J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The First Reenactment at Lexington?

Last November, Roger Fuller of Minute Man National Historical Park alerted me to a description of what might be the first “reenactment” of the fight on Lexington common, in 1822—the auspicious 47th anniversary of the British march. I’ve copied most of Roger’s comment into this “guest blogger” posting.

Albert W. Bryant read his paper “The Military Organizations of Lexington” before the Lexington Historical Society on December 9, 1890. He wrote of his own experiences in the Lexington Militia until it disbanded in 1847. And he wrote of an earlier experience:

I recall standing, on the 19th of April, 1822, on the steps of the south side entrance to the meetinghouse, which had three entrances, and seeing a company of about 60 men in line on the Common near where the stone boulder is placed, under the command of Abijah Harrington. They were representing the Minute Men who stood upon that spot on the morning of the 19th of April, 1775.

I also saw Maj. Benj. O. Wellington on horse-back, riding up Main Street in front of several militia companies who were intended to represent the British troops. When they came to the Common, Major Wellington said, “Lay down your arms and disperse, you rebels,” at the same time firing his pistol, and immediately giving the order to the foremost company to fire, which was quickly answered by the Minute Men.

This scene was incomprehensible to my youthful mind, but it awakened an interest that led me to learn as soon as possible what it was intended to convey. Other movements followed descriptive of scenes that took place on that day, such as marching toward Concord as far as the Lincoln line, a hasty retreat back, and the firing upon the main body, from behind trees, stone walls, etc. This part of the program lasted until noon, when refreshments were furnished at Munroe’s Tavern. In the afternoon commemorative services were held in the meeting-house, Rev. Mr. Stearns of Bedford delivering an oration.
An interesting way for these veterans and townspeople to come to terms with arguably the most important event in their lives and of their town.

According to Charles Hudson’s Genealogical Register of Lexington Families, Albert Withington Bryant was born on 16 Feb 1814, so he was eight years old in 1822 when he saw this mysterious and inspiring commemoration.

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