Today in Transportation History – 1775: A Simple Oak Bridge Plays a Crucial Role in the Fight for American Independence

The Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts, made history during the first day of battle in the American War of Independence. This structure, immortalized by Ralph Waldo Emerson as “the rude bridge that arched the flood,” marked the location where colonial minutemen and others serving alongside them fought British light infantry companies that had come marching into the area.

The bridge, spanning the Concord River, was constructed sometime between 1750 and 1760 to replace a structure that had been built about a century earlier. Each of these bridges, by facilitating the transport of everything from essential goods to timely information, were vital to the growth and well-being of Concord and nearby communities.

The simple oak bridge in existence at the time of the 1775 battle consisted of five sets of pilings, railings on both sides, and a loose plank surface that could be shifted to accommodate both wagons and pedestrians traveling across there; the British troops were trying to remove these planks to slow down the colonial advance as the historic fight erupted.

With new travel routes and road realignments in the region, the bridge increasingly became less important as a transportation link. It was removed in 1788. New versions of the bridge, however, were subsequently built in tribute to its historical significance. The current replica (pictured here) was built in 1956 and restored in 2005.

Photo Credit: Tomwsulcer (Creative Commons)

For more information on the Old North Bridge, please check out https://www.nps.gov/mima/north-bridge-questions.htm

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