Battle of Lexington reenactment draws throngs

April 15, 2013-LEXINGTON--- PATRIOTS' DAY LEXINGTON, MA -- Minute Man waits on the Battle Green as the sun rises in Lexington as The Battle of Lexington is to begin at the same time it did on April 19th, 1775. globe staff photo: Joanne Rathe The Boston Globe metro )
A Minute Man waited on the Battle Green today as the Battle of Lexington was about to begin.
Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff

LEXINGTON – Before he disappeared in a thick cloud of musket smoke, Bill Poole channeled Captain John Parker with gusto.

The reenactor, dressed in colonial garb, was portraying Parker for the first time this year, having been elected to the top role by his fellow Lexington Minute Men.

As the British regulars, decked out in lobster red, marched onto the Battle Green, Poole stood between the king’s troops and his ragtag band of locals.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

“Steady, men! Steady, men!” he exhorted. “Stand your ground! Do not fire unless fired upon!”

Minutes later came a shot. Then a barrage of fire.

The Battle of Lexington transpired this morning as it always does. The British regulars advanced, a lopsided battle broke out, eight Minutemen died, the British marched on — and thousands of spectators, their heads full of history, headed to pancake breakfasts at surrounding churches.

But for Poole, who declined to give his age (saying he stopped counting “a long time ago”), this morning was unique. Although it was his 13th time in the battle reenactment by his count, today he played the captain’s role.

In an interview with the Globe just after midnight, not long after Paul Revere galloped by to cries of delight from watching children, Poole showed no nervousness about his debut six hours later.

“We all love history,” he explained. “Trying to convey it to children, to adults, is fun.” And he explained he was fascinated by how the depictions of one single event changed over time.

“In the first depiction, they’re all running away. In the second depiction, there are a couple of them firing,” he said. “And in the last one, they are all there, big muscles, everybody firing right back at the regulars.”

Poole said that with a historical battle like Lexington’s, each generation sees it through a different prism.

One of the many onlookers this morning was 9-year-old Napoleon, standing in a prime viewing spot on the field with his father, Henry Cañas. First-time battle-watchers, they had biked, in the dark, from Arlington and arrived at the Green around 4 a.m.

After the battle, Napoleon said the reenactment was well worth the trek. He described it with a single word: “great.”

The April 1775 battle was the first skirmish of what would become the American Revolution.

The British soldiers continued marching to Concord, where they encountered greater resistance. Then they retreated to Boston, suffering casualties along the way. The American colonies declared independence from Britain the next year.

As throngs of onlookers, many dragging stepladders, slowly made their way to breakfasts and back home, Poole walked along the green towards the iconic statue of the Minuteman.

A few onlookers cheered him, telling him he did a good job as Captain Parker.

Poole smiled and waved.