Thursday, April 19, 2012

And the Acton Captain Said, "I Haven't a Man That's Afraid to Go"

From a historical marker at the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts:
On the morning of April Nineteenth, 1775, while the British held this bridge, the Minute-Men and militia of Concord and neighboring towns gathered on the hill across the river. There the Concord adjutant, Joseph Hosner, demanded, 'Will you let them burn the town down?' There the Lincoln Captain, William Smith, offered to dislodge the British. The Acton Captain, Isaac Davis, said, 'I haven't a man that's afraid to go!' and the Concord Colonel, James Barrett, ordered the attack on the regulars. "The column was led by Major John Buttrick, marching from his own farm. His aide was Lt. Colonel John Robinson of Westford. The Minute-Men of Acton, Concord, Lincoln and Bedford followed. After them came the militia. At the British volley Isaac Davis fell. Buttrick cried, 'Fire, fellow-soldiers, for God's sake fire!' and himself fired first. The British fled; and here began the separation of two kindred nations, now happily long united in peace.
I first read this marker 10 years ago, in a visit to Concord in the spring of 2012 following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. That question, "Will you let them burn the town down?" seemed particularly pointed that spring.

The response attributed to the Acton Captain, Isaac Davis, really hit home. "I haven't a man that's afraid to go?" I imagine they were all afraid to go, and Isaac Davis no less than any of them, but they charged down that hill anyway.

It reminded me then and still reminds me of the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 who huddled at the back of the hijacked plane and held their own council of war. And passenger Todd Beamer's final words:
"Are you guys ready? Let's roll!"
It also reminds me of the famous words of Colonel George Taylor to his men pinned down behind an Omaha Beach seawall on D-Day:
"There are two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: those who are dead and those who are going to die. Now let’s get the hell out of here."
Of course, the only way out was over the seawall and through the enemy fire. When it really comes down to it, that is often the only way forward.

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