Lexington and Concord,
Where Muskets and Books Collide
By Kathryn H. Kidd
Imagine that you’re a resident of Boston in 1775. The British have been piling taxes on your back so often and so heavily that you feel like a packhorse. Even the Boston Tea Party two years ago didn’t intimidate the British oppressors. The city is under martial law, and the port is closed to shipping. You can’t make a living if the port isn’t open, but the British don’t care. In fact, the British have you exactly where they want you.
It’s time to strike back.
If you take the Ultimate Church History Tour this summer, you can put yourself in the shoes of the patriots who fought at Lexington and Concord. You can actually trace the footsteps of Paul Revere, who was one of the organizers of the Boston Tea Party, and whose legendary midnight ride actually ended in his capture, but not before he had warned Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the British were on the move towards them.
As the British marched down the road from Lexington to Concord, hoping to capture prominent Colonists and steal their cache of arms and supplies, the Colonists were lying in wait for them. Guns were loaded and primed. The British had no idea they were walking into a trap.
On April 19, 1775, just at the crack of dawn, the British soldiers reached the Lexington green. It was there that shots were fired by the British and eight American Colonists were felled, essentially heralding the beginning of the American Revolution. But no shots were fired by the Colonists-not yet.
But the British were stopped in their tracks by the Colonists of the small village of Concord. That would happen at the Old North Bridge over the Concord River. As the Redcoats marched up the road to Concord, they were met by 250 armed settlers. Here, the first British soldier was felled, war had begun and more than two hundred years later, school children still learn about this “Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” As you trace the steps of those settlers, you can feel the anticipation of the Colonists who lay in wait to stop the enemy. Your heart races, just as the hearts of the settlers must have raced 230 years ago. Surrounded by American history, you can’t help but feel as though you are part of the birth of this great nation.
As you stand on the grassy green at Lexington, and cross the Old North Bridge, you can almost smell the gunpowder and see the smoke of the muskets in the early morning light.
After the British left, the survivors tended to their wounded. Then the townspeople of Lexington hurried to bury their valuables and warn the surrounding villages before the British came back with reinforcements.
As the smell of gunpowder fades, the scene changes. This same little village of Concord, only sixty-five years later, had turned its back on war and has now become the heart of intellectual thought and the American literature movement.
Nathaniel Hawthorne lived here. A dour Puritan, he was a stark contrast to two other Concord residents – Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Thoreau was born here. After he quit his teaching job he moved in with Emerson, who offered him a room in exchange for odd jobs done around the house. Meanwhile, Emerson preached occasional sermons in Concord churches.
Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women here, in a house that you will visit. You can see the desk that was built by Louisa’s father Bronson, just for her writing. Most of the furniture that was used by the Alcotts is still in the home, so that you can see the home today almost as it was when it inspired Louisa to write the story of her own upbringing. (She was “Jo.”) As you wander from one room to the next, you may imagine yourself as Amy or Meg or even Beth. You can easily envision daily life as it would have been a hundred and sixty years ago.
Many of the famous people who lived in Concord, also died here. On your day in Lexington and Concord, the Ultimate Church History Tour will take you to “Authors’ Ridge” in the old Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where they are buried.
How did such a small town win such a big place in American history – not once, but twice? How could such a tiny hamlet shape this great nation’s destiny in 1775 and then influence the philosophy of that same nation in later generations?
As you visit Lexington and Concord, you may be able to feel greatness in the air. From the courage of the original settlers to the artistic vision of the poets who inherited their legacy, Lexington and Concord are part of the soul of America. As you get to know these villages, you will gain a greater sense of who we are as an American people and understand more fully what things were set in place to lay the foundations for the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
2005 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.