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.
a large crowds. John Dann writes, “The pension application process was one of the largest oral history projects ever undertaken.” Altogether, under all the pension acts, as many as 80,000 narratives were processed. They are available on microfilm from the National Archives, in a collection of 898 reels. The author used the set at the New England Regional Center of the National Archives, in Waltham, Mass. The records are indexed by name (not, unhappily, by subject, date, or place of service), in
an important parallel to ideas of “publick liberty” which pervaded Revere’s revolutionary consciousness; that is, liberty as a collective possession, rather than a purely personal freedom. 22. Isaiah Thomas, The History of Printing in America (1810; rpt. New York, 1970), 272n. 23. (Newburyport) Essex Journal, Feb. 22, 1775. 24. Samuel Adams to Arthur Lee, Jan. 29, 1775, Writings of Samuel Adams, III, 169. 25. Gage to Arthur Lee, March 4, 1775, ibid., Ill, 195. 26. (Worcester) Massachusetts
minutemen was raised in Roxbury. 9. Lexington Town Records, Nov. 10-Dec. 27, 1774, Lexington Town Hall. 10. “Training Band” is the word that appears in the Lexington Town Records, Nov. 28, 1774. Captain Parker himself, and other members of the Lexington company always described themselves as militia, not minutemen. They were part of Gardner’s Regiment of Militia, not of the various regiments of minutemen. In 1774 the town agreed to support both its “training band” and its “alarm list,” but no
took to be pistols, from some of the regulars who were mounted on horses.” Many honorable British soldiers insisted that none of the light infantry companies fired first. 32. Barker, British at Boston, 32; Pitcairn to Gage, April 25,1775. American eyewitnesses agreed on some of these facts, but not upon the sequence. Lexington militiaman Nathan Munroe willingly testified that he himself “got over the wall into Buckman’s land, about six rods from the British, and then turned and fired at them,”
galloped to the house of militia captain Joseph Robbins. One of the children in that household remembered waking with a start, when the messenger “struck with a large heavy club … the corner of the house, never dismounting,” While the wooden building reverberated from that blow, Doctor Prescott cried in haste, “Captain Robbins! Captain Robbins! Up! Up! The Regulars have come to Concord.” Within minutes Captain Robbins mounted his “old mare” and carried the news to west Acton. He rode first to the