Forget Paul Revere What About the Midnight Ride of William Dawes? Part 1

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?

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.

Certainly, in January, 1861, when Henry Wadsworth Longfellow sat down to write the 1st of 14 stanzas of a poem he would call "Paul Revere's Ride" he was one of the men alive who failed to remember that famous day and year. Ignoring the facts or unaware of them, Longfellow created a poem filled, as one historian noted, with "bemused inaccuracies," and in so doing invented a new hero who was given all credit for a daring deed, to the complete neglect of the real hero, who was ever after ignored by American history.

In Longfellow's fanciful poem, complete credit was given to young, Boston-born Paul Revere for alerting the American Colonists to the coming of the British troops and thereby sparking the Revolutionary War at Lexington. This was an utter corruption of truth, and Longfellow's myth has persisted to the very present.

Actually, on that fateful day in April of '75, 2 young men were sent out on steeds to alert the American rebels between Boston and Lexington; one was, indeed, Revere, and the other was a callow cordwainer and carpenter named William Dawes, a daring hothead. In truth, it was Dawes who rode 1st, rode longest, and who did the whole job right. Revere, on the other hand, got sidetracked and was finally captured by the British near the end of his ride. To begin at the beginning of the real event . . .

It was the spring of 1775 and British imperial troops were pouring into Boston. Revolutionary violence was mounting daily, and the militant American Sons of Liberty made steady preparations for a civil war. The Colonials stored arms at Concord, drilled, and readied themselves for the inevitable.

The imperial army would certainly not watch passively while the insurrection grew and men were armed: The radicals thought that it would move to seize the weapons cache. Thirty Sons of Liberty were detailed to keep a constant watch on British troop activities. The commander of the Colonial forces, Dr. Joseph Warren, tagged 2 experienced couriers, Paul Revere and William Dawes, as his special messengers. Revere, a silversmith, and Dawes, a shoemaker, were a good team.

On April 15, the Saturday before Easter, Warren received a midnight report of British troop movements: A regiment of light infantry and one of grenadiers had been relieved of drill and guard duties. Furthermore, the Royal Fleet had launched all its small boats and floated them astern in long lines. An amphibious operation was forming and that meant a movement against Concord.

Warren sent Paul Revere to Lexington to warn Sam Adams, the old firebrand whose inflammatory pamphlets, speeches, and demonstrations had placed him atop His Majesty's wanted list, and his wealthy friend, John Hancock. The 2 leaders, upon hearing of the movement, summoned the Committees of Safety and Supply to discuss countermeasures. The committees decided to raise a "home guard" artillery battery, to hide their reserve weapons, and to distribute some of their ammunition and provisions among the insurrectionary forces. The American Army was called upon to gather at Concord on the 19th of April to receive the provisions, including 10 hogsheads of rum.

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