LEXINGTON — The battle is always the same. But for some, this year felt a little different.
A ragtag militia gathered on the Green. The British regulars marched in. A shot cracked through the early morning air. An uneven exchange of musket fire commenced. Eight local militiamen died. And by 6:30 a.m., the red-coated troops of King George III marched on toward Concord and eventual defeat.
Yet for some spectators and participants, Monday morning’s reenactment of the opening shots of the American Revolution had unique significance.
“It takes on a special meaning this year to know that people died in the past to fight for our freedom,” said Michael Antonellis of Watertown.
The Marathon bombings were “another test of our freedoms,” his wife, Elaine, added.
As dawn crept into the sky, the couple stood waiting near the Minuteman statue for the historical re-creation to begin. They have been coming to the Lexington reenactment every year for more than a decade, they said, but 2014 stood out from the rest.
“It’s kind of surreal — I remember being here last year,” she said.
Bill Poole, who portrayed the leader of the Lexington Minutemen, Captain John Parker, delivered his famous April 1775 command to his company with intensity.
“Steady, men, steady,” he bellowed, British regulars moving closer and closer. “Do not fire unless fired upon. Do not fire unless fired upon!”
After the battle, scent of musket powder still hanging in the air, Poole said it felt different this year.
“We felt a greater sense of responsibility,” the Chelmsford resident said, “to uphold and stand for those traditions of liberty and freedom that we’ve got to maintain through all these tragedies that we face.”
Poole, a veteran of more than dozen reenactments who only gave his age as “up there,” said there was also a personal poignancy for him: it was his last Battle of Lexington as Parker.
He said he was pleased with the performance. So were some first-time watchers, among the 5,000 spectators that police estimated attended.
Walking off the Green, Watertown resident Jason DeJoannis said he was impressed by the way the drama mounted, calling the fight “pretty intense.”
“They do a good job of building the tension,” said his wife, Sabrina.
Ten-year-old Dominick Lamoretti of Burlington, a first-timer, said he enjoyed the whole event, but there was a highlight.
“I liked, basically, when they started shooting,” he said.
His father, Darren, said it was worth the hassle to bring his son, though he admitted “it’s not easy getting up this early.”
Historically, the British soldiers continued marching to Concord, where they encountered greater resistance. Retreating to Boston, they suffered significant casualties.
Joseph J. Ellis, a professor emeritus of history at Mount Holyoke College and specialist on the Revolutionary era, said the day of the battles of Lexington and Concord was a pivotal point.
Even though the American Colonies did not declare independence for 15 more months, Ellis explained, what took place on April 19, 1775, set the Colonies and crown ineluctably toward separation.
“Once the constitutional and political conflict becomes militarized . . . it changes the chemistry of the conversation,” he said. “Lexington and Concord represent the beginning of the American Revolution in a way there’s no turning back.”
So, Ellis asserted, the pageantry of the day is rooted in historical depth.
“It’s worthy,” he said. “It’s not just emblematic and sentimental.”