Reliving history at Battle of Lexington: Reenactors spend lot of time, money to get facts right

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When the mysterious first shot rang out around dawn yesterday, it was just like that fateful day 234 years before on the Lexington Green, except the gray-haired men squaring off looked a lot older than their ancestral combatants. There was also no blood and a lot of fake groaning, as well as sleep-deprived neighbors, history buffs, and members of the news media with cameras to chronicle every drumbeat. The annual reenactment of the Battle of Lexington has spawned its own traditions and veterans, with their own ahistorical gripes.

"A lot of us put considerable money and effort into this, and everybody still forgets about what the meaning of Patriots' Day is all about," said Tom Balcom, 47, of Melrose, whose redcoat paraphernalia cost him more than $1,200 and countless hours of training. "They think they get the day off because of the marathon. Well, it's a lot more than a bunch of people lining up for a run. This is a big deal."

After all the fireworks and garbled shouting during the mock attack - the real one in 1775 sparked the Revolutionary War and led to the creation of the United States - Balcom left formation and marched toward his car in a wool waistcoat, bearskin hat, and white breeches, the smell of sulfur still spewing from his Brown Bess. The six-year veteran of the reenactments, a history buff who served as staff sergeant in the US Army, said he does not mind playing the enemy, adding that he is considering expanding his portfolio to play a Nazi in an upcoming reenactment of a World War II battle.

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