April 19th in Middlesex County, Massachusetts
On April 19, 1775, the battles of Lexington and Concord were fought in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, commencing the American Revolution. Each year on Patriot’s Day, the battles are re-enacted in remembrance of the day when the rights of men were asserted against despotic power.
I had long wished to be in Lexington, Massachusetts on April 19th and had my chance to go a few years ago. I stayed the night before in nearby Woburn, awoke at 3:00 am, and arrived in Lexington in the 4:00 am darkness. I wasn’t the first to arrive.
The crowds gathered before dawn on Lexington Green. About half were tourists while the other half were classes of schoolchildren, ready to watch history. Local guides dressed in period costumes explained to the crowds what is about to happen. I watched with keen interest.
Learning of the impending British advance, Massachusetts Minutemen gather on Lexington Green at dawn. They know they will be outnumbered.
The Redcoats arrive in formation.
The two sides confront each other on Lexington Green. There’s a stand-off.
Then shots are fired. The noise and smoke are tremendous.
The result was eight militiamen killed, ten wounded. One British regular was wounded.
The words attributed to Captain John Parker of Lexington are memorialized in stone:
After the re-enactment was over, I had a chance to wander about taking photos. The April weather was cool, but the skies were sunny.
As you know from the history books, the fight then moved on to Concord bridge where 100 British regulars met 400 American militiamen.
Later on, I drove down to Cambridge, the county seat. The Middlesex County Courthouse looks more like a military stronghold than a court of Justice, towering above residential East Cambridge like Saruman’s Tower from Lord of the Rings. I believe the jail occupies several of the floors.
The courthouse is in a part of town called East Cambridge, away from the Harvard Square area which was the original Cambridge settlement. The buildings here are townhouses of brick or wood. The brick ones are remnants of homes for the wealthy; the wood ones are cheaper, yet many have been painted bright colors and remind me of row houses on the Irish seashore.
The old red brick courthouse is across the street.
From East Cambridge, I drove down Main Street, up Massachusetts Avenue, around Harvard Square, and back down Broadway. Cambridge is a college town but usually isn’t thought of in the same way as Lawrence, Kansas, or Athens, Georgia. Yet I was amazed at how much Massachusetts Avenue looks like a college town’s main street. Shops are in single-story buildings with a few large brick two-story buildings nearby. Little restaurants and fast-food places predominate. I saw several Middle Eastern eateries. However, the pedestrians seemed to be not so much the college crowd as ethnic workers of all types. So downtown Cambridge seems more of an ethnic neighborhood than a college hang-out.
Residences along the side streets are mostly two-story walkups surrounded by blooming trees. It’s the middle of spring and all the trees are in bloom right now. That’s especially nice on a warm, shirt sleeve day, perhaps the best day of spring so far.
Meanwhile across the Charles River in Suffolk County (Boston) I found this and couldn’t resist adding it here.
All photos were taken by the author. Photos were taken between April 19-21, 2010.
A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.
I’m trying to travel to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month a post about my visit to the most interesting county seats. It’s only a hobby — but donations are greatly appreciated to help defer my costs.
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