Chapter 1; The Patriotic Engraver by Charles Gettemy
Paul Revere was born in Boston on January 1, 1735. His father, for whom he was named, had come to this country from the isle of Guernsey to learn the goldsmith’s trade, and in 1723, after a visit to his boyhood home, had returned to America, determined to settle here
Young Paul was put to school under Master John Tileston, who for eighty years was connected with the North Grammar School on North Bennet Street. When Revere left his school-books it was to graduate at once into his father’s shop. There he quickly learned the trade, or, to speak more accurately, the art of the gold and silver smith. He proved as skilled in drawing and designing patterns for pitchers, ewers, tankards, spoons, braisers, mugs, etc., as in the actual mechanical work of manufacturing them.
In 1756 he had his first military experience, being then twenty-one years old. This was in the expedition against Crown Point, in which he held a commission from Governor William Shirley as a second lieutenant in the artillery. The service, however, proved uneventful.
The summer following this service Revere married Sarah Orne (born in Boston April 2, 1736) becoming his bride on the 17th of August, 1757. From that time forward he took and increasing and a prominent part in the political life of the time, and one occasion, at least, his pugnacious disposition got him into the police court, where he had to pay a fine and be bound over to keep the peace.
But for the most part Revere was no doubt a law-abiding citizen. He was certainly an industrious one, and increased his income from his regular business by turning his mechanical skill to account in many ingenious ways. He even tried dentistry, his ads appearing in the Boston Gazette and Country Journal.
An instance of Revere’s dentistry came to light and served an important purpose when in 1776, after the evacuation of Boston, General Joseph Warren’s body was exhumed by his friends from its unmarked burial place on Bunker Hill for the purpose of proper interment. The brothers of General Warren and his physician were reinforced in their identification of the body by Revere, who had set an artificial tooth for the general, and who testified that he recognized the wire he used in fastening it.
But it was as an engraver on copper that Revere saw an opportunity for his skill as a draftsman to find perhaps its most congenial outlet, since the exciting political events of the time readily lent themselves to pictorial treatment, and in a period long before the days of illustrated newspapers could be turned to good financial account. By 1765 his reputation as a clever, if somewhat crude, caricaturist was established.
Probably the best known of Revere’s copper-plate engravings, because it was the most generally reproduced, is his view of “The Bloody Massacre perpetrated in King-Street, Boston, on March 5th 1770, by a party of the 29th Regt.” But the painful fact must be recorded that Revere is under grave suspicion of having in this instance appropriated the work of another.
The basis of this charge is the following letter written to Revere by Henry Pelham, a contemporary engraver and miniaturist:
“SIR, When I heard you was cutting a plate of the later Murder, I thought it impossible as I knew was not capable of doing it unless you copied it from mine and as I thought I had intrusted it in the hands of a person who had more regard to the dictates of Honour and Justice than to take the undue advantage you have done of the confidence and trust I reposed in you.
“But I find I was mistaken and after being at great Trouble and Expence of making a design, paying for paper, printing &c, find myself in the most ungenerous Manner deprived not only of any proposed Advantage but even of the expence I have been at as truly as if you had plundered me on the highway.
“If you are insensible of the Dishonour you have brought on yourself by this Act, the World will not be so. However, I leave you to reflect and consider one of the most dishonourable Actions you could well be guilty “H. Pelham.”
This is a serious charge against Revere’s honor and integrity, for if Pelham’s statement is to be accepted, he loaned Revere a drawing he had made of the Massacre, from which Revere made an engraving, and marketed it without even so much as giving the real artist credit for his sketch, since the Revere plate bears only the inscription, “Engraved, Printed and Sold by Paul Revere.”
Revere also drew a pen-and-ink plan of the massacre, showing King Street, with the houses facing on the street and the places where the military was drawn up and the victims fell. An engraving of five coffins, which appeared in the Boston Gazette and Country Journal, March 12, in illustration of an account of the massacre, was contributed by him.
As the first anniversary of the massacre approached, the town prepared to celebrate it with fitting ceremony. Revere made an interesting, picturesque and long-remembered contribution of his own to the observances.
He prepared a series of transparencies, which he displayed from the upper windows of his North Square house and which greatly impressed the crowds in the square below. The Boston Gazette reported that “the spectators were struck with solemn silence and their countenances were covered with a melancholy glow.”
Revere’s “views” of the town of Boston and the harbor, of which there are three different engravings, constituted a popular series of prints. They commemorated the coming of the obnoxious 14th and 29th regiments of British troops, which were quartered upon the town and the presence of which led to the massacre.
Revere subsequently furnished many engravings for the Royal American Magazine, including portraits of Sam Adams and John Hancock and numerous allegorical caricatures.
On the 3d of May, 1773, Revere’s wife died. In the sixteen years since their marriage eight children had been born to them. Revere’s wife died in May; he buried his youngest child, an infant of nine months, in September; and a fortnight after the letter event he married again. His second wife was Rachel Walker (born in Boston, December 27, 1745), and they were married by the Rev. Samuel Mather, October 10, 1773.
Revere at thirty-nine, the father of a considerable family whose mother was scarcely five months in her grave, appears to have been a light-hearted swain, notwithstanding his household was doubtless, as a descendant charitably has explained, “in sore need of a mother’s care.”
One may find in the official records of the time ample evidence of Revere’s active participation in the affairs of the town during this period. Whenever there was an important message to be carried to the sister colonies, he was the man to whom it was intrusted to be conveyed as speedily as horses’ legs could take him, and in the petty matters of local administration he also helped as befitted the good citizen.
He was repeatedly appointed on committees, serving among others on the Committee on Lamps “when about to fix the Places for Erecting said Lamps.” In August 1774 his name appears with twenty-one others in a list of those who refused to serve on the Suffolk grand jury, the last to sit under the Crown.
Among the numerous acts of Parliament intended to break the spirit of the colonists was one making the justices of the Supreme Court in Massachusetts independent of the people for their salaries. The grand jurors, Paul Revere being of the number, who had been returned to serve at the first term of the court after the news of the passage of this act was received, held a private meeting and caucused on the situation before appearing in court. After a solemn deliberation all but one of them signed an agreement declining to serve, and this objector ultimately also refused.
When court opened and the jurors were called, they refused to be sworn. The last name on the list was that of Thomas Pratt of Chelsea, who inquired, when he was called, whether the justices’ salaries were to be paid by the Province or the King.
“Mr. Pratt,” retorted the chief justice, “this court is organized as it always has been, and it can be of no importance to you, as a juror, whether our salaries be paid from the treasury of the crown or of the province”; to which Pratt replied with spirit: “I won’t sarve.” Revere used often in after life to relate this incident with keen relish.
Public opinion during the revolutionary period found opportunity to crystallize in both public and private gatherings. It would probably not be possible to exaggerate the influence of the numerous secret organizations of the time— the Freemasons, the “Sons of Liberty,” the North and South End “Caucuses”— upon the events which helped to bring on the conflict with the mother country. In most of these Revere was a moving spirit.
The “Sons of Liberty” met in a distillery and also the Green Dragon Tavern, and arose out of the excitement attending the passage of the Stamp Act, being first called “The Union Club,” but later taking a more descriptive name from an illusion in a speech of Colonel Barre, a friend of the colonists, in Parliament.
John Adams in his diary gives some interesting glimpses of these clubs:
“Feb. 1, 1763— This day learned that the Caucus Club meets at certain times in the garret of Tom Dawes, the adjutant of the Boston regiment. He has a large house, and he has a movable partition in his garret, which he takes down, and the whole club meet in one room. There they smoke tobacco till you cannot see from one end of the garret to the other. Then they drink flip, I suppose, and there they choose a moderator, who puts questions to the vote regularly; and selectmen, assessors, collectors, wardens, firewards, and representatives, are regularly chosen before they are chosen in the town.
“Jany. 15, 1766— Spent the evening with the Sons of Liberty at their own apartment in Hanover-Square near the Tree of Liberty. It is a counting-room, in Chase and Speakman’s distillery; a very small room it is. There were present John Avery, a distiller of liberal education; John Smith, the brazier; Thomas Chase, distiller; Joseph Fields, master of a vessel; Henry Bass; George Trott, jeweler; and Henry Welles. I was very cordially and respectfully treated by all present. We had punch, wine, pipes and tobacco, biscuit and cheese, etc. They chose a committee to make preparations for grand rejoicings upon the arrival of the news of a repeal of the stamp act.”
From which it appears that politicians are much the same in all times. Public officials were chosen by a ring in Boston in the year of our Lord 1763 before they were “chosen in the town,” and the Revolution was hatched in a rum-shop, while those upon whom history has placed the seal of greatness and statesmanship filled themselves with “flip” in an atmosphere dense with tobacco smoke, as they plotted and planned the momentous events of the time!
Chapter 2; The messenger of the Revolution 1773-1775
On the 14th of December, 1773, the crisis which had been foreseen for weeks was rapidly approaching. The tea ships were at hand, and it had been resolved by the North End caucus on October 23 that its members would “oppose at peril of life and fortune the vending of any tea that might be imported by the East India Company.
Great public excitement attended the arrival of the vessels with the consignments of tea, and meetings called by the patriot leaders to see what should be done were the order of the day. At one of these a song was composed and at once became very popular. One of its verses ran:
Our Warren’s there and bold Revere
With hands to do and words to cheer,
For liberty and laws;
Our country’s “braves” and firm defenders
Shall ne’r be left by true Nor
Then rally, boys, and hasten on
To meet our chiefs at the Green Dragon.
The meeting of the 14th of December, to which the citizens had been summoned by the posting of handbills, was adjourned to the 16th without any definite action having been taken. But on that day the Old South meeting-house was thronged and the people were determined. There was much speech-making, something of which Bostonians are excessively fond to this day, and, at half-past four in the afternoon, it was voted amid great enthusiasm, that the teat should not be landed. What subsequently transpired was thus graphically reported in the columns of the Massachusetts Gazette:
“just before the dissolution, a number of brave and resolute men, dressed in the Indian manner, approached near the door of the assembly, and gave a war whoop, which rang through the house, and was answered by some in the galleries, but silence was commanded, and a peaceable deportment enjoined until the dissolution.
“The Indians, as they were then called, repaired to the wharf, where the ships lay that had the tea on board, and were followed by hundreds of people, to see the event of the transactions of those who made so grotesque an appearance. The Indians immediately repaired on board Capt. Hall’s ship, where they hoisted out the chests of tea, and when on deck stove them and emptied the tea overboard.
“Having cleared this ship, they proceeded to Capt. Bruce’s, and then to Capt. Coffin’s brig. They applied themselves so dexterously to the destruction of this commodity, that in the space of three hours they broke up three hundred and forty-two chests, which was the whole number in these vessels, and discharged their contents into the dock. When the tide rose, it floated the broken chests and the tea insomuch that the surface of the water was filled therewith a considerable way from the south part of the town to Dorchester Neck, and lodged on the shores.
“There was the greatest care taken to prevent the tea being purloined by the populace; one or two being detected in endeavoring to pocket a small quantity were stripped of their acquisitions and very roughly handled. It is worthy of remark that although a considerable quantity of goods were still remaining on board the vessel no injury was sustained. Such attention to private property was observed that a small padlock belonging to the captain of one of the ships being broke, another was procured and sent to him.
“The town was very quiet during the whole evening and the night following. Those who were from the country went home with a merry heart, and the next day joy appeared in almost every countenance, some on account of the destruction of the teas, others on account of the quietness with which it was effected. One of the Monday’s papers says that the masters and owners are well pleased that their ships are thus cleared.”
Revere was one of the chief actors in this tumultuous affair, and the next day, when the Committee of Correspondence met and resolved to send an account of the event to the patriots in New York and Philadelphia, he was the man chosen to carry the message. The letter which he took was addressed to the “Sons of Liberty.”
It may well be imagined that Revere supplemented this brief description of the Boston Tea Party with a more detailed narrative. The news he brought soon spread among the New Yorkers, and they gathered in the public places in great numbers. Needless to record, the crowd was in high spirits, and one and all declared that the ships with tea on board, which were known at that time to be nearing New York, must be sent back or the tea destroyed. They proclaimed their enthusiastic approval of what the Bostonians had done and sent the exciting news on to Philadelphia.
Revere then returned home, and when he announced that Governor Tryon had declared that the tea ships bound for New York would surely be turned back, all the bells in Boston were rung. Revere made this trip in eleven days, arriving in Boston on the 27th of December. The next days he was appointed one of the “watch” of twenty-five placed over Captain Hull’s vessel and cargo by the level-headed patriot leaders to prevent any of the headstrong among the populace from doing unwarranted damage.
A short time after the grand destruction of tea in Boston harbor, word was received of another consignment intended for New England consumption, and members of the resolute band that had destroyed the first shipments disposed of the second lot in the same fashion. This episode was alluded to in a letter which Revere wrote March 28 to his friend John Lamb in New York:
“You have no doubt heard the particulars, relating to the last twenty-eight chests of tea; it was disposed of in the same manner, as I informed you of the other, and should five hundred more arrive, it would go in the same way. Yesterday a vessel arrived from Antigua, the captain says your tea vessel was to sail three days after him, so by the next post I shall expect to hear a good account of it.”
The famous Boston port bill, intended to operate as a boycott against the port of Boston, received the royal signature and became law March 31, 1774. It was printed in the Boston newspapers of the 10th of May, and went into effect June 1.
Formal action was taken at a town meeting at which Samuel Adams presided as moderator. It was agreed to send this appeal, prepared by Adams, to the sister colonies:
“The people receive the edit with indignation. It is expected by their enemies, and feared by some of their friends, that this town singly will not be able to support the cause under so severe a trial. As the very being of every colony, considered as a free people, depends upon the event, a thought so dishonorable to our brethren cannot be entertained as that this town will be left to struggle alone.”
A committee was chosen to go to several towns. Revere was chosen to go express to York and Philadelphia. “My worthy friend Revere,” writes Dr. Thomas Young, a prominent Boston Son of Liberty, to John Lamb of New York, “again revisits you. No man of his rank and opportunities in life deserves better of the community. Steady, vigorous, sensible and persevering.”
Revere set out on the 14th, and reached New York a few days later, delivering his message to the Committee of Fifty-One. On the 20th he arrived at Philadelphia; and that very night the citizens held a mass meeting, at which the “execrable Port Bill” was denounced, and a vote passed not merely conveying sympathy to the Boston patriots but making the latter’s cause their own.
Revere’s return from this trip was duly recorded in the news of the day. In the Essex Gazette of May 30, 1774, appears this item:
“On Saturday last Mr. Revere returned from Philadelphia, having been sent express to the Southern Colonies, with intelligence of the late rash, impolitic and vindictive measures of the British Parliament, who, by the execrable Port Bill, have held out to us a most incontestable argument why we ought to submit to their jurisdiction.”
The New York Sons of Liberty appear to have taken action in sympathy with their Boston brethren without waiting for the appeal which Revere brought, since resolutions were passed by them, and a letter dated May 14, the day Revere left Boston, was prepared, exhorting the Boston patriots to stand firm. These were dispatched to Boston by John Ludlow. Benson J. Lossing, whose fondness for romance is one of his defects as a historian, wrote a very pretty imaginative account of a meeting between Revere and Ludlow.
“Ludlow,” says Lossing, “rode swiftly with them [the New York resolutions] on a black horse toward the New England capital. He told their import as he coursed through Connecticut and Rhode island. Near Providence, on the edge of a wood that was just receiving its summer foliage, by a cool spring he met Paul Revere, riding express on a gray horse, bearing to New York and Philadelphia assurances of the faith and firmness of the Bostonians, and to invoke sympathy and co-operation.
Revere also carried a large number of printed copies of the act made somber by heavy black lines, and garnished with the picture of a crown, a skull and cross-bones, undoubtedly by Revere himself. These he scattered through the villages on his way, where they were carried about the streets with the cry of ‘Barbarous, cruel, bloody and inhuman murder!” Revere and Ludlow took a hasty lunch together at the spring, and then pressed forward on their holy mission.”
Revere’s next ride after the Port Bill excitement had subsided was on the 11th of September, when Joseph Warren chose him to carry copies of the famous Suffolk Resolves, with a letter of Warren’s, to the Massachusetts delegates in attendance on the Continental Congress then in session at Philadelphia. He arrived six days later, on the 17th, and on the same day the resolves were read in Congress.
Congress promptly passed resolutions condemning the acts of the British Parliament which had called forth the Suffolk Resolves, thereby placing its official endorsement upon the latter, and Revere was able to bring the interesting news of this important action back to Boston.
In October Revere was again sent to Philadelphia. The Continental Congress was still in session there. The Provincial Congress of Massachusetts was also in session and anxious to know what was transpiring at Philadelphia. Samuel Adams was one of the Massachusetts representatives to the Continental Congress, and on this occasion Revere carried letters to him from Warren and, no doubt, to others in the Quaker city from friends in Boston.
In the following December Revere made the last trip on horseback as an official messenger of which we have a record, before that fateful ride of which Longfellow sang and which brought him fame. This December day, while not so long as the trips to Philadelphia, had an element of risk and adventure similar to that of the 18th of April, 1775, and was of hardly less importance to the patriot cause.
By an act of British authority the colonies had been prohibited the further importation of gunpowder and military stores. An expedition was arranged for the relief of Fort William and Mary at Portsmouth, which was rightly to be believed to be in danger of attack by the provincials. But the ever vigilant Sons of Liberty in Boston learned of the reinforcements intended for the fort, and quickly planned to notify the “Sons” at Portsmouth. Revere, of course, was the one selected to carry the information.
On the afternoon of December 13 Revere rode up to the house of General Sullivan in the little town of Durham with his warning news, and, after baiting his nearly exhausted horse, rode on to Portsmouth.
In a letter to Lord Dartmouth, the British governor, Sir John Wentworth described the raid of the fort:
“News was brought to me that a Drum was beating about the town to collect the populace together in order to take away the gunpowder and dismantle the Fort. The Chief Justice of the Province went to where they were collected in the centre of the town, near the townhouse, explained to them the nature of the offence they proposed to commit, told them it was not short of Rebellion, and intreated them to desist from it and disperse.
“But all to no purpose. They went to the Island; and being joined there by the inhabitants of the towns of Newcastle and Rye, formed in all a body of about four hundred men, and forced an entrance in spite of Captain Cochran.”
Captain Cochran, in his report, wrote:
“I told them on their peril not to enter. They replied they would. I immediately ordered three four-pounders to be fired on them, and then the small-arms, and before we could be ready to fire again we were stormed on all quarters. They secured me and my men, and kept us prisoners for about an hour and a half, during which time they broke open the powder-house and took all the powder away except one barrel.”
There is hardly any doubt that this affair, which happened four months before the fight at Lexington and more than two months before the episode of the Salem North Bridge, constituted the first act of force of a military nature committed by the colonists against the authority of the mother country. Moreover, it is clear that on this occasion the colonists were the aggressors.
It may be questioned whether the patriots at this early date seriously contemplated war as an inevitable consequence of the drift of events. But if they were already anticipating that dread alternative as impossible of avoidance they could not have acted with greater prescience in sending Revere to Portsmouth to stir up the New Hampshire patriots to make the attack on Fort William and Mary.
The whole object of that attack was not, primarily, to offer insult to the King, but to secure means of defence against the time when they might be needed.
In the light of subsequent events the Portsmouth raid was fully justified. There was a fearful lack of ammunition in the Continental army during the siege of Boston following the outbreak of the war.
When, in the crisis of the battle of Bunker Hill, Prescott ordered the retreat, his soldiers had but a single round of ammunition. Stark, however, opened up a fierce fire on the advancing Welsh Fusileers, which prevented the retreat being cut off and probably saved both his and Prescott’s men from being annihilated or captured. “An ample supply of powder arrived in the nick of time,” says Amory in his Military Services of General Sullivan.
The gunpowder which saved Bunker Hill from being an utter rout for the Provincial soldiery was thus, upon the evidence before us, the same that was carried away from Fort William and Mary six months previous. To claim for Paul Revere the credit for preventing complete disaster at Bunker Hill would be a somewhat exaggerated view, no doubt. But it was Revere, as the agent of the Boston patriots, who warned the men of New Hampshire that it behooved them to act quickly if they would obtain possession of the store of gunpowder in the fort in Portsmouth harbor.
We have it on authority of historian Jeremy Belknap writing in 1791 that the affair was transacted “in the most fortunate point of time— just before the arrival of the Scarborough frigate, and Cansean sloop, with several companies of soldiers, who took possession of the fort, and of the heavy cannon which had not been removed.”
Chapter 3; The Midnight Ride of April 18, 1775
BOSTON was in a ferment during the winter of 1774-1775. The long series of grievances endured from the mother country had led to the adoption of the Suffolk Resolves in September.
In October the provincial congress was organized, with Hancock as president; a protest was sent to the royal governor remonstrating against his hostile attitude, and a committee of public safety was provided for. In February this committee was named, delegates were selected for the next continental congress, and provision was made for the establishment of the militia. Efforts made by the patriots and to disband the militia had proved futile, and the fire of opposition to the indignities heaped upon the people by the crown was kept alive by secret organizations. ” Sons of Liberty” met in clubs and caucuses, the group which gathered at the Green Dragon Tavern being the most famous. They were composed chiefly of young artisans and mechanics from ranks of people, who, in rapid succession of events, were becoming more and more restive under the British yoke.
None of these patriots chafed more impatiently or was more active in taking advantage of each opportunity that offered to antagonize the plans of the royal emissaries than Paul Revere, now aged forty. In the early months of 1775 he was one of a band of thirty who had formed themselves into a committee to watch the movements of the British soldiers and the Tories in Boston. In parties of two and two, taking turns, they patrolled the streets all night.
Finally, at midnight of Saturday, the 15th of April, the vigilance of these self appointed patrolmen was rewarded. It became apparent then that something unusual was suddenly occurring in the British camp. One of the English officers wrote in his diary:
“General Orders.” The Grenadiers and Light Infantry in order to learn Grenadiers. Exercise and new evolutions are to be off all duties till further orders’ This I suppose is by way of a blind. I dare say they have some thing for them to do.”
But the movement did not serve to blind the vigilant and suspicious patriots. “The boats belonging to the transports were all launched,” says Revere in his narrative, “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 was to be transacted.” The following day, Sunday, the 16th, Dr. Warren dispatched Revere to Lexington with a message to John Hancock and Samuel Adams.
This ride of the 16th has never received much attention. It is not famed in song and story, and Revere himself alludes to it only incidentally. He probably made the journey out and back in the daytime jogging along unnoticed and not anxious to advertise the purpose of his errand. Yet there can be no doubt that, in its relation to the portentous events which followed three days later, it was at least of as great importance as the more spectacular “midnight ride” of the 18th.
The movement of the British on the night of the 15th aroused the suspicion of the patriots, of whom Warren was chief , who had remained in Boston. They meant to him one thing,- an intention to send forth soon an expedition of some sort. The most plausible conjecture as to its object, even had there been no direct information on the subject, suggested the capture of Hancock and Adams at Lexington, or the seizure of the military stores at Concord, or both.
The two patriot leaders, upon whose heads a price had been fixed by King George, were in daily attendance upon the sessions of the Provincial Congress at Concord; but they lodged nightly in the neighboring town of Lexington, at the house of Rev. Jonas Clarke, whose wife was a niece of Hancock.
It was of the utmost importance that they and the congress be kept fully informed of what was transpiring in Boston. But when Revere called upon Hancock and Adams in Lexington on Sunday, he found that congress had adjourned the day before to the 15th of May, in ignorance, of course, of the immediate plans of the British. It had not done so, however, without recognizing “the great uncertainty of the present times, and that important unforeseen events may take place, from this congress should meet sooner than the day aforesaid.”
The delegates indeed had scarcely dispersed before the news brought by Revere aroused such apprehension that the committee which had been authorized to call the convention together again met, and on Tuesday, the 18th, ordered the delegates to reassemble on the 22d at Watertown. Meantime, the committees of safety and supplies had continued their sessions at Concord. Friday, the 14th, it had been voted:
“That the cannon now in the town of Concord be immediately disposed of within said town, and the committee of supplies may direct.” (doug 2)
But on Monday, the 17th, with John Hancock, to whom on Sunday Revere had brought information of the preparations being made in Boston for the expedition of the British, the Committees of safety and Supplies, sitting jointly, voted:
“That two four pounders, now at Concord, be mounted by the committee of supplies, and that Col. Barrett be desired to raise an artillery company, to join the army when raised, they to have to pay until they join the army; and also that an instructor fot the use of the cannon be appointed, to be put directly in pay.”
It was also voted:
“That the four six pounders be transported to Groton, and put under care of Col. Prescott.
“That two seven inch brass mortars be transported to Action.”(doug 1)
On the 18th the committees continued their preparations in anticipation of the descent of the British upon the stores. Numerous votes were passed, providing for a thorough distribution of the stock of provisions and ammunition on hand.
The transporting of the six pounders to Groton and the brass mortars to Action carried an inference and a message of its own. It helps to account for the presence at the fight at Concord Bridge, on the 19th, of the minute men from these and other towns who could not readily have covered the distance within so short a time, had their information been due solely to Revere’s alarm of the night before. But that the blow might be expected at almost any moment, Revere’s tidings, brought on Sunday, made quickly apparent to the committees in session at Concord on Monday, two days before it fell.
Many interesting stories have been handed down in tradition and some of them have been treated by local historians with far more seriousness than they deserve, seeking to explain how it happened that the patriots should know so well the plans of the British on the night of the 18th of April. One of these tales runs to the effect that a groom at the Province House, who happened to drop into a stable near by on milk street, was told by the stable-boy that he had overheard a conversation between Gage and other officers; “There will be hell to pay to-morrow,” the jockey ventured to predict.
It is alleged that this significant conversation was speedily repeated and carried to Paul Revere, who enjoined silence, and remarked to his informant: “You are the third person who has brought me the same information.” (doug 1)
Another story has it that the great secret was revealed by an incautious sergeantmajor in Gage’s army quartered in the family of an Englishman, Jasper by name, who was secretly sympathetic toward the rebel cause, and who kept a gunsmith’s shop in Hatter’s square, where he worked for the British. Jasper is said to have repeated what he had gathered from the British officer to Colonel Josiah Waters, one of the patriot leaders, who promptly made the facts known to the Committee of Safety.
Stedman, the British historian of the Revolution, who was one of General Gage’s commissioners in Boston, says:
“Gen. Gage on the evening of the 18th of April told Lord Percy the he intended to send a detachment to seize the stores at Concord, and to give the command to Col. Smith who knew that he was to go but not where. He meant it to be a secret expedition, and begged of Lord Percy to keep it a profound secret. As this nobleman was passing from general’s quarters home to his own, perceiving eight or ten men conversing together on the common, he made up to them, when one of the men said:
” The British have marched; but will miss their aim.’
‘What aim?’ said Lord Percy.
‘Why,’ the man replied, ‘the cannon at Concord.’
“Lord Percy immediately returned on his steps, and acquainted Gen. Gage, not without marks of surprise and disapprobation of what he had just heard. The general said that his confidence had been betrayed, for that he had communicated his design to one person only beside his lordship.”
It is really of no importance whether these stories are true or not. If they prove anything they reflect upon the intelligence and common-sense of the citizens of Boston by creating an assumption that the patriots must have had some direct and specific information from inside the British camp in order to be forewarned of the expedition , and that without such information the country between Boston and Concord could not have been properly alarmed.
But Warren and his lieutenants, the members of the Committee of Safety, and the patrolmen of the Sons of Liberty were not a set of blockheads. Every move of the British military was watched with hawk-eyed vigilance. The somerset, man-of-war, was moved from the position she had been occupying out into the Charles River, so as to be able to cover with her guns the ferry-ways. There could be but one interpretation on this, – that it was intended to guard against the very thing which happened , namely, successful communication between the Boston patriots and their colleagues in the country. It was, in short, impossible for the British to make an unusual stir such as was involved in the preparations for moving eight hundred troops out of Boston without that fact becoming instantly noised all over town. It is equally absurd to suppose that any one could have thought under the circumstances that the most likely destination of the troops was not Lexington and Concord.
No one can familiarize himself with the temper of the Boston populace on that April night, and with the character and personality of Paul Revere, and not appreciate that in the whole town none was in a better position than he to know what the plans of the British were. He was in the thick of everything that was taking place. “On Tuesday evening the 18th,” he writes, “it was observed that a number of soldiers were marching toward the bottom of the common,” which meant that they were to be transported across the river to Charlestown or Cambridge, instead of making the long march around by way of Boston Neck. No need of any lanterns being hung out in a church spire to inform him whether the red-coats were going by land or by sea! He knew all about this long before he got into his row-boat that night.
But let him tell his own story:
” About ten 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 the water, he would show two lanterns 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 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 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.”
Revere has thus made it quite plain that the signals were agreed upon for the benefit, not of himself, who could have no possible need for them, but of the waiting patriots on the Charlestown shore, who, when they should see the light or lights, might be trusted to carry the news to Lexington and Concord in the event of no one being able to cross the river or get through the British lines by the land route over Boston Neck.
From the spot where Revere landed on the Charlestown shore the steeple of Christ Church was plainly visible, yet he does not mention seeing the signals, though taking pains to record that others had seen them. Certainly curiosity could have been his only motive for looking for the lights, and the fact that he makes no minute of seeing them may well be taken as evidence that the lanterns had already been displayed and withdrawn ere he reached the Charlestown shore. The arrangement, he says, was that “we would show” the lanterns, not that they would be hung out and left for an indefinite length of time; moreover, his friends, when he jumped out of his boat, said that they “had seen” the signal. If they were still visible, what more natural than that Revere’s attention should be called to them as a matter of curiosity, and that in that event he should have mentioned it in his very circumspect narrative?
We know that the lights were not displayed for Revere’s benefit, and, when we take into consideration all the circumstances and the language of Revere’s narrative, it is scarcely reasonable to suppose that Revere himself ever saw the signals.
In view of all these facts, for which Revere himself is our chief authority, we perceive that Longfellow drew liberally from his imagination when he penned the lines:
Meanwhile, inpatient to mount and ride, Booted and spurred, with heavy stride On the opposite side walked Paul Revere Now he patted his horse’s side, Now gazed at the landscape far and near, Then, impetuous, stamped the erth, And turned and tightened his saddle-girth; But mostly he watched with eager search The belfry-tower of the Old North Church, As it rose above the graves on the hill, Lonely and spectral and sombre and still, And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height A glimmer, and then a gleam of light! He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns, But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight A second lamp in the belfry burns!
Revere’s story is to the effect that as soon as he could procure a horse he started upon his journey with out further delay. “While the horse was preparing,” he says, “Richard Devens, Esq., who was on 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 11 o’clock, and very pleasant.” Devens himself left a memorandum of his experiences on that evening. Says he:
“On the 18th of April, ’75, Tuesday, the Committee of Safety, of which I was then a member, and the Committee of Supplies, sat at Newell’s tavern, [the records of the committee say Wetherby’s] at Menotomy. A great number of British officers dined at Cambridge. After we had finished the business of the day, we adjourned to meet at Woburn on the morrow, – left to lodge at Newell’s, Gerry, Orne and Lee. Mr. Watson and myself came off in my chaise at sunset. On the road we met a great number of B.O. [British officers] and their servants on horseback, who had dined that day at Cambridge. We rode some way after we met them, and then turned back and rode through them, went and informed our friends at Newell’s. We stopped there till they came up and rode by. We then left our friends, and I came home, after leaving Mr. Watson at his house.
I soon received intelligence from Boston, that the enemy were all in motion, and were certainly preparing to come out into the country. Soon afterwards, the signal agreed upon was given; this was a lanthorn hung out in the upper window of the tower of the North Church towards Charlestown. I then sent off an express to inform Messrs Gerry &c., and Messrs Hancock and Adams who I knew were at the Rev. Mr. Clark’s at Lexington, that the enemy were certainly coming out. I kept watch at the ferry to watch for the boats till about eleven o’clock, when Paul Revere came over and informed that the troops were actually in the boats. I then took a horse from Mr. Larkin’s barn, and sent him. I procured a horse and sent off P. Revere to give intelligence at Menotomy and Lexington. He was taken by the British officers before mentioned, before he got to Concord.
Thus we have seen that Dr. Warren sent two messengers out to Lexington that night,-Revere and Dawes,-and that for fear both of them might be captured, an arrangement had been made to notify other patriots in Charlestown by displaying lanterns from the North Church spire. Had misfortune therefore befell the specially commissioned messengers, there can be no doubt that others would have carried the tidings out through the Middlesex villages, arousing the inhabitants, and warning Hancock and Adams at Lexington.
To say this in the interest of the sober truth of history is no disparagement of the services rendered the cause of liberty by Revere on that famous night. To him probably belongs the credit for possessing the foresight which suggested and arranged for the display of the signal lights, while Dr. Warren’s prescience is seen in his dispatching of Dawes with the important news to Lexington and his subsequent sending of Revere on the same errand by a different route, thus providing against the contingency of Dawes’ capture.
All these safeguards together proved in the event to have been unnecessary; yet all served their purpose, though any one without the others would have sufficed. Each of the actors in this little curtain-raising performance, preceding the first act in the great drama of the Revolution to be played next day on Lexington Green and at Concord Bridge, executed his part well, with courage, skill, intelligence, and patriotism.
To return to the story of Revere’s ride. Mounted on Deacon Larkin’s horse, he set off to alarm the country, but had not gone far on the road through Charlestown when he discerned just ahead of him two British officers. He turned quickly, and, though pursued, made good his escape, passing through Medford and up to Menotomy (now Arlington). “In Medford,” he records, “I awaked the captain of the minute men; and after that, I alarmed every house, till I got to Lexington.” This quite agrees with the stirring lines of the poet:
A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Stuck out by a steed flying fearless, and fleet:
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night.
The incidents in connection with the alarming of Hancock and Adams at the Rev. Mr. Clark’s house, and the other episodes of that night and the early dawn which brought bloodshed with it, have been preserved for posterity by the narratives of three contemporary witnesses and participants,-the Rev. Jonas Clark (at whose house Hancock and Adams were lodging), the reminiscences of Dorothy Quincy, who was also staying at Mr. Clark’s, and Revere’s own account.
Besides these there is a collection of depositions of the survivors of the battle of Lexington, taken some years after that event. One of the most interesting of these depositions was that of William Monroe, an orderly sergeant in Captain parker’s company of minute-men. (doug 1) He says he learned early in the evening of the 18th that British soldiers had been seen on the road from Boston, and continues:
“I supposed they had some design upon Hancock and Adams, who were at the house of the Rev. Mr. Clark, and immediately assembled a guard of eight men, with their arms, to guard the house. About midnight, Col. Paul Revere rode up and requested admittance. I told him the family had just retired, and had requested that they might not be disturbed “by any noise about the house.
” Noise!’ said he, you’ll have noise enough before long. The regulars are coming out.’
“We then permitted him to pass”
A year after the battle the Rev. Mr. Clark preached a sermon commemorative of the event, and prepared for publication in connection therewith “a brief narrative of the principal transactions of that day.” He told the story in this fervid fashion:
“On the evening of the eighteenth of April, 1775, we received two messages, the first verbal, the other by express in writing from the Committee of Safety, who were then sitting in the westerly part of Cambridge, directed to the Honorable John Hancock, Esq; (who, with the Honorable Samuel Adams, Esq; was then providentially with us) informing, that eight or nine officers of the king’s troops were seen, just before night, passing the road towards Lexington, in a musing, contemplative posture; and it was suspected they were upon some evil design.’
“As both gentlemen had been frequently and even publicly threatened, by the enemies of this people, both in England and America, with the vengeance of the British administration:-And as Mr. Hancock in particular had been, more than once, personally insulted, by some officers of the troops, in Boston, it was not without some just grounds supposed, that under cover of the darkness, sudden arrest, if not assassination might be attempted by these instruments of tyrrany!
“To prevent anything of this kind, ten or twelve men were immediately collected, in arms, to guard my house, through the night.
“In the meantime, said officers passed through this town, on the road toward Concord: It was therefore thought expedient to watch their motions, and if possible make some discovery of their intentions. Accordingly about 10 o’clock in the evening, three men, on horses, were dispatched for this purpose. As they were peaceably passing the road towards Concord, in the borders of Lincoln, they were suddenly stopped by said officers, who rode up to them, and putting pistols to their breasts and seizing their horses bridles, swore, if they stirred another step, they should be all dead men! The officers detained them several hours, as prisoners, examined, searched, abused and insulted them; and in their hasty return (supposing themselves discovered) they left them in Lexington.
Said officers also took into custody, abused and threatened with their lives several other persons; some of whom they met peaceably passing on the road, others even at the doors of their dwellings, without the least provocation, on the part of the inhabitants, or so much as a question asked by them.
“Between the hours of twelve and one, on the morning of the 19th of April, we received intelligence by express from the Honorable Joseph Warren Esq; at Boston, that a large body of the king’s troops (supposed to be a brigade of about 12 or 1500) were embarked in boats from Boston, and gone over to land on Lechmere’s-Point (so-called) in Cambridge: And that it was shrewdly suspected, that they were ordered to seize and destroy the stores, belonging to the colony, then deposited at Concord, in consequence of General Gage’s unjustifiable seizure of the magazine of powder at Medford, and other Colony stores in several other places –”
But let us follow Revere’s adventures after his rousing of Hancock and Adams at the Clark house in his own language:
“After I had been there about half an hour Mr. Dawes arrived, who came from Boston, over the neck: we set off for Concord, & were overtaken by a young gentlemen named Prescot, who belonged to Concord, & was going home; when we had got about half way from Lexington to Concord, the other two, stopped at a house to awake the man, I kept along, when I had got about 200 yards of them; I saw two officers as before, I called to my company to come up, saying here was two of them (for I had told them what Mr. Devens told me, and of my being stoped) in an instant, I saw four of them, who rode up to me, with their pistols in their hands, said G____dd____n you stop if you go an inch further, you are a dead Man,’ immeaditly Mr. Prescot came up we attempted to git thro them, but they kept before us, and swore if we did not turn into that pasture, they would blow our brains out, (they had placed themselves opposite to a pair of Barrs, and had taken the Barrs down) they forced us in, when we had got in, Mr. Precot said put on, He took to the left, I to the right towards a wood, at the bottom of the Pasture intending, when I gained that, to jump my Horse & run afoot.
Just as I reached it, out started six officers, seized my bridle, put their pistols to my Breast, ordered me to dismount, which I did: One of them, who appeared to have the command there, and much of a Gentleman, asked me where I came from; I told him, he asked what time I left it, I told him, he seemed surprised said Sr. may I have your name, I answered my name is Revere, what said he, Paul Revere; I answered yes; the others abused much, but he told me not to be afraid, no one should hurt me; I told him they would miss their aim. He said they should not, they were only awaiting for some deserters they expected down the Road.
I told him I knew better, I knew what they were after; that I had alarmed the country all the way up, that their Boats were catch’d aground, and I should have 500 men there soon; one of them said they had 1,500 coming: he seemed surprised and rode off into the road, and informed them who took me, they came down immeaditly on a full gallop, one of them (whom I since learned was Major Mitchell of the 5th Reg.) Clap (doug d) his pistol to my head, and said he was going to ask me some questions, if I did not tell him the truth, he would blow my brains out.
I told him I esteemed myself a Man of truth, that he had stopped me on the highway, & made me a prisoner, I knew not by what right; I would tell him the truth; I was not afraid; He then asked me, the same questions that the other did, and many more, but was more particular; I gave him much the same answers; he then Ordered me to mount my horse, they first searched me for pistols.
When I was mounted the Major took the reins out of my hand, and said by G___d Sr. you are not to ride with reins I assure you; and gave them to an officer on my right, to lead me, he then Ordered 4 men out of the Bushes, &to mount their horses; they were countrymen whom they had stopped, who were going home; then ordered us to march. He said to me We are now going towards your friends, and if you attempt to run, or we are insulted, we will blow your Brains out.’
When we had got into the Road they formed a circle, and ordered the prisoners in the center, & to lead me in the front. We rid towards Lexington, a quick pace; They very often insulted me calling me Rebel &c. &c. after we had got about a mile, I was given to the Serjant to lead, he was Ordered to take out his pistol, (he rode with a hanger,) and if I ran, to execute the major’s sentence; When we got within about half a mile of the meeting house, we heard a gun fired; the major asked me what it was for, I told him to alarm the country; he ordered the four prisoners to dismount, they did, then one of the officers dismounted and cutt the bridles, and saddles, off the Horses, & drove them away, and told the men they might go about their business; I asked the Major to dismiss me, he said he would carry me, lett the consequence be what it will.
He then Ordered us to march, when we got within sight of the meeting House, we heard a Volley of guns fired, as I supposed at the tavern, as an alarm; the major ordered us to halt, he asked me how for it was to Cambridge, and many more questions, which I answered: he then asked the Serjant, if his horse was tired, he said yes; he Ordered him to take my horse; I dismounted, the Serjant mounted my horse; they cutt the Bridles & Saddle & of the Serjants horse, & rode off, down the road.
I then went to the house where I left Adams and Hancock, and told them what had happined, their friends advised them to go out of the way; I went with them, about two miles across road: after resting myself I sett off with another man to go back to the Tavern; to enquire the News; when we go there, we were told the troops were, within two miles. We went into the Tavern to git a Trunk of papers, belonging to Col. Hancock, before we left the House, I saw the ministerial Troops from the Chamber window, we made haste, & had to pass thro’ our Militia, who were on a green behind the meeting house, to the number as I supposed, about 50 or 60. I went thro them; as I passed I heard the commanding officer speake to his men to this purpose, lett the troops pass by, & don’t molest them, without They begin first.’
I had to go a cross Road, but had not got half Gun shot off, when the Ministeral Troops appeared in sight. behinde the Meeting House; they made a short halt, when one gun was fired, I heard the report, turned my head, and saw the smoake in front of the Troops, they imeaditly gave a great shout, ran a few paces, and then the whole fired. I could first distinguish Iregular fireing, which I supposed was the advance guard, and then platoons. At this time I could not see our Militia for they were covered from me, by a house at the bottom of the street.”
This was the “battle” of Lexington,-fifty provincials exchanging a few shots with eight hundred of the King’s troops, who then marched on to Concord, only to find, after a bloody encounter, that the most valuable of the stores they had come to seize or destroy had, thanks to the timely warning of Paul Revere three days before, been already removed to place of safety.
On the day following these events Revere was permanently engaged by Dr. Warren, president of the Committee of Safety, “as a messenger to do the outdoors business for that committee.” We have no record up to this time of Revere having rendered other than gratuitous service in the long journeys he took in behalf of the patriot cause, being content with the satisfaction of having performed a duty to his country. Whether he had now reached the conclusion, as we are well aware some of the other men whom history has written sown as heroes did, that even patriotic service has a commercial value that the state should recognize, it may be unbecoming to pass judgment; but this we know, that henceforth he proposed to charge for his messenger service.
He appears to have been prospering in his business at this period, and, no doubt, he felt that he was not called upon to neglect it, with the large family he had to support, for the public service without some financial recompense. From the promptness with which his bill was audited, we may assume that his employers did not quarrel with this point of view. But that the thought he was disposed to value his labors too highly is also evident, for they reduced his charge for riding as a messenger from the amount asked, five shillings, to four shillings, a day. This bill, one of many such documents preserved in the archives at the State House in Boston, is faded by time, but the handwriting of Revere and the endorsement on the back, with the signatures of James Otis, Samuel and John Adams, and the other members of Council in approval, stands out clear and distinct.
The comments of the Council upon the original bill as made out by Revere show the care with which the expenditures were guarded. Revere evidently did not, when he first submitted this bill, indicate the purpose for which the “impressions” printed by him and charged up to the colony was intended, so a memorandum was made at the bottom of the bill calling attention to the fact that only the printing of money for the use of the army would be paid for. Doubtless inquiry developed that Revere’s charge was in accordance with this understanding, through he had neglected to so itemize it; and the explanatory words, ” Soldiers Notes,” were added afterward. The record of the appropriation made to cover the bill, after the total had been reduced to ten pounds, four shillings is inscribed on the back of the original, and is to this effect:
“In the House of Representatives, August 22nd, 1775. Resolved that Mr. Paul Revere be allowed & paid out of the publick Treasury of this Colony ten pound four shillings in full discharge of the within account.”
This document was promptly sent up to the Council for concurrence, being signed by James Warren, Speaker, and Samuel Adams, Secretary.
Chapter 4; The Citizen and Soldier 1775-1777
Immediately after the battle of Lexington Revere decided to take up his residence for a time in Charlestown, conceiving, no doubt, that this would be a more congenial place of abode during the troublous times then upon the country than Boston, where persons known to be in sympathy with the patriots were having life made not particularly comfortable for them by the royalist authorities and the red-coat soldiery.
So Revere told his wife to pack up the household goods, and leave his shop in the custody of a friend, who was given leave to conduct the business for himself.
He wrote his wife:
“My Dear Girl “I received your favor yesterday. I am glad you have got yourself ready. If you find that you cannot easily get a pass for the Boat, I would have you get a pass for yourself and children and effects. Send the most valuable first. I mean that you should send Beds enough for yourself and Children, my chest, your trunk, with books, Cloaths &c to the ferry tell the ferryman they are mine.
I will provide a house here where to put them & will be here to receive them. After Beds are come over, come with the Children, except Paul. Pray order him by all means to keep at home that he may help bring the things to the ferry. Tell him not to come till I send for him.
You must hire somebody to help you. You may get brother Thomas. Lett Isaac Clemens if he is a mind to take care of the shop and maintain himself there, he may, or do as he has a mind. Put sugar in a raisin cask or some such thing & such necessarys as we shall want. Tell Betty, My Mother, Mrs. Metcalf if they think to stay, as we talked at first, tell them I will supply them with all the cash & other things in my power but if they think to come away, I will do all in my power to provide for them, perhaps before this week is out there will be liberty for Boats to go to Notomy, and then we can take them all.
If you send the things to the ferry send enough to fill a cart, them that are the most wanted. Give Mrs. Metcalf [the letter is torn at this place] in, their part of the money I don’t remember the sums, but perhaps they can. I want some linen and stockings very much. Tell Paul I expect he’l behave himself well and attend to my business, and not be out of the way. My Kind love to our parents & our Children Brothers & Sisters & all friends.”
To his fifteen-year old son Paul, Revere added this postscript:
“It is now in your power to be serviceable to me, your Mother and yourself. I beg you will keep yourself at home or where your Mother sends you. Don’t you come away till I send you word. When you bring anything to the ferry tell them it is mine & mark it with my name.
“Your loving Father “P.R.”
It would appear from these admonitions to young Paul that that young man was addicted to running away from home. Probably he stayed out nights with the other boys of the North End. Certainly there were plenty of exciting things to talk about and prowl into in those stirring weeks to tempt the adventurous spirit of any normally constituted boy. Without a doubt Paul, Jr., was a chip of the parental block.
There was some further correspondence between Revere and his wife relative to the securing of the necessary passes for the ferrying of herself, family, and household goods across the river to Charlestown, and we may assume that the little expedition reached its destination in safety. Quite likely the family remained in this retreat until after the evacuation of Boston by the British in March, 1776.
Revere’s exploits in the colony’s service had attracted wide attention and were even chronicled in the London newspapers.
One of the first acts of the second Continental Congress, which met in Philadelphia May 10, 1775, was to authorize the issue of a sum not exceeding two millions of Spanish milled dollars in bills of credit “for the defence of America.” John Adams and Benjamin Franklin were members of the committee appointed to superintend the printing, and they gave the job to Paul Revere, who engraved the plate and printed the bills on such thick paper that the British called it the “paste-board currency of the rebels.”
On the 8th of the following December the Massachusetts Provincial congress entered into a contract on its own account with Revere1, who agreed as follows:
[Watertown December 8, 1775]
“I, the Subscriber agree to Engrave the Plates & make the necessary alterations in the same, and Print the number of bills the Hon. House of Representatives shall order, for the sum on one penny half penny, old Tenor, each bill, and finde the Paper, and all the materials, the paper to be equal to the last Emmission. As the alteration & engraving will not be quite so much work as the last, I agree to alow thirty shillings L. Money, out of the whole.”
“The Paper for the last cost me Six dollars a Rheam, when I did not expect to give but four, which made 44 dollars odds. The Committee of the House ordered the paper to be made, & did not agree for the price, & I was obliged to pay the paper maker his demand.”
On May 3, 1775, a committee of the Provincial congress sitting at Watertown was authorized to procure a copper-plate for printing securities amounting to £1000,000, issued at six per cent, for war purposes, payable June 1, 1777. A contract was made with Revere to prepare the notes, and he engraved the plate, built a press, and did the printing. The scarcity of ready money in those troublous times is seen in the vote passed on the 3d of June, directing Revere to “attend the business of stamping the notes for the soldiers, all the ensuing night, if he can, and to finish them with the greatest dispatch possible.”
The importance of taking precautions against theft and counterfeiting was duly impressed upon the engraver by a committee appointed June 21 to wait upon Revere and advise “that he does not leave his engraving press exposed, when he is absent from it.” The committee was likewise instructed to see that the plates were placed in possession of Congress as soon as the notes were printed.
At this period Revere busied himself also in making designs for coins, medals, etc., and probably in designing the frames, ornate but full of character, which surround many of John Copley’s famous portraits and have been preserved to this day. He made the seal with the familiar Indian figure upon it which the colony began using in 1775 and was in use until 1780. One of the first acts of the governor’s council after the adoption of the new State constitution was to provide for an official seal, and Revere was of course given the work of engraving it.
He estimated it as being worth £900 and sent in his bill accordingly; but it met the usual fate of Revere’s charges when dealing with the government, for the Council, esteeming it to high, reduced it to £600 or £8 hard money, equal to £15 New Emission.”
The rebellious spirit among the colonists was, as is now perhaps more generally appreciated than formerly, by no means unanimous, nor anywhere near so. Many of the leading citizens viewed the extremes to which Sam Adams and the “Sons of Liberty” were going with very dubious forebodings.
By this class Adams and his fellows were regarded as political agitators and demagogues of a dangerous type. It is not strange, therefore, that in their loyalty to the King there should be persons among the Tories who should deem it but true patriotism toward the mother country to report to the authorities the deeds and sayings of the plotters against the King’s peace.
One such, Dr. Benjamin Church, was so bold in his public alliances with the fomenters of rebellion that he for a long time escaped detection. He was a well-known character, being, in 1774, a member of the Provincial congress from Boston, and also physician-general to the army then forming. Essaying an active interest in the plans for resisting British aggression, he became a member of the “Sons of Liberty,” and was in the habit of attending the caucuses at the Green Dragon Tavern.
In his letter to Jeremy Belknap, secretary of the Massachusetts Historical Society, in 1798, Revere thus describes the strange conduct of Dr. Church, which, with other circumstances, served at length to fix suspicion upon him: “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 suspect Dr. Church, but supposed it must be some one 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.
As I have mentioned Dr. Church perhaps it might not be disagreeable to mention some matters of my own knowledge respecting him. He appeared to be a high Son of Liberty. He frequented all the places where they met, was encouraged by all the leaders of the Sons of Liberty, and it appeared he was respected by them, though I knew that Dr. Warren had not the greatest affection for him. He was esteemed a very capable writer, especially in verse, and as the Whig party needed every strength, they feared as well as courted him. Though it was known that some of the liberty songs which he composed were parodized by him in favor of the British, yet none dared charge him with it.
I was a constant and critical observer of him, and I must say that I never thought him a man of principle; and I doubted much in my own mind whether he was a real Whig. I knew that he kept company with a Captain Price, a half-pay officer, and that he frequently dined with him and Robinson, one of the Commissioners. I knew that one of his intimate acquaintances asked him why he was so often with Robinson and Price. His answer was that he kept company with them on purpose to find out their plans.
The day after the Battle of Lexington, I met him in Cambridge, when he shewed me some blood on his stocking, which he said spirted from a man who was killed near him, and he was urging the militia on. I well remember, that I argued to myself, if a man will risk his life in a cause, he must be a friend to that cause; and I never suspected him after, till he was charged with being a traitor.
“The Friday evening after, about sunset, I was sitting with some, or near all that committee, [the Committee of Safety] in their room, which was at Dr. Hastings’ house in Cambridge. Dr. Church all at once, start up. Dr. Warren, said he, I am determined to go into Boston tomorrow (it set them all a-staring). Dr. Warren replied, are you serious, Dr. Church? They will hang you if they catch you in Boston. He replied, I am serious, and am determined to go at all adventures.
After a considerable conversation, Dr. Warren said, if you are determined, let us make some business for you. They agreed that he should go to get medicine for their and our wounded officers. He went next morning; and I think he came back on Sunday evening. After he had told the committee how things were, I took him aside and inquired particularly how they treated him. He said, that as soon as he got to their lines, on Boston Neck, they made him a prisoner, and carried him to General Gage, where he was examined, and then he was sent to Gould’s barracks, and was not suffered to go home but once.
After he was taken up, for holding a correspondence with the British, I came across Deacon Caleb Davis; — we entered into conversation about him; — he told me, that the morning Church went into Boston, he (Davis) received a billet for General Gage (he then did not know that Church was in town) when he got to the general’s house, he was told, the General could not be spoke with, that he was in private with a gentleman; that he waited near half an hour, when General gage and Dr. Church came out of a room, discoursing together, like persons who had been long acquainted.
He appeared to be quite surprised at seeing Deacon Davis there; that he (Church) went where he pleased, while in Boston, only a Major Caine, one of Gage’s aids, went with him. I was told by another person, whom I could depend upon, that he saw Church go into General Gage’s house at the above time; that he got out of the chaise and went up the steps more like a man that was acquainted than a prisoner.
Some time after perhaps a year or two, I fell in company with a gentleman who studied with Church; in discoursing about him, I related what I have mentioned above; he said, he did not doubt that he was in interest of the British; and that he know for certain, that a short time before the Battle of Lexington (for he lived with him, and took care of his business and his books), he had no money by him, and was much drove for money; that all at once, he had several hundred new British guineas; and that he thought at the time where they came from.”
When Boston was evacuated by the British in March, 1776, the province, through the General Court, immediately proceeded to raise companies of militia to assist in the defence of the town. The tem companies in the artillery regiment were styled the “Massachusetts State’s Train.” Revere, after serving for a month as a major of infantry, was transferred April 10 to the artillery, being promoted November 27 to be lieutenant-colonel. His son, Paul, Jr., a lad of scarce sixteen, was given a lieutenant’s commission in one of the companies.
Revere entered this service with some disappointment. He would have preferred a commission in the continental army, where he might have found a wider field of activity; and in a letter dated April 5, 1777, he complained to his friend, Colonel lamb: “I have never been taken notice off, by those whom I thought my friends, am obliged to be contented in this State’s service.” In this letter he also remarks: “Friend Sears is here — a very merchant; in short I find but few of the Sons of Liberty in the army” from which it would appear that some of the patriots who were great agitators and plotters before the Revolution were careful to keep away from the firing line when actual hostilities broke out.
The artillery “train” was stationed at Fort William, on an island in Boston harbor. Here Revere, notwithstanding his impatience at this circumscribing of his ambitions, faithfully performed the services that came to him in the line of duty, being a part of the time in full command.
On August 27, 1777, Revere was placed in command of a large body of troops assigned to proceed to Worcester to take into custody the British prisoners captured at the battle of Bennington by General Stark. The following day, before starting upon the journey, the regiment was ordered to march to the meeting-house, “dressed in their uniform, clean & Powder’d,” to listen to a sermon by the Rev. Mr. Thacher. After receiving this spiritual nourishment, the troops started for “the heart of the commonwealth.” They got no further than Watertown when the commander found it necessary to issue this suggestive order:
[Watertown August 29, 1777]
“A Strict Discipline, and Good Order is the life & Soul of a Soldier, the Lieut Colonel expects that there will be the best Order observed on the March, the Commissioned Officers are to see that the men behave well, that they by no Means hurt or destroy any man’s property, that they Abuse no person, but in everything behave like men Belonging to the Massachusetts State Train of Artillery. When there is a halt the Sergts are to be Accountable for the behaviour of the Men. Should any of the Non Commis’d Officers or Soldiers be so hardy as to act Contrary to the above directions they may depend upon being punished with the utmost Severity.
“By Order COL REVERE”
It is not difficult to imagine that the soldiers accustomed to a tedious confinement in the fortifications at Castle William on an island were very willing to be ordered on this junketing trip out into the country, and left Boston determined to enjoy it without a too fine regard for the rights and peace of mind of the farmers along the route. The regiment, after a three-hours’ march, reached Watertown at 9 P.M. and encamped for the night. The march was resumed at six the next morning.
The monotony of life at the fort was varied by other incidents, such as a court-martial, of which Revere was president, on September 6. Thomas Cleverly and Caleb Southard were charged with the heinous offence of playing cards on the Sabbath day, and found guilty, sentence being passed upon them as follows: “The Court are of the Oppinion that Cleverly ride the Wooden Horse for a Quarter of an hour with a Muskett at each foot & that southward Clean the Streets of the Camp. —Paul Revere, Presid.”
Cleverly was also subsequently found “guilty of a Breach of the 16th article of war [stealing], and do sentence him to be Whip’d ten lashes on his naked back with a Cat O Nine tails.” John Gowin, tried for “Stealing and being Drunk, Deserting a file of Men & Abusing Sergt Griffith” at the same time as Southard and Cleverly, was acquitted for lack of evidence.
In September the regiment was ordered to Rhode Island; but after participating in the short campaign there, returned to Boston, and spent the winter at Castle William.
Colonel Revere and his son accompanied the expedition ordered to Rhode Island in July, 1778, to reinforce General Sullivan. The month of August was passed there in what proved to be an unimportant and ineffective campaign, and the Massachusetts troops were back in their old quarters by the 9th of September. We get a glimpse of the affectionate relationship of Revere and his wife in a letter which has come down to us, written during this absence:
“MY DEAR GIRL, –
Your very agreeable letter came safe to hand, since which I have wrote, but received no answer. I believe you are better: what a pleasure to hear! Pray take care of yourself & my little ones. I hope ere this to have been in Newport; my next I hope will be dated there. We have had the most severe N. East Storm I ever knew, but, thank Heaven, after 48 hours it is over. I am in high health and Spirits, & [so is] our Army.
The Enemy dare not show their head. We have had about 50 who have deserted to us; Hessians & others. They say many more will desert, & only wait for opportunity. I am told by the inhabitants that before we came on, they burned 6 of their Frigates; they have destroyed many houses between them & us. I hope we shall make them pay for all. The French fleet are not returned, but I just heard they were off Point Judith with 3 frigates, prizes; this, I am told, comes from Head Quarters. I do not assert it for fact, but hope it is true.
You have heard this Island is the Garden of America, indeed it used to be so; but those British Savages have so abused & destroyed the Tress (the greatest part of which was Fruit Trees), that it does not look like the same Island; some of the Inhabitants who left it hardly know where to find their homes. Col. Crafts is obliged to act under Col. Crane, which is a severe Mortification to him. I have but little to do with him, having a separate command.
It is very irksome to be separated from her whom I so tenderly love, and from my little Lambs; but were I at home I should want to be here. It seems as if half Boston was here. I hope the affair will soon be settled; I think it will not be long first. I trust that Allwise being who has protected me will still protect me, and send me safely to the Arms of her whom it is my greatest happiness to call my own. Paul is well; send Duty & love to all. I am surprised Capt. Marett has not rote me. My duty to my Aunts, my love to Brothers & Sisters, my most affectionate love to my children. It would be a pleasure to have a line from Deby. Lawson desires to be remembered to you. My best regards to Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Burt, Capt. Pulling & all enquiring Friends. Col. Mareschall, who is one of Gen. Sullivans Adj Camps, tells me this minute that the French have took a Transport with British Grenadiers, but could not tell the particulars.”
September 1 an order was issued by the Council directing Lieutenant Colonel Revere to be placed in full command at Fort William. The winter of 1778-1779 was spent at the “castle” without excitement or incident of note. The regiment under Revere formed a defensive force that was expected to prove effective in the event of attack by the enemy, and in this capacity it rendered patriotic and necessary, if monotonous and unpicturesque, service.
During all this period of service at Fort William, Colonel Revere continued active in the affairs of the town and the counsels of the Revolutionary leaders. The General court on the 13th of February, 1776, had authorized the establishment of a Committee of Correspondence to be chosen in town meetings of the several towns, and twelve days after the evacuation of Boston by the British, that is, on March 29, the citizens met in the Old Brick Meeting-House for the purpose of carrying out the resolution.
A committee of Twenty-six was chosen, Paul Revere being of the number. Among his colleagues were John Hancock, Sam Adams, Nathaniel Appleton, Oliver Wendell.
At this meeting of the “Freeholders and other Inhabitants of the Town of Boston” it was voted that “Thomas Crafts, Esp., Col. Thomas Marshall, Major Paul Revere be a Committee to wait on General Washington, & to acquaint him that it is the Desire of the Town, that the Four Pieces of Cannon which are in the Continental Train of Artillery, & belonging to the Town of Boston, may not be carried out of this colony, if his Excellency should apprehend the general interest of the Colony will permit their remaining here.”
When one realizes the active and systematic preparations for hostilities which were being made long before the clash of arms at Lexington, the evidence that rebellion against the mother country was deliberately plotted, and was only awaiting open provocation in order to break forth, is well-nigh conclusive.
Thus we find a committee of the Provincial congress, which had been appointed to inquire into the condition of manufactures in Massachusetts, reporting, December 8, 1774, “that gunpowder is also an article of such importance, that every man among us who loves his country, must wish the establishment of manufactories for that purpose; and as there are the ruins of several powder mills, and sundry persons among us who are acquainted with that business, we do heartily recommend its encouragement by repairing on or more of said mills, or erecting others, and renewing said business as soon as possible.”
Bust the “sundry persons” acquainted with the gunpowder business do not appear to have responded very generously to this suggestion that their services would be in demand, and the Provincial congress accordingly was moved to commission a capable man to go to Philadelphia, where the only powder mill known to be in actual operation was located. For this mission Paul Revere was selected.
Revere made the journey to Philadelphia in ten days. He, no doubt, called at once on John Hancock, who was in attendance on the Continental Congress, and communicated his mission, obtaining a letter of introduction from Robert Morris to the proprietor of the powder mill, a Mr. Oswell Eve:
[PhiladA Novr 21st 1775]
“Mr. OSWELL EVE
“I am requested by some honorable Members of the Congress to recommend the bearer hereof Mr. Paul Revere to you. He is just arrived from New England where it is discovered they can manufacture a good deal of Salt Petre in consequence of which they desire to erect a Powder Mill & Mr. Revere has been pitched upon to gain instruction & knowledge in this branch. A Powder Mill, in New England cannot in the least degree affect your manufacture nor be of any disadvantage to you, therefore these Gentlm and Myself hope you will cheerfully & from Public Spirited motives give Mr. Revere such information as will enable him to construct the business on his return home. I shall be glad of any opportunity to approve myself.”
“Your very obed Servt
“P.S. Mr. Revere will desire to see the Construction of your mill & hope you will gratify him on that point.”
The note was endorsed by John Dickinson, but its appeal, as it proved, was not made to a man of generous heart and instincts; for Mr. Oswell Eve was a fair type of the thrifty patriot who is to be found in every great crisis when the country’s welfare, or even its life, is at stake, and who does not scruple to coin her distress into personal gain.
In this case neither the character of Revere’s mission upon which he had traveled hundreds of miles at the instance of the Massachusetts miles at the instance of the Massachusetts Congress, nor the pleas of Morris and Dickinson, could induce Eve to part with The secrets of gunpowder-making. He had, he thought, a monopoly of what in modern commercial terminology would have been regarded as “a good thing,” and he proposed to keep it so that the war managers would be obliged to pay him his own price.
So he flatly refused to give Revere the desired facilities for acquiring information relative to the manufacture of powder. Fortunately, however, he softened to the extent of condescending to permit his visitor to pas through his establishment, not reckoning upon retributive justice defeating the ends of private greed.
For Revere was no ordinary sight-seer. If not allowed to ask questions and receive informing answers he kept his eyes wide open, and filed a mental note-book with the results of his observations. This he was able to do intelligently, for he had a good practical knowledge of chemistry, gained from reading and experience, as well as a familiarity with mechanics. So, when he reached home, he was ready to put his skill at even the dangerous business of powder-making to the test.
The General Court at once ordered the rebuilding of an abandoned powder mill at Canton. Work was begun upon it in February, 1776, and it was completed in May, Revere taking charge and succeeding so well in mastering the details of the manufacture that he was soon able to supply tons of powder for the Continental army. Forty barrels, containing one hundred pounds each, were supplied in October, 1777, to the fort in Boston harbor, at which Revere was then the commanding officer.
In December of the following year, while still in command of the fort, we find Revere praying for permission to have eight hundredweight of “gunpowder dust” made into powder, apparently for his own personal use, thought to what purpose he intended it is something of a mystery. The fact that he offered to pay “a reasonable consideration” for this service in case the Council would “grant leave to Thomas Crane, Esq., Keeper of Said mill to make the above dust into Powder: would seem to indicate that it was not intended for the use of the army.
In 1777 Revere was temporarily detached from the fort to make a trip to Titicut, where brass and iron cannon were being cast at a “state furnace,” there to superintend the “proveing” of cannon and hasten the transportation to Boston of all that were shown to be effective.
This ride of the 16th has never received much attention. It is not famed in song and story, and Revere himself alludese taken as evidence that the lanterns had already been displayed and withdrawn ere he reached the Charlestown shore. The arrangement, he says, was that “we would show” the lanterns, not that they would be hung out and left.
Chapter 5; The Court-Martial of Paul Revere
British commerce suffered greatly during the Revolution from the depredations of Yankee privateers which, in considerable numbers, were fitted out in Boston, Salem, Newburyport, and Marblehead, and which when pursued, or after having taken a prize, found convenient and safe asylums in the rock-bound harbors of the Maine coast.
In these shelters they could also secure equipments of crews and provisions, and from them they could dart out quickly upon unsuspecting prey. So destructive had these tactics be come in 1779, that the British decided to take steps to meet them.
Accordingly, in June of that year, General Francis McLean, with four hundred and fifty of the rank hundred of the 82d, took possession of the peninsula of Bagaduce ( now Castine), on the east side of Penobscot Bay. Here, upon a bluff two hundred or more feet above the water, about twenty miles from the mouth of the bay and six below the mouth of the river, McLean began the erection of a fort, which he proposed to christen, after the King, Fort George.
The news of the occupation of Bagaduce by the British created a great stir throughout the eastern colonies, and the General Court of Massachusetts at once issued orders to fit out an expedition to dispossess the enemy.
Brigadier-General Solomon Lovell was ordered to atake command of twelve hundred militia, with Adjutant-General Peleg Wadsworth second in command, and Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Revere in command of the artillery train. The board of war was directed to secure from the Continental authorities a loan of the frigate warren, a fine new ship of thirty-two guns, and the sloop Providence, with twelve guns.
The fleet had been placed in charge of Commodore Dudley Saltonstall, then in command of the borrowed Warren. It consisted of nineteen vessels, mounting in all three hundred and twenty four guns and manned by over two thousand sailors, besides twenty transports. It was probably, taken altogether, the strongest and finest naval force furnished by New England during the Revolution.
Fifteen hundred troops were expected to join the main contingent, from York, Cumberland, and Lincoln in Maine; but of this quota only five hundred put in a appearance, and a large portion of these were wholly unfit for service, consisting chiefly of small boys, old men, and even invalids.
Their equipment was of the most indifferent character, their arms being out of repair, and they lacked ammunition. On the 24th of July the fleet arrived at the mouth of the Penobscot. Due warning of its approach had been given the British, who, in spite of the fact that they had hastened in the work of constructing their fortifications, were greatly disheartened, realizing that the American force was much stronger, and ought to be able to quickly overcome the feeble resistance which was all, under the circumstances, they believed they could offer. All but four of the British fleet had returned to Halifax.
One account states that “the walls of the fort at that time were not more than five feet high, with two guns mounted, one towards the water and the other towards the woods, with only enough to man three sides of the fort, placing the men a yard apart.” Without doubt the British had kept fully informed of the movements of the Americans, and, after a show of resistance, would have readily surrendered.
It is not necessary nor profitable to tell here in detail the story of this disastrous expedition, so discreditable to the Americans, who largely outnumbered in land forces the British, and who had an overwhelming fleet.
Suffice it to say that on the 26th of June the Yankee marines made a successful landing, capturing some cannon and ammunition, mounted a battery, and caused a precipitate retreat of the enemy, while the naval forces under Commodore Saltonstall exhibited a remarkable indisposition to assume the offensive and supplement the work of the soldiers on land. The commodore, indeed, seemed deliberately bent on keeping the fleet as far as possible out of danger,— a course which filled both the land forces and Saltonstall’s own men with supreme disgust.
A council of war was held on board the brig Hazard August 7, at which the question was discussed as to whether the siege should be continued. It was voted to continue, Revere being one of eight and Commodore Saltonstall another who voted in the negative. Revere decided to file a record of his reasons for this vote, and he was allowed to do so in connection with the official report made of the proceedings. He offered this defence of his course:
“1. Gen. Lovell says that he is not able to reduce the Enemy with what Troops and Stores he has got.
“2. That under present circumstances it is best to take post to the westward to hinder the Enemy going any further.
“3. That six Captains of ships give as their opinion that they cannot keep their men but a few days longer.
Four days later another council of war was held, at which, as a result of that day’s experience, it was unanimously voted that with the force then on hand it would be impossible to hold a post in the rear of the enemy’s fort, and, at the same time, the lines as then drawn up.
Three reasons were given for this decision: that “our Force is not sufficient to take Possession of the ground; our Numbers are not able to do Duty after taken for one week; the great want of Discipline, and Subordination.” “Many of the Officers,” it was said, ” being so exceedingly slack and ignorant of their Duty,— the Soldiers averse to service — And the wood in which we are Incamped so very thick, that on an alarm on any special occasion, nearly one-fourth part of the Army are Skulked out of the way, and concealed.: Truly a spectacle of disgraceful incompetence and temerity if not downright cowardice!
But fortunately for the reputation of Yankee valor and self-respect the dark picture has its bright spots. Not all of the subordinate officers were dead to shame; and thirty-one of Saltonstall’s staff drew up a round-robin, in which, after commenting on the importance of the expedition and their own desire to render all the service in their power, they said: ” We think Delays in the present case are extremely dangerous: as our Enemies are daily fortifying and strengthening themselves, & are stimulated so to do being in daily Expectation of a Reinforcement. We don’t mean to advise, or censure your past conduct, But intend only to express our desire of improving the present opportunity to go Immediately into the Harbour & attack the Enemy’s ships.”
But Saltonstall was not moved. He effected to concede the desirability of an immediate attack, but he found obstacles which he had not the courage to confront and overcome, and so the sea attack was never made. But it was at length decided, as the result of another council of war on board the Warren, participated in by land and naval officers, Revere being of the number, that a body of troops should be landed on the peninsula and, if possible, the heights scaled, and a permanent foothold secured upon the bluffs.
In the early morning of the 28th this was done, and the exploit was a brilliant success. No protective works had been erected at this point by the British, but some three hundred troops had been posted on the precipice and opened a sharp fire upon the Americans as soon as the latter’s boats struck the beach.
General Lovell, in his Diary, says of it: “When I returned to the Shore it struck me with admiration to see what a Precipice we had ascended, not being able to take so scrutinous a view of it in time of Battle, it is at least where we landed three hundred feet high, and almost perpendicular, & the men were obliged to pull themselves by the twigs & trees. I don’t think such a landing has been made since Wolfe.” Lovell reported the American loss at fifty killed and twenty wounded, and three wounded, besides the loss of eight prisoners.
Following this exploit there were various engagements of no consequence on the part of the military, while Commodore Saltonstall remained practically idle and deaf to repeated urgings to storm the fort and destroy the few ships of the enemy, which he might readily have done at any time. He only offered excuse after excuse for his continued delays and inactivity.
General Lovell, exasperated beyond further endurance at Saltonstall’s pusillanimous conduct, finally determined to resort to independent means of attacking the enemy’s vessels. On the 3rd day of August he sent General Wadsworth to erect a land battery opposite the British anchorage, with which, if possible, to drive away the hostile ships.
But the distance of the battery from the target was a mile and a quarter, the fire would not carry, and the attempt had to be abandoned. “It is all the army can do,” wrote General Lovell in his journal.
On the 11th he again addressed a note to the commodore, saying: “I mean not to determine on your mode of attack, but it appears to me so very impracticable, that any further delay must be infamous; and I have it this moment, by a deserter from one of their ships, that the moment you enter the harbor they will destroy them, which will effectually answer our purpose~A-. I feel for the horror of America, in an expedition which a nobler exertion had, long before this, crowned with success; and I have now only to repeat the absolute necessity of undertaking the destruction of the ships or quitting the place.”
These pleadings proved as unavailing as former ones. The commodore was obstinate; he was determined not to risk any damage to his vessels, and many of the captains shared in his point of view, since most of the ships were private property, and there was, moreover, but little prospect of prize-money to offset possible losses. But since Commodore Saltonstall had from the outset insisted that the army should attack the fort before the fleet should enter the harbor, General Lovell made up his mind to assume the responsibility of moving against the enemy, trusting to Saltonstall’s co-operation when the crises was forced. This was a hazardous undertaking, simultaneous action by the fleet being essential to its success.
But Lovell had no sooner brought his troops to a point where he might operate with advantage on the fort than the commodore sent word of the appearance in the harbor of strange vessels which, he had discovered, flew the British flag! Nothing more was necessary to transform his inertia and crass temerity into genuine cowardly panic. He immediately deserted the cause of the army on shore, left the troops at the mercy of the enemy’s guns in the forts, and, hoisting anchor, beat a speedy retreat in good order and without loss.
Saltonstall’s disgraceful desertion rendered it foolhardy for the army to remain longer on shore, and so, dismantling the batteries which had been erected at such sacrifice and effort, the troops boarded the transports, and, within a dozen hours from the first sounding of the alarm, the whole expedition was on its way up the river.
One more effort was made by General Lovell, even then, to induce Commodore Saltonstall to make at least a stand against the enemy, but in vain. Conternation and confusion prevailed thenceforth. A stiff breeze carried the ships of war past the transports, leaving the troops on the latter helplessly exposed to the now rapidly advancing British vessels.
It was inevitable that the Americans, unless they took hot foot, should fall bodily into the enemy’s hands. Accordingly “nothing was thought of by the crews but as speedy escape as possible to the shore, and hardly an attempt was made to save anything. Some were run on shore, some anchored, some abandoned with all sails set, and most set on fire. Officers were dispatched by General Lovell to the shore to collect and take charge of the troops; but so great was the panic, so convenient the woods and the approaching night, that but a few could be found; the greater part, thinking that nothing further was expected of them, made the best of their way, singly or in squads, towards the Kennebec, where the most of them arrived after nearly a week’s fatigue, suffering greatly from exposure and hunger, some of them tasting no food for several days.” The British commander Sir George Collier, though he appreciated the fact that the provincial forces occupied the strategical advantage and possessed superior numbers as ell, could not also fail to perceive that his enemy was panic-stricken. Made of better stuff han his Yankee opponent, he at once opened fire. The effect of his boldness was at once seen. Such vessels as the Americans did not permit him to capture they blew up or set fire to. Lieutenant-Colonel Revere, in command of the artillery and the ammunition stores on board the ordnance brig, had already gone ashore at Fort Pownal, but the deserted brig managed to get clear of the rest of the fleet and made her way for several miles up stream before being overtaken; then she was burned with all her stores. “To attempt to give a description of this terrible Day,” wrote General Lovell, “is out of my power. It would be a fit Subject for some masterly hand to describe it in its true colours, to see four Ships, Transports on fire, Men of War blowing up, Provisions of all kinds, every kind of stores on Shore (at least in small quantities) throwing about, and as much confusion as can possibly be conceived.”
Lovell made his way up the river, quieted the Indians, who were becoming restless, settled the military affairs of the province of Maine as well as circumstances would permit, and then returned to Boston, arriving there about September 20. So great was the chagrin and excitement caused by the failure of the expedition that the General Court had already ordered an investigation. On September 9 a court of inquiry was appointed: General Ward was president of the court, and on October 7 a report was made very properly attributing the disaster to a “want of proper Spirit and energy on the part of the Commodore” and to his ” not exerting himself at all at the time of the retreat in opposing the enemy’s formost ships in pursuit” The report completely exonerated Generals Lovell and Wadsworth, and commended them for the exhibition of great courage and spirit.
A warrant for a court-martial to try Commodore Saltostall was issued September 7. Tradition has it that Saltonstall was cashiered; but he appears afterward to have been the master of a vessel, the privateer Minerva, which, in 1791, captured the Hannah, an act that provoked the British descent on New London, the burning of that place by Arnold, and the massacre of the troops at Fort Griswold. Up to the time of the Penobscot expedition Saltonstall had borne an excellent reputation for competence and patriotism.
Revere had returned to Boston some weeks earlier than Lovell. He found himself deeply involved in the scandal, and his reputation almost as much in jeopardy as that of Saltonstall. One of his critics was General Lovell himself, saying “that he was surprised at Col Revere’s inattention to his duty.” No official notice, however, was paid to the gossip, and the Council ordered him, August 27, to resume command at Fort William. But within ten days the Council had a formal complaint concerning Revere’s conduct lodged with it. The captain of marines on board the ship of war General Putnam, one of the Penobscot fleet, Thomas Jenness Carnes, wrote as follow:
” Being Requested to Lodge a complaint against L. Col: Paul Revear, for his behavour at Penobscot which I do in the following manner, Viz
” First For disobedience of orders from General Lovell in two Instances,Vis: When ordered to go on shore with two Eighteen pounders, One twelve, One four & One Hoitzer Excused himself~A^3″Second When ordered by Major Todd at the Retreat to go with him Men and take said Cannon from the Island, Refused, and said his orders was to be under the Command of Gen Lovell, during the Expedition to Penobscot; & that the siege was rais’d, he did not consider himself under his Command~A^3
“Thirdly For neglect of Duty in Several instances~A^3
“Fourthly For unsoldierlike behavour, During the whole expedition to Penobscot, which tends to Courdice~A^3
“Fifthly For Refusing Gen. Wadsworth, the Castle Barge to fetch some men on shore form a Schooner, which was near the Enemy’s ships on the Retreat up the River~A^3
“Sixthly For leaving his men and suffering them to dispurce and takeing no manner of Care of them~A^3
The filing of these charges was followed by instant action. Revere was arrested the same day “and ordered to resign the Command of Castle Island and remove himself to his dwelling house in Boston there to continue until the matter Complained of could be duly inquired into or he be discharged by the General Assembly or Council.”
But he was compelled to remain a prisoner on honor within his own home for only three days, when the arrest was taken off and he was suffered to go free. There can be no doubt that he courted the fullest investigation, believing the charges inspired by the malicious gossip of personal enemies. This seems clear from his letters to the council at this time. Thus, on September 9 he wrote: “Gentlemen, — I feel the highest obligations to Your Honors for Your Candour to me, when the popular clamour, runs so strong against me: Had your Honors have shewn as little regard for my character, as my enemies have done; Life would have been insupportable. Were I conscious that I had omitted doing any one thing to Reduce the Enemy, either thro fear, or by willfull opposition, I would not wish for a single advocate. I beg your Honors, that in a proper time, there may be a strict enquiry into my conduct where I may meet my accusers face to face. ” Gentlemen, I am told by my friends that Cap Thomas Carnes informes your Honors yesterday, that I did not land with my men the day we took possession of Magabagaduce, which is so glaring a falsehood, that I beg your Honors would favor me with an oppertunity , of seeing him face to face before your Honors; to take off any impression it may have made to my disadvantage.
” I am Your Honors Obedient ” Humble Servant ” Paul Revere.
In another long letter written to the Committee of Inquiry while it was in session, Revere frankly expressed his belief that he was being persecuted at the instigation chiefly of a Captain Todd. Said he: ” It lays with you in a great measure, from the evidence for and against me, to determine what is more dearer to me than life, my character. I hope and expect that you will make proper allowance for the prejudices, which have taken place, in consequence of stories, propagated by designing men to my disadvantage. I beg leave to mention to you Honors a matter; tho at first, it may appear foreign to the present case, yet in the end, it will give some light; why stories have been propagated against me. Your Honors must remember that dificulties which arose in our Regiment the last February when it was reduced to three Companys. Because I accepted the command, (which was by desire of the Council) and did all in my power, to hinder the men from deserting: And because I would not give up my Commission in the same way the other Officers did, some of them propagated every falsehood, Malice could invent in an underhanded way. ” I shall trouble your Honors but with one Fact, which I appeal to the Hon. General Ward for the truth of. ” Not long after the Regiment was reduced Captains Todd and Gray, waited on General Ward, to complain against me; after saying many things to my disadvantage, (as the General told me the same day), Capt. Todd asked the General to go with him in another room. He then told him, He would prove or he believed he could prove, that I had drawn Rations at the Castle for thirty men, more than I had there. The General said he told them, if they had anything against me, to enter a complaint against me to Council, and I should be called upon. A few days after I received an Order of Council to attend them, and was served with a Coppy of a petition, signed by Capt. Gray, Todd and others, wherein they desire to be heard personally on matters set forth in the Petition and other Matters. I appeared at the appointed time and they never produced a single article against me. I well remember that three of your Honors were in the Council at the time. Ever since they have done everything in their power to hurt me, by insinuations: Tho’ none of them ever charged me to my face. This Captain Todd was one of General Lovell’s brigade majors in the Penobscot expedition, and Revere had protested against his being accepted for the service, explaining to the general that he should never speak to Todd except in the line of duty. The protest not having been heeded, the relations of the two men were strained throughout the trip. Captain Carnes, upon whose complaint Revere was arrested by the Council, charged that, when the landing was made at Bagaduce (called also Magabagaduce), Revere remained on the beach with his men, and did not go up the steep until the marines and militia had got possession of the height; that he had carried all his men on board the transport, and lodged them there instead of forcing to the front in the attacking column; and that instead of getting the cannon he was to use on shore by employing his own men for the purpose, he allowed the sailors to perform this duty for him.
No witnesses were called to substantiate these charges, and Revere, in his exposition in self-defence, pointed out that General Lovell and all of Revere’s own subordinate officers had proved the first charge false, while the second charge was likewise shown by the testimony of numerous witnesses to be without foundation. As for the third allegation, Revere admitted this to be in part true, two 18-pounders having been put ashore by the sailors chiefly; but a 12-pounder howitzer and heavy field piece were landed by Revere’s men, and his men assisted in the whole business.
Revere was also charged with being guilty of disobedience of orders upon several occasions , of unsoldierlike behavior in general, and in particular of having refused to assist General Wadsworth with a boat in a certain instance. To all of which he pleaded that the evidence showed him, if not innocent of every act charged, innocent at all events of guilty intent, saying: ” If to obey Orders, and to keep close to my duty is unsoldierlike, I was Guilty. As to Cowardice during the whole expedition, I never was in any Sharp Action, nor was any of the Artillery; but in what little I was, no one has dared to say that I flinched. My officers all swear that whenever there was an alarm, I was one of the first in the Battery. I think that no mark of Cowardice.”
It is certain that Revere left the expedition and returned to Boston without specific orders from the commanding general to do so. To what extent this was a serious breach of discipline under the demoralized condition of affairs at Bagaduce, and one justifying the bringing of a complaint against him of disobedience to orders, let the reader judge.
Concerning it, Revere says: “There was something mentioned about a letter, wrote to the Hon. Council by the General, which reflected on me. The General tells you it was because he thought I did not go up the River on the 15th when he Ordered me, and that I should not have gone home to Boston with my men without his Order. That I did go up the River has been fully proved. That I came home without his Orders is true: where could I have found either the General [Lovell] or the Brigadier [Wadsworth], if it had been necessary to have got Orders: the first went 100 miles up Penobscot River, and the other down, and I crossed the woods to the Kennebec River.
My instructions from the Hon. Council, to which I referred above, directs, that I shall ” obey General Lovel, or other my Superior Officers during the continuance of the Expedition.” Surely no man will say, that the Expedition was not discontinued, when all the shipping was either taken, or Burnt, the Artillery and Ordinance stores, all destroyed. I then looked upon it that I was to do, what I thought right. Accordingly, I Ordered them (my men) to Boston by the shortest route, and that Capt. Cushing should march them, and give Certificates for their subsistence on the Road. The report of the Court of Inquiry was confined to general findings as to the cause of the disaster. This was by no means satisfactory to Revere, who, after his character had been attacked and his reputation for bravery and patriotism publicly besmirched, demanded that the charges against him should be passed upon. He wrote to the Council October 9, calling attention to the fact that the court had neither acquitted nor condemned him, and asking the Council to either order the court to sit again or to appoint a court-martial to try the charges against him. He desired this to be done at once, since some of his witnesses were about to go to sea.
The House and Council complied with the request and ordered the committee to sit again. It met, accordingly, November 11. The whole case of Revere was again examined into, and on November 16 the committee reported to the Council as follows: “The Committee of both Houses appointed to make inquiry into the conduct of the officers of Train, and the Militia officers, employed in the late Expedition to Penobscot, have attended the Service assigned them; and the Opinion of your Committee on the subject mater will fully appear by the following questions and answers thereto Namely: 1. Was Let. Col. Paul Revere crityzable for any of his conduct during his stay at Bagaduce, or while he was in, or upon the River Penobscot? “Answer. Yes. ” 2. What part of Lt. Col. Revere’s conduct was critqzable? “Answer. In disputing the orders of Brigadier General Wadsworth respecting the Boat; & in saying that the Brigadier had no right to command him or his boat.”3. Was Lt. Col. Paul Revere’s conduct justifyable in leaving River Penobscot, and repairing to Boston, with his men, without particular orders from his Superior officer? Answer. No, not wholly justifyable. “4. Answer. No. Excepting Col. Jonathan Mitchel, who by his own confession left the River Penobscot without leave from any Superior officer; and returned to North Yarmouth the place of his habitation. ” All which is humbly Submitted. “Artemas Ward pr order” Out of whatever facts this finding came, — whether from a stern and honest conviction that Revere’s conduct had been such as to merit condemnation and that his defence had not been altogether candid and sincere, or whether prompted by the influence of persons animated by malice, a suggestion involving a severe reflection upon the court, — we may fancy these important old worthies composing the court of Inquiry enjoying the situation at Revere’s expense. He had not been satisfied to let well enough alone, they doubtless thought, but must needs insist on a special report, acquitting or comdemning him, and trusting, of course, that he would be definitely acquitted. Now he had got what he had petitioned for, and if the report was not what he expected, how could he, before the public, complain of the outcome?
The report was not, of course, what Revere wanted. But he refused to pocket the chagrin and humiliation it must have caused him. Instead, he now boldly demanded a regular court-martial, writing January 17, 1780m to the ” Honorable Council of the Massachusetts State” as follows: ” Twice I have petitioned your Honors and once the House of Representatives for a Court Martial but have not obtained one. I believe that neither the Annals of America, or Old England, can furnish an Instance (except in despotick Reigns) where an Officer was put under an arrest and he petitioned for a Tryal (altho the Arrest was taken off) that it was not granted. The complaint upon which my arrest was founded, are amongst your Honors papers, and there will remain an everlasting monument of my disgrace if I do not prove they are false; is there any legal way to prove them false, than by a Court-Martial”; and he continues, advancing strong reasons why a hearing should be granted him. In this same letter he also prays for back rations, not having had any since the previous June, except “what I drew at Penobscot. I have been maintaining a Family of twelve ever since, out of the remains of what I earned by twenty years hard labor.” This request for a grant of back rations was at once complied with by the Council, but the councillors completely ignored the demand for a court-martial. They were apparently more willing to deal justly by the body than with the character of the petitioner.
Finally, April 13, the Council voted him a court-martial, which was ordered to sit on the 18th at the county court-house in Boston. Colonel Edward Proctor was designated president and William Tudor judge-advocate, while twelve captains composed the court. They were ordered to make a return of their proceedings and their judgment to the Council. But for some reason not recorded the court did not convene, and, after waiting a year, Revere made one more effort to get a hearing. On the 22d of January, 1781, he sent this petition to the authorities: To the Hon. Senate and House of Representatives of the Massachusetts State in General Court Assembled. ” The Petition of Paul Revere who commanded a Corps or Artillery in the States Service~A^3Sheweth~A^3That Your Petitioner while in said service had a complaint preferred against him to the Hon. Council by one Thomas Jeners Carnes, for misconduct on the Expedition to Penobscot; on which complaint Your Petitioner was arrested by the Hon. Council; two days after the arrest aforesaid was taken off and Your Petitioner ordered to attend the examination of a Committee for investigation the causes of the failure of that Expedition; that he as in duty bound attended said Committee; and, as Your Petitioner understands, the report of said Committee, was never excepted by both Houses.
“That in such a situation as must be deemed grievous to any Officer, Your Petitioner petitioned the Hon. Council and House of Representatives six different times between the 6th of Sept. 1779, and the 8th of March 1780, for a Tryal by a Court-Martial, but did not obtain one, till about a fortnight before the time expired for which said Corps was raised. when the Hon. Council Ordered a Court-Martial, and appointed Col Edward Proctor President, which Court-Martial was never summoned by the President, and of course never met. The time expiring for which Your Petitioner was engaged; He has remained ever since suffering all the indignity which his Enemies, who he conceives have made it a personal affair, are pleased to impose upon him. ” Your Petitioner therefore most earnestly Prays this Hon. Assembly, to take his case under consideration and Order either a Court-Martial, or a number of Officers, three, five, seven, or any number the Hon Court amy see proper, Continentals or Militia, properly qualified, who may enquire into his conduct on said expedition, and report, (all the evidence for and against Your Petitioner is in writing sworn too before Committee and now among the Hon. Councils papers) that the truth may appear and be published to the World, and Your Petitioner as in duty bound will ever pray, &c.
” Paul Revere.
“Boston, Jan 22 1781.”
But again Revere was doomed to disappointment, the General Court ordering the petition to lie over to the next session. Then, however, and without waiting for another appeal from Revere, it was taken up. A second court-martial was appointed February 19, 1782, consisting of twelve captains, with Brigadier-General Wareham Parks as president and Joshua Thomas a judge-advocate. Charges were formulated as follows: ” For his refusing to deliver a certain Boat to the Order of General Wadsworth when upon the retreat up Penobscot River from Major Bagwaduce; “For his leaving Penobscot River without Order from his Commanding Officer.” And this was the judgment of the court after reviewing the evidence: ” The Court find the first Charge against Lt Col. Paul Revere to be supported (towit) “his refusing to deliver a certain Boat to the Order of Gen. Wadsworth when upon the Retreat up Penobscot River from Major Bagwaduce”; but the Court taking into consideration the suddenness of the refusal, and more especially, that the same Boat was in fact employed by Lt. Col. Revere to effect the Purpose ordered by the General as appears by the General’s Deposition, are of the Opinion, that Lt. Col. Paul Revere be acquitted of this Charge. “On the second Charge, the Court considering that the whole Army was in great Confusion, and so scattered and dispersed, that no regular Orders were or could be given, are of Opinion, that Lt. Col. Revere, be acquitted with equal Honor as the other Officers in the same Expedition. ” A true Copy form the Minutes. “Attest. J. Thomas, Judge-Advocate.” ” I approve of the Opinion of the Court Martial as stated in the foregoing Report. ” John Hancock.” Thus at last, after three years of persistent endeavor, Revere succeeded in obtaining from a friendly court a vindication of his conduct in the Penobscot expeditions.