Two hundred and twenty years ago today, an American hero died.
Samuel Whittemore came to America during the French and Indian war. He was involved in the capture of Fort Louisburg in 1745 and came back with a French officer’s sword which he cherished for the rest of his life. When asked about the sword, all Samuel would say was that its previous owner had “died suddenly.”
In 1763, Samuel left his wife and children and grandchildren to mind the farm and rode off to fight in the Indian Wars. He came home with a pair of dueling pistols and again, all he would say was that the previous owner “died suddenly.”
In 1775, Samuel Whittemore took up arms again. At the age of 79 he watched Colonel Smith lead his men through Menotomy. Knowing that the Regulars would have to return through his town and with rumors of the fighting at Lexington and Concord swirling, Samuel strapped on his French sword, stuck his dueling pistols in his belt, put on his powder horn and shouldered his musket. He found a position that gave him an excellent view of the road, ignoring his friends who pleaded with him to find a safer spot. Samuel sat down to wait.
Once the company was directly in front of him, he stood and fired his musket. A grenadier fell dead. He fired both of his pistols. Two more fell, dead and dying. The Regulars were on top of him by then, though, and he did not have time to reload. So he drew his sword and continued fighting.
One of the Regulars shot from point blank range – tearing away part of Samuel’s face. He fell to the ground, still fending off bayonet thrusts with his sword, but a musket struck him in the head. The Regulars stabbed him with their bayonets and left him for dead.
Once the column fought its way clear of Menotomy, the townsfolk came to bring Samuel’s body home. To their shock, not only was he still alive, but he was lying on the ground trying to reload his musket! They carried him on a door to the tavern which was serving as an emergency hospital. The doctors knew that Samuel’s injuries were fatal, but his friends and family insisted that the doctor dress the wounds anyway. The doctor gave in and did the best he could, then told Samuel’s family to take him home to die in peace.
Samuel Whittemore did indeed die – eighteen years later at the age of 98, after - as legend has it - fathering several more children!
Samuel Whittemore was nearly eighty years old on April 19th, 1775. He could have stayed home that day – what could one old man do, anyway? He did not stay home, though. He chose to go out and fight for what he believed in, to defend his home.
What will you do for your beliefs? This isn’t 1775. You don’t have to shoulder a musket. All you have to do is contact your representatives. Take a stand for what you believe in.