Patriot’s Day is pretty close to sacred in the Boston area. The event-packed day commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord, fought near Boston on April 19, 1775, and is annually held on the third Monday in April. These first skirmishes were the kickoff to the colonists’ fight for independence from Great Britain. The American Revolution would start here, two months after Parliament declared Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion, and would eventually lead to the creation of the Unites States of America.
Patriot’s Day festivities begin with reenactments of the battles early in the morning, first in Lexington, and then in Concord. Patriot’s Day also marks the Boston Marathon, and a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park. This year there will be no traditional celebration due to the pandemic. The reenactments are cancelled, the marathon postponed, and there will be no ball game. However, you can visit the Minute Man National Historical Park website and their Facebook page for a virtual celebration and more information on the history of the battles.
Patriot’s Day in Lexington and Concord
Friday morning brought back memories of an adventure on Patriot’s Day in 2017. Nancy, Mary Ann, and I decided to take in the reenactments in Lexington and Concord, so we met up at around 3:30 am and drove to Lexington, arriving around 4:30 am.
We found parking in a lot close to Lexington Battle Green, also known as Lexington Common; it was a short brisk walk to the green, a triangular parcel of land that was used as a militia training ground back in the day. The first shots of the Revolution were fired here back in 1775. The morning of our visit, it was ringed with spectators. We picked our viewing spot along the already crowded perimeter, standing to the right of Buckman Tavern, a National Historic Landmark. Folks were already stacked three to five people deep. We noticed a lot of five-gallon buckets — handy stools for people to jump up on to get a better view once the action started.
It was a long, chilly wait for the approach of the Redcoats and the skirmish on the green. Prior to the conflict, several militiamen walked along the green keeping watch while others walked hastily to and from the green. Around dawn, shortly before 6:00 am, a lookout announced the approach of the Redcoats and Captain John Parker gave the order to fire a warning to alert the militiamen who waited in the tavern and houses nearby, and his drummer began to beat the call to arms.
Men in colonial dress, armed with muskets, streamed out of the tavern and hurried onto the green, where they began to assemble in two lines. As they did so, the faint sound of the drumbeats and fife music of the British could be heard as they approached. The British troops far outnumbered the town militia, and formed wide imposing lines as they marched closer. The militiamen were ordered to lay down there arms. They refused. The British fixed bayonets, lowered their weapons, and began to march towards the militia.
The militia began to fall back, and suddenly there were several volleys of musket fire exchanged.
The British began to chase the retreating militia as both sides fired upon each other. When the musket smoke cleared, eight militiamen lay dead on the ground. The British troops regrouped and marched toward Concord as the townspeople saw to the wounded and dead.
It was exciting to gather with others to watch the historic reenactment. Following the skirmish, we stayed in Lexington to tour Buckman Tavern and take in the atmosphere of Lexington center, before heading over to Concord.
Old North Bridge, Concord
One might think, because of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Concord Hymn, that the first shots of the revolution were fired in Concord, “by the rude bridge that arched the flood”. While the Concord skirmish was the second one of the morning, there were far more militia — all called from towns near and far from Concord, to turn the British back.
It was more difficult to find parking near North Bridge where the main events were taking place. The reenactment at the bridge begins at 8:30 am, and last nearly an hour. Since it was our first time, we were not sure what the best vantage point would be. Turns out, that is likely to the right side of the bridge, where you can get a better view of the field and hills beyond the bridge. That area seemed pretty full, so we settled on a spot toward the left of the bridge.
The event began with park rangers describing the day’s historic events as militiamen paraded over the bridge towards the field. Shortly after, British troops marched to the bridge, and marched over in columns. As more militiamen poured down from the hill on the far side of the bridge and began to fire, the British began to fall back across the bridge, taking a temporary stand along the riverbank and bridge. As they broke ranks and retreated, a parade of militiamen representing many of the towns that took part in the Battle of Concord marched across the North Bridge.
The battle at Concord resulted in the first British deaths in the war, and the British retreated back to Boston, chased and harried by minutemen along their retreat.
Visit, in person, or virtually, a historical place that feels meaningful to you. Imagine what it was like to be there. If you were a character in this setting, who would you be? Choose a way to communicate your experience: write a few paragraphs, a poem, or a letter about your experience.
LEXINGTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY
The Lexington Historical Society’s mission is to interpret the events of April 19, 1775. This year, you can experience Virtual Patriot’s Day 2020. Take virtual tours of Buckman Tavern, Hancock-Clarke House, and Munroe Tavern. Learn more about the events of the time and check out the online collections and digital content.