Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Patriots Day

The third Monday in April is Patriot's Day, celebrated in the state of Massachusetts. It commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord, and the shots "heard 'round the world." This year, for the first time, I attended the festivities in Lexington, as two of my children were playing in a fife and drum corps in the parades.

So, after rising at three, we found a spot on the ropes at the Lexington battle green at about 4:15 in the morning. (Cold and dark? Very and very.) It was a foggy morning, and quite eerie, as there were literally thousands of people quietly ringing the green in the dark and mist.

At around 5:30, the event begins with the "reading of the script." That is, the events leading up to, and including, the clash between the colonial militias and the British regulars are read out, so that people understand what they are watching. Everyone remembers that Paul Revere rode out from Charlestown on the night of April 18th. He arrived in Lexington at about 11:00 at night. He was, in the words of Longfellow, "spread[ing] the alarm, to every Middlesex village and farm." There were more specific chores, as well. John Hancock and Samuel Adams were in Lexington, and Revere's warning prompted them to flee north to Woburn.

Riding west towards Lincoln, Revere (now riding with Dawes and Prescott) was stopped by a British patrol. Two of the riders managed to escape into the woods, but Revere was captured, and his horse confiscated. He was led back to Lexington, but released, horseless, before arrival. Returning to the Buckman tavern, he found the militia milling about on the green, awaiting the arrival of the regulars.

Very shortly thereafter, Hancock's personal secretary, John Lowell, appeared, and told Revere that Hancock had left a trunk of papers in an upstairs room at the tavern, and that the papers contained much information that must not fall into British hands. Revere and Lowell went to the tavern, removed the trunk, and carried it out across the green, through the assembled militia, just as the British were coming into view. And that is about where the re-enactment begins...

Revere and Lowell carrying Hancock's trunk

The militia on the green

The British column arrives

"The shot heard 'round the world"

The British advance, the militia retreats

Musket smoke obscures the battlefield

The re-formed British column continues on to Concord

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