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The Struggle for Independence
“The deed has been done, the battle almost won. The day has been long, but the victory will be strong,” Taylor chanted inside his head as he marched across the top of Bunker Hill. He couldn’t stop thinking that he was fighting in one of the most critical rebellions against the British so far. The fight had been going on for quite some time now, and Taylor’s body was starting to feel the pain of combat. His shoulder ached from the kickback from his musket, and his head was throbbing because of the fumes from the gunpowder cloud that hung over his head. The thrill of being part of this important day contributed to the wild emotions seizing control of every inch of him. Taylor’s body was ready to surrender, but, luckily, it wouldn’t have to. The battle was coming to an end and soon he would return to the comfort of his home in Boston.
There were several Boston men by his side, but he cherished two of them the most. One was his cousin, Anthony. Anthony was Taylor’s age, sixteen, and they had grown up at each other’s side. They felt like brothers and together had signed the muster book to enlist. These two were close at heart, yet their appearances couldn’t be farther apart. Anthony had broad shoulders, with dark brown curls falling carelessly over them. Taylor, on the other hand, was as skinny as his musket, though he was so tall that he could always look down at Anthony. He had short sprouts of dirty-blonde hair. They were so inseparable that friends joked they must have been glued together at birth.
The other was his father, Samuel, whose silhouette looked like a tree. He had a bit of gray hair on top of his head, a keen mind and a “black or white” viewpoint on most things. He had a strong opinion of what was right, and never hesitated to express it to anyone who would listen. Yet, Samuel was also compassionate, and his face was soft and inviting. This was why, when people needed advice, they usually sought him, making him well known and liked by most. However, there was only one group who loathed him. It was the group of, as Samuel best put it, “royal, soul-less slaves” that called themselves Loyalists. This group was made up of the colonists that had decided to stay loyal to the British Crown. In Samuel’s opinion, they were fools to think that the tyrannical King George would ever give the colonists their proper rights, or be able to regain control. The real Americans were breaking free from England, and that was that. Nothing could stop them.
Taylor was marching with pride, reminiscing about the battle with Anthony, when suddenly a single shot rang out. Quickly, the group of men hopped over a nearby stone fence and took cover behind it. Anthony was right behind Taylor, and his father knelt a bit further down the wall. They had run for cover not a moment too soon. It was raining bullets from a British regiment. Taylor turned on his stomach and frantically started loading his gun. Even though he had done it so many times that day, Taylor’s heart still raced as he carefully inserted the bullet with just enough gunpowder. Then, he raised the gun from the ground and mounted it on his shoulder. Through the gunpowder smog, Taylor saw a flicker of red, prayed that it was a British soldier, and pulled the trigger. The musket fired, and the kickback made his sore shoulder grovel for mercy.
What occurred next sent Taylor’s heart beating so fast that he thought it would explode out of his chest. He spotted someone darting out from behind a tree. A dark coat draped over the man’s chest made him blend in with the trees until he was ready to fire. It was a British soldier in disguise, and his rifle was loaded. He aimed in Taylor’s direction. Without another thought, Taylor fell to his stomach and saw the bullet barely miss him and fly over his head. A huge wave of relief washed over him, until he heard the ear-splitting shriek of someone in horrible pain.
As Taylor whipped around to find the source of the terrifying sound, he thought of only one word, “Anthony.” The bullet might have just missed Taylor, but might not have missed Anthony. Taylor’s worst fears were confirmed. Anthony was collapsed on the ground, writhing in agony. His pale lips emitted an inhuman moan, as his hands fell from his red-stained chest. Before Taylor could move to help, or even say another word, Anthony’s eyes shut and he stopped moving.
“Anthony! Wake up Anthony! This can’t be happening! No!” Taylor screamed over the roar of gunfire as he shook Anthony’s body. Nothing. Then he snatched the bandana from his head and pressed it with every ounce of strength left in him against the wound. Despite his efforts, Anthony’s blood continued to seep out onto the ground. Tears welled up in Taylor’s eyes as he rested his head on Anthony’s motionless body. His best friend was dead.
Once the gunfire subsided, Samuel tore across to where Anthony was lying, Taylor by his side, and exclaimed, “No it can’t be! How will I tell my sister about her son?”
After one look at Taylor, Samuel quickly regained control of himself and tried to comfort his son. “I feel as badly as you do. Try and remember that Anthony went down fighting for a cause he believed in. There is nothing more honorable than that. He would have wanted you to dry your tears and stay strong. Help me take him home.”
Dazed and confused, Taylor slowly made his way to his feet, his heart torn in every direction. He was ready to go home to Boston. Taylor’s body and head had ached with pain before, but that physical pain could not compare to the torturous grief raging through his soul.
When the men entered Boston, they were greeted by excitement from friends and loved ones. However, the bliss quickly became mourning for the fallen Anthony. Taylor and his parents went to Anthony’s house to break the terrible news to the rest of the family. The whole experience seemed like a nightmare to Taylor who wondered if he would ever be able to drive the sound of his aunt’s hysterical sobs from his head. After they left, all Taylor wanted to do was escape into his bed. But his father had another mission in mind. He summoned a meeting of the Patriots for that evening.
“My fellow gentleman,” he began as other conversations ceased and all attention was turned towards him. “Today one of us has fallen in battle. Anthony lay down his life, as all of us were willing to do for this cause. The question is, what would Anthony want us to do now? What would G-d want us to do?” Samuel opened his bible and said, “Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 states, ‘There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven. A time to give birth, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to tear down, and a time to build up. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to throw stones, and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing. A time to search, and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep, and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart, and a time to sew together; A time to be silent, and a time to speak. A time to love, and a time to hate; A time for war, and a time for peace.” Samuel closed the bible and let the words sink in with his audience.
“Today it was Anthony’s time to die in battle. We will miss him terribly and may G-d protect his soul. It is perhaps more difficult because he was so young, and he is the first of our group to fall. However, we cannot let our sorrow distract us from our cause. This is the time to fight even harder for our freedom. I say to you, my fellow Patriots, we cannot just give up and let what Anthony died for drift away. We must fight even harder now in his memory.” Samuel raised his fist in the air and declared, “Let Anthony’s death not be in vain. King George be damned. Long live America!” The group of men jumped to their feet and began applauding and hooting wildly. They were convinced that Samuel had never been more right. Samuel was too excited to notice that Taylor remained strangely silent throughout the meeting.
After the meeting, Taylor was so exhausted that he fell asleep immediately, waking early the next morning. However, he stayed in bed to almost mid-day. He knew he had an important decision to make, and it required some serious thought. Just before noon, he slowly got dressed and descended the stairs. In the foyer, Taylor saw his father reading the latest edition of the banned Liberty Tree.
Samuel saw his son and put down the paper. “I’m just as upset as you are about the loss of Anthony, son. It’s going to hurt for a very long time. But I know you understand how important it is to make sure the cause that he died for is won. We will dedicate our victory to his memory.”
Taylor looked down at his feet, and fidgeted with the bottom of his shirt. “Father, there is something I need to talk to you about. But I’m not exactly sure how to do it…”
Samuel interrupted, “Don’t worry Taylor. I understand how hard Anthony’s death has been for you. You can talk to me about anything.”
Taylor took a deep breath and blurted out his thoughts. “After Anthony’s death, I really thought about the whole rebellion. It’s fine to talk about fighting for a cause, until you lose the people you love. Why can’t we keep trying to settle our differences with King George peacefully? War is nothing but unnecessary bloodshed and loss for both sides. However, in the end, one side always loses more. Father, I firmly believe that, in this war, it is going to be us. We aren’t trained soldiers, and our supplies are soon going to run out. Even if we were trained and had enough weapons, the British completely outnumber us. I think we are making a big mistake by not making peace with the king. After he defeats us, he will only punish us more for having challenged his authority. In the end, we will have gained nothing and lost everything.”
Samuel couldn’t believe what his son had said. “You aren’t thinking straight, Taylor. Your grief is getting in the way of what you know is right. You need to stop that kind of thinking right now, before anyone else hears you. Do you believe this is what Anthony would have wanted you to do?”
Taylor felt sick to his stomach but held his position. “No, Father. I have thought about this long and hard. I definitely believe we need to reconcile with His Majesty before this situation gets any worse.”
At that point, Samuel became enraged, his face resembling that of an angry bull. “Taylor, get out of my sight until you come to your senses! Take a walk down to the place you love by the harbor to clear your mind. Don’t return until your head is no longer full of these preposterous thoughts.” Samuel threw the newspaper to the floor and stormed into his study.
Taylor ran out of the house towards the harbor. Yet, he would never reach the calm blue water that day. Even though his true destination was much closer, only half a mile away, the walk felt interminable. He approached the stately home on Bond Street. The brass knocker felt ice-cold in his sweaty hand as he lifted it and then let it go. Mr. Robert Brown, a well-known Loyalist, would be inside. When the door opened, Taylor would enter his house and become one of them. He had never felt more nervous in his life, but he was certain of two things. Taylor knew he was making the right choice for himself and his country. But he also knew that his father would never forgive him for it.