Paul Revere's Ride
David Hackett Fischer
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.
this town. Lord Percy himself was nearly killed there. A button on his waistcoat was shot away, but he escaped without a scratch. He wrote later of the “spirit of enthusiasm” which the inhabitants showed against his troops. “Many of them concealed themselves in houses,” he wrote, “and advanced within ten yards to fire at me and other officers, though they were morally certain of being put to death themselves in an instant.” Inside the village Percy lost control of his men, who left their units
was made by a deposition from a mortally wounded British officer, who generally supported the American version of events and praised the humanity of his captors. A supporter of Lord North complained that “the Bostonians are now the favourites of all the people of good hearts and weak heads in the kingdom.… their saint-like account of the skirmish at Concord, has been read with avidity… [and] believed.” 50 Even Lord George Germain, no friend of the colonists, wrote on May 30, “The news from
Writing School, famous for its stern Calvinist pedagogues who specialized in purging the old Adam from obstreperous youth. Their methods were harsh, but highly effective. Paul Revere gained a discipline of thought without losing his curiosity about the world. His teachers made him a lifelong learner; all his life it was said that he “loved his books.” 11 In a larger sense, the town of Boston became his school, and the waterfront served as his playground. An engraving he later made of Boston’s
off-center. Paul Revere was never at his best in matters of routine, and tended to become more than a little careless in tedious and boring operations. But he had a brilliant eye for form, a genius for invention, and a restless energy that expressed itself in the animation of his work. Two centuries later, his pieces are cherished equally for the touchmark of their maker and the vitality of his art. 25 At the same time that Paul Revere worked at his special vocation, he also served his general
their left in a very military manner. —British Lt. Wm. Sutherland, at the North Bridge Whoever dares to look upon them as an irregular mob, will find himself much mistaken. They have men amongst them who know very well what they are about. —Brigadier Lord Hugh Percy after returning from Lexington AMERICANS HAVE A VIVID IMAGE of the fighting that began on the morning of April 19, 1775. In our mind’s eye, we see a scattering of individual minutemen crouched behind low granite walls,