Two if by Sea…

I really had to address this.  It’s been comical to say the least to watch the media bash Sarah Palin over her comments on Paul Revere and him warning the British.  As a study of early American history… specifically around the time period of the American Revolution, I could not let this pass by without some correctness.  For those who haven’t seen or heard the quote, I will provide that for you before I get started.  According to Palin, Paul Revere “warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.”

Now some of what Sarah Palin said is actually accurate.  Don’t die of shock.  Paul Revere did warn the British about the Americans waiting for them after he had been captured by the British between Lexington and Concord.  But Palin is only about half accurate in her history of the events of that particular night.  Even the Longfellow poem isn’t exactly correct either.

There were many couriers out that night.  Paul Revere and William Dawes are the most famous of the riders of that night.  Dawes rode out of Boston by the land route through the Boston Neck.  He only got out because the guard knew him personally and he was able to lie his way past with an excuse.  Otherwise, the guard wasn’t letting people out of the city.  Revere went out over the Charles River.  And yes, there was a lantern in the steeple; however, Revere didn’t place them there, Dr. Joseph Warren did.  He was the receiver of the message they represented.  “One if by land, and two if by sea.”

So Revere and Dawes are both setting out for the town of Lexington, Massachusetts, with the British army only a few hours behind them.  Both warned the people along the way that the British were marching toward Lexington and then on to the ammunition stores in Concord.  Here’s where Palin gets another thing wrong… neither were blasting guns away.  Guns at the time had to be loaded manually and would have taken a lot of work and a lot of time to continuously do.  Revere made it to Lexington first.  He had to go and warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams who were both staying at the Hancock-Clarke house there since the British were under orders to arrest them when they marched through the town.  (It was in Lexington that the first shot was fired… the famous “shot heard around the world”.)

The Longfellow poem states that Revere warned the people in Concord as well.  However, Revere never made it to the town.  He, along with William Dawes and another man by the name of Dr. Samuel Prescott were captured en route.  All three men attempted an escape.  Dawes managed to get away, Revere was recaptured, and Prescott was the only one of the three to make it to Concord to warn the people.  Here’s where Palin’s story comes into play.  This is when Revere told the British of the militia that would be waiting for them.  Obviously, since Revere never made it to Concord, he would have no way of knowing anything that was there.  But the British still expected it.

More fighting did ensue when the British made it to Concord (that’s Concord, Massachusetts… to correct Representative Bachmann).  However, the British did break through the colonial militia and made it to where the stores of munitions had been.  The colonists had already moved everything out long before the British had gotten there.  With their mission complete, they began the long march back to Boston… all the while being attacked from the tree line by the militia.

The battles of Lexington and Concord happened on the same day.  Lexington was early in the morning while Concord was midday.  Palin was correct about Revere and the British… just not entirely right about the events of that night and of the ride itself.  Even when she later clarified herself, it was still a bit off.  So I will judge it as ‘somewhat accurate’ and tell the media that they do need to let this one go.  It wasn’t as bad as they had made it out to be.  I encourage any of you (as well as the media, Sarah Palin and Representative Bachmann) to read the book “Lexington and Concord: The Beginning of the War of the American Revolution” by Arthur B. Tourtellot.  Might help you with your facts and the story next time.

SIDENOTE:  My reference to Representative Bachmann is because of a statement she said referring to Concord, New Hampshire as being the site of the “shot heard around the world”.  Wrong battle and wrong state.  Whereas Palin’s statement was somewhat accurate, Bachmann’s statement was ‘definitely wrong’.

LINK:  “Lexington and Corcord: The Beginning of the War of the American Revolution”


2 Responses to Two if by Sea…

  1. Susan says:

    Thanks for setting the record straight, James! Though I do hate to admit that Palin is partially right about anything.

  2. Deborah Mraz says:

    I’m with you on the Palin thing Susan…ugh! Palin is a setback for intellectual females in the political arena in this country, although the upshot is she’s awfully entertaining! It makes me chuckle when politicians use American History quotes, battles, trivia whatever it is…incorrectly. If anyone should be assured they have their facts straight one would think that our representatives would!

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