We all know who Paul Revere was, how he rode from Boston to Lexington warning Americans of impending danger. In fact it would seem that Revere’s only known activities during the American Revolution was his famous ride. He did more than that though, playing a considerable part in America’s fight for freedom.
Had it not been for religious persecution that drove Revere’s father, Apollos Rivoire, to Boston, Revere may have never even existed. Apollos was sent to Boston by his father who had trained the boy up in the Protestant faith. Once in the New World Apollos was indentured and apprenticed to a goldsmith. Apollos adapted well to his surrounding, changing his name to Paul Revere and later buying his freedom. He married Deborah Hitchborn and in 1734 Paul Revere II was born. [From here on up to Apollos' death, Paul Revere II is referred to as Revere, Jr., and his father as Revere, Sr.]
As a young child Revere, Jr.’s family struggled financially. At the age of 15 Revere Jr. began ringing the bells for an Anglican Church earning a little wages. Revere Sr.wasn’t thrilled about his son working in an Anglican Church, since the family was clearly Puritan in its beliefs, but he allowed his son to go on. Revere Sr. did put his foot down when Revere Jr. began listening to a discordant preacher, Jonathan Mayhew. In 1754 Revere Sr. died, leaving Revere Jr. to carry on. With his mother and six siblings to support it wasn’t easy.
When the French and Indian War erupted, Revere served a short and uneventful stint. In 1757 he married Sarah ‘Sary’ Orne. As a talented smith and sociable, Revere began doing very good business. He moved through the social circles, even becoming a steadfast Mason for the rest of his life. In 1764 smallpox hit. When one of Revere’s children appeared to be coming down with smallpox, he was told to send the child away from Boston. When he refused, his house was quarantined and he locked out. While the pox hit Boston severely, the Revere household escaped with their lives.
Soon after the French and Indian War’s end Britain began looking for ways to pay for the war’s astronomical debt. They couldn’t possibly tax their citizens in Britain any further. They were already paying extremely high taxes. So they turned to the Colonies as a source of taxation. Someone needed to pay for the war. With this, Boston became a violent place as mobs burned down buildings and threatened officials. They were protesting “Taxation without representation”. Revere meanwhile made engravings showing political cartoons supporting the Patriot cause. In 1773 Sarah Revere died leaving eight motherless children. Late that same year Revere married Rachel Walker. Revere among other things took part in the Boston Tea Party.
April 1775 found Revere on his midnight ride from Boston to Lexington. Word was that the British regulars were marching to Lexington and Concord. Their mission? Capture the Patriot leaders, Samuel Adams and John Hancock who were in Lexington and destroy stockpiled munitions. Revere’s job was to warn Adams and Hancock as well as Lexington and Concord. [For "One if by land, two if by sea" refer to this link] Revere had his work cut out for him. British patrols were everywhere on the road that night and the Charles River, which he did manage to cross, was guarded by the Somerset. Revere wasn’t alone though. William Dawes had set out before Revere on the same mission. On the road the famous midnight rider was chased by a British patrol, but managed to get away. He arrived at the Clarke House in time to warn Adams and Hancock. Dawes arrived a little later.
Now the pair headed for Concord another rider joining them, Dr. Samuel Prescott. Unfortunately, the trio was ambushed. Revere was captured, but the other two riders managed to get away. Revere attempted to escape, but was unsuccessful. Later the British released Revere when they heard gunfire coming from Lexington, but they took Revere’s horse. In Lexington, Revere and another man were carrying important and incriminating papers in a large trunk left behind by Hancock, when the militia and British prepared to face off. Revere witnessed the Revolution’s first battle as the opposing sides fired on one another. It was the shot heard ‘round the world.
Back in Boston Revere moved his family out, but left his son Paul III to watch the shop. Revere joined in setting up an operational mill for gunpowder. If America was going to win the war they needed powder. Also there was the task of retrieving Dr. Joseph Warren’s body, a Patriot leader killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill and close friend of Revere’s. The Americans wanted to provide Warren with a proper burial. It was Revere’s sad duty of identifying the body.
In the Massachusetts Infantry, Revere served as lieutenant colonel, although he coveted a commission in the Continental Army. As a soldier Revere put up with petty nonsense out of those under him and other officers. Boredom drove many to misbehavior. ‘Babysitting’ wasn’t something Revere had envisioned himself doing for the cause. Finally in 1779 Revere looked as if he would get his fight with the enemy. Twenty-one ships made up a fleet that was sent to Penobscot Bay in Maine. British forces were erecting a fort there. Unfortunately, many of the soldiers sent were ill-suited for the job. Upon arrival in Penobscot, Revere served rather well until near the end. Then he proved insubordinate to a superior. The expedition eventually ended in disaster and the search for who to blame began. Those who took part at Penobscot sought to lay the blame with Revere, afraid that they themselves would ‘take the rap’. Revere was left facing many false charges. Although most of those charges were cleared, Revere was never completely vindicated until 1783 after he requested, numerous times, a court martial.
After the war business began picking up, and Revere was again at work in his shop trying his hand at new projects. He opened a bronze and iron foundry and operated a ‘general store’. In 1811 he handed the businesses’ reins over to his son Joseph Warren Revere. Two years later Rachel died, as did Paul III. Although around 80 years old, Revere managed to do a bit during the War of 1812. In 1818 he died. He had lived a long, illustrious life, and seemingly always at work.
For further reading consider The Revolutionary Paul Revere by Joel Miller. It is written in an almost conversational way, and an easy read. Still it isn’t as complete as I wished it was. All in all it’s still worth a read. I’ve read it twice, myself.
Source: The Revolutionary Paul Revere