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“The British are coming” (Fischer 109). Many people know this famous line as coming out of the mouth of Paul Revere during his renowned midnight ride in 1775. Unfortunately the people who believe this are mistaken because he never said that well known quote. As a matter of fact Paul Revere said “the regulars are coming out” (Fischer 109) in 1775, given that is what people in New England called British officers and troops, in addition to many other names. This is just a simple example to illustrate how a single fact can be transformed into a rumor or myth over many generations. As you may know, Paul Revere was one of the key figures in a historic event known as the American Revolution which lasted from 1775 to 1783. A book that talks about Paul Revere goes by the title of Paul Revere’s Ride. Inscribed by David Hackett Fischer, Paul Revere’s Ride does not only accurately portray Mr. Revere but it also precisely describes his interactions with historic figures, events, and his crucial role in the America Revolution. In the book, David Fischer does a very good job explaining the midnight ride that Paul Revere took, but he also describes other people that helped Revere, namely Dr. Joseph Warren and William Dawes. The author goes on to say that we as a country really like to portray some of our significant historical American individuals, like Paul Revere, as people who did extraordinary things by themselves. He emphasizes that Revere was a part of a group that had to work together to accomplish their goal which was to tell Sam Adams and John Hancock about the actions of the British troops, and warn other Whigs that the British troops were marching toward Lexington green.
Paul Revere’s father was a man by the name of Apollos Rivoire, who came to Boston from the island of Guernsey on November 15, 1715. In 1729 he married Deborah Hitchborn, a Boston native, and in 1734 she gave birth to their son Paul. “His mind and character were shaped by the established institutions of New England – family, school, church, and the town itself” (Fischer 9). Almost everyone in the United States has heard of Paul Revere and the midnight ride that he was a part of. But how many of you actually know about Revere? In Fischer’s book, Paul Revere’s Ride, the main protagonist is Paul Revere himself. Fischer’s depiction of Paul Revere is extremely detailed and gives us a good look at who this man really was. In terms of physical appearance Paul Revere was not very tall or very short. He was about average height with a thick neck and broad shoulders. According to Fischer, Revere was a man who thought of himself as a gentleman and as an artisan without thinking that that these two traits were conflicting with each other. For those who are not familiar with what an artisan is or does, they are people who can make things with their hands. In Paul Revere’s case he was mostly know as a silversmith. He also strongly believed in the law. Fisher goes on to describe Paul Revere as someone with morals, optimism, and who also enjoyed the good things in life.
Another man of this era that contributed to the events that led to the American Revolution was Thomas Gage. He was the British general who was determined to capture Adams and Hancock, who were two Whig leaders, and confiscate the militia’s weapons and ammo storage area at Concord. According to Fischer, Lieutenant-General Thomas Gage thought of himself as a “fair-minded and moderate man, a friend of liberty and a defender of what he was pleased to call the ‘common rights of mankind'” (Fischer 31). Although Gage hated Boston he did not hate all Americans, in fact his wife was an American woman named Margaret Kemble Gage. Instead of going to college or a university, Thomas Gage went into the British army. He is described as a soldier who really liked the discipline of the army, but hated going to war. Gage hated war because he witnessed many gruesome slaughters in the 18th century. For instance, he was at the battle of Fontenoy where 30, 000 men were killed on Flanders field in 1745. When Thomas Gage became the commander in chief of British forces in the colonies, he also became the most powerful man in the North America at the time. Since he became friends with people in prominent places Thomas Gage gained 18,000 acres of land in what is now modern day New York. Now that he had a big investment in North America, he greatly wanted keep the peace. However, there was increasing tensions between the Boston Whigs and the British troops. One of the prominent Whigs, or patriots, was Revere.
Paul Revere was not the lone midnight rider that many of us envisioned him to be. Actually he was one of many other riders that night. Another prominent person in Fischer’s book is William Dawes. David Fischer describes William Dawes as a Whig who was loyal to the cause of the patriots. However he was not as an important leader in the patriot movement as Paul Revere. Dr. Joseph Warren also played a vital role the events leading up to the start of the American Revolution. He was “admired by his friends and respected even by his enemies, he contributed a quality of character to the Whig cause” (Fischer 95). Just because there were other riders on the nights of April 18 and April 19, 1775 does not mean that Paul Revere’s role in the American Revolution was diminished. David Fischer argues the opposite of that. Paul Revere’s role in the midst of all these other important figures was actually enlarged because he was one of the people, along with Dr. Joseph Warren, to help organize warning the various towns such as Lexington prior to the revolution.
In the book, Paul Revere’s Ride, one of the author’s intentions is to go back to get the facts about the events that surrounded Paul Revere, and the midnight ride. In other words, Fischer wants us to know what really happened during this pivotal time in American history, and not to regard some of the stories we have been told in the past as absolute facts. One of the main problems that Fischer talks about is that professional historians have not shown much interest in telling the real story of Paul Revere. The people who are telling this story may not have all the facts straight. Throughout the book Fischer uses narrative story telling from the perspective of a historian to debunk popular beliefs, that may of may not be true, about the midnight ride and the historical figures that were involved. Some of these popular beliefs originated in a poem by Henry W. Longfellow called Paul Revere’s Ride, which has the same title as Fischer’s book.
When people think of the midnight ride they only think of Revere, but the fact is that there were many other riders that were going through the country side, outside of Boston, to warn the local militias of the oncoming British troops. Among these riders were Nathan Monroe and Benjamin Tidd who rode their horses northward from Lexington to warn the town of Bedford. Speaking of horses, on the night of April 18, 1775 Revere did not ride his own horse. Jonathan Larkin, a deacon of the Congregational church, decided to give Paul Revere his horse called “Brown Beauty” (Fischer 106). Another popular belief that was promulgated for many years comes from Longfellow’s poem again. He states that the two lanterns hanging in the steeple window of the Old North Church, the tallest building in Boston at the time, were a sign for Revere. According to Fischer, Paul Revere recruited two of his friends, Robert Newman and John Pulling, to go and hang the lanterns in the Old North Church while Revere headed home to get some of his supplies. Newman and Pulling lit the two lanterns to warn the Whigs in Charlestown, not Revere, that the British regulars were going to leave from Boston by boat across the Back Bay to Cambridge.
An additional inaccurate belief that is in Longfellow’s poem describes Paul Revere rowing by himself to the Charlestown shore. After Revere left his home he went to the north part of Boston where his boat was kept. There he recruited two other friends, Thomas Richardson and Joshua Bentley, who were expert boatmen. Paul’s two friends rowed with him on the boat from north Boston en route to the ferry landing of Charlestown. Another popular myth that we have heard about the midnight ride of Paul Revere is that after warning Lexington he went to warn the town of Concord. This is also inaccurate. Revere and William Dawes were riding on the road between Lexington and Concord where they met Dr. Samuel Prescott. Once they explained their plans to Dr. Prescott, he offered to help them in their mission. Further along the road, Revere saw four British troops that started chasing after him and his two associates. Dawes and Prescott escaped, but Revere was captured. According to Fischer, it was actually Dr. Samuel Prescott that went to alarm Concord. It was about three in the morning on April 19, 1775 when Paul Revere was let go by the British Regulars. Once the sound of the alarms spread throughout the towns, the militia prepared themselves very quickly. The reason for that is because by this time the people of Boston and the countryside already knew that war with the British was inevitable. “The same legends that celebrate the myth of the solitary midnight rider tell us that the Middlesex farmers rose spontaneously in response to the alarm. This idea is very much mistaken. The muster of the minutemen in 1775 was the product of many years of institutional development” (Fischer 151). These minutemen were ready as they could be and on Aril 19, 1775 Parker’s militia would fight the British on Lexington green. This outcome of war was the culmination or rising tensions between a local population that felt their rights were being stomped on and an empire that did not understand why these people were so furious.
Thomas Gage, for example, wondered why these colonists were complaining that he was trying to enslave them. According to Fisher, Gage did not understand why because he thought they had more freedoms than any other people in the world. In fact many of the king’s regulars shared the same opinion that Boston had the biggest bullies, and America, in general, was a bully. The Whigs and British both were taught to respect the law, but in different ways. For example, Paul Revere thought the rule of law meant that free people have the right to be governed by laws made by made the people. Thomas Gage the perception of the law “meant the absolute supremacy of that many-headed sovereign, the king-in-parliament” (Fisher 33). There were many perceptions, beliefs, and decisions on both sides of the battlefield that led to this revolution.
It is safe to say that Paul Revere played an extremely important role in the preparation and the eventual victory of the American Revolution. William Dawes, Robert Newman, John Pulling, and Dr. Samuel Prescott among many others contributed to alarming the countryside. Paul Revere’s Ride, the book written by David Fischer also describes how we, the American people, have been led to believe some of the stories about the events of April 18 and Aril 19, 1775 as fact when they are not. The author uses narrative story telling integrated with detailed descriptions of the people and places that Paul Revere interacted with to give us these facts. Fischer stressed for us to know what really happened so we can better understand why 18th century Americans were willing to risk their lives in the revolutionary war.
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