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.