In states across the nation this weekend, hundreds of men and women are working the firing lines of shooting ranges. They are demonstrating positions, correcting trigger squeeze and sight alignment issues, and teaching “talking targets.”
They’re also telling the story of the thousands of decisions made on an cool April morning in individual homes and homesteads in the villages and countryside west of Boston, 238 years ago.
Many of these instructors (and many returning students) wear shirts or patches or pins with a logo that is familiar to many, though they may not know the story behind it.
It was a logo, born of a decision made by one man, which came to symbolize both a people and a commitment.
Before sunrise on the morning of April 19, 1775, Issac Davis of Acton, Massachusetts, must have been physically exhausted and sick with worry. His wife Hannah later described the situation in her diary.
Isaac Davis was my husband. He was then thirty years of age. We had four children; the youngest about fifteen months old. They were all unwell when he left me, in the morning; some of them with the canker-rash.
Canker-rash was another name for scarlet fever, which at the time, was an often fatal illness in children.
Despite the illnesses of his children, Issac Davis would not shirk his duty to his community. His men were mustering outside. Once thirty men had assembled, he started them off towards Concord, only to stop them. He returned home and opened the door.
Hannah Davis looked into her husband’s eyes records that she knows he meant to say something of deep importance. As he stood there, emotion burning within him, he spoke the last words she would ever hear from him.
“Take good care of the children.”
Those simple words said, Captain Issac Davis rejoined his men and led them on the march upon Concord.
Davis was a gunsmith and leader of the Acton Minute Men, one of the best trained, drilled, and equipped militias in all of Massachusetts. Because of their training, Colonel James Barrett asked Davis to lead his men in the vanguard of militia against the British forces massed at Concord’s North Bridge. Davis’s response to Barrett was recorded for posterity.
“I have not a man that is afraid to go.”
As Davis’s unit advanced upon the unbelieving Redcoats “with the greatest regularity,” the Regulars fired a volley at the militia as they closed in, a volley that went high. The Redcoats reloaded and fired a second ragged volley. One of those musket balls from that second volley hit Captain Issac Davis square in the heart, killing him almost instantly. He was the first American officer to fall in what would become the American Revolutionary War.
So well-regulated were his men that they kept their composure despite losing their young leader. The formed their battle line and returned fire with such brutal ferocity and accuracy that the British broke into a disorganized, headlong retreat in just two minutes, with 44% of their officer corps cut down.
Colomnist Bob Johnson remembers Captain Davis and the sacrifices made by his family in Veteran’s Today.
Isaac taught us that to be free and to have a free society for your children you must pay a very high price. Not only did Isaac pay the price, but his wife and children did, too.
He also shows us that being a revolutionary and a patriot are compatible. In Isaac’s day most people living in America considered themselves British subjects. By being willing to recognize that his government was wrong and also being willing to break with that corrupt government in order to form a new type of government based on the rights of the people instead of the rights of a chosen few, he has given us an example of doing what is right in spite of what your government demands of you. We owe him and all of the American revolutionaries more than we know.
“Take good care of the children.”
That is a call across the generations that echoes to this day.
On the centennial of the Battle of Concord in 1875 a statue called “The Minute Man” was placed on the place where Isaac Davis fell. The sculptor was Daniel Chester French, best known for the haunting sculpture of the 16th President at the Lincoln Memorial.
Maintaining liberty demands sacrifice. It was no accident that Captain Davis became the symbol of others who were “not afraid to go.”
Today, all branches of the Army and Air National Guard in each state of the nation feature the image of Acton Minuteman Captain Issac Davis on their logos, as does the instructor cadre of Project Appleseed.