The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere

The provincial authorities were steadily collecting provisions, arms, and ammunition. Unhappily, these essentials were hard to obtain. On April 19,1775, the committee of safety could only count up twelve field-pieces in Massachusetts; and there had been collected in that colony 21,549 fire-arms, 17,441 pounds of powder, 22,191 pounds of ball, 144,699 flints, 10,108 bayonets, 11,979 pouches, 15,000 canteens. There were also 17,000 pounds of salt fish, 35,000 pounds of rice, with large quantities of beef and pork. Viewed as an evidence of the forethought of the colonists, these statistics are remarkable; but there was something heroic and indeed almost pathetic in the project of going to war with the British government on the strength of twelve field-pieces and seventeen thousand pounds of salt fish.

Yet when, on the night of the 18th of April, 1775, Paul Revere rode beneath the bright moonlight through Lexington to Concord, with Dawes and Prescott for comrades, he was carrying the signal for the independence of a nation. He had seen across the Charles River the two lights from the church-steeple in Boston which were to show that a British force was going out to seize the patriotic supplies at Concord; he had warned Hancock and Adams at Rev. Jonas Clark's parsonage in Lexington, and had rejected Sergeant Monroe's caution against unnecessary noise, with the rejoinder, "You'll have noise enough here before long: the regulars are coming out." As he galloped on his way the regulars were advancing with steady step behind him, soon warned of their own danger by alarm-bells and signal-guns. When Revere was captured by some British officers who happened to be near Concord, Colonel Smith, the commander of the expedition, had already halted, ordered Pitcairn forward, and sent back prudently for reinforcements. It was a night of terror to all the neighboring Middlesex towns, for no one knew what excesses the angry British troops might commit on their return march..

Before 5 A.M. on April 19, 1775, the British troops had reached Lexington Green, where thirty-eight men, under Captain Parker, stood up before six hundred or eight hundred to be shot at, their captain saying, "Don't fire unless you are fired on; but if they want a war, let it begin here." It began there; they were fired upon; they fired rather ineffectually in return, while seven were killed and nine wounded. The rest, after retreating, reformed and pursued the British towards Concord, capturing seven stragglers,--the first prisoners taken in the war.

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