Interviewed October 19, 2004
Concord Oral History Program
Renee Garrelick, Interviewer.
Click here for audio in .mp3 format
The Concord Independent Battery a cherished and unique institution in Concord is commemorating its 200th anniversary this year. Doug Macone is the Captain and Bob Eaton is President of the Battery.
-- "Whereas it is the duty of an enlightened Legislature to excite and encourage an ardent
love of country, a generous public spirit, and an elevated degree of military discipline
among the citizens, all which form the cheerful and most efficient defense of the precious
blessings of society."
-- Origins- Formed by enabling legislation of the Mass. Legislature to pay tribute to those who fought for our nation's freedom in 1775 and 1776, including the patriots at the North Bridge. "It's a part of what we stand for." The need for a contingent available on a regular basis for ceremonies and tributes. The Battery was originally the Concord Artillery, part of an actual military group at one point, helped defend Boston Harbor in War of 1812, changed to an infantry unit in 1855. Inscription of original guns, now in the entrance of the Mass. State House bolted to the wall. Guns fired for all the fallen presidents, dignitaries, April 19, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Bicentennial in 1975, 200th anniversary celebration 9/18/2004 and other special events. Celebration of Patriots Day always on April 19th regardless of the day of the week it falls out on. 200th Anniversary commemorative proclamation Board of Selectmen and state legislature.
-- A volunteer group, with 33-37 active members, a cross section of Concord men and now women, some with a family legacy in the group that goes back several generations, such as the Macone, Smith, Kenney, Eaton families. April 19th annual luncheon following the parade, brings older inactive Battery members. Devotion to town, country, and personal camaraderie. Training involved, 1977 Billy Anderson accident- temporarily silencing of the cannons. Horses and parades- source of horses-loss of farms fewer available options, horses need to be trained to deal with parade crowds and firing.
Doug - The Battery was formed initially by the Massachusetts Legislature in 1804 to pay tribute
to the people that were in the fight for freedom in 1775 and 1776. The government felt that there
needed to be a contingent that was available on a regular basis to do ceremonies and tributes and
basically pay the respect that's needed for people that fight for the freedoms of the country and
protect us. The Battery was the Concord Artillery which was part of an actual military group at
one point, but basically its purpose is for ceremonial purposes. It did actually go out in the War
of 1812 to defend Boston Harbor. But other than that, it is mostly ceremonial.
The initial guns that we were issued were inscribed in 1804 and were used heavily. They were inscribed and were used to the point where they were worn out. Right now they are inside the State House bolted to the wall. We were able to get a tour through Senator Fargo, and I was able to view the guns. They are right inside the main approach. The guns we have now were issued in 1846. We do have a little history book that tells the actual dates, but the guns reissued to us in that era and inscribed are virtually identical to the original ones and are the ones we fire today.
The guns are fired for all the fallen presidents, and we've made tributes for a tremendous number of dignitaries and so forth over the years of our history. The Battery is a volunteer group, and the people who come out basically their interest is genuinely in preserving the tradition and being there for the people that defend our country and to pay tribute to them. The volunteers take time out of their day and night as we do a lot of training in the winter time as well as the activities we do throughout the year. But they are always there, and I have to say I'm quite proud to be the Captain of it at this point. We've had some terrific captains throughout the years, but it's really quite an honor to be the Captain of a group of people that feel this way. These people feel as though they owe something to the people that are out there defending us and to pay tribute to them. Freedom is not free. It's pretty evident these days.
There are about 33 to 37 active members. It varies a little bit. We have a number of semi-active members that come down for the times we have the horses out and moving because we need extra hands for that, and some people know how to handle them. So we have an extra group that comes out to help then. We train throughout the winter every Wednesday night. We are required to have 20 hours of hands-on-the-guns training for each year. Each person has to qualify so we do a tremendous amount of training, both on the guns as well as with the horses. It takes a lot of time. It is basically self-funded. We do ask for donations but primarily the Battery operates on what the individuals stick their hands in their pockets for. It's not just the time they spend, but also their funding contribution.
We train on the guns in the Gun House on Lexington Road. We started doing that in the past few years. We've trained in every municipal building in the town that was heated at one point or another. We are able to leave the cannons in the Gun House. We've installed some radiant heat and everybody just kind of bundles up and we train in the gun house itself. It's kind of nice actually because it's our building. The guns are at home there and they're safe.
We do the horse training at a couple of different farms such as Bobby's Ranch and Maple Leaf Farm in Groton. I also have some horses we use for the parade and so on. We do some training at my place.
The guns originally were kept in the Veterans Building which is now 51 Walden. They were kept underneath the building. My uncle Ralph or Peanut and my father Joe both had the sporting goods store which was right next door in the Tuttle's Livery which at the time was Middlesex Ford. So Peanut was real close by as far as keeping an eye on the cannons. They stayed there for many years and then the town supporters for the Battery put together funding for the Gun House (on land owned by the town on Lexington Road.) The supporters for the Battery funded the building, built it, and donated it to the town to preserve the guns and the equipment and artifacts of the Battery. The building was built and dedicated April 19, 1961.
My father was Joseph Macone and he was also a member of the Battery for a short period of time. My uncle Ralph, Peanut, was a member forever as far as I can remember. My great- uncles, Joseph, Augustine or Augie, and John, were also members of the Battery. So there were a number of members in the previous generation. There have been four generations of Macones that have been members. My daughter Sarah is now a member.
A lot of members had other family members in the Battery. It's been a very family oriented association. Bob Eaton's dad was part of it and now Bob is. Sandy Smith's father and grandfather were members as is Sandy, and now Sandy's son and daughter are members of the Battery. So he also has four generations in the Battery which I think is quite nice. Sandy's father's name was Stephen Smith. He ran a shop on Main Street, J.P. Nourse's. Of course, the Kenneys have had a number of their family as members. I think Lawrence was the first, and then there was Billy and Philip. The membership isn't like it used to be as far as direct descendants. There are very few comparatively speaking.
The Battery at that time was primarily directed for people who lived in Concord. That's what made it a little more special at one point, but later basically people couldn't afford to live in Concord and be a part of the Battery.
Freelon - I joined the Battery in 1954 roughly. The Battery records are horrible. For instance, they give a complete list of everyone who showed up for something, but there is no date when that was.
The interest was so much different when I first joined. It was much more social shall we say. We used to have more quiet affairs. We always had a mid-winter dinner. There would be other occasional things such as celebrating a birthday. As far as the formal part, the breakfast after the 19th of April was always at the Colonial Inn. Loring Grimes was the proprietor of the Inn then, and we were always going to make him a honorary mess sergeant but we never got around to it, and he later died. He used to set the place up, but it got so the paying customers sort of objected to be rudely awakened maybe at 5:45 in the morning and the bugle calls and things like that. Those breakfasts were quite memorable. Again it was supposedly a business plus breakfast and we'd get some things done before things collapsed and the cocktail period started early. Well, people sort of drifted over from the Patriot's Ball the night before the 19th. A lot of older members would just carry on the dance right into breakfast. That didn't go on too long because it became more and more difficult to find a place for breakfast. There was one period which was quite productive when the wives would get together and serve breakfast at someone's house. Those were lots of fun too. They weren't quite as raucous. There again it was a matter of where one lived. When most everyone lived in Concord, it was easier to get together.
Doug - I remember breakfast down at the sporting goods store. That was when Peanut and my father moved the store down to Lowell Road, which was in 1959.
Freelon - On the 19th of April, we fired early in the morning supposedly at 6:00 depending on when the active Boy Scouts got there. Usually there was a breakfast. Then there was time to kill so at one point there used to be a gun A and gun B baseball game, but that had certain difficulties, so that didn't usually last more than an inning or two. Then we got ready for the parade, and then after the parade there usually was an informal meeting for those who could make it.
Doug - On April 19th we fired in the morning across the river on the Buttrick hillside, then we fired on the other side of the river in the afternoon. The dawn salute was on the opposite side of where we fire now. Then we would fire in the Old Manse's field in the afternoon.
The Bicentennial and the 350th birthday of the town were highlights for the Battery. When we fired for President Ford's visit at the Bicentennial, which was quite an operation because we had to coordinate with the Secret Service people and so on. The Bicentennial was quite an operation because there were a tremendous amount of people and effort to put that together. We had our picture taken all together in front of the Colonial Inn at that time. The guns did fire for Kennedy's assassination. In fact, they fired for all the assassinations of all the Presidents - Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy.
Freelon - We also fired when the King of Sweden visited. Of course he wanted to fire the guns. The Secret Service just about went out of their minds. By 1975 at the bicentennial, they realized we were more or less harmless and we were a pretty good group. So we didn't have quite as much problem with them then. The King's visit was a couple of years before 1975. But he did fire the guns. The Secret Service wasn't sure if we knew what we were doing.
Doug - We sometimes travel a short distance but stay mostly in Massachusetts. We went to
Taunton for Desert Storm. The state put together a ceremony for the return of the forces and we
transported down there. We participated with the National Guard for a tribute to those soldiers
on their return. We've done a number of things at Hanscom Field for the different flying units
from the Air Force and Navy. We also did a couple of air shows at Hanscom. The government
had a bunch of generals flying in from all over the world to show them various Air Force
equipment, and they wanted us there for a tribute for them. The generals got quite a kick out of
it. It was a lot of fun to do. There were a number of translators there to explain things. We've done a number of funerals for different public figures as well as military people. We also do
funerals as well for members of the Battery. We find that a tribute for the individual as well as
Our unit is the only one in the country that was put together and still operating. We don't know of any other units that were put together by a state itself. At the time in 1804 this unit was part of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia.
Freelon - There were quite a few cannon units at that time in 1804 but after the War of 1812,
they all folded up. Falmouth used to have a cannon company, but by 1830 there was no interest
at all so they turned the guns back in. Whereas in Concord there were a bunch of nuts to keep
the thing going.
Doug - As far as where we fit, the state moved us from an artillery unit to an infantry unit. Of course, after a while we didn't fit anywhere.
Freelon - I think in 1855 or thereabouts, they changed the militia set up completely. The artillery was always an expensive outfit to have and if you read the old state records, in Lowell for instance. There was General Butler who was from Lowell and he wanted to have his own artillery company up there but even he could not get the state to cough up enough cash to start an artillery company. They had to have not only the guns but the horses, the maintenance of the guns, the equipment of the horses, so they didn't allow too many units. Before the Civil War, they cut back a lot.
Bob - It changed to an infantry unit in 1855. The cannons remained behind in Concord and were probably forgotten about for a period of time.
Freelon - The town acknowledged the fact that they had the guns to the state. So it was somewhat of a shock in 1884 when the quartermaster general of the Massachusetts Militia suddenly started screaming that he was missing two cannons and they had to be in Concord. There was this agitation to keep the guns in Concord. The town had fixed up the old gun house but things were a lot more informal in those days.
Bob - I just remember from my earliest age my dad was in the Battery. I don't even remember him being an active member. He actually became President in the early '70s when Charlie MacPherson died. I remember going up to the Buttrick hillside when I was five, six, seven years old and put my hands over my ears just like you see kids do because it was so loud. But I wasn't going to miss being up there for dawn and the Battery firing. You talk about other memories but there's one thing that really stands out about the Bicentennial. I was 20 years old then, and I was away in college but I got a bunch of my friends and told them we were going back to Concord to see the Bicentennial to see something different. We were up pretty much all night. As you may recall the People's Bicentennial Commission and there were probably 20,000 post-Vietnam political protestors and they were all camped out on the Buttrick hillside. I'd say they were doing more than just camping out because I think when the Battery arrived there at 5:00 in the morning they had a pretty severe hangover. They got woken up by the Battery and that was one of my great memories. The cordons weren't quite set back as today and apart from the crowd as the cannon are today and they got a pretty darn good blast that morning, and I thought it was pretty fabulous. The Battery was just part of my growing up in Concord and part of what made Concord a special place for me.
My father was John Marshall Eaton, Jr. and he grew up in Concord. I'm not quite sure when he joined the Battery, but it was sometime before World War II. The Battery was probably a little bit moribund during the War because anybody who would have participated in it was off fighting for their country. But they all came back and put the Battery back on its feet. I'll bring a copy of a photograph I have that looks like it's from about 1946 or 1947, of the Battery marching down Main Street. It's a fabulous picture. A lot of them look like they're still in their World War II uniforms to some degree. They were all horse drawn except for a number of mules, and you see some classic characters from Concord. You see the street side and the old cars and a few fellows in their Navy uniforms and it's just a real snapshot of a different era.
My father was a judge, and he gave a very impassioned speech at town meeting in the 1980s for the cannon to be allowed to fire again. I was again probably off at college or off somewhere else before I returned to Concord, but I heard many times from all the people who were there that he really stood up for the Battery. It was his passion to get the Battery firing again. A few people didn't want to see the Battery firing again that didn't have that place for the Battery in their hearts, and he wanted to make sure how important it was and important to a lot of people. When the town moderator, Gordon McCouch, tried to gavel him down, he wouldn't have it. He talked right over him and everybody always remembered that. He was just a part of the people that put the Battery back to firing again. There was a period of about 11 years after the Memorial Day 1977 accident where the Battery did not fire.
Doug - I was there on the gun at the time of the accident. It changed the Battery from that point on. The Battery as Freelon said was a fairly social group to say the least. Hearts are still all in the same place, but yet it was a whole lot of fun and so on. As progress goes, things change and that was at the point where the Battery changed and formal training was emphasized more. I can't say you didn't train when you were in the Battery, but basically it was if you didn't know something, you asked and then somebody would give you some idea of how it worked. You had a genuine respect for guns for the most part. Guns were more a part of life 30-40 years ago than they are today. There were all kinds of different shooting events and so on, and a lot of hunting that fathers and sons did where it was open land. Today you've got to travel quite a distance to do that. The difference over the years as to guns and the respect for them has changed.
The cannons are to me no different than a lawn mower. More people certainly get hurt with lawn mowers and what have you than cannons or snow blowers. It can't hurt anybody unless someone makes a mistake. It's a person who makes anything dangerous. So it is formal training that the Battery had to do to prove to the town that they were going to toe the line and make sure that the tradition stayed alive. It did take us 11 years to make sure the town was comfortable with us in our procedures so that we could continue the tradition of the Battery. It was an unfortunate incident. There were incidents with cannons prior to that over the years, but certainly this particular one was unfortunate. It was Bill Anderson Jr. that was hurt in the accident.
Bob - It was tough because he was a friend of everybody in the Battery, and his father was in the Battery.
Doug - His father was a terrific supporter and continued to be after the accident. Billy grew up with me and we went to high school together and he was a nice young man. It happened so quickly that you couldn't speak. We did pay attention to each other's job because we had to wait for a job to be done before you could do your job. The guns were set up in such a manner, and still are actually, that we have an open bung which basically is the area where you ignite the powder. We ignite it with a 32 blank which is the same as a black powder blank that they use for starting races. We have an actual mechanism that covers the vent up and that part is safer than any other cannon unit that we know of in the country. The gun system is used in the Coast Guard, so we adapted that to the cannons and made it a very simple and safe scenario where the danger of the guns at that time was when we rapid fired. We fired basically as fast as we could do the procedures which made the guns hot. As we fired the cannons, Billy's job at the time was to put the fire out as a person with a swab. He had to switch positions at that particular time. The gun powder was to be put in the barrel. At that time we used wool bags which are different than today. Today we use tin foil and so there is no burning residual in the barrel where with the wool bags there could be a residual burning. It just happened very quickly. It certainly was an accident. Billy certainly didn't intend to have a problem nor did Steve or anybody else. Billy lost some fingers and both hands were damaged, but one hand was far worse than the other. I got to Billy before the bleeding started, and Don Prentiss, who's a member of the Battery and a fireman, came to help. And Dr. Brud Tucker was right there. At that point of course communication wasn't quite as good so we got to one of the police officers and we got an ambulance there as quickly as possible. Today besides the fact that we have emergency procedures we follow and the training so that no one is in front of the muzzle, everything is swabbed properly. There is a tremendous amount of communication between each group and we have to comply with all the state regulations.
Bob - We actually exceed the state regulations. We're more rigorous.
Doug - The state has a three-minute time delay between firing and we have to comply with the state. We have added procedures to our procedures that the state does not require. We've had the State Fire Marshall out a few times.
Bob - We have a test fire every year before the firing season at Doug's house. A number of times the explosive safety expert of the State Fire Marshall's office has come out and witnessed us and without trying to put words in his mouth, he was impressed that we were the most efficient and safe organization of this type that he had ever seen.
Doug - A lot of state people do not know that much about these guns, so they got quite an education from us. It's a nice feather in our cap. We've had a number of articles written about us in different artillery magazines about our procedures and how safe the unit is and how much training we do to make our unit safe. It has been quite a feather in our cap to have that around the countryside.
The membership itself is composed of every walk of life. It doesn't matter what you do for a living or what political belief you have. Our common beliefs are what hold most organizations together. It's such a great group of people that are so willing to put it all together and spend the time to do it and become proficient in what we are required to do these days. A lot of these fellows have jobs in Boston and they are from all over. People drive 45 minutes to an hour one way or more. We even have a member of the Battery that flies up from Florida to be part of the events in Concord on April 19. My cousin John Macone has a great deal of knowledge about the Battery both new and old and he comes up from the Caribbean.
Bob - I think it was 10-12 years ago that Tish Hopkins was the first female member. Her father was a member. It broke a barrier because there hadn't been women before that and I think people were wondering if this was going to be controversial or not. I remember the night we were all sitting down at Civil Defense Headquarters in the bottom of the post office where we used to have our meetings, and it was unanimous. I don't recall anybody voting against it. It was time and overdue. That was one of the things that drew me to the Battery, not that I thought we were going to have women in it, but that actually what Doug said. I remember growing up and watching when they had parties at my parents' house, it was doctors, lawyers, farmers, policemen, stockbrokers, town employees. It just ran the gamut of society whether religiously, ethnically or socially, and everybody was all on equal footing. We were all just good friends pulling for each other. In a day and age where people tend to gravitate towards people that are just like them, the Battery was refreshing that way. That is one of the things I've always been very proud about being a member.
Freelon - I can remember a few things over the 50 years where somebody wanted to split the group at the breakfasts, but he didn't last long.
Doug - To celebrate the 200t anniversary, we had a birthday party last winter. We try to have a
party every fall as a get together. One of the biggest reasons is so the wives get involved to get
to know the people not just names, and know why we're taking off for every single holiday and
every long weekend is ruined and one night a week in the winter we're out. It's been that way
my whole life. I don't remember not being any different so it's something very standard in our
household. This particular year we had a very nice dinner for the active members and their
wives and family at the Colonial Inn. Bob had a real nice tribute to the Battery and to the people
who are involved and a little bit of history as well.
We put together our birthday event on September 18, which ended up being kind of soggy but basically it worked out quite well. During the year at our luncheon and at different other events, we've had a tremendous amount of activity as far as older members are concerned. It seemed like attendance was stimulated by the fact that this is the 200*" year of existence. Each event became a little more meaningful this year. Not such that we had a number of different things, it was just how it all went and how people felt about the accomplishment itself and looking back over the amount of people that participated to get us here.
We had a nice proclamation from the House of Representatives and the Senate of the State stating how proud they were of us to be the oldest horse-drawn artillery unit in the country with continued service. That is quite an honor to have. Being the only one in the country is pretty special itself.
Bob - We also got a proclamation from the town back in March which I was a little taken aback by because I wasn't expecting it. Usually Doug if he's available would come down with me when I need to make a presentation to the Board of Selectmen at one of the their meetings to let them know that we have done everything that we need to do under our contract with the town to comply with the requirements that everybody's done the right amount of training for the year and that we have a liability insurance policy in place, and the celebrations committee has asked us to fire and we've touched base with the police and fire departments and things like that. So they asked me to give a presentation and give them an opportunity to ask any questions they may have so we can get our approval to fire at all the annual events of the year. Usually we're asking for permission to remove the cannon to Sudbury for the test fire at Doug's house. As long as I've been doing it in my profession as a lawyer and having to speak in public, I always get nervous about it. Is somebody going to ask me some crazy question that I'm not going to know the answer to and it may be a good question? So it all went very smoothly this year and then Peggy Briggs read the proclamation to honor the Battery and it reflected that we're in it together. The cannon are owned by the town of Concord and we were real thrilled about the 200*, anniversary and they wanted to let us know that they were too. It took me by surprise. I wasn't expecting it. I was wishing some of my Battery brothers and sisters had been there to share it with me, but a few people did see it on television.
Freelon - It's very interesting that the town wants to feel that way, but the Battery is the Battery and does their own thing. Not in the way we used to because we couldn't operate the way we used to. In fact, if the accident had happened with the present composition of the town, I just wonder what would be the fate of the Battery. Just look at the number of people who signed that petition to have the guns kept from firing.
Bob - What speaks to what I think you're getting at is that Concord has really changed a lot in the last 30 years. That's one of the things that makes it that much more important for us to persevere to carry on and keep the tradition going and also to try to be public and educate people and let them know we're out here and what our history is. It's not just an important piece of Battery history, it's an important piece of the town's history and with all the new people in Concord and people not knowing who we are, it's really incumbent upon us to work that much harder to keep that as real life.
Doug - I think the Concord Independent Battery is what it is because of the people that make it up and the support that it gets. People are so busy these days and are less aware. Concord does not have the characters its had over the years. I was fortunate that I grew up with one -- Peanut being a character. I worked at that sporting goods store when I was five or six years old and I'm 56. I've been working in the Concord area and in business here today, but when I was a kid growing up when you went downtown, you didn't know maybe three people. Today you go downtown and you lock your car now which we never did, and you don't expect to know anyone. It's changed so dramatically that I think it's a sad situation because Concord was such a unique place. It still is but not nearly as unique as it used to be. I think the Battery may or may not have the support today as it did back in the era that we had the accident, I don't know for sure.
We get a tremendous review from parading through town with the horses. That's the highlight. I'm not saying that the music and so on isn't nice because I enjoy that myself and the different groups that come, but the Battery is a hometown group. That's not imported. The people that are in the Battery believe in what they do and they're there for the town of Concord and what it stands for. And the town of Concord stands for freedom in this country.
Doug - Since the accident, we sign an agreement every year that there is no alcohol consumed 24 hours before firing. It's important and that's why we sign it every year to make sure that people remember and don't forget. That's part of the contract.
Bob - If you look through the history, we've had a lot of different names over the years. It was the Concord Artillery and the Concord Light Artillery. I think having the word Independent in our name probably sort of has a military term to it in the sense that it is an independent regiment that is not associated with anything else, but it also speaks to the nature of the people in it.
Freelon - Even up through the Civil War there were independent batteries. Different townships had independent batteries, so it wasn't an unusual thing.
Bob - What is an interesting question is when did that term come into use? That is something I always had difficulty determining and it has something to do with when our organization started. The militia was an artillery unit. It's clear as a general sense that when the militia switched over to an infantry unit and the guns remained in Concord that they weren't associated with the guns. The independent arose I think initially as a social organization but also as a group in town to keep firing the cannons. And it was probably mixed with people that were in the militia group because presumably they were from Concord and in their private lives had an interest in continuing to fire the cannons.
Freelon - If you look through the old records, you'll probably find the town had the guns but the person responsible was the captain of the infantry company.
Bob - Which is another interesting sidelight. When it became an infantry unit, it eventually became a part of National Guard Company H which is famous for its Guadalcanal experience.
Doug - Horses were a lot easier to get years ago when we had more farms around. The Kenneys always had teams of horses or mules or whatever we needed. It was quite an ordeal to hitch them up to the wagons. We got them also from Nick Rodday for a number of years. He was very active in helping us with the animals. The Reformatory had teams of horses and some single mounts. Of course, they don't have them any more. We've gotten them from different towns, Bobby's Ranch, Verrill Farm, Alice MacNeil over the years. Unfortunately, what happens is the horses are owned now by individuals, and the individuals are less apt to give them to us for liability purposes. Right now we get horses from a couple of different sources, Roy MacGregor and Tom Jambard, who lives up in Hollis, New Hampshire. I kind of think of Roy now as a member of the Battery. He comes out and he wears the uniform. He supports the Battery and he's fantastic. We go up there to his place and practice. I have six horses of my own and we use some of those for the Battery. It's been fortunate to have them because the different barns and stables due to liability don't want to participate. So the horses have become an issue. Some of the members now do own their own horses so they're riding their own mounts.
It is not just having a horse, it's having a horse in a parade. You've got kids and wagons and bicycles and motorcycles and bands and drums and flags and these blown up balloon things, and these things that kids throw on the ground and snap, dogs, all kinds of things that would normally scare the horses to death. How they do it I don't really know. We actually stand on our back two feet and they clap and have their hands in the air which is the aggressive stance of a horse, and they try to accept all these things and go through the parade at the same time and try to stay in line. It's really pretty incredible that they do it. It's very difficult to train a horse these days because they're used primarily for either pleasure riding or they ride in an arena for certain jobs such as dressage. But they're not used to crowds unless they're trained for police work. To do that is fairly rigorous training. A horse's first instinct when it's scared is to get out of there, and in a parade they can't do that. So they rely on the rider to get them through it all.
The cost of renting the horses has become a huge cost. I certainly donate my animals but the cost to do it and like Bob said earlier Roy MacGregor treats us more than fairly because its become quite a nice tradition for him. He enjoys being part of what we stand for. And the same for Tom actually. They give us quite a break on April 19 and they truck the horses for hours. It's amazing the amount of work to get those horses ready. I know I start the day before just washing and cleaning and getting them all ready.
The team horses have usually been Belgians. In the time when the guns were used, they were actually the New England Morgan horse and they pulled around the cannons and the limbers. That was the size because you could ride them and use them for pulling. They were work horses as well. But as far as the single mounts are concerned, we've gotten about every kind there is that is able to put up with what we put them through. They do a pretty good job for the most part. That pavement looks harder and harder the older we get. I know I speak for myself. It seems to be getting further away every year and I know the horses aren't getting any taller, but basically you just get concerned about how long you're going to be able to stay on one of those things without hitting the pavement so to speak.
The uniforms are basically a take off of the World War I uniforms and the campaign hats. You can buy campaign hats now. For a while there it was very difficult to come by. The uniform itself is just a khaki uniform. The red stripe is a military designation for artillery and we have them sewn on.
Bob - In older pictures they used to wear white chaps down around the boots. The uniform has changed a lot historically. Free has done a lot of research on that. It had a lot to do with what the veterans were wearing when they came back from whatever war they were coming back from. The khaki is probably more World War II oriented. To put the uniform together, you might go over to this guy in Framingham and he might have the boots, get a pair of khaki pants and find somebody to sew the stripes on, there's a jeweler in Concord that has a lot of hardware, so you scrape the uniform together. There's still somebody that's wearing red laces instead of black laces and the red stripes on some are this wide and on some are that wide. It's part of the independent thing.
The quote at the bottom of our stationery, "to excite and encourage an ardent love of country and a generous public spirit," is from the enabling legislation of the Battery from February 24, 1804 and I was looking for a motto to put on the stationery. The proclamation starts "Whereas it is the duty of an enlightened Legislature to excite and encourage an ardent love of country, a generous public spirit, and an elevated degree of military discipline among the citizens, all which form the cheerful and most efficient defense of the precious blessings of society." Then it goes on to recount the heroism by the Patriots at the North Bridge, Isaac Davis and John Buttrick, and is basically the preamble as to why they are forming the Battery. I thought it went back to our history and is part of what we stand for.
Three years ago about a month after 9-11, there was a special tribute on Lexington Green by a number of reenactment companies. We're technically not a reenactment company because we've been going continuously, but special tribute was fired in memory of everybody that lost their lives on 9-11. It included four or five artillery companies that fired a 21-gun salute. The Battery participated in that and I thought that was particularly special not only because it was so important to pay tribute to those people, but it was Concord and Lexington coming together for something that was important about our country. While Concord and Lexington have sort of a rivalry in terms of the Revolution, we also fought together when this country started and when it was time to be side by side, we were.
Doug - The Concord Independent Battery has always participated in the April 19 ceremonies but the Concord Independent Battery has always fired on the actual date. The dawn salute is always fired on the 19*. It is the day that should be paid tribute to, and we've always done that. Joining us is Philip Kenney, whose family has also been very active in the Battery over several generations.
Philip - My father, Lawrence Kenney, came to Concord with his father around 1923 from Arlington, Massachusetts. They bought land on Virginia Road that was owned by the (Caleb)Wheelers. My father's mother had passed away. There were 11 of them, my father being the third youngest. They came in a wagon that my brother, Billy, still has. He restored it and has it on the Virginia Road farm. The wagon says J.W. Kenney for James William Kenney, which was my grandfather's name. When my father passed away in 1993, we took him and his casket from the house to the church on that wagon and from the church to his burial site.
The family farmed this right on through my grandfather's death which was in 1943. My father farmed his whole life. His involvement with the Battery started in the mid-1930s. He was a member of the National Guard at that point in time, and he would train on weekends at Fort Devens. He spent three or four years in the National Guard pre-World War II. As part of the scenario, he had grown up with a lot of people that were mentioned already, Peanut Macone, Judge Eaton, a lot of the Battery people were actually people who pre-World War II were just hitting their 20s and early 30s in age. The Battery was active prior to World War I. I remember seeing pictures of Colonel Swaim with great regalia marching down through the center of Concord on April 19. The Battery had gone through kind of an ebb and tide of activity and non- activity. I believe the catalysts were Peanut Macone and Doug mentioned his uncle and his father. They actually kept the Battery going. I think one of the stories was that the guns were kept at 51 Walden in the basement, which was then the National Guard armory. It was just happenstance that right next door was where Peanut's bicycle shop was. I'm sure there was a connection there somehow.
There were three, four, five, or six guys that were pretty much around town a lot and as a result, got involved with these types of things, and they re-engaged the Battery. I think it really started to take off after World War II. They did have an organization prior to World War II but how active it was, I'm not really sure. But I believe my father joined the Battery somewhere in the period of 1936-39 because he had horses and could ride and take care of horses. That was obviously a big thing. Being a farmer and having gone through the National Guard, he did not go to World War II. He stayed on the farm, his father had passed away, and he and his brother, Philip, ended up running the farm through the 1960 timeframe. At that point in time, they split the business.
For my father the Battery was like a hobby. If I would say he had a hobby in his life, the Battery was it. He didn't like sports. He figured if you scored a touchdown you had a bat in your hand. He had no clue, no concept, no inkling to have a concept about any kind of other enjoyment in his life hobby-wise, other than working on the farm and the Battery. I think it was an outlet for him, and it was also a social life for him. There were a lot of stories about some of the pranks they used to pull off that I remember as a kid that I was pretty amused at.
I think the Battery kind of slowed down a bit because of World War II, but surely when the folks came back, it became very active again. There were certain people that were involved and there were generations involved in it. There were the Macones, ourselves, Sandy Smith and Steve Smith, and I'm sure I'm missing some people.
The Battery became part of the celebration of April 19 which is part of the State's mandate. The date was not to be forgotten and the real reason that Concord came under attack from the British was that there were cannon they were trying to find. So if you read through the inscriptions it tells basically what was going on at that time. It wasn't some kind of esoteric thing that somebody said I'll just write this little bit of prose. The British felt there were real cannon out here that would impact the effect of the British stay in Boston.
They recognized that they had something unique. I know that because they always felt the independent aspect, the CIB aspect was very important about that. I think Freelon talked about that. The Battery always kind of did their own thing. They felt very much attuned to that and very akin to what they were representing. The Battery grew in popularity very much. They had their regular breakfasts. That's when holidays were taken on the holidays. The 19th was the 19th. If it was a Wednesday, so be it. The holiday was a Wednesday. The Battery was very stalwart about saying we fire on the 19h, and there is a reason behind that.
So as it went through post-World War II and into the early '50s, it became a very active group. There were very few people outside of Concord that were part of the Battery. I think Andy Hepburn was the only one. As it got into the '50s and Concord started to grow, the 19th became much more of a popular parade. I remember missing the parade was like missing church on Sunday, you didn't do it. They always had the ball the night before and certainly it was a time for the town to celebrate. Everybody looked forward to that time of year because it was a great party, and the Battery was part of that. I'm sure they probably ran into the same thing in 1875, in saying oh, my goodness it's coming up to 100 years and we've got to get cranked up here. As we got into the '50s and '60s, it became more important in that it was only 15 years away that it was going to be the 200th anniversary. Because of that the Minute-Man became part of the town in the early '60s. And a lot of these old traditional historical re-enactment aspects of the Revolutionary time became active. I think it was a great point that Doug brought up is that we are not a real re-enactment group. It is an active group since 1804 chartered to do this. It's not a re-enactment; it's a continuation.
In the early '60s, they became very active in getting prepared for 1975. The horses became a big part of it. All the families gathered to help clean the guns, clean the horses, the smell of the leather, the smell of the horses. It's not a clean business. You get very dirty doing this stuff. It was an atmosphere that was created on the 19th. Invariably, we would walk to somebody's house for a barbeque or something after the parade, and it was really very much a family oriented activity. It was very well known in the town.
My father became Captain in the very early '60s. He was Captain for better than 20 years. There was a lot of variety in the Battery, you had Frank Coolidge who was vice president of John Hancock Insurance in Boston and he used to ride along with Tony Pagano who was his postman. They used to ride the same team together and had a great time. That was what was representative of the Battery. I was asked at the 200th anniversary what was my impression of it. The mix of the group was what impressed me. You don't find groups like that. It was such a diverse bunch of people that do all kinds ofjobs, but when it comes to the Battery, it is a very tight-knit group and focused on what they do and enjoy each other.
My father stepped down from being Captain of the Battery in 1975. He wanted to see it through the 200th anniversary of the fight at the Bridge. We always used to joke because he lived, worked, and did nothing but work in the town of Concord. He was always here, so when the Battery needed something, it was real easy for him to do whatever was needed. The other guys would always say let Lawrence take care of it, he's always around. And he loved it. He liked the little bit of show in the parades and he loved to ride. He was a big man, but he still would get up on his horse and ride, no problem. He liked going through the center of town. When the Battery would come through in those parades, it really was and is quite a show because you don't see that anymore. Especially when you have a situation where you have a double team hooked up, you don't go galloping. You have to have a safety concern in this because a horse is a horse. Doug talked about that earlier, and it's true. You had to be very cautious, and you've got to have some experience with the horses. I grew up with horses so I don't mind doing that. I know if there is an issue, I know what to do. If you have the opportunity to go through the center of town at just a small clip, and the horses hooves are clanging and the chains are clanging, I'd challenge where else in the country would they do that, other than the 3rd Army division at Arlington, Virginia that do that for burials. I don't think there's another unit in the country that does that. So I'm very proud of that, and I think it's great for the town of Concord to recognize the group.
My father retired out of the Battery in 1977 as an active member. I became a member in 1972 as soon as I got out of the service. My brother Billy had already been an active member since the mid-60s. I stayed pretty much with the unit until about three years ago. Given my business I kind of slowed down a bit as an active member. I've done everything the Battery does -- I've ridden horses, fired the guns, powder monkey, whatever. You keep the charges well away from the cannon and well away from the 32 cartridges. The powder is set up in back of the gun at least 30 feet away. There is a reinforced case in which the powder is stored. The powder monkey is the person that pulls the charge out of that and puts it in a leather, non-sparking bag into this leather pouch, and buries it into that leather pouch so that nothing can touch it and carries it up to the person who loads the gun, passes the one charge, and then quickly stands back and guards the powder. A lot of people, Doug Macone, Sandy Smith, Bruce Barker, when they were in high school would do that as part of the Battery. We used to bring young kids in as powder monkeys. Actually Doug has done that with Donnie Palma's son. So the powder monkey is a way to get involved as a kid. You wear a uniform and are part of the unit.
My brother and I have been involved for maybe 30 some years. Our expertise has always been the horses. It was easy when my father was alive because we always had horses on the farm. Right down the street on Virginia Road, Nick Rodday had a riding stable and he always had horses. There was always somebody around town that you could get horses from because Concord was basically a farm town. My father never charged a dime for it. I think Nick Rodday would take enough to pay expenses. So a lot of people donated a lot of things to make it happen. The horses over the years have become more problematic. My father's farm had diminished, and he didn't have the work horses like he used to. When I was a kid I worked with horses all the time, I drove them uptown, drove them on the farm, and worked with them. We plowed the sidewalks with them. But now each time we'd get up there with the horses, the harness would be a different fit. There was a drawing that was done by the Rockford, Illinois arsenal dated 1902 that shows the exact specifications of a harness. So if you had to recreate these things, we have a print to give somebody. Even though you had the exact specifications, every time we use it on a horse, everything had to be adjusted because horse A was not horse A the next time around. So it took a lot of time. Once you had everything hooked up and the gun behind with the weight, you had to run them a little bit to see if everything was going to be all right and they're not getting scared and getting them adjusted so they were right in the middle.
I remember one instance when we were having trouble getting horses we got a team out of Sudbury. We tried them ahead when we brought them to the parade, one of them just had an awful time with the crowd. We were coming back from the North Bridge and I was on one of them and there was another guy on the other one, you never had a horse without a rider and we also have people on the ground to grab them. If there is a problem, they can grab them by the head. This one horse just got spooked by balloons or somebody with a pop gun or whatever and decided to go up on his hind legs. He was so powerful and the way the harnesses are set up on this thing with the caissons that that center pole, which was a hard maple or some kind of hard wood, literally snapped just like you snapped a toothpick. I remember we got the police and just pulled out of the parade. We just got out. Needless to say, when I brought this horse back I said to the guy, you told me these horses have been around people and been in parades before. He said, "Well, the other horse was, but I brought this new one in."
When we had to do that, that was one of the biggest challenges because we were going to people we were vaguely familiar with but didn't really know. There were two dangers there. One is they would do something like I just told about, and two, they were charging us top dollar. So we were running out of money fast. The town decided they weren't going to fund us with this stuff, so it became an almost fully independent type of situation where we had to both fund and manage that ourselves. So the horses are always the challenges.
But that has kind of settled down because we have Roy McGregor out of Groton who is just a great guy, and this other gentleman in Amherst or Nashua and he is very good with his team. So that works out well for us now. I'd like to add as well though I think it's important for people to know that the single mounts are interesting in that as Doug mentioned people don't want to give them up because of that's my horse and what happens if there is a problem with my horse. So again even when we use single mounts because of the money, people that rode single mounts paid for them themselves. So a lot is given up that people don't really realize to keep the Battery where it needs to be and be active in the parades and in front of people.
They had a 200th anniversary dinner this past spring which was just a great thing. It was at the Inn which is where it should be. They've got a lot of new members. Some are women such as Tish Hopkins and Doug's daughter, and Donny Palma's son is involved. We used to always worry when we were young, we used to call the older guys the greybeards, what are we going to do when the greybeards leave? Those guys always had the directions. I think Doug said it in his comment that now we're the greybeards, and we have to be responsible to be sure the thing is carried forward.
The King of Sweden came in 1974. One of the characters that we had in the Battery was my cousin, Wendell Gustafson. He was my father's sister's son. I'll be kind in saying he was a character. He was an interesting guy. He was a guy that ended up as a very successful stockbroker in Boston and his father was born in Sweden. We all wondered how, and still wonder how, he finagled his way into being the King of Sweden's stockbroker. He managed the King of Sweden's stock portfolio here in the States. As a result, he became very successful and became very well off. So much so that he bought October Farm on Monument Street. All I'll say is Wendell, or as they called him "Gus" as well as many other names, was a character of the highest order. After he got out of the stockbrokerage business and I think he successfully sold his company, he became the Swedish counsel for Boston so he was actually a diplomatic corps guy and as a result had a lot of connections. But at one point in time the King of Sweden was coming to visit and Wendell somehow said, "Well you have to come to Concord and you havem fire a roun to see the Battery." Well, Gus was in and out of the Battery at points in time depending on how much they could take or not take of him. As a way for the Battery to show itself, the Battery said absolutely, we'll do this. The King came in the spring and we actually let hid. It was when we could still fire at the National Park so it was right at the Minute-Man statute. It was kind of interesting because we had everything set up and all of a sudden a bunch of black suits were coming at us. When he was asked if he wanted to fire a round, the Secret Service went ballistic. They had people all around the river and checking under the bridge. The King was very gracious. He posed for pictures and made sure he met everybody. He was very open and warm. I'm sure his point was I'm now going to be hustled through a thousand places during this visit and this is just one of them. He came down to the Bridge looking kind of bewildered like why am I here. But it worked out well. They had a big lunch in Boston for him. It was an interesting day.