Day 56, Sunday, September 9, 2018
Boston Freedom Trail, Boston, Massachusetts
Stop 13: Old North Church
“One if by land, two if by sea.” We probably all learned these lines of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, Paul Revere’s Ride, when we studied the American Revolution in elementary school. Now I got to see where the words were inspired!
Christ Church, aka Old North Church, is the oldest standing church building in Boston, opening on December 29, 1723. The 191 foot steeple is also the tallest in Boston. Just before the beginning of the Revolutionary War, British General Thomas Gage made plans to capture the munitions stored by the rebels at Lexington and Concord, and to arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams. However the Sons of Liberty discovered the plot and had time to hatch their own plan to warn of the arrival of the British Army.
On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere instructed Christ Church sexton Robert Newman to light lanterns in the steeple to signal the path that the British troops were taking in their advance. One if by land, two if by sea… Although the two lanterns only hung for a couple of moments, it was long enough for patriots in Charlestown to learn that the British were crossing the Charles River.
The original steeple was destroyed by a hurricane in 1804, and a replacement was destroyed in 1954, so Old North Church is now on its third steeple. It doesn’t detract from the beauty of this historic site. When I was there, there was construction going on and the street that leads to the church was fenced off. The base of the Paul Revere statue in front of the church was covered in plywood to protect it. On the way back though we were able to take a photo from the other side.
Stop 14: Copp’s Hill Burying Ground
Copp’s Hill Burying Ground was Boston’s largest colonial cemetery, dating from 1659. Most of the people here are ordinary Bostonians; merchants, artisans and craftspeople who lived in the North End of Boston. A few are notable. Cotton Mather and Increase Mather, son and father, Puritan ministers who played a large role in the Salem Witch Trials, are buried here. The sexton of the Old North Church who raised the lanterns, Robert Newman, is also among those who rest here. It is also believed that approximately 1,000 free African-Americans lie here.
It isn’t all peaceful however. The British used the burying ground as a vantage point and placed cannons here, in order to bombard Charlestown during the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775.
Stop 15: USS Constitution
The USS Constitution, nicknamed “Old Ironsides”, is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world! She was built over the span of four years, and completed in 1797!
The USS Constitution was rated at 44 guns, but usually carried between 50 and 60 guns. She also had a larger crew than many ships she came up against. That combined with her top speed of 13 knots gave her a competitive advantage.
Old Ironsides got her nickname in the War of 1812, when she battled against the British Frigate HMS Guerriere, and cannonballs seemed to bounce off her as if she were made of iron. This was due to the three layers of white oak and live oak she was constructed with. Her copper fastenings were made by Paul Revere.
The USS Constitution is berthed at the Charlestown Navy Yard and she heads out into Boston Harbor several times a year for demonstrations. The Navy Yard and the USS Constitution are part of the Boston National Historical Park, and there are several passport stamps! Because she is still a commissioned warship, she still has a crew of naval officers and enlisted personnel. Clara and I were able to tour her, and it was so fun to check her out! Watch out for the low ceilings!
Stop 16: Bunker Hill Monument
The first major battle of the Revolutionary War was the Battle of Bunker Hill, on June 17, 1775. Interestingly there was confusion about which hill was supposed to be fortified. So it was actually Breed’s Hill that was incorrectly fortified due to an incorrect map, and the Battle of Bunker Hill was actually fought on Breed’s Hill.
During the battle, it took a force of 2,200 Redcoats three different assaults to dislodge the rebels from the hastily constructed redoubt on top of the hill. Although the battle was a British victory, the battle showed how well the Colonial troops could fight.
A Bunker Hill monument was laid in 1825 by the Marquis de Lafayette on the 50th anniversary of the battle. The granite obelisk that memorializes the hill is 221 feet tall, and was completed in 1842. You can climb the 294 steps inside the monument and see some beautiful 360 degree views of Boston! That was fun, but did show me that even though I’m in pretty good shape, Clara is much younger than me!
The Bunker Hill Monument is a part of the Boston National Historical Park as well, so there was another chance to get a stamp! It was at this point that the official stops of the Boston Freedom Trail ended. But Clara and I were certainly not done for the day! We still had to retrace our steps to get back to Boston Common and the parking garage where I was parked.
Clara wanted to check out Mike’s Pastries on our way back, so we got chocolate mousse cannoli, tiramisu, and strawberry cheesecake and shared them all. They were so delicious!
It was now evening, and Clara and I said our goodbyes and I made my way back to the parking garage, then back to the campground. The good news was that I missed the evening traffic as well!
I had so much fun in Boston, and it was so much fun to have someone to sight-see with! Boston was easily one of my favorite days on my trip.
Note: If you would like to see the other stops on the Boston Freedom Trail, see Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.