The roots of the current predicament can be found in our carelessness with the irreplaceable prize we were bequeathed.
A few weeks ago my partner, Kara, and I were given the opportunity to document the family cemetery of Revolutionary War soldier Nathan Carpenter, who fought at Bunker Hill. We received permission from the company that now owns the property to photograph and geotag the graves as part of our long-term project to identify and record the final resting places of all known veterans of the Battle of Bunker Hill, which occurred 246 years ago this week.
This has been a difficult effort for several reasons. First, there is no comprehensive list of soldiers who were engaged in the battle. Apart from a 100-year-old spotty list of New Hampshire soldiers who were at Bunker Hill, I’ve had to comb through muster rolls, local history books, pension applications, and other documents. To date, I’ve identified more than 1,000 confirmed Bunker Hill veterans.
The task has been instructive and rewarding. America is a beautiful place, and we’ve had the opportunity to see some of the wonderful landscapes our country has to offer. And once given the chance to tell people what we’re trying to do, we have received nothing but encouragement and support.
Getting to know the stories of these founding Americans, with all their triumphs, tribulations, and tragedies, has reminded me of how costly and precious is the legacy all of us as Americans have inherited.
Contrary to the current dominant media narrative, these veterans were not fighting for slavery or white supremacy. In fact, there were dozens of African American and Native Americans, even slaves, who fought at Bunker Hill. Peter Salem, Jude Hall, Barzillai Lew, and many others would later serve in many of the war’s biggest battles.
Soldiers from the Mashpee, Wampanoag, Hassanamisco, Nipumc, Tunxis, Mohegan, and Pequot tribes were also present at the battle, stationed east of the Breed’s Hill redoubt along the rail fence, where some of the fiercest fighting took place. Half of the Native Americans present at Bunker Hill would eventually lose their lives in service during the war, either in action or to disease.
We owe much, and seem to care less and less about fulfilling our obligation. The irony is in the nature of the only right and proper method of redeeming our debt, which is simplicity itself: to guard jealously the American legacy of freedom, and remain forever viligant and wary of the ever-present malefactors who are eternally plotting to steal it away from its rightful heirs, at any imaginable opportunity.