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, April 06, 2007

Events Leading up to Patriots' Day

Middlesex County is about to enter full Patriots’ Day mode, commemorating the Battle of Lexington and Concord on 19 April 1775, the start of the American Revolution. I’ve tried to gather news of the public historical reenactments scheduled for the next week and a half. There are also parades, balls, camporees, a Red Sox game, and the Boston Marathon (starting earlier this year). I apologize in advance if I’ve missed any town’s special tradition, but there doesn’t seem to be a central repository of this information.


Bedford: The traditional first event of the season is the raising and “capping” of a Liberty Pole organized by the Bedford Minuteman Company. This year that ceremony starts at 10:30 A.M. at Bedford Common and moves to Wilson Park. Liberty Poles—basically flagpoles, the taller the better—were an important symbol of the American Whig movement from the late 1760s on. I think that adding the knitted Phrygian cap as another symbol of liberty might have become most popular in the 1790s during the political disputes between Federalists and Jeffersonian Republicans.

Concord: The Meriam’s Corner Exercise along Lexington Road takes place at 12:30 P.M. Minute companies and fife and drum units recall the fight that marked the beginning of the British column’s six-hour running battle back to Boston.

Lincoln: At 3:00 P.M., the Lincoln Minute Men and other militia and musical units observe the capture of Paul Revere by British officers in the early hours of 19 April 1775, at the site along modern Route 2A.


Lincoln: At Hartwell Tavern in Minute Man National Historical Park (parking off Route 2A), the annual Battle Road reenactment from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. features hundreds of British and Colonial Reenactors encamped at the Hartwell Tavern and Captain William Smith house. There will be demonstrations of military drill, artillery, crafts, and games, and a “massed tactical weapons demonstration running over a half-mile of the original Battle Road.” For more information on the site, download this Event Map.


Arlington: At 12:30 P.M., units reenact the fierce skirmishes at Menotomy at the Jason Russell House.

Lincoln: The annual Lincoln Salute offers a concert of fife and drum music from 1:45 to 3:30 P.M. in Pierce Park, hosted by the Lincoln Minute Men. [ADDENDUM: See the comments below for the Lincoln Tattoo’s alternate venue in case of a downpour. Which, not coincidentally, is what the meteorologists now forecast for Sunday.]

Woburn: The Woburn Historical Society presents “Pathway of the Patriots” from 1:00 to 3:00 P.M. Gather at the former Tarky School Lot on Russell Street, where tours start every half hour. Event will consist of narrated tours of Woburn’s Old Battle Road, reenactors, exhibits, and dramatizations.

Acton: The Samuel Prescott–John Robbins Ride reenactment starts at approximately 5:30 P.M. at the former site of the Robbins home on Concord Road, southeast of Woodlawn Cemetery, and then proceeds to the Isaac Davis home site on Hayward Road, the Faulkner House on the corner of High Street and Main Street, and Liberty Tree Farm at about 6:15.

Lincoln: Muster of the Lincoln Minute Men at 7:00 P.M. in Lincoln Center. Captain William Smith will arrive by horse to ring the bell of the White Church and spread the alarm that the British Regulars are coming.

Charlestown: The 8th Annual Paul Revere Row Reenactment takes place from 7:00 to 9:30 P.M., at the Charlestown Navy Yard Visitor Center. It will feature novelist William Martin signing his books, dramatic performances by the Histrionic Academy, and fife and drum music by Prescott’s Battalion Field Music. At the end of Pier 1 in the Charlestown Navy Yard from 8:30 until about 9:30, a special program will focus on Paul Revere. The program will climax with the arrival of a certain rowboat.


Westford: The Westford Colonial Minutemen start out along their Col. John Robinson Historic Trail March to Concord’s North Bridge at 4:45 A.M., starting at the Westford town common.

[ADDENDUM: See the Comments for a link on the similar march from Stow. Thanks, Jenn!]

Acton: Likewise, the Acton Minutemen and Davis Blues gather to march the Isaac Davis trail to Concord. Start-points are 5:45 A.M. at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School, 6:00 at the Isaac Davis Homestead on Hayward Road, and 6:45 at the monument in Acton Center. The unit expects to arrive at the North Bridge at 8:45 and take part in the Commemoration of the Concord Conflict. This is the 50th year of this event.

Lexington: The town sponsors its annual reenactment of the skirmish between British soldiers and local militiamen on Lexington Green, starting at 5:30 A.M.

Concord: Commemoration of the shots at the North Bridge starting at 8:30 A.M. British and Colonial Reenactors, Park Rangers, and volunteers reenact the morning of 19 April 1775.

Roxbury: The National Lancers reenact William Dawes’s ride, plus historic talks and trolley tours. Events center on First Church of Roxbury, 9:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M.

Acton: The Acton Historical Society, Acton Woman’s Club, and Iron Work Farm portray the “Spirit of Acton 1775” from 11:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. with tours of the 1760 Hosmer House, the 1728 Jones Tavern, and the 1706 Faulkner Homestead. Tickets will cost $5 per person age 13 and over and $2 per person under age 13.

Concord: At 7:30 P.M., 500 luminaries provide the backdrop for the 6th Annual Candlelight Remembrance Ceremony at North Bridge, a program of patriotic music and remembrance. Bring a flashlight and your singing voice. This event is sponsored by The Old Manse.

[ADDENDUM: Because of the storm, many outdoor Patriots’ Day events have been canceled. One exception: the tours in Acton. Please call ahead to be sure before setting out. And there’s always next year!]


Wayland and Sudbury: Starting at 3:45 A.M. in Wayland center and at 5:45 in Sudbury center, the towns’ militia companies set out for Concord, to arrive at the North Bridge at approximately 10:30 A.M. The Sudbury Minute Men have more information.

Concord: With a Dawn Salute at 6:00 A.M., the Concord Minute Men and Concord Independent Battery observe the opening battle of the Revolutionary War. The North Bridge Remembrance Ceremony that follows at 7:30 A.M. includes historical speeches and wreath-laying.


Lincoln: The Battle Road Heroes program at Hartwell Tavern, 7:00 to 8:30 P.M. is an evening of theater and history featuring the personal stories of people who lived along the Battle Road on 19 April 1775: Capt. William Smith, the Lincoln Minute Men, the Hartwells, drovers, musicians, and His Majesty's soldiers. Admission is $5.00 per person, $10.00 per family. Proceeds benefit the Minute Man National Park Association.


Robert S. Paul said...

Is the official name? "Patriots' Day"? That's good to know. I'll be writing about it myself on the 19th (although indirectly).

It was the date of another famous revolution of sorts that's near and dear to me, but I'll let you know when it's up, JL. I think we discussed it briefly, before.

J. L. Bell said...

Yes, in Massachusetts the official name is “Patriots’ Day,” with a plural possessive. That probably also holds for Maine, which used to be part of Massachusetts and is the only other state with a day-off-work holiday that day.

Often people spell the holiday differently (e.g., Patriot’s Day), and in Missouri the law states its keep-on-working holiday is “Patriots Day.”

Jenn said...

The Stow Minutemen (http://www.stowminutemen.org/) also march on Mon April 16 from Stow, MA to Concord, starting at 4:45am. Huzzah!

Anonymous said...

Any recommendations on what time to arrive and where to stand for the battle on Lexington Green?

Thank you in advance, I am travelling all the way from Western Canada to view the Patriots' Day events and any help would be greatly appreciated.

J. L. Bell said...

Here's my little secret: as much as I enjoy a Revolutionary War reenactment, I don't go to any that starts at dawn. In fact, I rarely go to any event of any sort that starts at dawn. So I've never seen the Lexington reenactment. (The running fight back to Boston--well, that occurred at civilized hours of the afternoon, so I've seen that several times.)

A few years ago an official of the Lexington Minutemen told a documentary crew: "Spectators begin to arrive at Lexington Green at 3:30 in the morning in order to get a prime spot for the events that begin with the alarm bell sounding in the Old Belfry at 5:30. There are usually 8-10,000 spectators lining the Green."

Wheretogonext suggests: "plan to be in Lexington at midnight on April 16, at the Hancock-Clarke House (36 Hancock St.) right near Lexington Green. It's then that Paul Revere gallops up and shouts the warning: 'The British are coming!' Captain Parker sounds the alarm, musters his force of local militiamen and prepares to meet the Redcoats later that morning. Then get some sleep and come back to the Green for the 5:30 AM skirmish. And stay for the Sunrise Youth Parade at 7:30..."

Kathleen Mahoney has shared this account from 2003: "We arrived in Lexington well before 5 am though, since no one outside of Lexington appears to be up at that hour. We located parking without too much difficulty..."

Good luck! I'll be thinking of you. (About an hour later, when I wake up.)

J. L. Bell said...

With rain predicted for Sunday, one of the organizers of the Lincoln Tattoo has posted this announcement to a local email list: “for the HARDCORE fife & drum fans among you:
If downpour, the muster will be held in the gymnasium of the Brooks School: 40 Ballfield Road, Lincoln, MA, Sunday the 15th, 2:00. (You'll hear the thunder of drums a mile away.)"

Ron Newman said...

Arlington's re-enactment on Sunday has been cancelled, according to one of the participants who posted here. Arlington's parade is also cancelled.

erika said...

The annual pancake breakfast in Lexington appears to be on rain or shine!