THE GREAT FEAR
A Rural Panic in New England

Nor will old Time ever erase the horrors of the midnight cry preceding the Bloody Massacre at Lexington. --Hannah Winthrop

AFTER THE MILITIA marched away, early in the morning of April 19, the mood was dark in the towns they left behind. Nearly everyone believed that this was no mere drill or demonstration. On both sides, there was a strange and fatal feeling that bloodshed was inevitable.

The people of New England did not wish for war. This was not a warrior culture. It did not seek glory on the field of valor, and showed none of the martial spirit that has appeared in so many other times and places. There were no cheers or celebrations when the militia departed--nothing like the wild exultation of the American South at the outbreak of the Civil War, or the bizarre bloodlust of the European middle classes in 1914.

The people of New England knew better than that. In 140 years they had gone to war at least once in every generation, and some of those conflicts had been cruel and bloody. Many of the men who mustered that morning were themselves veterans of savage fights against the French and Indians. They and their families knew what war could do. The mood in Massachusetts was heavy with foreboding.

In the town of Acton, Hannah Davis always remembered the terrible moment when her husband left her. He was about thirty years old, and the captain of Acton's minute company. She was

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