To Kill a Squirrel|
An Unofficial History of the Sudbury Minutemen
By Maurice Fitzgerald and John Cheney
We dedicate this effort to
Frank really personifies what a gracious innkeeper should be like -- a friend to all. Colonel Howe, who led the men of Sudbury in 1775, has a true successor in Frank. Without him and without the Wayside Inn, our companies of minute and militia probably would not exist. During the years, we have had several "colonels," but the innkeeper has always been our leader, just as he was on April 19, 1775.
A list of the men who "stood in" as Colonel:
The following collection of bits and pieces are what we call an "Unauthorized and unofficial history of the Sudbury Companies of Militia and Minute." We present them thus for a particular reason. Because our group has over the years kept the tradition of being non-structured -- there can be no closed-form, "official history." In each of the 11 years that we have marched there have been an average of -- say 200 marchers -- the march is about 4 hours long so there have been 105,600 man-hours spent in creating memories of fun and camaraderie -- only fools could think that these could be known by two or ten or even a hundred. We, therefore, have attempted only to record a few of the pleasant memories we have acquired.
You will probably find our format a bit strange in addition to the fact that you will most certainly find our scholarship non existent, our writing sophomoric and even our spelling bizarre. The reason for using a format such as this is that we would hope that you would add some of your memories in the "REMEMBER" section and that after doing that you would send us a copy so that we can have them reproduced and distributed. In this way, we will all have our memories jogged. Also, we have had the sheets three holed punched so that we can add history as it is remembered or created.
We have included a few photographs. We feel that this section should be expanded greatly -- if you have photos that we could include please let us know of them.
The Sudbury Companies of Militia and Minute -- known to us simply as the Minutemen for long before we had such an imposing title -- is a very unique organization. To each member it probably has a different meaning -- to some it's a parade, to some a march, some members like guns, many hate them, to some the historical aspects are most important, to some history is a big bore. What has held this group together this long is anyone's guess, but we feel that most would allow that the willingness of each to render to each other member the right to be a member on his term without insisting upon consensus or orthodoxy is no small part of the reason.
We are now entering into the Bicentennial period during which our ears and eyes will be assaulted with a panoply of parades, speeches, banners, crowds, tourists, traffic jams, souvenirs, commemorative plates etc. The Minutemen will be invited to be in the parades, will find themselves photographed and photographed and interviewed. This will be a time of much activity. Many will join our ranks so as to take part in the festivities. But, two years from now the cameras will be gone, crowds will be gone and the tourists will be fouling some other area. The limelight Patriots will find other parades to march in and we will be left with only what we were before. The big question of 1977 will be does anyone here remember names like Ezekiel Howe, Deacon Haynes, John Nixon, Isaac Loker -- would you like to re-enact their march to the North Bridge and maybe gain some insight into what it was like to start a revolution?
The April 19th festivities have traditionally been of two parts: The march and the parade. The march consists of the Sudbury Green ceremonies and the 8 mile march to the North Bridge, and is basically historical and private in nature and spectators are considered a pain (in particular the kids on bicycles and camera nuts who intrude into the ranks to get their goddam shots). The parade is the walk from the North Bridge thru Concord. In this, the spectators are desired and even our camp followers are invited to join us. It is this part, also, that has earned Sudbury such a warm spot in the hearts of the Concord Public Celebration Committee. Over the years they have admired our deportment and in particular the military flair we put into giving the "Sudbury Salute" when passing the reviewing stand. New recruits should ask our veterans how to give it!
The Sudbury Minutemen were re-organized in 1964.
If you go to the North Bridge and read the various plaques and listen to the Park Ranger's lecture you will be told that the Sudbury men did not arrive soon enough to take part in the confrontation at the bridge. If you read on you will "learn" that the Sudbury Militia did not arrive until about 2 in the afternoon barely in time for the fighting at Merriam's corner -- don't you believe it. For this to be true 358 men would have had to leave Sudbury between 5 and 6 A.M. and take between 8 and 9 hours to cover a distance which we traverse in 2 1/2 hours. They must have taken the longest goddam breaks in history. The "official" history which says the above was not put together until 1825-1835 and by prominent historian types from Concord. Even today Concord has a plentiful supply of prominent historian types.
In each of the eleven times that we have made our march to Concord, we have discovered something new about the probabilities of April 19th 1775, the jingoism of some Concordians not withstanding. We found that it only takes 2 1/2 hours to get there (Shots were fired at 9:20 A.M. - 5:00-6:00 A.M. + 2:30 = 7:30-8:30 A.M.). So O.K., the time objections weren't valid but Sudbury missed being on time because the river was in the way. When the river was crossed in two different places and even waded, tactics changed -- historical polemics were no longer necessary -- one could now refer those in doubt to the Park Service official story -- they own the plaques and the monuments and even the bridge.
What hasn't been told is the real story which was uncovered in 1875. While excavating a foundation hole for the minuteman statue a workman found a small leather covered box. The leather had rotted but the box had been lined with tin and was completely intact. When opened, it was found to contain a message addressed to Lt. Col Smith from Capt. Laurie of the British Tenth Regiment who commanded the men guarding the North Bridge. The message, which was never delivered, stated that a dispatch rider had just come from Capt. Mundy Pole who was on Lee's (Nashawtuc) hill observing the area around Concord. With the warning that an extremely large force of provincials consisting of at least five foot companies and a horse troop were headed toward the bridge. He further stated that it had been learned that these troops were from Sudbury, the largest town in Middlesex County and under the Command of a Lt. Col. Howe who was a lieutenant of Col. Barrett and were, therefore, most likely on the way to join him. Captain Laurie said that he could hold against the few provincials with Barrett on the hill to his right but that he would need the main body to resist the Sudbury Troops. Fortunately the message was not delivered to Col. Smith otherwise the confrontation might have had a far different ending.
As you can well imagine there was great consternation in Concord when the above was found. And, on the very eve of the Centennial Celebration, the poems had already been written, the speeches composed, the luncheon tent was going up, distinguished visitors were arriving even now and President Grant was due. This, this -- thing -- would ruin it all -- what to do? A meeting of prominent Concord citizens was hurriedly called. It was decided that the story which had been told for over fifty years contained all the elements necessary to tell Americans that their country had noble beginnings. Nothing worthwhile would be added by telling about this new found paper -- after all it had never been delivered and therefore had not affected the battle. So, they decided to lose it. Fortunately, one of the workmen present when the box was found, was from Sudbury and made a copy of it. Unfortunately it disappeared during the time when quite a few document thefts were occurring in Sudbury. Hopefully, someday this copy will reappear and Sudbury will be able to set the record straight. In the meantime, we will have to bide our time, and continue our research.
1964 Col Al Bonazzolli
A warm sun had been up for some time on the morning of April 19, 1964 and the Sudbury Minuteman contingent was readying itself for the march to Concord. A late start was planned for that morning, so that our arrival in Concord would coincide with Concord's ceremony and parade. It was a Sunday and, traditionally, Concord delayed them when the nineteenth fell on that day of the week.
The Colonel stepped off at about 9:00 a.m. The large number of marchers amazed just about everyone, certainly including the officers of the Company. There must have been one hundred and seventy five marchers in line as we left Sudbury Center.
To anyone who had seen other towns' minuteman companies, like Concord and Lexington, this was a really strange looking procession winding up Concord Road. Men wore all sorts of outfits and all sorts of colors. Hardly any two looked alike. Actually, a good number wore clothing rented from theatrical costumers like Hooker and Howe. Some had clothing home-made, following the directions of Bob DesJardin. Others just kind of patched things together on their own. In any event, the Sudbury Company was a true original.
After listening to the words of Chaplain Simmermon, the Colonel led us up Concord, Pantry, and Dakin Roads to a rest stop at the Dakin Farm in North Sudbury. As we reached the farmhouse, we were greeted by Roy Hawes, the longtime owner of the property.
For several subsequent years, the Dakin Farm was the first target for those of us who were out-of-shape twentieth century patriots. "Shit, if I can make it up that hill and get a few slugs of brandy in my coffee, I can make it all the way to the North Bridge."
Our route that first year was unlike that taken any of the following years. Once in Concord, we went past Emerson Hospital, across the South Bridge, turned right on Thoreau Street to march by the railroad depot, and ended up in the field opposite the Armory.
Those years, Concord had a really weird, one-of-a-kind, parade. The paraders left the Armory, went past the reviewing stand on the Mill Dam, and marched to the North Bridge.
After ceremonies and a few speeches by politicians of local note, the parade just kind of flipped around and headed back the exact same route, past the reviewing stand again, and returned to the Armory.
We followed that course and swore that we would never do it again!
Frank Sherman, the lieutenant colonel, looking like a third degree Knight of Columbus -- black uniform and sparkling sword.
Sky-divers, who were using Dakin Farm as a target that day, floating down at us.... fired upon by minutemen, in a scene that could have been devised by Rod Sterling.
Tom Vogel, an airline pilot in rented boots, who was unable to walk on his blistered feet for weeks.
Pete Albee, who threatened to ring the church bell at the center with a live round.
Pres. Ward, surrounded by photographers, both amateur and professional..., Pres' photo made the national wire service and his picture must have been in half the newspapers in the country.
Ernie Ferguson, easily the wildest wagon driver east of the Mississippi, especially when carrying Pete Albee's jug.
Frank Taylor, marching back in the Third, standing six feet tall and booming away with a four foot musket.
The overwhelming turnout at Sudbury Center. As far as we know, this was the first town to have whole families in colonial garb to see their men off to the march.
Bill Simmennon, struggling to hold up his pants after buttons popped as we marched on Thoreau Street.
Our horse troop -- another first, since no other town was represented by such a group. All sorts of kids scrambling to see Rex Trailer.
Our whole damn unit cut off from the rest of the parade and then led into the Manse Field by Major General Whitney, only to be abandoned there again.
Many Sudbury patriots, who did not get back home till night fall, having discovered Concord bars, especially the Colonial Inn and its awesome Stonewall.
Later in the spring, a meeting was held at the Wayside Inn, to review the march and to determine the future of the organization:
Conclusion: two events per year -- the March and the Ball.
This did not mean that the following winter was devoid of activity. The "official" history, as described by people from Concord through the years, had said that Sudbury could not have arrived on the west side of the Assabet and Concord Rivers in time for the first shots at the North Bridge. However, that issue was very much in doubt and in need of research.
With books supplied by Sam Reed and Dick Moore, a group of men worked to find a more accurate route. Thus, it was decided to march along a route closely approximating that taken in 1775.
Early in the Spring of 1965, the new Colonel, was paddled by his route committee up and down the Assabet River, looking for a likely crossing site. During the eighteenth century, there was a saw mill along the river near the Barrett farm. People probably had some means of getting to the mill from the east bank in the springtime: boat, ferry, footbridge, or just leaping across a log jam.
It was decided to build a bridge for the 1965 march.
1965 Col John Powers
The weather for Supermarch II, in 1965, was really shocking... A cold, wet snow greeted the men as they assembled at Sudbury Center that morning. We started to arrive there just about at dawn and it was just awful. If it had been like that in 1775, we'd probably still be singing "God Save the King." It was Monday and Concord's parade returned to its normal, early hour.
The Colonel led the companies out on a new, much more authentic route to the North Bridge, but we once again had our first stop at the Dakin Farm. Once across the highways in Concord, we turned down Park Lane, which came to a dead end near the banks of the Assabet.
At that spot, we crossed a footbridge designed by Ben Walker and built the day before the march by the Boy Scouts of Sudbury Troop 62.
An agreement had been made with the Acton Minutemen, whereby we would fall in line right behind them at the corner of Barett's Mill Road and Strawberry Hill Road. Thus, we hoped to avoid getting caught in the mass of civilians walking down from Acton.
To insure our arrival at that meetingplace in schedule, our Colonel set a hot pace. We barely slowed down at all for the whole march. Obscene shouts could be heard from the Third Company, especially as we arrived on the west side of the bridge.
The wet snow had turned the river bank into a muddy quagmire. It wasn't too bad for the first people across, but it was a horror by the time the Third Company slopped their way through it.
The Colonel drove his men on and we arrived -- muddy and damn mad -- at Strawberry Hill Road, to find that the Acton Minutemen had ignored our agreement. We were cut off from the route by a huge mass of Acton civilians.
Fortunately, our route committee had done its homework and knew the area quite well. We turned right on Lowell Road and foiled Acton.
We arrived at the entrance to North Bridge Park, where authorities prevented us from going further. An official said that we had no right to cross the bridge, since Sudbury was not on the official list of participants in the original 1775 action.
Finally, we were allowed to march down and cross the bridge. We crossed noisily, with much musket fire and shouting, and were led into the Manse Field for the annual ceremony.
Speaker after speaker droned on. Governor Volpe gave way to a retired Marine General, when a booming shot was heard from the rear of our ranks. That shot was quickly followed by blasts from dozens of muskets.
Our Colonel, embarrassed by this display, sent the L/C to the rear to restore order but the noise actually seemed to increase in intensity. When the L/C returned smiling, the Colonel turned and sent the Adjutant. The results were the same.
"Get those fools to stop their G.D. firing," the Colonel called to the Captain of the First Company. "Don't those bastards have any respect?"
After reflecting a couple of moments, the Colonel realized that it was better to let things run their natural course. Those doing the firing -- men like Bill Gelpke, Ben Walker, Norm Gillespie, and the redoubtable Frank Taylor -- started an institution. Company Three became the Dirty Third.
The speakers finally got our discreet hint. As we joined the parade back through Concord Center, the men of Sudbury were cold, wet, but certainly triumphant.
Red Coats at the Barrett House, as we saw them from the edge of the river a quarter mile away. 1965 was the first year Red Coats were at the farm since 1775, probably.
Music supplied for our march by Captain Buxton Fife and Drum group from the town of Uxbridge.
The birth of our own fife and drum contingent. Of course, this was to play an even bigger part in following years.
Bill Rowe, our first official casualty... His facial powder-burn was reported by the doctor as a "gun shot wound."
Peter Reding and the Boy Scouts, who camped out for the night before the march to protect the bridge.
Artillery Punch, served at a pre-ball party at the L/C's home... probably cause more casualties than the British.
Frank Taylor, now six foot six, carrying the loudest five foot musket.
1966 Col Maurice Fitzgerald
The third year was among the most active. Many innovations were added -- we had the best weather experienced till now -- the number of marchers reached the three hundred mark and several innovations which have since become traditions were introduced.
This was the first year in which we were invited to join the "Council of Minutemen." The first meeting attended was the first held after the 19th of April 1965 (the year in which the Dirty Third disgraced us all). The subject most discussed was the behavior of the various minute companies at the previous parade. When the Captain of the Concord Minutemen mentioned Sudbury his eyes rolled and the rest of the membership fluttered like wounded butterflies. All manner of threats and resolves were made to the effect that we would be barred from Concord if we didn't shape up. For the rest of the fall and winter the Council of Minutemen provided comic relief to those who were able to attend. It is indeed ironic to note that a group organized to honor the memory of the men who got the only revolution, which worked, started, should hold their meetings within 100 feet of where the Provincial Congress met in 1775, and look with such disdain upon those who refused to stand still for the silly and boring droning of politicians.
This was the year in which the fife and drum corps first provided all of the music for our march and parade. Dick Moore and Bob Johnson, the founders of the group, searched out instruments and music and provided lessons. Each Saturday thru the fall and winter Joe Benson, Joe Bausk, Mike Walker et al, took a group of boys to the home of Mr. Dupont in Hudson for lessons -- many hours of practice were conducted at the Haynes School in preparation. The result was Sudbury had a fife and drum group as good as any and better than most other groups.
To provide small kids with a part in our activities they were used as a symbolic alarm company. They were stationed at various parts of town and equipped with various means of providing alarming sounds. Upon receipt of a signal from the green they walked to the center awakening the citizens of Sudbury. It is very likely that it was the youth of the town who actually saw to it that all of the Militia was apprised that the "British were coming out."
Inspired by a suggestion of Herman Newcomb, the graveyard ceremony was instituted this year. The firing squad (Burt Mader -- leader) was to fire a volley over Deacon Haynes grave and the Col. was to place a wreath. When the ceremony was held we received real insight into how really well organized we were. Burt assumed that the Col. knew the location of the good Deacon's grave and the Col. assumed that Burt had located it -- to the result that we wandered about the graveyard looking for it. Fortunately Frank Koppeis knew where it was or we might be there still.
In looking for a new place to cross the river several sites were investigated and that chosen was the point where Spencer Brook joins the Assabet. This was the site of Col. Barrett's saw mill. This seemed to be a likely spot because records speak of log jams in the river at that time. The farmers cut logs in winter and skidded them to the nearest river and floated them to the saw mill after the river thawed. To test this spot as a place where the horses might cross the Col., Harry Rice and others went there a week before the march. Harry brought along his stallion "Romper." Romper was very reluctant to go into the water. Two of the route committee decided to see if the river could be crossed by men and were delighted to find that the river was shallow enough. As soon as Romper saw the men cross he waded across without hesitation. This should give us all some insight into the meaning of "horse sense."
This was the year in which a man with a radio was stationed at the reviewing stand and informed us as each part of the program took place. The main body waited at Corey's until the "bullshit" part of the program was over and then marched to the North Bridge where we had the causeway and bridge to ourselves -- all the other companies were standing in the manse field and were spectators as Sudbury swaggered down the causeway with fifes and drums making the "Grandest Musick." The next year Concord changed its parade route to bring the entire parade down the causeway and over the bridge.
The Frank Taylor legend continued to grow -- now he was 7' tall, carried an 8' gun, loaded it with ten pounds of powder and fired it next to the ears of little old ladies. Could it be that the real reason the British came out in 1775 was to eject one of Frank's ancestors from Concord?
The explorers who provided us with coffee and donuts at our stops --
The order of the wet sock:
Burt Mader Tom Willette Ben Walker The Colonel Bob Maclean John Cheney
Ernie Ferguson once again turns Barretts Mill Road into the Indianapolis 500 Speed Way with his wagon.
Our first Post-March Picnic at the inn.
The Turkey Shoot in the fall at which Tom Vogel's dog was shot.
1967 Col Joseph Brown
This year saw several additions to our program. The alarm company was formed, to permit those who wished to take part in colonial parades other than April 19th to have a way of co-ordinating their activities.
The historical study group was established. The fall and winter saw many discussions (some heated) carried on at the Inn. Bob Oram and the map group located many 18th century maps. Depositions and descriptions of the April 19, 1775 events were gathered. Gary Nelson had them printed.
The first Colonel's nite was held at the Inn. The weather was terrible and the ex Colonels and Officers gathered to commiserate with the Colonel. It seemed certain that the march would have to be canceled. At 1:00 A.M. when the meeting broke up it was pouring.
Morning broke with the rain still coming down, but by the time for the march it had abated -- every militiaman showed up -- the Colonel decided to go no matter what the weather. All the way to the Bridge we kept receiving word that Concord had canceled the activities. We decided to go all the way even if we had a "goddamn" hurricane and only we would be there. This is one tradition that has NEVER been broken.
At the Bridge we found a much reduced crowd -- but the Army from Ft. Devens had evidently decided to set up an armed forces day display and there sitting right next to the Bridge, would you believe, a field latrine in all its olive drab magnificence. Up on the parking was an army water truck where some of the Sudbury irregulars decided to help themselves to some of the water. A Lieutenant barked that that water was for official use only. When the irregulars showed no sign of desisting he had the truck driven away -- don't those bastards have any respect for authority?
The Minute and Militia Company Constitution is authored by Bob Boedecker -- complete disorganization -- no two costumes alike -- two functions per year (April 19 and Military Ball).
Frank Taylor continues to grow in height and lack of respect for those who want only quiet and decorum in Concord.
Someone dressed up their kid in a Minuteman suit and sent him to march with the Colonel all the way to Concord -- Remember how thrilled the Colonel was.
The walk along old Pickard Road from Dakin's farm when it was still a beautiful country road.
1968 Col John Cheney
Early in 1968, the Colonel formed historic research committees and many new members worked on books, documents, and so forth, in order to learn as much as possible about Sudbury's involvement in 1775. Work by these people was culminated in a remarkably accurate map of the late eighteenth century Sudbury-Concord area. In subsequent years, this map proved to be invaluable to our route committees.
Several weeks before the nineteenth of April -- probably late March or early April -- eastern Massachusetts was inundated by a terrific downpour which lasted several days. One evening, Innkeeper Frank Koppeis telephoned the Colonel. The dam at the mill pond was breaking down, thus endangering the Grist Mill and the Wayside Inn itself.
The Colonel immediately called Bill Vollheim, whom he had recently named Captain of the Alarm Company. The other company captains were contacted and they, in turn, telephoned members of the companies. A large group of citizens responded to the call.
It took several hours of hard work that night, as the dam was strengthened with sand bags. Anyone who was there that night, in that cold, cold rain, will remember it for a long time. The effort was successful and there was no damaging flood.
A new East Side Company, composed of residents of Wayland, was formed in 1968. Wayland, of course, was part of Sudbury in 1775. The Colonel named Bill Withington as the first captain of this company.
April 19th was a beautiful, sunny morning, so we must have received our annual quota of rain during that earlier storm.
Our activities actually started in Concord, as Rodney Yetton rode his horse away from Concord Center -- Wright's Tavern -- and headed back to Sudbury, to re-enact the ride of the original 1775 warning riders. He arrived at the Loring Parsonage just after dawn and warned the Colonel of the impending advance of the Red Coats.
The alarm was sounded, with bell ringing and musket fire, by members of the Alarm Company. The companies assembled on the Green at Sudbury Center.
Once out of the Center, the companies marched over a route similar to the one followed in 1967. The route committee had decided that the river was too high for a bridge. In addition, Peter Reding, whose Boy Scouts had been so instrumental in our previous bridge-building efforts, had moved away from Sudbury.
The nice, clear sun really buoyed our spirits, as we walked the miles to Concord... past Dakin Farm, through West Concord, along Barrett's Mill Road. Drums were adrumming, fifes afifing. Most everyone was having a hell of a time, booming away with muskets and black powder.
Then it happened! The LAW, as personified by Sergeant Hanley of the Concord Police, appeared along our flank.
"I'm gonna arrest the next guy who fires!"
Anyone familiar with these worthy men of Sudbury can imagine the response. The fact that this paper might be read by children limits your editors, so we can't be very literal in our quotes. It is enough to say that the good sergeant was told some intimate facts about the parentage of those on the Concord Public Celebration's Committee who sent him, was told where to go, and was advised what he could do with his silver whistle.
Even Alan Newton, one of the our foremost guardians of law and order, gave Hanley his two cents worth. "Right on, Brothers," he called as we moved forward to the North Bridge.
The confrontation with the Concord Police really didn't hold up our march, but it certainly gave us lots to talk about during meetings for the next year. It has become one of the more historic moments in the history of the S.C. of M. & M.
After the usual wait in the field, the Colonel led us down the causeway. A volley was fired before we crossed the bridge.
The Colonel's brilliant idea to have a wagon drawn by a team of oxen, instead of horses. "The ox walks slowly, so the wagon's speed will be just right to follow our ranks," said our chief. Unfortunately, the driver, whom we had imported from the unlikely town of Podunk Hollow, Mass, (really), was a Goddamn ham. Every time a person got within ten yards of the wagon with a camera, he stopped and posed... He got further and further behind us, last seen on the Old Road to Nine Acre Corner about 4:00 p.m.
Bill Forlund, on his annual trip from Seattle, Washington. It is understood that Bill has petitioned to have Patriot's Day named a legal holiday in that state.
A Colonel with a feather in his hat.
Bob Maclean, who made some kind of history that day, by actually defying the law of gravity. Some day, we'd like to see anyone else try to march with a 600 iist to the side.
1969 Col Roger Bump
Our last march of the decade -- the tumultuous sixties - brought us another year with bad weather. For the first six years, we seemed to alternate -- with stormy weather on Patriot's Day every other year.
To the officers meeting at the Wayside Inn the night before the march, it seemed absolutely certain that we wouldn't be able to march. The weather was abysmal -- pouring rain -- and we were sure no one would show up at the center the next morning.
But, sure enough, the turn-out was as good as ever and march we did, in the wettest weather we've seen for the walk to Concord.
Much of the credit for this showing must be given to the Colonel, who filled us with stories during the meetings leading up to the march.
"LIFE magazine and READER'S DIGEST are planning feature articles on the Sudbury Minutemen. LIFE is sending a corps of photographers, who'll be covering us all the way to Concord. Our pictures will be all over the country!"
There's a bit of Barrymore in all of us, so elaborate preparations were made... hair trimmed... buttons polished, trousers patched. Roy Kahler told all that his left profile was his most photogenic. "At Dakin Farm," said Peter Albee, "we'll probably be up to our asses in flash bulbs."
So, one by one, the men arrived at the center, wiping away the rain and glancing into reflections in car windows. Alas! No reporters from LIFE no photographers... no nothin', except rain. That year, our Colonel might have been more worried about his own patriots than about the Red Coats.
The Horse Troop actually started the day a long way from Sudbury Center. The ride began at the Loker House in East Sudbury (Way!and). After a graveyard ceremony in Wayland, the Horse Troop and East Side Company moved across the river to the muster at Sudbury Center.
The route to Concord went along the same lines as the previous couple of years. We had the usual rest stops at Dakin Farm and at the Barrett Farm in Concord.
In spite of the bad weather and the disappointing lack of national press coverage, things went remarkably smoothly 'til we reached the North Bridge. A confrontation there was getting to be an annual affair. Sudbury was the Peoples Bicentennial Commission of the sixties.
A park ranger questioned whether our contingent had official permission to cross the bridge. Little did he know that, in that year of 1969, Sudbury was led by a real, live professional bull thrower. Our resourceful Colonel used diversionary tactics, drew the ranger aside to discuss the matter, and our troops used that time to rush across the bridge into the Manse Field.
As had become the custom, we were joined there by members of our families -- campfollowers -- who accompanied us during the parade past the reviewing stand
Forest Bradshaw's terrific selection of color slides, shown at several of the meetings.
John Powers narrating the events as the slides were shown.
1970 Col Robert Oram
The first year of this decade we tried a quite different route. After Duggan's Corner the march took us across the Assabet at the site of Darby's Bridge thru the Village of Concord Junction past the reformatory to Barrett's Farm and from there to Concord Center where the firing squad, which had infiltrated thru the town to the ridge of the Concord burial grounds, fired a volley and placed a pine tree wreath on the grave of Col Barrett. From there we countermarched to the North Bridge. The parade portion of the march then commenced on Monument Street. Some grumbling was heard about the length of the march, but to most the size of the coup justified it all.
One of the most memorable events of the entire history of the minutemen occured during the stop at Dakin's Farm. Rex Trailer had a camera crew there and requested that our horse troop conduct one of its celebrated "charges" across the field. Always anxious to assist one of our comrades Captain Bill Stone ordered the troopers to form in array. When the director called action our Captain gave the signal -- the troop charged over the hill and several troopers performed the dismount at a gallop routine, a feat of horsemanship last seen at the battle of the Little Big Horn. Few who saw it will ever forget it. Les Longworth was able to capture the moment with his pen. You should ask the Colonel to let you see what Les drew.
Bob MacLean, M. Fitzgerald and Tom Willett attempted a river wading but had to hitch a ride from a passing motorboat.
At the Ball, Roger Bump received a manure spreader as a token of the Company's esteem.
Leo Zschau gave the first of the orations at the Wayland burial ground -- these will be repeated each year until the cops hear of it.
1971 Col John Polutchko
This year was the first in which the Colonel rode a horse, a fact which recalled to many minds Curt Garfield's joke; but it really was a stallion that he rode.
There was quite a bit of criticism directed toward the Colonel for some of his staff appointments. It seems he appointed Dr. Wiles regimental surgeon and an Atheist was made Chaplain. However, his critics were silenced when for the first time ever, we had good weather two years in a row, and the number of minutemen reported to be chasing cars on Route 2 was substantially reduced.
This was the year of the first colonial fair. Months of preparation went into it. Our biggest problem was that of providing food for the visiting Fife and Drum Co's and their families -- Russ Kirby advised that we could expect upwards of 1000. We were approaching the October 6 fair date and no one had volunteered to take charge of the food. We had just about decided to call it all off when Bill Cossart and Tony Sorrenti took pity and agreed to do the job. The Zschau's, the MacNeil's, the Cossarts and the Sorrentis and others made it possible to start what has become a pleasant tradition. Entertainment was supplied by the fifers and drummers from around the New England States. The Lynn Village Drum band and our own Sudbury fife and drum group drew the most attention and applause, the other groups were also well received except for a rather cornball, "torturing of a prisoner," skit put on by a "Jack Tar" group from somewhere in Connecticut. Lynn MacLean supervised preparation of recipes from the 18th Century, Peter Kirby did a great job of providing games for the kids.
The march route was the same as 1969. The picnic at the inn was a great success. You should get the Colonel to tell you about it.
The drumhead election of the Colonel was held during the fair for the first time in 1971.
Bob MacLean keeping the Col's horse from running away by holding on to its tail during the Concord Parade.
The horse race at the fair which the Colonel won -- some said the race was fixed (it sure was).
1972 Col Ira Amesbury
At first, the 1972 march looked as if it would be quite interesting, since the route committee planned to re-institute bridge building. We had crossed the Assabet River on our own bridge in 1965 and 1966. Members had always retained a certain amount of nostalgia for those two years, so the Colonel decided to do the crossing once again.
Of course, 1972 proved to be a most memorable year, but not because of any bridge! We have a first-person narrative of the infamous events of that year, written especially for this memoir by Alan Newton. Here, for the first time, Mr. Newton places the blame -- probably relying on the little-publicized tape recordings made that year.
Sometime in the fall of 1971, I was asked by the Colonel to chair a committee to construct a bridge across the river at Concord, patterned after the bridge constructed by scouts in our second and third years of march.
I did little or nothing but think about this project for several months, mostly because it was obvious to me (if nobody else) that the construction of a bridge was considerably beyond my mental capacity.
The Colonel was tenacious, however, and -- being a neighbor -- would ask me how things were progressing nearly every evening as the early spring arrived.
Bob Maclean heard of our plight and our plans. Being Lt. Colonel that year, Bob decided to more or less undertake the initiative.
I believe that it was early in March when several of us went to the scene of the crime and quickly determined that the construction of a bridge was virtually impossible. Even with snow still on the ground, the water mark was very high. We decided not to build a bridge, but to build a barge instead.
Again, Bob Maclean took the initiative and devised a plan wherein a barge could be constructed, using a "pully" system drawn by horses on each bank of the river. In theory, at least, this plan seemed to have great merit.
The barge was build using aluminum boats tied to a wood platform. Our test runs soon determined that horses were not necessary and not entirely practical. Our last test run after construction took place about April 15th. The craft (and system) was found to be very effective and seaworthy.
On the day of the march, we all arrived at the riverbed with great enthusiasm. Because of the rotation of march, the third company was the first to arrive, along with the fife and drum unit.
The latter, probably because of the value of their equipment, carefully took their positions on the barge and very slowly crossed the river.... pulled by volunteers sent to the area ahead of the patriots. There were no incidents and all of the "drums" crossed safely.
Lt. Col. Maclean, however, looking carefully at his watch, became concerned that the first crossing took much too long (forgetting, of course, that drums and people take more time than people alone) and hastened the return from this trip, like a man whipping his horse along the home-stretch.
The result of this BAD ERROR OF JUDGMENT ON THE PART OF MacLEAN was not immediately obvious to anybody. It did result, however, in a partial flooding of the aluminum boats which were concealed by the platform. The barge was soon to transport the unsuspecting, doomed soldiers.
When the craft arrived for the second load, there was a cry to speed the process... again, because there was a feeling that we were falling behind schedule and would never make our destiny at Concord on time. Little did we know how close our true destiny was, approximately half-way across the Assabet.
It is well recorded that eleven men boarded the craft, which was built to be seaworthy for only ten. The eleventh man created a list which was complicated by the unseen condition of the aluminum boats.
The eleven men are known to be Wortman, Scattergood, Stevens, True, Davison, Volkemer, Fitzgiboons, Newton, Woolley, Johnson, and Clark.
The craft was obviously sinking shortly after this group of men, brave and true, barely started across the river. It did finally succumb about at the mid-point of the river. Only one man was unable to swim and he remained stoical and calm, staying with the sunken vessel which was still attached to its guy wire.
The others, including the undersigned, reached shore safely although some were tired because of the traversing current. Several lost their weapons and nearly all of the Rum that still remained found its way to the bottom.
Later that spring, a formal hearing was held, during which great abuse was cast upon one I. Ferndoch. After the revelations of A. Newton, it is obvious that Ferndoch must be vindicated.
The 46 men huddled under the planks on the barge.
1973 Col Robert MacLean
Many interesting things happened this year. We could recount them here except that to do so would be detracting from our coup of coups -- The Concord Minutemen were invited to take part in Richard Nixon's second inauguration parade and left for Washington D.C. Historical records indicate that some of the 18th Century Concord Militia marched in the Coronation parade of George III). Since they were away the North Bridge was left unguarded. Aware that there are many elements in this country who would welcome a return to Monarchy (we even had a president who tried) the Colonel ordered his men to the Bridge to make sure that whatever else the monarchists took over, they wouldn't get the Bridge. Word of our activities reached the Channel 5 (WCVB-TV) newsroom and a camera crew and reporter were sent to interview the Colonel. Who can forget what he said? When asked why Sudbury was not invited to Washington he said that is was because we didn't have pretty uniforms like Concord and likewise many of our men had cows to milk and pigs to feed and couldn't be away that long.
When the Washington parade was being televised and the Concord, Acton, Lexington etc. Minutemen were marching by the camera a promotional ad for an upcoming children's program was flashed on the screen over the picture -- later we were to receive many letters blasting us for our impertinence for guarding the bridge, for being on TV and even for scheming to have the T.V. station obscure the Concord Minutemen's portion of the inaugural parade by putting on the "promo." Much satisfaction was felt by all.
1974 Col William Volheim
To be honest with the readers, the current editors of this book are rather hazy about the 1974 march. The weather was absolutely great -- clear and sunny. Unfortunately, your editors did not feel very great, clear, or sunny.
It has become a tradition for former Colonels to dine at the Wayside Inn the night before the march. Thus, a good sized group gathered, anticipating good food and conversation. John Cheney introduced a quaint, "authentic," colonial touch -- a drink composed of Caldwell's Dark Rum and Brown Sugar.
Hereafter, if any park ranger dares to stop the Sudbury Companies of Minute and Militia as we approach the bridge, we will surely have the last word. WE NOW OWN IT.