lacked similar training, morale and equipment.
In my opinion this or something similar is what happened. Whether a British soldier or colonial militiaman fired a single shot first is moot.
Parker himself witnessed his cousin being bayoneted by a British soldier as the militia did flee, but did not give up their arms.
The British proceeded through Lexington and to Concord but word of mouth in this case spread just as fast as INET communications do today. The British column was harassed on their way to Concord and all the way back to Boston by militias from every nook and cranny in the area. The militia used their French and Indian War tactics to which the British had no real response. My guess is they were shocked that colonial militia would fire upon the king’s soldiers. The British took terrible casualties.
This is not a mere history lesson about a courageous captain of colonial militia. It’s about what is happening now.
I believe that we are witnessing the republic in its death throes, although it may already be dead, but we have yet to hold the funeral.
What we see with our own eyes is inequality under the law and the loss of the rule of law. If you belong to one political party you get a pass for rioting; if you belong to other, a riot is the worse thing that has even happened.
If you believe in free speech you are labeled as a terrorist and you are de-platformed by big tech companies that have far more power than their political allies realize. The Democrats are playing with fire. If big tech and big media can make one king what makes them think they will not make another and another and another when they don’t like the one they just made.
Free speech that is protected by our Constituion is being literally squashed as if we were living in a totalitarian state like Red China. The Second Amendment to our Constitution, the right to bear arms, in a formal and informal militia will also be squashed. And that’s only a few of the issues destroying our country.
I am relatively sure that Captain John Parker on April 19th, 1775 had prayed for the best and given his words prepared for the worst.
Our military takes an oath to protect our citizens, from enemies both foreign and domestic. They also take the oath to protect the Constitution and to obey the President who presumably understands and values the Constitution as written. We will not have that with the Biden\Harris presidency.
It is very possible that the National Guard or US Army Regulars will face an informal militia across some town square or in some field. What will happen?
Will there be a modern day Captain Parker who will make the same speech Parker did in 1775? On the other side will there be a Major Pitcairn who holds his fellow citizens in utter contempt?
Which side will truly will be defending the Constitution?
Note: Captain Parker did not live to see independence. He died five months after the events that made him famous of TB.