After visiting my dentist up in Lexington today, I wound up with about an hour before my lunch appointment in Arlington. So I drove out to the Minuteman National Historic Park to take a quick walk. I wound up in the visitor center on the Lincoln/Lexington town line, and of course I had to stop in at their little bookstore. With some excitement, I realized they had a new book on the Battle of Concord and Lexington.
I grew up in Concord, Massachusetts, the town where colonial militiamen offered the first successful armed resistance against His Majesty’s troops at the Battle of the North Bridge. I love reading about that moment in history. So finding a new book about April 19, 1775, was an exciting moment.
Especially when it’s a book about Prince Estabrook, the African American who was one of the militiaman injured at the battle on Lexington Green, and later apparently won his freedom by serving in the Continental Army.
The book is called Prince Estabrook: Slave and Soldier, and it’s by Alice Hinkle. The book tracks down all the sparse information that remains about African American Revolutionary War soldier. Of equal interest, the book also offers a portrait of Charlie Price, an African American man who has played the part of Prince Estabrook each year for many years now, during the annual re-enactment of the battle on Lexington Green. I have seen Price in that re-enactment many times, and I always liked that the group of re-enactors had paid attention to the fact that it wasn’t just white guys out there shooting the muskets. (In the book, Hinkle lets Price tell how meaningful it is to uncover the contributions of this black patriot.)
So there I am, standing at the cash register in the visitor center buying the book, talking to one of the nice volunteers who work there. When he sees the book I’m buying, he says, “Hey, Charlie Price is standing right over there. Why don’t you get him to autograph the book?”
I turn around, and sure enough, there’s Charlie Price. I recognize him, not just because his picture is on the cover of the book, but because I have seen him during the re-enactments. Wow!
The nice volunteer goes over and says, “Charlie, here’s someone who wants your autograph,” and Mr. Price walks over. He’s tall, almost as tall as I am, and even though he’s wearing a National Park Service uniform, for just a moment I get him confused with the real Prince Estabrook. We talk for a minute about how we both were moved when we found Estabrook’s grave in the cemetery out behind the Unitarian Universalist church in Ashby, Massachusetts. Then he signs my book:
We kept our powder dry!
6 April 2006
How cool is that?