Scouts at Arlington Minuteman Trail, April 19, 2018Stopping in Arlington on a historic April 19 are Scouts from Mass. Troops 11 (Dorchester), 24 (Bradford) and 132 (Concord) as well 63 (Newport, Maine). / Photo by Michael Quinn, BSA trail ambassador from Arlington

Google tells us the distance from Monument Square, Concord, to Prospect Hill, Somerville, is 15.2 miles, and it takes 33 minutes by car.  Walking takes a lot longer.

Ask the Boy Scouts who took their own recent trudge, by way of the Old North Bridge. That made the hike 20 miles, and it lasted from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. in chilly air and under showery skies. Eighteen started; 14 finished the hike.

Ask David Owen, Scout leader who devised the second annual Minutemen's Pursuit Trail Hike. His blisters came on between mile five and 10. But that comes with the territory when you are following the route that the Minutemen took as they pursued British soldiers on April 19, 1775.

The Scouts walked beside ghosts who began the Revolutionary War 243 years ago.

Among the Arlington locations

Among the ghosts were those from Menotomy, as Arlington then was known -- those who ambushed Redcoats at the Foot of the Rocks (present-day Mass. Ave. near Lowell Street), who held forth at the Jason Russell House, who made a hero of old Sam Whittemore  (see the marker near today's Jefferson Cutter House), or those at nearby Cooper's Tavern

About 2:15 p.m. Thursday, April 19, the modern-day troop of boys stopped off to warm up inside the Russell House, and hear an Arlington Historical Society guide offer a quick tour. The tired troupe, with miles to go before they slept, saw the bullet holes from two centuries ago and heard about the blood on the floorboards, as 11 Colonial residents died that day Menotomy.

We remember Emerson's "Shot heard round the world" because of the literary stature of the 19th-century essayist. It refers to the 1775 conflict in Concord. What about the Russell house massacre? At least the Scouts had their memories shaped by an Arlington guide.

Keep on keepin' on down Mass. Ave.

On they marched down Mass. Ave., past the little-noticed Black Horse Tavern marker, in front the BP gas station; past the "historic" Capitol Theatre (dating to a mere 1925) and on to the Menotomy Grill. It was after 3 p.m. At last, lunch.

Owner Billy Lyons, whose spot teems with notions of Colonial history, provided Scouts with bottles of Tower Root Beer. Its labels display the marchers' destination, Prospect Hill in Somerville, hours more away.

Billy Lyons at Menotomy Grill with weary Scouts.Billy Lyons at Menotomy Grill with weary Scouts. / Courtesy photo That is where the retreating British ran into resistance near present-day Union Square. Outnumbered, colonists gave way, but not James Miller, 65. Saying he was "too old to run," he fought until he died.

By 6, the modern Scouts reached the stone turret and were heartened by a view of Boston -- and some doughnuts.

Why they walked

Afterward, Owen, the boys' leader, talked about why the Scouts walked. One was a practical goal for them -- the 20-mile hike requirement to earn the Hike Merit Badge (one of 13 required badges to earn the rank of Eagle Scout).

Another emphasizes the value of a tradition. As a leader in the Scouts' Flintlock District, Owen pursued the idea of the trail until it was approved, and it was first hiked last year.
In doing so, he noted the support of Concord Scout House  and the Spirit of Adventure Council, the local Scouting organization that sponsored the trail.

The 20 miles, as measured by various Fitbits, was an ordeal for all who finished, but, in a telephone interview afterward, Owen said the Scouts were "psyched," looking forward to receiving the National Historic Trail patch and medal. 

In addition to enduring a longer-than-usual hike (most are 10 miles), each must complete a questionnaire about what they saw and learned.

Impressions of a Scout, 13

One of the hikers was Michael Connolly, 13. A First Class Scout in Troop 63, Newport, Maine, he wrote about his experience.

"The super cool part of this hike is one of the boys in my patrol was a descendant of a Minuteman in who marches that trail on April 19, 1775. He's even named after him .... [Scout Noah Wiswall]

"We stopped at the place where Paul Revere was captured. That was my favorite part, by far. We also went into a museum [Jason Russell House] and saw muskets. Along the trail you'll see cannons sticking out of the ground ...."

In Arlington, "We learned about Uncle Sam, the real one. He doesn't wear a red, white and blue hat, by the way. We hiked through woods, sidewalks and communities .... for a very, very long time. I warn you this is a long hike yet it goes by pretty well because there is so much to see. Lunch was good, very good and we were super hungry."

Owen has high hopes for the Minutemen's Pursuit Trail. Seven Scouts walked it last year. This year 43 signed up, and 14 finished. Next year? "With that growth in one year, this could be quite a large event in 2019," he said.

In 2021, Patriots Day falls on Monday, April 19, a Monday, and he foresees a "very big year."


April 28, 2017: Pursuing the History of Our Nation: The Inaugural Hike of BSA’s Historic Minutemen's Pursuit Trail

History.net, Battle of Menotomy

Aug. 25, 2013: Bloodied hero of Revolution: fact vs. myth


This news feature was published Sunday, May 13, 2018.