The Lexington Minute Men Company

By E. Ashley Rooney

Some of us arrive at Lexington Common as early as 4:00 AM on Patriots’ Day so to get a prime spot for the ensuing events. As the day dawns, so do thousands of spectators. The colonists begin to assemble. Paul Revere and John Lowell run into Buckman’s tavern, retrieve Hancock’s trunk of secret papers, and run back across the green. The spectators begin to hear the steady pounding of drums and marching feet as column upon column of red-coated Regulars come proudly down the street. As the Regulars march onto the Green, the colonial militia nervously retreat. Angry words are spoken. Capt. John Parker exhorts them to hold their ground as Maj. John Pitcairn bellows for the rebels to disperse or face the bayonets of a fearsome battalion of more than 150 Redcoats.

We all know what happens next: “the shot heard around the world” is fired. Muskets fire volley after volley; the smoke is overwhelming, and eight colonists lie dead; another ten are wounded.

The Lexington Minute Men first reenacted this momentous skirmish in 1875, when President Ulysses S. Grant came to town. That was the year the Lexington Minute Men adopted the buff and blue uniforms they wear today. In 1971, anticipating the battle’s bicentennial, the Lexington Minute Men held a reenactment during the day. Since then, the annual battle reenactments start at dawn — as the actual events did in 1775 – and we can all feel that fear as the Redcoats toward the Green.

Seventy-seven members of the Lexington militia stood together on April 19, 1775. Many were third- or fourth-generation Americans. Most were over 30, and twenty were veterans of earlier wars, where they learned the guerrilla tactics they would use later that day. Their forty-five-year-old captain, John Parker, was one of those veterans, a farmer and father of seven.

Although we call them the Minute Men today, Lexington never officially had Minute Men. The town maintained a militia, which could be deployed “at a minute’s notice.” These men fought in their everyday clothes and used their own weapons.

The company was re-chartered in 1874 before the Centennial and President Ulysses S. Grant’s visit. On May 5, 1910, Massachusetts Governor Eben S. Draper established the Minute Men as an independent, unattached military command in Massachusetts.

Patriots’ Day Celebration
In 1894, Patriots’ Day became a state holiday in Massachusetts and Maine. In 1959, Congress established Minute Man National Historical Park, which honors the initial battles of the American Revolution through the preservation, restoration and interpretation of significant sites. The Lexington Battle Green is one of the eight locations in the United States where the U.S. flag is specifically authorized by law to fly 24 hours a day. Dedicated in 1976 to commemorate the battle’s bicentennial, the pole is a National Historic Landmark.[6]
In Lexington, the Minute Men are responsible for the battle, inviting a British contingent to meet them on Lexington Green. Over 18,000 people attended the Bicentennial reenactment of 1976. Today, the Lexington Minutemen are also involved in several other skirmishes (Parker’s Revenge and Tower Hill), which take place on the Saturday before Patriots’ Day. Lexington Town Celebration Committee (TCC) organizes the parades and coordinates the many other activities (e.g., concerts, road race, house tours) that precede and follow.

To become a Minute Man, you must be at least 18 and physically fit. The Lexington Minute Men not only reenact the battle that morning, but then they march the 2-mile parade route. You must enjoy history, like to appear in uniform, and enjoy marching and reenacting major moments in American history.

Their stated mission says, “From those who first fell on Lexington Green, to the heroes of today, we hope to continue telling the story of American Independence.” First Lieutenant Steve Cole comments, “Fifty years from my death, no one may remember me, but we want the memory of these patriots to remain alive forever.”
A Lexington resident, Steve started playing the drum at age 11 with the hope that someday he would join the Lexington Minute Men Company and be able to portray William Diamond. In 1996, at the age of 18, he joined the Lexington Minute Men, and his dream came true. Some other Lexington residents who are involved include previous captain Dr. Barry Cunha, participating as Lt. William Tidd, and Charlie Price as Prince Estabrook, a slave of the Estabrook family and a foot soldier.

Minute Men aren’t necessarily Lexingtonians, however. Kevin Collins, who has been in the company since 2007, resides in Marlboro. He has thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie of the group and its mission, “It’s nice the way the Minute Men are embedded with the town. They are one and the same. Lexington has such a passion about Patriots’ Day.” In fact, Kevin was so interested that he joined the Town Celebrations Committee. He says, “It feels really good to be involved in civic government where people care so much.”

Through school visits, reenactments, and speaking engagements, the Lexington Minute Men keep alive the memory of our country’s founding. They have marched in the inaugural parades of Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. They have also served as honor guard during the Bicentennial visits of President Gerald Ford, Queen Elizabeth, and numerous Massachusetts governors.

They attend many local events in New England and travel to various historical sites yearly, including Fort Ticonderoga, Quebec City, and Yorktown. Each February, the members vote on what events to attend for the year.

For more information, visit.

Share this: