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Searching For Paul Revere
CE ^ | July 3, 2010 | G. Tracy Mehan, III

Posted on 07/03/2010 5:41:22 AM PDT by NYer

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five;
Who remembers that famous day and year.

Other than recalling a fragment of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s wonderful, if historically inaccurate poem, many Americans, myself included, do not know much more about Paul Revere, the man, and his ride through Middlesex county to alert the countryside on the movement, in force, of British Regulars in the direction of Lexington.

The British aimed to snatch John Hancock and Sam Adams before moving on to Concord to seize a large cache of munitions on that consequential night in April 1775.

John Singleton Copley’s portrait of Paul Revere, circa 1771, presents a picture of a confident, accomplished artisan or “mechanic” as silversmiths and other craftsmen were called in that era. In this image, Revere is 35 years old, confident, casual and prosperous, with his tools about him, holding a silver teapot.

David Hackett Fischer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of the indispensable book, Paul Revere’s Ride (1994), describes Copley’s Revere: “His shirt is plain and simple, but it is handsomely cut from fine linen.” He is “of middling height, neither tall nor short. He is strong and stocky, with broad shoulders, a thick neck, muscular arms and powerful wrists…His eyes are deep chestnut brown, and their high-arched brows give the face a permanently quizzical expression.”

“The gaze is clear and very direct.” It is “the steady look of an independent man,” writes Fischer.

The coming of the Fourth of July, 2010, seemed like an appropriate occasion to rectify my ignorance of Revere, given his iconic status in the founding of our country.

I had once taken a brief stroll on a section of the Freedom Trail in Boston during a hurried business trip but was unable to take one of the fine guided tours offered by the National Park Service which runs the Boston National Historical Park.

The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile red-brick walking path through 16 historic sites, including the Old North Church and Paul Revere House. In 1951 public-spirited citizens in Boston were able to convince city leaders to formally establish the Trail. In 1964 the Freedom Trail Foundation was established to market and preserve it. By 1974 the National Park Service also came into the picture. As many as 3 to 4 million visitors come every year.

Paul Revere was the son of Apollos Rivoire, a Huguenot or French Calvinist who fled religious persecution to come to New England as an apprentice to an elderly silversmith. Paul, however, did not speak a word of French.

Paul Revere, as described by Fischer, was a successful artisan and businessman, connected to all the various revolutionary cells active in the Massachusetts of 1775. In fact, he belonged to more groups and knew more operatives and political leaders than almost anyone, certainly in Boston. Moreover, he developed a significant intelligence and communications network for which he was one of the central nodes.

Fischer observes that “Paul Revere’s primary mission was not to alarm the countryside. His specific purpose was to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were thought to be the objects of the expedition.” The military stores at Concord were of secondary concern. Still, by morning thousands of fully-armed militia had arrived on the field at both Lexington and Concord ready for closed formation fighting.

“Paul Revere and the other messengers did not spread the alarm merely by knocking on individual farmhouse doors,” says David Hackett Fischer. “They also awakened the institutions of New England. The midnight riders went systematically about the task of engaging town leaders and militia commanders of their region. They enlisted its churches and ministers, its physicians and lawyers, its family networks and voluntary associations.…They knew from long experience that successful efforts requires sustained planning and careful organization.”

A hurry of hoofs in a village street
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.

By the way, Fischer notes that Paul Revere did not say, “The British are coming.” New Englanders all considered themselves to be British. This is why they were so outraged at the loss of what they considered to be their traditional rights as such. Revere and his countryman would have called the advancing forces Regulars, Redcoats, the King’s men or “Ministerial Troops.” The split in national identity had not yet happened.

Notwithstanding the greatness of Longfellow’s poem, it seems to have made quite a hash of the historical record, poetic license seemingly run riot. According to Fischer New England historians have been laboring to correct these errors for years.

They demonstrated exhaustively that Paul Revere did not receive the lantern signals from the Old North Church, but helped to send them. They documented abundantly the fact that he did not row alone across the Charles River, but was transported by others. They proved conclusively that Paul Revere did not reach Concord, and that another messenger succeeded where he had failed [due to Revere's capture by the Regulars].

This short article can hardly recount all of Paul Revere’s exploits which are significant. These include not just his acts of individual heroism, but also his careful preparations, collaborative enterprises and, brace yourself, Yankee ingenuity.

Twice during the war that followed the Midnight Ride, Revere went on active service, including an ill-fated expedition against a British fort at Penobscott Bay, maybe the one failure in his life, says Fischer.

After the war Revere was part of the rapid industrialization of America. He learned to cast bell-metal and opened a foundry. He became one of the first American manufacturers to roll copper sheets at scale.

In politics, fearing disorders, he pushed for a federal constitution. Fischer claims he was “a Federalist of the old school, strongly opposed to the growth of Jeffersonian democracy.”

“My friend, you know I always was a warm Republican. I always deprecated Democracy as much as I did Aristocracy,” said Paul Revere, patriot.

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 forevermore!
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-beat of that steed,
And the midnight-message of Paul Revere.

Happy Independence Day!


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: history; independence; thomasjefferson
G. Tracy Mehan, III, served in EPA in the administrations of both Presidents Bush.

This article was previously published in The American Spectator and Spectator.org and is used by permission.

1 posted on 07/03/2010 5:41:24 AM PDT by NYer
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To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; markomalley; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; ...

Happy 4th!


2 posted on 07/03/2010 5:41:59 AM PDT by NYer ("God dwells in our midst, in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar." St. Maximilian Kolbe)
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To: NYer

3 posted on 07/03/2010 5:44:42 AM PDT by Diogenesis (Article IV - Section 4 - The United States shall protect each of them against Invasion)
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To: NYer

Thanks for this wonderful article! American history rocks ;)


4 posted on 07/03/2010 5:46:57 AM PDT by Hoosier Catholic Momma (Arkansas resident of Hoosier upbringing--Yankee with a southern twang)
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To: NYer

Longfellow’s poem is a great example of how an artist can change the knowledge of history that most people accept as truth.

Paul Revere was so much more than a silversmith and man on a horse.


5 posted on 07/03/2010 5:52:22 AM PDT by maica (Freedom consists not in doing what we like,but in having the right to do what we ought. John Paul II)
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To: NYer

>>Other than recalling a fragment of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s wonderful, if historically inaccurate poem, many Americans, myself included, do not know much more about Paul Revere

I wouldn’t worry about the “historical inaccurate poem” since most Americans under 35:

1) Have never heard it anyway.
2) Don’t know who Paul Revere is. If you tell them, you will get a hand wave and snort of disgust that you are trying to teach them about more “Dead white males”.
3) Think the American Revolution is the war where Abraham Lincoln rode though the south with a flaming sword, cutting the chains off the legs of African-American slaves and killing slaveowners.
4) Think that all history began with “Yes, We Can” and a humble Kenyan-American who rose from nothing to defeat the racists so he could clean the air and lower the oceans and give Americans the Hope and Change that Marx promised them in the Declaration of Indpendence.


6 posted on 07/03/2010 5:56:04 AM PDT by Bryanw92 (Obama is like a rocket scientist....who's trying to do brain surgery with a hammer.)
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To: Bryanw92

I read the poem last week with my students. Historical inaccuracies matter so little; it is a wonderful poem. They can find out WHO rowed the boat, etc., later if they so desire.


7 posted on 07/03/2010 6:02:21 AM PDT by bboop (We don't need no stinkin' VAT)
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To: bboop

Agreed, the poem is meant to inspire. I’ve found that as I get older my interest in true deep history grows. My tagline is both a result of my desire to learn more and to inspire others to learn more.


8 posted on 07/03/2010 6:22:43 AM PDT by cripplecreek (Remember the River Raisin! (look it up))
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To: NYer

Dawes never gets enough credit.


9 posted on 07/03/2010 6:26:49 AM PDT by balch3
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To: NYer

Thanks for posting.

I grew up in Middlesex county and currently work in Concord currently.

I have driven past these historic sights thousands of times, but sitting at the table reading this post with a cup of coffee really makes remember how impressive our history is.

Even more so today, considering the times we are in and the leadership in place who spit in the face of liberty and freedom.


10 posted on 07/03/2010 6:31:00 AM PDT by ArmedConservative (Visualize No Liberals!)
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To: NYer

Thanks for posting.

I grew up in Middlesex county and work in Concord currently.

I have driven past these historic sights thousands of times, but sitting at the table reading this post with a cup of coffee really makes remember how impressive our history is.

Even more so today, considering the times we are in and the leadership in place who spit in the face of liberty and freedom.


11 posted on 07/03/2010 6:31:19 AM PDT by ArmedConservative (Visualize No Liberals!)
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To: NYer

Joke -—

A boisterous Texan went to Boston for a business meeting.
The Texan and Bostonian began having a few drinks. Soon the Texan began bragging about all the Texas heroes and their accomplishments -— Sam Houston, David Crockett, the Texas Rangers, etc.

Finally, the inebriated Texan looked at his Boston friend and said, “well, do you have any heroes up here in Boston?”

The Bostonian said, sarcastically, haven’t you ever heard of Paul Revere??

The Texan said, “Oh, yea, isn’t he the guy who ran for help???”


12 posted on 07/03/2010 6:39:45 AM PDT by TRY ONE (Another Beer Summit.....another day in Debt)
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To: NYer
I've read Paul Reveres Ride and it is a fascinating book. Covers the events over a few months in Boston leading up and including the Lexington/Concord events. Highly recommended if anyone wants to learn more about Revere, Thomas Gage, Boston of the time, and the planning, spying, and mindset of both sides at the moment. Well researched with an almost minute by minute account of the British march to Concord and back.

concord bridge
13 posted on 07/03/2010 6:39:45 AM PDT by 2sheds
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To: 2sheds

I’ll bet Obama hasn’t visited MOST of the sights even in DC that mark the historical significance of this great country! He has NO interest in our roots - he’s only concerned about the “worldwide” status and forcing America to mesh with the others!


14 posted on 07/03/2010 6:47:22 AM PDT by princess leah (1)
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To: NYer

Oh, my, that brings back memories. I used to be able to say the entire poem from memory.


15 posted on 07/03/2010 7:11:10 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: NYer

Fischer’s book is one of the primary references at an Appleseed shoot. Appleseed - a history course disguised as a marksmanship clinic!


16 posted on 07/03/2010 7:19:57 AM PDT by ebshumidors ( Marksmanship and YOUR heritage http://www.appleseedinfo.org)
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To: Diogenesis

“And a group of Christian Ministers”

One of these days I’ll find that missing link in my family tree....my great grandmother (x6) was a Hannah Larkin, I’m fairly sure she is related (somehow?) to Deacon John Larkin who loaned the horse named “Brown Beauty” to Paul Revere, I believe the horse was of the Narraganset Pacer breed.

John Larkin was the son of Samuel Larkin (who owned Brown Beauty)& Mary Hicks (another surname in my family tree).

Both the Hicks & Larkins families connect to my John Updike (not the author, nor his direct ancestry) line who like Revere was a member of a Committees of Safety, Revere in Boston, Updike in Providence.

John Updike is considered to be “one of the usual suspects” in the “Burning of the Gaspee” (June 1772) and his son in law Issac Pitman a known member of the “Boston Tea Party” (Dec 1773).

If I haven’t lost you yet, Hannah Larkin married Joseph Snow who was the son of Deacon James Snow of Providence’s Beneficient Church where to this day you can visit the parade grounds right next to the church where the Providence Militia trained before & during the Revolution.

Certainly there was “no Separation of Church & the Revolution”.


17 posted on 07/03/2010 7:44:49 AM PDT by Sparky1776
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To: ebshumidors

Indeed; I was prompted to read it after taking a mini-clinic with Appleseed.

It is a wonderful read; well-written and well-documented.


18 posted on 07/03/2010 9:12:47 AM PDT by DrNo ("Facts are stubborn things..." John Adams)
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To: Bryanw92

If anyone is interested in receiving a biography of Paul Revere, just send me an e-mail and I’ll forward a pdf copy to you.


19 posted on 07/03/2010 9:49:51 AM PDT by Seniram US (Quote of the Day: Smile You're An American)
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To: 2sheds

I took our two younger kids on a field trip to the Battle Road, between Lexington and Concord, back in 2002. It was so interesting, and it was the first time I’d ever heard that Paul Revere had not, in fact, made it to Concord that morning, because he’d been stopped and held by the Regulars.


20 posted on 07/03/2010 11:21:13 PM PDT by SuziQ
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