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.
11; Mackenzie, Diary, I, 8; Regimental Rosters, Muster Books and Pay Lists, W012/2194-7377, PRO. APPENDIX F The British Army in Boston: Returns of Strength, 1775 These returns do not include commissioned officers, sergeants and musicians. The normal complement for an infantry regiment was 1 lieutenant colonel, 1 major, 8 captains, 20 lieutenants, 1 adjutant, 1 quartermaster, 1 surgeon, 1 surgeon’s mate, 1 chaplain (4th and 10th regiment only), 20 sergeants, and 12 fifes and drums. Only
1765-1783 (Medford, 1903); Richard B. Coolidge, “Medford and Her Minute Men,” Medford Historical Society Register 28 (1927): 40-51; Jason L. Tiner, “The Role of Medford, Massachusetts, in the Revolutionary War,” paper, Brandeis University, May 7, 1992, includes a quantitative study of Medford men serving in the War of Independence. Melrose: Elbridge H. Goss, The History of Melrose (Melrose, 1902). Natick: Oliver Bacon, History of Natick from Its First Settlement in 1651 (Boston, 1856).
30, 35-38; Ezra Stiles, Literary Diary, I, 604; Samuel Adams Drake, Old Landmarks and Historic Personages of Boston (1872; rev. ed., 1906, rpt. Rutland, Vt., 1971), 217. 4. General Sir Martin Hunter, Journal (Edinburgh, 1894), 15; Frothingham, Siege of Boston, 310; French, First Year of the American Revolution, 670; A List of the Officers of His Majesty’s Marine Forces… (London, 1777), PRO; ADM 192/2; Army List (London, 1775), 180; (1781), 292; (1782), 292; (1783), appendix, 15; (1784),
distinctive type often appeared in eastern Massachusetts. It was short rapier with an antique steel blade that had been imported from continental Europe, and reset with a plain but functional grip by a Yankee blacksmith. This weapon was austere and very old-fashioned in its appearance, much like the short swords of Cromwell’s New Model Army. In America the Middlesex sword was another cultural artifact, like the powder horns and firelocks and dress, that revealed the origins of the New England
caught his men and kept them prisoner at Castle William in Boston harbor. 4 Now as they were marching deep into a dangerous country on a supposedly secret expedition, Paul Revere was ahead of them again—captured on a fast horse near Concord twenty miles west of Boston, while they were still slogging through Cambridge. They knew that this meddlesome Yankee meant trouble, and were horrified to learn from Major Mitchell that he knew more about their mission than they did. His presence was a sign