Bedford Explained: The Bedford Minuteman Company ~ Pole Capping

The Bedford Minutemen lead the parade to Wilson Park – Image (c) Richard Krusemark, 2014 all rights reserved

Editor’s Note: Bedford’s 2019 Pole Capping ceremony will begin with a parade to Willson Park, stepping off from Bedford Common at 10:30 am on Saturday, April 6

By Town Historian Sharon McDonald

Every year, on a Saturday morning in early April, hundreds of Minutemen and women from nearby towns appear on Bedford Common. At 10:30, fifing and drumming begin. The colonial units, company by company, step off and march down the Great Road, banners waving. With a puff of smoke, muskets now and again fire unexpectedly and onlookers start.

At the rear of the procession, Bedford’s Minutemen bear a heavy 24-foot-long pole.

Their destination is Willson Park, a patch of green at the intersection of North, Concord and Great Roads. There the pole rests while the dignitaries are introduced and several patriotic speeches are delivered.

Bedford Minutemen prepare to raise the Liberty Pole as Bryan Nash watches – Image (c) Michael Nosal, 2015

At last, the pole is raised, and one strong Bedford Minuteperson – yes, sometimes it’s been a woman – shinnies up and plops the red liberty cap firmly onto the very top. The crowd, waiting breathlessly below, all shout “Huzzah!” One more time the Colonials have defied the hated British “Lobsterbacks.”

But wait – who are those in scarlet coats and tall fur hats pushing through the gathering? Not His Majesty’s Regulars???

The pageant recreates the pre-Revolutionary War “Sons of Liberty” flags that first flew to announce a meeting of the rebellious patriots.

The British cut down Boston’s Liberty Tree, but liberty poles were raised defiantly all over New England and as far away as New York City.

This Liberty Cap will soon rest atop the Liberty Pole

Why a red cap? It is derived from the red cap worn in old Rome by slaves who had been manumitted. In the eighteenth century, the symbolism of those who refused to be enslaved was widely recognized.

The Pole Capping ceremony was unfamiliar to Bedford residents in 1965 when the newly formed Bedford Minuteman Company raised the first Liberty Pole in Willson Park.

Fifty years later, it is still thrilling to colonial reenactors and townspeople alike when the cap is firmly thrust atop the pole.

We are still the Land of the Free!



Jim Griffith, atop the Liberty Pole at Willson Park on Saturday – Image (c) Jeff ‘JHo’ Hoyland, 2017 all rights reserved

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