Lincoln, Mass – For day two of our mini family reunion, we took the troops out to walk along Battle Road, the road from Lexington to Concord that the British regulars followed on the fateful day of April 19, 1775 (the first battles of the War for Independence, for those of you who are not up on your revolutionary history). Much of the route, as well as the battle site in Concord, now comprises the Minute Man National Historical Park. The Old North Bridge at Concord sees many visitors, but I feel like the Battle Road, most of which is in Lincoln, is a little known but fascinating destination.
Battle Road is a five-mile trail. At the eastern end, the NPS visitors center offers an overview of the events of the Lexington and Concord battles. At the western end is Meriam’s Corner, where retreating British troops (on their way back to Boston) were attacked by late-arriving Minutemen. In between, there are a few historic buildings, signposts highlighting notable developments (eg, Paul Revere’s capture site), and some very scenic landscapes.
Walking the Battle Road seemed perfect for our group–an outdoor activity with some physical exertion (but not too much) and some history (but not too much). Our group ranged in age from 2 to 72–and it was a hot day–so we had to make some accommodations. There was no way we were walking the entire trail. We also had some logistical issues, namely, how to transport 17 people when they were done walking. Fortunately, my uncle is a master planner: he took charge of this activity, and it went off (almost) without a hitch.
We knew we wanted to start at the Minute Man Visitors Center, where they show a pretty cool and informative multimedia presentation called The Road to Revolution. It provides an excellent overview of the events leading up to and including the battles at Lexington and Concord, which kicked off the war. Unfortunately, the sound was on the fritz, so we could see the multimedia presentation but we could not hear it. There were subtitles, so I did a dramatic reading for the benefit of the twins (much to the chagrin of everyone else in he theater, I’m sure). I’m not sure if anyone noticed when I got all choked up during the Battle of Lexington, when those 80-some militiamen–in view of their family and friends–stood up to nearly 700 British regulars. (Of course the same thing happens when I read Charlotte’s Web and many other children’s books, so the twins are used to it.) Even without the sound, the film was pretty dramatic, with some vivid battle scenes, so the twins were riveted.
After the film, our gang hopped in our cars and drove to Hartwell Tavern, which is about halfway up the Battle Road. We missed a few sites on the way, but we wanted to get there in time for the musket demonstration given by park rangers. This was definitely a highlight for the twins. We got to practice marching in formation like the Minutemen. Then the ranger talked us through how muskets worked. I’m not that keen on weapons, but the workings of the musket is actually critical to understanding 18th-century warfare. The guns take 20 to 30 seconds to load, which is why the soldiers must line up in rows and stagger their shooting. They are also pretty inaccurate, except at very close range, which explains why the soldiers so often would just meet each other face to face on the battlefield.
From here, we walked the final two or three miles along the Battle Road. There was not a ton to see, aside from the lovely pastoral scenery. More than a few British soldiers were killed along this route, and there are some gravestones and memorial markers along the way.
I was pretty sure the twins would not be happy about walking two-plus miles in the 90-degree heat, so I had thrown their bikes in the back of the car, which was ingenious. The Battle Road is hard-packed dirt, but smooth and flat enough that they could handle it. They rode ahead, launching attacks on the “regulars” (that would be the rest of our group) as we caught up to them.
Meriam’s Corner–which marks the end of the Battle Road–is kind of a no-man’s land, still a mile and a half our of Concord center. My clever uncle had deposited a car there prior to our walk, so he transported the drivers back to Hartwell Tavern to pick up the other vehicles and and return to retrieve the rest of us.
Our final stop was the Old North Bridge, in Concord, where we ended the story, so to speak. This is another pretty spot, with the bridge traversing the placid Concord River–perfect for skipping stones.
A British soldier stood sentry, showing off his bayonet (another highlight for the twins).
What can I say? I can’t really stop my children from getting excited about fighting and wars and weapons, we might as well learn a little history at the same time.