Independence Day is such fun. And we know so little about the War against England…the first one, that is.
Breed’s Hill was next door to Bunker Hill. The Brits charged the hill going up the slope against the dug-in Americans – who still considered themselves English.
The uppermost Rules of War in that era were:
1) Do not mess with officers of any rank or army.
2) Do NOT kill any officer of any rank or army.
3) If you are a commoner, Rule 1 and 2 apply more strongly against you.
4) If you are a colonist (not a true Brit) do not speak against, assault or KILL an officer, particularly of the British Army or Navy.
5) If you are a servant, the preceding rules apply assiduosly to you.
6) If you are a black servant (i.e., a slave) you are likely to get hanged for just thinking about violating any of the foregoing Rules of War.
Which gives you a rough feel for how things stacked up when the shooting started on Breed’s and Bunker Hills. Everyone among the Americans knew that assaulting any red coat soldier was a hanging offense. Let alone killing an officer. Which is exactly what happened that day when a black man shot and killed a British colonel. British officers enjoyed “immunity” on the field of battle pursuant to the aforementioned Rules of War.
They usually went about in the thick of things armed with a pike, which was a heavy spear-like implement impaling lowly and terrified enemy foot soldiers…who were often not inclined to defend themselves against enemy officers.
But things changed drastically on Breed’s Hill that day. Maybe the Black American had been hanging around Native Americans and had gotten ideas about it being better to disregard the stupid European Rules of War and kill the guy who was intent on degrading your way of life and, in fact, ending your life.
The Indians whom Washington and many other colonials had fought – who were aligned with the French, against the British and their colonial troops in the American wilderness territories before the revolution – had found it perfectly logical to kill enemy officers. (Like Washington at the Battle of Fort Necessity where Washington had been exposed and found several bullet holes in his militia uniform coat after the battle, none of which had found their mark in the flesh of the coat’s wearer).
It made sense to kill the officers, thereby leaving the foot soldiers leaderless. It also made sense to kill officers since their “battlefield immunity” may have encouraged officers to believe they would not be fired on and made them, perhaps, prone to expose themselves to enemy fire. Every school boy now knows how the Indians taught the colonists to disregard silly European Rules. (At least when I grew up, every school boy knew such things. Today’s school boys aren’t even certain they are boys anymore, at least during potty-times.)
But on Breed’s Hill, things hit critical mass, and there was no turning back. The World changed. God took the upstart Rebellion and blessed the Founders. He showed the Americans what Frederick Douglas a few decades later learned from Paul’s Epistles. He showed the colonists that all men are equal and that “In Christ there is neither bond nor free, male nor female, Jew nor gentile, Greek nor barbarian.” Those words say many things, but inescapably embedded in them is the equality of all mankind. At Breed’s Hill, our forefathers learned this truth the same way most guys learned how to swim…by getting tossed into the deep end.
If we have to take up arms against tyranny ever again on this continent, God will bless the efforts of those resisting tyranny.
A Founder said, “Men will be governed by God, or tyrants.”
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