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April 1775

Historical fiction

By Mark GagnonPublished about a year ago 5 min read

The Barn Owl Inn was a popular location on the main road between Boston, Lexington, Concord, and Worcester. There was never a shortage of guests, regardless of the weather. Roadside inns and taverns like the Barn Owl were family-owned businesses which meant everyone in the family was required to help in order to make it work.

Zachary Corbin, the eldest Corbin child at 12, started his day at just before dawn. His morning chores included mucking the stalls, feeding the barn animals, and collecting the freshly laid eggs to be used for breakfast. It was a hard life, but Zack thought he was better off than his school friends. They had to plow the fields, plant crops, weed, and milk cows.

During the evening, he divided his time between homework, bussing tables, washing dishes, and showing guests to their rooms. Zack always made sure each customer had a special key used to tighten the ropes that supported the straw-filled mattress. As he handed each customer their key, he would tell them in a jovial tone, “Sleep tight don’t let the bedbugs bite.” They would normally smile and thank him, occasionally handing him a penny or two.

The work day normally ended around 9 p.m. when the guests retired to their rooms. Then, the liquor bottles were gathered up and placed in a special cupboard called a bar and grill. Built into this cupboard was a metal grill that pulled down. Iron bars ran through eyelets and padlocks were secured on both ends, sealing the bottles inside. Once everything was secure for the night, it was time for bed.

Occasionally, he would overhear his father talking in a hushed voice to men from Lexington, Concord and even Boston. The conversations would last well into the evening. From what he could understand, the King’s government had everyone angry over many of their new laws. No taxation without representation and Give me liberty or give me death were popular slogans repeated throughout their meetings. Zachary found the conversations interesting, but they continued well past his bedtime.

Spring weather was slowly returning to New England, the trees finally allowing their leaves to unfurl. Business at the Barn Owl Inn increased with the warmer weather, but there was a noticeable shift in clientele. There were fewer families traveling to visit relatives in distant parts of the state and more single men carrying muskets and black powder.

Zack’s father stored the extra powder and shot under the barn floor, away from prying eyes. The men would stay through the weekend, practicing military maneuvers. This activity went on every weekend for several weeks until British soldiers arrived at the inn. Zack didn’t like the soldiers. He understood that most of them would prefer to be home in England, but they could at least have better manners. It was not uncommon for drunken brawls to break out between the soldiers, damaging the inn’s furniture. Finally, they were recalled to Boston, and regular customers resumed staying at the Barn Owl.

It was the beginning of April 1775, when Lt. Col. Frances Smith of the British forces in Boston received secret orders to put an end to insurrectionist activity and gather all caches of weapons and ammunition. He would move his troops in boats across Boston Harbor under the cover of night, then march to Lexington and Concord to surprise the insurrectionists at first light.

If more than one person knows a secret, it’s no longer a secret. The colonists learned of the plan and sent out riders to warn the militia of the redcoat incursion. Zack had just finished his evening chores and was turning in for the night when he heard the thunder of a horse’s hooves approaching the inn. His father opened the inn door and the man on horseback shouted, “The British are coming! To arms, to arms!”

Zack’s father raised an arm in acknowledgement and closed the door. His father and mother had a lengthy conversation that lasted until well after Zack had fallen asleep. Just before sunrise, Zack awoke to a noise coming from the kitchen. He went to investigate and found his father dressed in hunting attire, loading his musket.

“What’s going on, Dad?”

His father, momentarily startled to hear Zack’s voice, replied, “The British are coming and our neighbors and I are going to stop them. You need to stay here and protect your mother and siblings until I return. Understand, son?”

“Yes, sir,” replied Zack obediently, but he already knew that’s not what he was going to do. As soon as his father had left, Zack quickly dressed, grabbed his own musket, and flew out the door in pursuit. It didn’t take long for him to get within eyesight of his father. He hung back far enough so as not to be spotted, but close enough to see what was going on. Zack loaded his musket, a present he had received on his tenth birthday, and waited.

Just as the sun crested the horizon, the British soldiers marched into town six abreast. Zack’s father and the rest of the militiamen were there to meet them. They exchanged words from across the town square. The British commanding officer gave orders to disperse. Zack didn’t see from which side it came from, but someone fired the first shot.

Everything happened so fast, it was hard for Zack to comprehend. Both sides were firing musket balls at each other. Men, both in red military uniforms and buckskin jackets, were falling to the ground. The scene became synchronized chaos.

Then Zack saw him. A soldier lowered his musket and took aim directly at his father. Acting on pure impulse, Zack took aim and pulled the trigger. The musket bucked against his shoulder as the weapon fired, striking the soldier who was taking aim at his father. It was over that fast. Zack’s father looked back and spotted his son lowering his weapon. The British were now retreating. His father walked over to Zack. Looking directly into his son’s eyes, he said, “I told you to stay home, but I’m glad you disobeyed me. Thank you for saving my life, son.”

“I’m glad I was here too. Can we go home now, Dad?”

Both father and son set off for home. For them, the war was over.


About the Creator

Mark Gagnon

I have spent most of my life traveling around the US and the globe. Now it's time to draw on these experiences and create what I hope are interesting fictional stories. Only you, the reader, can tell me if I've achieved my goal.

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