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James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

April 19

The Minute Men of Northboro’

By Wallace Rice (1859–1939)

  • The first blood in our Revolutionary struggle was shed at Lexington and Concord, April 19, 1775, and on the same day, before one o’clock P.M., the tidings reached Northboro’. The company of Minute Men (fifty in number, about one-seventh of the total population) belonging to this town was collecting at the time to listen to a patriotic discourse from the Rev. Mr. Whitney. They were directed, without a moment’s delay, to put themselves in readiness to march; and in three or four hours from the time when the news arrived they had taken leave of their families and were paraded in the yard of Capt. Wood’s house, whence—the Rev. Mr. Whitney having in a fervent prayer commended them to the protection of the God of armies—they immediately set out on their march for the field of danger and of blood.

  • ’TIS noonday by the buttonwood, with slender-shadowed bud;

    ’Tis April by the Assabet, whose banks scarce hold his flood;

    When down the road from Marlboro’ we hear a sound of speed—

    A cracking whip and clanking hoofs—a case of crying need!

    And there a dusty rider hastes to tell of flowing blood,

    Of troops a-field, of war abroad, and many a desperate deed.

    The Minute Men of Northboro’ were gathering that day

    To hear the Parson talk of God, of Freedom and the State;

    They throng about the horseman, drinking in all he should say,

    Beside the perfumed lilacs blooming by the Parson’s gate.

    “The British march from Boston through the night to Lexington;

    “Revere alarms the countryside to meet them ere the sun;

    “Upon the common, in the dawn, the redcoat butchers slay;

    “On Concord march, and there again pursue their murderous way;

    “We drive them back; we follow on; they have begun to run:

    “All Middlesex and Worcester’s up: Pray God, ours is the day!”

    The Minute Men of Northboro’ let rust the standing plow,

    The seed may wait, the fertile ground upsmiling to the spring.

    They seize their guns and powder-horns; there is no halting now,

    At thought of homes made fatherless by order of the King.

    The pewter-ware is melted into bullets—long past due,

    The flints are picked, the powder’s dry, the rifles shine like new.

    Within their Captain’s yard enranked they hear the Parson’s prayer

    Unto the God of armies for the battles they must share;

    He asks that to their Fathers and their Altars they be true,

    For Country and for Liberty unswervingly to dare.

    The Minute Men of Northboro’ set out with drum and fife;

    With shining eyes they’ve blest their babes and bid their wives good-by.

    The hands that here release the plow have taken up a strife

    That shall not end until all earth has heard the battle-cry.

    At every town new streams of men join in the mighty flow;

    At every crossroad comes the message of a fleeing foe:

    The British force, though trebled, fails against the advancing tide.

    Our rifles speak from fence and tree—in front, on every side.

    The British fall: the Minute Men have mixed with bitterest woe

    Their late vainglorious vaunting and their military pride.

    The Minute Men of Northboro’ they boast no martial air;

    No uniforms gleam in the sun where on and on they plod;

    But generations yet unborn their valor shall declare:

    They strike for Massachusetts Bay; they serve New England’s God.

    The hirelings who would make us slaves themselves are backward hurled,

    On Worcester and on Middlesex their flag’s forever furled.

    Theirs was the glinting pomp of war; ours is the victor’s prize:

    That day of bourgeoning has seen a race of freemen rise.

    A Nation born in fearlessness stands forth before the world

    With God her shield, the Right her sword, and Freedom in her eyes.

    The Minute Men of Northboro’ sit down by Boston town;

    They fight and bleed at Bunker Hill; they cheer for Washington.

    In thankfulness they speed their bolt against the British Crown;

    And take the plow again in peace, their warrior’s duty done.