– Revolutionary War Series –
Though not a hike per sé, I thought it might be fun to include a short note about a hidden gem I discovered today in my own neighborhood outside Boston. Prospect Hill Park is just 1/5 mile northeast from Union Square (follow Stone Ave. 350 yards to the park) and steeped in history, of which I was completely unaware until visiting.
Of historical note, Prospect Hill was…
- The site of a small skirmish on April 19, 1775 between British forces and local revolutionary minutemen. The handful of rebellious locals, having heard of the storied battles at Lexington and Concord earlier that day, caught an exhausted retreating British contingent off guard. As the story goes, 65-year-old minuteman James Miller lost his life in the scuffle while standing his ground against the British—he was shot thirteen times after famously telling a retreating colleague, “I am too old to run.”
- A prominent base for the Continental Army in the months thereafter. Originally occupied by just 400 men under the leadership of Colonel John Patterson, Prospect Hill became a primary encampment for Colonial forces after General Israel Putnam’s retreat from the Battle of Bunker Hill in June (Samuels and Kimball, 1897: 54). By January 1776, the “Citadel” at Prospect Hill housed nearly 3,500 rebel fighters (Frothingham, 1849: 291)—the most heavily fortified base during the siege of Boston.
- Regularly visited by General George Washington to interview officers and assess British formations across the Charles River in Boston.
- On January 1, 1776, the site of the first official raising of the American flag—but not the stars and stripes we know today. Instead, the soldiers at Prospect Hill raised the “Grand Union Flag,” which represented the 13 united American colonies…but also bore a striking resemblance to the British Union Jack.
- Thereafter a camp for British prisoners of war from 1777-1778. More than 2,300 British soldiers captured at the Battle of Saratoga were held at Prospect Hill.
- The site from which 100 guns were fired in 1842 upon the founding of the city of Somerville.
- A training camp for Union soldiers during the Civil War.
In 1903, the 42-foot Prospect Hill tower—which resembles a Medieval-era European castle turret—was constructed as a commemoration to the site’s historical importance. A replica of the old Grand Union flag reportedly flies there to this day (though it was nowhere to be found on the Sunday that I visited).
Today Prospect Hill Park is a small but intriguing destination for picnickers, dog-walkers, and couples looking for a romantic evening walk. The main draw, besides the awesome tower, is the stunning view of the Boston skyline (or at least of Back Bay, Prudential, etc.). For Somerville, Cambridge, or Boston residents or visitors to Union Square, Prospect Hill Park is well-worth a peek!
For more, see:
- Richard Frothingham, History of the Siege of Boston, and of the Battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill (1849)
- Albert Haskell, “Haskell’s Historical Guide Book of Somerville, Massachusetts.”
- Steve Mulder, “The History of Prospect Hill.”