Paul Revere: Short Biography, Major Accomplishments & the Midnight Ride

When people think of Paul Revere, they generally focus on that legendary midnight ride he took on April 18th, 1775 to warn leaders of the American Revolution in Lexington that the British troops were coming. However, while that singular moment played a role in the American Revolutionary War, the truth of the matter is that Revere’s Midnight April ride was not the only thing the silversmith-trained Bostonian achieved in his lifetime. Besides, there have been a plethora of historical inaccuracies of some of the events that transpired on that night.

Below we are going to look at Paul Revere’s biography and some of the Bostonian’s greatest accomplishment.

Paul Revere: Quick Facts

Paul Revere facts | Image: Paul Revere statue by Cyrus Edwin Dallin in the U.S. state of Massachusetts

Birthday: January, 1734

Place of birth: Boston, Massachusetts Bay Colony

Death: May 10, 1818

Father: Apollos Rivoire (later Apollos Revere)

Mother: Deborah Hichborn

Spouses: Sarah Orne (married from 1757-1773), Rachel Walker (married from 1773-1813)

Children: 16

Education: North Writing School

Best known for: Midnight Ride on April 18th 1775

Early Life and Family

At the age of 13, Paul Revere quit school (the North Writing School) to work as an apprentice at his father’s silversmith shop.

Paul Revere’s parents were Apollos Riviore and Deborah Hitchborn. Apollos Riviore, a French Huguenot who later Anglicized his name to Revere, owned a very successful silversmith business. Revere’s mother Deborah Hitchborn hailed from a family of successful shipping company owner.

He was the third child of 12 children of his parents. Perhaps out of his dislike for France, Revere did not learn French even though his father was French and spoke fluent French.

Paul Revere married twice and had a total of sixteen children. His first marriage, which was in August 1757, was to Sarah Orne (1736-1773). Following the death of Sarah in 1773, he remarried. His second wife was Rachel Walker (1745-1813). Both wives of his gave birth to eight children each; however, only 11 of those children survived to adulthood.

Major Achievements of Paul Revere

Today Paul Revere is considered one of the most influential Patriots of the American Revolutionary War

Fought in the French and Indian War

When the Seven Years War (also known as the French and Indian War) (1756-1763) broke out in the mid-1750s, Paul Revere was quick to enlist in his town’s provincial army. He was placed in the artillery regiment as a second lieutenant. Revere served well and was even part of the forces at Fort William Henry (at Lake George in New York) that tried to capture Fort St. Frédéric.

Paul Revere was a very successful silversmith and businessman

In his early teens, Paul Revere went to serve as an apprentice at his father’s silversmith business. Following his father’s death, a young Paul Revere had to step up to the plate and take over the family business. He worked diligently, producing many great items for his customers, majority of who were very influential Bostonians. Revere’s silversmith business grew tremendously.

Another big achievement of Revere was his hardware store. In 1801, he became the first person in the whole of North America to successfully establish a copper rolling mill.

Paul Revere retired from business in 1811, leaving his business to his son Joseph Warren Revere to be in charge. Even after several centuries since its establishment, the company, which goes as the Revere Copper Company, still operates with divisions in New York, Rome and  New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Paul Revere was a staunch opponent of many oppressive acts passed by the British Parliament

Following the end of the Seven Years War, a cash-strapped Great Britain sought to impose taxes on the American colonies in a bid to recover the monies that were spent in waging war against the French. The American colonists who were already reeling from the war vehemently opposed such taxes. Examples of those oppressive acts of parliament were the Stamp Act of 1765 and the Sugar Act of 1764 (also known as the American Revenue Act of 1764). Paul Revere, along with several businessmen and influential Bostonians, saw those taxes as a violation of their rights.

Operating under the mantra “No Taxation Without Representation”, movements like the Sons of Liberty, became very vocal and called for the repeal of those taxes. Paul Revere, who was a member of those movements, worked with the likes of Dr. Joseph Warren, James Otis, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock to petition the British Parliament and King George III to end what they perceived as a reign of tyranny.

Revere and his fellow rebels fought against the Intolerable Acts of 1774 that were passed by the British following the Boston Tea Party of December 1773.

Revere produced the famous engraving of the March 1770 Boston Massacre

Produced by Paul Revere, the 1770 engraving of the Boston Massacre was intended rile up the colonists to resist Great Britain’s oppressive tax policies. It ranks as one of the most famous images of the American Revolution | Image: The copper engraving of the Bloody Massacre Perpetrated in King Street Boston on March 5, 1770.

As Bostonians’ business establishments began to falter owing to Great Britain’s refusal to repeal some of the stifling British Parliamentary Acts, Paul Revere and his colleagues started to play active role in local politics. By this time he had started dabbling in dentistry just to make ends meet.

With frustrations boiling over, Britain sent forces to quell protests in the colonies. All of that anger and confrontation led to the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770. The confrontation resulted in the deaths of five men – Crispus Attucks, James Caldwell, Samuel Gray, Patrick Carr, Samuel Maverick.

Paul Revere and many angry Bostonians (the Sons of Liberty) affected by the Townshend Acts (one of the numerous oppressive acts passed by the British Parliament) used the incident to intensify their criticisms of Great Britain’s rule. One of such propaganda images used by Bostonians was Revere’s famous engraving of the Boston Massacre. Gradually that illustration spread like wild fire, riling up many people in the colonies to resist Great Britain’s troops and their rule.

Paul Revere’s famous engraving of the Boston Massacre was anything at best a propaganda piece designed to incite colonists against Great Britain. It became the unofficial banner of movements like Samuel Adams’ Sons of Liberty.

He was at the forefront of the Boston Tea Party

Boston Tea Party

In response to the Tea Act of May 1773, Paul Revere rallied a group of Bostonians and dumped several shipment of tea into the Boston Harbor on December 16, 1773| Image: Boston Tea Party – Source: W.D. Cooper. Boston Tea Party in The History of North America. London: E. Newberry, 1789. Engraving. Plate opposite p. 58. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (40)

Paul Revere is famed for being one of the two leaders that spearheaded the Boston Tea Party (on December 16, 1773), an incident that saw American Patriots dress as American Indians and go aboard ships loaded with tea only for them to pour all the ships content into the Boston Harbor.

Revere and the Boston Patriots carried out those attacks in response to Great Britain’s imposition of the Tea Act of 1773. The other leading organizer of the Boston Tea Party was Dr. Joseph Warren.

Served as a courier for the American Patriots in Boston

As part of his Revolutionary efforts to end the tyrannical reign of Great Britain in the colonies, Paul Revere was a member of movements like North End Caucus, Long Room Club, Masonic Lodge of St. Andrew, and the Sons of Liberty. Thus, he worked alongside with Dr. Joseph Warren, James Otis, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock to lead a fierce resistance against Great Britain.

Between 1773 and 1775, he became a courier for the Patriots, delivering letters to and fro the Boston Committees of Safety, a body that had taken over local government affairs. Paul Revere’s commitment to the job saw him travel all the way to Philadelphia and New York as he delivered news of critical events and happenings to Patriots in those places.

Established an intelligence gathering network known as the “Mechanics”

The mechanics, also known as the Liberty Boys, was a kind of spy ring that facilitated the early activities of the American Patriots against Great Britain

With time, Paul Revere’s Revolutionary activities started drawing the attention of British troops and intelligence officers. A London Newspaper named him the “express rider”.

Revere would go on to collaborate with other Patriots and establish an intelligent network across the colonies. They called themselves the “mechanics”. Aside their courier services, Revere and other intelligent officers of the Patriots also tracked the positions and movements of British forces in Boston, Massachusetts and its environs.

Paul Revere’s famous Midnight Ride on April 18, 1775

Paul Revere’s place in the annals of history saw a meteoric rise in the centuries following his midnight ride to warn Patriots in Lexington. Many Americans consider that act of his as absolutely brave and selfless. On April 18, 1775, the silversmith-turned intelligence officer braced the odds and galloped all the way to Lexington to tip off Samuel Adams and John Hancock of British troops’ movement into the area.

Paul Revere came by this intelligence from fellow Patriot Dr. Joseph Warren who had received the information on April 16. According to the intelligence gathered, British troops were moving in on the town of Lexington to arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams. It was also feared that British troops would head into the town of Concord and seize and destroy the Patriots’ stockpile of ammunition.

Therefore, Dr. Warren dispatched Revere, instructing the rider to head straight to Lexington. At 10 pm on April 18, Revere and a number of riders including William Dawes, a shoemaker, galloped stealthily to those towns to warn the minutemen. Revere and the riders used different routes in order to evade being captured by British troops, spies and colonists that were loyal to the British crown.

Revere crossed the Charles River and then made it on horseback to Charlestown Common. It was in this town that he almost got captured. Ultimately, Revere made it safely to Lexington where he met with fellow rider Dawes. Their heroic efforts allowed John Hancock and Samuel Adams to escape to Woodburn before the British troops could apprehend them.

He was present when the first shots of the American Revolution were fired at Lexington

Paul Revere and William Dawes rode onto Concord. There, they met Dr. Samuel Prescott and rode even further to other the countryside to inform minutemen of the British troops’ movement. However, before they could make it to the town, Revere was captured by British sentry unit. Prescott and Dawes evaded capture and still made it in time to warn local militia leaders to prepare and put up defenses against the arrival of British troops.

Revere was extremely lucky not to have been shot by the British soldiers when he was apprehended. After a night of interrogation, he was released. He then made it back to Lexington where he arrived just in time to witness the first shots of the American Revolution.

Served as a lieutenant colonel during the American Revolution

During the American Revolutionary War, he contributed to the revolutionaries’ course by producing gunpowder and cannons for the fighters. He later served as a lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts artillery division. And after the war, he became one of the first people to produce paper money for the United States.

Common misconceptions about Paul Revere and his famous Midnight Ride

Paul Revere’s Greatest Achievements | Image: 20th-century depiction of Revere’s ride

Here are some very common misconceptions about Paul Revere’s history and his involvement in the American Revolution. Many of those misconceptions arose from the well-known historically inaccurate poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

  • Paul Revere was not the only rider dispatched to warn the Patriots in Lexington about British troops’ movements. There were two other riders – William Dawes and Samuel Prescott – that embarked on that perilous journey with Revere on April 18, 1775. As the hours ticked, almost 40 men joined in spreading the message across Lexington and beyond.
  • In Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1861 poem Paul Revere’s Ride, Paul Revere reaches the town of Concord. However, that was false. Revere was captured before he could get to Concord.
  • At the time of his death, he had earned a name as a very successful businessman. But he was nowhere revered as a national hero.
  • As an amateur dentist he produced a number of wire dentures for his friends and associates. He did not however make any dentures for George Washington.
  • Paul Revere never uttered what is now a legendary phrase: “The British are coming”. Firstly, he could not have screamed out those words as the journey to Lexington and Concord was meant to be a stealth one. Secondly, the colonists, including Paul Revere, considered themselves British citizens. Therefore it would not have made any sense for Revere to use that phrase. The word he most likely used to describe British troops was “Regulars”.

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