The Boston Tea Party was when colonists threw 342 chests of British East India tea overboard. The British responded by by passing the Boston Port Bill to blockade the harbor and starve citizens into submission. The Committee of Correspondence sent word to the other Colonies, which responded by calling for a day of fasting and prayer, June 1, 1774, “to seek divine direction and aid.”
In August of 1774, William Prescott led the men of Pepperell, Massachusetts, who delivered loads of rye to Boston, telling the inhabitants: “We heartily sympathize with you, and are always ready to do all in our power for your support, comfort and relief; knowing that Providence has placed you where you must stand the first shock. We consider we are all embarked in (the same ship) and must sink or swim together. …”
William Prescott continued: “If we submit to these regulations, all is gone. Our forefathers passed the vast Atlantic, spent their blood and treasure, that they might enjoy their liberties, both civil and religious, and transmit them to their posterity. … Now if we should give them up, can our children rise up and call us blessed? … Let us all be of one heart, and stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free; and may he, of his infinite mercy grant us deliverance out of all our troubles.”
William Prescott, born Feb. 20, 1726, was a Colonel who fought for the British in King George’s War, 1745, and in the French and Indian War, 1755. But now Colonel William Prescott fought for independence from Britain.
In 1775, before George Washington was chosen as Commander-in-Chief, General Israel Putnam commanded the 2,400 men at the Battle of Bunker Hill, with Colonel William Prescott in charge of the redoubt at the center. When a stray musket ball from a British gun killed an American soldier, men began to run away. To stop the confusion, Colonel William Prescott climbed on the wall of the fortification, stood upright and walked back and forth, rallying his men.
When British General Gage saw Prescott through his telescope, he asked a local loyalist if Prescott had enough courage to fight. The loyalist replied: “Prescott is an old soldier, he will fight as long as a drop of blood is in his veins.”
Samuel Swett wrote in his “History of Bunker Hill” that as the 3,000 British soldiers advanced: “The American marksmen are with difficulty restrained from firing. General Israel Putnam rode through the line, and ordered that no one should fire till they arrived within eight rods. … Powder was scarce and must not be wasted. They should ‘not fire at the enemy till they saw the whites of their eyes …’ The same orders were reiterated by Prescott at the redoubt.”
Historian George Bancroft wrote that at the redoubt in the center of battle: “No one appeared to have any command but Colonel Prescott. … His bravery could never be enough acknowledged and applauded.”
While the Americans suffered 450 casualties, the British suffered over 1,000. Among the Americans killed was the courageous Dr. Joseph Warren, president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, who had a few months earlier sent Paul Revere and William Dawes on their midnight ride to warn Lexington and Concord that the British were coming.
The next year, 1776, William Prescott then fought in the Battle of Long Island. In 1777, William Prescott fought in the Battle of Saratoga, being depicted in John Trumbull’s painting of the surrender of General Burgoyne which is in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
The city of Prescott, Arizona, is named after his grandson, historian William H. Prescott. A contemporary of William Prescott was respected Baptist minister Isaac Backus, who was a founder of Brown University and a delegate to the Massachusetts Convention which ratified the U.S. Constitution.
In 1775, Isaac Backus addressed the Massachusetts Assembly at the beginning of the Revolutionary War: “Is not all America now appealing to Heaven against the injustice of being taxed. … We are persuaded that an entire freedom from being taxed by civil rulers to religious worship is not mere favor from any men in the world but a right and property granted us by God, who commands us to stand fast in it.”
On July 7, 1775, Anglican Rev. Jacob Duché preached to the First Battalion of the City of Philadelphia, dedicating his sermon to General George Washington: “‘Stand fast’ by a strong faith and dependence upon Jesus Christ, the great Captain of your salvation. Enlist under the banner of His cross. And let this motto be written upon your hearts, In hoc signo vinces, ‘Under this standard thou shalt overcome.’ … ‘Stand fast’ … three millions of people … bound by no other ties than those of honor and public virtue. … ‘Stand fast’ by an undaunted courage … even a courage that will prove you to be good Christians, as well as soldiers, a firm invincible fortitude of soul, founded upon religion, and the glorious hope of a better world; a courage, that will enable you not only to withstand an armed phalanx, to pierce a squadron, or force an entrenchment … but will support you … against the principalities and powers of darkness. … Calling upon you to thank Heaven for his great and gracious interposition … Surely ‘the God of Jacob was their refuge.’ … Be prepared, therefore, for the worst. Suffer not your spirits to evaporate … Wait for those events which are in the hands of providence, and depend upon Him alone for strength. … Let us … ‘stand fast’ as the guardians of liberty.”
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