Submitted by Sharon McDonald
On Saturday morning, April 6, several hundred American Revolutionary War re-enactors from all over Eastern Massachusetts will muster on our Bedford Common. At the stroke of ten-thirty, the troops will step off onto the Great Road, playing fifes and beating drums, flourishing their ancient colors, and firing a few deafening rounds from their muskets. At the end of a short march, minutemen and spectators will mass around Wilson Park to watch Bedford’s historic Polecapping.
Wilson Park? You’ve passed it without knowing: it’s the traffic island where Great Road, Concord Road and North Road come together. But historically, on this site Bedford Minutemen and Militia met at dawn on April 19, 1775 to march off to Concord. Now, it holds the memorial to their Captain, Jonathan Wilson, who was killed on that day. And it also holds a stark, bare Liberty Pole…
Two Saturdays before Patriot’s Day, Wilson Park becomes a symbol of the great protests that reverberated through the colonies in the years before the American Revolution. A stamp tax, a tax on tea – any taxation without representation – and patriots would protest below their liberty trees and, when the British Regulars cut those down, the patriots erected liberty poles. At that time, a red cap was widely recognized to be a liberty cap, and to flaunt one atop a 20 or 30 foot pole was a deliberate slap in the face to King George and the English Parliament.
Liberty poles were ubiquitous in the 1760s and 1770s, but now, Bedford’s ceremony is unique in Massachusetts. Join the Polecapping this year: tuck into First Parish on the Common’s pancake breakfast. Wander the Common and chat with the minutemen. At 10:30, watch the parade, and then gather along the side of Wilson Park to hear some inspiring speeches, applaud this year’s high school Minuteman Scholarship winner, and witness the historic Polecapping itself. Hold your breath watching the rebel shinny up the rope — will he make it this year? Shout your Huzzah!! when he thrusts the red cap up over the pole’s summit. Gasp when the British officers swoop down to catch him in the act. (Shall we disperse? or hold our ground?)
It’s Bedford at its finest.
To learn more about Bedford’s Minuteman Company, our town’s Polecapping ceremony, and the Bedford Minutemen on Patriot’s Day, you’ll enjoy this video prepared by Monika Czria and Bedford Television.