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Concord North Bridge: The "Shot Heard 'Round The World"

Yesterday I wrote about my trip to the Lexington Battle Green in the town of Lexington, Massachusetts. On April 19, 1775, 700 British troops stopped here while making their way to nearby Concord to seize an arms cache. A confrontation emerged between the Redcoats and 77 Lexington militiamen who positioned themselves on the town green. After an unknown shot rang out, the British fired several volleys, killing eight militiamen and wounding nine others. The remaining colonists retreated into the woods and British troops continued on to Concord to search for weapons.

After visiting Lexington, I made my way over to the site of the “shot heard ‘round the world" at the North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts.

The famous Minute Man Statue at the North Bridge in Concord. It was created by a Concord man named Daniel Chester French, who won a contest to create the monument to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle in 1875. Civil war cannons were melted down to create the cast bronze statue. Later in his life, French created the seated Lincoln statue in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Thanks to Paul Revere and other riders who sounded the alarm that the British were coming, the men of Concord managed to relocate the arms cache. The Redcoats burned what little they found and according to history.com “the fire got slightly out of control.” Hundreds of militiamen had been gathering and occupied the high ground outside of Concord. After seeing flames, they believed that the whole town would be torched and hustled to Concord’s North Bridge.

The North Bridge that visitors walk over today is a restoration of the last bridge built on this site in 1956. The "battle bridge" that was here in 1775 was taken down in 1778. Five bridges have occupied this ground since the time of the battle 242 years ago.

The bridge was being held by a contingent of British soldiers. They began to fire at the oncoming patriots and Captain Isaac Davis and Private Abner Hosmer were killed. Captain Davis had previously exclaimed, “I haven’t a man who is afraid to go.”

A plaque on a stone by the North Bridge reads, "On the morning of April 19, 1775, approximately 400 Colonials stood on the hill overlooking the North Bridge. As smoke rose from Concord Center, the order to march was given. In the exchange of fire that followed, Captain Isaac Davis who had exclaimed "I haven't a man who is afraid to go," was killed together with Abner Hosmer, a Private, also from action.

The men at Lexington earlier that morning did not have an opportunity to return fire against the Redcoats. Circumstances were much different at the North Bridge in Concord. Major John Buttrick yelled to his men, “Fire fellow soldiers, for God's sake fire!"

A mural in the North Bridge Visitor Center with Major Buttrick's famous words from April 19, 1775.

The colonists followed Major Buttrick’s order and returned fire at the British. This would later be immortalized by poet Ralph Waldo Emerson as the “shot heard ‘round the world.” Three British soldiers fell from the patriot’s gunfire and the remaining Redcoats retreated back to the town to join the rest of their units.

Two of the British soldiers that were killed during the opening shots of the battle are buried here at the North Bridge. The words on their gravestone are from a stanza of a poem called "Lines" by James Russell Lowell. The words are, "They came three thousand miles and died, To keep the past upon its throne. Unheard beyond the ocean tide, Their English mother made her moan."

Boston was located about 18 miles from Concord. After searching the town for close to four hours, the British began their withdrawal. History.com writes that by this time “almost 2,000 militiamen-know as minutemen for their ability to be ready on a moments notice-had descended to the area, and more were constantly arriving.” The militiamen started to follow the British column and fighting resumed soon after. Using their knowledge of the countryside, militiamen fired at the British from behind trees, stone walls, houses, and sheds. Some Redcoat soldiers abandoned weapons, clothing, and equipment in order to retreat faster. This pursuit continued until the British reached the safety of Charlestown Neck, where they had naval support.

This obelisk was the first monument to commemorate the fighting at North Bridge. The obelisk was dedicated in 1836 and marks the British side from the battle. It reads, "Here on the 19 of April 1775 was made the first forcible resistance to British aggression. On the opposite bank stood the American Militia. Here stood the invading Army and on this spot the first of the Enemy fell in the War of that Revolution which gave Independence to these United States. In gratitude to God and in the love of Freedom this Monument was dedicated. AD 1836."

By the time British troops arrived back in Boston that evening, they had suffered roughly 250 men killed or wounded. Losses were lighter on the side of the colonists, who are estimated to have suffered about 90 killed and wounded.

The back of Daniel French's famous Minuteman Statue at the North Bridge. It represents a farmer leaving his plow and picking up a musket to defend his land and liberty. The statue is the logo for the National Guard of the United States.

After the Battles of Lexington and Concord, there was no denying that a revolution had begun. By the following summer, a full-scale war of independence had broken out between Great Britain and the Thirteen Colonies. The courage of the men at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775 was the first step in a long struggle that ended almost eight years later with the birth of a new nation. That nation changed the world forever and we must never forget the origins of where it all started.

Sources

CT Monuments.net: Old North Bridge, Concord.

History.com: Battles of Lexington and Concord.

National Park Service: A Wednesday That Changed the world Forever.

National Park Service: Minute Man National Historical Park.

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