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.
He always wanted to be a redcoat.
“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.”
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.
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.
On April 19, 1775, the Colonials lost the Battle of Lexington.
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.”
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.
“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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra.