To my Children’s Children,September 18, 1800I am writing this to you on the anniversary of my father’s passing, out of a deep concern for your future. My desire is that, by reading this, you may avoid some of the pain that my generation has experienced. Many things have come and gone in my lifetime, for God has granted me a long 60 years.
I wish to tell you all that I have experienced, before I too pass on, that you may learn from the mistakes of the past, and that our losses may not be in vain. I suppose the best spot to start is in the beginning. I was born on August 15, 1740 in a small farming community outside of Boston, Massachusetts. My mother died shortly after I was born; do to complications with my birth, so I was never given an opportunity to know her. As soon as I was able, I helped out on the farm, for we had no slaves and my father needed all the help he could get. Mostly, we raised corn and hogs on our 100-acre farm, along with a small amount of cotton and tobacco.
The later two were to be sold for money and supplies, since my father had no access to credit. My father often dreamt of one day becoming a large planter himself, however, despite his dreams he taught me to be grateful, for the small farmers, further south, had no market to speak of, and lacked many of the conveniences we were blessed with. In the summer before my fifteenth birthday my father left for war. He had joined the militia to raise some extra money to help support the farm, and was called to go and fight the French and Indians, for they had taken up arms against us, and mother Britain. The next news I received concerning my father devastated me, on October 22, 1759 I received a letter from the general, who led the Boston militia into battle. It read as follows:On September 18, 1759 during the battle for Quebec Mr.
Shoemaker was badly wounded. All was done in an effort to save him, but infection overtook him and he passed on. He fought bravely in our victory over the French and you should all be proud. Please accept my deepest condolences for your loss.
The farm belonged to me now, as I had no living brothers or sisters, and I felt I had to keep it going in my father’s memory. I thought everything would be fine now that the war was over. I had believed, as many others did, that the end of the war would bring the end to high taxes and that Britain would respect us more for our contribution to the war effort. However, this was not the case.
Britain levied even more taxes, as they thought it was solely our responsibility to pay off the war debt. I started to feel as if my father’s death had been in vain. I started to hate Britain. In the summer of 1761, I found my wife, Anne. Shortly after meeting we were married.
It was nice to have a woman around the house, to cook, clean and sew. Up and till this time I had attempted to do this myself, failing miserably I might add. Soon after marriage the children started to come, your fathers, and with them came a tight squeeze on our pocket book. I decided, as my father had done before me, to join the militia.
I enlisted in the fall of 1764 shortly after my twenty-fourth birthday. After completing my initial training, I was given the opportunity to be a minuteman. I felt honored as only a quarter of the militia is usually awarded this chance. Also the title minuteman is synonymous for enthusiasm, reliability, and physical strength. Anne did not share my enthusiasm, for minutemen were also the first armed militia to arrive at a battle. I tried to calm her fears, but to no avail.
In fact her fears would only grow greater as time progressed and tension between the colonies and Britain mounted. On March 5, 1770 it all seemed to climax. I had gone into town to get some much-needed supplies, as our supplies had been depleted by the long winter. When I walked passed the customhouse, I saw the usual crowd gathered around giving the redcoats hell. I must confess, that on occasion I would participate in this juvenile behavior, however on this occasion I had little time, for my wife was waiting for me to return with the supplies.
After I got what I needed from the store, I headed back on the road, which passed by the customhouse, and I was surprised with the high level of intensity emitting from the crowd. It seemed more antagonistic than normal, and then it happened, either the redcoats had just had enough or they feared that this time the riot was getting out of control, and they fired into the crowd. Needless to say, the crowd quickly dispersed. The next day the talk of the town was how the soldiers had massacred the town’s people. I knew this was not right. I had been there, and it certainly did not happen the way, Mr.
Adams, said it did. However, at the time I cared little, for I beginning to dislike Britain anyway, but it started to make me question the motives of those who were pushing us into war. Tension between the colonies and Britain seemed to be mounting higher daily. On April 19, 1775, the battle at Lexington began as the British were marching to Concord to capture our military supplies, in order to prevent us from defending our state and ourselves.
They would not take them freely, as my fellow minutemen in Lexington stood between the British and their target. The inevitable happened, shots were fired, and do to their supreme numbers the British quickly broke through the few minutemen that were there, and headed for Concord. The men in Concord were ready for them, and stood their ground, causing the British to retreat to Boston. As they marched back to Boston, militias waited to ambush them as they passed by. They were to pass near our farm, and many of us hid behind the fences waiting for them.
As they came near we began to fire, inflicting heavy casualties on the British, but not without our own. Many of us were killed, and even more wounded. Also some of the livestock were caught by stray rounds, and killed. I, personally, suffered a shot to the lower leg.
Initially, I didn’t think my injury looked bad, but after infection set in my leg had to be amputated. This led to my obvious dismissal from the militia. I started to wonder if the many promise, of a new life under a new government, would be worth all that my family and I had lost. When the war was in its infancy, I couldn’t help but get caught up in the vision, that the new government that was to come out of the war, would mean an equal playing field for all, and that my children and their children would have a chance to be equal with the gentry.
This had become my dream, as it had been my father’s dream also. Despite my delusions of grandeur, the light at the end of the tunnel started to fade in my mind. The new confederacy appeared too weak to offer what was promised, and skirmishes amongst the states broke out. It appeared that my dream would never become a reality, and that all was lost. In some attempt to overcome the quarreling amongst the states, a few men gathered and wrote out their own “constitution”.
It appeared as though a controlling government was in our future, in order to overcome the anarchy. I failed to see how the minds of a few could come up with something better than what we had developed from years of tradition in England, but it appeared I and my family had little choice, but to obey it, and in retrospect I suppose a more powerful government was needed. All said and done it appears to me that we are not much farther down the road than were we started from, and at such a cost. We simply have a different, controlling government to levy taxes, and become absorbed by similar corruption. I don’t know what the future holds for you all, but I leave you with this note, and I hope and pray that you learn from it. I urge you to not be blinded by hate, and the emotions of the moment, but instead step back and look at the big picture.
Only then can you truly weigh out the costs and see if the end justifies the means. I wish you all the best and God bless. Bibliography:BibliographyFoner, Eric, The Rally Cry, W. W.
Norton Publishing, 1998Ronemus, Andrew, Who were the Minutemen?, Independence Hall Association Publishing, 1999. BibliographyFoner, Eric, The Rally Cry, W. W. Norton Publishing, 1998Ronemus, Andrew, Who were the Minutemen?, Independence Hall Association Publishing, 1999.