Patriots’ Day, the annual celebration of the events of April 19, 1775 has just concluded. Minute Man National Historical Park schedules numerous events over three consecutive weekends, which together are called Patriots’ Weekend. Along with National Park Week, April kicks off the park season with this unique Massachusetts event.
April 7th, the town of Concord turns out to celebrate the beginning of the running battle at Meriam’s Corners on the east side of town. A morning parade, followed by a salute by the Concord Minutemen and an open house at the Meriam house, got the events started. Later in the afternoon, the Lincoln Minute Men commemorate the Paul Revere capture along the Battle Road in the park. This year, a theater in the field brought back those involved in the creation of “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” to life near where Revere was captured.
April 14th kicked off with Tough Ruck. Over one thousand current and former military as well as first responders ran and walked 26.2 miles, emulating the distance of the Boston Marathon from the North Bridge and along the Battle Road Trail, the first battleground of the American Revolution. Reenactors portraying Captain David Brown's Company of Minute Men fired a volley musket fire for the participants as they crossed over North Bridge to begin their annual ruck, which is sanctioned by the Boston Athletic Association as an official marathon event. The Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums then played as the column of ruckers passed by.
Living history activities continued at Hartwell Tavern, Smith House and the Whittemore House. The three key features along the Battle Road were staffed by members of the Lincoln Minute Men, Guild of Historic Interpreters and park volunteers who turned out to interpret life in the 1770’s to visitors. At the Smith House, volunteer reenactors portrayed civilians preparing to flee the scene of fighting, as many hundreds did in 1775. The evacuees then processed along the Battle Road Trail interacting with visitors.
The Minute Man Visitor Center was the center of activity. Starting with activities for Junior Ranger Day, over 100 new junior rangers was sworn in throughout the day. The First Michigan Volunteers were on hand to perform colonial music to the amassing visitors waiting for the afternoon tactical demonstration at the Parker’s Revenge section along Battle Road.
At 1:00 p.m., over two hundred volunteer reenactors took to the field as colonial minutemen and British Army regulars. The tactical demonstration presented visitors with the sights and sounds of what this area of the park, a third mile of the Battle Road battlefield, may have been like for all involved.
Sunday, the return of the popular “Revolutionary Dogs: Paws for the Cause,” which brought the dog owning community out for a fun look at dogs, history and some canine socializing. Later, that afternoon, the Barrett farm was open for interested visitors to view the house, an object of British Army an April 19, 1775. At 3:00 pm, British Regulars arrived to search the house and property for military stores. Hundreds of visitors took advantage to view the house, presently, only open for special events.
Monday morning weather was predicted to be nothing short of a Nor’easter. The annual commemoration at North Bridge was cancelled, as was the Concord Parade. This did not stop park staff and the re-enactment community from coming out to make a wish come true. All scheduled re-enactors made it a point to arrive to make the day special for John McConnell, whose wish was to march with the patriots and be on North Bridge to command, by drumbeat, the colonial and British reenactors to fire their muskets. It was a special moment that was made more so by the determination and generous spirit of our community.
Wednesday, April 18th continued to reflect the celebrations surrounding Patriots Day. For the second year, the park offered The Patriot Vigil. A somber reflection of all whose lives ended on April 19th added a contemplative reflection to the meaning of the day's events. Visitors were encouraged to join the procession from North Bridge Visitor Center carrying their own candle lantern. The sight was something to behold as a long column of twinkling lights processed down the old path to the North Bridge. Members of the Concord and Lincoln Fife and Drum Corps played period appropriate music. Words of reflection reminded all of the sacrifices made by people 243 years ago. A reading of all those known to have died were read by volunteer reenactors.
April 19th broke with the annual morning salute by the Concord Minutemen and Concord Independent Battery fired 21 guns for reflection and commemorate of the event. Continuing with tradition, the Sudbury Minute Men braved the rain and cold to march from Sudbury to Concord. When they arrived at the park, they were inspected by park staff and fired three volleys from the North Bridge. Other local groups did so as well.
As much as you would think the park would have been able to rest on its laurels, April's events did not end in the afternoon of April 19th. Saturday, April 21st, the Guild of Historic Interpreters presented a new program of evening theater and history. After the Battle - The War Has Begun is a special evening performance presenting the stories of those who lived and lives were forever changed by the events of 1775.
To successfully present the multiple events held during April, Minute Man National Historical Park had hundreds of volunteers came together in the planning and execution of the events, ensuring nothing else like it takes place for three consecutive Saturdays. Support from area national park sites, plus area police and fire as well as U.S. Fish and Wildlife rangers and State Police together allowed 10,000 plus visitors a chance to find their park. Black powder safety officers from Boston National Historical Park, Saratoga National Historical Park, Fort Stanwix National Monument and Fort Necessity National Battlefield provided safety inspections and monitoring of the closely choreographed demonstration.