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On This Day: Paul Revere Begins Midnight Ride

Last updated: February 15, 2023

On April 18, 1775, the Boston silversmith embarked on his legendary journey from Charleston to Lexington, Mass., warning colonists that the British were coming.

Ride Makes Revere an American Icon

During the battles of Lexington and Concord, Revere was assigned to warn fellow patriots Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the British were coming to arrest them. On his way there, he warned the countryside by stopping at every house.

Many facts about Revere and his ride have become lost in the mythology that now surrounds the story.

Although many believe that Revere’s warning cry was “The British are coming,” he actually said “The regulars are coming out,” according to the Massachusetts Historical Society.
The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow made Revere, previously a little-known local folk hero, into a national icon when his poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” was published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1861.

When Revere arrived in Lexington, he was joined by riders William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott, who had taken different routes. They also alerted colonists about the British army’s approach, but their names have been largely forgotten.

Though historians complain about the poem’s distortion of facts, Longfellow deliberately set about creating a patriotic myth, says poet and BBC commentator Dana Gioia.

“The new Revere became the symbolic figure who awakens America to fight for freedom,” Gioia says.

Few people are familiar with the ending of Revere’s ride. He, Prescott and Dawes were captured by British officers. Dawes and Prescott soon escaped; Revere was held for a time and then released.

Prior to his famous ride, Revere was a noted silversmith who became involved in revolutionary activity through Samuel Adams’s secret organization, the Sons of Liberty. He also fought in the ensuing war.

Key Player: Little-known facts about Paul Revere

Sources in this Story

  • The Paul Revere House
  • Massachusetts Historical Society: Paul Revere’s Ride
  • Atlantic Monthly: “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • Dana Gioia Online: On “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • The Paul Revere Heritage Project: Who was Paul Revere?

The CIA credits Revere with creating the first patriot intelligence network on record. The group included about 30 patriots, mostly craftsmen and artisans, who took turns during the day and night to watch the activities of British loyalists in Boston. They also met regularly to discuss the information they gathered. The Paul Revere Heritage Project includes a brief biography, as well as other little-known facts about Paul Revere.

Historical Context: The American Revolution

The findingDulcinea Web Guide to the American Revolution links to the most comprehensive and reliable sources on the war.

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