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Saturday, March 3, 2012

The following emotionally-charged letter......

is said to have been written by a British soldier to his wife and children after he was mortally wounded at the Battle of Bunker, 1775. I am not absolutely certain as to its authenticity - the language actually strikes me as being a bit more flowery than it should be considering the circumstances in which it was supposed to have been composed!  However, this was the 18th century, an age in which the straight-laced poetic style was prevalent, and I did find it in a very old eye-witness account of the American Revolution first published in 1811 when documents from the Revolution were much easier to obtain. Just in case any of you are interested, the title of the book was Occurrences During the Late American War by Sgt. Roger Lamb. It was written by a British veteran of the Royal Welch Fusiliers who fought in the American Revolution. I found his narrative riveting, flowery language and all!

     So here's said letter. For its moving poetic quality alone, I think it merits posting. The things the author says about his religious experience (shades of the "Great Awakening" and Mr. Wesley, it seems) are quite touching and not out of place for this Lenten Season:

    "Yesterday we had a bloody and obstinate fight, in which many were killed and numbers wounded. I have received two balls, one in my groin and the other near the breast. I am now so weak with the loss of blood that I can hardly dictate these few lines, as the last tribute of my unchangeable love to you. The surgeons inform me that three hours will be the utmost I can survive. Alas, too true was the dire presage that brooded in my mind, that we should never meet again on this side of an awful eternity.

    During our passage from England 
to America, I gave myself up to read the Bible, as it was the only book I was possessed of. The Almighty Parent of mankind was pleased to draw my heart to him, by the sweet attraction of his grace; and at the same time to enlighten my mind. There was in our regiment a corporal whose name was Pierce, a pious man; I inquired after him, and we soon contracted a strong friendship. He was pleased to explain to me the amazing love of God, in giving His son Jesus Christ to bleed and die for mankind. He condescended to untold to me the mystery of salvation by faith, the nature of the new birth, and the great necessity of holiness of heart and life. In short, he became my spiritual father; and, under God, to him I owe all the good I am acquainted with.

    Soon after we landed, God was pleased to speak peace to my soul. Oh the bliss, the unutterable joy that I then felt through the blood of the Lamb! How did I long to tell all the world what Jesus had done for me! But how did I long, yea, burn, to have you to taste and know the love of God in Christ Jesus! I would have given all the world to have been with you, to have informed you of the pearl of great price. As we shall never meet more in this vale of tears, let me impose this last, this dying obligation upon you; and if ever I was dear to you, let me beg of you not to neglect the last advice of your departing husband. 

    It is that you give yourself up to God, read the Bible and other good books, and be often found among them who inquire after salvation. And the Lord shall guide you in His ways. O endeavour to bring up the dear little ones in the fear of God. Never fix your heart upon the vain and unsubstantial things of the world. Heaven and the love of God are the only things that demand our hearts, or at least are worthy of engrossing them.

    And you, my dear infants, though you have not the perfect knowledge of your worthless father, I beg of you to meet me in the realms of bliss. The God that blessed Jacob and Joseph shall bless you. Seek Him and He will be found of you; call upon Him, and He will hear and bless you. What has the world but sin and sorrow? The rich are oppressed with wealth; and the poor are groaning for the want of that which others are burdened with. The men in power are afflicted with holding the reins and guiding the helm, and the governed are oppressed with imaginary evils. 

    The life of a soldier is blood and cruelty, and that of a sailor is filled with dangers and deaths. A city life is full of confusion and strife; and that of the country is loaded with toil and labour. But the evil of all evils flows from our own sinful nature. Wherever we are, we may be happy; we have the key to bliss in our own breasts. The world itself never yet made anyone happy. God is the bliss and solace of a reasonable soul; and God is everywhere, and we have everywhere access to Him. Learn then, my dear children, when you grow up, to seek your permanent happiness in God, through a crucified redeemer.

    My dear wife, should the spirits of the departed have any knowledge of things here below, and at the same time any intercourse with them, (though unseen,) how shall I rejoice to be thy guardian angel, to attend you, and smile to see you combat sin, conquer the world, and subdue the flesh. How shall I smile to meet you on the bright frontiers of heaven. These hands shall weave for you the wreath triumphant! I first shall hail you welcome to your native mansions! I first shall guide you to the celestial city, and introduce you among the jubilant throng, who tread the streets of the New Jerusalem. I first will lead you to the sacred throne of our God, where we will together bow, transported at the feet of the ever adorable Jesus. Then, then, will we strike our melodious harps of gold, in the most exalted strains of harmony and love. Then shall our love be consummated, refined, and eternalized!

"The world recedes, it disappears
Heaven opens on my eyes, my ears
With sounds seraphic ring:
Lend, lend your wings, I mount, I fly!
Oh! Grave where is thy victory?
Oh! Death where is thy sting?"

   More would I say, but life ebbs out apace, my tongue ceases to perform its office; bright angels stand round the gory turf on which I lie, ready to escort me to the arms of my Jesus; bending saints reveal my shining crown, and beckon me away: yea, methinks, my Jesus bids me come.

Adieu! Adieu! Dear Love.

John Randon"

 


The Battle of Bunker Hill, 1775



5 comments:

  1. I found this story inspiring, to say the least, having never heard of it before! True religious fervor (however long ago it was expressed) is always a welcome tonic against today's lukewarm apathy regarding a moral life. I do, however, agree that it's a bit hard to imagine a mortally-wounded soldier dictating that long and poetic of a letter; though perhaps, for the sake of his family's conversion, he was sustained by the grace of God!

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  2. Indeed, the story really is quite inspiring, and I think it should be better publicized. Of course, it may be that most historians are skeptical as to letter's authenticity and don't want to confirm it as a momento of the American Revolution. But I still think it should be introduced to people if only for the beauty of its poetry and depth of its message. Besides, there doesn't seem to be any evidence that is fake, only speculation about the flowery language.

    And you bring up an interesting point about the possibility of God sustaining him in order to bring about the conversion of his family. I believe in such things and in God's workings in history and in personal lives.

    If there was a real redcoat named John Randon, I keep his soul in my prayers. Won't you join me?

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  3. Of course I will :-) By the way, I love the depiction of the Battle of Bunker Hill you have at the end of your post. Any idea as to the artist?

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  4. I am in tears after reading the letter. What a beautiful gift he gave his wife and children. Thank you for posting. i will have to share this.

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  5. Hi, Mary and Maryann C.!

    @Mary: I agree, this is one of the better artistic depictions of Bunker Hill I've seen. I don't know who the artist is, but if I find out, I'll be sure to let you know!

    @Maryann C.: Thank you for visiting my blog and posting your lovely comment. I'm glad you found the letter to be inspiring. As an a former member of the British military, it must hold a special significance for you.

    Yes, please do share it. I think this letter really should be better publicized.

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