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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Friday, June 09, 2006

Colonial Williamsburg looks at Lexington & Concord

Years ago, Colonial Williamsburg called dibs on the phone number 800-HISTORY and the URL history.org—with the clear implication that it's the wellspring of America's history. That attitude resurfaces in its current marketing and interpretation campaign as “Revolutionary City,” which is all very well except that Williamsburg was never a major city and not, after mid-1765, at the forefront of the Revolution.

Of course, for centuries Boston writers have tried to overlook the fact that Williamsburg was ahead of everyplace else in North America as the site of the first serious public objections to the Stamp Act. And Williamsburg was where Patrick Henry, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other notable burgesses convened for the Virginia legislature.

Such friendly (or not so friendly) rivalry between Virginia and Massachusetts is at least two centuries old. I—growing up, living in, and studying Boston—think of it as having the best claim to be “Revolutionary City,” even if it was still legally a town until the 1800s. Yet my mother, who was born in greater Philadelphia, thinks there’s a better claimant than either Williamsburg or Boston. Very odd.

In any event, the Colonial Williamsburg magazine and website now features Dennis Montgomery’s article about the Battle of Lexington and Concord. (Quibbles: The British did not succeed in “digging up a brass cannon at the [Concord] gaol"; that was one place they found iron cannon. The Lt. Mackenzie quoted near the end of the article was named Frederick, not Robert. Otherwise a very good account.) The web page also comes with a description and images of the famous 1775 engravings of the Battle of Lexington and Concord by Ralph Earle and Amos Doolittle.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Recently there was an article in the NY Times on the temerity of Jamestown's wanting to celebrate a 400th anniversary in 2007. Their point was that Jamestown has fallen into desuetude, while New York City, also visited in 1607, has become significantly larger. I was struck by New York's feeling in any way threatened by Jamestown, but perhaps, as you say, we are all insistent on being the First True Place of European settlement. (There will be a brief pause here while we wait to hear from St. Augustine.)