Dr J Rufus Fears – Story of Freedom – (1 of 18) – Introduction: The Guns of Lexington


bjbj Lecture #1 This is the story of American
freedom. It is the story of how the freedom of the United States was born with the Declaration
of Independence. That makes it still the only nation in history founded upon moral principles,
proclaiming to the entire world that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator
with the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is the story
of how that freedom was won on the field of battle, the story of how it was ensured by
a Constitution that still gives us freedom today more than 200 years later. It is the
story of how that American freedom spread across a continent, of how that freedom was
re-founded during a great Civil War and how the United States went on to be the bastion
of freedom for the entire world. It is a story that is rooted in the fundamental belief that
historical thought is crucial to the survival of a democracy. We will start with that galaxy
of statesmen that we call the founders. Imagine what they achieved. They declared their independence
from the greatest superpower of the day. They won it on the field of battle. They crafted
a Constitution that was ratified by their fellow citizens and still gives us freedom
today. They then went on to prove to the doubting heads of Europe that democracy could work
and that people we the people could govern ourselves. Now when that Constitution was
crafted the United States consisted of 13 republics straggling along the eastern seaboard.
It was a time in which Benjamin Franklin or George Washington traveled in the same way
and communicated in the same way as Julius Caesar did. They rode. They walked. They wrote
out a message and sent it by messenger. Today that Constitution still works in an age of
technology that would have astounded even Benjamin Franklin in all his wisdom. There
are those of you out there no doubt multitasking while I talk texting perhaps texting a friend
in Australia and getting back an immediate message. George Washington got no better care
medically than did a Roman gladiator in the first century AD. Why if I should fall down
here of a heart attack doctors could be rushed in I could literally be brought back from
the dead. Why? Why were the founders capable of such an enduring achievement? It is because
they thought historically. Historical knowledge that s good for nothing but Trivial Pursuit
that s what you look up on the internet. No historical thought is using the lessons of
the past to make decisions in the present and to plan for the future. Historical thought
is using the knowledge of the past to make decisions in the present and to plan for the
future. The founders learned from history. They learned from the English experience of
liberty. They learned from ancient Greece and Rome and the republics and democracies
that had flourished there. We live in an A historical age. We live in an age in which
certainly lots of histories are published great blockbuster biographies of presidents,
800 pages long. We even have a history channel on the television. But we do not think historically.
In fact, we believe that we are above the lessons of history, that all of our science
and technology has made us immune to the laws of history and I tell you that much of our
economic problem, our foreign policy disasters are due to this arrogant, ignoral of the lessons
of history. It is the purpose of this course to use the story of American freedom to bring
us back to thinking historically and it is also the purpose of this course to reflect
upon the lessons of American freedom for the critical situation in which the United States
finds itself today to learn from history and to make that history speak to us today. So
to begin this story of American freedom I want you to go back with me to an April morning
about 2:00 in the morning April the 19th, 1775. And you are not you. You are a British
soldier one of the crack units elite troops that King George III has stationed in the
city of Boston in the royal colony of Massachusetts. You are highly trained. You have proven against
the French in the war that ended in 1763 that you are the best army in the world, resplendent
in your red coats and white pants, armed with your musket and bayonet. You are about to
embark upon an entirely legal mission. The governor of Massachusetts Sir Thomas Gage
is under the strongest possible pressure from London to put down the civil unrest that is
rocking his North American colonies. Now you Thomas Gage you like Americans. You re even
married to an American. But you must follow these orders. And so you have sent out this
group of Redcoats of which you are private. Now remember now you are not in a very good
frame of mind. You have been waiting around for about three hours and you haven t had
sleep for more than 24 hours and your feet are wet. You have been forced to march across
a little creek. Your officers, of course, ride on their horses but your shoes have gotten
wet, your silk stockings have gotten wet and you know that if you are on this long march
they re going to rub blisters. And then you find out you have been waiting around just
to get some rations when you already had rations. But finally you start off under the command
of your rather portly, elderly commander Sir Francis Smith, second in command, a capable
soldier John Pitcairn of the marines but as you march along you are uneasy. Your mission
is to collect cannons and Thomas Gage has very definite information that these colonists
you must remember that these colonists are Englishmen; they are the subjects of the king
that they have been collecting cannons. Now these are weapons of mass destruction. They
had no purpose other than to kill the king s men like you. You don t go hunting for ducks
with a cannon. So these cannons are illegal and they must be confiscated. But as you march
along you saw all of these farmers on your way to Concord via the little town of Lexington,
about 20 miles from Boston. You thought these farmers would all be asleep but there are
lights on in their windows and a lot of bustling activity going on. Governor Gage has spies
inside his own cabinet. The Committee of Public Safety under men like Sam Adams and Paul Revere
have learned that your expedition is underway, that Governor Gage is going to seize cannons
either in the town of Wooster or in the town of Concord. Now if you the British are going
to march to Wooster you ll go by a land route. If you re going to go to Concord you must
be rode across the bay hence, the message to the patriots One if by land; two if by
sea. And so there are two lanterns hanging in the Old North Church tower. You march along
your way. It s getting more and more towards daybreak. Up and down the roads patriots like
Paul Revere are riding pounding on the doors of patriots The Redcoats are coming! And from
these sturdy towns began to arise militiamen Minutemen well-armed, many of them with rifles
that can shoot much further than a British musket, trained in British tactics during
the French and Indian War, well-drilled, fearless. Finally, as daybreak comes you British troops
have arrived in the town of Lexington and there blocking your way are 77 of these Minutemen.
Your officer rides up to them and says, Lay down your arms, you damned rebels and disperse.
Your commanding officer speaks gently but firmly. t fire unless fired upon but if the
British want a war then let it start right here. Then no one would ever know. But a shot
was fired. The American troops took the volley. So nine of them were killed. One of them was
shot and staggered back home to be bayoneted to death before the horrified eyes of his
wife and children. And all the commanding officer said to Karen Smith This is bad business.
We ve just shot down some of the king s subjects. Yes, but they were preparing to fire upon
us. I know but we have got to find cannons in Concord to justify shedding this blood.
And so the British march on until they come to the town of Concord. Not a whole lot is
going on in the little farm town. The officers climb a hill to reconnoiter. The regular British
troops are sent scouring around, looking for cannons. In their reconnoitering the officers
see that there is a bridge over a river, flowing down alongside the town so they detach 98
troops to guard that bridge very cautious action. But where are the cannons? Time and
time again the troops report back There are no cannons. No, there are none in that barn.
There are none to be found. There have got to be cannons! No. I m sorry Sir but there
are no cannons. Well those wagons over there they must have been used to carry cannons.
Uh-uh. Excuse me Sir but those are just farm wagons. Confiscate them anyway. Well you re
one of the 98 that has been detached to the Old North Bridge and there nothing going on;
getting warmer your officers give you the order to take a nap. You re grateful for it.
You lie down, you fall into a deep sleep and then as it gets towards noon you hear a noise
like the swarming of bees. You get up, you look out and there are hundreds of American
militiamen in their varied uniforms, their guns carried easily and rifles, wearing tomahawks
at their belt. They are Minutemen from the nearby towns like Sudbury and Acton. They
have come at this minute s notice. They march right down that hill. Your officers form merely
walked into a formation that is able to deal with such a group but before you re all in
line the Americans just let loose with that deadly volley of fire from those rifles, killing
you at 200 yards, giving you no chance to fire your muskets or move in with the dreaded
bayonet. And the British break and run. One of them is wounded and falls across the bridge,
hanging on there by the rails and an American stops and scalps him with his tomahawk. Two
more die alongside him and this routed British unit rushes back into the town. Your officers
are stupefied. It can t be! Where are all these troops coming from? They re trained
militiamen. Well maybe having drawn some blood they ll go back when they see what a large
force we have. They do not go back. They start firing directly into the British troops and
there is nothing for it but for the commanding officer Smith and Major Pitcairn to give the
order Retreat and back the British go towards Lexington and then Concord. But the Americans
do not stop now. They continue to fire volley after volley after volley, from stone walls
driving the British soldiers almost to madness, British soldiers leaping those walls to get
at the Americans, burning down American farmhouses. But still the slaughter goes on. They are
about to surrender when as they approach Lexington they hear the comforting sound and see their
comrades drawn up in order. Governor Gage has started to worry that he sent out too
small a force and so he has sent out reinforcements and two cannons. That ought to stop these
bloody colonials! But it doesn t. They follow this larger British force all the way to Boston
and the British limp into town suffering extremely heavy casualties. It has been a complete disaster.
Well, what amazes me is that if a group of Americans today got in such a situation having
shot upon their own army they would immediately appear at the courthouse with lawyers to do
a plea bargain. Not these sturdy men of New England. Instead they gathered an army of
16,000 men from New England under the leadership of General Israel Putnam. Now I want you to
remember something because you buy your groceries at the Wal-Mart. April that s planting time.
These men are mostly farmers. If they don t get that crop in their family doesn t eat.
But they are willing to risk that for freedom and thus, in a manner that would have impressed
a European officer, the American forces throw up siege works all around the town of Boston
and except by sea where the British ships dominate the British forces inside Boston
are besieged and in serious trouble. By June new generals have arrived like General William
Howe. He immediately surveys the situation. If the British could get cannons up upon the
heights there at Boston they could fire down upon and wreck the American siege lines. But
General Putnam has already had that idea and on June the 16th some 1,200 Americans in the
evening silently make their way up to the heights Breed s Hill; Bunker Hill under William
Prescott. And when the sun comes up on the 17th of June still 1775 Governor Gage looks
out and the hills are dominated by a superb set of fortification. He turns to one of his
advisors a loyalist; an American and says, That soldier up there on the ramparts that
officer do you know him? Taking the spyglass Oh yes. That s my brother in law, William
Prescott. Will he fight? s an old soldier and he ll fight you like the devil. We cannot
allow this to go on. I am ordering a direct frontal assault upon that fortification. Please,
the generals plead. Let us use our fleet. No. We must show these rebels that they cannot
stand up to the British army. And thus 2,200 crack British troops are landed on the shore
not far from Breed s Hill or Bunker Hill. They start up in their three rows as they
always go 80 steps per minute wearing their heavy red jackets, their woolen pants, their
woolen underwear, carrying full field pack and as they approach they notice that the
Americans have driven little white stakes at regular intervals 80 yards, 70 yards, 60
yards marking off when a British musket might be able to begin to fire. Hold steady boys!
says Prescott. t fire until you see the whites of their eyes. Now fire! And it is a blistering
volley that sends the British tumbling down the hill. Using good strategy good tactics
another group of British troops have been detached to outflank the Americans. They think
they re carrying out this maneuver unseen. But as they reach the American fortifications
suddenly they find out the Americans have a hidden fortification there in their path
and sharpshooters from New Hampshire leap up and give them a withering, devastating,
deadly blast of fire. So the whole British force tumbles down the hill. Send them back
up! Send them back up! re losing so many officers, as well as men. Our orders are to take it
by frontal assault. And so the brave British go up again only to be driven back down with
heavy casualties. Where are those cannons I ordered? says General Howe and overall command.
Well, we got the cannons General but we got the wrong size cannonballs. Tell them to go
up again. Sir, the men are willing to go up again but they ask can they please get these
damned woolen coats off? Can they strip down to their underwear? Can they strip off their
field rations? Can they go up in small groups not marching and rank upon rank? Tell them
to do it. And so off they go. But by this time the Americans are running out of ammunition.
Some of them have only one round left. Among these is Dr. Joseph Warren, the most distinguished
physician in America. He made a fortune because he had the courage to use the newly discovered
smallpox vaccine when no other doctor in Boston dared use it. He is a member of the Committee
of Public Safety. He might even have been an officer commanding. He is chosen to fight
as a private in the ranks. And so the British come and it s clubby and the British the British
using their bayonets, William Prescott s coat still preserved with the many British bayonet
thrusts through it. Dr. Warren dies there on the field of honor and in good order the
Americans retreat. One out of ever two British soldiers, including many officers, has been
killed or wounded. The siege continues and the Congress of these American colonies meeting
in Philadelphia understands that this is a war. They must form a regular army drawn from
all the colonies and appoint a Commander in Chief. And so it would be on July the 1st,
1775 that General George Washington from Virginia who has known that this war must come appears
in Cambridge Massachusetts, resplendent in his blue uniform, riding his magnificent stallion
with dignity every man s eyes attracted by his strength of character, his firmness of
will. Washington there under an elm in Cambridge takes command of this army of the colonies
and thus the war with Britain has become a reality. Will it be just a revolt of rebels
or will it see the proclamation of a new nation? Lecture #1 PAGE \* MERGEFORMAT wiwi[iMiMiMiM
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29 thoughts on “Dr J Rufus Fears – Story of Freedom – (1 of 18) – Introduction: The Guns of Lexington

  • I am so thrilled that these lessons are online for the entire world to enjoy! That man was the most influential teach I ever had and I hope future generations can listen and learn life lessons through history.

  • I am so luckly to have stumbled across this great great teacher, I have lisened to many of his lectures on the internet. RIP

  • So sorry to hear that Dr. Fears has passed on.  I hope he woke up in the Elysium fields and spoke to Socrates like he wished.  It is gems like this that make us realise how lucky we are to have youtube.

  • He just couldn't keep his own politics out of his discourse. Shame. A great storyteller, sure. A bit melodramatic. But a scholar? Not for the ages. For America, certainly, but not for all time. 

  • The best. Understood the big picture, did not settle for immediate political gain. Made Harvard look like a microcephalic backwater.

  • lol of course you read it or you wouldn't have deleted it!   And don't worry, it was no effort at all  😉 

    Strange that someone would be host of his material only to try to discredit him, and even stranger that an alleged academician would be so quick to censor.  Well, a Great Academician like Rufus wouldn't be sitting around on a Saturday waiting to respond to posts on YouTube.  Feel free to delete this too if you find truth to be painful.

    RIP to a great thinker, great Academician, and a person who inspired others.

  • Doesn't it just break your heart that theres only 8,278 views and 68 likes? What is wrong with humans!? OMG what a treasure trove of information..wow.

  • First heard about Dr. Fears from BookTV interview with Senator Tom Cole. Glad I tracked this down just when my interest in the Revolutionary period in American has surfaced. Good speaker!

  • I am thankful for educators like Rufus Fears, and share his work with my family- in particular- my children, colleagues, friends and my students.

  • Like a sky pilot preaching about American ‘exceptionalism’ and skipping all the uncomfortable bits that don’t fit.

  • This was written to a specific person so mind that but im actually just looking for anyone advise and life experiences perferable from a successful person with any or all of the traits that i would like to improve upon, sorry for this poorly written message i left it most "raw" to demonstrate my "at rest" vocabulary and literacy hence the spelling mistakes and poor punctuation. i would like to become a more sofisticated person; i want to be more articulate and a more social person. I have a lot of anxiety (general and social) which is caused by lack of things to say, lack of knowledge. I am not a stupid person i just didnt pay attention enough in school i thought it was cool to not do school work and be "Bad" at school. Im now 25 years old and i feel like im not that articualate i studder alot and have a terrible vocabulary (if you couldnt already tell). I honestly never really read that much my entire life; i think green eggs and ham was the last book i read cover to cover when i was 7 years old or so. I guess im messaging you because of your education history; im wondering if you have any suggestions for me. Should I start reading everyday on my own if so do you have any book suggestions; keep in mind im terrible at reading especially out loud i often replace word and meaning of sentences, should i look into a reading/learning program, should i go back to college (i have a AAS in HVAC/R) and take basic liberal arts and english classes to refresh and sharpen my brain? I smoke a decent amount of weed and partake in other recreational drugs once or twice a year; i fear that they have duled me a little bit(memory and literacy skills). I want to be a smarter more interesting person. Being more knowledgeable about current event and the basic workings of the political system in america would give me confidence to speak up, have an opinion of my own and would make me not be anxious during all conversations as an adult. I understand being that are very articulate are usually very smart and read a lot so im guessing that is the route i will have to take. I have a hard time just being myself im always trying to conform to what i think people expect of me (which is really just an arbitrary opinion that i created and assigned to others). I have a hard time understanding social norms im not clueless but in a bar or party setting i am totally clueless on what to do; talk to people and be social about what? Im not interested in what everyone else is Im into formula 1, other racing series, and generally more technical things which are all uncommon interest in america and causes me to have a tough time relating to guys my own age because im not into the traditional sports anymore (i played soccer and baseball from age 4-14 and basically stopped because the social aspect of these sports was too much for me as i went through middle school and entered into high school). The anxiety has caused me to isolate myself in many ways and became a compounding issue early on. I would avoid social situations so i did not experience the anxiety that comes along with them but this only makes it harder to be social because the more time i spent isolated from people the more extreme the anxiety gets; the more anxious i am during social situations the more i studder and become less articulate which instantly causes the anxiety level to rise and makes me act in ways that "arent me" and say things that are stupid or dont make sense. OMG this message has been a huge jumbled mess of a rant that turned into self pitty. I guess im just asking for your educated and im guessing very articualte, knowledgble opinion on what i should do to become a more well rounded person. I admire professional people that work in higher up positions that have a lot of confidence and wisdom such as regional managers to ceo, cfo, and even highly motivated business owners that are doers. i want to become a smarter, more articulate, motivated person that is a doer a problem solver. Please Help any advice is appreciated even if its just obvious words of wisdom and the more details the better im ready to turn my life around.

  • I listened to Mr. Fears lectures on the trials of Socrates and now this. What a treasure. His insights on history are truly an epiphany for me. Thank you, sir. If our democracy had more teachers and citizens like you we might not be in the current hot mess we find ourselves in.

  • Oh man, just seeing comments he has passed. So sorry to hear that. Like others would have like to meet or at least correspond with him to express my gratitude. We are lucky many of his lectures and courses are preserved for future generations.

  • I was fortunate enough to take a class taught by Dr. Fears in 2011at the University of Oklahoma. Learned sooo much from him, what a brilliant teacher. I highly recommend all of his courses from TTC (thegreatcourses.com), especially Famous Greeks and Famous Romans. And the Wisdom of History.

  • I pretty much have the entire collection of The Teaching Company lectures. I usually go to sleep listening to an hour or two of them… And after hearing a few courses from this guy, I decided today to do a bit more research on the man. Unfortunately, I found that he passed away late 2012. I absolutely love his story-telling qualities. History professors come in many types, but many of them are simply boring and require simple memorization of dates and places and names. It's clear that this man taught in a way that would make the students remember — which is, afterall, the whole point of teaching.

  • "Historical thought is crucial to the survival of a Democracy" This would be profound, if we had a Democracy.

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