The Wake of War
By Ryan Schnurr
Grade 8 Perkins Middle School
Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Sally DeForest Chapter
The rough stone street made our thunderous stomps even louder. John and I were going to the Second Continental Congress held at the Pennsylvania State House. We were surrounded by our fellow delegates from the colonies; from Jefferson to Franklin, the long list of intelligent representatives could fill an acclaimed novel.
Jefferson was in his fine navy blue suit, his boots and breeches were pristine. Franklin’s long, large brown suit covered his trousers. The State House seemed to have a million steps and still men from around the colonies treaded onwards. Inside the State House, organized chairs and tables rested on the dirty wooden floor. Thomas Jefferson was assigned to read Washington’s letter to Congress. He read it as I sat near Adams; we both represented Massachusetts. This duty came with unfortunate surprises as Boston, our patriotic center, was embroiled in scandal and controversy. Adam’s relative, Samuel, had caused quite a stir in the harbor.
After reading Washington’s lengthy letter, Jefferson declared with fury, “The king has denied our request for peace and serenity.”
“Damn,” Jefferson yelled.
Jefferson’s anger affected the tone of the room. Bang! Jefferson slammed his fist on the wooden table. The loud bang echoed throughout the hall.
“Mister Jefferson, please act appropriately,” Adams commanded.
“Apologies, Adams,” Jefferson replied.
I looked at my array of papers scattered across our table.
After a long and suspenseful pause, I worriedly asked,“But, gentlemen, what shall we do?”
Mister Jefferson had cooled down; his previously angry demeanor changed to one of calmness. We all participated in a long discussion as a result of my question. After hours of talk, we decided to prepare for war. We had always thought of this nonsensical, gruesome concept, but we never wanted to waste human lives. Now war could calm the routy waves of rebellion. The colonists were just preparing. If the unjust king were to commit one more unfair act, then war would be the most probable possibility. John Jay, the delegate from New York, spoke of his concern, “Should we send men to fight? Even for their freedom, they cannot die.”
“Correct, John, but we have pursued peaceful action. A day ago, we sent His Majesty King George III our petition, but he did not read it. We can not commit to peace if all parties will not participate. We have tried our absolute best,” Jefferson replied, his face, one of dismay and sadness.
The room grew silent and shocked.
“Truly, I wholeheartedly agree, Mister Jefferson,” Adams remarked.
Massachusetts had been a boiling pot of conflict, and the incident at the harbor was not the first. Adams had always known this, and he wanted retribution, not only for himself but for the entire city of Boston. I nodded my head in agreement at Adam’s proposal. The British deserved war, the most bloody of all wars. The entire hall went silent: they sat appalled at the events unfolding. War? Bloodshed? Retribution? Shall we not be peaceful? These questions circulated throughout my mind, infecting my thoughts and desires.
At the small rectangular lectern stood Adams; he talked of the concept of war. “If war does occur, may I nominate the veteran George Washington for the position of Commander-in-Chief of our newest Continental Army?” Adams questioned. The whole crowd agreed.
I was perplexed. War was the answer to the British infirmity, but how could war be accomplished? I spoke of this question, “Men,” the boisterous cheer stopped,” How could war be accomplished?”
“That will be the discussion for tomorrow’s meeting. I hope to see all of you healthy and happy tomorrow evening,” Jefferson said.
My question, though never thoroughly answered, made me ponder for the night. My residence was in the heart of Boston. It was a pain to travel from Boston to Philadelphia as it took multiple hours, but I could not overlook the tremendous opportunity of making history.
The next evening, the carriage took Adams and me back to the State House. War was on the delegates’ minds and the whole group knew of the consequences. The day before I had asked how war could be accomplished and the question was not answered. This was the first event on our docket. The discussion evolved into talk of independence; the group agreed that war could only be justified if the colonies were to gain independence and freedom. “The king is not malevolent; his tyranny affects us all,” Adams declared, “We must gain our independence for the colonies and ourselves.”
“Adams, could we not make peace?” the sheepish John Jay asked.
“Peace can not be accomplished; our only choice is war, and it will come soon,” Adams said.
Independence could mean freedom and justice. It must work.
The next day’s events unfolded as the day before. Some delegates sat in shock at these revolutionary ideas, but the rest of us strategized and planned for our next moves. The next days we did the same. I was a vocal point in our strategy of war. We needed a defensive position and so, after scanning a map of the colonies, we prepared a post at Breed’s Hill. Washington is an intelligent commander, and I hope he will take advantage of our elevation.
I sat heroically. I must plan our next strategy. It is just the wake of war. I have lots of work left to complete. The war’s end seems to be out of sight.
Deverell, William, and Deborah Gray White, United States History: Beginnings to 1876, Holt McDougel, 2021. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, //www.hmhco.com/ui/#/discover/SS_NL18E_USH1877.