I recently found myself in Lexington and Concord, again. I wasn’t planning this particular visit but my friends and I were traveling back to Boston from a week in Maine and hadn’t booked a hotel over a holiday weekend. For a variety of reasons we ended up west of Boston. And what is a history geek to do when so close to these major American history sites? Pay homage, of course.
The thing is, I never tire of visiting these two fascinating towns. The National Park Service has done a great job of interpreting the events of April 1775 and continues to work to preserve various sites along the battle road between the towns. One can also sense a little tourist competition between them – both feature a heroic statue of a minuteman and both speak of the shot that heard round the world. Of course that line from the Concord Hymn:
refers to the militia’s shots at the North Bridge in Concord. But one can easily argue that the mystery shot (usually credited as coming from the British troops) on the Lexington green, prior to Concord, was the opening salvo in the American Revolution. As a park ranger explained to me at the North Bridge, the first time the militia was ordered to fire at the British, the ultimate act of defiance, was in Concord. The first colonial blood was spilt in Lexington, the first British blood was spilt in Concord.
Standing on the town green in Lexington, by the monument indicating where the rag tag line of militia stood against the British redcoats, never fails to stir my patriotic juices. Two key buildings still sit at the edge of the green: Buckman Tavern, built in 1710, where Captain Parker and his nervous militia gathered in the early hours of April 19, 1775, and the Hancock-Clarke house where patriots John Hancock and Sam Adams were staying when they were awakened by Paul Revere with the warning of the approaching British army.
Concord is as idyllic as a New England town can be. It features colonial and Victorian cemeteries, white churches and the North Bridge. The bridge rivals the Lexington green for patriotic power. Concord’s added historical layer is the homes of three illustrious American literary families: the Old Manse (within view of North Bridge), home to Emersons and Hawthornes; Orchard House, home to the Alcotts; and The Wayside, home to Alcotts and Hawthornes.
The historic sites at Lexington and Concord commemorate events that changed the course of history. It’s interesting to ponder the fact that both the militia troops and the British troops thought of themselves as British subjects. But the volunteer soldiers, farmers by occupation, had had enough and on April 19 they were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to defend their way of life and their freedoms. It was a step from which there was no turning back.