Sunday, May 26, 2013

Portsmouth's First 'Memorial Day'

Monday, April 28, 1783, must have been an amazing day in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Residents awoke to the clanging of church bells all over town. The War of Independence was officially over, and America was free from their British overseers.


At six o’clock in the morning, thirteen cannons – one for each colony – fired a salute from Fort William and Mary (soon to be renamed Fort Constitution), Liberty Bridge (on Marcy Street over Puddle Dock near the Liberty Pole in Prescott Park), and from Church Hill (beside Queen’s Chapel, soon to be renamed St. John’s Church). HMS America, a 64-gun British warship in Portsmouth harbor, returned the salute.

Worship services were held at ten o’clock in the North Meetinghouse – the “Three Decker” – where the North Church is located today. Along with joyous singing by the church choir and the congregation, Reverend Doctor Haven, the leader of the South Parish, gave the sermon. He thanked God for the end of hostilities and for their newly-won independence. Reverend Buckminster, the North Parish’s minister, gave the closing prayer.

The President of the State of New Hampshire, Meshech Weare of Hampton Falls, and other government officials walked to the Parade (now called Market Square) at noon. From the balcony of the State House, surrounded by a joyful crowd of celebrants, the Sheriff of Rockingham read the proclamation of peace. That evening, there were celebratory banquets, a magnificent ball, and fireworks. Today, 230 years later, we still remember that 'Freedom is Not Free' and commemorate those who have given their lives for this country.

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