This is the story of an American #war hero.
On April 19, 1775, the American Revolutionary War broke out between the British army and the American colonists. Early that morning the first shots were fired in the town of Lexington, Massachusetts, as 1,800 redcoats marched through the town toward Concord. After failing to find any rebel ammunition in Concord, the British decided to march back to Boston and regroup. They weren’t too worried about the American fighters, calling them inept cowards. They had not yet met Samuel Whittemore!
Samuel Whittemore was 80 years-old (some say 78) on that fateful day. He was working in his fields in the town of Menotomy, near Boston, when he noticed the redcoats approaching. Whittemore, an experienced soldier who had fought for the British during the French and Indian War, had joined the American rebels. He was ready to fight for independence.
After grabbing his musket, two dueling pistols, and a saber, Whittemore crouched behind a stone wall. When the redcoats marched directly in front of him, he shot and killed a soldier with his musket. Then he shot and killed one more and mortally wounded another with his pistols. When he pulled out his saber and charged, a British soldier shot him in the face and beat him to the ground with the butt of his musket. Other soldiers quickly moved in and stabbed Captain Whittemore thirteen times with their bayonets, leaving him for dead.
Whittemore’s friends were amazed when they found the old man still alive! In fact, he was trying to reload his musket even though part of his face had been blown away. Using a door as a stretcher, they rushed him to Cooper Tavern where Doctor Nathaniel Tufts declared him near death and sent him home to die. But 80-year-old Samuel Whittemore was not ready to die. He lived another 18 years, long enough to see the Americans win the Revolutionary War, and long enough to see George Washington serve as the country’s first president.
Samuel Whittemore lived to be 98 years-old, badly scarred, but proud to have served in the American Revolution. In 2005 the Massachusetts legislature declared him an official state hero. He is buried in Menotomy, now called #Arlington, Massachusetts.
If you would like to learn more about Captain Samuel Whittemore, I recommend these two children’s books:
Let It Begin Here!: Lexington & Concord: First Battles of the American Revolution by Dennis Brindell Fradin (Walker & Company)
Let It Begin Here!: April 19, 1775: The Day the American Revolution Began by Don Brown (Roaring Brook Press)