Wednesday, May 2, 2018


Well it happened again: I missed the deadline last month but that's what happens when you write two books at once.  However, I deem it's still close enough to the end of the month for this April entry:

The club email was an attention grabber: “243 Years Ago.”  Sent on April 12, the message announced Rio Salado Sportsman’s Club’s (RSSC) second annual tribute to “The Shot Heard Round the World” when American minutemen formed on the green at Lexington, Massachusetts, on April 19, 1775.  The email invited members and guests to participate on the 243rd anniversary of the confrontation leading to the War of Independence.

Early Thursday morning on April 19, 2018, about two dozen American patriots formed “line of battle” on Rio’s public range to fire a volley in tribute to the militias who opposed the tyranny of an occupying power.

Event organizer Dan Furbee, ably assisted by his wife Sarah, described the origin of the tribute.  Some years ago at a three-gun match Frank DeSomma of Patriot Ordnance Factory asked about 375 shooters the significance of April 19.  The first to speak up received a $100 bill.

Since then, things have accelerated.  “Fish and game departments around the country are on board,” Dan explained.  He insists, “It’s an event that we should commemorate every year not just because it was the start of the Revolution but because Lexington and Concord were the beginnings of our nation.  Americans stood up and said No to oppressive taxes, to quartering foreign troops, to cutting off foreign trade.”

Last year’s inaugural event at Rio drew seven members but at least 23 participated this year, including some range staff.  Their equipment covered the gamut, historically and technically.  Guns on the firing line included flintlocks, sidearms, single-barrel shotguns, and semi-automatic rifles to resist imaginary redcoats among the chaparral.

RSSC President Sue Little received some good-natured kidding because she was the only one wearing red—a club polo shirt.  But she took two places on the line, firing a flintlock and an M1 Garand, which one wag called “The Normandy Assault Rifle.”

I have a personal connection to the date: my mother’s family tree included the militia commanders at both Lexington and Concord:  Captain John Parker and Colonel James Barrett.  One of her distant cousins was named Parker Barrett.

On Dad’s side, Lieutenant Colonel Tench Tilghman was George Washington’s aide de camp.  In 1781 Washington selected him to take news of Lord Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown to Congress in Philadelphia.  (For objectivity, Tench’s father remained a loyalist and a brother was an ensign in the Royal Navy.)

At Lexington the militia deployed 80 men under 45-year-old Captain Parker.  A British officer rode toward the company, demanding, “Lay down your arms, you damned rebels!”  Seeing the disparity of odds, Parker ordered his men to disperse but apparently many did not hear or misunderstood him in the confusion.  Reportedly his voice was weakened by the tuberculosis that killed him five months later.

In any case, somebody loosed a shot, inevitably leading to what modernists call “firing contagion.”  Eight Americans were killed; one Brit wounded.

From there, things got out of hand.  Like totally.  The “lobster backs” continued to Concord expecting to confiscate weapons including Colonel Barrett’s cannon. 

A total of 477 militia men at both sites led to nearly 4,000 responding throughout the day.  The British columns totaled about 500 of the 700 who marched out of Boston, increasing to 1,500 at the end.

The patriots sustained 54 dead or missing and 39 wounded.  Crown casualties totaled 126 killed or missing and 174 wounded.  So the defenders won “on points” by about three to one.

It helps to recall that the American republic arose from a government gun-confiscation scheme…

There was a slight delay getting one of the Garands loaded.  But then the shooters were free to expend as much ammo as they wished: “One round or one magazine,” Dan said.

Arizona’s other TSHRTW event was held at the Ben Avery Shooting Range Facility north of Phoenix on Saturday, April 21.   Organizers and participants look forward to expanding next year’s commemoration at other ranges here in “The Territory.”

The organization’s website lists states with participating clubs: Florida, Georgia, Indiana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia, though independent sites also show events in New Hampshire.

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