Sarah Palin continued her One Nation bus tour of historical sites on Friday, visiting sites in Boston marking the eve of and early stages of the American Revolution in 1775, including the home of famous intelligence messenger Paul Revere, church-turned-signal house Christ Church, and Bunker Hill, site of an early battle won by the British at the cost of heavy losses.
Palin's tour began last Sunday in Washington D.C., making stops at various locations including Philadelphia and New York City. The tour has been marked by speculation that she is contemplating a presidential run but she has said she has not yet made a decision.
One of her stops was the house of Paul Revere, one of the men who worked closely with major figures such as Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Revere is most famous for his late night and dawn ride on horseback, the Midnight Run of Paul Revere, in which he famously warned people in towns north of Boston of advancing British troops. The ride turned out to immediately precede the American Revolutionary war.
One of Palin's comments which has drawn scrutiny in various media outlets for being inaccurate is her brief retelling of what Revere did and why he did it. Here is her statement which aired on local television. Palin spoke of Revere describing him as:
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He who warned the British that they weren't gonna be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and by making sure that as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were gonna be secure and we were gonna be free and we were gonna be armed.
According to a letter he wrote many years after that night, Revere had two missions. The first was to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock, a pair of leaders within the revolutionary movement, that British troops had left Boston and were headed northeast more than 30 miles to Lexington to arrest them. The second was to depart for Concord to inform that British troops were seeking to destroy guns and ammunition stored in Concord. He never completed that portion of his mission, although another messenger with him managed to escape British officers and complete the mission. Along the first leg of his ride, and with help from companions in part of the second, Revere famously alerted people and the militia of the advancing troops.
According to a history of the ride by David Hackett Fischer in his 1995 book Paul Revere's Ride, after Revere awakened the community in Medford, just north of Boston, Revere rode to the house of Captain Isaac Hall, commander of Medford's minutemen, who instantly triggered the town's alarm system. A townsman remembered that 'repeated gunshots, the beating of drums and the ringing of bells filled the air.'
In the book, Fischer recounts what British troops marching north heard. The meeting bells were not very loud - nothing like the carillons of ancient English churches, Fischer wrote.
These were small, solitary country bells, clanging faintly in the night, but the sounds came from every side - west, north, and even east behind the column of troops.
Non-bell alarms included beacon fires. Fischer writes about one soldier who also recalled seeing visual warnings.
On distant hilltops he began to make out beacon fires burning brilliantly across the rolling landscape, Fischer writes.
Below is a summary of what Paul Revere wrote of his famous ride, according to letter written in 1798 to Jeremy Belknap, a corresponding secretary of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Click here for a link to a transcript of a handwritten recollection by Revere himself.
Revere wrote down what he recalled of being a messenger in the months prior to the war, as well as the night of April 18, 1775 and and the morning of April 19, when the war began.
In the letter he noted that he was one of 30 men who had formed themselves into a committee with the purpose watching the movements of the British soldiers, and gaining every intelligence of the movements of the Tories.
They held secret meetings and met at a local 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, he wrote.
The only people entrusted with the information included Samuel Adams, John Hancock, a pair of Doctors named Joseph Warren, and Benjamin Church and a few others.
On the night of April 18, Revere reported that transport boats had been launched and that light infantry and grenadiers were all taken off duty.
We expected something serious, Revere wrote.
It was also observed that a number of soldiers were marching towards the bottom of the common, he said.
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 throught they were the objects.
He also noted a separate messenger was sent by land.
Revere and others had already been planning on how to communicate the British movements, he wrote.
We would show two lanterns in the North Church Steeple and if by land one, as a signal, he said, in expectation that travel across the Charles river to make the announcement would be difficult.
Nevertheless, on the night he was called by Dr, Warren to deliver the message, he managed to cross the river with the help of friends as the moon was rising. When he crossed over into Charleston, he obtained a horse from a church deacon. At around 11 o'clock after being informed 10 armed British officers were on the road ahead, Revere set off on a very good horse.
He described his encounter with the officers.
One tried to get ahead of me and the other to take me, he said.
However he managed to get away and made it several miles north to Medford.
In Medord, I awoke the Captain of the Minute Men and after that I alarmed almost every house, till I got to Lexington, he said. Lexington is more than 30 miles northwest of Boston.
He arrived in Lexington and informed Hancock and Adams and asked about the other messenger, who had not arrived.
Revere supposed that he must have been stopped, as he ought to have been there before me. However a half hour later, the other messenger, William Dawes, arrived.
After that they both set off for Concord, about 14 miles east.
Revere was aware that there might be British soldiers along the route positioned in a way that was most likely to stop any intelligence from going to Concord. As they set off, they were joined by a third messenger, Dr. Samuel Prescott.
I likewise mentioned, that we had better alarm all the inhabitants 'till we got to Concord, Revere said.
They had gotten nearly half way. Dawes and Prescott had stopped to alert some people and Revere rode up ahead when he saw two men positioned in the same way the British troops that attempted to catch him in Charleston were.
He called for his companions, but in an instant I was surrounded by four.
[B]eing armed with pistols and swords, they forced us into the pasture, Revere said. However Prescott jumped his horse over a low stone wall, and got to Concord.
Revere said he was questioned by some officers, confirmed he was a messenger, said at what time he left Boston, that British troops had crossed the river and that there would be five hundred Americans there in a short time, for I had alarmed the Country all the way up.
Another officer came and clapped his pistol to my head, called me by name, and told me he was going to ask me some questions, and if I did not give him true answers, he would blow my brains out.
Revere was searched for arms, was mounted back on his horse, and was escorted back in the direction of Lexington. Eventually he had to give up his horse and was let go.
He eventually found Hancock and Adams again in Lexington at the house of Rev. Jonas Clarke, where he had met them earlier that night, and together they left the house. They then traveled about six miles northeast to another house in Woburn. Revere went back to the Clarke house in Lexington to find out what was going on.
He made his way to a tavern when we met a man on a full gallop, who told us the troops were coming. Another came after saying the same thing.
He and a companion went to retrieve a trunk of papers belonging to Hancock at Rev. Clarke's house. He said he saw the British very near, upon a full march.
In our way, we passed through the Militia. There were about 50. When we had got about 100 yards from the meeting-house the British Troops appeared on both dides of the Meeting-House. In their front was an officer on horseback. They made a short halt. When I saw and heard, a gun fired which appeared to be a pistol. Then I could distinguish two guns and then a continual roar of musquetry, when we made off with the trunk.
The Revolutionary War had begun.
Correction: An article posted on June 4, 2011 about Paul Revere's ride ahead of the Revolutionary war incorrectly named John Adams as one of the leaders Revere set out to warn. The leader was Samuel Adams. Also Joseph Warren, and Benjamin Church were Doctors, not Reverends.