Father and son walk to the village quietly, Adam noting a subtle change from earlier in the night. They see Mrs. Carter calling after Jed that he forgot his notebook, which puzzles Adam. At the edge of the common, Moses stops and warns Adam that while nothing will happen, if something does, Adam may face a great burden. Adam nods his understanding and Moses gives him a hug, the most affection he's ever expressed to his son. The Reverend sees them and thanks Adam for joining, praising the Cooper men for their dedication. Asked for the time, the Reverend guesses it's close to four o'clock in the morning. Slowly, men gather at the common, prepared for the confrontation with the British army and clustering in small groups in the meanwhile. Caleb Harrington recounts an oft-told story about a redcoat soldier treated poorly by the tavern keeper at the Rumpot in Boston.
Adam speaks briefly with Jonathan Crisp and Abel Loring, who are both about his age. Abel has a bayonet on his musket and confesses to being sick at the idea of sticking it into anyone. Jonathan then teases that he had already thrown up. Adam then listens in on a group that includes his father, Cousin Simmons, Jonas Parker, Samuel Hodley, Simon Casper, and The Reverend. Simon Casper lives in Concord but had volunteered to train Lexington's militia, and came over when the news of the British army march had reached him. Casper advises that the men be prepared with weapons at full cock when the British arrived, but both Moses and the Reverend opposes this. Moses points out that they want to avoid accidents and wish to prevent a war, not start one. Casper asks if the British army know this, and Moses points out that the disparity in numbers vastly favors the British. The Reverend mentions to Moses that Sam Adams and John Hancock were in town this evening, at his house, and were sent off by the Reverend an hour ago because he didn't want trouble.
Jonas Parker asks who will be a spokesman for the town, and the Reverend is eventually chosen to represent both the militia and the Committee. When the Reverend expresses a fear that the army will just march past and ignore them, Simon Casper hotly declares that they will stop the British. Both Moses Cooper and Jonas Parker again point out how vastly outnumbered they are, and the Reverend speaks eloquently on how the British will not pass them by because of the integrity they represent. Outside of Parker, Casper, Moses Cooper, and the Reverend, sixty-six men had assembled for the muster; they line up in two rows of thirty-three, with the younger men in the back row in order to make a more impressive showing. The only musician present is young Jonathan Harrington, who plays "Old Hundred" at the request of the Reverend.
As dawn arrives, the British army finally approaches. They march up to the edge of the common, with three officers on horseback leading the way. One of the officers calls for the troops to fix their bayonets, while another officer - Major Pitcairn - orders his men into the common, their guns at the ready. The Reverend tries to speak but Major Pitcairn drives his horse in the Reverend's direction, knocking him into Moses Cooper's arms. Pitcairn then yellesat the colonists to disperse, insulting them as he does so. Abel Loring is standing next to Adam and drops his gun in panic. Jonas Parker yells for the colonists to hold steady.
Then a shot sounds, followed by a British soldier firing at Moses Cooper.
Adam screams as he watches his father fall, then runs off as the British
attack the colonial militia men. He trips into a drainage ditch and sees
Samuel Hodley die in front of him. He then sees a wounded Jonas Parker
finished off by two redcoats with bayonets. Adam runs off to hide in the
Harrington smokehouse. In hiding, he tries to collect himself, facing
up to the fact that his father is dead. He cries profusely and fears for
his sanity, not wanting to turn out like Halfwit Jephthah in Concord.
He then hears his brother Levi's voice looking for him outside; furtively,
he brings Levi into the smokehouse. Levi explains that their father is
dead, Granny and Mother cried over his body in the common before bringing
him back home. Adam asks who else is dead, and Levi names Jonas Parker,
Caleb Harrington, Jonathan Harrington, and Isaac Muzzy. Levi keeps repeating
that their father is dead and Adam tries to comfort him. Adam asks if
he can come home but Levi says Granny says he shouldn't as the redcoats
are still everywhere. Adam sends Levi away, assuring him that he'll return
in the evening when it's safe.
It's important to note that the shot which starts the massacre is not attributed to either side with any certainty; this is an accurate reflection of the historical record. The first shot in the American Revolution remains a mystery to this day, though its results are painfully clear. The description of the massacre is brutal and vivid, taking away any romantic notions of warfare with its gruesome attention to detail. Though the rightness of the colonists' stand is not in dispute today, such moral and philosophical rectitude pales before the more basic notion of might overwhelming right whenever violence is involved. When Adam thinks of the events he witnessed, he blames himself and his fellow townspeople for being too reasonable and willing to talk, while the British were ready to do battle from the beginning. Thus, we see the shift in thinking necessary for the war to take place.
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