When last we met, before I got distracted by the Hermione, I was at the Minute Man National Historical Site in Concord, Massachusetts with friend Kathie. We checked out the North Bridge, the grave of two British soldiers, and two monuments to the Battle of Concord, then consulted our map. It looked like a visitor center was to be had not too far away.
We followed a winding path up a short hill and found the Buttrick House, a 1911 brick mansion overlooking the Concord River and the battle site. The Buttricks were the descendants of John Buttrick, the colonial major who is thought to have ordered the first shots of the Revolution fired at the British, at the Battle of Concord. The American version is that the British fired first, killing a few militiamen. “Fire, fellow soldiers, for God’s sake, fire!” Buttrick was supposed to have commanded, in response. And so fired the “shot heard round the world.”
The house is now the North Bridge Visitor Center (there’s another one in the town of Lincoln, a few miles to the east). They have a film on the Battle of Concord (which we didn’t watch, so I can’t tell you anything about it), a bookstore and exhibits.
“Not designed for accuracy,” said the sign describing this musket. It’s a musket that was carried by both the British regulars and the colonial militia, so it’s a wonder that anyone ever got shot. It was probably why they needed a whole row of soldiers firing them at once. Someone was bound to hit the target. This particular musket was carried by Captain David Brown, who commanded one of Concord’s two minute companies and was present at the North Bridge fight. It’s on loan from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia.
I was more interested in the house than the exhibits, so poked into every room I could. I wanted to go upstairs — of course I wanted to go up those stairs — but it was closed to the public. Upstairs is Park Service offices.
There are formal gardens, as befits a grand, early 20th century classical revival mansion. They were designed by a landscape architect named, appropriately, Harold Hill Blossom, and were famous in their day. On this day, there was a lone volunteer, weeding. There were only a few irises in bloom, so I asked her about the rest of the garden. She told me, in her country-lady-who-gardens English accent, that they’d all be out in about another week. There was to be a donor event the following day, she said, so she was trying to spruce up the grounds.
The Buttricks had owned the land since 1637 and the house that John Buttrick lived in, built in 1715, still exists (with many modifications) across the street from the mansion. The house is part of the Minute Man National Historical Park and I think it’s open to the public, but I wouldn’t swear to that. I didn’t notice it when we were there and we wouldn’t have had the time to look into a tour, even if I had. I couldn’t find anything about it online, except information about a marker — that I vaguely remember seeing — identifying the house, that sits near the visitors’ center.