“seldom has the tomb closed upon a life so honorable and useful”
There were many who contributed to the American Revolution and the conflict for independence between our “Thirteen Colonies” and Great Britain. Paul Revere, a Patriot leader and symbol of the period, was also a great craftsman, artisan, industrialist and manufacturer. During his lifespan of 84 years, he created many careers and numerous technological achievements.
Originally a Goldsmith, Silversmith, and Copperplate Engraver, Paul learned his craft from his father, Apollos Rivoire (1702-1754), a French Huguenot and Protestant immigrant who later changed his name to Paul Revere. At the age of 19 with his apprenticeship nearly complete, his father died and left him as the main source for his family’s income.
Two years later, in 1756, Revere volunteered to fight the French at Lake George, New York and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the colonial artillery. The war erupted and Revere went on to serve as Lieutenant Colonel in the Massachusetts State Train of Artillery and Commander of Castle Island in Boston Harbor. Revere and his troops saw little action at this post but did participate in minor expeditions to Newport, Rhode Island and Worcester, Massachusetts. Revere’s military career would end with the failed Penobscot Expedition, a 44-ship American naval task force mounted during the Revolutionary War by the Provincial Congress of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.
Revere’s political involvement originated through his connections with members of local organizations and his business patrons. As a member of the Masonic Lodge of St. Andrew, he was friendly with activists James Otis and Dr. Joseph Warren. In the year prior to the Revolution, Revere gathered intelligence information by “watching the Movements of British Soldiers,” as he wrote in an account of his ride. He was a courier for the Boston Committee of Correspondence and the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, riding express to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. He also spread the word of the Boston Tea Party to New York and Philadelphia.
The role for which he is most remembered today was a night-time messenger on horseback, just prior to the battles of Lexington and Concord. His famous “Midnight Ride” occurred on the night of April 18/April 19, 1775, when he and William Dawes were instructed by Dr. Joseph Warren to ride from Boston to Lexington. They were to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams of British Army movements in a march from Boston to Lexington, ostensibly to arrest Hancock and Adams and seize the weapons stored in Concord.
The British army (the King’s “regulars”), stationed in Boston when ports were closed in the wake of the Boston Tea Party, was under constant surveillance by Revere and other patriots as word began to spread they were planning a move. On the night of April 18, 1775, the army began its move across the Charles River toward Lexington and the Sons of Liberty immediately went into action. At approximately 11 pm, Revere was sent by Dr. Warren across the Charles River to Charlestown, on the opposite shore, to begin a ride to Lexington, while Dawes was sent the lengthy distance, via the Boston Neck and the land route to Lexington.
In the days leading to April 18th, Revere had instructed Robert Newman, sexton of the Old North Church, to send a signal by lantern in alerting Charlestown colonists when troop movements became known. One lantern in the steeple would signal the army’s choice of the land route, while two lanterns would signal the route “by water” across the Charles River. This precaution was planned to provide the message to Charlestown in the event both Revere and Dawes were captured. Newman and Captain John Pulling momentarily held two lanterns in the Old North Church as Revere himself set out on his ride to proclaim the British soldiers were, in fact, crossing the Charles River that night. Revere rode a horse lent to him by John Larkin, Deacon of the Old North Church.
Riding through present-day Somerville, Medford, and Arlington, Revere warned patriots along his route – many of whom set out on horseback to deliver warnings of their own. By the end of the night, there were probably as many as 40 riders throughout Middlesex County carrying the news of the army’s advancement. Revere did not shout the famous phrase later attributed to him (“The British are coming!”), largely because the mission depended on secrecy and the countryside was filled with British army patrols. Additionally, most colonial residents at the time considered themselves British, as they were all legally British subjects. Revere’s warning, according to eyewitness accounts of the ride and Revere’s own descriptions, was “The Regulars are coming out.”
Revere arrived in Lexington around midnight, with Dawes arriving a half hour later. Upon receiving the news, Samuel Adams and John Hancock, spending the night at the Hancock-Clarke House in Lexington, spent a great deal of time discussing plans of action. Revere and Dawes, meanwhile, decided to ride toward Concord where the militia’s arsenal was hidden. They were joined by Samuel Prescott, a doctor who happened to be in Lexington.
Revere, Dawes, and Prescott were detained by British troops in Lincoln at a roadblock on the way to Concord. Prescott jumped his horse over a wall and escaped into the woods; Dawes also escaped, although soon after fell from his horse and failed to complete the ride. Revere was detained and questioned and then escorted at gunpoint by three British officers back toward Lexington. As morning broke and they neared Lexington Meeting-house, shots were heard. The British officers, becoming alarmed, confiscated Revere’s horse and rode toward the shots. Revere, now horseless. walked through a cemetery and pastures until arriving at Reverend Clarke’s home where Hancock and Adams were staying. As the battle on Lexington Green continued, Revere assisted John Hancock and his family to escape with their possessions, including a trunk of Hancock’s papers.
The warning delivered by the three riders. Revere, Dawes, and Prescott, successfully allowed the militia to repel the British troops in Concord, who were met by guerrilla fire along the road back to Boston. Prescott had known the countryside well, even in the dark, and arrived at Concord in time to warn the people there.
Revere’s role was not particularly noted during his lifetime. In 1861, over 40 years after his death, his ride became the subject in a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,”Paul Revere’s Ride. ” It has since become one of the best known in American history and memorized by generations of schoolchildren. Its famous opening lines:
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
As a tradesman, Paul Revere’s silver shop was the cornerstone of his professional contribution for more than 40 years. As the master of his craft, Revere was responsible for both the workmanship and the quality of the metal alloy used. He employed numerous apprentices and journeymen to produce pieces ranging from simple spoons to magnificent full tea sets. His work, highly praised during his lifetime, is regarded as one of the outstanding achievements in American decorative arts.
Revere additionally supplemented his income with other endeavors. During the economic depression before the Revolution, Revere began his work as a copper plate engraver. He produced illustrations for books and magazines, business cards, book-plates, a song book and bills of fare for taverns. During the American Revolution, Revere’s engraved copper plates aided the patriotic cause with his series of political cartoons.
Expanding his business interests in the years following the Revolution, Revere imported goods from England and ran a small hardware store until 1789. By 1788 he had opened a foundry which supplied bolts, spikes and nails for North End shipyards (including brass fittings for the U.S.S. Constitution), produced cannons and, after 1792, cast bells. One of his largest bells still rings in Kings Chapel in Boston.
Concerned that the United States had to import sheet copper from England, Revere opened the first copper rolling mill in North America in 1801. He became a major supplier for the U.S. Navy fleet and provided copper sheeting for the hull of the U.S.S. Constitution, as well as the dome for the newly built Massachusetts State House in 1803.
By Any Measure, An Extraordinary Man
Honoring Those Who Serve Our Independence
4th of July
1776 – 2018