Revolutionary War re-enactment represents spirit of 01776
In the gray light before dawn, a horseman wearing Colonial attire gallops into Sudbury, Mass. (pop. 16,841), bringing an urgent message to the people of the quiet New England village.
Panting from his ride across the countryside, Dave Loda, 49, hands a note to John Neuhauser, 39, colonel of the Sudbury Companies of Militia & Minute, who reads it by the light of a hand-held lantern and shouts orders to about 60 soldier re-enactors.
“Sound the alarm!” Neuhauser cries. “March to Concord to defend your freedoms!”
The historic moment leading up to America’s Revolutionary War is re-created each spring in Sudbury, which has the distinction of bearing the nation’s most patriotic ZIP code—01776.
Though the U.S. Postal Service assigned the mail codes by region and location in 1963 with the launch of its Zoning Improvement Plan, citizens of Sudbury say their claim on America’s birth date is fitting since the village sent more volunteer militia to the Battle of Lexington and Concord—348 citizen soldiers in all—than any other community.
The town honors its contribution to America’s independence from Great Britain each April 19 with a re-enactment of Colonial militia marching the 12 miles to Concord, Mass.
Sudbury was among the villages west of Boston that, during the night of April 18-19, 1775, received word from messengers on horseback that British Gen. Thomas Gage planned to march his troops from their headquarters in Boston to Concord to seize Colonial munitions. While Paul Revere is the most famous of the messengers, Sudbury was alerted by rider Abel Prescott Jr. of Concord.
A neighbor to Concord, Sudbury at the time had the largest population in Middlesex County and was home to military veterans from four French and Indian War battles. A large contingent of Sudbury men quickly heeded the call to arms and marched to Concord’s aid.
“The Sudbury militia was prepared for hostilities with the king’s troops,” says Lee Swanson, 72, curator of the Sudbury Historical Society. “Still, not every man owned a musket. Some had pistols, and some only had pitchforks. It was a mismatched battle.”
By the time Sudbury’s citizen soldiers arrived in Concord, British troops already had faced off with patriots in Lexington on the morning of April 19, killing eight. The redcoats marched on to Concord, where at the North Bridge they clashed with members of the Sudbury militia and other Colonial forces—about 450 in all, though some 4,000 patriots gathered along the road to shoot at the British as they retreated to Boston. The day’s hostilities left two Sudbury men dead.
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