Friday, July 5, 2013

Paul Revere's Ride

In honor of Independence Day yesterday, we have an American-themed guest post by two very special bloggers. Enjoy!

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

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."

 When we think back to April 18, 1775, nearly everyone envisions a tall, thin man riding on a horse, whose legs are barely touching the ground in her feverish gallop. In his right hand is a whip and he waves this at the country side, yelling, "The British are coming! The British are coming!"
But what really happened that night? And what happened to Paul Revere after his ride? David Hackett-Fischer presents a stunning masterpiece as he searches for in-depth details on the American Revolution and the life of this famous patriotic figure.
According to Mr. Hackett-Fisher, professional historians have shown little interest in Paul Revere.  In the 1970s, several leading college textbooks made no reference to Paul Revere at all, and one barely mentioned the battles of Lexington and Concord.  He gives several possible reasons:  1)political correctness, 2)antipathy between professional history and popular memory, 3)prejudice in American universities against patriotic events of every kind, and  4)multiculturalism. So in light of this, what does it even matter? 
                "Pathbreaking scholarship in the 20th century has dealt mainly with social structures, intellectual systems, and material processes....An entire generation of academic historiography has tended to lose sense of the casual power of particular actions and contingent events." (emphasis ours)
 Hackett-Fischer's purpose in writing the book is to study that series of events as a sequence of choices by Paul Revere and General Gage, and also to look again at the cultures within which those choices were made.

And what results is a very enjoyable historical read!                

The Account

                This book spans the time  of September 1, 1774, to April 19, 1775. In these  crucial eight months,  Paul Revere and General Gage stand out as two important men at the center of the civil conflict. 
                Paul Revere rode for the Continental Congress long before the Midnight Ride. He was accustomed to riding long distances in short time periods.  On September 11, 1774, he left Boston and rode to Philadelphia arriving on September 16, a distance of almost 350 miles on 18th century roads.  He started for home on September 18 and arrived in Boston five days later.  He rode to take messages to and from the Continental Congress and attended  Whig meetings in the surrounding areas.  His rides were reported in the Gazettes and did not go unnoticed by Imperial leaders-they were catching on.  "He was less than an ambassador, but more than merely a messenger(Hackett-Fischer, p. 27)." 
                On the night of April 18, 1775, he rode out again to warn the countryside of the Regulars' plan to attack secretly. Their plan was to go to Lexington and Concord to capture ammunition stores. But they also had another reason. They had caught wind that John Hancock and Samuel Adams were hiding in the minister's house in Lexington. 
                Riding to Rev. Jonas Clarke's house, Revere warned Sam Adams and John Hancock of the approaching Regulars.    He left to continue spreading the alarm and was apprehended by a British patrol and detained for a few hours.  Upon being released,  Revere, knowing their personalities, decided he had better check to be certain that Hancock and Adams  had left. When he arrived at the Clarke house, he found the two still deep in a debate.  This time  Paul Revere made certain of their safe removal and  then returned to Lexington. 
                 After the fight at Lexington the British Regulars marched on towards Concord. And as tempers rose between the militia and the Regulars, the conflict threatened  to turn ugly.

 On the other side of the conflict stood General Thomas Gage.  He was a powerful man in North America, being Commander-in-Chief of forces in the New World and appointed Royal Governor of Massachusetts.  He also considered himself a defender of liberty and the rights of humankind.  He was not adverse to liking Americans (in fact, he had married one).  He was a career military man from his youth, a young officer  who rose to the highest  ranks and was  fiercely loyal  to the Empire.
At first he tried to bribe Samuel Adams and other Whig leaders, but when that didn't work, he resorted to force.  However, he was not desiring that there should be war.  He merely wanted to prevent the colonists from committing violent resistance.    He was well informed of the Continental Congress' activity (he had a spy in their midst) and he knew all about Paul Revere's rides.  According to Hackett-Fischer, General Gage didn't think that the Yankees would ever be well organized enough to have their cause amount to anything.  He seemed to think that the more vocal among them were rebels that needed to be suppressed.
Time and time again, General Gage failed to suppress the colonists, and time and time again he was promoted  and supported by King George III. He favored secrecy in many of his encounters.

General Gage's army marched on toward Lexington and Concord, unaware that his secret sabotage would turn into a bloody civil combat.

Mother B.'s thoughts: 
There is some mild profanity present (exact quotes and all that), so read with a discerning eye.  Being that this was a conflict, there are also some more graphic descriptions.  Again, beware.
A few of the chapters go into more detail about the maneuvers of the militia and the Regulars.  Even with the well written descriptions and the maps that are in the book, I would have benefitted greatly from a Power Point visualizing who entered where and retreated, and so forth.  Perhaps an ambitious reader could create something of that nature.
This was the type of book that caused me to want to look up a whole host of things during the reading and afterwards.  One aspect that was very interesting to me was the discussion about the horse that Paul Revere rode.  It was not his own horse to begin with--he was given it that night by the family of John Larkin, a deacon of the Congregational Church.  Not much is known about the horse specifically, but equestrian historians have studied the subject and drawn some conclusions about what they think it may have been. She was a large mare, according to Paul Revere.   She had to be a horse well bred to handle the New England terrain.  Her pedigree  is unknown, but there was a breed of draft horse known as the Suffolk Punch  which was bred with Spanish riding stock to create a "distinctively American riding horse".   She was neither a racehorse nor a pulling animal but must have been valuable because she was seized by a British sergeant of grenadiers to replace his own small mount.  She was never returned to the family.
Suffolk Punch

Junior B.'s thoughts:
  One of the people that caught my attention was a young man named  Jesse Adair in the British Army. A very humorous story is recorded about this young Irishman who acted in his usual way, "brave and brainless" as ever, which you can read here.  If anyone knows anything more about him, be sure to let me know because the internet is rather lacking. :(
  The paintings were very nice to see what everyone looked like. I was especially impressed with a self-portrait done by Captain William Glanville Evelyn, commander of No. 7 company, 4th foot. He must have enjoyed sketching. :) 
                It was also interesting to find out that Paul Revere did not ride down the streets yelling, "The British are coming!" The American Yankees still considered themselves part of the British people and they weren't thinking of separating. Instead he yelled, "The Regulars are coming!" 
                During the march to Lexington and Concord, Hackett-Fischer explained many of the different colors of the Regulars' coats. The officers had the bright red coats made with dye from the dried bodies of female cochineal insects, and this dye preserved its color and didn't fade as soon as the cheaper red coats did. The unsporting Yankees would shoot them first, because their bright red coats were clearly  visible on the battlefield. The Regulars' coats ranged from black to yellow to royal blue to purple to red. Some of the officers also wore leather "small clothes." It would be interesting to see all the different colored coats sometime.
Some very interesting people were Lord Percy, Dr. Samuel Prescott, General Heath, Margaret Kemble Gage and many others.


                David Hackett-Fischer delves deep into the mysteries of the Midnight Ride. Not only was Paul Revere riding, but also many others helped him warn the countryside, including two unknown riders, one of which is simply known in history as "The Bareheaded Rider."   This book is an excellent source for authentic research and riveting action. The brief confrontations at Lexington and Concord produced long-lasting ripple effects continuing into present day. These events are well worthy of our examination.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,—
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear

The hurrying hoof beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.


  1. This was a very enjoyable post!!
    Thank you so much Lady B for your creativity (and stepping aside for a post) and thank you Mother B and Junior B for your review!!
    I was always fascinated with Paul Revere's Ride and especially his horse. I love equestrian historians, that kind of research is so fascinating...and I had never heard that they speculate it to be a Suffolk Punch/Spanish riding horse, but that kind of breeding was very common in those days.
    Thank you, thank you!
    E.H. ;)

    1. thank you for your encouraging comments.:) We really enjoyed reading this book together. Junior B is now onto the Siege of Boston...

      The bit about Paul Revere's horse WAS interesting!:) I appreciate those who are wired with investigative minds and willing to dig for clues.

      My research on his horse has been cursory at best, but I like to imagine the possibiity that perhaps his horse was a combination of Suffolk Punch and maybe some Andalusian. She would indeed have been a beauty! She was the right horse for the moment, Providentially provided.

      There was so much in the book we couldn't include--we really do recommend it--many interesting anecdotes. One such one was after John Hancock was spirited away to safety, he realized that his fish had not come with him--so someone was sent back to get it so he could have it to eat. Life had to go on despite the political issues at hand. :)

  2. Junior BibliophileJuly 6, 2013 at 9:07 PM

    I'm reading "The Siege of Boston" by Allen French right now to find out more about Jesse Adair. It's one of the references that Hackett-Fischer gave for him and I hope French will mention Adair soon. ;) At the Battle of Bunker Hill, Adair was leading a regiment (I'm not sure which) and he wasn't even supposed to be! Somehow he just got in! ;)
    It's amazing how much of the poem by Longfellow was figurative. When we go back through the poem after reading this book, we could see some of the inaccuracies that were poetic language. I believe Longfellow was one of the grandchildren of the men who fought in the Lexington/Concord battles so it makes sense when he wrote "Hardly a man is now alive, Who remembers that famous day and year."
    Great post! :P Thank-you for letting us do it! <3

  3. A lovely job, ladies; thank-you so much for guest posting! :) You have intrigued me with this book--more myth-busting in the field of history, it sounds like--and I definitely want to read it. A very crucial part in our American history, and one that every American should be familiar with.

    You always have a welcome back, whenever you'd like to bring another book to the blog! :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...