Sunday, November 28, 2010

Where it all began

Back to the itinerary again....

Also, my apologies.  The cost of working on blogs late into the night is high typo and misspelling rates....I've corrected some, but can't guaranty I got them all....

Monday, October 18th, 2010.

A day that will forever be remembered by us as the day we attempted and actually accomplished:  Way. Too. Much.

We had our work cut out for us, we were going to see not one, but TWO major MAJOR historical sites of the American Revolution.  No, they were not right next door to each other, but thanks to that darn schedule we had no choice.  It was today or never.  Well, never as far as this trip was concerned.

ONE DAY, to do all the sites in and around Boston, including Lexington and Concord.  I'm only talking about the historical sites here, I'm not even touching all the rest there is to see in this area!  We'll definitely have to come back here someday to do justice to the place.  Someday.

Our mission was as follows:

1. Leave 'our' Walmart as early as possible in the AM.  That meant actually setting the alarm!!

2. Spend an hour or so getting to Lexington and Concord.

3. Spend 2-3 hours max in Lexington and Concord seeing as much as we can and completing the Jr. Ranger projects!  If there was ever a place we needed to do our Jr. Ranger projects, this was it.

4. Figure out what to do with the RV and/or truck so we can take the train into Boston.

5. Take the 30 minute train ride to Boston.  Pick up our Jr. Ranger projects, the second for the day.  Walk the Freedom Trail and see the sites.

6. Return to our car and RV and drive down to Plymouth for the night.

I really don't think that's too much to ask for a day's activity.  Do you?  Crazy.  That's what we are.  But like I said, we had one day to do it and I wasn't willing to have us miss out on a bit of it!

At the


state line we stopped at the visitor center to begin getting some ideas as to what to do with our huge items of transportation while we take a train into the city.  The nice man there gave us what we thought was a wonderful suggestion and directions on how to accomplish it. Turned out later that we couldn't have really done it since our RV would NOT HAVE FIT (!!), but thankfully another solution presented itself BEFORE we were stuck at the last minute.  Thank heavens for small blessings.  More on that later though.

We made it uneventfully to what's called Minute Man National Historical Park.  Otherwise known as the towns of Lexington and Concord, the place the American Revolution was officially kicked off, the location of the famous 'shot heard 'round the world'.

Once parked, we let the dog and kids free for a quick run to burn off some energy since from this point onward we'd be rushing through it all like crazy and expecting them to soak it all up :-).  Hopefully.  Once again Liberty's Kids had us all caught up on the history of the Revolution and it made us that much more excited to go see exactly where it all started.

So so SO, very cool!

No, I wasn't the only one excited.  Really.  The kids were beyond thrilled to actually see where those Liberty's Kids were running around.  Again, whichever way it speaks to them is great, as long as it speaks to them!


I've been having fun playing with my settings in Aperture :-)  This is a fully exposed shot that really highlights the fall colors.  I liked it better than the 'plain old' adjustments.  I have a loooong way to go in learning how to use my camera to its fullest potential and then adjust the photos with some software, but I'm having fun in the process.


Not fully exposed, but pretty nonetheless.


At the visitor center we began with a *very* well done multifaceted audiovisual presentation depicting exactly what happened on April 19th, 1775.


Presentation over we all got down to business, very quickly this time.  The kids also felt the urgency today as they did not want to give Boston up either.

Them those two famous lanterns....replicas really.


OK, for those who don't know the history, or need a refresher, I'll go into a brief description:  The British had decided to confiscate the ammunition the rebels, as they called them, amassed in Concord, about 20 miles west of Boston.  There were two paths they could take.   They could take a more circular route by land, or, cross the Charles River first and then head out on land.  The messengers sent out to warn the countryside rode out before the British actually left and therefore set up a signal system with those left behind in Boston.  If the British were heading out by land, they'd light one lantern in the church tower (the tallest location in Boston at the time).  If the British were heading out by sea, crossing the river first, they'd light two lanterns in the church tower.  This way the messengers, and those out in the countryside, would know which route the British took and where they can expect them.

Who were those messengers?  Of course, the most famous was Paul Revere.  The other messenger sent out that night was William Dawes.  Revere took the 'by sea' route and Dawes took the 'by land' route.  Joining them per chance down the road would be Dr. Samuel Prescott.

The famous quote by Paul Revere "One if by land, two if by sea" refers then to these famous lanterns you see replicated above.

As the area where the start of the revolution took place is now well populated, the primary historical sites are set up along a main road leading from Lexington to Concord, and then in the towns of course.  The visitor center we visited was located somewhere between the actual towns.  Not your usual National park set up since the events it memorializes were pretty spread out.

Leaving our RV at the visitor center, with permission from the ranger, we headed off in the truck to check out as many historically significant sites we could.

Our first stop was the the exact spot a British patrol ran into the three messengers sent from Boston to warn the countryside.  Dawes and Prescott managed to escape but Revere was captured, only to be freed a while later, sans horse though.  Revere never made it to his final destination and neither did Dawes.   Prescott was the only one to reach Concord to give the warning.


Next up was the local tavern where we were lucky enough, maybe, to be there at the same time a high school group was.  I say lucky since they had a special demonstration program set up for them that we got to enjoy as well.  I say maybe since there were some pretty rude and disrespectful moments we witnessed between students and teachers.  Yikes!

But, thanks to them we did get to watch and hear a musket being fired along with an entire explanation of how the minute men trained.


Once those high schoolers exited the tavern it was our turn.  The rangers in period costume were really terrific.  Not only did they make sure to let the high schoolers in and out (very quickly) before us, but they really helped make the entire experience real.


Anaylzer, as part of her Jr. Ranger project, had to sit down with this 'local' and have a conversation about the times and the tavern itself.  Thanks to this fairly long interaction we all got a much better feel and understanding regarding what it was like to live here 235 years ago.



The common style of the houses back then, including this one, was a 'Saltbox' house.  Why the name? Cause they were designed like a salt box -


The roof is taller in the front of the house and then gradually slopes down at the back of the house.  Those who were tall actually had to walk hunched over in their own homes.


Heading back to the truck we had a small marching session along the very same road the British, and then the colonial militia, marched down.


Next up was Concord, the destination of the British troop.

This monument was erected by the locals in 1836 to commemorate the start of the revolution on April 19th, 1775.


Behind the monument you see a bridge.  The bridge of course is not the original bridge but on that spot 235 years ago the British and the militia had their second stand off of the day.  The first standoff, the one that kicked off the revolution, took place in Lexington, east of Concord.  There, what is now known as the shot heard 'round the world', was fired.  To this day there is no conclusive decision as to who fired the first shot.  Of course, each side blamed the other at the time.

Back to our bridge, or, the North Bridge officially.  It was here on this bridge that the first British soldiers were killed, three to be exact.  This is where two of the three are buried.


When we approached it Inventor said "Oh, these are the bad guys".  Well, actually, no.  Despite what some American history textbooks may imply, we really tried not to categorize the people of that era as good guys and bad guys.  These were people.  Soldiers in this case.  These soldiers were fighting for their army and their king and for what they thougt was right.  There were two ways to view the situation after all.  Yes, they were fighting against the forefathers of this country but they were not inherently bad.  They were just the other side.  It was nice to see some respect shown to these men.

Now it was time to cross The Bridge though.

Of course we couldn't just walk over the bridge.  Some serious historic recreation was in order and so some more marching took place.  Notice that their right arms are clutching their weapons please.  Heading this way over the bridge and marching so determinedly they are playing the role of the British.  We do aim for historic accuracy over here :-).


Beyond the bridge we found the statue of the minute man.


What is a minute man?  Well, the townspeople were the actual militia.  The militia needed some top guys who knew what they were doing more than the others and were ready to fight and defend at a moment's notice.  These men received more training than your average Joe and were able to report for duty on the double.

They were the Minute Men.  The statue depicts a man working out in the field with his plow in one hand and musket in the other.  A symbol of course of always being ready to go.

If you think you've heard the term 'minute man' before on this blog you'd be right.  In September we visited another location, quite a distance from here, bearing the same name.  Minuteman National Historic Site in South Dakota.  Back then I thought I understood why the soldiers who occupied the missile silos were called Minutemen.  It made sense, they manned the silos 24/7, or, every minute.  Until this very day here in MA I had no idea that the name had a much deeper and symbolic meaning. They were of course a highly trained top unit who bore the responsibility of being the first responders, every minute of the day.

Back to the original minute man here.  Below the statue these words from Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem 'Concord Hymn' are inscribed:

By the rude bridge that
   arched the flood,
Their flag to April's
   breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled
   farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard
   round the world.

Just regular people wanting their basic freedoms.  So understated.  So powerful.  Such world changing implications.  Walking where they walked and fought was quite compelling.


Despite being in a mad rush we did take the time to absorb the scenery and the meaning of it all.  Even Whirlwind 'got it'.  Though he may not comprehend the meaning of it all, he knew exactly what happened here.

A short walk beyond the bridge and we were at another one of the park's visitor centers.  Here we would look around and hand in the Jr. Ranger booklets.

At the visitor center there were two big deal attractions for us.  The first was this cannon.


It was one of four cannons stollen from right under the noses of the British in Boston.  The cannons were then smuggled out and kept in Concord along with all the other weaponry the Patriots were accumulating.  The retrieval of these cannons was the reason the top British general ordered the expedition out to Concord.  The cannons were never found in that now infamous raid.  Two of them were later captured in Canada by the British but the other two were used extensively during the American Revolution.

The second attraction at the visitor center was this piece of wood


An ORIGINAL plank from the ORIGINAL bridge!

The same bridge depicted here in this painting of the skirmish.


That bridge was dismantled in 1793 and no bridge was built again until 1875 when another was erected in honor of the centennial of the battle.  The piece was found in the riverbed in 1874.  Maybe it was discovered during the preparations for building the new bridge?  No one knows.

Very cool whatever the reason!

At last we made it to the 'award ceremony'.  Inventor was the only one to complete his entire booklet and therefore received a badge AND a patch!  A very cool one at that!  FYI, in most parks you don't have to complete the entire booklet, you get to pick and choose a minimum number of activities according to age.  Anyway, he was absolutely thrilled and very proud of himself.  Being the 'sandwiched' middle child he takes full advantage of having the spotlight on him, as he should.


Just to bring you up to speed on how the historical story ended:  The British did reach Concord but only the very outskirts.  Their mission to capture the weapons stash failed as the militia was warned and the weapons dispersed.   As the day progressed more and more militia men from all over came to help fight the fight.  Eventually there were many more militia than British.  The militia then fought the British all the way back to Boston, a distance of approximately 15 miles, and lay siege to the city.

That's where we were heading now.

Yup, even though we've done so much already today, that was our next stop.

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