November is a strange time to reflect on the American Revolution, something more suited for July, but that is what I found myself doing touring Lexington and Concord with family over Thanksgiving while enduring a cold, uncomfortable wind. We visited many graves: Hawthorne, Alcott, Thoreau, among them. Strangely, I found myself moved most by this grave more than any other; an unknown British soldier wounded on the day the shot heard round the world was fired at Concords North Bridge. He died three days later at Buckman Tavern in Lexington. Three small British flags set his grave apart, left haphazardly I would guess by British visitors to honor his death, or by someone in Lexington to remind everyone more than Americans died that day. Three other British who died at the North Bridge are known by name and buried there. Very little marks their common grave; one might entirely miss the site when walking by.
I cannot say what affected me so deeply. Perhaps the recent experience of having a son-in-law sent to advise Filipino marines in a combat zone nobody knows about, or a nephew deployed for combat in Afghanistan made me wonder of soldiers fighting 3,000 long miles from home. I found myself with questions, most keenly, who mourned his death and did they find that ever elusive closure? The British listed twenty-six missing from the battle that stretched from Concord back to Boston that day. There is a report of one British soldier of the 10th Light Infantry wounded at Lexington. Perhaps it is he who lies here. I cannot think what to say of soldiers fighting and dying on foreign fields, patriots all gamely in a cause, British and American. But of this British soldier, James Russell Lowells Lines seems as cold as the November wind:
These men were brave enough, and true
To the hired soldier’s bull-dog creed;
What brought them here they never knew,
They fought as suits the English breed:
They came three thousand miles, and died,
To keep the Past upon its throne:
Unheard, beyond the ocean tide,
Their English mother made her moan.