Today, the Lexington-Concord Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers Paul Revere’s ride 242 years ago.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow began his iconic ballad:
“PAUL REVERE’S RIDE
“Listen, my children, and you shall hear
“Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
“On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-ﬁve;”
The ballad continued to describe the infamous ride that alerted the people of the British advance.
The book, Paul Revere’s Ride, published in 1907, included all of Longfellow’s poem and also Paul Revere’s own description of that night.
Paul Revere’s own account of his famous ride, given in a letter to the Rev. Dr. Jeremy Belknap, Cor Responding Secretary of the Massachusetts Historical Society
Dear Sir,— Having a little leisure, I wish to fulfill my promise of giving you some facts and anecdotes prior to the battle of Lexington, which I do not remember to have seen in any History of the American Revolution.
In the year 1773, I was employed by the Selectmen of the town of Boston to carry the account of the Destruction of the Tea to New York; and afterwards, 1774, to carry their dispatches to New York and Philadelphia for calling a Congress; and afterwards to Congress several times.
In the fall of 1774 and winter of 1775,I was one of upwards of thirty, chieﬂy mechanics, who formed ourselves into a committee for the purpose of watching the movements of the British soldiers, and gaining every intelligence of the movements of the Tories.
We held our meetings at the Green Dragon tavern. We were so careful that our meetings should be kept secret, that every time we met every person swore upon the Bible that they would not discover any of our transactions but to Messrs. Hancock, Adams, Doctors Warren, Church, and one or two more.
About November, when things began to grow serious, a gentleman who had connections with the Tory party, but was a Whig at heart, acquainted me, that our meetings were discovered, and mentioned the identical words that were spoken among us the night before.
We did not then distrust Dr. Church, but supposed it must be someone among us.
We removed to another place, which we thought was more secure; but here we found that all our transactions were communicated to Governor Gage. (This came to me through the then Secretary Flucker; he told it to the gentleman mentioned above.)
It was then a common opinion, that there was a traitor in the Provincial Congress, and that Gage was possessed of all their secrets. (Church was a member of that Congress for Boston.)
In the winter, towards the spring, we frequently took turns, two and two, to watch the soldiers, by patrolling the streets all night.
The Saturday night preceding 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. (They had been previously hauled up and repaired.)
We likewise found that the grenadiers and light infantry were all taken off duty. From these movements, we expected something serious was to be transacted.
On Tuesday evening, the 18th, it was observed that a number of soldiers were marching towards the bottom of the Common.
About 10 o’clock, Dr. Warren sent in great haste for me, and begged that I would immediately set off for Lexington, where Messrs. Hancock and Adams were, and acquaint them of the movement, and that it was thought they were the objects.
When I got to Dr. Warren’s house, I found he had sent an express by land to Lexington,— a Mr. William Dawes.
The Sunday before, by desire of Dr. Warren, I had been to Lexington, to Messrs. Hancock and Adams, who were at the Rev. Mr. Clark’s.
I returned at night through Charlestown; there I agreed with a Colonel Conant and some other gentlemen, that if the British went out by water, we would show two lanthorns in the North Church steeple; and if by land, one, as a signal; for we were apprehensive it would be difficult to cross the Charles River, or get over Boston Neck.
I left Dr. Warren, called upon a friend, and desired him to make the signals.
I then went home, took my boots and surtout, went to the north part of the town, where I had kept a boat; two friends rowed me across Charles River, a little to the eastward where the Somerset man-of-war lay.
It was then young flood, the ship was winding, and the moon was rising. They landed me on the Charlestown 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 went to get me a horse; I got a horse of Deacon Larkin.
While the horse was preparing, Richard Devens, Esq., who was one of the Committee of Safety, came to me, and told me that he came down the road from Lexington, after sundown, that evening; that he met ten British officers, all well mounted, and armed, going up the road.
I set off upon a very good horse; it was then about eleven o’clock, and very pleasant.
After I had passed Charlestown Neck, and got nearly opposite where Mark was hung in chains, I saw two men on horseback, under a tree.
When I got near them, I discovered they were British officers. One tried to get ahead of me, and the other to take me.
I turned my horse very quick, and galloped towards Charlestown Neck, and then pushed for the Medford road.
The one who chased me, endeavoring to cut me off, got into a clay pond, near where the new tavern is now built.
I got clear of him, and went through Medford, over the bridge, and up to Menotomy.
In Medford, I waked the Captain of the minute men; and after that, I alarmed almost every house, till I got to Lexington.
I found Messrs. Hancock and Adams at the Rev. Mr. Clark’s; I told them my errand, and inquired for Mr. Dawes; they said he had not been there; I related the story of the two officers, and supposed that he must have been stopped, as he ought to have been there before me.
After I had been there about half an hour, Mr. Dawes came; we refreshed ourselves, and set off for Concord, to secure the stores, &c. there.
We were overtaken by a young Dr. Prescot, whom we found to be a high Son of Liberty.
I told them of the ten officers that Mr. Devens met, and that it was probable we might be stopped before we got to Concord; for I supposed that after night, they divided themselves, and that two of them had fixed themselves in such passages as were most likely to stop any intelligence going to Concord.
I likewise mentioned that we had better alarm all the inhabitants till we got to Concord; the young Doctor much approved of it, and said he would stop with either of us, for the people between that and Concord knew him, and would give the more credit to what we said.
We had got nearly half way: Mr. Dawes and the Doctor stopped to alarm the people of a house: I was about one hundred rods ahead, when I saw two men, in nearly the same situation as those officers
were, near Charlestown. I called for the Doctor and Mr. Dawes to come up.
In an instant I was surrounded by four; — they had placed themselves in a straight road, that inclined each way; they had taken down a pair of bars on the north side of the road, and two of them were under a tree in the pasture.
The Doctor being foremost, he came up; and we tried to get past them; but they being armed with pistols and swords, they forced us into the pasture;—the Doctor jumped his horse over a low stone wall, and got to Concord.
I observed a wood at a small distance, and made for that.
When I got there, out started six officers, on horseback, and ordered me to dismount; —one of them, who appeared to have the command, examined me, where I came from, and what my name was? I told him.
He asked me if I was an express? I answered in the affirmative. He demanded what time I left Boston? I told him; and added, that their troops had catched aground in passing the river, and that there would be five hundred Americans there in a short time, for I had alarmed the country all the way up.
He immediately rode towards those who stopped us, when all five of them came down upon a full gallop; one of them, whom I afterwards found to be a Major Mitchel, of the 5th Regiment, clapped his pistol to my head, called me by name, and told me he was going to ask me some questions, and if I did not give him true answers, he would blow my brains out.
He then asked me similar questions to those above. He then ordered me to mount my horse, after searching me for arms.
He then ordered them to advance, and to lead me in front. When we got to the road, they turned down towards Lexington.
When we had got about one mile, the Major rode up to the officer that was leading me, and told him to give me to the Sergeant.
As soon as he took me, the Major ordered him, if I attempted to run, or anybody insulted them, to blow my brains out.
We rode till we got near Lexington meeting-house, when the militia fired a volley of guns, which appeared to alarm them very much.
The Major inquired of me how far it was to Cambridge, and if there were any other road?
After some consultation, the Major rode up to the Sergeant, and asked if his horse was tired?
He answered him, he was—(he was a Sergeant of Grenadiers, and had a small horse)—then, said he, take that man’s horse.
I dismounted, and the Sergeant mounted my horse, when they all rode towards Lexington meeting-house.
I went across the burying-ground, and some pastures, and came to the Rev. Mr. Clark’s house, where I found Messrs. Hancock and Adams.
I told them of my treatment, and they concluded to go from that house towards Woburn.
I went with them, and a Mr. Lowell, who was a clerk to Mr. Hancock.
When we got to the house where they intended to stop, Mr. Lowell and myself returned to Mr. Clark’s, to find what was going on.
When we got there, an elderly man came in; he said he had just come from the tavern, that a man had come from Boston, who said there were no British troops coming.
Mr. Lowell and myself went towards the tavern, when we met a man on a full gallop, who told us the troops were coming up the rocks.
We afterwards met another, who said they were close by.
Mr. Lowell asked me to go to the tavern with him, to get a trunk of papers belonging to Mr. Hancock.
We went up chamber; and while we were getting the trunk, we saw the British very near, upon a full march. We hurried towards Mr. Clark’s house.
In our way, we passed through the militia. There were about fifty. When we had got about one hundred yards from the meeting-house, the British troops appeared on both sides of the meeting-house.
In their front was an officer on horseback. They made a short halt; when I saw, and heard, a gun fired, which appeared to be a pistol.
Then I could distinguish two guns, and then a continual roar of musketry; when we made off with the trunk.
He continued his letter by describing Dr. Church’s two-faced treachery and ended with:
“I am, Sir, with every sentiment of esteem, your humble servant, Paul Revere”
The Lexington-Concord Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with an artist’s image of the ride of Paul Revere.