Monday, July 12, 2010

Monument: Bedford Minuteman and the Bedford Flag

An inebriated moron crashed into the aforementioned Framingham minuteman statue the other day. Fortunately neither statute or driver were significantly harmed - although the monument was turned some 45 degrees by the impact.

The article on the incident notes that the Framingham statue was one of three minutemen statues in Massachusetts. This isn't quite true. In 2000, the people of Bedford created a minuteman statue - carrying the apocryphal Bedford flag as he raced to the sounds of guns in Concord.

As the Bedford Library notes:
[I]t is believed in Bedford that Minuteman Nathaniel Page took it with him to the battle at Concord. Nathaniel told the story to his grandson, Cyrus, and it was written down after his death by the nineteenth century historian, Abram English Brown. This account says:

“Our people were not surprised when the messenger reached this house… We had agreed at the last drilling to meet, in case of alarm, at the tavern in the center of the town, kept by Jeremiah Fitch, sergeant of the militia company. The horseman banged on the house and cried out, ‘Up, Mr. Page, the regulars are out.’ We were not long at our preparations, and were soon at the tavern.”

A. E. Brown continues, “On the arrival of the [Bedford] Company at Concord, they assisted in removing the stores to places of greater safety. Tradition says that Cornet Nathaniel Page laid down his flag and went to work, and when returning to look for it ‘found the boys had got it and were playing soldiers.’” He took it up and went to face the British regulars at the North Bridge.

While there is no contemporary account to corroborate this story, Nathaniel Page is listed in the official military rolls of the men who were paid for service in the American forces on April 19th. The flag is more than old enough to have been there with him on that day. His father, uncle and grandfather had served as cornets in the militia. Did Nathaniel bear the flag to Concord as he said he did? That is clearly quite possible.

Perhaps. But I tend to side with local historian D. Michael Ryan:
Perhaps most disappointing is the lack of primary source evidence that the flag was at North Bridge. Not a single mention of it is made in the myriad of diaries, letters, eye-witness accounts and depositions - British and American alike. Had such an unusual standard appeared on the field, without doubt an officer or soldier in either opposing ranks would have noticed. All that is certain is that a Nathaniel Page, Jr. was with Bedford in Concord and that the family had possession of an ancient flag. The conclusion must be that the banner did not appear at the Concord fight.
That being said, the men of Bedford did make significant contributions to the fight on April 19th. And the Bedford statue was long overdue in recognition of their courage. More on Bedford sites will be forthcoming.

The Bedford minuteman statue may be seen at near the intersection of Great Road (Route 4) and Bacon Road. Parking is available in the area.

To view the Bedford flag, it can be seen at the Bedford Public Library. Again, parking is available nearby.