Listen my children and you shall hear /Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, /It was on the 18th of April, in Seventy five, /Hardly a man is now alive/ Who remembers that famous day and year. —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
By 1860, when these lines were penned, very few people indeed would have remembered the ride, so Longfellow was free to report the facts as he saw them, even though they were a bit “alternative.” As a dedicated abolitionist, he wanted to use his poem to alert the citizens to prepare for the impending struggles ahead in holding the nation together and in freeing the slaves, as well as recognize Revere’s heroism. The last lines of the poem urged:
In the hour of darkness and peril and need, /The people will waken and listen to hear /The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed, /And the midnight message of Paul Revere.
I can’t help but wonder if the 150,000 people who gathered on Boston Commons Saturday as part of the Women’s March to protest Donald Trump’s treatment of women and policies on healthcare, the environment and education hadn’t heard echoes of the hurrying hoof-beats.
Longfellow was inspired to write the poem the day after climbing the steeple of the Old North Church where lanterns were hung to warn that British soldiers were moving toward Lexington and Concord.
The British had two objectives: one to arrest the Colonial leaders, John Hancock and John Adams, who were in Lexington at the time— and two, to go on to Concord and seize gunpowder that the Colonialists were storing in case the disagreement with Britain came down to war. Thomas Gage, the commanding general of the British forces in Boston, had been very secretive about his plans, but not secretive enough.
The plans were discovered, two lanterns were hung in the Old North Church, and Revere along with two other riders set out on their midnight rides. Hancock and Adams escaped and hundreds of militia from surrounding towns, known as Minute Men for their readiness to fight on a moment’s notice, grabbed their muskets and streamed toward Lexington and Concord. A shot was fired in Lexington and a battle ensued. It is still debated whether the British or the Colonialists fired first.
While the British won the first round, they marched on to Concord where they were met by a much larger group of Minute Men. Another battle started and the British decided it was time to return to Boston. Somewhat in disarray, the British troops hurried along the road as the ‘rebels’ took potshots at them in their hasty retreat. The Minute Men had proven that they could effectively fight against the much better trained British troops.
While the Declaration of Independence was still a year off, the Revolutionary War was underway.
Wednesday: Back to the Sierra Trek for the route preview, heart-break, a trip to Canada, and 20 cases of Ham Cheddarton.
Friday: The first 2017 post on Burning Man. Part one of a series of photographic essays selected from several thousand photos Peggy, I and several friends have taken at the event since 2004.