The sound of silence
Dr. Joseph Warren peered down the hill. The entire city of Boston was teeming with Redcoats. I can not imagine what was going through his head. Or his heart….
The fledging Provincial Congress had appointed him Major General just days before. When he’d reported for duty on this unseasonably warm morning of June 17, 1775, General Israel Putman and Colonel William Prescott both requested he take command.
Dr. Warren declined, asking only where the fighting was to be the fiercest. They pointed him to Breed’s Hill, a small outcropping in front of the higher, more pronounced Bunker Hill.
The British soldiers were renowned the world over for their fighting abilities. They scoffed at the idea of a bunch of backwoods merchants and farmers standing up to them. And they sent the first wave directly up Breed’s Hill to prove their point.
Dr. Warren and his compatriots, to the astonishment of the British—and quite possibly even some of the defenders—repelled the attack. And the second one! But with ranks thinned and ammunition exhausted, there was no hope against a third charge.
The rag tag band had made its point. There was nothing more to prove. They could melt back over the hill with honor….. But this fight wasn’t about someone’s dignity. Or honor. It was about their homes. Their livelihood. Their rights. Their posterity.
The third and final wave rolled in with a vengeance. The desperate defenders threw rocks at them. They turned their long guns into clubs……
Dr. Joseph Warren was just six days past his 34th birthday. He had a distinguished medical practice; four beautiful children; and a bright future that was as promising as any…..
He was the quintessential American soldier before America became America!
He didn’t wave any banners or sing “Oh, say can you see.” He didn’t waste time on “Give me liberty or give me death” speeches. He didn’t even get to say one single goodbye for goodness sakes.
He fought with every ounce he had in his body like the very gates of Hell had been cast upon him. He didn’t quit. He didn’t give up. He didn’t give an inch! And he didn’t die in vain.
We use the term Stand Up for America. Listen, Joseph Warren surpassed that by every measurable accounting—he laid face down in the dirt and mire and died for her!
I’m telling you with all my heart today, this nation isn’t worth a hoot in a whirlwind if we can’t still hear Dr. Warren’s silence from 245 years ago!!!
That exact same silence was multiplied ten thousand fold in David Miller’s twenty acre cornfield on a foggy September 17, 1862, morning. The mist rising from nearby Antietam creek obscured the first of Union General Joseph Hooker’s troops to march through Miller’s corn toward the Confederates “up by Dunker Church.”
The Rebels pushed the Yankees back across the field. But the Bluecoats rallied and pushed back. The Confederates were forced almost up to the Church when John Bell Hood and his Texas regiment rode to the rescue.
The Union army retreated, only to rally again. The Rebels fell back, and then pushed back….
I don’t believe one soldier blinked that morning. They all had the Joseph Warren gene. They didn’t need orders. Face them toward the enemy and get out of the way!
It is believed by most historians, Miller’s simple twenty acre cornfield exchanged hands as many as fifteen times in a five hour stretch. Here’s one thing we know for certain, the Battle of Antietam is still the single bloodiest day of fighting ever in the annals of American warfare!
Of the 22,500 plus casualties (dead, wounded or missing)—two thirds of them were found in or near the cornfield.
There is one more report from so many official accounts, eyewitness and written statements from people directly involved that it cannot be disputed. By late afternoon, there was not a stalk of corn left standing…..and a person could walk from one end of David Miller’s cornfield to the other…..without stepping on the ground…..
That silence reverberates down though the Spanish-American War, World War’s I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan…..
I don’t care if you call it Memorial Day, Decoration Day or confuse it with Veterans Day. Let’s just for once in our lives be as hard headed, stubborn, loyal, brave, insistent, true, caring, giving and as loving as each of the heroes who gave their “last full measure” on our behalf.
We must never stop hearing THEIR silence!