Saturday, August 7, 2010

The View from There

The alarm spread thro’ the Country, so that before daybreak the people in general were in Arms & on their March to Concord. About Daybreak a number of the People appeared before the Troops near Lexington. They were called to, to disperse, when they fired on the Troops & ran off, Upon which the Light Infantry pursued them & brought down about fifteen of them. The Troops went on to Concord & executed the business they were sent on [the destruction of a warehouse], & on their return found two or three of their people Lying in the Agonies of Death, scalp’d & their Noses & ears cut off & Eyes bored out—Which exasperated the Soldiers exceedingly—a prodigious number of the People now occupying the Hills, woods, & Stone Walls along the road. The Light Troops drove some parties from the hills, but all the road being inclosed with Stone Walls Served as a cover to the Rebels, from whence they fired on the Troops still running off whenever they had fired, but still supplied by fresh Numbers who came from many parts of the Country. In this manner were the Troops harassed in thier return for Seven or eight Miles, they were almost exhausted & had expended near the whole of their Ammunition when to their great joy they were relieved by a Brigade of Troops under the command of Lord Percy with two pieces of Artillery…. Several officers are wounded & about 100 Soldiers. The killed amount to near 50, as to the Enemy we can have no exact acct but it is said there was about ten times the Number of them engaged, & that near 1000 of ’em have fallen.
     [Letter from Anne Hulton to Elizabeth Lightbody, April 22, 1775]
The People, Rebels, and Enemy are, of course, the future citizens of the United States of America. The writer, the Troops, the Light Infantry were part of the British Loyalist elements of an American population that had become polarized. Loyalists were between 15 and 35 percent of the white colonial population. Interesting and instructive, isn’t it? The barbarity is always on the other side. Not stated but implied is that the People were cowardly in daring to hide behind walls and running away. And, of course, their casualties are always higher.

This from a wondrous book titled Women’s Letters, America from the Revolutionary War to the Present, edited by Lisa Grunwald and Stephen J. Adler. Dial Press, 2005.


  1. Mankind, as the "most advanced species", has advanced very little, if at all, in those last 230 years, it seems.
    I just recently shuddered at the picture of the young Afghan girl on the cover of Time magazine, and now read these old letters with the same skin-crawling sensation.

  2. I am so glad that the new books, both compilations of old letter, are turning out to be as good as they looked like they might be!

  3. They have indeed, Monique. I've long felt -- ever since encountering a history of everyday life in Roman times -- that we need to see things long gone by as they were perceived by people then. Collections of letters do this job very, very nicely if as carefully assembled as the ones in these volumes. Despite my protests, I do enjoy my birthdays. But they tend to embarrass shy little me...