Just in case you missed it, Boston: Part One – The New England Aquarium can be read here!
One of my favorite things about Boston is the history. Seriously, I loved Washington, DC. The nation’s capital contains so much of what makes the United States, but Boston is really where it all started. When politicians on both sides really start to hack me off, I think about Boston and the men who conspired for a revolution to create a society and government that, in some ways, little resembles what we have more than 200 years later…but, I digress. No soapboxes, I promise (okay, probably soapboxes, but I’ll keep them as short as I can).
Old North Church, the location of the lanterns used to signal that the Regulars were coming (as one helpful guide pointed out, technically everyone was British, so “the British are coming” wouldn’t have made much sense. The things we never really think about…) held a hushed reverence even with all the tourists. The church now holds a commemorative lamp that is always lit in remembrance of the two lanterns hung to signal the British attack. Did you know that church members purchased pews, and decorated them as they saw fit? The placards with the family names still adorn the individual pews, and they’ve preserved the decoration of several as well.
Paul Revere’s house was an interesting tour. With beautiful leaded glass windows, it was a wonderful insight into the life of a man so…admired (see, I didn’t say revered) for his role in the Sons of Liberty and the foundation of the United States. My dad must have asked me three or four times what the name of Paul Revere’s horse was for that midnight ride…I found him a book titled What’s the Name of Paul Revere’s Horse? (Short answer, it wasn’t his horse, so we don’t really know.) However, before finding the book, I read up on every bit of history about the Revere family, in hopes that a horse would at least be mentioned. Nope, not there.
One of the best parts of the trip, for me, was visiting the oldest active warship in the United States, the U.S.S. Constitution. A three-masted ship, who maintains her active status by being towed into Boston Harbor (1 KM) every July 4th to give a 21 gun salute to all fallen military personnel. Don’t ask my how my best picture of this magnificent ship contains the blur of my finger…I don’t know. I really don’t know.
As an active vessel, the Constitution is maintained and staffed by Navy personnel. Their wealth of knowledge about the ship amazed me. They answered questions I hadn’t even thought to ask, and their insight into the workings and history made everything so much more fascinating. The cannons, cannon balls, and hammocks for the crew are all available to view. No, you cannot touch the cannon balls. I think you may have been able to lay in the hammocks, but due to a certain person’s discomfort with tight places, I didn’t test it out (She’d already been a great sport hanging with me as I “oohed” and “ahhed” over the mechanism for lowering the anchor and my fascination with the cannons.)
From there I headed over to the U.S.S. Cassin Young, a World War II battleship. Since this is not an active vessel, park rangers, instead of Navy personnel, are available to answer questions. The first thing I see as I head up the gangplank is a sign that states that “this vessel has not been renovated for the safety of visitors”. What does that even mean? As the drizzle began to fall, I wove in and out of sick bay and communications centers, (without tripping, I might add) and gazing in fascination at the guns (are you sensing a theme here? Hmm…). However, I didn’t stay long since the drizzle was making the deck slippery and “this vessel has not been renovated for the safety of visitors”.
Did you know the Battle of Bunker Hill wasn’t fought on Bunker Hill? The colonial troops accidentally needed up on Breeds Hill instead, and the battle was fought there. The quote, “don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes” comes from this epic battle that the colonial troops actually lost, but so many of the British regulars were brought down during the fighting that it was commemorated with the Bunker Hill Monument.
I take this as further proof that history was written by men. 1) They wouldn’t admit they were wrong and just change it to the Battle of Breeds Hill as soon as it happened. 2) They built a giant monument on Breeds Hill for the Battle of Bunker Hill (which was fought on Breeds Hill) even though they knew it wasn’t right…
This actually brings me to my next example of quirky Boston facts. The Boston Massacre began with a 13-year-old boy in front of the Old State House, and having a 13-year-old nephew…I’m not shocked. There is a medallion to commemorate the location set into the paving stones in front of the Old State House for an event that actually occurred across the street in front of what is now a Bank of America. Is it just me or does it seem like there’s a problem with sense of direction happening here? I know I’m bad with directions (no less than three times did I leave a historic location and turn the wrong direction), but I am not in charge of battles or the location for monuments…yet. 😉 Actually, I highly recommend the tour of the Old State House and the talk on the Boston Massacre. This is truly fascinating stuff for the history geek.
Okay, so this has nothing to do with the Freedom Trail and more of a quirky Boston fact. Did you know that Boston was considerably smaller when it was founded. I’m not talking the city itself (although that is true too). I’m talking about the land. The shoreline was actually only a couple of blocks from the Old State House. Over time, they reduced the height of some of the hills in Boston and used the earth to fill in the area between the wharfs. Back Bay is actually built on top of a landfill, and now it is one of the most prestigious areas in Boston. Tom Brady and his supermodel wife actually live there. As I’ve told this story to…more than one person, there have been some comments made about the Patriot Quarterback’s choice of location…
Faneuil Hall hosted the trials of the British soldiers who killed Bostonians during the Boston Massacre. John Adams served as the attorney for the defense of one of the accused and another lawyer (who is stupidly famous, but I forgot his name) also served as the attorney for the defense against his brother, the prosecutor. In actuality all but two of the soldiers were acquitted in the case. The convicted solders received sentences for manslaughter.
Boston Commons and the Public Gardens were a balm after all the city streets we’d meandered through (although, Boston has remarkable green space and beautiful trees). Boston Commons is a big green area in the middle of the city that historically was used to billet British troops, graze cattle, etc. Incidentally, the troops sent for peacekeeping purposes (Ha! 4,000 troops to keep peace in a city of 16,000 people, half of which were women and children?) were suppose to camp in Boston Commons. However, it was November and they would have frozen to death. That’s why colonial citizens were forced to house them in their homes.
Just across from Boston Commons are the Public Gardens. This area is just gorgeous. Lush and green with ponds, flowers, and trees. This is also home to the world’s smallest suspension bridge (which I walked across) and the famous swan boats. I like trees, and bridges.
On a side note, during our stay in Boston we came across no less than two weddings and got to watch while they took pictures (well, I say “watched”, more like patiently(ish) waited for them to finish). During our trek through the gardens we came across the tadpole pool, an actual swan’s nest (complete with nesting swans), and the bronze ducklings.
The ducklings are in honor of, Boston author, Robert McCloskey’s children’s book Make Way for Ducklings published in 1941. Every year, the ducklings are dressed up for Mother’s Day, a parade is held and families come out to have their picture taken with the ducklings. If you look closely, you can still see the blue bows around their necks.
‘Til next time,
P.S. Up next – Boston: Part Three – Salem