"By the rude bridge
that arched the flood
A century before, a group of express riders, including Paul Revere, rode across the Middlesex County countryside. They did not shout “The British are coming! The British are coming!” as myth would have us believe. Rather, the riders warned that the King’s troops were on the march, arousing the embattled farmers praised by Emerson. At that time the riders and farmer alike were still loyal subjects to England’s King George the III. Independence was the furthest thing from their minds. Instead, these minute men and members of local Massachusetts militia assembled to defend their rights, as they perceived them under English law.
British General Thomas Gage had ordered 700 soldiers to march in what he thought was a clandestine operation. His objective was to destroy the cache of colonial weapons located in the town of Concord. Within twenty-four hours, more than 70 of the King’s finest troops lay dead and many more wounded. Forty-nine provincials died, as well. One of history’s greatest unintended consequences proved to be the nascent seed that launched a revolution, forever changing the world.
Visitors can stroll across Concord’s Old North Bridge. They can pass the graves of two English soldiers killed in the exchange of gunfire across the Concord River, examine French’s sculpture, and walk along the shade lined “battle road.” Today, in this tranquil setting, how can one help but ponder how a nation could rise from the ashes of an event that was never supposed to happen?
1 Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Early Poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson. New York, Boston, Thomas Y. Crowell & Company: 1899.
About This Lesson
Determining the Facts: Readings
Visual Evidence: Images
Putting It All Together: Activities
This lesson is based on the Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord, Massachusetts. It is among the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.