Metro

‘The beginning of America’: Shots ring out to mark Battle of Lexington

Participants in the reenactment of the skirmish that took place in 1775 on Lexington Green celebrated the 242nd anniversary of the event.
Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff
Participants in the reenactment of the skirmish that took place in 1775 on Lexington Green celebrated the 242nd anniversary of the event.

LEXINGTON — In his dapper red uniform, Isaac Zaslow, 17, has gotten used to the boos and playful yells of “Go back to Boston!” That’s what happens when you dress as a redcoat in Lexington, Massachusetts on Patriots Day.

On Monday morning in celebration of the state holiday he donned the garb of one of King George’s professional soldiers known as “The Regulars” and participated in the annual reenactment of the Battle of Lexington. Like many locals, Zaslow grew up on the front lines of history.

Every year, he’d go to the Lexington Common and watch reenactors create what became the starting point for the American Revolution. However, unlike most locals he didn’t cheer for the home team, the Colonials fighting for independence.

Advertisement

He always wanted to be a redcoat.

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

“I remember seeing the redcoats march down Massachusetts Avenue,” said Zaslow, who is now a member of His Majesty’s Tenth Regiment of Foot, a historically recreated British infantry unit. “It still gives me chills.”

His Majesty’s Tenth Regiment of Foot, a historically recreated British infantry unit, marched through Lexington after “defeating” the Lexington Militia on the Lexington Green early Monday morning.
Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff
His Majesty’s Tenth Regiment of Foot, a historically recreated British infantry unit, marched through Lexington after “defeating” the Lexington Militia on the Lexington Green early Monday morning.

In the early morning light Monday, reenactors dressed as Minutemen held muskets and confronted the redcoats after the first shot was fired. No one knows who shot first 242 years ago, but on Monday, Carlo Bertazzoni fired his musket from a window in Buckman’s Tavern, reprising a scenario that may have happened that day.

No one knows who fired the first shot at Lexington in 1775, but on Monday Carlo Bertazzoni  fired his musket from a window in Buckman’s Tavern, reprising a scenario that may have happened that day.
Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff
No one knows who fired the first shot at Lexington in 1775, but on Monday Carlo Bertazzoni fired his musket from a window in Buckman’s Tavern, reprising a scenario that may have happened that day.

Joining the reenactors were spectators who arrived before sunrise as the historic town common was once again transformed into that field of battle. Hundreds of spectators arrived before sunrise walking over with plastic buckets to sit on and children in tow.

Chris Dempsey and Ashley Bleimes showed their support for the Massachusetts Colonists and the Lexington Militia after the reenactment Monday morning.
Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff
Chris Dempsey and Ashley Bleimes showed their support for the Massachusetts Colonists and the Lexington Militia after the reenactment Monday morning.

On April 19, 1775, the Colonials lost the Battle of Lexington.

Advertisement

But, Katherine Melanson, 22, noted, they eventually won the Revolutionary War. That’s her favorite part. She and her friend, Ali Sumski, 23, both grew up watching the battle reenactment year after year as little girls.

“It’s tradition,” Sumski said. “So many people come out every year. You see the same faces and you watch little kids learning about history.”

They’re fans of the Colonials and tried to take pictures with the reenactors on the field. Sumski admits when she was a child, she worried about the reenactors who feigned death on the field. The loud noise of the muskets scared her.

“I wondered, ‘Are they really killing people?’ ” Sumski said laughing. “And then they’d get up.”

A cloud of smoke engulfs British soldiers as they fire on the Lexington Militia during the reenactment.
Zach Strohmeyer for the Boston Globe
A cloud of smoke engulfed British Regulars as they fired on the Lexington Militia during the reenactment.

To Bill Poole, a member of the Lexington Minute Men and past commander, the battle has special significance. One of his ancestors, Ebenezer Locke, was part of the Woburn Militia that stood up against British rule. He never forgets those eight souls who died that day, the first to sacrifice their lives for American independence. Seven of the men are buried on the Battle Green under an obelisk. They were the sons, uncles, husbands, brothers, children of Lexington.

Advertisement

“From here on out, there was no peace,” Poole said. “We were at war until the British left America.”

Mike Gualtieri, another member of the Lexington Minute Men, said he loves watching history come alive. He lives the tension of that battle in character during every reenactment.

“It’s the beginning of America,” Gualtieri said.

Retreating members of the Lexington Militia took shots at the British Regulars.
Zach Strohmeyer for the Boston Globe
Retreating members of the Lexington Militia took shots at the British Regulars.

A wounded member of the Lexington Militia seemed to have some words for the British Regulars as they marched past.
Zach Strohmeyer for the Boston Globe
A wounded member of the Lexington Militia seemed to have some words for the British Regulars as they marched past.

The Lexington Minute Men strive for authenticity. They abide by the 10-foot rule — costumes have to look authentic from 10 feet away. Gualtieri’s wife, Lisa Gualtieri, an assistant professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, got involved a couple of years ago.

She gathered together parts of costumes from women who no longer perform. She even gets to participate by trying to save a man’s life after he’s shot. Unfortunately, in this case, modern medicine won’t do. True to history, that soldier dies.

“During rehearsal, I offered to do CPR,” Gualtieri said with a smile. “And he said, ‘No, it’s a flesh wound. There’s nothing you can do.’ ”

Cristela Guerra can be reached at cristela.guerra@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra.