On April 19, 1775 American colonists battled the British army in Lexington and Concord and the American Revolutionary War was underway. The British troops had set out from Boston to capture rebel leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock and to destroy the Colonists’ repository of weapons and ammunition in Concord.

The previous evening, Paul Revere, William Dawes, and Samuel Prescott rode out to Lexington and Concord to warn Adams, Hancock and other rebels. For many years, most school children learned of the events of the evening of April 18th through the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem entitled “Paul Revere’s Ride” The classic poem that was published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1860. took significant liberties to present Revere as a lone heroic horseman.  Longfellow created the poem in a time of widespread civil unrest which would soon lead to the commencement of the Civil War. Longfellow was staunchly against slavery and for the protection the Union. He wanted to remind readers about the sacrifices of their ancestors. By writing “listen my children” Longfellow wanted to pass on the legacy to a new generation since “hardly a man is now alive who remembers that day and year”.

The Man and the Myth
Although Revere did not make his ride alone, he certainly was a central figure in the Colonists’ efforts to undermine British rule. Revere was a skilled coppersmith who also created illustrations for books, magazines, and political pamphlets. He produced a widely distributed depiction of the 1770 Boston Massacre which helped fuel resentment toward the British government. In 1774, Revere founded the “Mechanics”, the first patriot intelligence network to spy on British soldiers. Prior to that he had been a member of the Sons of Liberty, a group that organized protests against tax legislation such as the 1765 Stamp Act.  
Revere was also a part-time dentist but contrary to popular myth did not construct a set of wooden teeth for George Washington. Revere unwittingly became the father of forensic dentistry when he identified the body of famous revolutionary Joseph Warren who died during the Battle of Bunker Hill. Revere recognized wiring he had used on one of Warren’s false teeth.

On the evening of April 18th, Revere, Dawes and Prescott set out to warn the Colonists. By evening’s end they were joined by as many as forty other men on horseback.  Dawes lost his way after falling off his horse while Revere was captured by British soldiers about halfway through the journey. Prescott did reach Concord, providing Adams and Hancock the ability to escape and the local militia the necessary time to hide their weapons and ammunition.

Revere never shouted Longfellow’s legendary phrase “The British are coming!”. The operation needed to be conducted discreetly because British troops were everywhere. Furthermore, colonial Americans at that time still considered themselves British. The actual warning was “the Regulars are coming out” but Longfellow decided the authentic exhortation was too unwieldy.

Once the war was underway, Revere designed the Continental currency and engraved the plates that printed the money used to pay Colonial troops.  He then served as an artillery commander however he was severely disciplined for a botched 1779 assault on a British fort in what is now Castine, Maine. Because Revere missed the opportunity to capture the fort he was charged with cowardice and was court-martialed and dismissed from the militia. He was later acquitted but his reputation was badly damaged.  

After the war, Revere opened a hardware store, a foundry and a copper mill. He provided materials for the historic frigate USS Constitution and produced more than 900 church bells, one of which still rings every Sunday in Boston’s King’s Chapel. The company he founded, Revere Copper Products, Inc remains in business today.

Thanks to Mssrs. Revere, Dawes, Prescott and all the revolutionaries who helped free us from those tea-drinking oppressors with the funny accents.
Happy Patriots Day and have a great weekend.

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