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Lesser-known battles in the American Revolution fight for attention

Now momentum is growing toward the 250th anniversary of that day next year, and related events. These are likely to bring a flood of visitors to Massachusetts, even during periods that are already crushingly busy – and will have a much broader scope than in the past, extending to places and people whose role in the drama of the time was not previously widely known . .

“It’s a global spotlight and we have an opportunity to embrace that,” said Nancy Gardella, executive director of the North of Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, which includes several towns and cities where events will take place.

The yearlong commemoration has already begun, with the 250th anniversary of the Boston Massacre on March 5, 2020 – although that was overshadowed by the COVID-19 shutdowns, which occurred just a few days later – and the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party in December. It peaks next year on Patriot’s Day weekend with the 250th anniversary of Lexington and Concord, followed by the 250th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17 and ends on March 17, 2026, with the 250th anniversary of the end of the 11th century. month British siege of Boston.

These will be followed by broader ceremonies marking the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, including a visit to Boston by the great ships from July 7 to 16, 2026.

Organizers plan to broaden the view of these events to include more information about the contributions of women, Black and Indigenous people.

“There is a big push to make sure all Americans can see themselves,” said Noelle Trent, president and CEO of the Museum of African American History.

“This history isn’t just about a bunch of white men with statues that represent them,” said Beth Williams, Concord’s tourism manager.

Nina Zannieri, executive director of the Paul Revere Memorial Association, which runs the Paul Revere House, added: “An effort is being made this time to ensure we tell the stories of the people who have been traditionally excluded.”

And the places. Events are planned in communities from Arlington to Chelsea, where battles have taken place that have not received the same attention as those in Lexington, Concord and Charlestown.

“It’s an opportunity for other cities to be involved in the story,” said Katie Luczai, economic development coordinator in Arlington.

The Battle of Menotomy was the longest on April 19, with 12 Americans killed as they harassed the retreating British. Most of the fighting took place around the Jason Russell House, now a museum, which still has holes left by musket balls.

Luczai said she suspects one reason this part of the conflict is less known is because it does not appear in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous poem about Revere’s ride.

The 250th anniversary, she said, “is definitely a huge opportunity that we are trying to take advantage of as much as we can” to change that.

Scenes from this year’s reenactment of the Battle of Menotomy.Massachusetts Bureau of Travel and Tourism

Another, lesser-known clash took place in Chelsea: the Battle of Chelsea Creek, in which colonial soldiers captured and burned a British ship. That has given the city an opportunity to connect its immigrant population to an origin story they may not have known, said Malik Howshan, innovation, access and opportunity officer for Chelsea Public Schools.

“By helping people understand the history of where they live, they can build connections so they feel a little more American,” said Howshan, who previously taught history in Methuen. “It creates future citizens who are invested.”

After this anniversary, he said, “people will come to Chelsea and have a better appreciation for what it is, and for the role that Chelsea played.”

History places Massachusetts at the center of the Revolution, until the British withdrawal from Boston Harbor, when events continued elsewhere. “The American Revolution happened here and then they went to Philadelphia to fill out the paperwork,” said Kate Fox, executive director of the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, quoting historian Robert Allison.

Fox and other tourism officials said it’s too early to know the economic impact of the 250th, though Gardella said the typical $24 billion in annual state tourism spending will certainly increase by at least 50 percent.

Whatever the financial outcome, events are likely to be very busy.

More than 160,000 people squeezed into Lexington and Concord for the bicentennial reenactment of the battles there, as then-President Gerald Ford came to lay a wreath at the foot of the minutemen statue. Then, as now, the Boston Marathon coincided with the anniversary, but since then the Marathon has grown significantly and hotels and restaurants in a wide radius are sold out.

Instead of Marathon Monday, when Patriots Day is typically celebrated, planners have already scheduled next year’s Lexington and Concord reenactments for two days earlier, on Saturday, April 19, to spread out the crowds. And even though the Menotomy battle took place on the same day, the reenactment will take place on Sunday – which is also Easter next year.

The visit of the great ships and the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence coincide with the World Cup, seven matches of which will be played at Gillette Stadium from June 13 to July 9, 2026. ‘The manna-from-heaven tourism trifecta’, Gardella called it – although one that is likely to create bottlenecks.

“Especially if you want hotel accommodations or restaurant reservations, I wouldn’t wait to book anything,” Fox said.

The National Park Service plans to add staff and offer apps and QR codes for an expected flow of visitors to guide themselves on tours, said Liza Stearns, director of visitor engagement. The park service is spending $25 million to restore the Dorchester Heights Monument, which commemorates the British evacuation from the harbor, and is spending $1.4 million on repairs to the Bunker Hill Monument.

Other attractions, including the Paul Revere House, will increase staff and expand their hours.

At a time of division, planners said celebrating the country’s founding could bring Americans closer together.

“I hope people see that there are more things we have in common than things that keep us apart,” said Gary Clayton, co-chair of the Concord250 Executive Committee.

“The hope is that people will hear the whole story and feel that this matters and it still matters and it tells us who we are as a country,” Zannieri said — “imperfect but still remarkable.”

A state website listing events celebrating the 250th anniversary is at 250.ma.


Jon Marcus can be reached at [email protected].

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