History is a fickle mistress; she can make or break you depending on a multitude of factors. Throughout the annals of recorded history, there are many people who are famous for something they either didn’t do, or their contributions were widely blown out of proportions. One of the most glaring examples of proportion exploding is the story of Paul Revere. Let’s get a few things out of the way first before a get a pile of hate mail from every elementary school teacher I ever had, Revere did ride that night, and he did perform a valuable service to the rebels, but not only was he not the only person to do it, he failed epically by being caught on his ride. So without further ado, let’s dig into the story of April 15th and 16th, 1776 and see just why Revere has been canonized in American mythology.
By April of 1775, the relationship between the American Colonists and their British oppressors had become broken beyond repair. Massachusetts became the center of the Revolutionary movement, with many prominent citizens choosing the path of rebellion. One of the most famous rebels of the Massachusetts colony was Doctor Joseph Warren. Being a prominent doctor and well-respected throughout Boston, Warren became a de facto leader of men throughout the city and even served in the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. On the night of April 18, 1775, a contingent of Redcoats stationed in Boston were ordered to leave the city and march to the nearby village of Concord to destroy provisions that were supposedly being held there by the Colonists. Warren and many other Bostonians found out about the planned march and began to implement a series of signals and plans to alert the small militias throughout the area. On that night, Warren sent silversmith Paul Revere and tanner William Dawes.
The lanterns were to be lit in the Old North Church to alert the people of Boston, and Revere and Dawes began their rides. Dawes had the much longer route to take, but the goal was the same, ride to Lexington and Concord, alert the militias and alert John Hancock and Samuel Adams. You see, if the Redcoats got hold of Hancock and Adams, they would have been hung at the end of a rope. Dawes and Revere spread throughout the countryside, with Dawes riding a considerably longer distance. Because of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous poem, Revere is the only rider to get credit for that night. To make things worse, schools for the past two hundred years have taught their students that Revere yelled “The British Are Coming” all throughout the countryside. Not only is this false, its stupid, why would a British citizen, as all Americans were, yell “The British Are Coming!” The riders said, “the regulars are coming,” which means the regular soldiers.
When Revere and Dawes reached Concord, alerted the two fathers of America, and the militia, they met with Samuel Prescott. Prescott met the two riders and showed them throughout the countryside and the hidden paths, becoming the third rider on that night. The perfect example of historical tunnel vision, because of one poem, the other two riders on the eve of the American Revolution have mostly been lost to history. Thanks a lot, Longfellow…..