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History Lessons

Showings of orientation film about Lexington, plus tours and question-and-answer sessions infuse education into Patriots' Day celebrations.

Patriots' Day isn't all about pomp and circumstance.

Another important aspect of this history-heavy holiday is education, and Lexington offered several programs for tourists and locals looking to freshen up on their Revolutionary history.

One such event was the scheduled screenings of First Shot! The Day the Revolution Began, an orientation film about Lexington's place in the start of the American Revolution. The film was supposed to be shown at 9, 10 and 11 a.m. at Lexenten Venue, with question-and-answer sessions to follow, but things did not go exactly as planned. 

After a technical glitch during the first showing, screenings were kicked over to the , where guides also led guests on tours through the historic house. 

The film provided contest for the Battle of Lexington, Concord Fight and other battles that broke out on April 19, 1775, the start of the American Revolution. 

The French and Indian War so drained England's ministry that they began to tax colonists, arguing that since they were defending the colonial frontier, the Americans should help foot the bill, according to the film's narration.

Additionally, First Shot featured a 45-woman "spinning bee," an act of protest in which women turned out homespun to reduce reliance on imports from Britain. And, three days before the Boston Tea Party, Lexingtonians burnt tea and recognized a Town Meeting resolution to defend themselves and look upon those who purchase tea enemies of the Common Cause, according to the film.

"It was interesting to see, definitely, because we just moved to Lexington last year and before that we lived in London," said Rob Wilkinson, who attended with his family. "It's interesting to see how they tell the story here versus in England."

Wilkinson grew up in Massachusetts, but his children were born in London. While the Revolution is discussed in New England as a rebellion against the oppression of freedom, in London, it's framed more as a failure of a form of governance, he said.

"It's great for the kids to get to see it, because they're starting to ask about the history and the sites around here," said Wilkinson. "So, it's good for them to be able to see these things and ask their own questions."

The "First Shot" film, like many of the reenactments, also went into great detail about the skirmishes, explaining how the Battle of Lexington was not a calculated assault, and how the Redcoats found themselves in a running battle from Concord back to Boston.

"I learned that there were these skirmishes coming all the way back," said Deylon Davenport, a teenager visiting from New York. "And I didn't know they used Buckman Tavern as a field hospital for the British."

While Davenport, Wilkinson and dozens of others watched "First Shot" at the Hancock-Clarke House, the first theatre-full of folks who attempted to view the film at Lexington Venue did get to engage reenactors in a question-and-answer session.

Queries ranged from how much do the uniforms cost to why Paul Revere brought a trunk filled with John Hancock's personal papers back through Lexington's Battle Green, as was depicted in the morning's reenactment, when a confrontation was imminent.

The answer to those questions was $2,000-plus for the uniforms (the muskets alone run $800 to $1,400) and that the constraints of modern roads might have informed Revere's path. 

Other interesting tidbits included that the Lexington opposition was made up of regular men. In fact, they weren't even a minute man company in 1775, but rather were a "training band," which was a term of the day used to describe militias.

"Don't think that this was a great plan, that we were going to set up America," said reenactor Bill Rose, who was speaking in character as Jebediah Monroe. "It was pretty simple: It was our dirt. We owned it and these guys were trying to make us do something different with it."

The reenactors also explained how the Redcoats were more proficient with their muskets, and had significantly more bayonets than the colonists, at a time when bayonets were at least as deadly as the shot.

One audience member asked whether it was true that soldiers could not shoot drummer boys. The response was that it was bad sporting–and strategy–for them to be shot, but drummers were not boys.

"We did not put our children at risk," said Redcoat reenactor Winston Stone, of the 1st Foot Guards. "And neither did they."

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