Daily Archives: April 19, 2011

Patriots’ Day 1775 and 2011

The Monday closest to April 19, the day of the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775, is an official holiday in Massachusetts (and Maine, which was part of Massachusetts until 1820).  As a state employee, I always have this day off, and I commemorate the day by walking along the Battle Road, alone or with others, rain or shine.  It’s a beautiful walk, with woods, pasture, eighteenth-century structures, and the occasional militia man or Redcoat or two.  Like all federal parks (including our own Salem Maritime), the Minute Man National Historical Park is a great resource.

The best visual sources for the events of April 19, 1775 are Amos Doolittle’s engravings, which can be accessed at the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.  Doolittle had come up from Connecticut a week or so after the action with his fellow artist Ralph Earle, and they interviewed the participants and sketched the battle sites, ultimately producing four copperplate engravings of which prints were made.  There are definitely inaccuracies and biases in these images, but they remain both intimate and essential records of the day on which the American Revolution began.  Below are Doolittle’s views of the the engagements at Lexington Green and Concord’s North Bridge.

And here are some images of my Patriots’ Day:  the decorated site of the grave of anonymous British soldiers, the marked site of Paul Revere’s capture after his fateful ride, a motley crew in front of the Captain William Smith House, one of the 10 “witness houses” in the park that stood witness to the events of April 19, 1775, the Hartwell Tavern exterior and interior, and the North Bridge.

A couple of days after the battles of Lexington and Concord, the Salem printer Ezekiel Russell published The Bloody Butchery of the British Troops; or the Runaway Fight of the Regulars, alternatively known as the “coffin broadside”.  The broadside, which was updated and issued by Russell in at least six versions, presents a compelling image of the coffin-encased colonial victims or “martyrs” of April 19, and thus served (like Doolittle’s engravings) as an inspirational piece of visual propaganda in the early days of the Revolution.

Library of Congress