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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Monday, September 19, 2022

“History Camp America 2022” Coming in November

I spent a couple of days last week traveling along the Battle Road between Concord and Menotomy to prepare a video talk to be shared in History Camp America 2022, scheduled for 5 November.

Organized by the team behind the regional History Camps, America’s Road Trip, and last year’s inaugural History Camp America, this will be a collection of more than forty online lectures, behind-the-scenes tours, cooking demonstrations, and other presentations exploring the past.

Registration costs $149.95 for access to all those videos on the day of the event and afterward, and registrants will also receive a box of souvenirs and artifacts celebrating American history.

My talk will be:
Looking for the Shot Heard ’Round the World

Travel the Battle Road to and from Concord as J. L. Bell, proprietor of Boston 1775, explores the start of the Revolutionary War

In 1837 Ralph Waldo Emerson coined the phrase “the shot heard ’round the world” for what he deemed to be the most important gunfire of the Revolutionary War. Emerson was a son of Concord, and it was only natural for him to view the shooting that took place within sight of his grandfather’s house as crucial.

But was that gunfire the start of the Revolutionary War? If we define the war as beginning when organized military units confront each other with lethal force, then it had actually started four months before and more than sixty miles away. If we look for the first shot on April 19, 1775, that was definitely fired in Lexington—though British army officers reported it came before their soldiers even arrived at the town common.

This video talk visits more than half a dozen sites, famous and little-known, from Menotomy to Concord and back, to discuss when and how the Revolutionary War began, according to different perspectives. It traces how both sides tried to show restraint at dawn but, in seeing the worst of the enemy, went all-out by the end. Examining the events of April 18–19, 1775, (and earlier) illuminates what it really means to go into a war.
As the History Camp America 2022 schedule develops, I’m seeing speakers I always enjoy hearing from and places I’ve wondered about visiting, plus other topics and places that are totally new. Check out the quick video preview.

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