Growing happens: A seed germination, a butterfly metamorphosis, a baby's birth. It is always gratifying to see this process unfold before your eyes. It means that the story will go on or life will go on because of efforts out of your control or direction. There is also undoubtedly the twinge of angst - how can this happen without me?
That may be a modern emotion. I believe our patriot ancestors had a different sense about letting go or sending their offspring out to fight. I'm not sure as a 21st century mom I understand exactly. I read with interest the letter from Richard Caswell to his son telling him to prepare for the coming dangers after attending the second continental Congress.
May 11, 1775.
My Dear Son,
By a gentleman bound to Tar River, 1 now write to inform you that after I parted with you, Mr. Hewes and myself proceeded on our jour-ney as follows: Sunday evening we arrived at Petersburg in Virginia where we met the ex-press with an account of a Battle between the King's Troops and the Bostonians. The next day we crossed James River and lodged at Hanover Court House, where we had an account of 1,500 men being under arms to proceed to Williamsburg in order to oblige Lord Dunmore (Royal Gov. of Va.) to return some powder he had taken out of the magazine and lodged on board of a man-of-warm James River. The next day we were constantly meet-ing armed men who had been to escort the Delegates for Virginia on their way towards this place. Then when we got down to Potow-mack (Potomac) side before the boats re-turned here were part of the Militia of three counties under arms, and in the uniforms of hunting shins. They received us and con-ducted us, on the return of the boats, to the water's edge with all the military honors due to general officers.
We then crossed the river, and learned at the ferry on Maryland side that a company of Independent in Charles Co. had attended the Virginia Delegates from thence under arms. Their Company consisted of 68 men besides officers, all genteelly drest in scarlet and well equipped with arms and warlike implements, with drum and file.
Then finally we arrived at Baltimore through a most terrible gust of lightning, thunder wind, hail and rain and they conducted us to our lodgings at the Fountain Tavern (Grant's).
The next day we were prevailed on to stay at Baltimore, where Co/. Washington, accompa-n/ed by the rest of the Delegates, reviewed the troops. The next day we breakfasted at my old Master Cheynes and dined at Susquehannah; crossed the river and lodged at the ferry house. As / had in some measure been the cause of the Virginia gentlemen going 'round the bay by recommending that road, and being the only person in the Company acquainted with the road, I was obliged to keep with them so that / did not call on any of my relations. I sent George (servant) to Joseph Da/lam's where he left the letters I brought for our friends and was informed my grandmother and all friends were well except Mrs. Dallam who had been poorly some time. The next day we go to Wilmington where we fell in with several of the Maryland Delegates and came all into the City (Philadelphia) to dinner on the 9th. instant
Yesterday the Congress met (May 10, 1775) agreeable to appointment, and this day it was resolved that they enter upon the con-sideration of American grievances on Monday next. Here a greater martial spirit prevails, if possible, than / have been describing in Virgin-ia and Maryland. They have twenty-eight Companies complete, which make 2,000 men, who march out to the common and go thro'their exercises twice a day regularly. Scarcely anything but war/ike music is to be heard in the streets, There are several Com-panies of Quakers, they are raising men/n New York and all the nothern governments. I here-with inclose you a paper in which is a list of the killed and wounded of the King's troops. On the side of the Bostonians, thirty-seven were k//led outright, four are missing, and / forget the number wounded - / think thirty odd.
Thus, you have the fullest account l am able to give of these matters; and as the account is so long, 'Twill not be in my power to com-municate the same to any other of my country-men and friends but through you. You may therefore remember me in the strongest man-ner to your uncles, Captain Bright, and others. Show them this letter, and tell them it will be a reflection on their Country to be behind their neighbors; that it is indispensably necessary for them to arm and form into a Company or Companies of Independents. When their Com-panies are full, 68 private men each, to elect officers; viz, a captain, two lieutenants, an ensign and subalterns, and to meet as often as possible and go thro' the exercise, Receive no man but such as can be depended on; at the same time, reject none who will not discredit the Company. If / live to return, / shall most cheerfully join any of my countrymen, even as a rank and file man; and, as in the common cause am here exposed to danger, that on any other difficulties I shall not shun whilst / have any blood in my veins, but freely offer it in support of the liberties of my Country.
Tell your uncles, Clerk Samuel and Sheriff Martin, it may not be prudent for them so far to engage yet awhile in any Company as to risk the loss of their offices. But you, my dear boy, must become a soldier and risk your life in support of those invaluable blessings which once lost, posterity will never be able to re-gain.
Some men, I fear, will start objections to the enrolling of Companies and exercising the men and will say it will be acting against Gov-ernment. That may be answered "that is not so"; that we are only qualifying ourselves and preparing to defend our Country and support our liberties. I can say no more at present. But that God Almighty protect you and all and His blessing attend your good endeavor is the ardent prayer of, my dear child, your affection-ate father
P.S. Only show this letter to such as / have described above and don't let it be copied. Consult Capt. Bright, etc.
(The original letter is in the Caswell Papers, NC. Archives.)
I thought to myself that I didn't know if I could instruct my son to give himself over to battle. Its the Abraham and Isaac story. Would I ever be as brave as Abraham ? And yet, there about 4000 years later, was Richard Caswell, sending his son to war...
I felt the twinge this Sunday when I picked up my Surry County Sunday Messenger and found a beautiful story and photos of the Sons of the American Revolution flag retirement ceremony held last weekend in Elkin. It was a attended by the state SAR president, Frank Horton and representatives in period dress and what a beautiful photo they made. (I have never attended a flag retirement. I've heard of boy scouts and sometimes JROTC hosting an event, but I didn't go. This time I was at an OVTA board meeting and had to miss it, but at least one OVTA member was there. ) The DAR regent Bonnie Osborne was there and there were bagpipes.
And importantly, the paper had our local story about the overmountain men marching with Joseph Winston to Kings Mountain succinctly told in a few paragraphs by the SAR along side an almost reverent detail of the how and why of the flag retirment process. There's the twinge, not anything as pressing as a death and yet there it is: My favorite story is going along without me told by someone else.
You know you are growing when other people you don't know, can tell the same story with the same interest or can do the same task with the same talent or sing the same song with the same enthousiasm. You just have to let them do it. That's why you told the story, right?
I feel grandfathers all over the spiritual realm shouting "Huzzah!"
Well done, Sons and Daughters!