…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, 236 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!
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;
Minute Man National Historical Park
The Massachusetts Historical Society’s “The Coming of the American Revolution”
The Paul Revere House
Leading up to Patriots Day Weekend – the month of April During the first week of April, get warmed up for the Battle with several events across the region. On Saturday, April 6, begin the day by watching the Liberty Pole Capping ceremony in Wilson Park in Bedford. The Bedford Minuteman Company will parade from Bedford Common to Wilson park before one of the minutemen climbs up the pole to defiantly put a red cap on top. At 1:00 p.m. head to Concord to see a reenactment of the fight at Meriam’s Corner, the first engagement of the Redcoats’ retreat. Finally, at 3:00 p.m., watch the minutemen narrate the capture of Paul Revere amidst musket fire salutes and fife and drum music.
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 7. Not only does it take place on a Sunday 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 witness the drama.)
Lexington’s seasonal trolley tour, The Liberty Ride, will run tours every weekend in April and May, and daily May 27 through October 27. 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 and tours times are listed on the Liberty Ride website.
For more info on all this and for a comprehensive list of all Patriots Day events visit the Battle Road website.
March 31, 2013 marks the 300th anniversary of the incorporation of the town of Lexington. The celebration, which began last September, continues throughout the spring, with a special Patriots Day Parade on April 14, and ending with the 300th Anniversary Concert, “We Are Lexington,” on May 27 at Lexington High School. Visit the anniversary website for more information about memory collection, a time capsule, and other coordinated events.
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. This includes the Bloody Angle Battle Demonstration, which will take place at 11:00 a.m. near the Hartwell Tavern in Lincoln. Hundreds of reenactors along the Battle Road Trail will demonstrate tactics used during the fight back to Boston. All of these events are free. The Lexington Minutemen reenact various parts of the Battle retreat on Saturday, Captain Parker’s second call to arms at 10:00 a.m. on the Lexington Battle Green, setting those mustered to march to a salute at 1:30 p.m. in Lexington Center (where Captain Parker and his men had their retribution for the morning massacre). The Tower Park Battle Reenactment will begin at 4:00 p.m. near the Munroe Tavern on Massachusetts Avenue. Viewing is free. To round out the evening, the Lexington Symphony will put on a Patriots’ Day Concert at Cary Hall. The program will celebrate American music and will feature jazz soloists from Lexington High School’s award-winning jazz program. Tickets range from $30-50, or $20 for students. More information can be found on the symphony website.
All weekend, 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!”
At noon, grab some food at the Patriots’ Day Lunch at First Parish Church in Lexington, and be serenaded by strolling Colonial singers.
The Town of Lexington’s 300th Anniversary Parade steps off in East Lexington at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, running down Massachusetts Avenue through Lexington Center. Float judging will take place at 12:30 before the parade begins. Visit the anniversary website for more information.
Some of the towns surrounding Lexington and Concord will hold events on this day. The Lincoln Minutemen host a concert of 18th Century fife & drum music Sunday afternoon from 2:00-3:30 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 Acton at 5:00 p.m. the ride of 13-year-old James Robbins will be reenacted, stopping at various locations beginnings at the Robbins’ home site near the soccer fields on Concord Road and ending at 6:00 p.m. at the Liberty Tree Farm in South Acton. See what else is happening in the area.
Sunday, at 8:00 p.m., the Lexington Depot plays host to A Celebration of Colonial Music and Dance. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $5 for adults and $3 for children.
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 morning dawns early in Stow and Westford – at 4:45 a.m., to be precise, when the towns’ minutemen begin their march to Concord’s North Bridge. The Isaac Davis March begins about an hour later at 6:00 a.m. departing from the Isaac Davis Homestead in Acton.
Events in Lexington begin at 5:30 a.m. with “The Alarm” and 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!). St. Brigid Church, the First Baptist Church, and the Church of Our Redeemer all start serving breakfast for a nominal fee at 6:00 a.m. Lexington also holds a 7:30 a.m. Sunrise 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 or the Lexington Historical Society website.
At 6:40 a.m. in Lincoln, the Lincoln Minute Men will salute the patriots buried in the Old Meetinghouse Cemetery before beginning their march to Concord. All are invited to march along.
Starting at 8:30 a.m. in Concord, the Battle at the North Bridge breaks the silence of the morning with gunfire. Around the same time, there is also a Mourn Arms Ceremony at British Graves. At 9:00 a.m. the parade in Concord begins in Concord Center, proceeds across the North Bridge and returns to Main Street, ending at about noon. See the Concord Chamber of Commerce for more information.
In Concord all day you can visit the Concord Museum [http://www.concordmuseum.org], 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. Both the North Bridge Visitor Center in Concord and the Minute Man Visitor Center in Lincoln will also be open.
Various memorial ceremonies in Lexington begin at 8:15 a.m. on the Battle Green, continuing at 10:15 with the DAR Memorial Decoration, and an 11:00 a.m. memorial to the USS Lexington at the Visitors Center. A Concert of Patriotic Music will be presented at Hancock Church at 11:15 a.m. Subsequently, the music continues at the Visitors Center with an outdoor performance by the William Diamond Jr. Fife & Drum Corps. As a closing, Paul Revere gallops onto the Battle Green at 1:00 p.m.
Screenings of the film “First shot! The day the Revolution Began,” will take place on the hour at the Lexington Depot, with Q&A with reenactors. Lexington’s final event on Monday is the US Army “Old Guard” Patriotic Performance on the Battle Green beginning at 2:00 p.m. Military drills will be demonstrated, chronicling the proud 238-year history of the US Army.
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.
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.
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