I know most folks outside of Massachusetts don’t know what Patriot’s Day is. Actually, a lot of people in Massachusetts don’t either. Since I was a young kid, I looked forward to April 19, staying up most of the night of the 18th till we would hike to the center of Concord, Massachusetts and to the north bridge to commemorate the events that touched off the American Revolution. Some only know of it as the day of the Boston Marathon, but to me it has always been a day to ponder the past as well as the future. It’s also the event that got me into historical research and collecting.
I have spent the majority of my life studying the outbreak of the war through primary documentation as well as the objects that survive in local museums and private collections. For me, the objects always helped bring the events to life. They still do. But today I drove to Concord to meet up with friends and soak in some of the history.
Having lived in Concord for many years, the events are the most important of the year for most townsfolk. Arriving in town, the crews were out early setting up the reviewing stand and closing down roads. Groups are arriving and heading to the staging area for the start of the parade. The town becomes alive with people all there for the same purpose, commemorating the British expedition to Concord to destroy military supplies and the fight that started our long struggle for independence from England.
A short walk from the center of town up Monument Street brings you to the Old Manse, in April 1775 the home of Reverend William Emerson, grandfather of author Ralph Waldo. In the field in front of his house are the two cannons of the Concord Independent Battery preparing to fire salutes as the parade goes by. Just past the Manse is the causeway that leads to the north bridge, lined with folks waiting to see the parade and ceremony. As former chair of the Public Ceremonies and Celebrations Committee in Concord, I organized this parade for a few years, and it feels good to not have that stress as I stand and wait for the ceremony to commence. Soon the sounds of fifes and drums can be heard coming closer. That sound always stirs emotions inside of me. Then the parade arrives and passes by with militia companies and marching bands as the cannons bang away.
If you haven’t read anything about April 19, 1775, grab a book and read up. It’s a fascinating time in our country’s history. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “The thunderbolt falls on an inch of ground; but the light of it fills the horizon.”
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