Minute Man National Historical Park | THE NORTH BRIDGE

1956 reproduction of the North Bridge at Minute Man National Historical Park

1956 reproduction of the North Bridge at Minute Man National Historical Park

PARKING

The North Bridge is located in Concord and is part of the North Bridge Unit of Minute Man National Historical Park. It has its own parking lot on Monument Street (the bridge itself is a tenth of a mile away). Be sure to use the parking lot identified as Minute Man Historical Park because just before it is a smaller one for Old Manse, a privately owned historical home within eye sight of the bridge. Expect a crowd during the summer, as the bridge is probably the most popular attraction in the park.

You can also park at the North Bridge Visitor Center at 174 Liberty Street and walk to the North Bridge along a .3-mile gravel path. The terrain is hilly, but the scenery is very pretty.

Path between the North Bridge and the North Bridge Visitor Center at Minute Man National Historical Park

Path between the North Bridge and the North Bridge Visitor Center at Minute Man National Historical Park

VISITOR ATTRACTIONS AT THE NORTH BRIDGE

  • 1956 replica of the North Bridge
  • Minute Man statue
  • Battle Monument
  • Graves of two British soldiers who died at the North Bridge
  • Site of Ranger programs
  • Costumed interpreters
  • Old Manse and Robbins House historical homes (not part of the National Park, but they are located next to the bridge)
  • Restroom building
Costumed interpreter at Minute Man National Historical Park's North Bridge

Costumed interpreter at Minute Man National Historical Park’s North Bridge

Ever since the first monument was erected at the North Bridge in 1837, the area has been a tourist attraction. There were numerous boat houses along the Concord River that catered to tourists by renting row boats for outings on the peaceful waters. This activity is still popular today, and there are still boat houses that rent canoes and kayaks, though they are not operated by the National Park Service. If interested, do an Internet search for Canoe or Kayak rental at the North Bridge Concord and you will find some rental companies.

Kayaking on the Concord River at the North Bridge in Minute Man National Historical Park

Kayaking on the Concord River at the North Bridge in Minute Man National Historical Park

BRIDGE AND MONUMENTS HISTORY

The North Bridge that stood in 1775 was dismantled in 1788 and replaced with a new one that same year. The replacement was not, however, constructed for the purpose of memorializing the original bridge. It was simply a town decision to replace a nearly 30-year-old bridge with a new one using construction techniques of the time. Any similarities to the 1775 bridge were because that’s the way bridges were built at the time.

Up until the early 1790s, the main road through Concord was Groton Road, which followed the path of today’s Monument Street. However, it did not continue northwest past the turnoff for the North Bridge as it does today, but made a left turn at the bridge and headed west. In 1793, it was decided to eliminate this turn and discontinue the use of the road and bridge in that direction, and instead continue the road to the northwest. The 1788 bridge was thus moved to where Monument Street now crosses the Concord River. The land west of the North Bridge reverted to private ownership, and the owners could do what they wanted with Groton Road. Part of it eventually became Liberty Street, which still exists today.

With the 50th Anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord approaching in 1825, the people of Concord had a renewed interest in their town’s history and began having formal celebrations on April 19th. A little over a decade later in 1837, the town erected a memorial obelisk at the site of the original bridge on the east side of the river. Called the Battle Monument, this is the memorial you first come to when approaching the North Bridge from the parking lot. Ezra Ripley donated the land, a strip 40 feet wide at Monument Street and 80 feet wide where it ended at the site of the North Bridge. This included the abandoned Groton Road and the grave site of two British soldiers who died in the fighting at the North Bridge.

Battle Monument at the North Bridge in Minute Man National Historical Park

Battle Monument at the North Bridge in Minute Man National Historical Park

Inscription on the Battle Monument at the North Bridge in Minute Man National Historical Park

Inscription on the Battle Monument at the North Bridge in Minute Man National Historical Park

In 1870, Concord resident Ebenezer Hubbard died, leaving $600 to the town for construction of a replica of the North Bridge on its original spot and $1,000 for a new monument to be placed on the west side of the bridge where the Patriots were positioned during the fighting. Another resident donated land on the west side of the river for the monument. However, it took the upcoming 100th Anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord to prompt the town to put Hubbard’s money to use. A bridge and a statue of a Minute Man by sculptor Daniel Chester French were erected in time for the 1875 celebration. (The new bridge was not a replica of the original North Bridge, but a bridge based on the tastes of the time.)

Front of the Minute Man statue at the North Bridge in Minute Man National Historical Park

Front of the Minute Man statue at the North Bridge in Minute Man National Historical Park

Back of the Minute Man statue at the North Bridge in Minute Man National Historical Park

Back of the Minute Man statue at the North Bridge in Minute Man National Historical Park

Also erected in time for the celebration was a memorial marker for the graves of the two British soldiers who were killed at the North Bridge (the plaque with a poem on it was added in 1910). Since the British hastily retreated from the area after exchanging fire, their dead and wounded were left behind, leaving it up to the land owners to bury or nurse them. If you hike or bike the Battle Road Trail that runs through the Battle Road Unit of Minute Man National Historical Park, you will see other memorial markers for British soldiers.

Marker for the graves of two British soldiers at the North Bridge in Minute Man National Historical Park

Marker for the graves of two British soldiers at the North Bridge in Minute Man National Historical Park

The 1874 bridge was washed away in a storm in 1888 and was replaced by another non-replica bridge that itself was destroyed in 1904. This time a concrete bridge was built (1909) that was based on drawings of the original North Bridge. Regardless, people did not like it due to the concrete.

In 1955, the concrete bridge was damaged beyond repair by record floodwaters. The next year the state of Massachusetts funded a new bridge with disaster relief money that was built with lumber and was a faithful reproduction of the North Bridge (based on original illustrations). It is this bridge that still stands today, though in 2005 it was completely restored.

Modern replica of the North Bridge in Minute Man National Historical Park

Modern replica of the North Bridge in Minute Man National Historical Park

FIGHTING AT THE NORTH BRIDGE

When approaching the North Bridge from its parking lot, you are approaching it in the same direction as the British troops approached it on the morning of April 19, 1775. Prior to their arrival, Patriot militiamen under the command of Colonel James Barrett left Concord by way of the North Bridge and established themselves on Punkatasset Hill to wait for more men to arrive. The hill, which is about a mile away, gave them a good view of the bridge and town. There were no trees in the area, for this was all farmland at the time.

When 700 British troops entered Concord around 8 AM, approximately 220 of them continued through town on Groton Road to the North Bridge on their way to the farm of Colonel Barrett, the location where spies had informed them that a cannon and other weapons were being stashed. After crossing the bridge, approximately one hundred of the men were left to guard it. One company remained just over the bridge on the west side (where the Minute Man Statue now sits), one company occupied the Ephraim and Willard Buttrick house lots (where the North Bridge Visitor Center is located), and one company occupied the cow pasture of Captain David Brown (the field on the hill just below the Visitor Center). Though not remembered by history, they also seized the South Bridge, for control of both bridges prevented Patriot militiamen from reentering the town center. The British were well aware of the militia’s presence on Punkatassett Hill.

The Barrett Farm is about a mile from the North Bridge. If you cross the bridge today and continue on the path that leads to the North Bridge Visitor Center, you will be walking on Groton Road. A short ways down is a fork in the path that is marked with an information panel titled The Road to Colonel Barrett’s. The fork to the left—now just a grass path—is the West Branch of Groton Road, and this led to the farm. If you walk less than a hundred yards down the grass path, you can see the foundation of the first home built by the Brown Family when they settled in Concord in 1644.

Foundation of original Brown Family farmhouse near the North Bridge at Minute Man National Historical Park

Foundation of original Brown Family farmhouse near the North Bridge at Minute Man National Historical Park

Descendant David Brown built a house near this site as well, and its location is marked with granite stones. David Brown was the captain of one of Concord’s Minute Men companies (Minute Men were the elite of the general militia). He, his son, a cousin, and a nephew were all involved in the fighting at the North Bridge. (The road no longer continues to the Barrett Farm, but you can drive to the site at 448 Barret’s Mill Road and see the Barrett House, which is part of Minute Man National Historical Park.)

Location of the former David Brown House near the North Bridge in Minute Man National Historical Park

Location of the former David Brown House near the North Bridge in Minute Man National Historical Park

The British soldiers who remained in Concord made house to house searches for weapons. They only confiscated a few items, and these were taken outside and burned. Some accounts claim that the flames got out of hand and accidentally set fire to a nearby building, but regardless, smoke began rising into the air. The Patriots, now numbering around 400 men, began advancing towards the British troops at the bridge shortly before 9 AM. Outnumbered, the troops at the Buttrick houses and the cow pasture retreated back to the bridge to join their comrades, and a man was dispatched to get reinforcements.

When the Patriots arrived at the cow pasture—now called Muster Field—they formed ranks for the first time. It was only at this point that they noticed the smoke from the fire and assumed the British were burning the town. After a brief debate, it was decided to enter the town to save it, engaging the soldiers at the bridge if needed. As they began to march, the three companies of British troops retreated to the other side of the bridge (they even tried tearing up some loose planks on the way). Two companies formed a column of men facing the bridge while the others fanned out along the river bank.

View of the North Bridge from Muster Field near Minute Man National Historical Park's North Bridge Visitor Center

View of the North Bridge from Muster Field near Minute Man National Historical Park’s North Bridge Visitor Center

The Patriots, led by Major John Buttrick, approached the bridge double file with orders not to shoot unless shot at. The British did shoot first, prompting Buttrick to order his men to return fire. The ensuing skirmish lasted only a minute, and when done, Patriot Captain Isaac Davis and Private Abner Hosmer, along with two British soldiers, were dead. A third British soldier was carried away by his comrades and died later.

Immediately following the fight, some Patriots returned to Muster Field, while others ran after the British as they made a hasty retreat back towards Concord. However, the pursuit was cut short when they saw the reinforcements coming. The militiamen ran back to the bridge and hurriedly positioned themselves along rock walls on the east side of the river. The British halted about 600 yards short of their position, which was out of accurate musket-firing range. The two sides silently faced off for about ten minutes before the British turned around and headed back into town. Once this happened, the militiamen on the east side of the bridge retreated back to join the others on Muster Field.

During this time the 120 British soldiers who went to Colonel Barrett’s farm were now on their way back (they found nothing on the farm, for all weapons had been removed ahead of their arrival). The Patriots watched them pass by and cross the bridge. The troops were fully aware of the dead men and that their comrades were gone, but outnumbered, they quietly marched back to town, not even stopping to pick up their dead.

The British began their 18-mile march back to Boston around noon without having found any large cache of weapons. They were unaware that Patriot militiamen had gathered at Meriam’s Corner two miles away to ambush them as they tried to cross a narrow bridge. In fact, militiamen, whose numbers would swell to 4,000 by the day’s end, would be waiting for them a numerous bottlenecks on Bay Road (what is today called Battle Road). Even at the wide open sections of the road that offered no cover, militiamen shot at them from a distance, harassing the soldiers all the way back to Boston. Three British soldiers had died at the North Bridge, but another 70 would die and around 170 would be wounded by the end of the day.

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Last updated on September 5, 2023
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