Paul Revere's Ride
David Hackett Fischer
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Paul Revere's midnight ride looms as an almost mythical event in American history--yet it has been largely ignored by scholars and left to patriotic writers and debunkers. Now one of the foremost American historians offers the first serious look at the events of the night of April 18, 1775--what led up to it, what really happened, and what followed--uncovering a truth far more remarkable than the myths of tradition.
In Paul Revere's Ride, David Hackett Fischer fashions an exciting narrative that offers deep insight into the outbreak of revolution and the emergence of the American republic. Beginning in the years before the eruption of war, Fischer illuminates the figure of Paul Revere, a man far more complex than the simple artisan and messenger of tradition. Revere ranged widely through the complex world of Boston's revolutionary movement--from organizing local mechanics to mingling with the likes of John Hancock and Samuel Adams. When the fateful night arrived, more than sixty men and women joined him on his task of alarm--an operation Revere himself helped to organize and set in motion. Fischer recreates Revere's capture that night, showing how it had an important impact on the events that followed. He had an uncanny gift for being at the center of events, and the author follows him to Lexington Green--setting the stage for a fresh interpretation of the battle that began the war. Drawing on intensive new research, Fischer reveals a clash very different from both patriotic and iconoclastic myths. The local militia were elaborately organized and intelligently led, in a manner that had deep roots in New England. On the morning of April 19, they fought in fixed positions and close formation, twice breaking the British regulars. In the afternoon, the American officers switched tactics, forging a ring of fire around the retreating enemy which they maintained for several hours--an extraordinary feat of combat leadership. In the days that followed, Paul Revere led a new battle-- for public opinion--which proved even more decisive than the fighting itself.
When the alarm-riders of April 18 took to the streets, they did not cry, "the British are coming," for most of them still believed they were British. Within a day, many began to think differently. For George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Thomas Paine, the news of Lexington was their revolutionary Rubicon. Paul Revere's Ride returns Paul Revere to center stage in these critical events, capturing both the drama and the underlying developments in a triumphant return to narrative history at its finest.
of popular history by Arthur B. Tourtellot, first published in 1959 as William Diamond’s Drum and reissued as Lexington and Concord: The Beginning of the War of the American Revolution (1963). Tourtellot was a specialist in public relations for Time, Inc., and director of its television productions from 1950 to 1952. He drew heavily on the British materials found by American Anglophiles to celebrate the minutemen and the midnight riders as defenders of a free society. Another expression of this
if the sergeant’s mount was fatigued, then gestured toward Revere and ordered, “Take that man’s horse.” 26 Paul Revere was told to dismount. Brown Beauty was given to the sergeant, who mounted quickly. Then the Regulars turned their horses and rode off to the east at what Sanderson called “a good smart trot.” 27 The liberated prisoners headed directly for Lexington Green. Paul Revere instantly began to think of capturing the men who had captured him. Sanderson remembered that they waded “through
the East Cambridge, the news of their secret mission had traveled thirty miles from Boston to the New Hampshire line. These were 18th-century distances. Thirty miles was normally a long day’s journey in that era. 3 The astonishing speed of this communication did not occur by accident. It was the result of careful preparation, and something else as well. Paul Revere and the other messengers did not spread the alarm merely by knocking on individual farmhouse doors. They also awakened the
only the Clarke home where Adams and Hancock were staying. Tories were everywhere, and the location of the Revolutionary leaders could not long remain a secret. In the end, Hancock was “overcome by the entreaties of his friends, who convinced him that the enemy would indeed triumph, if they could get him and Mr. Adams in their power.” 7 Dorothy Quincy was staying with her fiance John Hancock in Lexington when Paul Revere arrived. She left a memorable account of the events that followed. Whig
consumed with thirst. Vicious fire-fights broke out by wells along the road. At the Fiske house, a British soldier ran to drink from the well at the same moment that James Hayward of the Acton company came limping up with the same idea in mind. The Regular raised his musket and cried, “You are a dead man.” Hayward took aim and said, “So are you.” Both fired at the same instant. The Regular was killed. Hay-ward was mortally wounded by splinters from his own powder horn. The two men fell side by