The Shot Heard Round the World.

By April of 1775, tensions between the citizens of the Province of Massachusetts Bay and the British soldiers who were occupying the colony had reached the boiling point. The Boston Tea Party of 1773, where colonists protested British taxes that had been levied against them despite the fact that they had no representation in Parliament in London, escalated tensions between the colonies and Britain. The British government responded by passing a series of laws called the Coercive Acts (known in the Americas as the Intolerable Acts). Of the four acts, the most objectionable to the colonists were two: one which called for closing the port of Boston until the tea companies were reimbursed for the dumping of their products into the Boston Harbor, and the other a military government taking control of Massachusetts Bay. Colonial militias formed and began stockpiling armaments in the town of Concord, approximately 19 miles west of Boston. Learning of this, General Thomas Gage, British military governor of Massachusetts, dispatched a force to Concord to seize the weapons and destroy them.

The colonists had well-placed sources who informed them of Gage’s decision, however, and several leaders of the rebellion rode from Boston to Concord to warn the militias of the impending British attack. Before departing for Concord, one of the leaders, a local silversmith named Paul Revere, instructed that two lanterns be lit in the steeple of the Old North Church to warn residents of nearby Charlestown of British Army movements. The next day, April 19th, British forces first encountered rebel militias in the town of Lexington. The two sides engaged in a small skirmish and the first shots were fired of the American Revolution. The British forces then pressed on to the town of Concord, about two miles to the west. There, they secured the North Bridge which spans the confluence of the Assabet and Sudbury rivers. What the British forces did not realize, however, was that over 400 Minutemen (militia members who were so named for their readiness to fight “in a minute”) were waiting on the hills overlooking the bridge. These citizen-soldiers descended upon the British forces and the first major battle of the Revolution began. The Minutemen won a surprising victory, forcing the far larger British force into a hasty retreat toward Boston. Militia members continued to harass the British forces during the retreat, and the British were only saved from total destruction by another force that Gage had sent west to assist. These two battles on a day in mid-April would ultimately lead to the independence of America, and the founding of the United States (via Wikipedia).

When I was in graduate school several years ago, I had briefly visited Concord, but had only seen a small portion of the battlefield. Overseen by the National Park Service, Minute Man National Historic Park, which begins in Lexington, Massachusetts, goes through Lincoln, and ends in Concord, is a well-preserved battlefield that lets you step back in time to learn about the beginnings of this country. After several days of poor weather, I awoke on Sunday to a beautiful spring day, and decided grab my camera and head to this important destination.

Concord Map
Today’s destination: Concord, Massachusetts, located approximately 19 miles west of Boston.
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A painting of Boston in the years before the American Revolution. The city has changed a little bit since then. (Image labeled free and available for reuse, via Wikipedia).
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Getting on the road… it’s finally spring in New England!
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Arriving at the Visitor’s Center at Minute Man National Park. On a beautiful spring afternoon, the park was certainly busy. I ended up stashing DH on the lawn because the parking lot was full!
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Whenever I visit a historic site, I always begin with the Visitors Center. It is a great place to get an overview of the park, make a plan for what to see, and ask the park rangers for tips.
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Panorama of the interior of the Visitors Center.
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Exit the Visitor Center and head east, and you will cross into Lexington and come across the Jacob Whittemore House. British soldiers marched past this house on the way back to Boston, and they came under heavy fire a little further to the east. This house, and many others in the park, are “Witness Houses” for having “witnessed” the battle. None of the houses are reproductions. Houses that did not survive are left in their ruined state.
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Battle Road, originally called Bay Road, which parallels the more modern Route 2A. This is the road that British Forces would have marched to and from Concord. Minutemen forces attacked from the forests on either side of the road.
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The line along the center of the map is Bay Road, which was the main axis of advance (and later, retreat) for British forces. If you look to the right, Boston is very different now than it was then. Man-made fill has narrowed the Charles River and eliminated Back Bay, and much that was once water is now dry land. Indeed, the place that is now the finish line of the Boston Marathon would have been under water 242 years ago.
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Along the path are these markers which denote where British soldiers died during the fighting.
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Between Battle Road and Route 2A is a circular stone structure. It marks where Paul Revere was captured by British soldiers (he was released after the battle ended). It also honors Revere and his fellow riders, who risked their lives to warn the militias of the impending British attack.
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Unlike the Jacob Whittemore House, the Samuel Hartwell House was not quite so lucky- it survived until 1968, when it burned down while being used as a restaurant. The Park Service built this protective structure around the remaining chimney.
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The Captain William Smith House. William Smith was the commander of the Lincoln militia. He led colonial forces into battle against the British that day.
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Hartwell Tavern, which sits beside Battle Road in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Built in 1732, this tavern is another “Witness House.” Three of the Hartwell family’s sons fought in the militia on that day.
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“Bloody Angle,” a turn in the road where retreating British forces came under withering crossfire from Minutemen camped in the woods on both sides of the road.
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These stone markers along Battle Road indicate how far the British had to march back to Boston. 
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After exploring much of the park, I hopped back into DH and headed to the north of Concord to the area known as North Bridge.
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The North Bridge Visitor Center, built atop the hill where Minutemen looked down on the British forces who had captured the North Bridge.
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In the North Bridge Visitor Center were many interesting displays, including this one of the flintlock muskets that soldiers on both sides of the battle would have carried. Its maximum range is about the length of a football field, and a well-trained soldier could fire approximately 3 shots per minute.
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Walk behind the house and you can look down on a scene that would have been familiar to the Minutemen, 242 years and 4 days ago.
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The Minute Man statue, erected in 1875 to honor the 100th anniversary of the battle. Inscribed on it are verses from poet Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1837 poem “Concord Hymn” which was written in remembrance of the battle. Among two of the lines: “Here once the embattled farmers stood, and fired the shot heard round the world.”
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North Bridge. The original bridge was torn down in 1793. Several reproductions were built in later years, including this current one which was erected in 1956.
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This memorial obelisk was built in 1836 to commemorate the battle.
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Walking back to my car, I spotted this oddity. It’s a Trabant, a car produced in East Germany from 1957-1990. It is not exactly a ringing endorsement of Soviet and Communist technology; while the frame is made of steel, the body panels are made of plastic. It has a two-stroke engine that does not have a separate oil system: owners must add oil to the gas tank every time they stop for fuel (the engine intentionally burns both oil and gas). And where is the fuel stored? The gas tank sits directly above the engine! There is no fuel pump, so the car uses gravity to get gasoline into the motor. The downside is a pretty high risk of engine fires in an accident. The upside to a car made of plastic with a two-stroke engine? It does get about 40 mpg.

Checking my map before heading home, I spotted one other cool site nearby: Walden Pond. Formed by retreating glaciers 10-12,000 years ago, Walden Pond is a beautiful state park. First used by Native Americans for fishing, Walden Pond is now most closely associated with transcendentalist author Henry Thoreau, whose book Walden (1854) details his two years living in the woods beside the pond, as well as the personal philosophies he developed during that time. The location of Thoreau’s cabin (built on land owned by his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson) was discovered in 1945, and has since been a historic landmark. I parked my car and headed about a half mile into the woods, to find this special place.

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If you go to Walden, stop by the Visitor Center first. There you will find helpful staff who can inform you about the pond, Thoreau, area wildlife, and anything else you might need to know.
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The trail is well-marked, and a fairly easy hike.
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After an unexpectedly warm day of hiking spent mostly in the sun, I got very, very tired. I was about to turn around and head back to my car when I spotted this sign.
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The site of Thoreau’s cabin, located about a fifty yards from the pond’s shore. I first read Walden in high school. It was the best reading my teachers ever assigned to me, and remains one of my favorite books of all time.
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The sign sits beside a cairn erected to honor the site.
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Walden Pond.
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A reproduction of Thoreau’s one-room cabin, located beside the parking lot.
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Imagine spending two years of your life residing in this tiny space… Of course, were he here, I am pretty sure that Thoreau would respond that he spent most of his time outside, in the beautiful land around the pond. I cannot imagine a more serene location to make a home.
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At the Minuteman Visitor Center, I purchased this National Park “Passport” book (which came with a handy National Park Service Map). Each National Park has stamps so you can record your visits to different parks. Money well spent!

I returned home exhausted from spending much of my day hiking, but also in awe of seeing such amazing historical sites less than an hour from my home. Both Minute Man National Historical Park and Walden Pond are open year-round, and are free. For anyone interested in American history, both of these sites are must-see destinations.

Thank you for coming along on another Voyage of DH!

‘Til next time.

6 thoughts on “The Shot Heard Round the World.

  1. Let’s get that national park passport book stamped and filled up! That’s a great idea. I like how on trips like this, one attraction leads to another and you happened to find out about Walden Pond while you were out and about. Looked like gorgeous weather to do some exploration. You’re lucky to live in an area that is so rich in history!

    Like

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