LEXINGTON -- Throngs of people early this morning fixed their gaze on actors reenacting the famous battle between British soldiers and the Lexington Minutemen that started the Revolutionary War. Two men, meanwhile, huddled in an attic across the street prepared to fire the first shot.
While debate continues about who fired the first shot that started the war, there’s no doubt about who fires the mysterious shot at the battle’s annual re-enactment, including this morning's spectacle.
For the past five years, the first shot has been fired by the tandem of Carlo Bertazonni of Burlington and Bill Gundling of Westborough.
“We fire two muskets in case one doesn’t go off,” said Gundling.
“Because muskets aren’t very reliable weapons,” said Bertazzoni.
So they each poked their muskets out the third floor attic of Buckman’s Tavern Monday and fired. When they did, they set off a flurry of gunfire and British soldiers who screamed “huzzah” as they charged the militia on the Lexington Green.
Thousands of people looked on yesterday, some standing on ladders to get a better view, and all braving temperatures in the 30s that left a light frost on the Battle Green. The re-enactment was one of a number of events marking the Battle of Lexington.
Monday was the 38th re-enactment of the Battle of Lexington, which occurred 235 years ago on April 19, 1775 when members of His Majesty’s Tenth Regiment of Foot, 1st Foot Guard, 4th Foot Guard and 5th Foot Guard met the Lexington Minute Men Company.
Eight men were killed in the battle, many others were wounded and just after dawn today as the re-enactment began, actors with the Lexington Minutemen Company fell on and around the green in honor of those who died.
While Bertazonni and Gundling fired the first shots in the re-enactment that triggered the staged battle, they admit nobody knows who really fired the shot that started the war.
“It’s still a mystery today,” Bertazonni said.
Gundling, who’s been participating in the re-enactment for eight years, said many speculate it was Sam Adams who fired a weapon at Buckman’s Tavern because he wanted to trigger a battle and start the Revolutionary War.
“He was known to be a fiery rabble-rouser and a lot of people speculate that he wouldn’t let an opportunity like this pass,” Gundling said.
But other Minute Men re-enactors have different theories.
Alex Cain of Andover, said he’s believes the first shot could have been fired by British Army Officer Lt. William Sutherland, who went through great lengths to explain why the battle had begun.
Cain also speculates Solomon Brown, a colonial man, may have fired a shot from a wall nearby and then run to Buckman’s Tavern.
Robert Falotico, who played the role of British Army Officer Captain Lawrence Parsons today said many British officers were questioned about who fired first, but no determination could be made.
“Some British indicate it was the colonials, some indicate that it was the British,” Falotico said. “You get a pretty much even distribution of British or colonial.”
After the battle re-enactment Monday, a ceremony was held on the Battle Green to re-dedicate the plaque marking the site of the former historic Old Belfry where a bell rang in 1775 to alert townspeople to the approach of the British.
The Lexington Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution first installed the plaque in 1910, but it was stolen last December. As they prepared to buy a replacement, the original was found lying on Waltham Street in Lexington and recovered.
No serious damage had been done to the plaque, said Susan Wilson,the regent for the Lexington Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
“We were just happy to have it back,” Wilson said.
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