April 19, 1775
It seemed only a few moments before an unfamiliar sound thrust her upright once again. Her heart took on a new beat as the strange and rapid thumping sound grew louder. It stirred her blood with a chill that sent its icy prickle from her feet all the way to her neck.
Soon, the candleholder on her small table danced, reverberating to the increased pounding on the road. She clutched the unlit lamp, lest it fall to the floor, placing it on the soft mound of her bedding to keep it steady.
Betsy fought the grip of nausea in her belly and forced her stiffened legs from under the covers. Stepping gingerly and with an unsteady gait, she crouched down and made her way to the open window. Standing to the side so she could not be seen, she peered carefully around the edge of the window jamb. The scene below sent ripples of terror through her body and mind. It was unlike anything Betsy had ever imagined in the deepest recesses of her fears.
Pounding the muddy road right next to their stone wall, soldiers of the king’s army—splendid and frightening in their royal red uniforms—trudged in unison, four abreast. Their faces were stoic and determined in the moonlight, and their beaver hats made them look as tall as Goliath. The most frightening image, however, was the silvery row of gleaming bayonets. Situated in perfect array on the shoulders of the regulars marching in expert time, the flowing wave of exposed steel weapons rippled like a smooth river in the moonlight. It was both beautiful and terrifying.
—Excerpt from Fields of the Fatherless
Before the British troops ever arrived at Lexington and Concord, they first made their way through Menotomy Village, Massachusetts. Now known as Arlington, it was the town that I grew up in, a place that left an old house standing for over 200 years in remembrance of the terrible battle that occurred there that first day of the American Revolution. It was a battle long overshadowed by the events at Concord Bridge and the Lexington green. Yet more soldiers—both British and American—died in Menotomy Village than any other town that day.
Growing up as a youngster, I never understood the historical significance of my hometown nor the Jason Russell House that stood as a memorial on the corner up the street from my own home. I’d walk by the old dwelling frequently and my big brother tried to scare me with tales of “blood on the floor.”
Long after I grew up and moved away, I learned the sad story of my hometown that happened to stand along the route of the British retreat to Boston; the village that suffered the consequences of an enraged, out-of-control army that took out their revenge on the citizens of Menotomy. It was a story of both terror and bravery. It was a story that begged to be told. I feel so privileged to be able to share that story in “Fields of the Fatherless.”
So on this April 19 known as Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts (celebrated this year on April 21) please remember the nearly-forgotten citizens of Menotomy Village, Massachusetts. And say a prayer of thanks for the freedoms we hold dear in these United States. Let us not forget the sacrifice of so many who laid down their lives for the freedoms we hold dear.