THE MIDNIGHT WALK OF PAUL REVERE
Our nation tends to glamorize or overlook many events in our history. However, I believe that with the application of the national will and a cold compress these events might someday be glamorized and overlooked at the same time. Let us for a moment use Paul Revere’s famous ride as a mirror and take a good long look, for longer than is strictly necessary – in fact, until there is an angry pounding at the door.
Hardly a man is now alive -- or woman, for that matter, or child currently undergoing a public school education -- who remembers that famous day and year. On April 18, 1775, two lanterns hung in Boston’s Old North Church. At that signal, William Dawes and Samuel Prescott (we’ll pay them no heed again later) and Paul Revere fled to raise the alarm.
Through the countryside rode Paul Revere, alarming Boston and Charleston, disturbing Somerville and Arlington, making an unholy racket in Medford and Lexington. He warned John Hancock and Samuel Adams the British were coming for them. It was a good thing it happened in 1775. Nowadays, disturbing the peace and obstructing arrest is apt to land a fellow in hot water.
According to Revere himself, he did not yell “the British are coming, to arms!” but the less catchy “the regulars are coming out.” Here is an early example of a slogan that achieves its goal by annoyance; 200 years later, this principal applied to a television jingle would make a candy bar into the meal that comes between lunch and dinner.
Paul Revere wasn’t the only patriot who rode through the night shrieking like a lottery winner. In 1777, 16-year-old Sybil Ludington hollered through Connecticut, “the British are burning Danbury.” Israel Bissel covered a whopping 345 miles to Philadelphia crying, “To arms, to arms, the war has begun,” a phrase described later by listeners as “downright infectious.” Samuel Tufts and Dr. Martin Herrick rode and yelled without much recognition at all. Since these were the days before red carpet award ceremonies, they were spared the formality of having to let it eat them up inside.
And whatever happened to William Dawes and Samuel Prescott?
Dawes met Revere in Lexington, then they both ran into Prescott on his way back from his girlfriend’s, then all three were captured by soldiers. Prescott and Dawes escaped, but Paul Revere was questioned at gunpoint and had his horse confiscated. He was obliged to let two British officers walk him home to Lexington.
In conclusion, early patriots occupy a seldom-patted pocket of American history and even that most glamorous adventure, the midnight ride of Paul Revere, actually began at about 10 on a Tuesday night when most of the garbage had been put out for collection already. It’s important to digest such facts as these, though later they may be eliminated, at least once a day, as doctors recommend.