8 Facts about PAUL REVERE (that you probably didn’t know)
Click on the “I” info icon in the top right corner to find my poetry recital video of the entirety of Longfellow’s poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere“, complete with written lyrics.
The great and famous patriot Paul Revere. it’s hard to get the straight story on Paul Revere, thanks in large part to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem about the allegedly Lone Midnight Rider. While it is a beautiful and patriotic poem, it doesn’t exactly follow true to historical facts. Let’s sort through some of the misconceptions.
1. Revere was half French.
True. His mother was a Bostonian, and his father was a French immigrant named Apollos Rivoire, anglicized to Revere.
2. Revere was a brilliant silversmith.
Not quite. he was certainly competent, and a good metalworking businessman, but he was no Michelangelo of silver. When history started venerating Paul Revere, it was a package deal. All his activities were magnified, logic and proportion aside. Today, many of Revere’s silver creations fetch a pretty price at auctions, as collector’s items.
3. Revere hung signal lanterns in a church Tower.
False. He had others hang them. Paul excelled at getting people to help his underground Communications Network. By the way, the actual signal was two dimly-lit lanterns, which meant that the British army would take the Charles River route
4. Revere yelled, “The British are coming!”
False. First of all, that would be like someone from Pittsburgh yelling, “The Americans are coming!” Like nearly all colonists, Revere considered himself British. Secondly, his warning specified that the “regulars” were on the march, in other words the regular British Army. Furthermore, it’s unlikely that Revere “yelled” anything, because British Army patrols were everywhere.
5. Revere rode directly to Lexington and Concord.
False. Revere was a key organizer of many riders in an informal, early warning network, much like a primitive phone tree. He often carried news from point A to point B for the colonial cause. On April 18th, 1775, Revere was the first in a chain of many riders who went forth to mobilize the militia and protect Colonial Munitions stores and leaders from surprise seizure. Fellow rider William Dawes soon joined him, and they later picked up Samuel Prescott. In Lexington, they warned Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the two were about to be arrested, but the men just thanked them and began arguing about what they should do next. Then the riders headed for Concord, but a regular who was stationed at a checkpoint captured Revere. In the subsequent commotion, Dawes and Prescott escaped. Dawes fell off his horse and decided to call it a night, and Prescott was able to warn Concord. Okay, but how many people have heard of the midnight ride of Sam Prescott?
6. Revere fought at Lexington.
False. You can’t fight while helping another guy haul a chest of documents around town. Revere was close to the fighting, though, with muskets being fired around him. Plus, he was doing more preserving a trunk of secrets than he might have with a musket, especially since the colonial militia broke and ran for it.
7. Revere was convicted of cowardice in the 1779 Penobscot Expedition.
False. Commanding the expedition’s artillery, Revere stood accused of disobeying orders. Rightfully offended, after the war he demanded a court-martial, and it exonerated him. Although his military career was underwhelming, the evidence of Revere’s life hurls any hint of cowardice out the window.
8. Revere has always been considered a national hero.
False. He was always a regional hero in Massachusetts, but it was Longfellow’s poem that got him into history texts, and the memories of school children everywhere. The poem overstates Revere’s role at the expense of many others’, but it’s mid-Civil War timing was impeccable in capturing public emotion. As often happens, history’s heroes can be either forgotten or exaggerated, but they are rarely remembered as they truly were.
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The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Written April 19, 1860; first published in 1863 as part of “Tales of a Wayside Inn”
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.