Lexington or Concord?
A Patriots’ debate
Where did the Revolutionary War actually start? The argument began in the days after the skirmishes on Lexington’s Battle Green and at Concord’s North Bridge, and the rivalry continues 243 years later. During the centennial celebration, President Ulysses S. Grant had to attend lunches in both towns when they couldn’t put aside their differences long enough to share a meal. As Patriots Day approaches, we asked Concordian and former Boston Globe reporter David Filipov and Lexington native Kevin Slane of Boston.com to throw down on behalf of their hometowns.
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CONCORD: The line “the shot heard round the world” comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1837 poem celebrating the events of that day, and he squarely places that shot “by the rude bridge that arched the flood.”
LEXINGTON: Naturally Emerson, a Concord resident, would boost his own town. The first British soldier was wounded in Lexington, where Captain John Parker said, “Do not fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”
CONCORD: There’s no rivalry here. Concord won its hometown battle and sent the British retreating.
LEXINGTON: OK, the Battle of Lexington wasn’t a success. But many of those same rebels helped force the redcoats back toward Boston in “Parker’s Revenge,” the heroic ambush led by Parker.
CONCORD: Emerson is just one of the hall-of-fame gallery of authors who have called Concord home. Let’s not forget Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, and that Thoreau guy.
LEXINGTON: Not only does Lexington boast the father of modern linguistics (Noam Chomsky) and the inventor of the World Wide Web (Tim Berners-Lee), we produced great comedians in Rachel Dratch (Saturday Night Live) and Pete Holmes (Crashing), among other famous residents who didn’t die more than 100 years ago.
CONCORD: Only in Concord can you meditate at the site of the humble cairn where Thoreau wrote his most famous work, then jump into the melted glacier that inspired it, Walden Pond. Alcott fans can tour Orchard House, where Little Women was written.
LEXINGTON: Aside from the Battle Green, visitors to Lexington can see the Hancock-Clarke House, where John Hancock and Samuel Adams stayed before the battle, and Buckman Tavern, where the militia gathered to wait for the British.
CONCORD: Seeking to develop a grape that could survive harsh New England winters, in 1849 Ephraim Wales Bull produced the first Concord grape, which Thomas Welch later turned into the famous juice.
LEXINGTON: The Lexington Field & Garden Club is the oldest garden club in the nation, proving the town was “going green” long before that was a thing.
CONCORD: Concord-Carlisle High’s storied fencing squad won the state team title in February.
LEXINGTON: A Stanford University study found that Lexington students tested at nearly 4 grades above their actual grade level when compared with the average school system in America, the highest in the nation.
It’s Concord by a whisker. Lexington’s loss on the battlefield and its lack of a namesake fruit tipped the scales.
Sources: The Concord Museum; history. com; National Park Service; civilwar.org; Concord Independent Battery; louisamayalcott.org; Poetry Foundation; Lexington Historical Society; New England Historical Society