Paul Revere’s Version of His Midnight Ride

June 7th, 2011, byTamika Thompson

One good thing about the mainstream media following a non-story like Sarah Palin mangling the midnight ride of Paul Revere is that it gives us all an opportunity to revisit an interesting tale from American history.

In the pre-Palin accounts of Paul Revere’s ride, we know that he was going to Lexington in 1775 to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams that members of the British Army were coming to arrest them.

Post-Palin accounts that have sprung up on the Internet are varied and dubious, but one thing’s for sure: Revere was not ringing bells and firing warning shots from his horse (though Stephen Colbert shows us that it could have happened).

So let’s take this opportunity to re-read (assuming you learned this in elementary school as I did) the story of Revere’s famous ride. The Massachusetts Historical Society offers the “Letter from Paul Revere to Jeremy Belknap, circa 1798” in its online collection.

Below are excerpts from Revere’s letter:

In the Fall of 1774 & Winter of 1775 I was one of upwards of thirty, cheifly mechanics, who formed our selves in to a Committee for the purpose of watching the Movements of the British Soldiers, and gaining every intelegence of the movements of the Tories…

In the Winter, towards the Spring, we fre-
quently took Turns, two and two, to Watch the Soldiers, By patroling
the Streets all night. The Saturday Night preceding the 19th of April, about 12
oClock at Night, the Boats belonging to the Transports were all 
launched, & carried under the Sterns of the Men of War. (They had been 
previously hauld up & repaired). We likewise found that the Grenadiers
and light Infantry were all taken off duty.

“From these movements, we expected something serious was [to] 
be transacted. On Tuesday evening, the 18th, it was observed, that a number
of Soldiers were marching towards the bottom of the Common. 
About 10 o’Clock, Dr. Warren Sent in great haste for me, and beged 
that I would imediately Set off for Lexington, where Messrs. Hancock
& Adams were, and acquaint them of the Movement, and that it was
thought they were the objets…

When I got into Town, I met Col. Conant, & several others; they said they had seen our signals. I told them what was Acting, & went to git me a Horse; I got a Horse of Deacon Larkin. While the Horse was preparing, Richard Devens, Esq. who was one of the Committee of Safty, came to me, & told me, that he came down the Road from Lexington, after Sundown, that evening; that He met ten British Officers, all well mounted, & armed, going up the Road. I set off upon a very good Horse; it was then about 11 o’Clock, & very pleasant. After I had passed Charlestown Neck, & got nearly opposite where Mark was hung in chains, I saw two men on Horse back, under a Tree. When I got near them, I discovered they were British officer. One tryed to git a head of Me, & the other to take me. I turned my Horse very quick, & Galloped towards Charlestown neck, and then pushed for the Medford Road. The one who chased me, endeavoring to Cut me off, got into a Clay pond, near where the new Tavern is now built. I got clear of him, and went thro Medford, over the Bridge, & up to Menotomy. In Medford, I awaked the Captain of the Minute men; & after that, I alarmed almost every House, till I got to Lexington. I found Mrs. Messrs. Hancock & Adams at the Rev. Mr. Clark’s…”

  • Rich

    I notice you end the letter quotation shortly before the letter un-mangles Palin’s supposed mangling of the story. When being interviewed by his British captors, Revere says, “…I told him; and added, that their troops had catched aground in passing the River, and that There would be five hundred Americans there in a short time, for I had alarmed the Country all the way up….”. So, while ‘warning the British’ was not Revere’s original intent, he did, in fact, warn the British that there would soon be 500 American’s coming against the British troops. Furthermore, the purpose of the battle was to prevent the British from confiscating the arms of the continental militia.

  • neal

    The guy ended the quotation two pages before, not shortly before, the part you quoted. And he didn’t exactly “warn” them. He lied. So if Palin didn’t mangle the story, where were the bells and the firing of shots?

Last modified: June 8, 2011 at 11:04 pm