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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 307

In Paul Revere's Ride, celebrated historian David Hackett Fischer undertakes to sweep away some of the mythology surrounding this Revolutionary War hero.

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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.


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2090

At a time when the focus of American history teaching has moved away from individual heroics and few grade school students stand before their peers to recite poetry, the name of Paul Revere, whose famous ride from Boston to Concord was dramatized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1861 poem, may evoke only the vaguest stirrings of recognition. Although Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts and Maine may have fixed the date of April 19 in the minds of New Englanders and the phrase “One if by land, two if by sea” may have an occasional currency elsewhere, few Americans outside the rarefied circles of silver collecting have any sense of the historical figure of Revere or the nature and circumstances of his celebrated venture. Like the gunfight at the O.K. Corral and the fall of the Alamo, the midnight ride of Paul Revere has faded into the blurred vagueness of American myth, where events lose their precision and heroes are interchangeable.

David Hackett Fischer, whose immediately previous book Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (1989) provoked controversy by its imaginative analysis of the spread of British folkways throughout the American continent, has set out in Paul Revere’s Ride  to rescue the historical Paul Revere. Discarding both the emphasis on individual action of those whom he calls “filiopietists” and the dismissive scorn on the more modern “debunkers,” he chooses to present Revere’s story in the broader context of regional and political history. The protagonist of this lively narrative is neither a larger-than-life folk hero who single-handedly turned the tide of history nor a helpless pawn of forces beyond his control. By presenting Revere as a very human figure making choices within a defined but...

(The entire section contains 2397 words.)

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