“Battalion Volley,” yelled the generals last Saturday, April 18, as hundreds of muskets fired into a grouping of British regulars.
Cannon and musket fire filled the air with loud bangs, smoke rose from the field, explosions sounded and war broke out in earnest as the Battle Road reenactment in Lexington at Tower Park got underway.
It wasn’t a time machine trip into the time representing the outbreak of the American Revolution, but it was the next closest thing – a full-scale re-enactment.
Every April men, women and children get into uniform, grab their muskets and head to Lexington to take part in the Patriot’s Day reenactments and Battle Road battles that took place back in 1775.
The re-enactments commemorate the first battles of the Revolutionary War.
Within the ranks, the Charlestown Militia gathered its fighters and took part in Battle Road reenactment on Saturday, April 18. Under the direction of Revere’s Tom Coots, the militia participated in Parker’s Revenge and the battle of Tower Park, which commemorates Percy’s Retreat.
“General Percy was a British commander and his forces were retreating from Concord when the Militia blocked them off on their way back to Charlestown,” said Tom Coots, captain of the Charlestown Militia and a Revere resident.
According to history, the British were marching to Concord to take the munitions that were being stockpiled by the Colonial militia. There were about 800 British soldiers that marched out of Boston at 11 p.m. the night before, but they never made it to the munitions depot. Instead, about 3,000 militia stopped them and the first shots were fired that April morning.
“The shot heard `round the world” as its been called.
The Militia then chased the British all the way back to Charlestown, where they camped at Charlestown Heights.
“I have been captain of the Charlestown Militia since 2007, but I have been doing this since 1986,” said Coots.
Coots is a Revere resident who loves teaching people about the American revolution.
“I had always loved history as a child, but you can only get so much out a text book,” he said. “When I saw the reenactments back at the Bicentennial, I was hooked.”
There are about 14 members of the Charlestown Militia, but only six were present at Battle of Tower park reenactment on April 18. One of the soldiers was Rick Young, Lieutenant in the Militia under Coots.
Young, a resident of Charlestown also loves to teach people.
“I got the history bug from my dad, who started the Charlestown Militia back in 1968,” said Young. “I would follow him to parades, ceremonies and reenactments, and loved it. When Tom started the Militia back up in 2007 (the original disbanded in 1986), I joined in.”
Young’s goal is to show and tell people about the history of Charlestown during the creation of the United States.
“It shows a different side of Charlestown,” he said. “It shows its history and contributions to creating America. People don’t always see Charlestown in the best light.”
As part of the battle at Tower Park, Young was part of the Picket Guard and headed out ahead of the main militia body to harass the British and hold them off until the main body could arrive.
“We get to do more guerrilla warfare stuff,” said Young.
Not everyone is in the Militia though; many people sign up to play the part of the British.
People like Dylan Potter, of Lynn, is one who plays a dreaded Redcoats.
Potter, only 22, has been dressing up in his British garb and shooting at Militiamen for nine years.
“I saw a reenactment back in 2003 and knew I wanted to do it,” he said. “I went back again in 2006 and saw the Battle Road re-enactment, saw a flyer and joined up. When I first saw the re-enactments I was really impressed with their (British) uniforms; they were impressive and drew me right in.”
According to Coots, it costs about $1,200 to get set up to be a militia or British soldier. After that investment, it’s not a lot of money. Some units have dues to pay, but most don’t. The one common thread is that the people who do this, do it because they love history and America.
“It’s a great honor to honor America’s first veterans,” said Potter. “I like to teach people who might not know a lot about the American Revolution. A lot of higher educations don’t touch it.”
Likewise, people from all over come to watch these reenactments. There was a few thousand people on Saturday to watch the Battle Road re-enactments. As Coots said, there is only so much you can learn from a textbook, but seeing it live is a whole different thing.