A Travellerspoint blog

October 2007

Day 55 (10.26.07) - Cape Cod (Photo's Added)

We drove all the way to the end of Cape Cod and back today

sunny 55 °F

Summary: Drove to the end of Cape Cod, Provincetown. Visited Beaches on both sides (Atlantic & Cape Cod) Marconi site, National Seashore Visitors Center, and Pilgrims Monument and Museum in Provincetown.

Logistics: Miles Driven: 99 (In a circle from the RV campground, to Provincetown, then back to same campground)
Camped at Old Chatham Road RV Campground, South Dennis, MA

Details: Since the RV campground we stayed at was out on Cape Cod and we had a reservation for two nights, we decided to go ahead and spend the day on Cape Cod. We left a little late so we could take care of a few chores, then started driving East. At first, my plan was to drive out all the way to the end (Provincetown), then stop and sight see on the way back. Of course, it didn't quite work out that way - seems we can't pass up an attractive place to stop!

The first place we stopped was in Eastham. Mom saw a windmill that was also listed in the tourist guide. It was built about 1680 in Plymouth by Thomas Paine and is the oldest windmill on Cape Cod. It was moved three times, the last time to it's current location in Eastham in 1808.


From the windmill, Mom noticed a Beach listed as "First Encounter Beach". We drove on down to see what it was all about. There were no signs explaining it's history, but we learned later it was the location where the Pilgrims first encountered the Native Peoples on Cape Cod. Lovely beach, but on the Cape Code side, there was almost no wave action. Across from the beach were salt marshes. We saw at least a couple of birds, the first two pictures are of a Blue Heron.


We also saw another large bird, but weren't sure what it was. If you can identify it, I'd appreciate it if you post a comment as we could use some help identifying it (this was the best of several shots I tried - I'm sorry I don't have a better view of the head).


This is my favorite shot of the salt marshes we passed.


After the salt marshes, Mom saw another beach she really wanted to visit because it was named for one of her ancesters, the Kingston Beach. We drove down to it, but it was mostly private property. The road ended at the beach, but there was no parking allowed anywhere in the area. I left the RV running, but had Mom get out so I could take a picture of her at 'her' beach:


After this, she finally agreed to let me go back to the main highway, however we hadn't driven very far when we saw signs to a "Marconi Station Site" and of course I also wanted to turn off here. I'd heard about Marconi, but hadn't paid much attention to where he did his work. It turns out his biggest success was right here on Cape Cod! In 1901, he started building a giant, 4 tower Antenna system with the dream of actually sending a telegraph signal across the Atlantic Ocean. On January 19, 1903 he succeeded in sending a 48 word telegram to England from right here! Much of the original site has been eroded by the ocean, but the National Park Service has a nice interpretive center set up showing what the site looked like in 1903 and about what Marconi did.


From here, it was a very short drive down to the Marconi Beach. This is on the Atlantic Ocean on the outside edge of Cape Cod, and it was quite windy today, so we finally saw some waves, maybe 3 - 6 feet high. From the beach, we could also see the sand dunes much more clearly and also some hang gliders that were taking advantage of the wind.


We both really enjoyed Marconi Beach, but finally started heading back north again and eventually made it to the visitors center for Cape Cod National Seashore. They had some nice area's to view the sand dunes (much of the peninsula is basically sand dune). We also learned that Cape Cod was basically built from Glacial deposits and is eroding. It is not solid rock as other parts of Massachusetts are.


We also learned that there have been a lot of shipwrecks on Cape Cod, especially in the 1800's. This isn't a very good shot (the sign was worn out and scratched long before I got to it), but when you realize that each number outside the solid line represents a shipwreck - it's pretty scary.


We also saw more birds of course (bird watching is a big tourist activity on Cape Cod, as is bicycling and whale watching). I promised not to upload any more pictures of sea gulls, but really liked this one, so...


We could also see an interesting tower off in the distance in Provincetown. It turns out that before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, they landed in Provincetown at the end of Cape Cod! They spent about two months exploring the Cape Cod area before deciding to settle in Plymouth. I didn't know any of that of course - another history lesson forgotten? Anyway, to commerate their first landing, the citizens of Provincetown erected a tall, granite monument in 1910. At 253 feet (77 meters), it is the tallest, all granite structure in the United States. While it is taller than the Bunker Hill Monument, it has fewer steps and is easier to climb, since it is wider and uses ramps between the 116 steps (which I also climbed). If you look carefully at the third picture, you can just see the "Long Point Lighthouse" and more Cape Cod shoreline in the distance. (Again, smaller photo's are just 'thumbnails', you can click on them to see a larger version).


From the top, there are some pretty fantastic views of Cape Cod, but it was getting dark and the monument & museum were closing, so I just took a few shots. This one shows part of Provincetown and it's harbor (the tide was very low).


Mom was quite hungry so we stopped for dinner at a very nice little pizza and seafood joint at the 'west end'. It was dark by then, so we drove straight through back to the RV campground, stopping only for gas. So we missed all the great lighthouses and 1,000 other interesting things there are to see on Cape Cod - just like the rest of our trip, just too many great things to see and do in one lifetime.

Posted by jl98584 21:36 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Day 54 (10.25.07) - Changing Plans, Adams & Plymouth

Well, we couldn't find ANY parking in Boston so had to give it up. We visited the Adams Homestead in Quincy and Mayflower II & Plymouth Rock in Plymouth - not a bad fallback!

overcast 0 °F

Summary: We had to get a police escort through the 'Big Dig' in Boston, found it possible to drive through small streets - but not to park, so we drove to Quincy instead and visited the home of John & Abigail Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Charles Francis Adams. Then we drove to Plymouth, MA and visited the Plymouth Rock and Mayflower II.

Logistics: Miles Driven 94
Weather: Overcast, Cool, Windy

Details: Well, not all gambles work. We did pretty good yesterday finding parking, so I thought I'd try it again today. Actually, I was trying to be a little more conservative today and called the Trolley company and was assured there was pleanty of parking near the Aquarium, so off we headed. First we ran into some trouble at the toll booth for the tunnel on I-93 (the 'Big Dig'). We found out we weren't supposed to use the tunnel at all, a propane tank (as all RV's have) is considered hazardous material (OK, now we know) - but once we'd gotten to the toll booth, there was no place to turn around. The toll operator called a police car who decided it would be easier to escort us through the tunnel then to try to get us out of there - so we were escorted through the tunnel by the police car, flashing lights and all. Great way to start off the day (not).

Next we got to the Aquarium and tried to find parking. There wasn't any - there were a few handicapped spots, but they all had cars in them, most without handicapped license plates or hangers. After driving around a bit, we gave up on the Trolley idea. I figured all of Boston would be just as bad and we should just leave town, but Mom said there must be some parking up by the Library, being a public building and all. So we headed up to the downtown section.

Unfortunately, we discovered that the map I'd purchased wasn't nearly detailed enough to navigate through downtown Boston. Mom kept trying to navigate for me, but couldn't tell which streets were one way, too narrow to pass, etc. We ended up on some very narrow streets on Beacon Hill, went around the same spots a few times, and somehow managed to pass the Boston Commons and actually recognize it. As bad as things were, I could get the RV around downtown Boston and we didn't hit anything or get stuck anywhere. We couldn't manufacture parking out of thin air however, there just wasn't any. The handicapped spots (few and far between) were full, again mostly with regular cars in them. The no parking zones were full. People were double parking on the bigger streets (and some of the smaller ones). There simply was no place to park, so we had to give up on Boston.

We are pretty good at changing plans on this trip, so we just headed south to Quincy. On the way, we took another wrong turn and were driving along a lovely, long sandy beach so I decided to stop. It was windy, so when I asked Mom to turn around for a picture - she decided to pretend she was flying.


At least she hadn't lost her sense of humor!

After spending the morning driving in circles in an RV in Boston, I decided to fire up the GPS navigation for the rest of the day. This time, I think Mom was actually relieved (maybe she's making peace with it?). The Visitors Center for the Adams National Historic Park is downtown. You have to take a tour on a Trolley (Yes, Trolley's again). This time, we found a handicapped spot just across the street, bought our tickets and got on the next tour bus:


We couldn' t go through the houses that were the birthplace of John Adams because there was a wedding reception there. Actually the site cannot be used for weddings, but I guess they have to make an exception if you're one of the family members that gave the site to the state! We drove by them however and on to the main home.


Of course, no photo's are allowed inside so you'll have to take my word for it - this was a very interesting tour. The family has donated thousands of artifacts to the National Historic Park, so it is filled with furniture, paintings, books, china and all sorts of things that had been used in the house for generations. John Adams and John Quincy Adams were two of the presidents I didn't know very much about. We did learn more on the tour, probably not enough - but enough to want to learn more. John Quincy Adams wrote most of the Monroe Doctrine. His son, Charles Francis Adams was Ambassador to England during the Civil War and considred by many to be the third most important person for the North in winning the war (after Lincoln and Grant), because he convinced England not to join the war on the side of the confederacy.

John Quincy Adams designed a library, but his son Charles Francis had it built after his fathers death - in some ways now the oldest presidential library. There is also a garden with two tree's still standing that John Adams planted (look for the oldest tree's in the picture, of course).


And of course, if you want to learn more they have a great web site (and I'd also recommend Wikipedia):


We then drove to Plymouth, Massachusetts. This is where in 1620, Pilgrims founded the second permanent English settlement in America (after Jamestown), and the first in New England. I had heard that Plymouth Rock was a big disappointment, so wasn't surprised to see just an average looking rock in a big, fancy housing.


However, there was a ranger on hand and interpretive signs that helped explain it better. First, when the Pilgrims landed, the shoreline was straight - it was filled in later as the town grew. Then when they decided to put the rock back where it belonged, they left some of the fill on the sides to make a nice park. So, if you were there in 1620, you would see the rock stand out from the edge of the hill that extended down to the shoreline.

Second, at high tide, the water comes up almost to the edge of the rock. When there are storms in the area, as there was when the Pilgrims landed, the water is even higher and would have covered the beach completely.

Finally, the rock is only 1/3 it's original size. In the 1800's, the townfolk actually kept a hammer and chisel near the rock for people who wanted to take a chunk of it home for a souviner!

So the ranger said that when you take all these factors into consideration, it probably was the actual rock the pilgrims landed on (when they settled in Plymouth that is - more on that tomorrow). It was also identified fairly early on as the landing site and has been called such as long as anyone can remember.

Next door to Plymouth Rock is a full replica of the Mayflower, named Mayflower II. It is already 50 years old so has outlived her namesake! I thoroughly enjoyed going through this. In spite of the cold wind, Mom actually enjoyed herself also. There were people dressed as Pilgrims and speaking with an old English dialect, which made the experience even better. The smaller boat to the side is what the Pilgrims used to explore Cape Cod before deciding to settle in Plymouth.


Here is the foredeck (and bow if you can see it). There were about 100 Pilgrims and 25 - 30 crew crowded on this tiny ship.


The flash washed out a couple of the re-enactors, which is really unfortunate because they were quite good. The third crew member needed to be in a picture however, so here they are. Also I was surprised to see they built the ship's stove out of Bricks, but of course this was almost 400 years ago.


After doing all this, it was too late to also visit the Plymouth Plantation, so we drove on to a campground we had reserved on Cape Code and called it a night. I had a great internet signal and started to work on the blog, but got side tracked watching a History Channel show on the French Revolution on YouTube, so didn't get the blog done. Of course, now I'll have some catching up to do...

Posted by jl98584 19:59 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Day 53 (10.24.07) - Boston, USS Constitution & Bunker Hill

We actually took the RV through the 'big dig' and survived to visit the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill.


Summary: Visited the U.S.S. Constitution, built in 1797 and still an active U.S. Navy ship, and the U.S.S. Constitution Museum. We drove up to Bunker Hill and visited that site and a brand new Museum they've opened across the street.

Logistics: Mileage: 51 (from Campground, to Boston mostly)
Weather: Overcast, some light rain
Camped: Wal-mart, Lynn, MA

Details: We left the campground a little late this morning so I could print out some paperwork that needed to be completed (I did print it, but it still needs to be completed - Ugh). Also, since we stayed at a really nice campground last night, we did all the RV maintenance stuff before leaving (just like at home, but different). Mom is not too fond of the fancy GPS software I bought, so I also bought a detailed street map of Boston to try to help us navigate. The people at the campground store were very nice, but also advised me to take the subway to Boston, they said they were even afraid of driving there. But I'm fearless (or a fool), so drove on.

That's not exactly true, I considered the options carefully. The subway is probably a good alternative for most folks, but I thought this would be harder for Mom with her walker. She also gets tired, so it's very nice to have the RV handy if she doesn't feel like going through something. I had also called a Trolley company that drives around Boston and they said there was parking down by the Aquarium we could fit into. However, they only ran until 3:30 PM and we were leaving so late it wouldn't give us very much time - at $30 apiece!

Finally since it is past the prime tourist season, we had found Lexington and Concord to be quite manageable - parking was sometimes tight, but could be found, especially since Mom has a handicapped tag. So I decided to try to wing it on our own, then go to a different plan if that didn't prove feasible. Besides, we're from the Seattle area which has some of the worst traffic in the Country. I'd driven the RV in Seattle before, while not fun - it can be done (before you try this on your own, keep in mind that my rig is 8 inches narrower than most RV's, which can make a big difference on narrow streets).

So off we headed to downtown Boston, about forty miles from the RV camp. We had driven through downtown on I-93 after we left Dedham (to visit the Fairbanks house), so I knew I could survive it (as long as the ceiling doesn't fall down). This stretch of highway includes a 3.5 mile tunnel under the heart of Boston commonly known as 'the big dig'. Very intesting if you want to read up on it:


We were trying to decide whether to head to the Boston Public Library to try again to locate information about Mom's grandfather or to go to the Aquarium where I knew there would be parking. However we weren't exactly sure what exit we needed to take to get to either one. In spite of the map - Boston's streets are a bit of a mess and missed the exit we needed so we drove through the tunnel to the next exit. It still might have gotten us to our intended destinations, but we ended up in the right lane when we needed to turn left, so I decided to go to the U.S.S Constitution instead, which was on our right. The roads weren't really well marked, so I just tried turning where it looked logical and we got down to an area that looked like waterfront so I started looking for parking. There basically wasn't any, except for one spot reserved for handicapped licence plates - so I took it. Mom was a little confused by the signage, but I was pretty sure I was legally parked (or they'd have to be pretty mean to tow a vehicle with a handicapped tag). Fortunately, it was only a hundred feet or so farther than the Trolley Stop for the Constitution!

This turns out to be in the area called the "Charleston Navy Yard". This was established in 1800 and remained in active service until 1974. When it was closed, 30 acres were set aside as part of the Boston National Historic Park. While some of the buildings are now offices or retail shops, you still get a sense of the work done there in the past. We really liked this building, it is the "Muster House. The bell was rung to assemble workers in the surrounding plants.


Across the streets is one of the first two granite dry docks in America. Prior to dry docks, boat hulls were repaired or serviced by laying the boat over on it's side - a process called careening. This was very difficult and time consuming. It was also very stressful for wooden hulled ships and some actually sank during the process.


Dry Dock 1 was built in 1833 to make the repair of naval ships faster, easier and safer. In time of war, fast turnaround for repairs can also make a big difference in ships available to fight. The first ship to use Dry Dock 1 was the U.S.S. Constitution.


Just beyond this is the U.S.S. Constitution Museum in a building that used to be the pumphouse for Dry Dock 1. We learned a lot more about the early history of the U.S. Navy and the U.S.S. Constitution. Maybe I should spare you from having to read all this however, since the information is readily available elsewhere?


Anyway, as I've always loved old sailing ships - this was quite a treat for me, to be able to see this grand old ship in person. It was just beyond the Museum.


Mom decided to take the tour with me even though it meant climbing some difficult stairs, so off we went. This is still an active ship in the U.S. Navy and is manned by U.S. Navy personnel who serve as tour guides. Most even wear cloths appropriate for a mid 1800's navy ship.


The ship has four decks, three of which are on the tour, the top or 'spar deck', the second or 'gun deck' and the 'berth deck' for the crew. The lowest deck (orlop) was for storage only and is not on the tour. I probably could have taken a thousand pictures, but maybe was in too much awe or something so only took a few, and uploaded even fewer.


Proof that Mom actually made it down those steep stairs!


After a thoroughly enjoyable tour on 'Old Ironsides', we decided to visit Bunker Hill. Most folks would walk since it is right above the Charleston Naval Yard, but Mom said her toe was hurting and I looked at the walk and decided it would be just too much for her even if her foot hadn't hurt. Maybe I was a little overconfident since we'd found parking so easily at the naval yard.

The drive to Bunker Hill isn't as straightforward as the walk, but somehow we managed to follow the right path in the maze (called streets in this area) and found the monument site, but no parking. Actually, we found a lot of parking, but it all had signs - 'Tow Zone - Resident Parking Only'. After driving around in a circle a bit, I located a spot that didn't appear to have any no parking signs. Interestingly, it was right behind a handicapped spot that had a car without an appropriate sticker or license. Hmm, maybe they don't enforce that here? Just to play it safe, we went ahead and put Mom's hanger in the window (I take it down to drive so it won't block my vision). To give you an idea of the streets I was trying to navigate, this one is directly across from Bunker Hill (a little narrow):


Half a block up the hill was the front corner of the National Park.


We walked up to the top and found out that in addition to the granite obelisk monument, there is an exhibit lodge. Mom waited there while I went back to the RV for my 'National Park Passport', not realizing that Bunker Hill was one such place. On the way back, I also shot a picture of Colonel Wm. Prescott, who lead the colonials defense.


The granite monument is 221 feet tall and can be climbed (no elevator). I hadn't been getting much exercise and it looked like the view from the top might be pretty good, so 294 steps later,


...I got a pretty good shot of Boston. On the lower left, you can see the masts of the U.S.S Constitution. Then, across the Charles River is Old Boston.


Mom and I also went through a new museum that has opened up across the street from the battlefield and I did take pictures inside, but will spare you the pain of having to wade through them. However, having been through the exhibits and reading the material we picked up at the park and the museum, I have certainly developed a much greater appreciation of the events that took place here June 18, 1775.

Many say the British won the battle, since on their third attempt, they succeeded in chasing the colonists off the high ground. However, they suffered so many casualties that they were unable to capitalize on their 'victory' and unable to break the siege of Boston and start attacking the militia surrounding them. The colonists certainly gained a 'moral' victory in that the proved to themselves that they could stand up against the best army in the world. So who 'won' depends on your definition of 'winning' I suppose.

So what we have learned so far: Lexington was the first armed skirmish and Colonist casualties, Concord the first organized battle and British casualties, and Bunker Hill the first major and planned battle with extensive casualties. And all three were part of the same campaign that started with the British attempt to confiscate munitions and arrest ringleaders and ended with the British evacuating Boston.

That's enough to make anybody tired, not just Mom, so we headed north to a Wal-mart I found on the internet. In addition to not wanting to drive 40 miles to an expensive (but nice) RV park, Mom has some prescriptions that still need to be filled (her doctor only called in one when we were at Acadia, so now the other two are almost gone). Since Wal-marts have pharmacies - it was a logical choice for tonight.

This time, we used the GPS software and it got us out of Boston just fine. We are in Lynn, MA at Wal-mart for tonight. When we went into the store to get her prescriptions, I met a couple of really nice local girls, Josipa & Ana (I think - if I got these wrong I hope they log in and drop me a comment and let me know, I can edit these). I like to try to meet local people as we travel and get their two cents on the area. They weren't that fond of Lynn, but like the Boston area in general. Josipa said she worked at the Omni Parker House, the longest continuously operating luxury hotel in America, originally opened in 1855. After looking it up, I can see why she was proud of working there.


BTW - if anyone finds an error or omission, drop me a comment - I can go back and edit old blog entries!

Signing off -

Posted by jl98584 19:01 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Day 52 (10.23.07) - Concord, MA - Battles & Writers

We visited the North Bridge, where the 'Shot Heard Round the World' happened, then the Concord Museum and Louisa May Allcott's home.


Summary: North Bridge (first 'real' battle in Revolutionary War), Concord Museum, Louisa May Allcot house, Minute Man Visitors Center on Battle Road (between Concord & Lexington).

Logistics: Mileage is irrelevant since we're just touring the Boston area for the time being.
Weather: Mostly Overcast, Windy, warmish (mid 60's F). Rain is forecasted but hasn't started yet.
Camped: Normandy Farm RV Park, Foxboro, MA

Detail: We decided to stay in the Concord area today since we were already there and there were a lot of things we thought might be interesting. First we went to the North Bridge Visitors Center. The wind was blowing today and leaves were falling all around us - quite spectacular. As mom was walking, she started shuffling her feet deliberatly in the leaves, just for fun, and then just couldn't help playing with them.

Inside the Visitors Center were two manikin's in the period dress of the era when the Revolutionary War began (and two womankins who couldn't resist a manikin in uniform):


(I'm borrowing heavily from the National Park signage for the following) The significance of the North Bridge is that this is where the second battle took place, and the first organized and deliberate battle (Lexington being more of an accidental skirmish). The British troops arrived in Concord and disbursed to search for weapons. They also sent some troops to guard the two bridges in town, including three companies of about 96 men to the North Bridge. As word of the British advance and the casualties at Lexington spread, colonist militia started coming to the area. About 400 gathered on a hill outside of town near the North Bridge. Their leaders were hesitant to engage the British troops until they saw smoke above the town. They thought the British were burning Concord, which wasn't quite the case. They also saw the British soldiers start removing planks from the bridge.

The militia started marching in a column of two's to face the British companies on the other side of the Bridge. The British opened fire on the colonists. This time their leader, Major John Buttrick commanded, "Fire, fellow soldiers, for God's sake, Fire!" For the first time, the Colonists were ordered to fire on the soldiers of their King, and for the first time, they killed British soldiers. Ralph Waldo Emerson immortalized this moment in a 1937 poem as "the shot heard round the world".

Fortunately, there was no shooting going on when Mom & I visited the bridge. It was fall rather than April, when the actual battle took place - but a lovely and quiet place for us today. (One million visitors a year visit the Lexington - Concord battlefields, I suspect most come during the summer however). In this shot of the North Bridge, the British would be on the near side (left), the militia on the far side (right). The original bridge was not as curved as this replacement.


A National Park Ranger is always stationed at the bridge during park hours to answer questions, point things out to visitors and offer explanations as needed. This one was also kind enough to pose with us. The British would have been on the far side in this shot.


A gravestone also pays tribute to the two British soldiers who fell during the battle.


Amazingly, on the Concord side of the bridge (where the British were) there was a house only a couple of hundred yards away. This was the house built by Ralph Waldo Emerson's grandfather. The Emerson family was home at the time of the battle, Mr. Emerson's wife, Phebe, watched it from the upstairs back bedroom window! Their correspondence indicates that they were aware at the time how significant the event was (I suspect that many colonists and British had been both fearing and expecting a confrontation for some time and knew exactly what it meant when the shooting finally commenced).

The house is called 'The Old Manse' and is open for tours. Mom and I took the tour and learned that it is not just signficant as an old house (built in 1770) or because of it's proximity to the battle at the North Bridge, but also because it was the home (later) of Ralph Waldo Emerson, then also Nathanial Hawthorne - both significant writers in the mid-1800's. After her husband, the senior Rev. Emerson, died - Phebe married a Mr. Ripley. Other then renting it to the Hawthornes for three years, the house remained in the family and was used by them until they donated it and it's contents to the "Trustees of Reservations". So like the Fairbank's house in Dedham, this house has remained in tact. One of the more interesting features are small writings scratched into some of the glass window panes by Nathanial Hawthorne and his wife to each other.


After finally leaving the North Bridge/Old Manse area, Mom and I drove back through Concord. The tourist brochure recommended visiting the Concord Museum and it was directly on our route, so we stopped and went through this.

Outside the museum is a full replica of Henry David Thoreau's house that he built on Waldon Pond. He built it simple and small on purpose as his intention was to connect with nature. While it is quite small, it seemed pleasant enough and he had frequent guests during his stay there.


Inside the museum, no pictures are allowed. One of the items on display is one of the Lanterns hung from the church in Boston to alert Paul Revere which direction the British Regulars would take ("One if by land, two if by sea"). The museum also has four rooms set up to reflect different periods in the 1700's and 1800's, which was nice. It had a lot of interesting information about the exhibits and a few hands on activities for kids, but they could probably use some more interactive learning experiences. A really nice interpreter was wandering around trying to help museum goers such as us enjoy the visit and understand the exhibits. This helped a bit as he was able to point out some interesting facts that I would have missed on my own. The also have a good web site, which explains the 'period rooms' a lot better than I did:


Next on the route was the Louisa May Alcott house (it's rather amazing how close these things are to each other - it is really a compact area for the amount of historically signficant sites). She is the author of "Little Women", among other things. While the book is largely autobiographical, she and her sisters were actually older when the family moved into the house. However, most of the stores are based on their experiences here. Her father was actually fairly progressive, but wasn't able to make enough money to support the family. When Louisa's wrote "Little Women", she was able to take care of her family, pay off their debts, and really improve their circumstances. She and her family were also ardant abolitionists, so when the civil war broke out, Louisa volunteered to be a nurse for the Union Army. She became ill and was given Mercury as a medication, which caused her health problems for the rest of her life. (You may have seen this already, I took it yesterday when we drove past the house - but as we actually took the tour today am linking back to it again - sorry for the repetition.)


As you can probably guess, all of the above took up most of the day. I probably should have quit right then and found a place to park for the night, but no - I decided to stop one more place we had driven past the day before. In addition to the visitors center at the North Bridge, the National Park Service has a visitors center along Battle Road, so I decided to check it out. Mom was really tired by this point, so decided to wait in the RV, which is fine (we try to maintain an agreement that either of us can do so at will). Anyway, a lot of the information repeated what we'd learned at other sites, but it was presented in a nice, clear timeline. They have also developed a very nice multimedia presentation called 'The Road to Revolution' which I watched. Again, pretty much the same information - maybe if I see it enough I'll actually remember it?

A couple of things I may have failed to point out previously (or just learned at this center).

After the battle at the North Bridge, the British troups withdrew and rejoined the main force in Concord. They hadn't found many weapons because the warnings had given the colonists enough time to hide many of the weapons the British were trying to confiscate or destroy. They did destroy what they could find, then formed up and started their march back towards Boston.

In the meantime, colonial militia continued to pour into the area from surrounding communities as the alarm and word of the conflict spread. By the time the British column made it back to Lexington, the Colonial Militia significantly outnumbered the British. As the British marched back to Boston, the Colonists continued to attack them, with an almost constant stream of skirmishes and battles, inficting heavy casualties.

So the battles of Lexington and Concord consisted of three phases, (1) A disorganized skirmish first in Lexington where eight Colonists were killed and the British victorious, (2) A more regular battle at the North Bridge in Concord where the Colonists for the first time intentionally fired on and killed British soldiers, and (3) an long, strung out battle during the British march back to Boston.

The second thing I learned at the Minute Man Battlefield Visitors Center was what happened after Lexington and Concord. By the time the British made it to Boston, almost 20,000 militia had gathered from the surrounding areas. A few went home to their families, but probably around 16,000 remained and laid seige to Boston. At first, they were disorganized and unfocused, but once George Washington was put in charge - they began to become a regular army. Everyone in Boston suffered terribly during this seige, both Colonial residents and British Soldiers. At one point, a resident wrote of having served rat meat to his houseguest! The battle of Bunker Hill was fought during this period as the British tried to attack the Colonists laying seige to their position (I don't know much about this yet, maybe tomorrow?). Anyway, after Washington had cannon brought down that had been captured at Fort Ticondaroga in upper New York, the British knew they could not hold their position and evacuated Boston on March 17, 1776 - almost a full year after the battles at Lexington and Concord. Boston schools still celebrate March 17 as "Evacuation Day" - the day the British left Boston.

Well, I was going to try to get back to writing a travel journal today instead of a textbook - looks like I didn't quite make it. We did eventually leave the Concord area however and found an RV Park. This is quite a ways south of Boston, but our intention is to visit downtown Boston tomorrow (maybe in the rain) and also Thursday - then head down to Cape Cod. This should be interesting - finding our way around Boston in an RV.

Posted by jl98584 19:07 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (2)

Day 51 (10.22.07) - Lexington, MA

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


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!)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Posted by jl98584 18:01 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

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