Learning Ahead: Independence Day

American History & Holiday: The Revolutionary War & Independence Day

Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield

The call for revolution in the late 18th-century echoed throughout Massachusetts as the early American colonists sought independence from the British. Massachusetts history is deeply rooted in the history of the American Revolutionary War, from acts of rebellion to the many battles fought on this soil.  Every 4th of July, communities commemorate the patriots of the North American colonies that spoke out against a government that they felt did not truly represent them and their interests. Lasting close to a decade (1775-1783), the American Revolution shaped our country’s early identity as a nation.  The places, spaces, and communities that made up the Massachusetts colony played a major role in the early American cause for Independence.

While visitors to Eastern Massachusetts can walk the Freedom Trail, learn about the Boston Tea Party, or tour the home of Paul Revere, folks in Western Massachusetts can explore the history of the American Revolution by witnessing historical reenactments of major battles, visit memorials to the cause’s courageous soldiers, and commemorate the war for American Independence through community celebrations such as fireworks, parades, annual events, and local resources.

Annual Events: Living History

See the largest military re-enactment in New England — nearly 1,000 soldiers portraying British, Irish, Welsh, German, Scottish, French and Colonial troops. Photo credit: OSV

Rebels & Redcoats, a large military encampment of different reenactment groups in New England that portray the Revolutionary War, is an annual event that takes place at Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, MA, in August.  Visitors have the opportunity to walk through the encampment and watch mock battles and skirmishes.  They can see historic training exercises, learn about the different military uniforms worn by the militia’s patriots and the British army and witness firearm demonstrations.

Reading of the Declaration of Independence. Often read in grade school when students learn about the Revolutionary War, the Declaration of Independence is often not read later in life.  This 4th of July, consider rereading the Declaration of Independence, a document that the thirteen North American colonies drafted as a strong statement against the British monarchy and as an establishment of the United States of America and be sure to check www.HilltownFamilies.org for community readings. In their statement, the writers of this document declared: “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” You can read the full document online: http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document.

Local Resource: Memorial

Stone tower honoring the settlers of New Providence, now Cheshire, MA; and holding the tomb of Col. Jarob Stafford, hero at battle of Bennington. Photo credit: Public Domain

Stafford Hill Memorial, located on Stafford Hill Road in Cheshire, MA, is a stone memorial that commemorates the grave site of Joab Stafford.  Originally from Rhode Island, Stafford settled in what is now Cheshire in 1767 and formed a militia company for the patriot army that fought in the battle of Bennington in August of 1777.  The memorial tower, constructed of fieldstone, was built and funded in 1928 by the local Sons of the American Revolution.  The beautiful drive to this historic site features views of pastoral countryside and mountainous views typical of the region.  At the site, visitors can see Stafford’s tomb stone which honors Stafford’s involvement in the Revolutionary War.

Community Celebrations: Parades & Fireworks

When holidays like this come along, it offers a valuable historical education opportunity for the entire family to experience. Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield

Many Western Massachusetts communities host parades and fireworks to honor the American cause for independence in the late 1700’s.  These community celebrations are a reminder of our young nation’s history and the early colonist’s rebellion against an unjust government.  Every 4th of July we are reminded of their fortitude and commitment to their cause – a revolution that established the United States of America.  It also serves as a day to reflect on the importance of critical social thought and the origins of democracy as a government that is for the people and by the people – an idea that is the foundation on which our country was built.  Community is at the core of this foundation – it is a community of shared ideas, inspiration and revolution that sparked the cause for independence.  By gathering with neighbors, friends and family on the 4th of July, we continue to honor the relationship between community and democracy. Visit www.HilltownFamilies.org for a list of events each year that commemorate the 4th of July.

Think about this:

Although written more than 200 years ago, and within a certain societal context, how can these words still hold true for contemporary society – how can the basic concept  of equality and justice, as expressed in this document, as the right of the people, be applied today?

How does the gathering of community through parades, fireworks, and barbecues, serve as a reminder of the colonists’ request for democratic representation and citizenship?

Download our July/August edition of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts for embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.




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