Speeches and musket fire marked the occasion yesterday as Westport residents gathered to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Minute Man Statue. First Selectman Gordon Joseloff oversaw the ceremony, reading from historical accounts of the statue's unveiling.
Joseloff noted after the ceremony that all that remains of the day the statue was unveiled are the statue itself, some newspaper clippings and the booklet from which he read. "Obviously, the monument can withstand the test of time. People come and go," said Joseloff.
Town Historian Alan Raymond called the statue Westport's own miniature Lincoln Memorial. "We fought a revolution and the Minutemen really came up and won the show," he said. The statue commemorates the Minutemen engaging 2,000 British troops who landed on Compo Beach in 1777. The Sons of the American Revolution commissioned H. Daniel Webster to sculpt a memorial in 1908, and two years later, on June 17, 1910, he gave them the Minute Man Statue. According to Joseloff's readings, the patrons expected little more than a gravestone-sized tablet.
The speeches were punctuated by a demonstration of Revolutionary War firepower from New Canaan historic reenactor Tom Sephen. Dressed as a Minuteman, he loaded and shot off his reproduction musket three times. Each shot required careful packing of the charge down the barrel, and even he was surprised that none of the loud cracking shots fizzled. "Three out three, that's pretty good," said Sephen.
For residents like Martha Aasen, the ceremony offered the first real chance to get close to the statue. Though a crosswalk goes directly in front of the landmark, few actually stop halfway through the road to admire the artistry. "This is the first time I've read the plaque," said Aasen.
Aasen walked away from the display with a new appreciation for what it took to fight a war in 1777. "No wonder it took so long to win the war if it took that long to load a musket," she joked.
Aasen's husband, Larry, said the statue serves as an excellent reminder of American history. "We have got to recall the past, and this helps you do that in an instant."
Staples Sophomore Geoffrey Ader was joined by Kelsea Mullaly of Wethersfield as part of the Col. John Chester Fife and Drum Corps. As the ceremony concluded they marched off playing "Yankee Doodle," appropriate with yesterday also being the launch of the annual Yankee Doodle Fair.
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