Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Historic Plaque stolen from Lexington Green

Bronze Plaque Stolen

A nearly 100-year old bronze plaque marking the former site of the Old Belfry on Lexington Green was stolen sometime last week, as reported in the Boston Globe and elsewhere. The plaque was mounted on a large boulder on the Green in 1910. The 20-inch by 20-inch plaque was inscribed with a drawing of the Old Belfry and the following inscription: ''The site of the Old Belfry from which the alarm was rung, April 19, 1775. This tablet was erected by the Lexington Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution 1910."

The original belfry was moved to a nearby hillside where it was destroyed by a storm. A new belfry was built in its stead where it still stands today. It is assumed that the plaque was stolen by vandals for the intrinsic value of its metal, but it may very well end up in the hands of an unscrupulous collector.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Attack on Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941, on a Sunday morning, aircraft from the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked the U.S. Army and Naval forces stationed in Hawaii. Most notably the attack centered on the naval ships at Pearl Harbor. Over two thousand soldiers and sailors were killed in the surprise attack and several warships were sunk or damaged.
Speaking to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, President Franklin Roosevelt on December 8 called for a declaration of war upon Japan and famously referred to December 7 as "a date that will live in infamy". With the declaration of war by Nazi Germany on December 11 the United States was finally, reluctantly drawn into a world war.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Samuel Clemens born

Samuel L. Clemens
(1835- 1910)

Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born on this date in 1835 in Florida, Missouri. His family moved to Hannibal, Missouri when he was four and it was growing up in this small town on the banks of the Mississippi that formed the basis for his famous novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Clemens later achieved his childhood dream of becoming a pilot on a Mississippi river steamboat.

When the Civil War shut down river traffic Clemens went west and began his career as a newspaper reporter and writer in earnest. He adopted the pen name Mark Twain, a term used on the Mississippi for water depth (two fathoms). During his lifetime Samuel Clemens achieved world wide fame for his novels and writings. He died on April 21, 1910 in Redding, Connecticut.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Semper Fidelis

Today is the Marines Corps Birthday. On November 10, 1775 the Second Continental Congress authorized the raising of two battalions of Continental Marines. Tradition has it that Captain Samuel Nicholas began the first recruiting drive at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia.

The U.S. Marines have fought with distinction in all of the nations wars but in modern times their reputation was cemented by their actions at Belleau Wood in World War One and in the Pacific theatre of World War Two. The bloody actions on Guadalcanal, Tarawa and most famously the fighting and the raising of the flag over Iwo Jima have ingrained the memory of their sacrifice in the minds of the American people. Semper Fi!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Spirit of '76

"The Spirit of '76"

This famous painting, The Spirit of '76, was painted by Archibald M. Willard, an amateur painter from Ohio. (Several versions of this painting were made, but this is the most famous version). The painting was made in time to be exhibited at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Penn. in 1876. Commonly referred to as Yankee Doodle, it was then transported and exhibited across the country before being purchased by General John Devereux of Marblehead. The painting is on permanent display in the selectman room at Abbott Hall, in Marblehead, Mass.

A number of other paintings are on display in the room, along with a marble bust of Elbridge Gerry, a signer of the the Declaration of Independence. Many other items relating to the history of Marblehead are on display throughout the building. A small maritime museum is located on the first floor, with viewing hours by appointment and by chance. Abbott Hall is located at 188 Washington St. Marblehead, Mass. 01945 Abbott Hall is closed on Sundays.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Lord Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown

On this date in history in 1781 British General Lord Cornwallis surrendered his command to a combined American and French force led by General George Washington at Yorktown, VA. This effectively ended the war for America's Independence, although a formal peace treaty was not signed until 1783 in Paris.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Mayflower Compact

Signing the Mayflower Compact
Bradford St.
Provincetown, Mass.

After a torturous three month crossing of the Atlantic Ocean a small group of Pilgrims (separatists from the Puritan Church of England) found themselves in a new land. Having taken a more northerly course than originally planned the crew and the passengers of the Mayflower began to survey the harbor and the surrounding land of what is now Provincetown, Mass.

They found the area unsuitable to their needs and went on to establish their settlement in what is now Plymouth, Mass., but while still in the harbor the Pilgrims wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact. This compact or agreement was meant to establish a new form of governance for their new colony under the auspices ands authority of their sovereign King James I. It was signed by 41 of the colonists. The text is as follows:

In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are under-written, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc.

Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine our selves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the eleventh of November [New Style, November 21], in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord, King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Dom. 1620.

This bas-relief of the signing can be found on Bradford St. in Provincetown at the base of the Pilgrim Monument.

Friday, July 17, 2009

American Independence Festival

American Independence Museum
One Governors Lane
Exeter, New Hampshire 03833

This Saturday (July 18) the American Independence Museum is sponsoring a street festival in Exeter, New Hampshire. This popular annual event will consist of a number of family oriented activities, food and craft vendors and will center on the events of July 1776 when American Independence was first declared in the former British colony of New Hampshire. In addition to a reading of the Declaration of Independence, General George Washington of the Continental Army will be speaking at this event.

Revolutionary War re-enactors (including the 4th King's Own) will be on hand to engage the public in a spirited debate about the merits of rebelling against King George III. Artillery firing and 18th century tactical demonstrations are once again scheduled throughout the day. The festival will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in downtown Exeter. A fireworks display sponsored by the Town of Exeter will take place in the evening.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

"Weekend With the Glovers"

Glover's Encampment
Fort Sewall
Front St.
Marblehead, Mass.

This weekend (July 10-12) Col. Glover's regiment will be hosting their annual summer encampment at Fort Sewall in Marblehead. Starting on Friday, re-enactors from all over New England will turn this former colonial era fort into an Revolutionary War encampment, with units representing Colonial militia, the British Navy and British Regulars (to include the King's Own) on hand.

The highlight of the weekend for the viewing public will be, as always, the pitched battles through the streets of Marblehead between the Colonial militia and the armed forces of His Majesty King George III. There are two battles scheduled for Saturday, one in the morning at 10:15 and another in the afternoon at 2:00.

Fort Sewall is open to the public until sunset and public facilities are available. Parking in the area adjacent to the Fort is very limited.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Phineas Upham House Tour

Phineas Upham House
255 Upham Rd.
Melrose, Mass.
Recently the caretaker of the Phineas Upham house was kind enough to give me a tour of the property. Three rooms in the house have been restored to their 18th-century appearance and have been decorated with many original family artifacts.
The "great room" and an adjoining room on the first floor both have the large fireplaces typical of First Period homes. This is where much of the family cooking was done. The bedroom upstairs is furnished with a four poster bed and also has some family memorabilia on display. The original beams are exposed throughout the house and the rooms are comfortably sized with 7 foot (approx.) ceilings. The Upham house was built in 1703 and is still owned by lineal descendants of Phineas Upham. The property is managed as a non-profit entity and is open to the public on a limited basis for tours.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The "New" Massachusetts State House

Massachusetts State House
Beacon Hill

Boston, Mass.

The "new" Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill was completed in 1798, replacing the Old State House on State Street, as the new seat of state government. The building was designed by Charles Bullfinch and was located on land originally owned by John Hancock, the first governor of Massachusetts. The cornerstone of the building was laid by Samuel Adams, Paul Revere and other prominent Masons.

The buildings gold dome was originally just wood. The structure leaked so in 1802 it was overlayed with copper sheathing from Paul Revere's own company. The gold leaf was added in 1874 giving the dome its distinctive appearance.

The statues in front of the main structure of the building are of Horace Mann and Daniel Webster. In front of the visitors entrance, on the lower lawn, is a statue of Civil War General Joseph Hooker mounted on horseback. There are also statues of Anne Hutchinson, Mary Dyer and President John F. Kennedy. Inside the original building on the second floor can be found murals depicting scenes of early Massachusetts history and the Hall of Flags. On display in the Hall of Flags are Massachusetts Regimental flags from the nations wars.

The Massachusetts State House is open for tours Monday - Friday from 10:00 to 4:00 p.m. The building is closed on weekends and holidays.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Battle of Bunker Hill

Battle of Bunker Hill
Charlestown, Mass.

Today is the 224th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill, the first major battle of the American Revolution. Although
the British won the battle, it was a very costly victory that gave hope to the American cause, as it showed Colonial troops could stand against Britain's best soldiers. The battle is also significant, I believe, for what might have happened to the new Rebellion if events had turned out just a little bit differently.

The initial plan was for the Colonial militia to fortify Bunker Hill, which is a higher promontory and is closer to the mainland than Breeds Hill on the Charlestown peninsula. For reasons unknown today it was decided to build a redoubt on Breeds Hill and this is where most of the actual fighting on that day took place. This placed the militia in a (potentially) very precarious position. It would have quite easy for the British Army, under the cover of the British Navy, to have made its amphibious landings behind the redoubt and attacked the fortification from the rear. This plan was advanced by General Clinton, but he was overruled.

The actual landings on the peninsula were made in front of the redoubt. The British troops were sent in a broad frontal attack, carrying full backpacks, that failed miserably. An attempt was made to turn the flank of the militia, but due to the timely arrival of Col. Stark and his men from New Hampshire, this also failed. It wasn't until a final third assault was made that the British finally succeeded in sending the militia fleeing to the rear. British forces had removed the threat to their position in Boston, but at a great cost.

What was a Pyrrhic victory for the British could easily have been a major disaster for the Colonial militia. If the assault had been made in a more timely matter and if a landing closer to the land bridge to the peninsula had been made, then the American forces would have found themselves trapped. They would have been forced to surrender in total or have been killed. A defeat of this size and nature, at this early date, may have been fatal to the American colonies fight for independence.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The "First Shot" Opens in Lexington

Lexington Battle Green

This Saturday a new documentary film entitled "First Shot: The Day the Revolution Began" will be shown at the Lexington Flick theatre at 7:30 p.m. The short 14 minute film was filmed in Lexington by Lexington resident Rick Beyer and was financed by the Lexington Historical Society.

The documentary portrays the historical events in Lexington leading up to the morning of April 19, 1775 when the "first shot" of the American Revolution was fired on Lexington Green. The film was made possible by the efforts of hundreds of volunteers, including members of the Lexington Minutemen and reenactors wearing the British uniform from the 1st, 4th, 5th and 10th Regiments. The Boston Globe has the story here. The Lexington Flick theatre is located at 1794 Mass. Ave in Lexington center. Tickets are $5 and seats are available in advance by calling 781-862-1700.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

D-Day - 6 June 1944

Landing on the Beach
Today is the 65th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy, France during World War II. On this date in 1944 British, American and Canadian army divisions landed on the beaches of Normandy and airborne forces dropped from the skies or landed in glider transports in the countryside. Although German forces knew the invasion was coming, tactical and strategic surprise was achieved.

The German high command delayed their efforts to throw back the invaders into the sea for fear this landing was a ruse with the real invasion coming later to attack the port of Calais. (Calais is only 21 miles from England versus the 110 miles to Normandy). The delay allowed the Allies to gain their foothold on the continent and to ultimately achieve their goal of liberating occupied France and then invade the German homeland. The successful landings at Normandy were the beginning of the defeat of Hitler and the German armies in Western Europe.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

General Petraeus Visits the Old North Bridge

The Concord Minuteman
Daniel Chester French

U.S. Army General David Petraeus paid a visit to the Old North Bridge in Concord this morning for a very special occasion - the General and his wife Holly pinned two new gold 2nd Lieutenants bars on the uniform of his son Stephen at the foot of the statue of the Concord Minuteman. Stephen Petraeus is graduating from MIT in Cambridge with a Bachelors degree in Science and with his successful completion of MIT's ROTC program will also be commissioned as a Reserve officer in the U.S. Army.

As the former commanding General in Iraq, General Petraeus is credited with making marked improvements in U.S./Iraqi security operations in the aftermath of that countries invasion by U.S. led forces. He is currently serving as Commander-in-Chief of Central Command (CENTCOM) which is responsible for U.S. military forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan. General Petraeus has been invited to speak at graduation events at both Harvard and MIT this week.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Night To Remember

RMS Titanic

The last survivor of the sinking of the passenger ship RMS Titanic on 14-15 April 1912, Elizabeth Gladys Milvina Dean died on Sunday at the age of 97. Sunday happened to be the anniversary of the launching of the famous steamship in 1911. (Story on Elizabeth Dean here.) Struck by an iceberg in the North Atlantic on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City, over 1,500 passengers lost their lives when the ship sank in less than three hours.

According to the popular lore of the time, the Titanic was supposedly unsinkable. The catastrophe has been blamed on the negligence of the Captain, traveling at a speeds that was unsafe given the time of year and conditions and even the faulty manufacture of the ships steel and rivets. The loss of life was greatly increased due to a lack of a sufficient number of lifeboats onboard the Titanic.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Washington Family Tomb

A View Inside the
Washington Family Tomb
Mount Vernon Estate, Va.

Prior to his death in 1799, George Washington directed that a new family tomb was to be constructed on the grounds of Mount Vernon, his Virginia estate. The new family tomb was built in 1831 and the remains of George and Martha Washington were placed in the new tomb. Requests to move President Washington's sarcophagus to a chamber under the U.S. Capitol building, specifically constructed for Washington's entombment, were denied by the family following the desired wishes of Washington as laid out in his will.

As you face the entrance to the tomb - which is temporarily opened in this photo - George Washington's sarcophagus is on the right, the sarcophagus on the left is, of course, Martha Washington's.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Remembering the Veteran on Memorial Day

"The Supreme Sacrifice"
Oak Grove Cemetery
230 Playstead Road
Medford, Mass.

This statute of an American Doughboy, entitled "The Supreme Sacrifice", is dedicated to those Americans from Medford who lost their lives in the First World War. The soldier is holding his arms out as in the manner of a cross and is looking up towards the sky. Unlike most statues of this kind the soldier is not holding a weapon. The statues creator, Emilius R. Ciampa (1896-1996) was born in Italy but grew up in Boston's North End.

The bronze statue overlooks the headstones of the Medford Veterans of that long ago war, arranged in neat rows with American flags marking every grave. All of our Veterans of the First World War are gone now, just as in the not too distant future, all of the Veterans of the Second World War will also be gone. That last great war in Europe ended in May 0f 1945 and we owe the men and women who fought in those wars and have kept the peace since then a great debt. Especially those who made the supreme sacrifice.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Grand Re-Opening for Hancock-Clarke House

Hancock-Clarke House
36 Hancock St.
Lexington, Mass.

The Lexington Historical Society will conduct a grand re-opening celebration for the Hancock-Clarke House in Lexington on Sunday May 17 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The property has just undergone a year long extensive renovation. There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony at 2:00 p.m. and tours of the house will be conducted. Everyone is invited to attend.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate

Mount Vernon
3200 Mt. Vernon Memorial Highway
Mount Vernon, Va.

If the old saying, "home is where the heart is" is true, then George Washington's Mount Vernon estate in Virginia is certainly where his heart could be found.

Originally built in 1757 (upon the foundations of an earlier farmhouse) Mount Vernon is beautifully situated on a bluff overlooking the Potomac River. It was given the name Mount Vernon by Washington's older half-brother Lawrence in honor of British Admiral Edward Vernon.

The mansion and the surrounding outbuildings were extensively renovated throughout Washington's life. Through inheritance, purchase and his marriage to the widower Martha Custis, George Washington eventually became the proprietor of five farms comprising some 8,000 acres of land. Washington spent much of his life overseeing all aspects of the management of his property, determining what crops to grow, hiring artisans and managers, landscaping and later in life, deciding to have a grist mill and distillery built.

Called away to serve his country in the American Revolution (1775-1783) and as the nations first President (1789-1797) Washington gratefully returned to Mount Vernon and spent his last years there. He died on December 14, 1799 after a brief illness and is buried in the family tomb on the estate alongside his wife Martha.

After his death Mount Vernon was not as ably managed and over time the mansion itself fell into disrepair and much of the property was sold off or given to family members. By the 1850's Mount Vernon was desperately in need of new ownership. The property was offered for sale to both the Federal government and the State of Virginia, both of whom declined.

Ann Pamela Cunningham of South Carolina subsequently founded the Mount Vernon Ladies Association in 1853 and in 1858 the Association purchased Mount Vernon, along with 200 acres, from George Washington's heirs. Mount Vernon was given much needed repairs and was first opened to the public in 1860. Since that time George Washington's Mount Vernon has been owned and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association as a non-profit organization operating under the public trust.

Mount Vernon is open to the public 365 days of the year and in addition to tours of the mansion and the grounds, there are shops, a food court, restaurant, a visitors center and museum. Parking is free.

Monday, April 27, 2009

"They Came Three Thousand Miles, and Died..."

Grave for British Soldiers
Old North Bridge
Monument St.
Concord, Mass.

Not far from the foot of the Old North Bridge there is a stone grave marker for the fallen soldiers of the 4th King's Own Light Company, killed nearby on 19 April 1775. Two British flags are placed in front of the memorial. The marker reads as follows:

Grave of British Soldiers
"They came three thousand miles, and died,
To keep the Past upon its throne:
Unheard, beyond the ocean tide,
Their English mother made her moan."
April 19, 1775

These lines are taken from the poem by James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) of Cambridge, Mass. a graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law and an ardent abolitionist.

"Lines, Suggested By the Graves of Two English Soldiers On Concord Battle-Ground" (1849)

The same good blood that now refills
The dotard Orient's shrunken veins,
The same whose vigor westward thrills,
Bursting Nevada's silver chains,
Poured here upon the April grass,
Freckled with red the herbage new;
On reeled the battle's trampling mass,
Back to the ash the bluebird flew.

Poured here in vain;--that sturdy blood
Was meant to make the earth more green,
But in a higher, gentler mood
Than broke this April noon serene;
Two graves are here: to mark the place,
At head and foot, an unhewn stone,
O'er which the herald lichens trace
The blazon of Oblivion.

These men were brave enough, and true
To the hired soldier's bull-dog creed;
What brought them here they never knew,
They fought as suits the English breed:
They came three thousand miles, and died,
To keep the Past upon its throne:
Unheard, beyond the ocean tide,
Their English mother made her moan.

The turf that covers them no thrill
Sends up to fire the heart and brain;
No stronger purpose nerves the will,
No hope renews its youth again:
From farm to farm the Concord glides,
And trails my fancy with its flow;
O'erhead the balanced hen-hawk slides,
Twinned in the river's heaven below.

But go, whose Bay State bosom stirs,
Proud of thy birth and neighbor's right,
Where sleep the heroic villagers
Borne red and stiff from Concord fight;
Thought Reuben, snatching down his gun,
Or Seth, as ebbed the life away,
What earthquake rifts would shoot and run
World-wide from that short April fray?

What then? With heart and hand they wrought,
According to their village light;
'Twas for the Future that they fought,
Their rustic faith in what was right.
Upon earth's tragic stage they burst
Unsummoned, in the humble sock;
Theirs the fifth act; the curtain first
Rose long ago on Charles's block.

Their graves have voices; if they threw
Dice charged with fates beyond their ken,
Yet to their instincts they were true,
And had the genius to be men.
Fine privilege of Freedom's host,
Of humblest soldiers for the Right!
--Age after age ye hold your post,
Your graves send courage forth, and might.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Jason Russell House Reenactment

Jason Russell House
7 Jason St.
Arlington, Mass.

This Sunday (April 19) from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. there will be an reenactment of the brutal fighting that took place at the Jason Russell house, in what is now Arlington, on April 19, 1775. On that date eleven members of the Colonial militia and two British Regulars were killed on the property. Jason Russell was among those killed. This event is being hosted by the Arlington Historical Society and the Menotomy Minutemen.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Battles of Lexington and Concord

The Concord Minuteman
Minuteman Nat. Historical Park
Concord, Mass.

This coming weekend (April 18-20) will be a very busy weekend for Revolutionary War Reenactors and the general public interested in viewing several events marking the Battles of Lexington and Concord fought on 19 April 1775.

On Saturday morning there will be an event at the Old North Bridge, Concord in Minute Man National Historical Park where again Colonial Militia will drive off the British Regulars. This will be followed by action near the Hartwell Tavern in Lincoln where retreating British soldiers will be subject to harassing "fire" from several companies of militia. Finally a battle reenacting the meeting up with Percy's relief column will take place in Tower Park, Lexington at around 3:00 p.m.

Very early Monday morning, April 20 (Patriot's Day) the Lexington Training Band will defy the odds and make their brave stand against the British Regulars representing His Royal Majesty, King George III. Their efforts will again be in vain as the Regulars clear Lexington Green before continuing onto their mission in Concord. The Lexington Green reenactment is followed by short intermission (a pancake breakfast) and then there will be a special event at the Old North Bridge in Concord to commemorate those who lost their lives on April 19, 1775, at the original bridge.

The King's Own will be in the midst of all this action, along with many other units representing British Regulars and Colonial militia. A full schedule of these events and many more is listed here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Barrett Farm

Barrett Farm
448 Barret's Mill Road
Concord, Mass.

There will be an open house at Barrett Farm in Concord this Sunday and Monday (April 19-20) from 10 to 3 p.m. This historic farm house, built in 1720, was home to Col. Barrett of the Middlesex Militia on 19 April 1775 when British Regulars searched his property for military munitions and stores. The household had already been warned of the approaching soldiers and had managed to hide gunpowder and even some brass cannon in the newly plowed fields. Col. Barrett led his men in an attack against the Regulars at the North Bridge and "the shot heard round the world" was fired.

Legislation was passed in the Senate March 30 to allow Minute Man National Historical Park to extend its boundaries and to purchase the Barrett Farm and other nearby properties. This Friday various dignitaries, including Congresswoman Tsongas, will be at Barrett Farm to celebrate the new legislation. The public is invited. These stories here.

The Barrett Farm is currently undergoing extensive renovations and is owned and operated by the Save Our Heritage, Inc. .

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Col. Smith Receives His Orders

Lt. Gen. Thomas Gage

On 18 April 1775 Gen. Gage, commander of British forces in Boston, gave his orders to Col. Smith of the 10th Regiment of Foot to lead an expeditionary force to Concord and seize the Colonial "Artillery, Ammunition, Provisions, Tents, Small Arms, and all Military Stores" that were being kept there.
His orders were as follows:

To Lieut. Colonel Smith
10th Regiment of Foot
Boston, April 18, 1775


Having received intelligence, that a quantity of Ammunition, Provisions, Artillery, Tents and small Arms, have been collected at Concord, for the Avowed Purpose of raising and supporting a Rebellion against His Majesty, you will March with a Corps of Grenadiers and Light Infantry, put under your Command, with the utmost expedition and Secrecy to Concord, where you will seize and distroy all Artillery, Ammunition, Provisions, Tents, Small Arms and all military Stores whatever. But you will take care that the Soldiers do not plunder the Inhabitants, or hurt private property.

You have a Draught of Concord, on which is marked the Houses, Barns, &c, which contain the above military Stores. You will order a Trunion to be knocked off each Gun, but if its found impracticable on any, they must be spiked, and the Carriages destroyed. The Powder and flower must be shook out of the Barrels into the River, the Tents burnt, Pork or Beef destroyed in the best way you can devise. And the Men may put Balls of lead in their pockets, throwing them by degrees into Ponds, Ditches &c., but no Quantity together, so that they may be recovered afterwards. If you meet any Brass Artillery, you will order their muzzles to be beat in so as to render them useless.

You will observe by the Draught that it will be necessary to secure the two Bridges as soon as possible, you will therefore Order a party of the best Marchers, to go on with expedition for the purpose.

A small party of Horseback is ordered out to stop all advice of your March getting to Concord before you, and a small number of Artillery go out in Chaises to wait for you on the road, with Sledge Hammers, Spikes, &c.

You will open your business and return with the Troops, as soon as possible, with I must leave to your own Judgment and Discretion.

I am, Sir,
Your most obedient humble servant

Thos. Gage.

Interestingly enough, although Col. Smiths orders were quite explicit, there is no mention in these orders to seek out and capture the two rebel leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock. This was one of the concerns uppermost in the minds of the members of the Committee of Safety and Paul Revere had been dispatched on April 18 to warn the two men who were staying in Lexington at this time.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Lincoln Shot on Good Friday

Tonight at 9:00 p.m. on PBS Channel 2 in Boston, Bill Moyer hosts a special on Abraham Lincoln on his show, Bill Moyer's Journal. This special event program, Lincoln's Legend and Legacy, has been created and is being brought to television through the efforts of actor Sam Waterson and historian Harold Holzer.

Today being Good Friday is an anniversary of sorts as Abraham Lincoln was shot on Good Friday, April 14, 1865 at Fords Theatre in Washington, D.C. Lincoln was seated in his private balcony box watching a performance of "Our American Cousin" when the stage actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth fired a single shot into his head. Booth escaped from the theatre and was later caught and killed after a massive manhunt.

President Abraham Lincoln died from his wound on April 15, 1865, just six days after Gen. Robert E. Lee had surrendered his Army of Northern of Virginia at Appomattox Court House in Virginia.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

"To the Shores of Tripoli."

"From the halls of Montezuma,
To the shores of Tripoli;"

The second line in the first stanza of the Marine Corps hymn refers to the the port of Tripoli in North Africa and the role the U.S. Marines played in the Barbary Wars, a conflict where a reborn U.S. Navy fought against the Barbary Pirates. The Pirates of the Barbary Coast for hundreds of years preyed on the merchant shipping in the Mediterranean demanding ransom and tribute from the nations of Europe. Once the 13 American colonies became independent of Great Britain, the American merchant fleet was also subject to attack from the North African corsairs.

Upon the conclusion of hostilities with Britain, it was felt that there was no longer a need for an American navy. The fighting men of the Navy were cashiered and their ships were sold or given away. But as a new nation with a long coastline and a large merchant marine the United States found itself in a very vulnerable position. Americas first threat was from French privateers, which led to an undeclared war against France (1798-1800). The U.S. then had to deal with the Barbary pirates.

The large American merchant fleet sailing in the Mediterranean was a tempting target for the pirates. American sailing ships were captured and the men on board were held for ransom and kept in dungeons, subject to horrible living conditions. In response to these events and others in 1794 the U.S. had passed an act authorizing a new American Navy. Six large heavy frigates, including the U.S.S. Constitution, were ordered to be built and the American Navy and its Corps of Marines was reborn.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Foot of the Rocks

The Foot of the Rocks
Lowell St. and Mass. Ave.
Arlington, Mass.

Some of the heaviest fighting to take place on April 19, 1775 between British Regulars and Colonial militia took place at the Foot of the Rocks (and the Jason Russell house) in what was formerly the village of Menotomy. In this small park in Arlington a plaque marks the site of the Foot of the Rocks and states, in part: "The valor of all those who fell and those who fought on, consecrated the Foot of the Rocks in 1775. We dedicate this field to their memory so that their courage will live on. The Arlington Bicentennial Planning Committee April 19, 1976."

Friday, April 3, 2009

Phineas Upman House

The Phineas Upham House
255 Upham Road
Melrose, Mass.

The Phineas Upham House is a Colonial Salt box style home built in 1703 in what was then called North Malden. Phineas Upham was a descendant of John Upham who arrived in Boston in 1635.

At one time in the early 1900's the house served as a "Tea Room" that offered on its menu light refreshments, lunches and "six o'clock suppers".

With the aid of a $400,000 grant from the Massachusetts Historical Commision, in the past few years the property has undergone extensive renovations. A new barn, built using the old joint and mortice style, was added to the property in 2007. That story here.

The Phineas Upham House is owned and maintained by the Upham Family Trust, an organization with over two hundred members nation wide. The property is listed with the
National Register of Historical Places.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Boardman House

Boardman House
17 Howard St.
Saugus, Mass. 01906

The Boardman House in Saugus is an excellent and rare example of a surviving first period home. Built by William Boardman in 1692, many of its original features are still intact. The home is registered as a National Historic Landmark and is owned and maintained by Historic New England . The house is open to the public for tours six days a year. The next public tour will be on Saturday June 6 from 11:00 to 3:00 p.m. when admission to the house will be free.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Paul Revere Capture Site

Minute Man Nat. Historical Park
Marrett Rd. (Rt. 2A)
Lincoln, Mass.

Inside Minute Man National Historical Park , right on Route 2A, is this small display that marks the approximate spot where Paul Revere, William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott were stopped by a British patrol as the three men were headed towards Concord in the early morning hours of 19 April 1775. Both Dawes and Prescott managed to escape but Revere was taken prisoner by the British soldiers. The marker in the center of the display reads as follows:

"At this Point, on the old Concord road as it then was, ended the midnight ride of Paul Revere". He had, at about two o'clock of the morning of April 19, 1775, the night being clear and the moon in its third quarter, got thus far on his way from Lexington to Concord, alarming the inhabitants as he went, when he and his companions, William Dawes, of Boston, and Dr. Samuel Prescott, of Concord, were suddenly halted by a British patrol, who had stationed themselves at this bend of the road. Dawes, turning back, made his escape. Prescott, clearing the stone wall, and following a path known to him through the low ground, regained the highway at a point further on, and gave the alarm at Concord. Revere tried to reach the neighboring wood, but was intercepted by a party of officers accompanying the patrol, detained and kept in arrest. Presently he was carried by the patrol back to Lexington. There released, and that morning joined Hancock and Adams. Three men of Lexington, Sanderson, Brown and Loring, stopped at an earlier hour of the night by the same patrol, were also taken back with Revere.

Paul Revere's version of this story, from a written and corrected deposition taken down in 1775, is a little more colorful:

We set off for Concord, and were overtaken by a young gentleman named Prescot, who belonged to Concord, and was going home. When we had got about half way from Lexington to Concord, the other two stopped at a house to awake the men, I kept along. When I had got about 200 yards ahead of them, I saw two officers as before. I called to my company to come up, saying here was two of them, (for I had told them what Mr. Devens told me, and of my being stopped). In an instant I saw four of them, who rode up to me with their pistols in their bands, said ''G---d d---n you, stop. If you go an inch further, you are a dead man.''

Immediately Mr. Prescot came up. We attempted to get through them, but they kept before us, and swore if we did not turn in to that pasture, they would blow our brains out, (they had placed themselves opposite to a pair of bars, and had taken the bars down). They forced us in. When we had got in, Mr. Prescot said ''Put on!'' He took to the left, I to the right towards a wood at the bottom of the pasture, intending, when I gained that, to jump my horse and run afoot. Just as I reached it, out started six officers, seized my bridle, put their pistols to my breast, ordered me to dismount, which I did. One of them, who appeared to have the command there, and much of a gentleman, asked me where I came from; I told him. He asked what time I left . I told him, he seemed surprised, said ''Sir, may I crave your name?'' I answered ''My name is Revere. ''What'' said he, ''Paul Revere''? I answered ''Yes.'' The others abused much; but he told me not to be afraid, no one should hurt me. I told him they would miss their aim. He said they should not, they were only waiting for some deserters they expected down the road. I told him I knew better, I knew what they were after; that I had alarmed the country all the way up, that their boats were caught aground, and I should have 500 men there soon. One of them said they had 1500 coming; he seemed surprised and rode off into the road, and informed them who took me, they came down immediately on a full gallop.

One of them (whom I since learned was Major Mitchel of the 5th Reg.) clapped his pistol to my head, and said he was going to ask me some questions, and if I did not tell the truth, he would blow my brains out. I told him I esteemed myself a man of truth, that he had stopped me on the highway, and made me a prisoner, I knew not by what right; I would tell him the truth; I was not afraid. He then asked me the same questions that the other did, and many more, but was more particular; I gave him much the same answers. He then ordered me to mount my horse, they first searched me for pistols. When I was mounted, the Major took the reins out of my hand, and said ''By G---d Sir, you are not to ride with reins I assure you''; and gave them to an officer on my right, to lead me. He then ordered 4 men out of the bushes, and to mount their horses; they were country men which they had stopped who were going home; then ordered us to march. He said to me, ''We are now going towards your friends, and if you attempt to run, or we are insulted, we will blow your brains out.'' When we had got into the road they formed a circle, and ordered the prisoners in the center, and to lead me in the front. We rode towards Lexington at a quick pace; they very often insulted me calling me rebel, etc., etc. After we had got about a mile, I was given to the sergeant to lead, he was ordered to take out his pistol, (he rode with a hanger,) and if I ran, to execute the major's sentence.

When we got within about half a mile of the Meeting House we heard a gun fired. The Major asked me what it was for, I told him to alarm the country; he ordered the four prisoners to dismount, they did, then one of the officers dismounted and cut the bridles and saddles off the horses, and drove them away, and told the men they might go about their business. I asked the Major to dismiss me, he said he would carry me, let the consequence be what it will. He then ordered us to march.When we got within sight of the Meeting House, we heard a volley of guns fired, as I supposed at the tavern, as an alarm; the Major ordered us to halt, he asked me how far it was to Cambridge, and many more questions, which I answered. He then asked the sergeant, if his horse was tired, he said yes; he ordered him to take my horse. I dismounted, and the sergeant mounted my horse; they cut the bridle and saddle of the sergeant's horse, and rode off down the road. I then went to the house were I left Messrs. Adams and Hancock, and told them what had happened; their friends advised them to go out of the way; I went with them, about two miles across road.

After resting myself, I set off with another man to go back to the tavern, to inquire the news; when we got there, we were told the troops were within two miles. We went into the tavern to get a trunk of papers belonging to Col. Hancock. Before we left the house, I saw the ministerial troops from the chamber window. We made haste, and had to pass through our militia, who were on a green behind the Meeting House, to the number as I supposed, about 50 or 60, I went through them; as I passed I heard the commanding officer speak to his men to this purpose; ''Let the troops pass by, and don't molest them, without they begin first.'' I had to go across road; but had not got half gunshot off, when the ministerial troops appeared in sight, behind the Meeting House. They made a short halt, when one gun was fired. I heard the report, turned my head, and saw the smoke in front of the troops. They immediately gave a great shout, ran a few paces, and then the whole fired. I could first distinguish irregular firing, which I supposed was the advance guard, and then platoons; at this time I could not see our militia, for they were covered from me by a house at the bottom of the street. s/PAUL REVERE.

Adjacent to the Capture site is a small parking lot and a dirt foot path that leads into the Park.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Isaac Hall House

Isaac Hall House
43 High St.
Medford, Mass.

This historic building on High St. in Medford was built in 1720 and was home to Captain Isaac Hall, the company commander of the Medford Minute Men in 1775. Paul Revere stopped here on the night of 18 April 1775 and awoke Capt. Hall, warning him that the "Regulars" were out.

Here is the stanza from Longfellow's famous poem "Paul Revere's Ride", that describes Revere passing through Medford that evening:

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

This building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The Isaac Hall house is currently the site of the Gaffney Funeral Home.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Historic Museums Re-open for the Season

Buckman Tavern
One Bedford St.
Lexington, Mass.

Next Saturday (April 4) the Lexington Historical Society's three Revolutionary War era museums in Lexington will re-open for the season offering tours to the general public.

Buckman Tavern, located just across from Lexington Green, will be open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., with tours every half hour. The Hancock-Clarke house at 36 Hancock St. and the Munroe Tavern, 1332 Mass. Ave, will only be open weekends, but starting June 15 they will be open daily with tours on the hour. The Hancock-Clarke house opens at 10:00 am and Munroe Tavern opens at noon.

Tickets good for all three (First Shot Tickets) are available at any one of the three house museums and are $10.00 for a adult and $6.00 per child. Children under the age of six and Lexington Historical Society members are admitted free of charge. Tickets to visit just one of the properties are also available. Tours of these historic house museums will end (until next season) on November 1. You can call 781-862-5598 for more information.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Old Belfry

The Old Belfry
Belfry Hill
Clarke St. and Mass. Ave.
Lexington, Mass.
The Old Belfry in Lexington was first built on its present day site in 1761. The bell in its peak was intended to be used as an alarm bell to warn of imminent attack, fire and other emergencies as well as the death of a member of the community.

The Belfry was moved in 1768 to Lexington Green. On the morning of April 19, 1775 the bell was rung to call out the Lexington militia and to warn of the approaching British Regulars.

The Old Belfry finally was moved back to its original location overlooking Lexington Green in 1891 by the Lexington Historical Society. In 1909 it was destroyed by a strong gale. It was rebuilt in 1910.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lock, Stock and Barrel

Lock, Stock and Barrel
Crowne Plaza Hotel
King of Prussia, Pennsylvania

The Friends of Valley Forge Park is hosting a symposium this weekend (March 27-29) on the American Revolution. Guests will be staying at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Prussia, Pennsylvania which is a short distance from Valley Forge National Historical Park.

Well-known writers and historians such as Thomas Fleming, James L. Kochan and Tom McGuire will be in attendance. In addition to attending the lectures and programs at the hotel, a visit to Valley Forge and an exclusive look-behind-the-scenes of its museum is included in the weekend. More information about the weekend can be found here.

Subjects to be covered include programs on General George Washington, the making of the American Army and the roles played by African-Americans and women during America's War for Independence. All of these sessions are taught by experts in the field.

Unfortunately I won't be in attendance this weekend, but if I was there are two programs in particular that I would want to sit in on. (As it so happens, they are being held at the same time so I would have had to choose.)

The first program deals with the Lexington and Concord alarm of 19 April 1775 and it examines the primary evidence for the events of that day. Jim Hollister from Minute Man National Historical Park here in Massachusetts is the guest speaker.

The second program deals with the dress and accoutrement's of the British Army in Philadelphia in 1777. Here is the program description:

Howe’s Redcoats: The Dress and Military Equipage of the British Army during the 1777 Philadelphia Campaign. James L. Kochan presents the uniforms, arms, and personal gear of the British soldier during this session from initial procurement and issue to field modification, using 18th century records and correspondence, surviving artifacts, and period artwork.

This sounds like a great weekend for historians, teachers, reenactors and for anyone else interested in the history of the American Revolution. Maybe next year (if there is a similar event) I'll give a first-hand review of the weekend.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Hartwell Tavern

The Hartwell Tavern
Minute Man Nat. Historical Park
Marrett Rd. (Rt. 2A)
Lincoln, Mass.

The Hartwell Home and Tavern, located in MMNHP in Lincoln, was built by Ephraim Hartwell in 1732-33. Situated right on Battle Road on April 19, 1775 British Regulars passed by the tavern both going to Concord and on the way back to Boston. The Hartwell Tavern has been restored by the National Park Service to its original 18th. century appearance.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Golden Ball Tavern

Golden Ball Tavern
662 Boston Post Road
Weston, Mass. 02493

The Golden Ball Tavern in Weston was built in 1768 and was operated as a tavern on the old Boston Post Road from 1770 -1793. The original owner, Isaac Jones, was an important man in his community but in 1775 he was also a well-known Tory.

In February of 1775 Isaac gave tea and comfort to two British Army officers, Captain John Brown and Ensign Henry De Berniere along with their "batman" John, who had been sent out of Boston by General Gage on a secret mission to scout the countryside. Gen. Gage was seeking intelligence on the state of the roads in anticipation of sending an expeditionary force either to Concord or Worcester to seize colonial stores of powder and arms.

Having almost been discovered and captured in their mission, returning from Worcester in a winter storm the three men again received the hospitality of the Golden Ball's tavern keeper. He allowed the men to warm up and get some rest before guiding them back onto the road to Boston. Jones later had a change of heart and became a supporter of independence and worked for the Continental Army during the Revolution.

The Golden Ball Tavern remained in the Jones family until the 1960's when the Golden Ball Tavern Trust was established. The Tavern is open for tours (by appointment only) and for special events, such as their annual outdoor antique show and sale. A more complete history of the Tavern is told here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day

Today is March 17 the traditional date commemorating St. Patrick's Day, the official Saint of Ireland. St. Patrick was born in what is now England and was a citizen of the Roman Empire. He was kidnapped by Irish raiders and then taken back to Ireland where he lived for six years. Escaping back to England he became a Christian and then returned to Ireland to "spread the word". At the time of his death Ireland, formerly an island dominated by pagan Celtic tribes, had become almost totally Christian.

Today is also Evacuation Day, a holiday celebrated in Boston and Suffolk County in Massachusetts. Evacuation Day marks the anniversary of the British Army and Navy's forced withdrawal from the occupied town of Boston in 1776. This was Gen. Washington's first victory of the American Revolution.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tales of a Wayside Inn

The Wayside Inn
72 Wayside Inn Rd.
Sudbury, Ma. 01776

The Wayside Inn and Tavern has been in existence since 1716 when David Howe first opened his home to travelers. Located on the old Boston Post Road the Inn was ideally located for farmers bringing their livestock and produce to market and to travelers from Connecticut, New York and other points south.

In the period just before the American Revolution the proprietor of the Inn was Ezekiel Howe, a Lt. Colonel in the Sudbury militia. The Howe Tavern, as it was known then, was a popular gathering spot for the local militia as talk of insurrection spread throughout Massachusetts. On the morning of 19 April 1775, in response to a call out to arms, Col. Howe led the Sudbury militia to Concord Bridge to fight the British Regulars. The present-day Sudbury Militia recreates this in a pre-dawn march through Sudbury and Wayland every year on April 19. The recreated Sudbury
Militia holds its meeting at the Wayside Inn and the metal tankards of its retired Colonels can be found hung from the rafters in the Inn's taproom.

George Washington passed by the old Inn in June of 1775 as he made his way to Cambridge to accept command of the new Continental Army. A slate marker just in front of the Wayside Inn commemorates this event.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the Cambridge poet and professor at Harvard College, wrote a series of poems set in the Inn. The poems, called "Tales of a Wayside Inn", consisted of a series of stories spun by fictional characters at a Sudbury Inn where "The Red Horse prances on the sign." The Inn formerly know as Howe's Tavern became the Wayside Inn in recognition of Longfellow's poem.

With the advent of the stage coach as a regular means of travel the Inn again became an important way-station between Worcester and Boston. But in the early 1900's as the automobile became more and more popular, an historic Inn like the Wayside was easily bypassed by travelers who were able to make much better time on the road with the new "horseless carriages".

Ironically it was Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, who gave the Inn new life when he acquired the property. Fords plans to create a "living history" community never came to fruition but he established the charter under which the Inn operates today. He also was responsible for moving the old school house and the chapel onto the property and had the grist mill built. The mill still is in operation today and has a miller on site.

The British Union flag flying at the entrance is part of another old tradition at the Wayside. The British flag is flown daily until the 19th of April of every year when a new revolutionary (American) flag is flown.

Visitors to the Wayside Inn on "Patriot's Day" have been known to meet up with "William Dawes" (actually a re-enactor) who stopped in for a pint after his exertions of alerting the citizens throughout the countryside to the fact that the "Regulars were out".

The Wayside Inn is located just off Boston Post Road (Rt. 20) in Sudbury on its own private road. The Inn is still operated as a non-profit enterprise with an educational purpose. The Inn welcomes overnight guests as well as those who enjoy the Wayside's restaurant, which serves excellent New England style fare, its gift shop, the tap room and its historic ambiance.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

British Soldiers Graves Found in Charlestown?

Bunker Hill Monument
43 Monument Sq.
Charlestown, Mass.

A recent article in the Boston Globe relates the story of the work being done by two men in surveying the layout of present day Charlestown and its relationship to the same landscape during the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775. Local Charlestown historian Chris Anderson and Erik Goldstein, a curator at Colonial Williamsburg, have located what they believe to be the gravesites of British soldiers killed during the fighting in the backyards of several Charlestown residents. The British soldiers were buried in the aftermath of the battle in a massgrave in some of the trenches constructed by the Colonial militia. J.L. Bell does his usual excellent work discussing this story in his blog Boston 1775.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Tea for Two...

Hancock-Clarke House
36 Hancock St.
Lexington, Mass.

The Lexington Historical Society is offering what they are calling a Once-in-a-Lifetime opportunity to dine at the historic 1737 Hancock-Clarke house in Lexington. As part of a fund raising effort to support the recent extensive renovation of the property, the Historical Society is opening the house on Sunday March 29 from 3 to 5 p.m. to a limited number of people. Participants will have the opportunity to tour the home and enjoy gourmet tea and finger food in the Rev. Clarke's dining room or the Hancock-Adams room. Tickets are $75 for members, $85 for non-members. Call 781-862-1703 for reservations.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Boston Massacre Reenactment

The Boston Massacre
Old State House
Boston, Mass.
Today marks the 239th anniversary of the infamous Boston Massacre where British Regulars opened fire upon an unruly Boston mob, killing five civilians. To mark this event the Boston Historical Society is hosting its annual reenactment of the Massacre this Saturday (March 7). The reenactment is free to the public and takes place just outside the Old State House from 7:00 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. The Old State House is located at the intersection of Washington and State St. (formerly King St.) in downtown Boston.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

George Washington Born

George Washington at Princeton
Charles Wilson Peale (1779)

On this date in 1732 George Washington was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia. Often referred to as the "Father of our country" Washington was the Commanding General of the Continental Army during the American Revolution and was instrumental in winning our independence from Great Britain. He was called upon yet again by his countrymen when he was unanimously elected as our first President in 1789. Washington served two four-year terms in office before retiring a final time to his Mt. Vernon, Va. estate. He died on 14 December 1799 after a brief illness.