History is Fragile

Recently, I have been working on the puzzle of the Acton Minutemen.  As I’m working to put flesh and blood on people who lived over two hundred years ago, I scour the Internet and as many old books as I can get my hands on. 

Specifically, I have been seeking the names of the Acton Minutemen that marched early on the morning of April 19th to join their brothers-in-arms on Punkatassett Hill in Concord. 

How many were related?  As the day wore on and men were killed and injured, how many of these men were dividing their attention between fighting and grief, fighting and worry about brothers and cousins and friends?

That’s what I was thinking about as I searched for the list of names.

But here’s what I found.

There were no lists.  It was dangerous to be on a list. That was something so simple that I hadn’t thought of. 

What I’m finding is that history is fragile. 

That’s even true in our families.  As one generation passes on and their stories disappear, we all lose.  Young people think the older folks are boring and therefore they don’t take the time to sit with them and let them talk about their lives. 

Or siblings fight over the estate of the deceased and in the warfare, destroy their own history.

And without our history, we don’t know who we are.  And, thus, are easy pickins for tyrants.

Digging up the past

I continue to work on the Hannah Davis story.  My goal is to finish it this month as my NANOWRIMO goal.  For those of you who just went "tilt" – NANO is held every November.  National Novel Writing Month.  Writers around the world write madly on new projects and some on old projects trying to finish a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  Hannah’s story is already started, but I really want to get it finished.

And so I’m fleshing out secondary characters.  The men who marched off early on the morning of April 19th, and the community that waited at home.  I needed a list of the men who marched with Hannah’s husband that day.  Simple enough, right.  I mean, this is the age of the Internet.

Ahem.  Two problems.  The initial problem was that so many of the historical groups do not take good care of their websites.  Broken links abound.  Then, after digging and digging to find this list, I come to the realization that it’s not out there – at least not in the way the Lexington lists are.  I finally found "A" list hidden in a book that was online.  Thank goodness for small favors. 

There, I bumped into the second problem.  This list was made up years after the fact by the aged survivors of the battle.  Apparently, it was dangerous to make such lists. 

Why didn’t I think of that?

Probably because, try as we might, we just can’t quite get back into 1775 without taking our 21st-Century selves along for the ride. 

Hannah Davis did not have a Facebook Page.  Neither did the Acton Minutemen. 

This list will have to do.