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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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Thorson on “Stone Walls on Minute Man,” 27 Feb.

On Saturday, 27 February, the Friends of Minute Man National Park will host its free Winter Lecture, this time beamed through the walls of our own homes.

This year Prof. Robert Thorson will speak about “The Stone Walls of Minute Man National Park.” Those walls are of course an icon of New England’s agricultural past.

After the battle of Lexington and Concord, many British officers and officials commented on the provincial militiamen using stone walls for cover. Historian and Member of Parliament Edward Gibbon, for instance, wrote: “Our troops during the march and retreat were chiefly harassed by flying parties from behind the stone walls along the road and by many shots from the windows as they passed through the villages.”

James T. Austin’s 1828 biography of Elbridge Gerry may be the earliest publication of Benjamin Franklin’s supposed response to people in London mentioning that detail as evidence of American cowardice: “I beg to enquire, if these same walls had not two sides to them?”

Whether or not that’s true, the Continental Congress delegate Charles Carroll credited Franklin with a parodic song published in the 27 Nov 1775 Boston Gazette called “The King’s Own Regulars.” Written in the voice of the redcoats, it includes this couplet:
Of their firing from behind fences, [Gage] makes a great pother,
Ev’ry fence has two sides; they made use of one, and we only forgot to use the other.
Back to Prof. Thorson’s talk. Thorson is a geologist who has authored several books on stone walls. He has an intimate knowledge of the walls of Minute Man Park through his work on various projects there, notably at the Old North Bridge, Parker’s Revenge, and Bloody Angle locations.

Folks will be able to view this lecture via Zoom, through the Minuteman Media Network website, or in Concord and Carlisle live on cable channel 99. It is scheduled to run from 2:00 to 3:30 P.M. on Saturday.

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