On the morning of April 18, 1775, a young stable boy in Boston overheard two British officers discussing something about “hell to pay tomorrow.” The stable boy scurried off to the shop of Paul Revere, a silversmith by trade, and repeated his tale. Further information was quietly gathered throughout the day corroborating the stable boys story.
The British regulars were after a cache of hidden weapons in Concord, Massachusetts. To sweeten the deal, they also planned to arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams.
Long before John Hancock became synonymous with life insurance and interchangeable with the word signature… And long before Samuel Adams became a brand name for, well, beer, the two men were Revolutionary leaders. They, along with Paul Revere and others organized the Boston tea party. Arresting these two hooligans would put a huge bee in the bonnet of the British commander.
By 9 pm that night it was decided. Revere and Williams Dawes would head in different directions to raise the militia. They planned to meet in Lexington to warn Adams and Hancock, who were spending the night with Hancock’s relatives.
Contrary to popular belief, Paul Revere did NOT ride through the country side shouting the British are coming, the British are coming.
First off, Revere considered himself to be British. Secondly, there were British soldiers everywhere. The last thing he wanted was to get CAUGHT before he could complete his mission!
What Paul Revere did do was quietly knock on doors, give his warning and ride on. Revere also succeeded in rousing at least 40 other riders to assist his efforts and by the time he reached Lexington at midnight, militia as far as 40 miles away were making their way to Concord.
William Dawes arrived shortly after midnight having only roused a few dozen militias.
Why did Paul Revere succeed when William Dawes did not?
Revere had charisma. He was a merchant. He knew people. People trusted him.
Paul Revere was the type of man who knew how to get the job done. During the revolutionary war, when the colonists were low on gun powder, Revere and Samuel Adams built a powder factory. In 1800, Revere became the first American to figure out how to turn copper into sheets to reinforce ship hulls.
Have you seen the movie Pulp Fiction? There is scene where the Samuel L. Jackson character is explaining to the John Travolta character that even though they are both dirty animals, it is okay to eat pigs but not okay to eat dogs. He says, “Dogs have personality, personality goes a long way.”
Paul Revere had personality. The night of April 18, 1775, he quietly began alerting folks that the British regulars were planning to march on Concord and folks listened.
After discussion with Hancock and Adams, it was decided that Revere and Dawes would press on to Concord accompanied by Dr. Samuel Prescott. Prescott just happened to be in Lexington as he was “returning from a lady friend’s house at the awkward hour of 1 am.”
The three were detained along the way by a British Army patrol. Prescott and Dawes escaped. Dawes fell from his horse during the escape but Prescott was able to make it to Concord with his warning.
Revere was held, at gunpoint, for questioning by the British.
He confidently warned the British soldiers that if they approached Lexington, they would be met by a large force of hostile militia. When gunfire was heard in the distance, the British officer demanded to know the reason. Revere helpfully explained it was a signal to “alarm the countryside.” When bells were heard ringing in Lexington, the British soldiers were told: “The bell’s aringing! The town’s alarmed, and you’re all dead men.”
The British soldier’s holding Revere decided to call off their march on Lexington, free their prisoner and head back to warn their commanders.
Lexington escaped conflict that morning, but Concord did not. Thus was the beginning of the American Revolution.
We owe a great debt to the charismatic, well-connected, industrious man that was Paul Revere. He had personality.
Please use the comments below to answer the following questions:
- What if Paul Revere had not been chosen to make his ride the night of April 18th?
- What if William Dawes had been the only rider warning the countryside?