Forget Paul Revere What About the Midnight Ride of William Dawes? Part 2
About the midnight right of Paul Revere and William Dawes who is often forgotten in United States history.
What about the Midnight Ride of William Dawes?
On the way back from Lexington, Revere stopped and told Colonel Conant of the Charlestown minutemen that the Redcoats would be coming his way. Conant wanted to know how he would be alerted when the troops were coming. Revere pointed across the Charles River toward the steeple of Christ's Church. "Two lanterns if they really come across the river," he said. "But they may be faking an amphibious movement. One lantern means they're marching overland through Cambridge." Conant agreed.
On Tuesday, April 18, a Redcoat sergeant-major became unaccountably impatient over a Colonial gunsmith's slowness in fixing his firelock. Also, a stableboy overheard 2 British grenadiers griping about an upcoming night march. Warren listened keenly to these and other bits of scuttlebutt, and he knew that the crisis was very near. In the evening, the government barracks were unusually active, and Warren's most valuable spy now confirmed his suspicion: The order to move on Concord had been given. The man-of-war Somerset was moving down the river as if to protect the ferry, and Warren surmised that the army would cross the water.
Warren summoned Billy Dawes and sent him along the land route to spread the word. The young shoemaker moped by the assembling imperial troops, his horse ambling slowly, and then he spurred his mount furiously toward Roxbury. When he approached the picket line, Dawes again slowed and mixed with a group of farmers as they passed through the checkpoint.
A guard eyed the courier suspiciously and began to ask piercing questions about his identification papers. Just as things were looking bad for Dawes, a sentry with whom he had drunk many ales and beers walked up and advised the hostile guard to forget his interrogation. This man, he explained, was just a typical, good-natured Colonial bumpkin, quite harmless. The bumpkin was allowed to pass, and soon he was galloping through Cambridge yelling, "The British are coming!"
It was late in the evening when Warren got hold of Paul Revere. Warren dispatched him by the water route, which he would be traveling barely ahead of the government troops. Revere, in turn, recruited an old coconspirator, John Pulling, to give the signal at the steeple. Pulling then enlisted the Christ's Church sexton, Robert Newman, to do the actual signaling, while he watched for Redcoats in the street below.
Two lights beamed briefly from the church tower, and across the river Conant spotted them. The Royal army saw them too, and troops ran to the church to deal harshly with the culprit. Finding the church empty, they marched off to the sexton's house and arrested him. Interrogating Newman, they obtained Pulling's name and troops were sent to seize him. Fortunately, he had hidden for the night. In the morning, he and his family slipped aboard a boat which was delivering beer to the Royal fleet, and they escaped into the rebel countryside.
When Revere arrived at the docks, he found that his boatmen friends, Josh Bentley and Tom Richardson, had forgotten to bring cloth to muffle the rowboat'oars. One of the conspirators remembered that a girl friend lived nearby: He called at her window and asked for some material. She obligingly removed her petticoat and threw it to him.
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