In what ways is General Gage a sympathetic character towards the Americans in David Hackett Fischer's Paul Revere's Ride?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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According to David Hackett Fischer in his book, Paul Revere's Ride, the primary characters in this historical account are Paul Revere, a merchant and organizer of the "Bostonian resistance," and Lieutenant-General Thomas Gage, a high-ranking British officer. While Gage may originally have tried to keep peace in the New England colonies as long as possible, according to Fischer, Gage was not an overly sympathetic figure in the Boston area. Over time he would come to hate the Bostonians in his dealing with them—in his capacity of the British military commander, and they would "return the favor."

Gage saw himself very differently than the colonists did. He believed he was "liberal and fair-minded." He was married to an American. When first assigned to the Boston region, he genuinely admired the Americans.

Unlike many other British officers, Gage did not pursue women, gamble, or drink to excess. Instead, he focused his energies on having the best regiment...

And he was known among his friends as a man of "fair play."

However, Fischer describes Gage as a haughty man with aristocratic manners, which by itself would have alienated him from common colonial folk. Fischer reports that Gage was a snob and poorly informed—Gage had no real appreciation for how much the colonists resented England's presence: in essence he under-estimated them. Gage was also mistaken in his perceptions that the colonists were poorly organized and weak.

Besides riding to warn of the approach of the British, Revere was the consummate organizer. These different colonial "civilian" organizations that Gage believed were inept, were actually guided by Revere's genius for handling details, and they were quite adept. And even while Gage may have been slow to recognize the strength and determination of the colonists, those he answered to in London felt the colonists were nothing more than an annoyance—"rabble" to be suppressed by force with Gage "moving quickly and decisively to detain and disarm their leaders."

The Americans were careful not to act as the aggressors against the British, waiting instead for the enemy to make the first move. Gage was just as cautious, but was still being pressured by his superiors. Things came to a head at Lexington, though no one is sure who "fired the first shot."

Gage commanded the British leaders and troops beneath him as best as he was able, though the military leaders below him made many costly mistakes. Gage is presented as a good soldier, dedicated to the task at hand. Gage may have been different from other British leaders at the start—having some sympathies for other British countrymen who had settled in New England—but soon he detested them and foolishly under-estimated them as unworthy adversaries.

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