Leaving Marblehead on Monday (after meeting a couple from MN who were out doing family research), I traveled down to Cambridge – the last leg of my trip. The next day – Tuesday – was, of course, the 4th
of July. Being so close to Boston, how could I resist?
I started out the day (dressed in a Hamilton shirt, of course) at the Government Center, where the Mayor – Marty Walsh – gave a short speech and the parade started. One of the lines in his speech caught at me. He said something along the lines of this being the day that our country declared who we want to be. I have never thought of the Declaration of Independence that way, but I like it. I particularly enjoyed the groups that came to march in the parade in costume – one being a fife and drum corps and another that shot and reloaded their muskets while marching.
The next stop (for me – I didn’t follow the parade route), was the Old State House for the reading of the Declaration of Independence. It was from this balcony that the citizens of Boston first heard the
Declaration read on July 18, 2017. If you have not heard the Declaration read recently, I encourage you to listen to it (Colonial Williamsburg has a great podcast of the Thomas Jefferson reenactor reading it) – it is an excellent piece of writing and needs to be heard to be fully appreciated. This time, I was listening for the line, “He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.” By this time, both the towns of Falmouth (present day Portland), Maine and Norfolk, Virginia had been burned (though Norfolk, I believe, had been a bit more active in its resistance than Falmouth). Since the burning of Falmouth has been part of my writing and researching for the past year, this line had more importance to me than it ever has before.
After the reading, I went inside the Old State House which has a great display about the rise of revolutionary thought and speeches and actions. If you are sketchy on your American Revolution history, this is definitely a great place to stop. It is also the site of the Boston Massacre, which took place right outside its
doors – below the balcony where the Declaration was read.
I then made my way to Old North Church. I had not intended to go in, as I had been in previously, but they were doing “Behind the Scenes” tours, which took me up into the bell ringing chamber and down in the crypt. The bells of Old North are change ringing bells (which means they don’t just swing back and forth, they go upside down – or something more science-y than that) and were the first of their kind in America. The lightest of the bells weighs 620 pounds! Paul Revere, though not a member at Old North, was one of the first bell ringers – which turned out to be a good thing 15 years later when he needed so lanterns hung... The crypt was not like others I have been in, mostly because those were more like catacombs or bone chapels than crypts. All of these tombs are still sealed and each contains somewhere around 40 bodies. During the Battle of Bunker Hill, Old North was used as a hospital for the British, so they believe about 100 British soldiers are also down in
the crypt. The coolest thing about the tour was the descendants of Major John Pitcairn (a British Major who died at Bunker Hill) were on the tour!
After the church, I had to (as I had planned) make a stop at Captain Jackson’s Historic Chocolate Shop and the Printing Office of Edes & Gill, which are part of the Old North Historic site. I love watching old printing presses at work and could not pass up the opportunity. And I learned a new fact – Mary Katherine Goddard, a publisher in Baltimore, was the one who printed the Declaration of Independence in 1777 with the names of all the signatories on it (previously, it had only been printed with Hancock’s name).
My next stop – and, aside from the reading of the Declaration, my true reason for coming into Boston – was the USS Constitution. The last time I was in Boston, the ship was in dry dock and not open for tours. It is still in dry dock (they are hoping to have it back in the water in September), but the top two decks are open! I first learned of
this ship in 6th
grade because my teacher had a model of the ship – and I am sure one of the times we tried to get him off track, he told us one of the stories of the ship. In high school – at some point – we read the poem “Old Ironsides” by Oliver Wendell Holmes. I have wanted to see the ship for quite some time, and it was worth the wait. Active duty sailors still work the ship and give tours since the USS Constitution is still a commissioned ship in our navy. Seaman Jones provided us with a tour of the top deck and Seaman Delaney with the second deck. Her deck is 206 feet long – the schooners I am writing about are only 60! Three of their decks could fit on this one with room to spare! She is a 44-gun frigate, and it was in battling the British that she earned her nickname. Ashore, there was a gun crew who demonstrated how the cannon would be loaded and fired – a feat they were able to accomplish in 39 seconds (though they weren’t actually ramming home the wading or shot
Looking out on the Massacre Site
From this window in the Old State House, you can see where the Boston Massacre took place.
or firing, so I am guessing it would take a bit longer with those steps fully carried out). If you are in Boston and the Constitution is open, definitely go!!
On the 4th
, the Boston Pops Orchestra does a concert before the fireworks show down by the Charles River. I knew it would be crowded, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see Leslie Odom Jr. perform live – I had never thought this would be possible, so it was really a dream come true. I tromped down with the masses, found a small spot on the lawn to spread my camping towel (multipurpose!) and settled down to read and wait. The concert was well worth it, though I have to say, being at a televised concert is strange because there is so much more downtime than at a “real” concert. The guest performers were...”marvelous” and “amazing” don’t begin to describe them. Aside from Leslie Odom Jr. – lived up to and surpassed my imaginings – I listened to Brian Stokes Mitchell, Andy Grammar, and Melissa Ethridge. Alan Menken was also there (!!!!) because Brian Stokes Mitchell was singing the world debut of the
The statue of Samuel Adams outside Faneuil Hall
song “The Sum of Us” that Menken and lyricist Jack Feldman wrote. Can there be a better way to celebrate the 4th
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