Golden Nuggets from U. S. History

The Blue Quill Series
Concord Learning Systems


Paul Revere's Famous Ride

Paul Revere was a real American hero and he made a ride on the night of April 18, 1775. But long before the ride, Revere was well known around Boston as both a highly skilled silversmith-craftsman and a patriot. [See Note (1) below.]

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere is an American classic. The problem with the poem is that Revere didn't ride to Concord: He rode to Lexington and then on TOWARD Concord but most of the riding was done after midnight [April 19th] and under much different circumstances than those described by Longfellow. Here are some of Revere's words describing the events:

"I, PAUL REVERE, of Boston, in the colony of the Massachusetts Bay in New England; of lawful age, do testify and say; that I was sent for by Dr. Joseph Warren, of said Boston, on the evening of the 18th of April, about 10 o'clock; when he desired me, 'to go to Lexington, and inform Mr. Samuel Adams, and the Hon. John Hancock Esq. that there was a number of soldiers, composed of light troops, and grenadiers, marching to the bottom of the common, where there was a number of boats to receive them; it was supposed that they were going to Lexington, by the way of Cambridge River, to take them [arrest 'rebellion' leaders, Hancock, and Samuel Adams], or go to Concord, to destroy the colony stores.' "

The colonist were using a local tavern as an operational headquarters and it was from here that they dispatched patrols and received reports of the actions of the British. However, Revere was not standing by to make the ride as implied in the poem, but was roused from his bed by Dr. Warren. Revere lived in Boston, had to cross the Charles River by boat into Cambridge and get a horse before starting the ride about 11:00. He got to the house in Lexington, notified Samuel Adams and Hancock and then waited around for

"about half an hour [until] Mr. Dawes arrived" and they started for Concord together. They encountered "a young gentleman named Prescot, who belonged to Concord, and was going home. When we had got about half way from Lexington to Concord, the other two stopped at a house to awake the men, I kept along. When I had got about 200 yards ahead of them, I saw two [British] officers... I called to my company to come up, saying here was two of them, ... In an instant I saw four of them, who rode up to me with their pistols in their hands, said 'G-d d--n you, stop. If you go an inch further, you are a dead man.' "

Prescot rode up to see what was happening but Dawes escaped.

The British soldiers ordered the two patriots into an open pasture but as they turned their horses they split into two different directions. Prescot got away and continued the ride to Concord where he sounded the alarm but Revere ran right into six other members of the British patrol.

"One of them, who appeared to have the command there, and much of a gentleman, asked me where I came from; I told him. He asked what time I left. I told him, he seemed surprised, said 'Sir, may I crave your name?' I answered 'My name is Revere.' 'What' said he, 'Paul Revere?' I answered 'Yes.' The others abused much; but he told me not to be afraid, no one should hurt me. I told him they would miss their aim. He said they should not, they were only waiting for some deserters they expected down the road. I told him I knew better, I knew what they were after; that I had alarmed the country all the way up, that their boats were caught aground, and I should have 500 men there soon."

One of the British soldiers responded that they had 1500 armed men on the way but he rode up to the road and the commander of the patrol, Major Mitchel of the 5th Regiment, came into the pasture and "clapped his pistol to my head, and said he was going to ask me some questions, and if I did not tell the truth, he would blow my brains out..." Revere responded that he was well known for honesty and proceeded to provide the same answers as before. The major must have been a pretty smart guy because he decided to be cautious and after a few minutes ordered his men to bring out four other colonials he was holding in some nearby bushes.

"He then ordered me to mount my horse, they first searched me for pistols. When I was mounted, the Major took the reins out of my hand, and said 'By G-d Sir, you are not to ride with reins I assure you;' and gave them to an officer on my right, to lead me."

They led Revere and the others back into Lexington where they freed the other four but would not release Revere. Instead, they headed toward the tavern or "Meeting House." As they approached the tavern shots where fired and the major asked Revere what it was about. Revere said "to alarm the country." The major then took Revere's horse, set him free and rode off with his patrol. Revere walked back to the house where he had previously met with Hancock and Adams and told them what had happened. He then went to the tavern and recounted the experience.

Near daybreak Revere left the tavern with a trunk of papers belonging to Hancock and soon heard gunfire. Looking back he saw British troops approaching the tavern and firing from both sides. He went on his way.

By early dawn Revere's wife, Rachael, had become concerned over his all night absence. Fearing the worst she contacted Benjamin Church who was a member of both the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts and a member of the Sons of Liberty rebel organization which included patriot leaders John and Samuel Adams, John Hancock, as well as Paul Revere. However, Church was really a paid spy for the British general, Sir Thomas Gage. Rachael gave Church 125 pounds and asked him to see if he could locate Paul and deliver the money. She probably thought that Paul could use the money to bribe his way out if he had been arrested. A short time later Revere arrived home.

History does not reveal whether the Reveres got their money back from Church.

Philosophos Historia

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere -- Longfellow's poem.

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NOTE (1): At Samuel Adams' request, Revere prepared a silver plaque engraving of the Boston Massacre scene. The image appeared in the March 12, 1770 issue of the "Boston Gazette," along with Revere's "An account of a late Military Massacre at Boston..."
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