There are so many times that I have heard people, including myself, say that we are getting too old for the conflicts that are to come. It’s easy to think that the trials that we all see as inevitable are for young men, and let’s face it, many of us cannot consider ourselves to be young any longer. So let’s take comfort in the story of Samuel Whittemore.
Samuel was not a young man when he enlisted in the Third Massachusetts Regiment and fought the French in Canada. He was 49 years old when he killed a French officer and took his sword as a war trophy.
Mr. Whittemore wasn’t done. He fought again against Chief Pontiac in the Great Lakes region at 67 years old as he led troops against the French and Indians. During that conflict, he took a pair of dueling pistols as war trophies.
For the next decade or so, he became a respected leader in the civic arena. He lobbied against the government, speaking out and being a general pain in the ass. He protested the government’s actions, complaining about this and that, went to meetings of government, and represented his town as a member of the Committee of Correspondence. That was how it came to be that, in 1772, Whittemore was one of the three contributors to Cambridge, Massachusetts’ statement in objection to the Tea Act:
If we cease to assert Our rights we shall dwindle into supineness and the chains of slavery shall be fast rivetted upon us
Then came the day when Samuel Whittemore’s family found him in his farm’s field, lying in a pool of blood, and even the town’s doctor didn’t believe that he would survive. British soldiers had left Samuel Whittemore in a pool of blood alongside a stone wall in Menotomy, Mass. after shooting the old farmer in the face, then bayoneted him at least six times and clubbed him, apparently, to death as they retreated from the skirmish at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. Samuel was 78 years old.
Located near him were the bodies of three British soldiers: one shot by a musket, another by a dueling pistol, and a third run through with an ornate French sword.
Samuel survived that day, against all odds, and lived to the ripe old age of 96. He is currently buried in Arlington, Massachusetts.
Massachusetts would not honor his heroism for another 230 years, when in 2005, Captain Samuel Whittemore was made the official state hero of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
This is the reason why we stand for the National Anthem, to honor men such as this.