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My life is that of a thousand memories. I am eighty-three years old, therefore I do not remember much. The Midnight Ride is one of the memories so close to my heart-the closest, in fact. The most important. No matter how much memories can hurt, there is good in them. There are parts I remember vividly. The parts that I am sharing with the world-those are the parts I remember. The memories.
I remember it vividly-oh, so vividly! The brick walls I passed, the soft texture of the soil under the hooves of my horse, the anxiety that kept me riding, riding. I was a silversmith, an engraver, a patriot-I was all of these and then I was The Midnight Ride. I was not the only one on this ride, the only one who made a difference, but at that moment, I had everything in the palm of my hand. However, reliving that moment right now, I remember being the ride. Owning the ride.
I had become a messenger rider for the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, an organization set up to resist the British. During the evening on April 18th, 1775, I was told by the chairman of the committee that the British were going to march to Concord. I had become suspicious of them in mid-April when I witnessed a British landing craft-an obvious betokening that something was afoot. Two days before the Ride, I made a trip to Concord, the storehouse for militia guns and gunpowder, as well as the temporary home of the Provincial Congress. I warned the residents of Concord of my suspicions that the British would most likely seize the town's weaponry.
On my way home, I met with some of the Patriot leaders in Charlestown to evoke a plan regarding providing notice to all the people of Concord of the British's plans. One of two lanterns could be placed in the Belfry of the Old North Church. If one lantern were placed, the British would be advancing over the Boston Neck, by land, then further to Concord. However, if two lanterns were placed, the British, or the Redcoats, as they were called, would be taking their route by sea-crossing the Charles by boat. The latter option was more intelligent-they would not be ignorant enough to go by the Neck in sight of all waking and watching eyes-no, they would go by sea, concealed by the darkness, by the unseeing eyes of the night.
The plan was not to be set to immediate action, but the night of April 18th, I received word from a stable boy that the Redcoats had prepared boats to cross the Charles. And when other sources confirmed what I had heard from the boy, the plan was set to action. Soon after, I hung two lanterns in the Old North Church belfry tower, and I silently, but swiftly, rowed to the Charlestown shore. The moon was rising over the bay-the most beautiful moon. Just above my head, I could see the glow, feel the glow. And there lay a ship in the waiting. It was of British owning-that I knew for sure. It looked such as a prison in the sea. A cell without bars.
It was twelve o'clock and I had finally crossed the bridge into Medford town. I felt the damp of the air that comes with the crossing of the night into the morning-when time stops in on itself. When time is controlled by people and not the clock. When everybody is sleeping soundly, nobody awake to witness the horrors of the night-the horrors of that night. That boy sleeping safe and sound in his bed would be awakened by the sound of a British man's musket. And it may very well be that he would wake up only to find that he was dying-that he was dead.
However, once in Charlestown, I narrowly escaped capture by two British soldiers, having to alter my route north. So, I pressed onto Lexington, finding Hancock and Adams-two men wanted by the British, therefore in immediate danger. There I was joined by William Dawes, the other man on the Ride, who had, in fact, successfully slipped past the guards on the Neck. We were also accompanied by Dr. Samuel Prescott, who was a resident of Concord.
Before we could even cover the five miles it took to get to Concord from Lexington, we were blocked by a road manned by Redcoats. Prescott, however, used his intimate knowledge of the countryside to our advantage, and was the only one who completed the journey and alarmed all of Concord.
However, even after we got out of this predicament, Dawes got captured. He was thrown off his horse and taken away by the Redcoats. And then I got captured. It was funny, really. I thought I was fearless. Untouchable. Invulnerable. Infallible. But at that moment, I realized that I was wrong about everything. That I may not see another moon, another sunset, another minute of my life. My wife-the person I loved the most in the world. But I set up a maneuver. I deliberately provided a greatly inflated amount of militiamen awaiting the British soldiers at Concord, fooling them. I said that there were British men waiting for them there to move onward and find the patriots. However, all I did was walk them into the war unprepared.
That is what initially fired the first shot. The Redcoats' ignorance. I am not going to say that we won, and I am not going to say that we lost. I will not give any favor to either two alternatives. Because who wins when they are dead? Who wins when they are alive and they have watched their friends and family die? Then again, when you have taken away from the opposing country and have won dignity and peace, somewhat, who loses? I choose-
Editor's Note: But what did he choose? It is not known because a few days later, he died of an unknown cause. And still, hundreds of years later, we wonder. But his memory will live on forever, and he still lives with us in essence. He has left his body here to be buried, but he has not left his mind and soul. We celebrate him on his 275th anniversary and forever on.