Paul Revere’s Famous Ride, April 18, 1775

On this day in 1775, Paul Revere makes his famous ride. I am so sorry to tell you that he did not really yell “the British are coming!” as he rode. 😉 But he did accomplish his important goal: He warned Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the British were coming, apparently with the intent to arrest them.

During the spring of 1775, the state of Massachusetts was in turmoil. The British had appointed a military governor and British soldiers had been dispatched to the state. Their task? Enforce the Coercive Acts and suppress rebellion among the colonists.

The Patriots formed a committee to keep an eye on the British soldiers and to gain intelligence about their movements. Revere himself later said that the committee was very careful to keep its existence a secret. “[E]very time we met,” he wrote, “every person swore upon the Bible, that they would not discover any of our transactions, But to Messrs. Hancock, Adams, Doctors Warren, Church, & one or two more.”

One Saturday night in April 1775, committee members noted unusual movements among the British boats and soldiers. They figured something was afoot. By April 18, the movements of the soldiers were becoming even more suspicious. Dr. Joseph Warren sent for Paul Revere at about 10:00 p.m. He asked Revere to take off immediately for Lexington. Revere was to warn Hancock and Adams about the soldiers; it was believed that they were about to be arrested.

Warren had already dispatched another man, William Dawes, with the exact same message. The two men took different routes. The logic was that, if the same message traveled by two different routes, then surely at least one of the messengers would arrive safely. (See April 6 history post.)

Revere had previously helped to arrange for a signaling system, just in case a warning could not be delivered in person. If the British were coming “by Water, we would shew two Lanthorns in the North Church Steeple; & if by Land, one, as a Signal.” He ensured that this signal would be sent, then he set off on his journey. Two friends rowed him across the Charles River. On the other side of the river, he was able to get a horse and set off at about 11:00 p.m. … Read more at TaraRoss.com

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Written April 19, 1860; first published in 1863 as part of “Tales of a Wayside Inn”

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,–
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.”

Then he said “Good-night!” and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,–
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,–
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse’s side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

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.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,—
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

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 for evermore!
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-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

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15 Responses to Paul Revere’s Famous Ride, April 18, 1775

  1. joshua says:

    He did not say “the British are coming” primarily because everyone in the colonies were British. “Redcoats” was a more common name for the King’s Soldiers…many of whom were not British, but were mercenaries…

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Menagerie says:

    As a child I was steeped in our American history, over and over. Year after year we were taught about our heritage, and those heroes who fought with words and ideas and printing presses just as much as they would later fight with arms.

    These early teachings rooted patriotism and pride of country in my heart, and I wanted to educate myself further. I wanted to be a good citizen. I’m going to remember to help teach my grandchildren these stories. I don’t want them lost to our family.

    Liked by 5 people

    • joshua says:

      on today’s College Campus, if you dared to read the poem aloud, when you got to the “Middlesex” part there would be a great uproar and outcry from the snowflakes demanding a safeplace to retire to away from the microagressive adult insulting bullywords suggesting that sex is in the middle of anything American…such is the fine state of US HISTORY education in our fine US Public School Systems.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. czarowniczy says:

    Annnnnnd let’s not forget about Sybil Ludington.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Tundra PA says:

      Who?

      Liked by 1 person

      • czarowniczy says:

        See, you forgot. See her on Wikipedia.
        BTW, Thought about you, I was on the I-10 outside of Gulfport today and passed a huge motorcoach dragging a large SUV, all with Alaska plates. Hope they enjoyed the green, humidity and 85-degree temps.

        Liked by 2 people

        • The Tundra PA says:

          Lots of Alaskans need a spring break from the snow. I’ve got probably 3 more weeks before the front yard is down to bare grass. I do occasionally miss Gulfport. Mostly the incredible seafood.

          Liked by 2 people

          • czarowniczy says:

            Yeah, know how they feel. I was thinking about taking a break from the sun, sand, Gulf and seafood by going up to Fairbanks and standing in snow and freezing weather. Darn, missed my chance..well, there’s always next year.

            Liked by 1 person

            • The Tundra PA says:

              C’mon up in July when you need a break from the towering inferno and 100% humidity and go salmon fishing with us! It’ll be 70 degrees and sunny with a light breeze and 20% humidity. Everything’s a trade off!

              Liked by 2 people

    • joshua says:

      ah, but she was a 16 year old girl…and with no suffrage for women, or children…she merely did a 40 mile ride to raise a militia to take out the British raiders….likely AFTER she had collected the eggs, smoked a ham and fried up bacon and made some biscuits in the fireplace when she had chopped enough firewood and started up the fire, and boiled water for her father’s tea…then she hopped the horse and rode off in the dark killing a couple of Brits along the pathway to glory and victory…..later, her DNA would be found in most Female Corporate Leaders in the America that came about after the nation was developed and technology found room for women executives that had abandoned the idea of cooking breakfast or riding off without it being a sport of the rich and elites….most likely attended Wellsley College and learned to hate America along with the other children of white privilege.

      but, she WAS there, and got a statue for her efforts. Hail to the lady.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. The Tundra PA says:

    Thanks for this post, Stella! I have always loved American history and this poem in particular. When I was in 9th grade I memorized the entire thing and recited it in front of my English class. I can still do so, almost word-for-word. Your version has six lines I don’t remember ever having seen before, from “He has left the village and mounted the steep” to the end of the stanza. Those were definitely not in the version I memorized. I must have had an abridged edition. Every year on this date I pull out my The Collected Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and read the poem aloud to my husband and dogs. They are an appreciative audience!

    And in other news, the snow in my front yard is now less than a foot deep, and we have had 3 days in a row above 50 degrees (for a couple for hours). Still down to 20 overnight though. But still. The sun is rising at 6 am and not setting until 10 pm. Yahoo! Spring is here! Another month and there will be May flowers!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. jeans2nd says:

    Did not realize Paul Revere’s Ride was today, thank you Stella. Keeping these remembrances alive in the ether is a good way to maintain our American heritage.

    Today is also the 75th anniversary of Doolittle’s Raiders, celebrated here yesterday w/a B25 squadron fly-over, today w/the sole remaining survivor in Dayton. Doolittle’s Raiders had a bit diff msg – the Americans are coming, and are not coming to play.

    Would wager Jimmy Doolittle and Paul Revere are having a rousing good time today, perhaps arguing over horsepower.

    Liked by 3 people

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