The Shot Heard ‘Cross The Bridge
The events of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts on April 19, 1775 rank as my son’s favorite bit from American history. When I took him to visit the site in early fall, we enjoyed a scenic day, perfect weather, and few tourists. The size of the bridge across which the first shots were fired initiating the informal and somewhat unexpected start of the American Revolution surprised him. I expect he imagined a deeper waterway or a broader expanse, but colonial bridges were wide enough for a carriage and little else. I, quite frankly, was surprised by how big it was.
I expect over the past two and a half centuries the bridge as been restored more than once, and perhaps it isn’t an exact likeness to the late-eighteenth-century version. Perhaps the creek runs robustly in April, at least more so than in September, but I can also imagine that after the first few volleys across the bridge, the muskets produced enough haze for the opposing banks of the waterway to be hidden in the smoke produced with each shot. How they managed to navigate the crossing with all the implications of the environment offers nearly as much curiosity about the historic event as the impact of the day’s battle skirmish.
The Google Lady, as the online navigator is often referred in our house, delights in finding the most odd and wayward paths between two points. Take today for example. My end destination will be Shenandoah National Park (see Finally Making Time from April 2020) once I successfully navigate the weaving county roads (see Breathing Windmills from December 2011) through the Appalachian Mountains. She often looks for the shortest route, which today takes me through Paw Paw, West Virginia, along the Bloomery Pike. Along the way, at the backwoods’ route’s narrowest, it’s a one-lane bridge (see One-Lane Roads from February 2021) across a trickling waterway. For a moment I wondered to myself what I was even doing on this road and where would it dump me when I reached its end?
But this, this is what I expected to see instead of the Old North Bridge over the Concord River: a waterway and a crossing so narrow, it wouldn’t even seem suitable for cars passing from one Virginia to the other. I image this scene in April of 1775 ought to resemble the more mountainous backwoods of Virginia, hidden by trees. Both flat and fragile, only wide enough for three or four men to advance towards the opposing foe. But here the advancing force is merely oncoming cars, equally and wrongly diverted by Ms. Google. Even cruising at what I presume is a suitable speed on such a narrow passage, I expect my vantage is not much better than the smoke-filled scene between redcoats and rebels on a much larger crossing.