Memorial Day weekend had me on a visit to my fellow history fiend and frequent History Tourist companion, Kathie. Kathie lives in New Hampshire, but near the Massachusetts border, so we decided that this time my visit would be Mass-centric. No sooner was I off the plane in Manchester NH (my favorite airport and a wonderful alternative to Boston Logan) than we were off to Concord, Massachusetts.
If Hollywood were casting a stereotypical New England village, Concord would certainly be in the running. It’s probably most famous, at least among Americans, for being the location of one of the first battles of the Revolutionary War. Coming in a close second, though, would be its fame for being the epicenter of the 19th century New England literary world. Emerson, Thoreau (and his Walden Pond), Hawthorne and Alcott, all lived and are buried in Concord.
After the Orchard House, it was feed me time. We parked next to the charming village square, with its obligatory war memorial, and walked a couple of charming village blocks to a charming little cheese shop called (surprise!) the Concord Cheese Shop. We picked up a couple of sandwiches and picnicked at our next stop, the Minute Man National Historical Park. But the blog isn’t going there yet.
Between Orchard House and Concord city center is the Concord Museum, an excellent little museum outlining the history of Concord. It started, as many museums do, when in 1886, the local antiquarian society was given the collection of a Concord man who had been hoarding Revolution War objects since before the Civil War. The Society added to the collection, built their own buildings, and by 1984 had morphed the kit-and-caboodle into the Concord Museum.
Remember, from my last post, that May Alcott taught drawing to Daniel Chester French (also a Concord resident)? No? Well, she did. Below is a photo of a 1927 bronze casting of a plaster model for French’s Abraham Lincoln statue in the Lincoln Memorial in DC. It’s one of nine that was made during French’s lifetime. I have to say, as many times as I’ve been to the memorial, I never noticed the way his feet are positioned, or that there’s a design on the front of the arms of the chair.
For the nonAmericans out there, the Battles of Lexington (just to the east of Concord) and Concord — rarely spoken of separately — were the first engagements of the Revolutionary War that separated the American colonies from Great Britain. The colonists had been unhappy with the British government and actively raising local militias for a couple of years by the time Massachusetts militias and British troops clashed for the first time, on April 19, 1775, at Lexington and Concord. More on the battles in my next post, but you need to know that much to appreciate the next couple of photos.
The powder horn above, the label said, was carved during the Siege of Boston. The siege happened after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, when British troops fled back to Boston, which they were occupying. The Massachusetts militia followed them and surrounded the town, leaving the British in Boston completely isolated. No info on the label indicating how the museum knew that the horn was carved during the siege. The carving says, “Jonathan Gardner His Horn 1776/Libery & Property or Death.”
The story behind the sword, above, is that a British soldier dropped it during the British retreat after the Concord battle, and members of a local militia picked up. Seems terrifically fancy for something that one actually takes into battle. If there’s someone out there who can tell me whether the fancy hilt is the result of “they just did things better in the back then” or “it’s a particularly fine example that probably belonged to a high ranking officer,” I’d appreciate it.