Paul Revere

From Academic Kids

Portrait of Paul Revere by , c.1768-70
Portrait of Paul Revere by John Singleton Copley, c.1768-70

Paul Revere (January 1, 1735 (assumed) – May 10, 1818) was an American silversmith and a patriot in the American Revolutionary War. Immortalized after his death for his role as a messenger in the Battle of Lexington and Concord, Revere was a prosperous and well-known craftsman who was born in the class of tradesmen yet yearned to advance to class of gentlemen. He served as an officer in one of the most disastrous campaigns of the war, a role for which he was later exonerated. After the war, he was early to recognize the potential for large-scale manufacturing of metal goods and is considered by some historians to be the prototype of the American industrialist.



Early years

The actual date of Paul Revere's birth is not known. However, according to the records of the New Brick Congregational Church in Boston he was baptised on 22 December 1734. This date is given in the "old style" Julian Calendar that was used in the British Empire until 1752. The date translates to 2 January 1735 in the "new style" Gregorian Calendar. Nevertheless, most sources give 1 January as Revere's birth date. It is unlikely that Revere was baptised on the day he was born, so his actual birth date would have probably been a few days earlier in late December 1734. An assumption that he was born the day before his baptism has perhaps led to the adoption of 1 January 1735 (new style) as his birth date.

Revere was the eldest surviving son of Apollos Rivoire, a Huguenot refugee from Wallonia who had anglicized his name to Paul Revere. He had a meager schooling, and in his father's shop learned the trade of a gold-and-silversmith.

In 1756 he was Second Lieutenant of artillery in the expedition against Crown Point, and for several months was stationed at Fort Edward, in New York.

He became a proficient copper engraver in the years before the war. He was a close friend of Samuel Adams and was involved the earliest stages of the struggle for independence. He engraved several anti-British caricatures in the years before the war. One of his best known is a pro-Patriot engraving of the Boston Massacre. He was one of the Boston grand jurors who refused to serve in 1774 because Parliament had made the justices independent of the people for their salaries; was a leader in the Boston Tea Party; was one of the thirty North End mechanics who patrolled the streets to watch the movements of the British troops and Tories; and in December 1774 was sent to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to urge the seizure of military stores there, and induced the colonists to attack and capture Fort William and Mary -- one of the first acts of military force in the war.

The Midnight Ride

The episode of his life for which he is most remembered today was the final event in a series of small uprisings known as the "Powder Alarms." His famous "Midnight Ride" occurred on the night of April 18-19 1775, when he and William Dawes were chosen by Dr. Joseph Warren to ride inland from Charlestown to warn the militias at Lexington and Concord of the approach of British army troops from Boston. Later, they were joined by Samuel Prescott, a doctor who was just returning from a visit to Lexington. Instructed to make as little noise as possible on the route, Revere chose instead to alarm the houses along the route by shouting out a warning of the approaching troops. He reached Lexington around midnight and brought news of the British advance to Samuel Adams and John Hancock. All three riders were captured by British troops at a roadblock on the way to nearby Concord. Prescott and Dawes escaped, with Prescott able to reach Concord to deliver the warning. Revere was detained longer and had his horse confiscated. He walked back to Lexington and arrived in time to see the first shots of the battle the next day. The warning delivered by the three riders successfully allowed the militia to repel the British troops, who were harried by guerilla fire along the road back to Boston.

Revere's role in the battle was not considered especially notable during his life. In 1860, over forty years after his death, the ride became the subject of a famous poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The poem is one of the well-known poems in American history and was memorized by later generations of schoolchildren. Its well-known opening lines are:

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

Longfellow took many liberties with the events of the evening, most especially giving credit to Revere for the collective achievements of the three riders (full text).

Parts of the ride are posted with signs marked "Revere's Ride". The full ride used Main Street in Charlestown, Broadway and Main Street in Somerville, Main Street and High Street in Medford, Medford Street to Arlington center, and Massachusetts Avenue the rest of the way (an old alignment through Arlington Heights is called Paul Revere Road).

Even today as during his life, Revere's greatest contribution to the American Revolution was that the army that assembled during the night of the Battles of Lexington and Concord and would become the first nucleus of the Continental Army was called together from an alarm and messenger system that Revere designed and implemented. Revere used his numerous contacts in Eastern Massachusetts to devise a system for the rapid callup of the militias to oppose the British. Although several messengers rode longer and alerted more soldiers than Revere that night, they were part of the organization that Revere created and implemented in Eastern New England. (The evidence for this can be found in David Hackett Fisher's "Paul Revere's Ride.")

The war years

In 1775 Revere was sent by the Massachusetts Provincial Congress to Philadelphia to study the working of the only powder mill in the colonies, and although he was allowed only to pass through the building, obtained sufficient information to enable him to set up a powder mill at Canton.

He was commissioned a Major of infantry in the Massachusetts militia in April 1776; was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel of artillery in November; was stationed at Castle William, defending Boston harbor, and finally received command of this fort. He served in an expedition to Rhode Island in 1778, and in the following year participated in the disastrous Penobscot Expedition. After his return he was accused of having disobeyed the orders of the commanding officer, was tried by court-martial, and was acquitted.

Post-war years

After the war he engaged in the manufacture of gold and silver ware. He was early to recognize the appeal of fine metal goods beyond the upper class to the growing middle class. Recognizing a burgeoning market for church bells in the religious revival that followed the war, he became one of the most well-known manufacturers of that instrument. He also became a pioneer in the production in America of copper plating and copper spikes for ships—most notably USS Constitution. He grew wealthy from his successful business interests and eventually retired to a country estate.

In 1795, as grandmaster of the Masonic fraternity, he laid the cornerstone of the new State House in Boston, and in this year also founded the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, becoming its first president.

Having achieved social status through his own efforts, Revere remained a dedicated conservative federalist in his later years, a proponent of the privilege of class against the democratic philosophy of Thomas Jefferson. He died in Boston on May 10, 1818, his death tolled by bells that he himself had manufactured.

Paul Revere appears on the $5,000 Series EE Savings Bond issued by the United States Government. His likeness also appears on some labels of the popular beer Samuel Adams.


See also

de:Paul Revere (Freiheitskämpfer) it:Paul Revere


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