Friday, April 22, 2016
On the morning of June 17, 1775, John Quincy Adams walked with his mother, Abigail, to an orchard atop Penn's Hill, the highest point near their home in Braintree. The air was filled with the roar and crash of artillery, for at dawn British forces had begun their cannonade of Bunker Hill, which stood at the crown of a peninsula immediately north of Boston. Abigail and her four children had been cowering at home; her husband, John Adams, was three hundred miles away, at the second Continental Congress in Philadelphia. But so much turned on this long-awaited battle that Abigail felt she had to see it for herself. Perhaps she felt that her eldest son, then not quite eight years old, should see for himself the mortal consequences of the fight his father and his fellow colonists had undertaken, or perhaps she was simply very frightened and needed company. It was a clear, hot day, and even from ten miles away Johnny, as his parents called him, could see the flash of cannon fire from British ships in the harbor, the smoke from the colonists' muskets, and the great wall of flame as the wooden houses and churches of Charleston, at the very tip of the peninsula, burned beneath a hail of British incendiary shells. The noise was deafening, and the panorama of destruction must have been even more terrifying to the boy than his mother.
-James Traub, John Quincy Adams: Militant Spirit