Celebrating Patriots' Day in Eastern Massachusetts
Learning Our Country's History More Deeply
Massachusetts was one of the first English colonies in what later became the United States. Walking almost anywhere, even outside of the old cities of Boston or Salem, means you will almost certainly bump into the history of the founding of our country. This summer our family sets out to discover the lesser-known history of our state and our country. You are welcome to come along on our journey of historical exploration!
Sample Plan for a Patriots Day Trip
Between 4 - 7 a.m.: see the Re-enactment of the Battle of Lexington (you need a car to get there in these wee hours of the morning and an early start, else you may not find parking), which starts around 6 a.m. Note: make sure to dress winter-warm - with hat and gloves! - but in layers you can take off easily as the day wears on. Also, there is no place open for coffee this early in the morning so be sure to bring a Thermos or two of your favorite hot beverage. Bring blankets or beach/camp chairs to sit on and a step-ladder (which you won't need if you get there early enough for a front row seat around the Battle Green, but which you will definitely need if you get there after 4:30 a.m.).
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.: Pancake Breakfast offered by several of Lexington's civic groups. Stop by the Visitor Center on Mass. Ave. for a listing.
8 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.: Visit the Buckman Tavern.
8:30 a.m. - Noon: Drive to Concord's Minuteman National Historic Park for the Re-enactment of the Battle of Concord at the Old North Bridge, which begins around 10 a.m. (again, you need a car to get there and you really must get there as early as you can, to find parking).
After the Re-enactment of the Battle of Concord: drive to Boston to see the Marathon. A great vantage point is up on Commonwealth Avenue, in the area in front of Boston College, on the grassy median strip. Bring chairs or mats to sit on! Note: you don't really need a car to go to Boston and see the Marathon as runners finish up. By the Marathon's 9 a.m. start in Hopkinton, the MBTA (the "T") will already be running on a weekend schedule.
The Best Time of Year to Visit Massachusetts is April
If you decide to bring your family to Boston, MA or Massachusetts in general, the best time of year to visit is definitely April. Often called the Cradle of Liberty, Boston is the birthplace of the United States as an independent nation. Many pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary events happened in the Boston area. Boston merchants and traders issued the Boston Non-
Importation Agreement on August 1, 1768, stating that, for a period of one year
(From January 1769 to January 1770), they would not purchase or import any goods from Great Britain (such as tea, glass, paper, for example.) The Boston Massacre occurred on March 5, 1770. The Boston Tea Party took place on December 16, 1773; this is when, dressed as Native Americans, the Sons of Liberty boarded three ships of the British East India Company that had been allowed into Boston Harbor by Governor Thomas Hutchinson, and dumped 342 chests of tea into the Harbor. And, of course, the first shot - "heard 'round the world" - of the American Revolution rung out at the Battle of Lexington on April 19, 1775. A more modern event can top off your day: the legendary Boston Marathon.
April is truly the best month in which to visit Boston and the surrounding area in Massachusetts!
Marathon Monday 2013
On April 15, 2013, "Marathon Monday" in Boston, at approximately 2:50 p.m. (after the international elite runners had already crossed the finish line), Boston and the Boston Marathon joined the Twin Towers of Manhattan's World Trade Center in the annals of history thanks to another terrorist act on U.S. soil: two bombs exploded on Boylston Street, at the finish line, killing three people instantly (among them an 8 year old boy, Martin Richards). Two brothers, Tamerlin and Dzhokar Tsaernaev, had used pressure cookers to create the bombs and detonated them at the Boston Marathon. Tamerlin Tsaernaev died in a subsequent police chase. Dzhokar Tsaernaev was seriously injured; he was captured and placed in custody.
But the true spirit of Boston, and of Patriots Day/Marathon Monday as celebrated here, shone through. Many non-medical people at the scene assisted complete strangers who had been seriously injured. People who lived in the neighborhood opened their doors to marathoners who had been forced to stop in their tracks - after running most of a marathon - with no cool down, no access to their cell phones, food, warm blankets or other gear. A week later, the entire state of Massachusetts observed a moment of silence at precisely 2:50 p.m. MIT honored its fallen police officer, Sean Collier, at a memorial service attended by 10,000 people. And a fund to assist victims and their families was instantly established: The One Fund, which raised $25,790,840 by April 27th.
"Listen, my children, and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere..."
The Shot Heard Round the World - Schoolhouse Rock
What Is Patriot's Day?
Patriot's Day (Patriots' Day or Patriots Day in Massachusetts and Wisconsin) is the commemoration of the Battles of Lexington and Concord (in Massachusetts), the first military engagements of the American Revolution, which took place on April 19, 1775. In Massachusetts, it is celebrated on the third Monday in April. It is a state holiday in Massachusetts and Maine, which means that banks and public and private colleges and universities are typically closed. It also means that, if (as in 2013) the date of the holiday happens to be April 15th - the drop-dead deadline for annual federal US and state tax returns - residents of Massachusetts and Maine are usually allowed to file until midnight of the following Tuesday. However, many businesses are open on that day (dentists, retailers, restaurants, supermarkets, etc.). For school children (Kindergarten through 12th grade), the holiday typically falls on the first day of the week-long April vacation. In Wisconsin public schools, April 19th is usually a day when these battles and the people who fought them are studied closely.
Paul Revere's Ride, a dramatic reading of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem
Tips for Going to See the Re-enactment of the Battle of Lexington
Every third Monday of April, the Town of Lexington, MA celebrates Patriots Day with a re-enactment of the Battle of Lexington. Get there early, no later than 5 a.m., and bring a step-ladder with you. By 5 a.m., the crowd is already thick and, without a step-ladder, you will not be able to see the action on the Battle Green (unless you are at least six feet tall, know someone who has a house facing the Battle Green - some people even sit atop the roof of one of the houses at one corner of Massachusetts Avenue - or you are a kid whose parent puts you on his or her shoulders).
You definitely need a car (or a bike) if you are planning to go to this re-enactment since it begins at around 6 a.m. Parking is ample, but, again, the earlier you get there, the better. You may park in the Municipal Parking lots behind the stores along Mass. Ave., or on private streets or in the Stop & Shop parking lot on the other side of the Green - coming from the Highway, Route 128/I95 - along and off of Bedford Street (but be sure to read the street signs carefully! Some streets only allow parking on one side.).
Also, be sure to bring a Thermos or two of hot coffee, tea or chocolate and to wear layered clothing with a winter jacket, hat and gloves; the weather here in April is unpredictable but usually still winter-cold in these early morning hours.
My daughter and nephew usually bring their Revolutionary-style rifles (which, if he or she doesn't already own one, you can buy for your child after the re-enactment at the Visitor Center for $24.99 - $29.99) and wear their Colonial-style men's black tricorn hats).
The Battle of Lexington
What was the Battle of Lexington? It was the first engagement of the American Revolution, on what is now called the Battle Green - the Town Common - in Lexington, MA, on April 19, 1775. Colonial leaders, Revolutionary patriots, Sam Adams and John Hancock were in Lexington at the time and General Thomas Gage, who had been appointed the commander in chief of all British forces in North America back in 1763, felt he could kill two birds with one stone: round up Sam Adams and John Hancock then go on to Concord to seize the gun powder and munitions his military spies had told him were being stocked by the colonists there.
But, the colonial militias, originally set up as a volunteer group of colonial townspeople to defend their areas from civil unrest or attacks by the French or Native Americans, heard about Gage's plans to send the British Regulars and about 70 of the Lexington Militia's select - the Minutemen (who truly were ready to fight in a minute) - were already on the Lexington Green when the British troops arrived.
Both sides eyed each other, not knowing what to do or what to expect. (It's worth remembering that the colonists in Massachusetts still considered themselves English or British; they just didn't want to pay taxes without being able to represent their colonies to the King in England.) Suddenly, a shot rang out: "the shot heard 'round the world." To this day, no one knows who fired the first shot, whether it was the colonists or the British Regulars.
The British Regular Army won the Battle of Lexington, killing seven and marching on toward Concord.
Lexington Minute Men and His Majesty's Tenth Regiment of Foot, 4th (King's Own); 1st Foot Guards; 5th Foot; and 16th Dragoons
The Battle of Concord and the Old North Bridge
A little after midnight on April 19, 1775, the town of Concord, Massachusetts discovered the British plans thanks to Dr. Samuel Prescott, one of the riders - along with Paul Revere and William Dawes - from Boston. Church bells rang out the alarm, summoning the Colonial Militia men, the Minutemen, from the town and surrounding countryside. They hurried to bury the town's cannon and hide the munitions and gun powder stocked there.
By the early morning hours, at around 7:30 a.m., the British Regulars had already fought (and won) a battle with the Minutemen on the Green at Lexington and were marching into Concord, intent on destroying the weapons hidden there. When the Colonials first sighted the British Regulars nearing the town, they turned and ran to a hilltop just outside of town. From there, the Colonials could see, a little later, smoke billowing from the town center; the Colonials thought the British had torched their homes, but, in fact, they had just started a bonfire to dispose of the weapons they found during their search of colonial homes. But the colonials' assumption was enough to get them moving back to town. On the way, the colonials encountered a small contingent of British Regulars at the North Bridge, spanning the Concord River. A few shots rang out, though to this day no one knows from which side (or sides). But, the Colonials did not believe the British forces wanted to fight; they thought the British just wanted to intimidate them.
Unfortunately, the British opened fire. Two Colonials were killed at the North Bridge. The British broke ranks and retreated back to Concord town. They were waiting for reinforcements from Boston, which were still miles away since they had not left Boston until about 9 a.m. The British thought retreating was the best plan and, at first, the Colonials just watched silently as the British moved back. But, then, locals began taking up sniper positions, behind fences and trees, and opened fire from these slightly hidden, protected, vantage points. This was the beginning of the use of "guerrilla" tactics by the standards of warfare of the day. The British Regulars were very angry because they believed this was an underhanded, "uncivilized," strategy; any soldier worthy of the name would face his opponent in the open and fight according to rules of warfare.
The British wound up retreating all the way back to Lexington, where they met up with their reinforcements, with Colonial snipers firing at them all along the way. The British were so angry that, as they retreated, they broke into the homes they found along the way, shooting anyone they suspected of being a colonial sniper and burning down homes.
While the Battles of Lexington and Concord were negligible in terms of tactical and strategic victories (or defeats), they went a long way to boost Colonial Revolutionists' morale (because the Colonists managed to embarrass the British Regulars).