Last Updated September 5, 2023.
In Paul Revere's Ride, celebrated historian David Hackett Fischer undertakes to sweep away some of the mythology surrounding this Revolutionary War hero.
While Revere's background as a highly-skilled silversmith is well-known, there has been less focus on the significance of his active involvement in a numerous private and public organizations, and especially Revolutionary groups, to his position in American history. As he became a respected figure in these circles, he would eventually be chosen for the role of intelligence courier, a sensitive and dangerous role in a country quartering British troops.
After a warning from a stable boy for the British that there would be "hell to pay tomorrow," on the night of April 18, 1775, Revolutionary leader Joseph Warren and Revere quickly concocted a plan to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams of imminent danger, and to spread the news throughout the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Revere and his friend William Dawes were to take separate routes to Lexington. Avoiding capture, Revere arrived at a private home where Hancock and Adams were meeting with local militia leaders and members of Committees of Safety. And his phrase of warning wasn't "the British are coming," but "the Regulars (British troops) are coming out."
Hancock and Adams soon fled to avoid capture, while Revere and Dawes headed for Concord, where they expected the British troops would be deployed to destroy colonial munitions. They also began to activate a network of sixty-odd riders who would continue to "spread the alarm" throughout the colony. Revere was captured by the British later that night, but was released the following day.
Although Hackett debunks the notion of Revere as the heroic, solitary rider of American legend, he provides an historically accurate account of the way in which this courageous and resourceful figure worked within the social networks of Revolutionary-era Boston to begin the struggle for independence.