Monday, January 23, 2017

Paul Revere: Patriot and Craftsman

1813 Gilbert Stuart portrait of
Paul Revere
Paul Revere was an American patriot who is known for his legendary midnight ride to warn Massachusetts colonists that “The British are coming.” Oddly enough that is not what he would have said at all; the colonists themselves were still considered British at the time. Regardless of the misconceptions about his famous ride, Paul Revere was a dedicated patriot and he did play an integral role in warning the people of Massachusetts that fateful night. He lived in Boston during some of the most tumultuous times the city and the country have ever seen. He may not have known it then, but he was a witness to some of the most important moments in United States history.

Paul Revere was born in Boston in December of 1734. He was the son of Paul and Deborah Revere. Paul was one of eight of the couple’s children that survived to adulthood. Paul Sr. was a French immigrant who had come to America to seek his fortune and had become a goldsmith. His father changed his name from Apollos Rivoire to Paul Revere after coming to America. Paul Jr. attended the North Writing School for a few years and then his father took him as an apprentice in his goldsmith business.

In 1754, when Paul was nineteen years old, his father died, leaving him the business and the family to care for. In 1756, Paul Revere volunteered for the Crown Point Expedition. He went to Lake George, New York as an officer to fight the French troops there. The following year, he married Sarah Orne. Together, the couple had a total of eight children, two of which died in infancy.

During this time in Paul Revere’s life, tensions between the colonists and the British troops in Boston were rising. Taxes were increasing greatly and it was putting a strain on Boston’s economy. Paul became a freemason and was introduced into a secret organization called the “Sons of Liberty” by a fellow freemason named Dr. Joseph Warren. Paul Revere became a very active member of the “Sons of Liberty” and he also did what he could to help spread propaganda concerning the British. He began making engravings of political cartoons for publications and when the Boston Massacre occurred in 1770, Paul made his most famous engraving ever.

In May of 1773, Paul’s wife died shortly after giving birth to a daughter; the baby died not long after her mother. That fall, he married Rachel Walker, with whom he would have another eight children, three of which died before the age of four. The marriage took a lot of the strain off of Paul, who had been juggling his covert activities, his job and his children, since the death of his first wife.

In December of 1773, the British tax on tea had the people of Boston furious. When a large shipment of tea came into Boston and was sitting on ships in the Boston Harbor, some of the colonists decided that it would be a good idea to dress as Indians and dump the tea into the ocean. It is unknown if Paul Revere was directly involved in the Boston Tea Party (as the event would come to be called), but it is certain that his political cartoons helped spread animosity for the British among Bostonians. That year, Revere also became a messenger rider for the Committee of Correspondence and the Committee of Safety.

Delivering correspondence and news brought in a little extra money for Paul, which he could’ve used seeing that the British troops had closed off the port in Boston and effectively crippled the economy there. However, he was also helping his cause by delivering news as far as New York and Pennsylvania. He and other messengers like him were a critical line of communication for patriots throughout the colonies. In 1774, Paul took his patriotism to another level and began working with other patriots to spy on the movements of British troops in Boston.

On the night of April 18, 1775, these spies noticed that the some British troops were on the move. Dr. Warren asked Paul Revere to ride out and spread the news. He was also asked to get the message to Samuel Adams and John Hancock in Lexington. It was thought that the British troops meant to arrest them. Contrary to popular belief, Paul Revere was not alone in his mission that night. Two other men were sent on different routes with the same goal and their warnings prompted other men to spread the word as well. Because of these men, the Massachusetts militia and minutemen were able to prepare for the arrival of the British in Lexington and Concord.

In the early morning hours of April 19, 1775, the three original riders met up and were arrested. The other two riders were able to escape, but Paul Revere was detained for a while. He was eventually let go, but his horse was taken. He then traveled on foot to Lexington Green where he witnessed part of the first military engagement of the American Revolution.

After his famed ride and the Battle of Lexington and Concord, Paul Revere continued his printing and participated in the revolution as much as he could. He joined the Massachusetts militia and was eventually made a Lieutenant Colonel. He was given a post as the commander of Castle Island in Boston, but he saw virtually no action until he was sent to Maine with the Penobscot Expedition.

The battle in Penobscot ended disastrously for the Americans, troops and officers alike scattered, while disobeying orders. When the troops returned home, Revere and others were charged with insubordination and cowardice. Revere prided himself in his patriotism and was ashamed of this charge. He requested a court martial and was eventually given one. It was found that in light of the horrible planning and execution of the expedition and the subsequent battle, there was no way orders could have been given or received properly. The men were acquitted of all charges.

In 1785, the fledgling nation officially gained its independence. Paul Revere continued with his goldsmith business in Boston and met with some success, despite the economy, by crafting items that were attainable for average citizens and not just the wealthy. He also branched out and opened a foundry as well as a hardware store. His new businesses were also successful and by 1800 he could afford to branch out yet again and begin rolling copper. Once again, he met with success. In fact, his copper was used in the building of the USS Constitution, and the New State House.

In 1801 Paul built a second house for him and his wife in Canton, MA. Paul seems to have been happy at that home and even wrote a poem about living there. He continued being involved with his companies into his old age and spent a lot of time with his wife. Rachel Revere passed away in June of 1813 at the age of 68. Paul Revere followed his wife three years later on May 10, 1818; he was 83 years old.


Paul Revere: The Midnight Rider, Dave Pryke, A&E Television Network, 1995

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