Courage at Concord: Catherine’s Story
An Original Short Story By Donna M. Monnig (©2011)
My name is Catherine Rebecca Ambrose. I am an old woman now, my voice hoarse from age and my once fair skin wrinkled with time. My long golden locks of hair have long since turned a dismal gray and grown coarse like a ragged weed. Were I in Salem they might think me a witch! But really, I have not aged so badly considering my many years and the events that these withered old bones have bore witness to. For you see, I was born in Concord, Massachusetts, in the year of our Lord 1762.
I was but thirteen years of age when the whispers of war were being swiftly carried on the winds of change. Our colony had been, for some time, building a sizable quantity of ammunition and other military wares, preparing for the battle that was sure to come. Though of mature mind and ever a dutiful daughter, it was not my place to know of or understand such things.
With my father and eldest brother both minute men, many chores such as tending our small stock of animals and milking the cow each morn, often fell to me. Along with my other household duties and helping care for my younger siblings, I had little time for frivolities.
Awaking in the pre-dawn hours to gather eggs and milk the cow was a tiresome chore, but our family was fortunate to have what some in the colony would consider a luxury, so I held my tongue as was proper to do and went about my work.
One morning, however, everything changed.
The 19th day of April in the year of our Lord 1775 is a day that has been etched into my mind so deeply that even through all of these years the memory of it still haunts me.
The morning air was crisp and cold as a lazy fog floated over the hillside. The sun had yet to rise and already the shots could be heard from the town of our neighbors in Lexington. Dr. Samuel Prescott had brought us the dismal news that the Regulars were coming, he himself having just managed to evade capture. Revere and Dawes had not fared nearly so well.
My beloved father and elder brother were some of the first minute men to respond to the call to arms and with all due haste, as was a minute man’s custom, took position with others on the farther side of Old North Bridge.
I sat huddled with my younger siblings inside the walls of our small home, trying to keep them calm even as the sounds of battle outside drew nearer. My own heart was beating madly inside my chest and I dared not to think of what was transpiring outside. Silently my lips moved reciting prayers for the safety of my loved ones. I could see my own fear and worry reflected in my mother’s eyes as she looked across the room at me, but she remained composed, and so I took courage and strength from her example.
The sounds of battle grew louder and louder as our town came under attack and men fought each other in the center of the streets.
I began to detect the smell of smoke, unlike the tobacco that my father had a taste for, this smoke was much thicker and held the tang of gunpowder. Soon the smoke grew stronger and that is when I realized that lead balls were not the only things blazing, our house was on fire. Mother came to the same realization as I and quickly she grabbed my youngest brother and told me to follow with my five year old sister. The smoke was thick and cloying in our throats and the once cool morning was rapidly replaced by the stifling heat from the fire. Were it not for God’s grace I fear we would not have made it out in time, but the flames, though moving rapidly, had not yet reached the front door.
Once outside, however, I felt sure God’s grace had deserted us. I have not words to describe the chaos and carnage, the likes of which my young eyes had never before witnessed nor imagined. In no time my mother and little brother were lost from sight, and I clung fiercely to my baby sister for fear I should lose her as well. Sera nearly pulled away from me as she tried to stop to pick up her cornhusk doll when she lost her grip of it. Even through the madness of it all I felt like a monster as I pulled her away from her most prized possession and into my arms as I ran seeking some form of shelter for us. Our home was being consumed by an inferno, all of our meager belongings with it, and yet I could not stop for sweet Sera’s doll that she treasured so much. Her cries blended in with the rest of the cacophony that surrounded us. Truly this could not be happening, I wanted to believe it was only some dreadful night terror, but the sights, sounds, and smells could not be denied.
The battle seemed to last forever; how Sera and I managed to find safety I shall never understand. The minute men stubbornly resisted the attack and drove the enemy into retreat. In both Concord and Lexington, nearly one hundred of our number lay dead. Among the deceased lay my beloved father and eldest brother. Both had given their lives for Concord and our safety. I could not stop the tears that flowed down my soot and dirt covered face. How could life ever be right again?
It was some time before my mother and I found one another back and were reunited after the attack had ended. She and my baby brother had, like Sera and myself, survived unscathed by the good grace of God. If only the same could have been true for my father and brother.
Our home was destroyed, the streets where I had once played hopscotch as a child were littered with destruction, and life as I had known it was forever gone. But like as not, we like so many colonists before us, had no choice but to carry on and persevere.
The memory of the 19th day of April during my thirteenth year is burned into my mind, nay, my very soul and to this day still haunts me. Yet, I am proud to say that I, Catherine Rebecca Ambrose, a Citizen of Concord, Massachusetts, during its darkest hour and bleakest day, survived to tell you the tale of the brave citizens and minute men who lost their lives in the first battle of what was to become the American Revolution.
©Donna M. Monnig – All Rights Reserved __________________________________________________________________
This is the first time that I’ve ever posted any of my fiction, as I usually just stick to posting poetry and articles. I’m always open to opinions so feel free to share your thoughts.
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