Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mr. Revere's Wild Ride

There seems to be a lot being said about Paul Revere and his wild ride in the news and on T.V. lately. What with Sarah Palin’s interesting gaffe on what Paul Revere actually did to Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers singing ‘Me and Paul Revere’ at a Capital Fourth in D.C. (I recommend to anyone listen to the song. It is told from the point of view of the horse and wicked Americana at its best.)

Good old Paul was a respected watchmaker and silversmith. That was his vocation when he lived, breathed, and worked in Boston. That’s not however what he is most known for. So what did Paul Revere really do? Did he ride through the town shouting The British are coming? Did he stick a feather in his cap and call it macaroni?  Did his dance a jig in the middle of town in his smalls(underpants)?

In 1860 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem for the 100th anniversary of the crazy little horse bound jaunt of our blog topic today. Poems were what guys did back in the day to pick up chicks. OK not really but you can imagine it probably helped. “Hey baby let me buy you a drink…I wrote a poem about Paul Revere.” See, instant panty dropping stuff.

The most famous line in the poem is probably “If the British march by land or sea from the town tonight, hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch of the North Church tower as a signal light – one, if by land, and two, if by sea.” This line tells a little of what the heck Revere was really doing on the back of Larkin’s horse. In addition to being a silversmith, Paul Revere was a member of the Mechanics, a group of men organized to spy on those tea-drinking, crown lovers hanging out on our not-yet-free shores. Prior to the famous ride, Revere also worked as a courier of sorts carrying messages in 1774 and spring of 1775 up and down the colonies. (Some of you may remember this little line as being used to fool the bad guy in the movie National Treasure.)

Now here comes the fun part. On April 18th, 1775 Paul was sent for by Dr. Joseph Warren to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the British Grenadiers were coming to arrest them. Paul borrowed a horse from a man named Larkin and lit out for Lexington. However he did not ride through the town shouting “The British are coming” because frankly he wanted to keep it low-key and not draw too much attention to himself or the people he was trying to warn. Shouting through the town would have been like waving a big red flag and shouting “Hey you big British meanie heads come and get me.” Not good.  He actually went door to door warning the people of Lexington.  When he made it to the house where Adams and Hancock were staying, he told by a sentry, aka a British soldier, to stop making so much noise. To this Revere cheekily replied “You’ll have noise soon enough. The regulars are coming out!” Translation…we are going to kick your British fanny.

After warning Lexington, Paul decided to ride off and warn Concord as well. On this leg of the tour he was joined by William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott. Unfortunately, the trio never made it to Concord as they were caught and arrested. Prescott and Dawes escaped rather quickly but Revere was held for several hours before he was ultimately let go.

So as you can see, there was no macaroni in any one’s cape. There was no shouting like a drunken baboon about the British coming; frankly at this point everyone was still British as we hadn’t declared our independence yet. There were no ringing bells or warning shots fired. Just a man, a horse, and some good old fashioned Fuller Brush techniques coming to the rescue.  Not bad for a silversmith from Boston. 

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