Friday, April 18, 2008

Minute Man National Historical Park

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the battles at Lexington and Concord, so it's a good time to talk about Minute Man National Historical Park. The park includes the North Bridge at Concord where the second battle on April 19, 1775, took place (Lexington Battle Green, site of the first battle, is under the jurisdiction of the town of Lexington); the Battle Road between Lexington and Concord that was the site of running skirmishes between colonial militias and retreating British troops; and the site where Paul Revere was captured at 1:30 AM on April 19, 1775. There are interpretive panels and colonial homes along the unpaved Battle Road, which is also popular with cyclists and joggers.

Anyone visiting to the park should start their journey at the main visitor center on Route 2A just north of Route 128. The first thing you'll notice when you enter the center's doors is the stunning 40-foot mural depicting a fierce fight between the colonists and the redcoats along the Battle Road. The colors are vivid, and the images of musket fire and militiamen being violently hurled backwards by the blunt force certainly provide a realistic view of what is often a romanticized event. After all, 273 British and 95 colonists were killed or wounded on that April day, most of them along the road back to Boston. The center includes interpretive displays explaining the lead-up to the battles, profiling of some of the major figures on both sides of the battles, and detailing on the legacy of the battles and the path to independence. Check out the panoramic view of 1775 Boston, under siege by the patriots, and the surrounding countryside that was painted by Lieutenant Richard Williams of the Royal Welch Fusiliers from the top of Beacon Hill. It's a great view of what the city looked like back then. (One ticky-tack point on the interpretive display is that it refers to "Noodle Island" in Boston Harbor. Now part of East Boston, the island was actually "Noddle's Island.")

The highlight of the visitor center is a 25-minute multi-media presentation, "The Road to Revolution." The program depicts Paul Revere's Ride and the battles at Lexington Green, North Bridge, and along the Battle Road. The program is narrated by the video of an actor depicting Amos Doolittle, whose engravings of the battle scenes are depicted outside of the theater. Along side the videoscreen is the interior of the Hartwell Tavern, and the program ingeniously uses a godfather clock inside the tavern to depict the timing of the events of April 19 from the departure of British troops to their return to Boston. Above the video screen is a map of the Battle Road that lights up to show the route of Revere and William Dawes to warn the surrounding towns and also the position of the troops as they fought up and down the Battle Road.

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