A Revolutionary Revelation at Minute Man National Historical Park
At a young age, every student in the United States learns about the first battles of the Revolutionary War — the battles of Lexington and Concord. The fighting began on April 19, 1775, on the Lexington Green, followed by Concord’s North Bridge and then along the Bay Road during the British retreat back to Boston. On that early morning in Lexington, only 77 militia men faced 700 British soldiers.
But what has been lost to history until recently is the lesser-known Battle of Parker’s Revenge and the heroic efforts of the Lexington militia under Captain John Parker after the battle on Lexington Green. The Lexington militia suffered over 20% casualties on the Lexington Green, yet Captain John Parker re-engaged the British again only hours later.
“Parker’s Revenge was an act of incredible historical courage — one that cried out to be researched, documented and retold to future generations.” – Bob Morris, board president of Friends of Minute Man National Park
Inspired by the story of Parker’s Revenge and recognizing there was a lack of primary historical research, the Friends of Minute Man National Park (FMMNP) organized and sponsored the Parker’s Revenge Archeological Project (PRAP) in partnership with Minute Man National Historical Park, the Northeast Region Archaeology Program of the NPS, the Lexington Minute Men, and other living history experts.
Major project supporters included the Town of Lexington via its Community Preservation Fund, Save our Heritage, the American Battlefield Trust, the American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati, Amelia Peabody Charitable Fund, Lexington Community Endowment and many other local supporters.
“It was a seamless partnership between our Friends group, the park, NPS regional archaeology experts and the community.” — Bob Morris
Friends of Minute Man National Park hired archeologist Dr. Meg Watters of Visual Environment Solutions, LLC. to utilize modern technologies such as ground penetrating radar, 3-D scanning, and metallic surveys to learn where and how the battle happened. She and her team, in collaboration with many experts and volunteers, discovered 29 musket balls left undisturbed for over 240 years after the battle. The militia musket balls were a different caliber than the British musket balls, making it possible to determine who stood where on the battlefield. This information even enabled the American Battlefield Trust to create a video of the archeological findings.
This discovery was instrumental in establishing the location of the battle, as well as the positioning of the Lexington militia and the British forces. Since revolutionary era muskets had definitive range, Dr. Watters and her team could interpret the near-exact location of individual soldiers on the battlefield. The archeological team also used a computerized viewshed simulation to determine that the Lexington militia was positioned on a hill in a location that made it difficult for the British to see them until they were almost adjacent.
“Captain Parker had picked a perfect spot at the edge of a woodlot on a hill; it was difficult for the British to spot the militia.” – Bob Morris
The archaeological findings, in turn, helped an esteemed committee of military experts and scholars interpret the military tactics executed during the Battle of Parker’s Revenge. The archeological findings were released by NPS in an official report on November 14, 2016.
Though the site has been mapped and these important artifacts of national significance have been recovered, the Parker’s Revenge Project is far from complete. Minute Man National Historical Park and FMMNP are moving onto the second and third phases of the ambitious project, focusing on battlefield rehabilitation and an interpretive exhibit that will allow park-goers to connect with the heroic and long-forgotten story.
“The landscape vegetation has changed considerably in over 200 years. Trees now cover an area that was once largely open terrain. But as a result of the battlefield rehabilitation efforts, visitors can now walk on spur trails directly to both the British and Lexington militia positions.” — Bob Morris
Minute Man National Historical Park is executing land rehabilitation, in partnership with the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation and other partners. Meanwhile, battlefield rehabilitation will focus on constructing interpretive trails and platforms, re-building historic stone walls, and removing invasive species, debris, and trees that impede historic sightlines to bring park visitors an authentic and historically accurate viewing of the battlefield. Minute Man National Historical Park interpretive staff are developing the interpretive exhibit and plan to share the archeological findings with the public in an accessible way to improve visitor understanding of the events of the Battle at Parker’s Revenge.
Friends of Minute Man National Park continues fundraising efforts to support the battlefield’s rehabilitation and the interpretive exhibit to ensure the story of Parker’s Revenge is given its rightful place in American history, and our hearts.
You can call and visit the park year-round to learn more about these re-discovered histories from our nation’s revolution.