Today marks a holiday that is only celebrated here in Massachusetts (and in our former “Eastern Provinces,” now known as Maine). But it is a holiday of great significance to our entire nation, one that should not go without recognition.
Today is Patriots Day, the day that marks the true birth of our nation. On April 19, 1775, the colony of Massachusetts Bay rose in full revolt against well armed and well trained British military forces that had ventured out from their base in Boston to seize and destroy arms and ammo stored in Concord.
An act of such audacity by common citizens would seem inconceivable today. For citizens to take up arms against a powerful government they view as tyrannical — a government backed by the most formidable army and navy in the world at the time — seems hopeless at best, disastrous at worst.
Yet they rose and took up arms, by the thousands, in the belief that their cause was right and would prevail. It would take eight years of war, marred by some tremendous setbacks, long periods of despair, and finally capped by a tremendous victory at Yorktown, Va., to prove that their belief was right.
Patriots Day marks the Battle of Lexington and Concord, a conflict that was not planned by either side. Over the course of 20 or so hours, the British seize-and-destroy mission spiralled into a bloody conflict that ignited the American Revolution. By the end of that day, the once-empty hills surrounding Boston were filled with over 14,000 American citizens, laying seige to a powerful British army. There was no turning back from the events of that day.
This month, as has been tradition for decades, the highlights of the battle are memorialized. Paul Revere’s famous ride is reenacted. At Lexington Green, thousands of people gather in the pre-dawn hours to watch a reenactment of the bloody start of the battle. There are so many people who attend, the most wizened among them bring tall stepladders so they can be literally heads above the crowd. In Concord, the skirmish at the Old North Bridge is replayed, followed by the annual parade. And in recent years, a reenactment of the fight along the Battle Road in Lincoln has drawn thousands of spectators.
All of this goes on well below the radar screen of the rest of the nation, and perhaps below the radar screen of many who live in the state too. But it’s a part of our state’s legacy, and one that Massachusetts residents should be proud to call their own.
After all, if it weren’t for Massachusetts and the Minutemen’s actions of April 19, there wouldn’t be a United States.