CHAPTER FOURTEEN. LEXINGTON AND CONCORD
At the corner of Maple Street there is an elm planted in 1740. On a little knoll at the left is the Monroe Tavern. The square, two-storied frame structure which remains is the older portion of the inn as it was in those days. It was the head-quarters of Lord Percy; and it is said that an inoffensive old man who served the soldiers with liquor in the small bar-room was killed when he tried to get away by a rear door. When the soldiers left they sacked the house, piled up the furniture and set fire to it. Washington dined in the dining-room in the second story, November 5, 1789. The house was built in 1695, and is still owned by a direct descendant of the first William Monroe.
Not far from the tavern and on the same side of the street is a house where a wounded soldier was cared for by a Mrs. Sanderson, who lived to be one hundred and four years old.
Near the intersection of Woburn Street is a crude stone cannon which marks the place where Lord Percy planted a field pine pointing in the direction of the Green to check the advancing patriots and cover the retreat of the Regulars.
On the triangular "Common," in the very heart of the village, a flat-faced boulder marks the line where the minute-men under Captain Parker were formed to receive the Regulars. "Stand your ground; don't fire unless fired upon; but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here" was Parker's command to his men and it was there the war did begin. The small band of patriots were not yet in line when the red-coats appeared at the east end of the meeting-house, coming on the double-quick. Riding ahead, a British officer called out, "Disperse, you rebels! Villains, disperse!" but the little band of rebels stood their ground until a fatal volley killed eight and wounded ten. Only two of the British were wounded.
The victors remained in possession of the Green, fired a volley, and gave three loud cheers to celebrate a victory that in the end was to cost King George his fairest colonies.
The soldiers' monument that stands on the Green was erected in 1799. In 1835, in the presence of Daniel Webster, Joseph Story, Josiah Quincy, and a vast audience, Edward Everett delivered an oration, and the bodies of those who fell in the battle were removed from the old cemetery to a vault in the rear of the shaft, where they now rest. The weather-beaten stone is over-grown with a protecting mantle of ivy, which threatens to drop like a veil over the long inscription. Here, for more than a century, the village has received distinguished visitors, - Lafayette in 1824, Kossuth in 1851, and famous men of later days.
The Buckman Tavern, where the patriots assembled, built in 1690, still stands with its marks of bullets and flood of old associations.
These ancient hostelries - Monroe's, Buckman's, Wright's in Concord, and the Wayside Inn - are by no means the least interesting features of this historic section. An old tavern is as pathetic as an old hat: it is redolent of former owners and guests, each room reeks with confused personalities, every latch is electric from many hands, every wall echoes a thousand voices; at dusk of day the clink of glasses and the resounding toast may still be heard in the deserted banquet-hall; at night a ghostly light illumines the vacant ballroom, and the rustle of silks and satins, the sound of merry laughter, and the faint far-off strains of music fall upon the ear.
We did not visit the Clarke house where Paul Revere roused Adams and Hancock; we saw it from the road. Originally, and until 1896, the house stood on the opposite side of the street; the owner was about to demolish it to subdivide the land, when the Historical Society intervened and purchased it.
Neither did we enter the old burying-ground on Elm Street. The automobile is no respecter of persons or places; it pants with impatience if brought to a stand for so much as a moment before a house or monument of interest, and somehow the throbbing, puffing, impatient machine gets the upper hand of those who are supposed to control it; we are hastened onward in spite of our better inclinations.
The trolley line from Lexington to Concord is by way of Bedford, but the direct road over the hill is the one the British followed. It is nine miles by Bedford and the Old Bedford Road, and but six miles direct.
A short distance out of Lexington a tablet marks an old well; the inscription reads, "At this well, April 19, 1775, James Hayward, of Acton, met a British soldier, who, raising his gun, said, 'You are a dead man.' 'And so are you,' replied Hayward. Both fired. The soldier was instantly killed and Hayward mortally wounded."
Grim meeting of two thirsty souls; they sought water and found blood; they wooed life and won death. War is epitomized in the exclamations, "You are a dead man," "And so are you." Further debate would end the strife; the one query, "Why?" would bring each musket to a rest. Poor unknown Britisher, exiled from home, what did he know about the merits of the controversy? What did he care? It was his business to shoot, and be shot. He fulfilled most completely in the same moment the double mission of the soldier, to kill and be killed. Those who do the fighting never do know very much about what they are fighting for, - if they did, most of them would not fight at all. In these days of common schools and newspapers it becomes ever more and more difficult to recruit armies with men who neither know nor think; the common soldier is beginning to have opinions; by and by he will not fight unless convinced he is right, - then there will be fewer wars.