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.
increased the violence in Boston. The soldiers were sometimes the aggressors, but more often they were the victims of assaults by angry townsmen. Finally on the cold winter night of March 5, 1770, the soldiers fired back at their tormentors. Five people were killed. The ancestral cry of “Town born! Turn out!” echoed once again through narrow streets, and Boston came close to revolution. 52 Paul Revere did another engraving of a drawing by Henry Pelham titled “Fruits of Arbitrary Power, or The
Diary, I, 10 (March 6, 1775). 18. John Rowe, Diary, March 9, 1775, MHS; Sam Adams to Richard H. Lee, March 21, 1775, Writings, IV, 205-9; Gage to Dartmouth, March 28,1775, Gage Correspondence, I, 394; Depositions of Thomas Ditson, March 9, 1775, and Private John Clancey, March 14, 1775, Gage Papers, WCL; published on microfiche in Wroth et al. (eds.), Province in Rebellion, docs. 716-17, pp. 2013-18. 19. Brigham, Paul Revere’s Engravings, 79—92. 20. Paul Revere, “A Certain Cabinet Junto,”
example, many of us can recollect precisely what we were doing on the afternoon of November 22, 1963, when we learned that President John F. Kennedy had been shot. Many other events in American history have had that strange mnemonic power. This historian is just old enough to share the same sort of memory about an earlier afternoon, on December 7, 1941. More than fifty years afterward, I can still see the dappled sunlight of that warm December afternoon, and still feel the emotions, and hear the
ground, under their own elected officers, in defense of their homes and their way of life. The Regulars of the British army and the citizen soldiers of Massachusetts looked upon military affairs in very different ways. New England farmers did not think of war as a game, or a feudal ritual, or an instrument of state power, or a bloodsport for bored country gentlemen. They did not regard the pursuit of arms as a noble profession. In 1775, many men of Massachusetts had been to war. They knew its
Graham; a new brandy cock to Sam Adams who had worn out his old one; and a bosom pin to the beautiful Mrs. Perez Morton, whose portrait by Gilbert Stuart is one of the glories of American art. 23 At the same time, he also supplied the extravagant tastes of the new Imperial elite. In 1764, he charged Andrew Oliver, Junior, son of Boston’s much hated Imperial Stamp Officer, for “making a sugar dish out of an Ostrich egg.” 24 Paul Revere also made small items of gold, but most of all he was known