Object of the Month

Paul Revere's Ride

The Alarm.
Engraving by J. P. Pranis.
Published in Charles Coffin, The Boys of '76, 1877.

When he wrote this month's featured letter in 1798, Paul Revere recalled the events of April 18, 1775, when he made his famous trek from Boston to Lexington in aid of the Revolutionary cause. In his capacity as a messenger for the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, Revere was notified on the evening of April 18 that British forces in Boston appeared to be preparing for a significant maneuver. The Patriots feared that troops were heading to Lexington either to capture John Hancock and Samuel Adams, leaders in the fight for independence, or to seize munitions stored in Concord. In either case, Revere needed to arrive in Lexington ahead of the British in order to warn Hancock, Adams, and the militia.

Revere set off on horseback alone from Charlestown at 11 p.m. Nearly escaping capture by two British officers early in his ride, Revere veered through Medford, where he alerted the town's militia and many other residents along the way. As soon as he arrived in Lexington, he warned Hancock and Adams of the peril and set off again for Concord. Riding in company with two other messengers, William Dawes and Samuel Prescott, Revere continued to raise the alarm at homes along their route, until he again crossed paths with several British officers. Despite his efforts to elude them, Revere was held at gunpoint, interrogated, and finally forced to give up his horse. Returning on foot to assist Hancock and Adams, Revere found himself on the outskirts of the fighting as the militia and British troops engaged on the green in Lexington.

Revere captured his recollections in this letter at the request of Jeremy Belknap, the founder and then Corresponding Secretary of the Massachusetts Historical Society, who understood that Revere's memory of the events of April 18 would make a valuable contribution to the understanding of American history. The Society also owns two versions of a deposition describing the ride, which Revere provided later in 1775, when the Massachusetts Provincial Congress required them from eyewitnesses of the battles. You can read more about these documents, as well as the document shown here, in Paul Revere's Three Accounts of His Famous Ride, an MHS publication. Much more extensive collections of Paul Revere and Revere family papers are also available in the MHS collections for visiting researchers. To find out more, visit our Collections web pages and ABIGAIL, our online catalog.


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