Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A New England Fourth of July

I've nearly finished Part 3 of my 747-400 check out; hopefully it will be up on Monday. But in the meanwhile, particularly if you're from away, I wanted to share a glimpse of our local Fourth of July celebrations. This July 4th marks America's 235th year of independence. The Declaration of Independence was read aloud to Amherst, NH citizens in the second week of July 1776 by Sheriff Moses Kelley, just to my right here on the Amherst Green. The Green as well served as a training field for Captain Josiah Crosby and the Amherst Militia Company.

The parade at Amherst, NH is quite large for a town of only 12,000 people, but attracts New Englanders from throughout the region. Here, former Amherst Fire Chief Rick Crocker drives his fully restored, 1931 antique fire truck in the parade. This truck actually served our town back in the 1950's and how Rick found it is a great story for another time

The local Revolutionary War contingent marching in the parade. Many Amherst men, led by Captain Josiah Crosby of the Amherst Militia Company served in the War of Independence at Bunker Hill, just north of Boston on 17 June 1775. The New Hampshire contingent was hailed for it's defense of the Hills flanks, avoiding being surrounded by British troops and allowing an orderly retreat by local militias as they exhausted powder and shot. The British eventually triumphed but at the cost of 1,200 casualties including the loss of 70% of its officer corps. As General Gage succinctly stated sometime later. "Too many more victories like this and we'll lose the war."

Amherst resident, Lieutenant Thompson Maxwell, not only participated in the Battle of Bunker Hill with Captain Crosby, but took part in the Boston Tea Party on 16 December 1773 and the Battle of Lexington and Concord on 19 April 1775. The day before on 18 April Paul Revere journeyed north to Lexington and Concord, made famous by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. "Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, on the eighteenth of April in seventy-five hardly a man is now alive who remembers that day and year..."

The local Civil War contingent marching through town. Twenty-seven Amherst men died in the Civil War including Amherst native Sergeant Charles Phelps of the Fifth Regiment of New Hampshire Volunteers. He'd survived such savage battles as Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville only to die on 4 July 1863 at Gettysburg. Both his gravesite and ancestral home are but a short walk from where we're standing.

The Soldiers Monument, erected in 1871 to honor Sergeant Phelps and his fallen comrades, is but two hundred yards to our right from where we're standing to observe today's parade.

Old time high-wheel bicyclists

Many presidential candidates have marched in the Amherst Fourth of July Celebration due to our "first in the nation primary" status. In fact NH native and 14th president of the United States, Franklin Pierce, was married a short walk off to my right at the Colonel Robert Means Mansion in 1834. Two presidential hopefuls are marching in today's parade; Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney. Can you find Romney in this shot?

Above and below: As the parades participants disbanded I asked part of the Revolutionary and Civil War groups to pose in front of our home.  Our home was built in either 1780 or 1790 depending upon whom you consult and would have witnessed local Civil War veterans returning home. If you choose the earlier date it was here as well when the U.S. Constitution was ratified in June of 1788 before General Washington became President Washington. Interestingly, New Hampshire was the ninth state to vote for the Constitution thus ratifying it for the 13 American Colonies.

While all this is going on in Amherst, NH, just 45 south in Boston, the USS Constitution, or Old Iron Sides as she's more popularly known, was enjoying its' annual cruise and firing her cannon. Constitution, constructed in 1797 in Charlestown, Massachusetts is an active military vessel, still listed in the US Navy's inventory, making it the worlds oldest commissioned warship.

To see what goes on in Boston, click here and take a trip to the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade next to the Charles River that divides Boston from Cambridge. It was from Cambridge that General Washington took command of the Continental Army in 1775. Drop down just below the red band and click on the video. Every Fourth of July Boston Pop's plays Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture as 105 mm howitzers fire and fireworks explode overhead. The rockets red glare as the pungent odor of cordite fills the air. Participating this year is the 101st Field Artillery Regiment, just back from Afghanistan, the U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers Chorus and the 104th Fighter Wing from the Mass Air National Guard do a fly over with F-15C's. The Mass Air National Guards history stretches back to 1621 when the first Massachusetts militia were formed. 

My family and I gathered at my mother's home in Amherst for a day of celebration that included her pool, hot dogs and hamburgers, sparklers with the kids and much political discourse, inspired by the likes of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and his life long friend, John Adams. "Jefferson lives..."  Adams last words.

I know that those who read my blog posts do so for my aviation experiences, but until I get Part Three up and running I wanted to share some of our local history and tradition. Thanks once again for following along and Happy Fourth of July.



  1. Excellent post. Happy Birthday America!

  2. Thanks for this! Always enjoy your posts, even when they're not aviation related. That Boston Pops video was spectacular. I sure do miss the east coast!

  3. KT,

    Thanks for writing... c'mon home!