Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Myths about Paul Revere

“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.”

Sadly, the great poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow understates.  As I wrote last month in my blog — “Is America Clueless? — 30% of Americans can’t name the vice president of the United States.  So I wouldn’t be surprised to find that — not only didn’t they recall an important date in American history — they probably didn’t know much about the man behind the date.  If they remember Paul Revere at all, it’s probably in the vaguest of terms:  as a patriot … something to do with the American Revolution.  But there was much more to the man and, as the Fourth of July draws nearer, it’s a good time to remember Revere as a great American communicator. 
Long before his midnight ride, Revere did what all good communicators do:  as the member of a secret group in Boston known as the “Mechanics,” he gathered intelligence on the activities and movements of a key stakeholder group:  British troops.  He also helped organize an early warning system and arranged for delivery of important messages directly to the rebels, another key constituency. has a fascinating posting on the “12 Things You May Not Know about Paul Revere” and his fateful 1775 ride.  Here are the top three popular myths about the Revolutionary War hero … busted. 
  • He didn’t ride alone.   He was accompanied for a part of the journey by William Dawes, who was tasked with warning John Hancock and Samuel Adams that they were in danger of arrest.   Along the way, Dawes and Revere were joined by Samuel Prescott, a young physician.  By the end of the night, as many as 40 men on horseback were spreading the word across Boston’s Middlesex County.
  • He never shouted, “The British are coming!”  The operation was meant to be conducted as discreetly as possible, since scores of British troops were hiding out in the Massachusetts countryside … so no shouting.   Also, at the time, the colonists considered themselves British, so it’s more likely the colonists would have alerted other rebels that the “Regulars” — a term used to designate British soldiers — were on the move.
  • He never reached Concord.  Revere was temporarily detained by the British at Lexington and Dawes lost his way, leaving to Prescott the task of alerting Concord’s residents.

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