…They began to hear the rattle of musketry in the distance. Sam Adams turned to his companion and said, “It is a fine day!” “Very pleasant,” John Hancock replied serenely, thinking that Adams was talking about the weather. “I mean,” Sam Adams explained, as if to a child, “this is a glorious day for America.” -Paul Revere’s Ride, by David Hackett Fischer
In Massachusetts, 241 years after the famous “Shot heard ‘round the world,” residents and visitors alike are still celebrating the momentous Battles of Lexington and Concord. Patriots Day, a state holiday established in 1969 to commemorate the opening battles of the American Revolutionary War, is observed on the third Monday in April to coincide with the public school system’s April Vacation. Festivities stretch over an entire weekend with parades, reenactments and commemorative ceremonies in Boston, Lexington, Concord and surrounding towns. We invite you to explore this page to find out how you can experience it!
ABOUT THE BATTLE
It was in Lexington, Massachusetts that scores of British troops arrived on the town’s Green in the early morning hours of April 19, 1775, greeted by a collection of local militiamen and boys, muskets in hand, refusing to stand down. The troops were on a secret mission ordered by General Gage, Royal Governor of Massachusetts, to seize Colonial gunpowder in Concord, and the Lexington Green stood at a crossroads along their route. Tensions had been mounting for years between the British government and the Colonists of New England. Britain had passed laws that would raise taxes without adding representation in Parliament, such as the Stamp Act of 1765, the Tea Act of 1773 and what became known as the Intolerable Acts of 1774. With the recent addition of British regiments stationed throughout Boston, the Colonists had had enough.
The secret of the midnight mission had gotten out, of course, thanks to now-famous messengers Paul Revere and William Dawes, and the Minutemen of Lexington were prepared. Captain John Parker, their leader, was said to have shouted, “Stand your ground! Don’t fire unless fired upon! But if they want to have a war, let it begin here!” As the opposing sides faced each other on the Green, a shot rang out – from which side no one will ever know – and with that incident, in which eight militiamen died, the American Revolution began. There were no casualties among the Redcoats.
The victorious British troops marched on to Concord, where later that morning, historians claim the true “Shot heard ‘round the world” rang out; it was here at the North Bridge that the Colonists first fought back – and fought back with force. The bloody battle raged all day. As the British troops retreated back to Boston – their mission to seize rebel gunpowder unsuccessful – Minutemen from all over the region joined forces in enacting their revenge for the losses at Lexington. The long journey back to the city found the Colonists shooting from behind stone walls and trees, with British troops dodging bullets as they marched along what became known as the Battle Road. Many historians claim the bloodiest part of the battle was in Arlington, where both sides engaged in hand-to-hand combat. The British troops finally arrived in Boston that evening, exhausted, cold and hungry. They had been up for almost 24 hours.
For further reading about this history, we encourage you to visit the following websites: The Coming of the American Revolution.
SATURDAY, APRIL 15
The Town of Lexington’s seasonal trolley tour, The Liberty Ride, will run tours throughout the weekend, as well as all weekends in April and May; and daily May 28 through October 28. The tour follows the story of the Battle of Lexington & Concord from Lexington to Concord’s North Bridge and back on a 90-minute loop. Ticket prices are listed on the Liberty Ride website. The Lexington Minutemen reenact various parts of the Battle retreat on Saturday, from Parker’s Revenge at 1:00 p.m. in Lexington Center (where Captain Parker and his men had their retribution for the morning massacre) to the Tower Park Battle at 3:30-5:00 p.m. near the Munroe Tavern on Massachusetts Avenue. Viewing is free. Parker’s Revenge Battle Demonstration 2 p.m. Near Minute Man Visitor Center 250 North Great Road, Lincoln is the reenactment of what is known as the “second battle of Lexington”.
SUNDAY, APRIL 16
Annual Old North Lantern Ceremony
Every year since 1875, on the eve of Patriot’s Day, Old North has commemorated the hanging of the lanterns by inviting guests to join a prominent member of the community at the Lantern Ceremony. This year, we are honoring the survivors of last year’s marathon bombings and those first responders who so courageously came to their aid.
The Lincoln Minutemen host a concert of 18th Century fife & drum music Sunday afternoon from 1:45-3:30 p.m.in Pierce Park, followed that evening at 7:00 p.m. by a reenactment of the alarm & muster of the Lincoln Minutemen, who fought at the North Bridge.
In past years, on the eve of Patriots Day, Boston National Historical Park has recreated Paul Revere’s famous row across the Charles River to Charlestown – where he began his famous Midnight Ride. Historical talks and patriotic songs begin around 7:00 at the Charlestown Navy Yard Visitor Center, but Revere doesn’t arrive until around 8:00 p.m. Check the Boston National Historical Park website first, to ensure this event is planned for this year. This event is free.
Sunday, at 6:00 and 8:00 p.m., Lexington hosts “In Their Own Words” at the Pilgrim Congregational Church, a dramatic reading by lantern light of the April events. Tickets can be purchased from the Lexington Historical Society.
A few hours later, at close to midnight, Paul Revere arrives in Lexington to deliver his message to Mr. Hancock and Mr. Adams at the Hancock-Clark House. The scene is recreated as an outdoor theatre performance – but we advise that you stand front row, as the microphones don’t carry too far. Details on the Lexington Historical Society website. This event is free.
MONDAY, APRIL 17
Lexington & Concord – Events in Lexington begin at 5:30 a.m. with an historical overview prior to the 6:00 reenactment of the Battle of Lexington on the Green. We strongly suggest arriving early to get a good spot (although they do allow kids to scoot up front for better views). Following the Battle – which, by the way, we always lose! – you can fill that growling stomach with pancakes and coffee at one of several pancake breakfasts in town (you can even eat with a Redcoat!). Lexington holds a 7:30 a.m. Youth Parade, and a road race at 10:00. The Visitors Center on Massachusetts Avenue is open during this time. For more info on this event, visit the Lexington Minutemen website.
In Concord there’s a 9:00 a.m. parade a few hours after the Lexington battle ends. The parade begins in Concord Center, proceeds across the North Bridge and returns to Main Street, ending at about 12:00 noon.
In Concord all day you can visit the Concord Museum, and view its collection of American historical artifacts and decorative arts treasures including Paul Revere’s famous “one, if by land, and two, if by sea” lantern he hung in Boston’s Old North Church. In addition, the Old Manse holds tours 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. that day. And both the North Bridge Visitor Center in Concord and the Minute Man Visitor Center in Lincoln will also be open.
Back in Lexington, the Lexington Historical Society will have all three historic house museums open for tours: The Buckman Tavern, across from the Green, where the Minutemen awaited the arrival of the Redcoats; The Munroe Tavern, which on the British retreat from Concord back to Boston became a temporary hospital for the wounded; and the Hancock-Clarke House, where Revere and Dawes delivered their famous message, “The Regulars are out!”
Lexington’s big parade begins at 2:00 p.m. and gets downtown (Massachusetts Avenue and Waltham Street) by about 2:30 p.m. It lasts upwards of two hours and is chock full of brass marching bands, floats sponsored by local businesses, clowns, and lots of other exciting performers. It is not to be missed. The Menotomy Minute Men hold flag-raisings at Arlington Town Hall (730 Massachusetts Avenue) at 7:15 am and the Jason Russell House (7 Jason Street) at 7:30 am, followed by a brief ceremony at the Arlington Old Burial Ground at 8:00 am. Join the Menotomy Welcoming Committee! 11:00 am to 1:00 pm, Arlington Town Hall, 730 Massachusetts Avenue. Greet re-enactment riders Paul Revere and William Dawes. Make a welcome sign for the riders with craft material provided. Children’s dress-up activity with photo by the Arlington Historical Society. Music from the colonial era performed by Diane Taraz. Snacks and light food will be available. Event hosted by the Arlington Committee on Tourism and Economic Development and sponsored by Bowes Real Estate. For additional information, email firstname.lastname@example.org The Jason Russell House, 7 Jason Street, Arlington, is open for tours from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm.
Beyond Lexington & Concord
Patriots Day Revolutionary Muster & Parade – April 20-22 – Historic Deerfield . Travel back in time and rediscover the revolutionary past and the “shot heard round the world.” This new special event will offer a full day of activities for visitors of all ages throughout the village. Revolutionary times will come to life through demonstrations of period crafts and activities, fife and drum music, and a parade and muster by The Nathan Hale Ancient Fifes and Drums. Historic Deerfield guides and cooks will interpret open hearth cooking and powder horn carving in the 1786 Hall Tavern. Horse-drawn wagon rides will transport visitors through the village, and all historic houses will be available for touring. Visitors can make a flag to wave during the afternoon parade, and then take it home as a memento. Family-friendly food will be available at Historic Deerfield and at the Bement School. Admission is $12 for adults (18+), $5 for youth (6-17), under 6 and members are free.
Boston Marathon – Patriot’s Day is also the day for the running of the Boston Marathon. Inspired by the success of the first modern-day marathon competition in the 1896 Summer Olympics, the Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon, and ranks as one of the world’s best-known road racing events. It is one of six World Marathon Majors. Since 1897, the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) has managed this event. Amateur and professional runners from all over the world compete in the Boston Marathon each year, braving the hilly New England terrain and varying weather to take part in the race. The event attracts 500,000 spectators each year, making it New England’s most widely viewed sporting event.
Don’t think William Dawes doesn’t get his share of the glory, too. He began his ride in the town of Roxbury (now a neighborhood in the southern part of Boston), and rode through Brookline, Allston, Harvard Square in Cambridge, and Arlington to reach Lexington. There was a reason they took separate paths – so that if one got caught along the way, the other would hopefully make it to their destination to deliver the message. The National Lancers website has more information, but you can also visit Discover Roxbury, the Brookline Historical Society, the City of Cambridge, and the Arlington Historical Society.