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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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Serving Parker’s Revenge Warm

Yesterday I attended an event at Minute Man National Historical Park announcing major support for the Parker’s Revenge project from Campaign 1776.

The term “Parker’s Revenge,” which Brandeis professor David Hackett Fischer pointed out was probably coined by John Galvin in his 1967 book The Minute Men, refers to one point in the Battle of Lexington and Concord, when Capt. John Parker and his Lexington militiamen attacked the British army column as it withdrew east from Concord. By tradition, those provincials were on or behind a particular granite outcrop—probably a good choice, as that’s said to be the highest point between Boston and Concord.

Parker’s Revenge is thus an event, and an area, and an idea—the idea of the Lexington company that had been hurt that dawn picking themselves up and fighting back.

A couple of years ago, the park and the non-profit Friends of Minute Man Park convened a group to study Parker’s Revenge in more depth. As Bob Morris of the Friends explained, the project has four phases:
  • research into maps, tax and real estate records, and historic accounts to determine what land to focus on and what to look for there.
  • archeology. Project Archeologist Meg Watters didn’t dig; rather, she oversaw a careful survey of the land with lasers, ground-probing radar, metal detectors, and other technology. In addition, military experts will walk through the area to give their opinions about how the opposing armies would have reacted to the site. Watters’s report is due this summer.
  • interpretation and education with the findings and artifacts discovered during the investigation. Plans include traditional displays and signage, and also the possibility of an app depicting the 1775 terrain (as we understand it) that people could use while walking the area today.
  • land rehabilitation under the guidance of the National Park Service’s Olmsted Center. It’s unclear whether there will be a recommendation or resources to return the whole tract to a semblance of its 1775 appearance, but right now it’s wooded and unwelcomingly overgrown.
The Parker’s Revenge project caught the attention of folks at the Civil War Trust. That foundation has been around for over fifteen years, having grown out of smaller groups. Its leaders now have lots of experience in preserving battlefield land, and they’re expanding their scope to the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 with an initiative called Campaign 1776. That push uses the minute man as part of its symbol, and of course its organizers are interested in the iconic Lexington and Concord battle.

Campaign 1776 has now contributed to the Parker’s Revenge project in two ways. It agreed to buy an acre of adjacent land with the plan of eventually donating that to the park. People think that British flankers moved across that area as they circled north to drive Parker’s men off their high ground. The property was owned by the town of Lincoln but not necessarily set aside for preservation.

In addition, Campaign 1776 and the Society of the Cincinnati’s American Revolution Institute helped to fund the archeology with a $25,000 grant, the Civil War Trust’s first archeology project. That donation was represented at the event by one of those symbolic oversized checks proudly held up by several people in suits.

Meanwhile, no fewer than four school groups passed by on field trips, peering with more or less curiosity at what the grownups were doing. That shows how big an attraction Minute Man Park already is. With more depth and detail in its Parker’s Revenge interpretation, just a short distance from the visitor center in Lexington, the park may soon have more solid stories to tell.

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