The author is a homemaker and retired medical transcriptionist. She holds a Masters degree in English and loves to write.
To this day, the legend of Paul Revere's midnight ride from Boston to Lexington lives on. One moonlit night in April 1775, Paul Revere galloped across Massachusetts, knocking on doors, to warn the colonists of the approaching British militia.
Paul's warning rapidly spread across the region. Some of the people he awoke mounted their horses as well. They rode to neighboring towns and aroused even more people. And those individuals rode to even further towns and aroused people. By the time the Regulars arrived in Lexington, about seventy minutemen had gathered in the center of town. The Revolutionary War was about to begin.
Paul Revere was born in 1734 in Boston, the busy capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Massachusetts Bay, like other American colonies, was governed by the British king and Parliament.
At age 15 Paul became a bell-ringer in the city’s Christ Church. The church bells in the tall steeple were used to announce the passing of new laws by the British Parliament.
The news out of Britain was not always heartening. Most colonists still identified themselves as British, but some despised Britain's treatment of the colonies, and believed the colonies should be self-governing. Despite the fact that Paul’s father remained loyal to the king, Paul had an open mind and was always interested in what others had to say.
When Paul was 19, his father died, and Paul took over his father’s silversmith shop, having learned the trade from his father. Paul was short in stature, but strong and sturdy, with a pleasant and confident personality. He married Sarah Orne in 1757, and the couple had eight children. Despite the fact that they lived in a small house, Paul loved being surrounded by his children.
Paul was unable to sustain his big family while working as a silversmith, so he devised new methods to supplement his income. He worked as a dentist, cleaning people's teeth and crafting artificial teeth out of hippopotamus tusks. He learnt how to print business cards and hymnbooks, as well as how to manufacture picture frames, clock faces, and eyeglasses.
During this period, Paul continued to refine his silversmithing skills, and became an expert in replicating London motifs, which his customers always demanded. Reputed to be one of the finest silversmiths in Boston, he was known for designing intricate teapots and sugar bowls with elegant handles.
The Stamp Act
Paul enjoyed meeting up with other Boston men at taverns at night to discuss the day's news. The society he kept included other artisans like Paul, as well as wealthy individuals with academic degrees. They frequently debated the Stamp Act, a British tax requiring any piece of paper or contract utilized in the process of selling goods or rendering services to be stamped.
The stamp was expensive, and the money from it was sent directly to Britain. The colonists couldn't vote for the British legislators who taxed them, and so the slogan "No taxation without representation" arose. The colonists wanted greater rights.
The Boston Massacre
Paul and his companions founded the Sons of Liberty to protest unjust taxation. Its leaders were Joseph Warren, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock. They feverishly penned and published essays and political cartoons criticizing taxation.
By the end of 1766, Britain had had enough of the tax protesters, and the king deployed troops into Boston. He thought the sight of so many British soldiers would deter the Bostonians.
But the masses weren't easily scared. Instead, they taunted the troops and hurled snowballs at them.
On March 5, 1770, the people’s mockery had gone too far, and the British soldiers opened fire on a mob, killing five people. Paul created his most renowned piece of art, an etching entitled the “Boston Massacre.”
The Boston Tea Party
Sarah, Paul's wife, died in 1773. Paul, 38, was left to raise his eight children alone. But, soon thereafter he fell in love with Rachel Walker, a neighbor. They married and had eight children of their own.
Around that time, Britain began to reassert its dominance over the colony. Parliament had actually abolished the majority of tariffs levied against Massachusetts, with the single exception of the tea tax, which required colonists to purchase all of their tea from a single British company.
One day three British tea ships arrived in Boston Harbor. The angry colonists were adamant about not allowing the tea to be unloaded. Paul Revere and 25 other men kept vigil over the ships, to make sure the tea stayed on the ships.
On December 16, 1773, Paul and the other Sons of Liberty agreed that the tea would be banished for good. The men divided into three groups and walked to the wharf. Paul led his crew onto one of the ships. The men scrambled to get all 342 chests of the dreaded tea onto the decks. Then they axed the chests open and poured the tea into the bay.
Paul was chosen by the Sons of Liberty to deliver the message of their actions to New York and Philadelphia.
In May 1774, Parliament blocked Boston's harbor because the town would not agree to pay for the lost tea. Then they flooded the town with 5,000 soldiers.
The Continental Congress
That fall all of the colonies’ great leaders gathered in Philadelphia to form The Continental Congress. One of their first assignments was to decide what to do about the consequences of Boston's unwillingness to pay for the lost tea. The Congress voted to support the Boston patriots. The British Parliament was infuriated.
The Parliament-Boston feud persisted for another year. Throughout that time period, Paul Revere continued to carry secret papers and news back and forth between Boston and Philadelphia.
One If By Land, Two If By Sea
Many in Boston worried a clash between the colony's patriots and the British Regulars would erupt. Paul suspected the British were preparing for war, and so he recruited locals to spy on the soldiers.
The spies quickly learned that the British were planning a surprise attack on the Massachusetts town of Concord. The residents there had amassed a stockpile of firearms and ammunition which the British intended to confiscate.
Two routes out of Boston were available to the Regulars. They could march out of town along the main road, or else cross the Charles River in boats. Paul devised a scheme to alert his compatriots in Charlestown (across the Charles River) of British military movement.
The idea was to hang lanterns from the tall steeple of Christ Church, visible from Charlestown. One light signaled British land movement. Two lights signaled British water movement on the Charles River. The Charlestown men would await the signal and then spread the word to those in the countryside.
On the evening of April 18, 1775, Boston received word that the Regulars were at the Charles River being loaded into boats. After they crossed, their plan was to march through the town of Lexington on their way to Concord.
Paul dashed to Christ Church and advised his friend to hang two lanterns. He then fled to the Charles River and met two men who ferried him across. His comrades in Charlestown had seen the signal and were waiting for him on the other side with a horse.
Paul Revere's Ride--The Road to Lexington
Paul sped into the night, heading for Lexington, where Samuel Adams and John Hancock were staying. If the British were to find the two leaders there, they might assassinate them.
On his way Paul stopped briefly at each farmhouse to alert the inhabitants that the British were approaching. Men from all across the countryside amassed their weapons and prepared to confront the Regulars. One of these individuals was the captain of the Minutemen, a group of American troops who were ready to fight at a minute’s notice if necessary.
Paul reached Lexington around midnight. He proceeded to the house of Samuel Adams and John Hancock and aroused them from bed. William Dawes, another rider, arrived at the same place, shortly after Paul did. Dawes carried the same message as Paul.
The Road to Concord
Paul and William Dawes straightaway mounted their horses and headed toward Concord. They were joined by Samuel Prescott, a Concord member of the Sons of Liberty. As they hurried along, they continued to stop at farmhouses to awaken more people.
The three patriots had ridden about halfway to Concord when they were apprehended by a group of British officers. The captives were ordered into a meadow, at which point Samuel Prescott jumped his horse over a stone wall and fled. William Dawes escaped as well. Only Paul remained.
The officers soon learned that the man they held was the famous messenger, Paul Revere. They marched him back towards Lexington. Gunshots were heard near town. Paul informed the officers that the shots were to alert the countryside that the Regulars were coming.
If a battle was to occur, the officers wanted to avoid dealing with Paul Revere, so they took his horse and released him.
Paul walked back to Lexington. When he arrived, Samuel Adams and John Hancock were just about to depart.
Hancock suddenly recalled a trunk he'd left behind at a tavern. The Sons of Liberty's secret documents were stashed inside it. The trunk needed to be retrieved.
Paul and another man made their way to the tavern to get the trunk. In the dim, early morning light they saw fifty or sixty Minutemen gathering in the town center.
Paul found Mr. Hancock's trunk in an upper room of the tavern and the two men carried it away.
While Paul was picking up his half of the trunk, he glanced out the window and saw a sea of red coats approaching the intersection. The Regulars had arrived.
Paul and the other gentleman were pressed for time. As they made their way down the street with the trunk, they passed through the lines of the minutemen. Paul was startled when he heard two gunshots from behind. He looked around, but could not tell who had fired the first shot. All of a sudden a deafening boom of gunshots shattered the surrounding air.
America’s revolution had begun.
Charles Ferris Gettemy. 1905. The True Story of Paul Revere. Little, Brown, and Company: Boston.