…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, 235 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.
LEADING UP TO PATRIOTS DAY WEEKEND
Throughout March and April, events take place all over the western suburbs commemorating the Battles of Lexington and Concord. One of the least known – and best bets – is the Lexington Minutemen’s dress rehearsal for the Battle of Lexington on Sunday, April 1. Not only does it take place on a Saturday instead of a Monday, but it’s at the much more reasonable hour of 2:00 p.m. And there are no crowds! (They also run through it at least four or five times to make sure they get it right, so there are many chances to see gunfire.) For more info on all this and other events visit Battle Road Committee.
For a comprehensive listing of events during the weekend visit The Concord Chamber of Commerce
SATURDAY, APRIL 14
The Saturday and Sunday before Patriots Day, the Minute Man National Historical Park holds a series of ceremonies, tours and other events to mark various parts of the Battles. All of these events are free. 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, 2012; and daily May 28 through October 28. The tour begins at the National Heritage Museum, and 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 Reenactment of what is known as the “second battle of Lexington”. The Jason Russell House, in Arlington, site of the bloodiest fighting on the first day of the American Revolution, will be open for tours from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm. The Jason Russell House is owned by the Arlington Historical Society. It is located at 7 Jason Street (at the corner of Jason Street and Massachusetts Avenue) in Arlington Center. It is accessible by MBTA bus route 77.
Patriots Day Revolutionary Muster & Parade – April 14 – 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. 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.
SUNDAY, APRIL 15
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. Official Lexington Patriots Day calendar
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. The Jason Russell House, 7 Jason Street, Arlington, is open for tours from 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm. Arlington’s Patriots Day Parade, presented by Leader Bank kicks off at 2:00 pm. Parade participants include Shriners, clowns, several marching bands, and local groups.
MONDAY, APRIL 16
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. See the Concord Chamber of Commerce website for more information.
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!” In addition, the National Heritage Museum will host arts and crafts activities exploring life in 1775 during the day.
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 email@example.com The Jason Russell House, 7 Jason Street, Arlington, is open for tours from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm.
At Battleship Cove on Saturday & Sunday, April 16 & 17 there will be a Patriot’s Day Weekend Commemoration. Commemorate the battles fought at Lexington and Concord. Battleship Cove will commemorate those Revolutionary heroes with oral histories of some of our modern day heroes.
Beyond Lexington & Concord
At Old Sturbridge Village, fife and drum music will be played throughout the day. Visitors will meet soldiers from both sides – a Minuteman and a loyalist. They will compare uniforms, accoutrements, and beliefs about the American revolutionary movement. Children can drill and march with muskets using instructions from the official 1776 drill manual. Visitors can also create a Revolutionary War musket cartridge and see how musket balls were made. Village blacksmiths will discuss how their skills were put to use during the war. If you’ve “been there, done that” on Patriots Day, there are some off-the-beaten-path events you might be interested in. If you don’t wish to get up at the crack of dawn to see a faked battle, or your kids don’t like the sound of gunfire, you might be more inclined to watch Paul Revere do his ride at the healthy hour of about 10:00 a.m. Although historically inaccurate (he rode in the late evening, and he did not shout the whole way to Lexington, as he surely would have been caught by Redcoats), this event is family- and sleep-friendly. The event begins in downtown Boston with a flag-raising ceremony and parade on City Hall Plaza. Paul Revere’s journey, organized by the National Lancers, begins at the Old North Church in Boston’s North End where he hung his lanterns, and continues through Charlestown, Somerville, and Medford to Lexington, with Revere stopping in each town to deliver his message and greet the townspeople. (If you’re concerned about the horse’s hooves pounding the hard pavement, don’t worry: they follow him in a trailer to carry the horse when he’s tired.) Pick and choose which towns to catch him in – as his journey takes about two hours. If you get hungry along the way, stop in for eggs and sausage at the Paul Revere Restaurant in West Medford.
If you want to be a part of the action, join local patriots from Somerville at the Holiday Inn on Washington Street near Sullivan Square, where a plaque marks the spot where Revere almost got captured. City officials and residents parade from the hotel to Foss Park in East Somerville to await his arrival, where there will be Colonial games, speeches and healthy refreshments. Attendees are encouraged to dress in traditional Colonial attire! Just up the street is Paul Revere Park, one of the tiniest parks in the world, where Revere veered right to head into “Medford-Town.”
For more information on Revere’s Ride, visit the website, or the City of Boston, City of Somerville or City of Medford. You can recreate his ride yourself at any time of year with help from the Paul Revere House.
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.
Join The Roxbury Collaborative for the 67th Annual Re -Enactment Ride of William Dawes and 237th anniversary celebration of the start of the American Revolution. The celebration commences with a Community Breakfast and “Unsung Heroes Awards” to Jean McGuire,Executive Director of METCO, and Ralph Browne of the 272nd Field Artillery Battalion Association.at 8:00 A.M. in the George Putnam Parish House. The awards will be presented by the Honorable Representative, Gloria L. Fox, Democrat, 7th Suffolk District and Thomas Plant of the Roxbury Collaborative at 8:00 AM. Mr.Christopher Tobin of the Massachusetts National Lancers as Mr. Dawes will recite the poem “What In a Name” a tribute to his ride from the historic Meetinghouse. The Warren I. Brown Memorial Scholarship will be presented by the Brown Family to two seniors graduating from a Boston High School who will read their winning essays “What Patriots Day Means To Me”. A lecture will be presented by an African American Daughter of the American Revolution, followed by a Historic Trolley Tour of Roxbury with Byron Rushing at 11:00 AM. Historic sites will be open, such as the Eliot Burial Ground, The Shirley-Eustis House, The Dillaway-Thomas House of the Roxbury Heritage State Park. Participate and be a part of history, it is fun for the whole family!