Paul Revere's Ride

Front Cover
Paul Revere's midnight ride is a legendary event in American history - yet it has been largely ignored by scholars, and left to patriotic writers and debunkers. Now one of the foremost American historians offers the first serious study of this event - what led to it, what really happened, what followed - uncovering a truth more remarkable than the many myths it has inspired. In Paul Revere's Ride, David Hackett Fischer has created an exciting narrative that offers new insight into the coming of the American Revolution. From research in British and American archives, the author unravels a plot that no novelist would dare invent - a true story of high drama and deep suspense, of old-fashioned heroes and unvarnished villains, of a beautiful American spy who betrayed her aristocratic British husband, of violent mobs and marching armies, of brave men dying on their doorsteps, of high courage, desperate fear, and the destiny of nations. The narrative is constructed around two thematic lines. One story centers on the American patriot Paul Revere; the other, on British General Thomas Gage. Both were men of high principle who played larger roles than recent historiography has recognized. Thomas Gage was not the Tory tyrant of patriot legend, but an English Whig who believed in liberty and the rule of law. In 1774 and 1775, General Gage's advice shaped the fatal choices of British leaders, and his actions guided the course of American events. Paul Revere was more than a "simple artizan", as his most recent biographer described him fifty years ago. The author presents new evidence that revolutionary Boston was a world of many circles - more complex than we have known. Paul Revere and his friendJoseph Warren ranged more widely through those circles than any other leaders. They became the linchpins of the Whig movement. On April 18th, 1775, Paul Revere played that role in a manner that has never been told before. He and William Dawes were not the only midnight riders to carry the Lexington alarm. This first careful study of that event finds evidence of more than sixty men and women who were abroad that night on the same mission. The more we learn about them, the more interesting Paul Revere's role becomes. More than any other figure, he organized that activity and set it in motion. That night, Paul Revere had many other adventures. He was captured by a British patrol, and was freed in time to rescue Hancock and Adams (twice) and save the secret papers of the Revolution. At sunrise he was present on Lexington Green when the first shots were fired, in what General John Galvin describes as "one of the least known of all American battles". Drawing on extensive new research, Fischer finds evidence that this conflict was very different from the spontaneous rising of patriot legend. The New England militia were elaborately organized and actively led. On the morning of April 19, 1775, they stood against Thomas Gage's Regular Infantry in fixed positions and close formations at least six times. Twice the Regulars were broken. In the afternoon, the American leaders changed their tactics. Now facing a larger enemy and artillery, they forged a moving "circle of fire" around the British force and maintained it for many hoursan extraordinary feat of combat leadership with citizen soldiers. After the fighting was over, many of these same men, including Paul Revere and Thomas Gage, fought thesecond battle of Lexington and Concord. This was a contest for what their generation was the first to call popular opinion, and even more decisive than the battle itself. Yankee leaders were victorious in spreading their version of events through the colonies. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Thomas Paine all testified that the news of Lexington was, in Adams's phrase, their revolutionary Rubicon. The true story of Paul Revere's ride is very different from the popular myth of the lone rider of the Revolution. It is also far removed from the heavy determinism of academic historiography. This is a tale of contingency, with great events hanging in the narrow balance. It is the story of free people, making hard choices. Most of all, it is about America's half-remembered heritage of collective action in the cause of freedom. When Paul Revere and his many friends alarmed the Middlesex countryside, they were carrying that message for us.

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Jarratt - LibraryThing

Excellent book! It covers those pivotal days in April 1775 in fantastic detail. This is an exceedingly well researched book that doesn't read like a textbook. I loved the easy style. It's also the ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - msaucier818 - LibraryThing

I read this book in graduate school quite some time ago, but I still remember it as being one that I was fascinated with. It is amazing how little we actually know about Paul Revere. His importance to ... Read full review


General Gages Dilemma
First Strokes
The Powder Alarm September 1 1774
The Attack on Fort William and Mary December 14 1774
Mounting Tensions
The Mission
The Warning
The March
The Battle
A Circle of Fire
Percy at Lexington
News of Lexington April 19May 10 1775

The Capture
The Muster
The Great Fear
The First Shot
The Fight at Lexington April 19 1775

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (1994)

David Hackett Fischer is Warren Professor of History at Brandeis University. His books include the highly acclaimed Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America and Growing Old in America.