Midnight Ride Of Paul Revere Essay, Research Paper
“One if by land, two if by sea”– the supposed famous words spoken by Paul Revere to Colonel William Conant, an American soldier stationed in the steeple of the North Church in Boston, waiting to relay the signal of the intended path of the British invasion on April 18, 1775 (The Glorious Cause 268) to Paul Revere. According to the legend Paul Revere was to be positioned across the Boston Bay from the North Church waiting for the signal from Colonel Conant. The Colonel was to hang one lantern in the steeple of the church if the British showed signs of an invasion on land, or display two lanterns in the spire if evidence existed a sea invasion by the British. Once Paul Revere saw the two signal lanterns hanging in the steeple, signaling the imminent approach by sea of the British forces, he began his ride from Charlestown to Lexington to Concord (Lancaster 94), warning the citizens of these towns of an approaching British invasion. So began the famed “midnight ride of Paul Revere,” a ride which warned the colonists of an approaching revolution that would shape the future of America.
During the early formation stages of our country, there came a time when the overpowering mother country of Britain imposed a new system of taxation to control the colonies and the colonists. The Sugar Act of 1764 was the first step in bringing the new taxation system into affect. The Sugar Act , which replaced the Molasses Act of 1733, was designed to raise revenue without regulating the trading system that the colonies had established. Soon, Britain began to establish methods of taxation without any method of representation of the colonies (The American Revolution; an HTML project). This taxation without representation had angered the colonists. The power of Parliament to tax the colonies for the purpose of trade regulation had always been accepted in theory, but not always in practice. But the ability of Parliament to tax for improving the revenue of the kingdom was something new to the colonists. The power the Parliament did have with regards to taxation of the colonies was stated in the Revenue Act of 1764 and since the power of taxation for the improvement of the kingdom was new to the colonists, it was debatable. The last system of taxation that was opposed on the colonists was the Stamp Act of 1765. Under the Stamp Act, an official revenue stamp was to placed on any official document, license, lease, land transaction, pamphlet, or newspaper. The colonists and even the British merchants debated the series of taxes with the Parliament. The British merchants felt the effects of the boycotts by the colonies and in 1766, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act and modified the Sugar Act after much pressure of British merchants. In 1767, a whole new series of measures was introduced by Charles Townshend, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was called on by the Parliament to set up an entirely new fiscal program regarding the colonies. Townshend s plan included the reduction of taxes upon the colonies by the British by making the collection of duties levied on American trade more efficient. Townshend s plan also included the tightening of the customs administration and put duties on paper, lead, glass, and tea (The American Revolution; an HTML project). The Boston Tea Party was an obvious demonstration of the colonists disgust in their treatment from Britain. A group of patriots, dressed as Mohawk Indians, had boarded a fleet of British ships and destroyed 23,000 pounds of monopolized tea by throwing it into Boston Harbor (The American Revolution an A&E presentation). After, the British Parliament continued to repeatedly repress the colonies, but other governments rallied to the aid of the colonists. And on May 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress met and they realized what had to be done (The American Revolution; an HTML project).
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.(Longfellow)
It was decided that, on Saturday, April 15, 1775, something was going to happen. A move by the British was truly inevitable. Paul Revere was to warn Sam Adams and John Hancock, both staying with the Reverend Jonas Clark in Lexington (Lancaster 94), of the probable British invasion. Not only was Revere to notify Adams and Hancock of a possible invasion, he was also to direct the two patriots to hide the Concord munitions supply. On his way back to Boston, Paul Revere stopped in Charlestown to seek out some of the patriots and militiamen to set up a signal plan to relay the path of the British attack to Revere and other messengers (Middlekauff 267). He found Colonel William Conant, a patriot and militiaman of the area. Revere and Contant decided on using lanterns to relay the signal to the messengers. Conant was to hang one lantern in the steeple of the Old North Church in Boston if the British were to start their campaign on land, or two lanterns in the steeple if the British were to begin the push by sea. Once the order was given, Paul Revere made his way back across Boston Bay by skiff to the Cambridge shores to await the signal. During his trek across the bay, he glided right under the H.M.S. Somerset. On the shores of Cambridge awaited his horse, an animal which belonged to Deacon Larkin (McDowell 36-37).
The British made their first move on the eighteenth around two o clock in the morning an move which was expected. The troops were shaken by their commanding officers that morning instead of going through the usual wake up call in order to keep suspicion low and noise to a minimum. Early in the morning, companies of half-awake British soldiers marched through Boston Common and the Park Square towards the water front (Lancaster 94 – 95). The British troops marched in complete silence through the town as they approached the harbor and silenced any noise that might disturb or awake anybody in the area. They strangled and bonneted dogs that had awoken in order to cease the barking (Lancaster 95). At 4:30 in the morning, the British reached the waterfront and Paul Revere began his ride from Charlestown. William Dawes started over Boston Neck with the same destination (Middlekauff 268).
On April eighteenth, Paul Revere was awakened at his North Square home and he headed silently for the north shore of Boston (Ketchum 100 – 101). The ship H.M.S. Somerset was anchored in the bay as Revere glided right past it on his way to his horse (McDowell 36). While he was rowing his skiff across Boston Bay, he saw two lanterns hanging in the steeple of the Old North Church–the British were arriving by sea. Once he had seen the signal, he mounted his horse and started his journey. His journey would take him to Menotomy (now Arlington), and then to Lexington, and finally to Concord. The regulars, or British soldiers, were out and were surely heading for the country roads of Concord (Lancaster 94 – 95). Two well traveled roads ran to Concord. The first path, the shorter of the two, ran through Charlestown, Medford, Menotomy, and Lexington. The other road swung around Boston Neck near Roxbury to Cambridge and then to Menotomy where it joined the first path (Middlekauff 268). Paul Revere, choosing the first path, attempted to take a shortcut near Medford but was almost captured by a British patrol squad. He escaped by hard riding and would reach Lexington around midnight (Middlekauff 268 – 269). During his ride he stopped only briefly to knock on a few doors and throw gravel at a few windows. After each stop, Revere knew it was safe to proceed because the people he awoke would get the word moving, as this was the prearranged plan (Lancaster 95). Also during his ride, he roused militiamen in Medford and Menotomy and awakened as many sleepers as he could between Menotomy and Lexington (Middlekauff 269). Revere made good time, riding past Buckman s Tavern in Lexington about midnight. The place was “restlessly astir with rumors and lights” (McDowell 37). Once Paul Revere arrived in Lexington, he went to the household of Reverend Jonas Clark (Lancaster 95) and got Sam Adams and John Hancock out of bed. The three of them sat down wait for to Dawes, who rode into Lexington a half an hour later. This was in all actuality, the end of Paul Revere s fabled ride.
When Paul Revere arrived at the Clark residence, he was stopped by the guards and was told that the family had just retired and did not want any noise. Revere responded, “Noise! You ll have noise enough before long. The regulars are coming out!”(McDowell 37) Once he had made it into the house and warned Adams and Hancock, he waited for the other rider, William Dawes, to arrive. After Dawes had arrived, he and Revere rode for Concord, and soon were accompanied by Dr. Samuel Prescott. Prescott was heading home after paying a visit to his girlfriend, a Mulliken girl (Lancaster 95). As soon as the three riders met, patrolling British officers were upon them. Revere was captured and released to head back to Lexington by foot. William Dawes was thrown from his horse and escaped into the woods. And Dr. Prescott who knew the land extremely well jumped his horse over a stone wall and made it to Concord with the news (McDowell 38). When the news made it to Concord, the people of the village worked tirelessly to round up carts, packing stores and supplies. Everything was then rolled off to Worcester (Lancaster 94). “Thanks to the charms of moonlight and Miss Mulliken, the patriots finished hiding most of the stores before morning” (McDowell 38 ).
After the word of advancing British forces spread, the militiamen had begun to gather and American forces were coming together to reshape their future. The Lexington militia company had gathered on Lexington Green, shortly after Paul Revere rode in. There they waited for over an hour with no clear idea on what to do. Captain John Parker, the head of the Lexington militia had gathered them with hopes that they might decide what to do. Parker retired his men, but ordered them to be ready at a moment s notice (Middlekauff 269). Soon the men were called back into action for the British were seen nearing Lexington Green. There was instant confusion on the Green. Some of the men failed to hear the drums that were to call them to order and others were lacking ammunition and were scurrying about to prepare themselves. But in just a few minutes, Captain Parker had two ranks of over seventy men lined up on Lexington Green. Within a few minutes, a light infantry of British soldiers, led by Pitcairn, was in sight and dividing themselves into a battlefield formation as they came upon Lexington Green. What happened next is still debated (McDowell 38). A shot was fired, and neither side would claim responsibility for this first act of war. But when it was over, two massive British volleys had been fired, answered by only one, weak volley of American musket fire and eight militiamen were dead and ten wounded, including Captain Parker (Lancaster 96). But this was only the start of the Revolutionary War. In the years to come, many Americans and British soldiers would die in their fight to stand up for a country and a future that they believed in. As for Paul Revere, his role in calling the patriots, the minutemen, the militia of the countryside together and up in arms will remain as vital to the study of American history as any battle or shot that took place in the Revolution of America.
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