This New Year’s day marks the 238th anniversary of the birth of Paul Revere, whose ride from Boston to Lexington is remembered by all school children in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous poem, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. When it comes to remembering our founding fathers and history, we often focus on the main movers and shakers — Franklin, Washington, the Adams cousins, John Hancock’s famous signature on the Declaration of Independence.
There are, however, a few who played lesser though memorable roles on our road to independence, and Paul Revere was one of them.
More of a craftsman and artisan than a politician, Revere was a silversmith and an engraver, who during and after the Revolutionary War got into the armaments manufacturing business. He made powder and shot for the Continental Army and later sold the rolled copper to the U.S. Navy that lined the bottom of ?Old Ironsides,? the USS Constitution.
When he made his famous ride on April 18, 1775, Paul Revere was already 40 years old. He had played a role in two milestones of the American Revolution: the Boston Massacre (1770) and the Boston Tea Party (1773). His famous engraving of the Boston Massacre was an important propaganda piece that helped stoke anti-British sentiment in the Colonies. Revere was also one of the few leaders of the Boston Tea Party who was actually openly identified as having participated.
The American struggle for independence was against great, and seemingly insuperable odds. In 1775 the only semblance of organization in the colonies were the so-called Committees of Correspondence, which were set up to coordinate action and response to Great Britain’s high-handed treatment of its American colonial possessions. To actually correspond, however, they set up an early version of the Pony Express, and one of its most famous riders was Paul Revere.
Revere’s mission during that famous ride was on behalf of the Massachusetts Committee of Safety to get the word to Samuel Adams and John Hancock. British regular troops were marching west from Boston to arrest those two revolutionary leaders. British General Gage was also fed up with being cooped up in Boston and decided to head towards Lexington and Concord to seize known caches of rebel armaments.
Lexington and Concord would be the first shots of the war that would lead to our country’s independence in 1781. Paul Revere would go on to serve as a Lieutenant Colonel of Artillery in the Massachusetts Militia. He would play no significant role in the military struggle against the British, but he remains a symbol of the American Revolution as Longfellow wrote:
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm, —
A cry of defiance, and not of fear, —
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beat of that steed,
And the midnight-message of Paul Revere.
As we remember our history and think about the upcoming year, let’s give a shout out to our modern citizen soldiers, who stand on guard to protect the freedoms that Paul Revere and his fellow patriots won for us. Watch for my annual New Year’s message about our Troops on New Year’s Eve…
At *your* service,