Paul Revere: Revolutionary War Hero | Full Documentary | Biography

listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of paul revere when people talk about paul revere the first thing they talk about is the midnight ride and they’ll usually kind of laugh and say the british are coming the british are coming one if by land and two if by sea and i on the opposite shore will be the primary myth that’s attached to revere is that he was wading across the river for the signals in the old north church tower and that’s a scene which is engraved in everyone’s memory it comes from henry wadsworth longfellow’s poem it’s a dramatic scene and it never occurred so through the night wrote paul revere and so through the night went his cry of alarm to every middlesex village and farm it was henry weisworth’s longfellow’s poem in 1861 that really made revere famous the gear became kind of a national folk hero and the degree to which you became a national folk hero is actually even a little hard to explain we can’t even really explain that it’s just to caught people’s imagination this messenger rider the story of the real paul revere begins in colonial boston 1715 when a 13 year old boy of french huguenot origin stepped off the boat that had carried him from his native country to the new world of america sent by his family to seek his fortune alone apollos revoir paul revere’s father was bound by a 10-year apprenticeship to boston goldsmith john coney from the highly skilled kony he learned one of the most elite trades of the artisan class revere’s father was in fact quite lucky in a sense goldsmithing was the best trade to be in uh there was a very definite hierarchical situation in the in the ranks of crafts people in those days some trades were definitely better than others uh goldsmiths were near the top uh cobblers and shoemakers were near the bottom and others were in between by the late 1720s and by the time he married his uh married his wife deborah hitchborn he apparently was a an operating goldsmith with his own shop changing his name to the anglicized paul revere the former revoir opened a small business in boston’s north end where in 1734 his first son paul revere jr was born we know certain things about paul revere’s early life in some detail he received what was known as a writing school education which was essentially an elementary school education and then he apprenticed with his father and his father’s goldsmith shop and they were long days uh basically uh craftsmen worked from dawn to dusk he was a serious hard-working young man he attended church every sabbath he heard the messages of the clerics all of which emphasized hard work the need to get ahead in the world but also the need to help the community i think that was really a model for paul revere’s life i mean he certainly committed himself to getting ahead individually but he also was committed to the community revere and his seven younger siblings grew up in the rough and ready north end of boston a very crowded area on the one hand you had the reveres living in rented houses but in the same neighborhoods you had elegant mansions so as a young boy and throughout his life revere couldn’t help but be aware that people lived differently that the wealthy people the gentleman wore powdered wigs and their clothing was colorful it was imported from england whereas artisans were leather aprons and britches and homespun shirts you could immediately tell someone’s class by what they wore what the hair looked like and how they spoke class distinctions were very real in those days society in those days could be described as having three overall ranks you had the better sort you had the middle sort and you had the lesser sort and revere was in the middle sort although revere’s father did achieve a certain amount of success as a goldsmith i think because he was a french ancestry he may have had a little bit of trouble getting business in 1754 when revere was 19 his father passed away leaving paul his trade his good name but little material support that would help him provide for his family he was a very young man thrust into a breadwinner’s role then there was an intervening factor which was the french and indian war and at age 19 he was

appointed an officer in an expedition that went uh to what is now upper new york state to try to capture a small french fort and basically the troops marched out they sat around camp for a while they got sick a lot many of them died from diseases then they marched back to boston and this was kind of revere’s introduction to the military life what i think is important is the fact that being appointed an officer at such a young age he must have shown some uh leadership ability that the people who appointed him would have seen particularly since he was an artisan class boy when paul revere returned from the war those leadership abilities would bring him to the attention of the future leaders of the american revolution by the 1760s colonial boston was a city in transition in its north end paul revere had built up a fairly steady business as a silversmith or master goldsmith the more accurate term he had married sarah orne an artisan’s daughter and was raising the many children he would father with her but with england taxing american colonists to pay off her enormous french and indian war debt revere like many bostonians was beginning to feel the stirrings of rebellion the boston in which revere lived the boston where the revolutionary movement began was a society that was in the grips of a recession from 1700 to roughly 1770 the number of people without property number of people on the bottom of the economic ladder had doubled in boston though revere himself prospered and the middling class of people were prospering they were conscious of the fact that british policies were squeezing the economy in a way in which they resented in ways which too much restricted what people could do and therefore how they could move themselves up the economic ladder what drew revere to the revolutionary cause i think we have to look at his economic condition in the early 1760s revere had a thriving business he was making buttons and buckles for artisans and he was making spoons and teapots for boston’s merch and elite he expected as a craftsman to cater to the wealthier people in boston particularly since it was the very wealthy who could afford the expensive tea sets and salvers which the goldsmiths made their greatest profits on a tea set in those days a complete tea set could cost half the price of a house all of a sudden britain decides to pay off its huge war debt by imposing various tax-raising measures including the stamp act revere realizes this will impact his business negatively not so much directly but if merchants and lawyers are affected they certainly wouldn’t have the money to buy a teapot from paul revere i think what he saw in 1765 was a threat to his aspirations for the future to scrape through the depression revere turned to moonlighting in other trades to keep his growing family fed one was engraving which allowed him in lean times to do things like engraved book plates or business cards for people he learned dentistry he made false teeth and he advertised that they looked looked as good as a natural he made no claim you could eat with them but he said they looked very good even as he struggled to make a living revere’s growing interest in the revolutionary cause was fueled by his involvement in the brotherhood of freemasons to be a mason it didn’t matter what your rank was in society whether you were a shoemaker or a gentleman if you were a person of honor and integrity you could become a mason through masonry revere got a chance to exercise leadership in a society which ordinarily wouldn’t have allowed him the opportunity as a master goldsmith that allowed him a stage an arena to test himself as a leader and i think that in turn showed the leaders of boston’s revolution this is a man that they could rely upon he had a certain amount of status among boston’s artisans and mariners revere’s leadership abilities first caught the attention of his masonic lodge brother dr joseph warren one of the leading forces of the sons of liberty through warren revere was brought into the inner circles of the growing patriot movement revere had none of the education polish or oratory skills of the gentleman revolutionaries

but warren recognized that revere could prove valuable to the movement in other ways revere’s participation in the revolutionary movement was crucial the working classes in particular look to him for leadership that was revere’s role to act as a liaison between those working class groups and other more visible public figures like samuel adams or john hancock or john adams he also had specific skills as a silversmith revere also engraved his work he translated that skill into the art of engraving political cartoons dr joseph warren could climb up into a pulpit and deliver an eloquent speech paul revere could do the same thing through his engravings and these very graphic and very vivid and sometimes highly inflammatory political cartoons in 1770 an altercation between british soldiers and angry bostonians resulted in the guest and injury of several civilians thanks to patriot propaganda including a hot-selling print by paul revere this event became one of the flashpoints of the impending revolution known throughout the world as the boston massacre revere’s work as an engraver was very much propaganda i would add he was not the greatest artist in the world in fact the boston massacre engraving which is probably his best known was not an original work he uh shall we say borrowed it from an artist named pelham who was not too thrilled about it sir when i heard that you was cutting a plate of the late murder as i knew you was not capable of doing it unless you copied it from mine i leave you to reflect upon and consider one of the most dishonorable actions you could ever be guilty of this is pretty typical how revere did his political cartoons it turns out most engravers in those days copied from each other quite freely without attribution you can generally find uh originals that revere copied for all of his famous political prints right up to the revolutionary war by 1770 revere moved his wife and children into a three-story house in north square boston but its solid walls were not enough to keep misfortune out in may of 1773 sarah revere died shortly after burying her eighth child daughter isana there are no portraits of sarah we don’t have a clear picture of her towards the end of their marriage revere was heavily involved in the sons of liberty so i think certainly a lot of the burden of caring for the family fell to her and in fact if not for her revere could not have left so often on all of his activities by summer’s end isanna revere would join her mother in boston’s old granary burial ground she was one of five revere children who would not survive to adulthood sometimes we think today well this was such a relatively common occurrence in those days that either people a didn’t care too much or b they steal themselves not to care i don’t think that’s true i think revere did take the law seriously now a widower with a young family to raise alone paul revere silversmith was about to be drawn even further into the explosive events leading to the american revolution in late summer of 1773 according to family legend paul revere noticed an attractive young woman near his shop in the north end by the fall of that year he would make her his wife her name was rachel walker and she was the love of paul revere’s life she’s a very warm person that we can tell very capable on the back of a receipt review did compose a essentially a love letter to rachel which is is interesting because since we have so few personal letters from him about anything it’s just really nice to get a window into his feelings for her which were apparently pretty deep and very genuine added together with great care and art will point out the fair one nearest my heart and rachel uh inherited five or six children plus a household and then soon after that her husband was gone a lot on messenger riding and attending political meetings so she really inherited quite a bit of responsibility shortly after his second wedding paul revere’s own responsibilities in the

revolutionary underground had also increased friends brethren countrymen that worst of plagues the detested tea shipped for this port by the east india company is now arrived in the harbor the hour of destruction or manly opposition to tyranny stares you in the face boston november 29 1773 in the fall of 1773 boston patriots were in an uproar britain had repealed the so-called townshend acts taxes colonists had protested but had left one duty intact attacks on tea now a full-fledged son of liberty and member of several underground societies paul revere was among those resolved to resist bostonians resolved that the tea should not be landed that it should not be distributed that it should not be consumed revere’s cartoons showing the british government forcing tea down americans throats certainly had an impact on the population bostonians who might not wade through a political pamphlet would look at one of revere’s cartoons get the political lesson immediately and be prepared to act in opposition to the tea act or any other british regulation while revolutionary leaders tried unsuccessfully to persuade boston merchants to refuse the t secret committees like paul revere’s own north caucus club rendezvoused in taverns planning one of history’s most brilliant acts of political theater at a mass meeting at the old south meeting house sam adams who had been negotiating with the merchants came to announce there is nothing else we can do to save our country and as if that were a signal a war hoop went up outside the meeting house and two bands of thinly disguised indians bostonians went down to the wharf onto the ship and unloaded its tea and dumped it in the harbor we don’t know if revere actually was among that group of thinly disguised indians names were secret but it seems likely he was a man who had contacts among the group of people who would likely know their way around ships he was a leader either he was there or he certainly knew what was going to happen parliament was furious with the colonists or having destroyed so much british east india company t which was essentially government tea in those days and they were going to make an example out of boston so they passed what are called the intolerable acts the most important probably was shutting the port of boston and essentially that dried up the business in boston it was an extreme economic threat and looking at it now you could only see that it had to provoke a reaction it couldn’t possibly have done otherwise the closing of the port of boston deeply hurt revere’s silversmithing business once again economic need thrust him even deeper into the revolutionary effort to earn extra money he became a paid messenger rider for the committee of safety revere’s first ride was on december 17 1773 when he carried news of the boston tea party to new york that was the beginning of his celebrated career as messenger of the revolution revere was a vital link between the boston committee of correspondence and the continental congress in philadelphia he would be asked to give his assessment what’s going on in boston are the people supporting the protest likewise when he got back to boston he would be asked what’s going on in new york and philadelphia what do they think about the boston tea party will we have support he went on from there to be not just a messenger but somebody who was involved in an intelligence network by 1774 revere had organized his own spy ring of mechanics and artisans working-class men from his north end neighborhood who spent long nights tracking the movements of the british army stationed in boston we held our meetings in the green dragon tavern we were so careful that our meeting should be kept secret that every time we met every person swore upon the bible we frequently took turns two and two to watch the soldiers by patrolling the streets all night paul revere now think about that he works all day and he patrols the streets

all night so i think it says a lot about his idealism his belief that hey i have to sacrifice my sleep and my business to serve a larger cause i think he very much thought that he was part of a potentially worldwide wide movement to spread liberty i think it also has a certain cloak and dagger aspect which he must have found kind of appealing slowly we see revere assuming more and more responsibility in the revolutionary organization at the same time he was often reminded that he lived in a deferential and hierarchical society and he was not the equal of let’s say james otis and john adams to some degree he wasn’t really in the inner circle he couldn’t be because he was not in the of the upper class but at the same time sometimes i think he kind of held himself a little outside on purpose maybe he felt that he made his own activities a little more effective that way throughout 1774 revere’s activities as courier and spy helped spread the spirit of rebellion throughout new england but the peak of his revolutionary career would come in the spring of 1775 with his midnight ride under cover of night on april 18 1775 british troops set out from boston toward the outlying towns of lexington and concord their mission was to destroy a large quantity of ammunition stored there a bold show of force intended to thwart the rebellious colonists in their resistance to british rule in reality longfellow’s lone hero paul revere was but one of a network of patriot intelligence operators set out to foil this plan i think people think of the midnight ride as this very impetuous and mad cap impromptu sort of thing where if he leaps out of bed in the middle of the night jumps on his horse and races through the streets when in fact this was a carefully planned and carefully executed intelligence assignment a saturday night proceeding the 19th of april about 12 o’clock at night the boats belonging to the transports were all launched and carried under the sterns of the men of war from these movements we expected something serious was to be transacted paul revere what they suspected was the british were actually either planning to go to lexington to arrest john hancock and samuel adams or to the nearby town of concord to destroy the colony stores of gunpowder revere met with the sons of liberty in charlestown which is right across the river from boston and arranged that as soon as something would happen he was going to have somebody show some signals in the top of the old north church longfellow got it a little backwards the signals were not too powerful they were from him the reason was what if revere never got out of boston what if he was stopped as he rode across the charles which was highly likely so revere came up with this very good plan one if by land and two if i see that part is correct on tuesday evening the 18th it was observed that a number of soldiers were marching toward the common paul revere when the actual evening that is midnight ride occurred a messenger came to get him and told him to go over to dr joseph warren’s house and when he got there he discovered that william dawes the other messenger rider that night who sometimes forgotten about had been sent by the land route a revere was given the same message that dawes was to deliver to adamson hancock to say that the troops were marching and that they were probably marching out into the countryside to arrest them while revere’s friend robert newman climbed to the top of the old north church steeple to hang the lantern signals two more patriots quietly rode revere across the river toward charlestown passing right under the bow of the british warship somerset it was then young flood the ship was winding and the moon was rising they landed me on charleston side when i got into town i met colonel conant and several others they said they had seen our signals i told them what was acting and i went to get me a horse the moon shone bright i had got almost over charleston common towards cambridge when i saw two officers on horseback under the shade of a tree i turned my horse very quick and pushed for the medford road revere’s escape took him on a detour through medford where he alerted the

town militia as revere’s message spread many more riders set off on their own midnight rides the myth is that revere acted alone that he was a single solitary lone rider taking the responsibility for alerting the whole countryside on his shoulders alone he had lots and lots of help on his ride he and dozens of others who were brought into motion by revere’s ride did alert the countryside after that i alarmed almost every house until i got to lexington he did not go racing through the countryside yelling the british are coming the british are coming number one because if he would have done that his horse would have dropped dead after about three miles the other thing is is that he wouldn’t have said the british are coming the british are coming because he was british so was george washington so was john hancock i mean they thought of themselves as american british these were english english subjects and so saying the british are coming i mean if somebody would have heard that they would have said what the closest dialogue to the british are coming occurs in lexington he got to the percentage of reverend jonas clark where john hancock and samuel adams were staying sergeant william monroe of the lexington militia was guarding the house he said to revere the family has retired and they don’t wish to be disturbed to which a somewhat annoyed revere said noise you’ll have noise enough before long the regulars are coming out about a half hour later william dawes arrived revere said we refreshed ourselves a mug of rum whatever he doesn’t say together they decided it might not be a bad idea to continue on to concord revere and dawes set off for concord meeting another patriot dr samuel prescott along the way the three men alarmed houses and farms all the way to lincoln where they were pursued by a patrol of british officers prescott and dawes escaped but revere was taken prisoner one of them clapped his pistol to my head and told me he was going to ask some questions and if i did not give true answers he would blow my brains out well the british officers learned who revere was as he said they abused much he was known to them as a courier he was quite well known and he immediately decided to pull a fast one on them he tells them i have alarmed the country all the way up i should have 500 men there soon well of course the soldiers had no way of knowing that they were probably around 70 plus members of the lexington militia waiting at lexington and greene alarmed by this bluff the soldiers commandeered revere’s horse and hurried back toward boston releasing him in sight of lexington green he arrived in time to hear the opening shots of the american revolution you know the rest in the books you have read how the british regulars fired and fled how the farmers gave them all for ball from behind each fence and farm yard all eyes are turned upon the tragical event of the 19th we are unanimous in the resolution to die or be free a new england patriot april 25th 1775 the shot heard round the world had been fired the revolutionary war had begun ordinary men like paul revere had helped fellow patriots to prepare for the possibility of war and when the time came helped make certain they were ready but once the fighting was underway the dynamics of leadership began to change in the 1770s when revere is working as a courier he’s virtually at the center of history then he makes his midnight ride clearly another important role i think the irony of the midnight ride is that’s really the height of revere’s um role in the revolution after the riot people like john and samuel adams moved on to the continental congress in philadelphia they are drafting a new government they’re creating a new society revere pretty much is relegated to a secondary role

during the siege of boston paul revere continued to use his skills to aid the patriot cause he managed to smuggle his printing press out of the city and engraved copper plates to print currency he helped procure cannon and gunpowder and participated in some military expeditions but because he was not a gentleman his fellow revolutionaries did not consider him officer material he very much wanted to be a continental army officer and i think it was a very bitter and a sad episode in his life he said i have never been taken notice of by those i considered my friends i shall have to be contented in this state’s service he ended up merely as a colonel in the massachusetts artillery regiment and the war years were not glorious at all for paul revere for most of the three years he was in the massachusetts army revere was the commander of castle island which was a fort in boston harbor and basically his task was to stay on guard in case the english ever came back which they never did so his command degenerated rather rapidly into keeping his men from deserting attempting to get them supplies eventually and are holding innumerable court martials for minor offenses finally in july of 1779 revere was appointed artillery officer in a massive amphibious expedition to dislodge the british from penobscot bay maine ironically the officers second in command of the land troops was brigadier general peleg wadsworth the grandfather of henry wadsworth longfellow the poet who would make revere a legend the penobscot expedition was revere’s only chance really to to finally gain some sort of glory and reputation not only in his own time but perhaps for history it turned out to be probably the greatest disaster of his life it’s the largest amphibious operation that any american army was involved in prior to d-day 40-some ships many of which were privateers at least a thousand and possibly as many as fifteen hundred soldiers including some indian tribes a lot of different authorities involved the massachusetts army the continental navy the new hampshire army and various other authorities that were sent to capture a rather small fort they really should have been able to take the fort rather easily but apparently there was a lot of bickering between the navy and the army the naval leaders were too timid the british then sent some ships up from new york caught the american navy sitting in the water the american fleet attempted to flee they ran their ships aground sailors and soldiers had to jump off save themselves as best they could revere wandered up and down the penobscot for the better part of the day looking for his soldiers it was a disaster during that retreat revere’s actions were somewhat questionable for one thing revere ordered his men back to boston although he technically did not have the authority but there’s an even more striking episode when general wadsworth asked revere to turn over his boat so they could evacuate the crew of a schooner that was drifted towards the enemy revere responded that general watson had no right to command him i think he simply wasn’t thinking but it didn’t look good at all once back in boston revere and other officers from the ill-fated expedition were charged with insubordination and cowardice revere could have let the whole issue of his censure go if he wanted to it really didn’t affect his business i think the problem was he felt that his honors had been besmirched and this was very important and so he wanted to set the record straight and fight seven times for court martial and eventually did get a court martial the court finds that the whole army was in such great confusion and so scattered and dispersed that no regular orders would or could be given and that lieutenant colonel paul revere be acquitted with equal honor of the other officers in the same expedition court martial decision 1782 i think pinocchio shook him to his core ironically though he emerged i think after a time with more confidence in the future and in the 1780s revere established a reputation not as a military officer but as a public spirited citizen and a successful merchant and manufacturer in 1785 great britain signed the treaty of paris officially acknowledging america’s independence

but the boston to which revere returned after the war was in desperate need of rebuilding the war particularly for boston was devastating the city had stagnated revere’s business was in shambles tastes had changed so that one thing the revolution did do was create a a market for silver for the ordinary folk rather than a few carefully wrought pieces for the well to do revere recognized this and changed the way he did business began to manufacture more items for mass consumption and that worked he got on his feet again his business took off again and he went into other businesses revere expanded the silversmith shop into a hardware store in 1783 in 1788 opened a foundry in boston’s north end he made nails and window weights and stoves and fire backs and then in the 1790s he started producing cannon and ordnance he became a nationally recognized authority on canon then he took up the new business of making bells that was a smart move there was a religious revival after the revolution and more churches meant a need for more church bells in 1800 when revere was nearly 65 years old with 25 000 of his of his own money he began yet another new business the rolling of copper it is reverse copper sheeting that’s used to line the bottom of the uss constitution it is reversed copper sheeting that covers the dome in the new state house it is revere’s copper cheating that lines the bottoms of dozens of merchant ships throughout the commonwealth it turns out to be a very prosperous business what he ended up becoming was essentially one of america’s earliest industrialists i don’t think he really thought of himself that way i think he thought of himself still as a craftsman and the foundry and copper mill business did make him fairly wealthy by the end of his life but revere’s post-war years were not only filled with economic achievements having learned well the puritan lessons of the importance of community service paul revere went on to become one of massachusetts most productive citizens sometimes it’s been noted that paul revere didn’t run for political office but actually in a way he did have a rather full political career if you define it slightly differently he was involved in many voluntary organizations and particularly the freemasons he was grand master of the massachusetts grand lodge for three years he was in an early library society he was one of the founders of the charitable mechanics association when the constitution the draft of the constitution of the united states was sent to the states for ratification everyone looked to massachusetts when the contest was endowed revere called a meeting of the mechanics the working men of boston in the green dragon tavern hundreds of artisans gathered to hear revere and others make an argument for ratification of the constitution that mechanics meeting the resolution passed by the mechanics in favor of the constitution did in fact persuade samuel adams that he too should be for ratification of the constitution so too then was john hancock so those key players in this political contest were persuaded by the action that revere took by 1811 paul revere goldsmith had become a wealthy man he and rachel spent long lazy days at their country home in cantondale enjoying the fruits of their many years of labor not distant far from taunton road in canton dale is my abode my carth though small my mind’s at ease my better half takes pains to please contents it’s lolling in a chair and all my friends find welcome there in my last stage how blessed am i to find content and plenty by paul revere 1811

by the end of his life i would say revere had pretty much risen into the ranks of gentlemen and revere’s youngest son john uh went to harvard which is the college and eventually became a doctor so in a sense almost by through his through his youngest son the family moved up into the upper class died in this town on saturday after a short but distressing illness mrs rachel wife of paul revere esquire age 68 boston chronicle july 1st 1813 i think she really was really quite a remarkable woman her death must have been quite a blow to revere her death was also uh kind of a double blow because a few months previously his oldest son had died as well so i think his lady years were marred by these two losses also mart i think by revere’s disapproval of a lot what was going on in american society he didn’t approve of the political changes he was a staunch federalist he believed in social order and harmony and deference and he saw the jeffersons as undermining all of that with your belief in equality he kept a very close watch on the world around him from his retirement wanting not just to sit back quietly and observe to really be up on events to be part of things i think it’s nice that he kept that up to the end on sunday may 10 1818 the church bells of boston including those cast by revere himself told the death knell paul revere one of the city’s most honored citizens had died at the age of 83 i think he would have absolutely loved the notoriety that came to him because of longfellow’s poem at the same time i think he might also have liked a much more simpler description of his life it was delivered by a man who knew him william tudor tudor had been one of john adams’s law clerks and he said of paul revere quite simply mr revere throughout life was an upright useful respectable citizen that in fact should have been the goal of anybody who had committed himself to this patriot cause to be an upright useful citizen you can’t ask for anything more for born on the night wind of the past through all our history to the last in the hour of darkness and peril and need the people will awaken and listen to hear the hurrying hoofpeats of that steed and the midnight message of paul revere you