‘Shot heard ’round the world’ echoes today on road to independence
If you want to understand the beginnings of America’s road to independence, celebrated July 4, then head to Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, where “the shot heard ’round the world” was fired. Here you can walk the ground where it all occurred and the United States began. Join them on the Fourth for their celebrations.
It was on the morning of April 19, 1775, when 77 farmers and tradesmen, as part of the Lexington militia, assembled on the Common to defend their town. They wanted to prevent about 750 British light infantry from destroying a supply of arms in Concord.
General Thomas Gage gave orders to Lt.-Col. Smith, the British officer who was to lead the expedition: “Sir: Having received intelligence that a quantity of Ammunition, Provision, 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 the Corps of Grenadiers and Light Infantry, put under your command, with the utmost expedition and secrecy to Concord, where you will seize and destroy all Artillery, Ammunition, Provision, 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.”
At Lexington Common, Capt. John Parker, whose statue stands proudly on the Green today, was quoted as saying: “Stand your ground; don’t fire unless fired upon; but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”
Parker, seeing he was outnumbered, ordered his men to disperse and not to fire.
As they started to leave, a shot of unknown origin rang out, and the British fired a return volley, killing eight Minutemen and wounding 10, with one Redcoat wounded.
George Washington wrote in his diary: “The first blood was spilt in the dispute with Great Britain.” The Revolutionary War had started.
At the Lexington Visitors Centre, take a look at the historic diorama depicting the battle on the Green and ask about tours. You will enjoy the Liberty Ride Trolley, with 15 stops in Lexington and Concord. There’s also a gift shop. 1875 Massachusetts Ave. lexingtonchamber.org , libertyride.
After the British regulars clashed with colonial militia and Minutemen at Lexington, they went on to Concord’s North Bridge.
Sometime after 9 a.m., militiamen saw smoke coming from that area of the town (burning military supplies) and, believing the town had been set on fire, marched down upon the bridge.
The British soldiers were outnumbered four to one, so they retreated to the east side of the bridge and quickly organized for defence. The colonials continued their advance down Punkatesset Hill until the British fired and killed two Minutemen.
Major John Buttrick of Concord then gave the order: “Fire, fellow soldiers, for God’s sake, fire!” For the first time, Americans fired a volley into the lines of British soldiers, and two were killed.
The battle continued for 25 kilometres, all the way back to Boston, with the British running the gauntlet of colonial fire, where a musket seemed to be hiding behind every tree. Many years later, these events were called “the shot heard ’round the world” by Ralph Waldo Emerson. The skirmishes began the war for independence, which lasted more than eight years.
The grounds of the Minute Man National Historical Park are open sunrise to sunset. At the Minute Man Visitor Centre, don’t miss the excellent short movie Road to Revolution. There are a couple of exhibits, tours and talks and a gift shop.
See if you can find the “real Paul Revere” on a horse. 270 North Great Rd. nps.gov/mima , 781-674-1920.
At the North Bridge Visitor Centre (inside 1911 Buttrick Mansion) at 174 Liberty St., expect to find Ranger programs, a bookstore, gardens, the Hancock cannon and a 10-minute video about the cannon. nps.gov/mima , 978-369-6993.
If you would like to eat in the ambiance of those times, Concord’s Colonial Inn has an elegant 1716 restaurant sitting musket distance away (it was an arms storehouse during the Revolution), which still dishes up tastes from back then. There’s flavourful Yankee pot roast with divine mashed potatoes or yummy chicken pot pie. We sure hope Paul Revere got to taste the corn bread, which is baked fresh all day long.
However, the seasonal menus go well beyond that, with dishes like butternut squash risotto with shaved Parmesan and toasted nuts or pecan and mushroom stuffed trout, and such standards as lobster/ shrimp/crab bisque, black bean and ale chili (made with prime rib) or Rhode Island Jonah crab cakes.
Desserts include Indian pudding, but we lapped up the 20th-century crème brûlée.
Come for Sunday brunch – you may bump into the ghost of Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, who lived in Massachusetts and died in Boston in 1888. If you’re too full to travel, you can sleep at the inn, but you may share your room with ghosts. 48 Monument Square. concordscolonialinn.com , 978-369-9200 or 800-370-9200.
In the same area, stop by Walden Pond State Reservation.
Walden Pond seems to look pretty much like it did when Henry David Thoreau hung out there – even down to a replica of the house where he practiced his experiment in simplicity. The vegetation is lush with berry bushes, sumac, pitch pine, hickory, oak and birds twittering (kingfishers, black birds, chickadees, red-tailed hawks, migratory ducks and geese) and common sightings of squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits, with skunks, raccoons and red foxes active at night.
Thoreau lived on the shores of this kettle hole for two years, and kept a journal that was published as Walden in 1854, which raised awareness and inspired respect for the environment and is considered the birthplace of the conservation movement. Thoreau also taught school, expanded his family’s pencil-making business, and worked at carpentry, stone masonry and gardening.
He and his family were also instrumental in helping runaway slaves get to Canada. Route 126, Visitor Centre, 915 Walden. mass.gov/dcr/parks/ Walden, 978-369-3254.
Following in Thoreau’s concepts, there’s a green concept hotel, the Element.
The LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), sleek, extended-stay suites have been built with environmentally friendlier paints, flooring made from 25 per cent recycled content, CFL/LED bulbs, bedframes from certified forests, art mounted on recycled tires, soap and shampoo dispensers, Energy Star GE appliances and water-efficient fixtures. You can sit on your couch cushions or eat them – they’re made from soy.
Functionally, the 359-degree TV (with a DVD player below and plug and play docking station) swivels to face the bed, desk or sofa.
By the glass-topped desk (you can see what you left in the drawers), there’s a jack pack for all of your electronic toys, an ergonomic chair and a recycle bin.
For fun, the room has a white board to write notes-to-self, and magnetized maid messages that stick to the outside of the door. In the open-concept great room (lobby), natural light infuses a social gathering space with lots of white tables on which to open up your laptops, and you can eat the complimentary hot breakfast on them or at bar stools or couches. In the parking lot, hybrid cars get priority spots. Element Lexington by Westin, 727 Marrett. elementhotels.com , 781-761-1750.