Odd bits of History
To set the story straight
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The Easterling Story
On Lexington Common there used to be a small, weatherworn monument bearing the names of a handful of men. They were the names of American Patriots killed or wounded in April's damp dawn when those few stood against the armed forces of King George the Third.
The monument was made of easily-worked limestone over two hundred years ago and it was hard to read in 1978. I remembered it from several previous visits but on my 1998 visit to Lexington, I was unable to find it. Even the Parthenon crumbles before the corrosive breath of the automobile.
I believe that it was the very first monument dedicated to the Lexington heroes. Among those listed as wounded was "Prince Easterling, a Negro man."
In June of 2001 I re-visited Lexington. The old limestone marker was indeed gone. However, off of the central green and beside Buckman's Tavern there is a new marker. On its face is a bronze plaque. On the back, away from the passing traveler, is a list of the Patriots who stood against the British on that damp morning in 1775. The dead are listed separately. There is no list of the wounded as such. The name "Prince Estabrook" is carved among the others with no mention of his race.
Was this the result of a deliberate effort to conceal his race and, if so, to what purpose? Now when every effort is being made to find black heroes, even to the point of fabricating them, why is the actual first black hero of the War of Independence being neglected? Forget Crispus Attucks; he was a hero by accident, a passerby at a riot. Prince Easterling got out of a warm bed to challenge tyranny.
The First Encounter
Church bells rang wildly at two of the clock in the morning. Farmers left their wife-warm beds and told half-grown sons that they were the man of the house until their fathers' duty was done. The Patriots, the men who wagered farm and home and life itself in the name of conscience arose and swarmed toward Lexington and Concord to challenge the greatest military force upon the planet Earth.
Just before dawn, The Minutemen and Patriot militiamen mustered in the tavern next to Lexington Common.
Just after dawn, Royal troops led by Major Pitcairn marched into the town of Lexington. Their mission was to seize the guns and powder of the Americans. Tyrants have no fear of a subjugated people that has no arms.
Before the mighty Army of King George stood a small group of armed American Colonists. The disciplined British regular troops drew up to face the Minute Men of Lexington.
Major Pitcairn yelled, "Disperse, ye damned rebels!"
The Americans did not disperse.
Then Major Pitcairn, or someone, gave the order, "Fire!"
When the smoke of the British volley cleared, a handful of dead and wounded Americans lay in the dew-damp grass of Lexington Common.
The old monument said that among the wounded was "Prince Easterling, a Negro Man."
The Final Meeting
It was not only the Bunker Hill flag that was black
Four black patriots fought at the battle of Bunker hill. One was listed as "Salem Easterling."
History says that Salem Easterling shot and killed Major Pitcairn as he led the British troops up Bunker Hill.
Was this the same Easterling? Was "Prince" a nickname for Salem? No one is certain but I surely like to think so.
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The Boston Massacre
Kilroy Was There
A special note for WWII vets
On a miserable winter afternoon, a member of the British Garrison in Boston was looking to earn a few shillings to stretch the miserable pay of a British private soldier. He went to a rope walk ( factory) and asked the Yankee owner if he had any work for him.
The Colonial replied, "Sure, you can clean my shithouse, you lobster-back bastard!"
The soldier went back to his barracks where he told his comrades how he had been insulted. The redcoats already had a feeling of hostility toward the Colonials. They were unwelcome in Boston and not a day went by without the Colonists making this perfectly clear. The presence of the troops, some even quartered in the Colonists' homes was too much for free Englishmen to bear. The streets were filled with rowdy gangs of "....Irishmen, boys and unemployed seamen" as it was reported in the newspaper.
One of these groups surrounded a guard outside the barracks and began berating him and taunting him, throwing snowballs, ice chunks and frozen horse turds at him. Seeing the excitement, passersby joined the group. One of these was a man of mixed Negro and Indian heritage named Crispus Attucks. He actually lived in Framingham, a small town about fourteen miles outside of Boston. He was noted for his troublemaking and his fondness for drink. He was enjoying both as part of the crowd throwing curses at the British sentry.
The sentry called the Sergeant of the Guard who called the Officer of the Day. Things were looking nasty and an armed squad was ordered out. One of the soldiers was the man who had been looking for work at the rope walk. The crowd was getting bigger and more ill-tempered. The nervous officer gave the command, "Present firelocks!" The Tower muskets, the famous .75 calibre "Brown Bess" came level and swung to cover the crowd. The crowd thought that the British Army was bluffing until someone yelled, "Fire!" It might have been the officer, but some people think that it was a half-drunk demonstrator taunting the Redcoats.......or a member of the British squad.
Brown Bess roared and the crowd broke and ran. But some of them were unable to run. They were dead, among them Crispus Attucks. He had been wandering idly around town, four hours walk from home, when curiosity drew him to the most notable little riot in American history and a place in that history as the first black man to fall in the growing conflict.
Oh, how did Kilroy figure in this? He was the soldier who had been offered a messy job that afternoon and he was part of the squad that had been called out to face the rioters. He probably was one of those who fired the volley.
And Kilroy also became famous in World War Two when American service men scrawled "Kilroy was here" in a million places all over the globe. However, the soldier named Kilroy first came into history when he fired into the crowd at what soon became known as "The Boston Massacre."
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Some shoe history
Toward the end of the Civil War, the Confederacy was in dire straights. The excellent English shoes were not getting through the blockade and money had run out. When Charleston fell, this shoe was found in a Confederate warehouse. It is extremely crude, the soles are hand pegged four to the inch. It even has pegs where the uppers are joined together. It seems to have been made by someone who had no knowledge of shoemaking, even to the point of sewing the upper with the wrong side up.
This and other shoes are on display in the Museum of the Confederacy in Charleston, SC.
The Charleston Museum of the Confederacy is open only on Saturday and Sunday. It was forced out of its original downtown home by Hurricane Hugo and then Political Correctness prevented its return. A few gallant Daughters of the Confederacy keep the museum open despite the pressure. Whether your hearts are with the Blue or the Gray, you will find a worthwhile enterprise maintained against great odds. Whenever you get to Charleston, visit the museum; be sure to see their displays and drop a few dollars in the kitty.
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