Crispus Attucks. Every American school child learned that name in a social studies or history class in grade school. On the night of March 5, 1770, Attucks, an African-American was one of the six Bostonians that was killed by British soldiers.
Known in American history as the “Boston Massacre” the tragic event was used as fodder by the Sons of Liberty and pro-revolutionary minded individuals to propel the colonies toward rupture with Great Britain.
When writing a book, one of the most important initial aspects is picking a title. The author needs one that is expressive, attracts attention, but has some overall tie-in that provides a fitting capture of the essence of the book.
One of the advantages of writing history is the use of quotes. Let the participants, combatants, or witnesses of the event provide the context for a title. When one resonates, go with it!
With the recent publication, the co-author, Robert Orrison and myself bounced various potential titles off each other. Then we had a list of our favorites included in the initial information sheet sent to Ted Savas, of Savas Beatie, LLC, the publisher. Yet, one continued to stand out, as it was written in a diary by a British junior officer slightly more than a month before the Battles of Lexington and Concord.
The entire inscription is below:
“It is certain both sides were ripe for it, and a single blow would have occasioned the commencement of hostilities.” —Lieutenant Frederick Mackenzie, Royal Welch Fusiliers, March 6, 1775.
Mackenzie’s uncanny foresight predicted the exact outcome of the fighting that erupted on April 19, 1775. With casualties suffered by both sides, the war of words and near-misses became a war of shot and shell.
Hostilities had commenced and we had a title. A Single Blow: The Battles of Lexington and Concord and the The Beginning of the American Revolution.
“the Country was an amazing strong one; full of Hills, Woods, stone Walls, & c., which the Rebels did not fail to take advantage of, for they were all lined with People who kept an incessant fire upon us…”
From the diary of Lieutenant Frederick Mackenzie who was part of the 23rd Regiment–the Royal Welch Fusiliers that survived the ordeal of April 19, 1775. He would keep a diary until the early 1790’s and chronicled his experiences in the American Revolutionary War. His account on April 19, of the retreat from Concord is most descriptive. The British did not just take the brunt of the firing as the marched hurriedly back toward Boston and safety, but;
“as we did too upon them, but not with the same advantage, as they were so concealed there was hardly any seeing them: in this way we marched between 9 and 10 miles, their numbers increasing from all parts…”
The column was led by Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith and had been tasked by General Thomas Gage, British military leader in North America, to root out the military supplies being stored in Concord by the colonials. The mission, albeit supposedly secretive, did not remain so for long, and the colonials got word out to the countryside. After initial firing at Lexington Green and then at the North Bridge in Concord, the British had to march back through the countryside, facing arriving militia and minute men.
“while ours was reducing by deaths, wounds, and fatigue; and we were totally surrounded with such an incessant fire as it is impossible to conceive; our ammunition was likewise near expended.”
Luckily, for Mackenzie and the other struggling British officers and rank-and-file, on a rise in the ground, outside the town of Menotomy, was a relief column, ready to provide a few moments’ respite.