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.