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Day 51 (10.22.07) - Lexington, MA

The first skirmish & casualties of the Revolutionary War took place here on April 19, 1776.

sunny

Miles Driven: 69
Weather: Sunny, Warm (76 F) and BEAUTIFUL!

Who could ask for a more perfect day! The fall colors are in full bloom in Massachusetts (probalby late because of the unseasonably warm weather, but we're running late also so it's worked out perfectly).

New Hampshire only has a very short stretch along the Atlantic Coast, so it didn't take us very long to reach Massachusetts. I avoided stopping anywhere since I expected we'd need plenty of time at Lexington and Concord. Using the information from the Visitors Center, Mom and I had decided to take a bus tour of the battlefields, check out the "National Heritage Museum" in Lexington (where the bus tours started), and that's about it.

So with Mom navigating, we proceeded to the appropriate freeway exit and started heading towards the Museum. As we drove through a very pretty area with a lot of old looking homes, all of a sudden I saw monuments and a statue by an open lawn area and the Lexington Visitors Center. 'Whoa', I thought - 'this looks important'. Before I had time to think, a car started pulling out of a parking space - so I just zipped into it. It was too small for the RV, but probably too small for most other cars as well - so to play it safe I climbed into the back end and exited through the side door. (That's the flag pole at Lexington Green in the background - that's how close we were!)

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Mom of course had no idea why I'd stopped and got a little confused because this obviously wasn't the museum. She decided to wait in the RV, but I said it just looked too important and pressed her into getting out also. We found out later that the bus tours had already ended for the season and where we stopped was exactly where the battle of Lexington had occured! We proceeded on to the visitors center.

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After picking up some information and maps (and souvenirs), we went Buckman Tavern, which was right next to the Visitors Center, and started our new career as Revolutionary War Patriots.

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No photo's were allowed indoors here or at the Hancock House later, so today's blog entry will be more text and less pictures (some days go like that). The tour was fascinating however and very educational. The tavern was originally built in 1709 (without the addition to the right, which was added in 1813 as a Post Office). The two back rooms were used as the Buckman residence. The front room to the right was the 'Tap Room', where men could meet. The front room to the left was the ladies parlor.

I also toured the Hancock-Clarke house (Mom was tired, so went back to the RV to wait.) This was also very interesting (& I have several pages of notes on both houses, the types of things used by people in that day, history of the families, etc. I'll try to add those later as a separate blog entry, maybe in the educational category?) Anyway, Samual Adams and John Hancock were sleeping in the back bedroom upstairs when Paul Revere pounded on the front door to warn them of the British raid.

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The British plan was to send 800 regulars (well trained, professional soldiers) out on a pre dawn raid to arrest Samual Adams and John Hancock, who were rumered to be in the Lexington area, and to confiscate a large cache of gunpowder and weapons the militia had gathered in Concord. Patriots in Boston learned of the plan and set up a network of riders to alert the Massachusetts towns once they knew the time and route of the British Raid. So once the British set out, Paul Revere and other riders took off to warn the towns. While there were actually multiple riders, Paul Revere is the one who went to the Hancock-Clarke house and made sure Adams and Hancock woke up and got out before the British arrived. (Later immortalized in Henry Wadsworth-Longfellow's famous poem, "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere").

When the riders arrived in Lexington, the town folk also rang a large bell to warn men who belonged to the local militia of the impending danger. (Lexington was a very small farming community, there were only a few homes by the green - most folks were scattered in the area on their farms. Also, every town had a militia during this period. They were formed for local defense and had been used by the British to help fight the French-Indian war, but as the colonists became increasingly angry about British taxes and policies, local militia's stood against the British in the initial skirmishes of the war, prior to the Declaration of Independance and formation of a more organized Continental Army.) Eventually, 77 militia men gathered near Buckman Tavern under their leader, Capt. John Parker.

Capt. Parker, Samual Adams and John Hancock and probably others had discussed the possibility of the British raid earlier and agreed to confront them, but not initiate a fight. Likewise, the British did not intend to start a battle with the militia that gathered at Lexington. However, it was probably inevitable that a gun would go off - two sides of armed men faced off against each other, both sides upset and with grievances. Capt. Parkers command to his men was "Stand your ground. Do not fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here."

The British command to the militia was "Lay down your arms, you damned rebels, or you are all dead men." (Some claim the command to "Fire" was also given). At that, Capt. Parker told his men to disburse or take care of themselves and many started turning away to go home. Nobody is sure exactly who or which side fired first (both sides claimed the other did), but the British killed 8 men and wounded 10 others during the brief skirmish. The rock on the right is about where Capt. Parker's men had assembled. They were facing the British, which would be towards the left in this shot - but not very far away.

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The monument was added later and the men who fell were reburied at it's base. Several of the casualties were shot in the back. One, John Harrington, was shot in the chest and crawled acrss the green and died in his wife's arms. His cousin, Jonathan Harrington, played the fife for the militia and at 15, was the youngest militia man at the battlefield. (Fife's an Drums were used to convey commands to soldiers, as they could be heard more clearly in the confusion of battle). The Buckman Tavern, which was behind and a little to the side of the militia, took 11 musket balls during the skirmish.

While the battle at Concord and during the British march back to Lexington later were bigger - it all started here, in Lexington. The 77 men in the militia that day comprised about 1/2 the adult men in the area, so the eight dead hit the community hard. There were about 740 people living in the Lexington area at the time.

So now that I've put you all to sleep reading what is readily available many other places, you may be asking 'why'? I guess I find his interesting because I knew so little about it. This really was the birthplace of our country, - what lead up to it, what happened, and what did it lead to? When I went to school, I'm sure I learned that Lexington and Concord were the first battles (or skirmishes) in the Revolutionary War and probably a lot more (which I've forgotten). Now I find the details so much more interesting. And it really is more interesting seeing it in person.

We also did visit the National Heritage Museum a little farther down the road and learned a lot more about the decade or so leading up to the war. The British had spent a lot of money on the French-Indian war and needed to raise money to repay their debts. They tried several different taxes, but may have felt that the colonists should pay more since the war had benefited them. The colonists felt the taxes were oppressive and were upset at being taxed 'unfairly' (when people in England didn't have to pay the same taxes). Each new wave of tax brought protests, sometimes the British would repeal an unpopular tax, but then replace it with another. As the colonists became increasingly angry, the British tried harder to assert their authority by enacting oppressive laws and sending more troops to the colonies. The more the British tried to control the colonists, the angrier the colonists became. The angrier the colonists became, the more the British tried to control them.

Well, I've spent so much time repeating common history you've probably gone off somewhere else by now. If not, at least you know we spent today learning (or relearning) a lot about this critical period in American History. We did drive on up to Concord and learned a bit more, but will probably spend time in Concord tomorrow, so will cover that then.

In the meantime, you might find these of interest:

Across from the Lexington Green is this lovely church. It wasn't there during the Revolutionary War, but is a nice example of the types of churches we've been seeing across New England.

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We also passed the home of Louisa May Alcott's family, which is in Concord. We may try to stop by here tomorrow also, I'm not sure yet. My niece loved the book, "Little Women", so Mom wanted to make sure we got a picture of this house.

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Finally, when we got to Concord it was getting pretty late (and a little darker), so when I got out to go to the Visitors Center I didn't bother to take my camera with me. I took one look down the street and ran back for my camera. The sun was getting low, but still high enough to just light the tree's on the far side of downtown Concord. A good shot to sign off with. However, I would be remis if I didn't first mention the Concord Visitor's center. It closes at 5 PM, but when I got there it was about a quarter to six. The nice gentleman manning the desk had so many people coming in for help, he just stayed open and kept helping his guests! Hard to match that kind of service.

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Posted by jl98584 18:01 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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I can see why you ran back to get your camera! nice trees. You are still mostly a lot warmer than it is here. We got a little change last week when I went to Sedona AZ for a conference. Vivian came with me and was joined by an old friend from San Francisco. they got to be tourists while I sat learning good stuff. We went to the Grand Canyon after the conference, saw a large fire burning on the North rim, so the Canyon was quite hazy. A different view. Az was about 10 degrees hotter than ususal everywhere, so Sedona was in the mid 80's most days, the canyon was in the 70's, and Pheonix was in the 90's. We did see Raul Jr and Lynette the sunday we arrived and the Sunday we left.

by drque

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