Thursday, September 22, 2011

Boston: One If By Land; Two If By Sea

Downtown Boston
Boston is steeped in early American history, and it is evident throughout the city. Many events leading up to the founding of our country occurred here. One of the oldest cities in the United States, Boston was founded in 1630. It is the capital of Massachusetts and the largest city in all of the New England states. What do you already know about Boston? 

In 1860, American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, penned the following lines, the opening of his most famous poem, "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere":

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."
Note: You can find the full text of the poem on various Internet sites or in your school or public library.

Had Longfellow not written this poem, Boston resident Paul Revere may have faded into history. On April 18th, 1775, Dr. Joseph Warren instructed Revere and William Dawes to ride to Lexington, Massachusetts to warn John Hancock and Sam Adams that British troops were coming to arrest them. He asked that a signal be given to the Charlestown militia so that they would know if the Red Coats would arrive by land or by sea. To alert the militia, one or two lanterns would be hung in the North Church belfry depending on the movement of the British army. The men hanging the lanterns were Robert Newman, the church sexton and Captain John Pulling. It is believed that a third man, Thomas Bernard, stood watch for British troops outside of the church. Find out how many lanterns were hung that night ... did the British come by land or by sea?

The Old North Church

The North Church, officially Christ Church, also became famous because of Longfellow's poem. Established in 1723, the church still holds services today. It is the oldest active church in Boston and the oldest standing church building in the city.

This plaque, commemorates Paul Revere's efforts to warn the militia of the arrival of the British army. In the photograph below, you can see the interior of the church. The box pews, encased in wood, have the names of the Colonial owners  attached to the entry of the pews. Families would sit together in their box pew. In the bitter Boston winters, the boxes held in heat and kept parishioners warmer during the cold winter months before there was central heating.

The interior of North Church
This statue of Paul Revere is located behind the North Church.
On December 16, 1773--two year's before Paul Revere's ride--in Boston Harbor, a group of colonists destroyed shiploads of tea in protest. Called the Boston Tea Party, the colonists were angry at Britain for taxing tea. The patriots believed that without a voice in the British Parliament, the English had no right to tax them. The part of Boston Harbor where the tea was dumped is now dry land. Since the 1700s, the city has continued to create land where there was once water. About 75% of today's Boston is built on a landfill.  

The Bunker Hill Memorial commemorates the battle that took place on June 17, 1775. The 221-foot obelisk reminds us of those who lost their lives early in the War for Independence.
Another important Colonial event that occurred in Boston was the Battle of Bunker Hill. The battle actually took place on Breed's Hill, and pitted the ragtag fledgling Colonial forces against the well trained and well equipped British Army. Though the British eventually won, they were surprised by the colonists' ability to repel them, resisting two major assaults that inflicted many casualties on the British. The Battle of Bunker Hill was the first major battle of the Revolutionary War. What do you know about the Revolutionary War? Who won? What happened as a result of the war?

The Longfellow House
This spacious yellow home once belonged to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and today is known as The Longfellow House. However, long before the poet lived and worked here, the home was George Washington's residence and headquarters. Inside this house many decisions were made and alliances formed that eventually led to the formation of the United States and freedom from British rule. Washington and his officers met in a room that much later became Longfellow's study. While here, Washington also received correspondence from John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Benedict Arnold. In addition, Washington invited the African American poet, Phillis Wheatley to visit him after she sent him an inspiring poem. Martha Washington joined her husband here in 1775 and the couple celebrated their 17th wedding anniversary in this house.
The garden behind the Longfellow house
U.S.S. Constitution--"Old Ironsides"
In dry dock in the Charlestown Navy Yard sits the U.S.S. Constitution a naval war ship, nicknamed Old Ironsides. Launched on October 21, 1797, the ship has been involved in 33 naval engagements, but it has never lost a battle. The U.S.S. Constitution is the oldest commissioned war ship in the world. Today, the ship is manned by active duty United States sailors whose purpose it is to share the history and heritage of the old ship.
The anchor of the USS Constitution is on display in front of the ship.
Cassin Young
The Cassin Young is a World War II-era destroyer that is held in Dry Dock 1 at the Charlestown Naval Yard. Launched in September 1943 the ship was in active service until 1960. In 1945 the Cassin Young endured and survived kamikaze attacks. One kamikaze pilot crashed high on the ship's foremast exploding only fifty feet from the ship. Fortunately, only one man was wounded and another killed.

From Boston Harbor you can see downtown Boston in the distance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I found your blog through Life with Hannah and Lily. Thanks for the thorough overview of Boston. It's a place I am dying to go. When are you going to Chicago? :)