Townsfolk turn out to remember noble acts of patriots and heroes

The town crest of Lexington, Mass., bears the legend "April 19, 1775 - What a Glorious Morning for America!"

Each year in recognition of the day that saw the first gunfire of the Revolutionary War, Massachusetts observes "Patriots' Day." Children get a day off from school. Marching bands parade through village streets, Minutemen re-enact their battles and Paul Revere greets town leaders. Runners throng to compete in the world-famous Boston Marathon. In Lexington, where the first skirmish of the war took place, it is an especially glorious day.Richard Anderson of the Arlington Ward, Boston Massachusetts Stake, has lived in the area for 35 years. "As a child growing up in California, I had a stamp in my collection that I particularly cherished," he reflected. "It had a picture of the skirmish in Lexington on it. I would stare at the picture and daydream about whether I would ever live long enough to see the Lexington Battle Green. Now to live so close is a big deal to me."

It is a "big deal" to other Church members in the area as well. Ed and Diane McKinney Kellogg are members of the Lexington Historical Society. For the past four years Brother Kellogg has marched in the Lexington Patriots' Day parade, helping to pull the town's antique fire fighting hand-pumper. "I get dressed up in my red fireman's shirt and help pull it along," he said. "It is a lot of fun. This town has a lot of spirit, and it really shows itself this time of year with the celebrations."

Bishop Kip Thompson and his wife, Lisa, live within walking distance of the Battle Green. "Patriots' Day is one of our family's favorite holidays," Sister Thompson said. "Our children plan it with their friends a month in advance. They go down at 4:30 in the morning to reserve seats to watch the re-enactment of the battle. (Crowds have topped 5,000.) The alarm bell rings at 5:30 a.m. We all watch the re-enactment at 6 o'clock. We really feel a part of the community when we participate."

Lee and Dottie Muzzy LaPierre, Arlington Ward members, both have ancestors who lived in Lexington at the time of the Revolution and fought in the war. John and Isaac Muzzy were Minutemen on the Battle Green in the initial confrontation with the British Redcoats.

"It's fun to watch the town's re-enactment and say, `Those are our relatives!' " said Sister LaPierre. Centuries later, LDS missionaries were housed in the historic Muzzy house which is still standing in Lexington.

The re-enactment of the first skirmish, held this year on April 18, is one of the most moving parts of Lexington's commemoration of the day. Current members of the Lexington Minutemen and His Majesty's Tenth Regiment of Foot (the British "Redcoats") re-create the events of the day with great historical accuracy, both in the details of their costumes and in details of the events of the day.

Brother Anderson, an avid history buff and occasional Lexington tour guide, explained that the Minutemen who assembled on Lexington Green had not intended to wage battle that day against the British. Seventy-seven Minutemen - local farmers who had pledged to be ready at a minute's notice to "support the common cause" - gathered under the direction of Captain John Parker to show their determination to maintain independent town militia. More than 800 of His Majesty's elite troops marched into the center of the village, beating their drums and looking very intimidating in their brilliant red uniforms.

A shot was fired - no one knows by whom - and a ragged volley followed, leaving eight Minutemen dead (including Isaac Muzzy), 10 wounded and one British soldier hurt.

The British marched on to Concord to try to confiscate gunpowder and weapons. There, outnumbered four-to-one by forewarned Minutemen in Concord, and with half of their officers wounded, the British retreated to Boston under unrelenting fire from patriots hidden behind the trees and rock walls near the road. Locals like to point out that it was not Paul Revere who warned the Concord Minutemen that the British were coming. Riders Revere and William Dawes were stopped by a British patrol near the Lexington/Concord border. Dr. Samuel Prescott mounted and took the news to Concord of the approaching British.

Brother Kellogg said, "Watching the re-enactment every year always stirs me. It was the place where the Revolution really began. By itself it may have been an ineffective resistance - a handful of farmers against a powerful British force. But they stood up for their cause at the risk of injury and death."

Brother Anderson said, "I would like people to have some feel for how much we owe to those farmers who faced down the most awesome war machine that the last few centuries had ever known."

Sue Paxman, Relief Society homemaking counselor, finds special poignancy in watching history come alive in a modern setting. "Every year when I watch the re-enactement I feel as though I am actually back in that historical moment. It moves me to tears to think of how futile and frustrating it must have seemed to those colonists. After the smoke clears, the women and children come out to comfort the wounded and dying while the British regroup to march on to Concord. The crowd watches, making absolutely no noise. The only thing we hear is the slow, muffled drumbeat of the British lining up."

Contemporary living in Lexington is a good mix of the old and the new, according to Sister Paxman. "It's really an early American village in a 20th century world," she said. "The town has the feeling of being a close-knit community like an old-fashioned village."

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