The Rising of the Militia
It seemed as if men came down from the clouds.
--A letter from Boston,
April 19, 1775
IMMEDIATELY after the alarm was received, the men of Massachusetts began to assemble in their towns. Lexington's Congregational minister Jonas Clarke remembered that within moments of Paul Revere's arrival "the militia of this town were alarmed, and ordered to meet on the usual place of parade." Everyone knew what to do. Literally within minutes, men throughout the town were dressing hastily and reaching for their muskets, while wives packed a few provisions in their shoulder bags, and small children sat up in their trundle beds and rubbed the sleep from their eyes. 1
The commander of Lexington's militia, Captain John Parker, lived two miles from the Common in the southwest corner of the town. He had been elected by his fellow townsmen, and they had chosen well. John Parker was the sort of leader other men willingly follow in the face of danger. His grandson, the future minister Theodore Parker, remembered him as "a great tall man, with a large head and a high, wide brow." He was forty-six years old, and not in good health. Members of his family remembered that he had gone to bed ill the night before, and had slept only a few hours. Like many others in New England, John Parker suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis. Its ravages were far advanced in his lungs, and would have left their telltale signs in the burning intensity of his sunken eyes and the gauntness of his hollow cheeks.