Saturday, October 5, 2013

Grand Music, Pages 224-226

Accepting pleasure without celebration, disappointment without complaint, Amos Barrett, like a twig in a pond, drifted.
     Not a planner, he was an accepting doer. His beliefs were his neighbors’ beliefs. A corporal in Captain Brown’s company, he had not dwelt on the prospect of life and death combat but he had thought that some day it might happen.
     His day had begun at 3:00 a.m. when the Concord alarm bell had roused him from his bed. Standing in front of Wright Tavern, he had watched the arrival of fellow militiamen and an admixture of old men and adolescent boys. The arrival of an entire company from Lincoln an hour before dawn had surprised him. Other companies from towns to the east and north would also be arriving, his sergeant had thereafter boasted, Colonel Barrett -- Amos’s uncle -- having sent messengers off to Stow, Acton, Sudbury, and Bedford. Just about every town had raised its own minuteman company. It occurred to Amos that these companies were now doing what their name signified.
     After a shouting Reuben Brown had ridden in from Lexington, Amos had thought briefly about dying -- days, he realized, before his twenty-third birthday! It had been a passing thought, shunted aside by what he had really wanted to think about, firing at strutting lobsterbacks. Therefore, he had willingly joined his company, one of four that Major Buttrick had sent off toward Lexington, Buttrick’s thinking, Amos’s as well, that it was better to confront the enemy firsthand to know straight off what had to be done.
     They had marched proudly past Meriam’s Corner and over the little bridge that spanned Mill Brook. We’ve never drilled or paraded here before, he thought. Always by the millpond. Always the same drills.
 This was a new experience. It would have a different ending. He felt strangely affected.
 He seemed to be seeing and hearing as never before.
 He knew it wasn’t because he was afraid. Or overly excited. He was just, … extremely alert! Like a hunted animal, he supposed. Strange, he thought, that he had conjured up that comparison, being that he and his company were doing the hunting.
     A mile and a half out of Concord Major Buttrick’s lead company halted. “They’re comin’!” Daniel Fuller shouted. The entire column stopped. Not seeing the regulars, listening intently, Amos heard blue jays. Trying to locate them, he saw behind leafing tree limbs the ridge top of a barn. “Stand ready!” Amos’s captain, David Brown, shouted.
     Seconds later Brown rode to the front of the column. Doing what the men in front of him were doing, Amos stepped off the road. There they were, the terrible redcoats. Coming over a rise. What struck him most was the shine of their bayonets. Too bad we don’t have any of those, he thought.
     He watched Major Buttrick, at the head of the column, talking with his captains and lieutenants. What was the matter with him? The regulars were getting closer. There were an awful lot of them. Hadn’t Buttrick seen that? Amos looked fleetingly at the pine wood thirty rods to his right.
     The front part of the redcoat column was swallowing up space! Buttrick and his captains were still palavering. “Damnation!” Was Buttrick planning to bid them “Good morrow”? Share with them a dish of tea? If they get within thirty rods of me, I’ll load my musket, orders be hanged, and head off for those trees!
     But the Major’s conference was breaking up. Amos’s captain turned his horse about. Twenty seconds later, facing the company, Brown shouted, “We’re going back! Look alive! We'll be showin' those damn Redcoats how well farmers march!”
     The fifers and drummers, at the rear on the march going out, stepped off. Amos marched smartly to their music. The rhythmic sound of the many shoes pleased him. A different music started up behind him. The British fife and drum corps was answering. He strained to recognize what their musicians were playing but could not. He grinned. Whatever it was, the mixture of tunes sounded good. Grand music they marched to, he thought, oblivious of the comic spectacle Buttrick’s militia and the British column exhibited.