Monday, July 13, 2009

Paul Revere

As mentioned, we were recently in Boston to see the historical sights. A number of incidents preceding the American Revolutionary War, including the Boston Massacre and Boston Tea Party, happened right there in Boston.

In the North End of Boston we saw Paul Revere's house, as well as the Old North Church. Remember the words from "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)--

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere . . .

He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light--

One if by land, and two if by sea
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore. . .

British soldiers planned to head west to seize arms and gunpowder stored at Concord. The British would have to pass through Lexington on their way to Concord, five miles further. It was uncertain whether the British would start from Boston by marching south over the narrow isthmus or by first taking a short boat ride to the west across the back bay of the Charles River.

The guy in the church was going to signal which way the British were going. The signal would be either one or two lanterns hung in the steeple of the Old North Church. Revere would be watching from Charlestown, which was north across the river from Boston.

Paul Revere was known by Longfellow's poem as having warned all the citizen soldiers in the surrounding area that "the British were coming." According to Arthur B. Tourtellot's book "Lexington and Concord, The Beginning of the War of the American Revolution" (1959) --

Paul Revere made arrangements for the sexton of the North Church to display the signal lanterns long enough to be seen across the Charles River but not long enough to be seen by the British as a signal. (We visited the Old North Church and I sat in the church pew which may have been used by Paul Revere).

Then he had two friends row him across the river to Charlestown, where he walked into town. He saw that two lanterns were hung as a signal and borrowed a horse and started riding the 11 miles towards Lexington, which could have been done in about an hour on a fast horse.

Revere was spotted by two British officers on horseback, so he had to turn around and head north and then back towards Lexington about midnight.

Samuel Adams (right) and John Hancock (below)and their party were staying in Lexington at the house of Reverend Jonas Clarke. Revere arrived to warn them that the British were coming through Lexington on their way to Concord, where the British intended to seize the local armory of weapons. Alarm was given to the Lexington minutemen.

After warning Adams and Hancock in Lexington, Revere set out for Concord about 5 miles further. Half way to Concord Revere and two companions were surrounded by British officers and were forced into a pasture. The two companions eluded capture, but Revere did not. With some other prisoners, Revere was taken back towards Lexington by the British. Close to Lexington the British confiscated his horse and set Revere free on foot.

Revere walked back to the Clarke house and met up with Adams and Hancock again. Sam Adams hated to ride horseback, so a carriage was brought to take him, Hancock, Revere and the rest of the party away from Lexington before British troops arrived.

British soldiers arrived at the Lexington Common after Revere and the others had left town. There was a battle there, which common is now called the Battle Green.

The British then went on towards Concord where they were repulsed by the assembled Minutemen at the North Bridge.

Not surprisingly, actual events weren't exactly like the Longfellow poem. Yet, pretty close. Paul Revere played a major role in the American Revolution. He lived after the war and was buried in Boston.

At least Paul Revere is remembered through the Longfellow poem, (as well as the rock-n-roll band "Paul Revere and the Raiders") while Sam Adams is remembered as a beer maker, and John Hancock as an insurance salesman.

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