The blogger part of my brain is whirling in anticipation of this long weekend of Patriots’ Day/Easter/Marathon Monday: what to write about? I think I’ve offered up enough Easter eggs, bunnies and witches, and Patriots’ Day, the Massachusetts (and Maine) holiday which commemorates the Battles of Lexington and Concord and the beginning of the American Revolution, coincides with Marathon Monday. I have always thought of my own personal ritual–a walk or run down the Battle Road on which the British retreated back to Boston–as sort of a combination of the two holidays, a form of patriotic athleticism. But last year I had a bad cold and stayed home and watched the Marathon on television, including the horrors that unfolded at its finish line in Boston. Now, after last year, the holiday seems different, darker. I am afraid that I am a bit numbed by the nonstop media coverage of the Marathon memorial that we have experienced in the Boston area (and perhaps nationally?) over these past few weeks, so I think I’ll go back to 1775, or at least our impression or “memory” of it. After classes yesterday I flew down to Concord to catch the first day of the new exhibition at the Concord Museum, timely titled The Shot Heard Round the World: April 19, 1776, and while I was there I poked around a bit, looking for Minutemen and Redcoats–or at least their shadows.
In Concord: the entrance to the exhibition, with a militia man inside, flints from the battlefield, a 1930 diorama, and across town, the Major John Buttrick House and adjacent monument.
Concord does commemoration very well, much better than we do here in Salem: of course they a good event to commemorate–the courageous shot heard round the world–and we have a bad one–the intolerant, irrational witch trials. But I would really like to replace the tacky, exploitative, and out-of-date Witch Museum–which is really just one BIG diorama dated circa 1971–with the tasteful and reflective Concord Museum, which seems just as concerned with Concord’s history as the making of Concord’s history. I long for an exhibition on the creation of “Witch City” but doubt I will ever see it.
There’s another exhibition I’m looking forward to further down the road (battle and otherwise): The Battle After the Battle: the Lexington-Concord Tug of War for Revolutionary Fame, opening at the Lexington Historical Society on May 3. I thought these two towns worked together in the spirit of collaborative commemoration, but apparently not! They’ve both been in the business for quite some time, to which the Boston Globe photographs from the 1920s and 1930s below attest. As I was heading back to Salem I spotted a few present-day reenactors outside the Concord Museum: I think they’re camping out tonight so they can be on the spot, rested and ready, for tomorrow’s battles.
Reenactors in Concord (1928) and Lexington (early 1930s) © Leslie Jones, Boston Public Library, and yesterday, outside the Concord Museum.
April 19th, 2014 at 7:31 am
So overwhelming is our celebration of Lexington and Concord, that I was quite startled one day in high school to hear a British student describe Lexington as an American defeat . . . and realize he was right!
April 19th, 2014 at 8:12 am
That is so funny–I had the same experience when I was at university “over there”; I was speechless! I encountered another alternative historical perspective when I took my Boston-bred grandmother on a tour of the southern states–when we stayed at the Williamsburg Inn, she insisted that I turn off the Williamsburg revolutionary war film that played nonstop on the television (starring Jack Lord!) because its Virginia point of view was just “wrong”.
April 20th, 2014 at 7:36 pm
I really like the reenactments at the Old Manse in Concord. I live in Arlington and there are occasional events there, too. It’s fun to watch them march and shoot their muskets in the Patriots Day parade. I live just down the street from the parade route and love to watch the commotion as it goes past Arlington Center.
April 20th, 2014 at 8:23 pm
April 21st, 2014 at 10:20 am
April 30th, 2014 at 11:00 am
I like the use of the stripes to denote the relative size of the two forces over time. I wish it could convey a sense of the geography slightly better, perhaps like Minard’s graph of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow.
May 3rd, 2014 at 12:08 pm