| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
PAUL REVERE'S RIDE—THE UNSHEATHING OF THE SWORD
 ALL the colonies now felt that they must unite in truth, and that
they must have some centre to which all could appeal. So a Congress
of all the colonies was called at Philadelphia. This is called
the first Continental Congress, and to it all the colonies except
Georgia sent delegates.
This Congress drew up a Declaration of Rights. They also sent an
address to the King in which they declared that they had no wish
to separate from Britain.
But the King called the Congress an unlawful and seditious gathering,
and would not listen to anything it had to say. Still, far-seeing
statesmen with Pitt at their head struggled to bring about a
"I contend, not for indulgence, but for justice to America," he said.
"The Americans are a brave, generous and united people, with arms
in their hands, and courage in their hearts. It is not repealing
this act of Parliament, it is not repealing a piece of parchment,
that can restore America to our bosom. You must repeal her fears and
her resentments. And you may then hope for her love and gratitude."
But few people listened to Pitt, the bill which he brought into
Parliament was rejected with scorn, and the great struggle which
was to last for eight years began.
Already in America, men's minds had begun to turn to war, and on
every village green the farmers might be seen drilling every evening.
Bands of minute men, that is,
 men who would be ready at a minute's
notice, were organised. All sorts of war stores were gathered.
Two of the leaders of the people in all these matters were Samuel
Adams and John Hancock. These men Governor Gage, who was also
commander of the troops, was ordered to arrest and send to England
to be tried as traitors. Gage having heard that both men were
staying at the village of Lexington decided to arrest them together.
For this he carefully laid his plans. Eight hundred men were to
leave Boston in secret at dead of night. First they were to go to
Lexington, and having arrested the "traitors" they were next to
march on to Concord to seize the large war stores which were known
to be gathered there.
All the preparations were made as silently and as secretly as possible.
But the colonists were on the alert. They knew that something was
afoot, and guessed what it was.
On the 18th of April Gage gave strict orders that no one was to
be allowed to leave Boston that night. But no orders could stop
And as the moon was rising a little boat was rowed across the Charles
River almost under the shadow of the British man-of-war. The boat
reached the farther shore and a man booted and spurred, as if ready
for a long ride, leaped out upon the bank. This man was Paul Revere.
At ten o'clock the troops also were silently rowed across the
Charles River, and in the darkness set out for Lexington. But not
far off on the bank of the same river, a man stood waiting beside
a saddled horse. Quietly he waited, looking always towards the
tower of the Old North Church. It was Paul Revere, and he waited
for a signal to tell him which way the red coats were going.
Suddenly about eleven o'clock two twinkling lights appeared upon
the tower, and without a moment's loss Paul Revere leaped into
the saddle and dashed away. Swiftly he rode, urging his good horse
onward with voice and hand.
 Near the lonely spot where stood the gallows he passed. Here under
a tree, two horsemen waited, and as Revere came nearer he saw that
they were British soldiers. Swiftly they darted at him. One tried
to seize his bridle, the other to head him off. But Revere was
a fearless rider, and knew the countryside by heart. He swerved
suddenly, doubled, and was soon clear of his pursuers.
Then on through the darkness he galloped unhindered till he reached
Medford. Here he stayed but to rouse the captain of the minute men,
and onward he sped once more. Now at the door of every cottage or
farmhouse which he passed he loudly knocked, shouting his news "the
soldiers are coming," and thundered off again in the darkness.
A little after midnight he reached Lexington and stopped before the
house where Adams and Hancock were sleeping. He found it guarded
by minute men, and as he excitedly shouted his news, they bade him
"Don't make such a noise," said the sergeant, "you will waken the
people in the house."
"Noise," cried Revere, "you will soon have noise enough—the
regulars are coming."
Hancock was awake, and hearing Revere's voice he threw up his
window, shouting to the guard to let him in. So Revere went into
the house and told all he knew. When they heard the news, Hancock
wanted to stay and fight, if fighting there was to be. But the
others would not hear of it, so as day dawned the two men quietly
walked away, and were soon on the road to Philadelphia.
Meanwhile the British troops were steadily marching nearer and nearer.
At first all was silent: save the clatter and jingle of their arms
and the tramp of their feet, there was no sound. No light was to
be seen far or near. Then suddenly a bell rang, a shout was heard,
lights twinkled here and there. The night was no longer silent and
dark. The country was no longer asleep.
 The colonel in command of the troops grew anxious. He had expected
to take the people completely by surprise, and he had done so.
Somehow the secret had leaked out. The whole countryside was up
and awake, and fearing lest with his small company of soldiers, he
would not be able to do what he had set out to do, he sent back to
Boston for more men.
And sure enough, his fears were well founded, for when in the cold
grey of early dawn the advance party reached Lexington, they found
a little guard of sixty or seventy armed men drawn up to receive
"Disperse, ye rebels, disperse," shouted the commander as he rode
towards them. But the men stood motionless and silent.
"Why don't you disperse, you villains?" he cried again.
Then seeing words had no effect, he gave the order to fire. The
soldiers obeyed, and eight minute men fell dead, and several more
were wounded. The minute men returned the fire, but just then more
British soldiers appeared in sight. And seeing that it was useless
to try to resist so great a force the Americans dispersed.
Thus the terrible war, which was almost a civil war, began. The
British now marched on to Concord. They had failed to arrest the
men they had been sent to arrest at Lexington. So there was all
the more reason to hurry on to Concord, and seize the war stores
before there was time to spirit them away. But when about seven
o'clock in the morning the troops arrived at Concord the stores for
the most part had been already safely hidden. A gun or two they
found, and a few barrels of flour. The guns were spiked, the barrels
staved in, the court house set on fire.
But meanwhile the minute men had been gathering, and now a force
four hundred strong appeared on the further side of a bridge known
as the North Bridge. The bridge
 was held by two hundred British,
and when they saw the minute men approach they began to destroy
There was a sharp exchange of fire. Then the minute men charged
across the narrow bridge, sweeping all before them. The British
fled back to the village, and the minute men, hardly knowing what
they had done, retired again across the bridge and waited.
The British leader now decided to return to Boston. He had done
nothing which he had set out to do. But he saw this his position
was one of great danger. Everywhere he was surrounded with enemies.
His men were hungry and worn out, so about twelve o'clock the march
back to Boston began.
But the return was not easy, for all the way the troops were harassed
by the Americans. Every bush, every wall concealed an armed farmer,
whose aim was deadly and sure. Man after man fell, and beneath the
constant and galling fire coming, it seemed from everywhere and
nowhere, the nerves of the wearied, hungry men gave way. Faster and
faster the long red line swept along in ever growing confusion.
There was no thought now of anything but safety, and the march
was almost a rout when at length the reinforcements from Boston
appeared. These were a thousand strong, and their leader, Lord
Percy, seeing the confusion and distress of the British formed
his men into a hollow square. Into this refuge the fugitives fled,
throwing themselves upon the ground in utter exhaustion, with their
tongues hanging out of their mouths "like those of dogs after a
Lord Percy had brought cannons with him, so with these he swept the
field, and for a time forced the colonists to retire. But they did
not disperse; they still hovered near, and as soon as the retreat
again began, there began with it the constant galling fire from
every tree or bush, before, behind, on either side. To return the
fire was useless, as
 the enemy were hidden. It was a sort of warfare
not unlike that which Braddock had had to meet, a sort of warfare
in which the American farmer was skilled, but of which the British
soldier knew nothing. So when, at length, as day darkened the British
troops reached Boston they were utterly spent and weary. And in a
huddled, disorganised crowd, they hurried into shelter.
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