We have been having an unseasonably warm winter this year, but 250 years ago, in 1770, there were feet of snow on the ground. The citizens of Lexington were tucked away in their farms, spinning flax by the fire, waiting for spring, and wondering what the next political upheaval might be. Just six months earlier, they had staged a spinning match on the town common to protest British imports, and had been boycotting tea since April.
Bostonians, a more politically diverse lot, were still coming to blows over which shops were selling imports and which were not. On February 22nd, a Loyalist from Woburn
named Samuel Richardson, who would have been well-known to many Lexingtonians, fired his musket into a crowd of protesters, killing ten-year-old Christopher Seider. Some would consider his death the first real casualty of the American Revolution. Then, less than two weeks later, a group of civilians got into an altercation with British soldiers, who fired into the crowd, killing five, in what became known as the Boston Massacre.
We do not have any surviving records of what Lexingtonians thought of these events when the news made it out here, but the reaction in general was swift, as copies of Paul Revere’s print of the Massacre began to circulate. One of these was put on display in the Wright Tavern in Concord, and John Buckman may have done the same in his establishment.
250 years later, however, the Boston Massacre is remembered as one of the most pivotal events leading up to the outbreak of war in 1775. Revolutionary Spaces, the new partnership between the Bostonian Society and Old South Meeting House in Boston, put together an incredible program on March 7 to commemorate the anniversary of this event. Over 100 reenactors spread out between the sites, showcasing a variety of daily activities in pre-Revolutionary Boston, such as a town selectmen’s meeting, a football game, and a ladies’ tea party.
As is often the case, I spent the day as a professional turncoat – for the afternoon portion of the program, I interacted with the public as Mary Saunders, the wife of a British soldier in the 14th regiment, introducing people to the Loyalist perspective. During the evening reenactment, I was Mary Cathcart, one of the many townspeople who scuffled with the soldiers, offering a distinctly different point of view.
This has definitely gotten me in the spirit for our upcoming 250th celebration in 2025 – not that far away now! The reenactors are already thinking ahead - doing research, making new clothing, and recruiting new soldiers into the ranks. Each Patriots’ Day morning is a uniquely moving experience, as the drumbeats of the British soldiers get closer and closer to the Green, but I imagine that the reenactment five years from now will be one not to forget.
-Sarah McDonough, Programs Manager
Featuring the voices of Lexington Historical Society permanent staff and occasional guest authors.