April 19 is Patriots Day in New England, commemorating the 1775 Battle of Lexington and the Battle of Concord. These were the opening battles between the American colonists and the British soldiers, where the Minutemen stood their ground and faced the might and majesty of the Crown, the most magnificent army in the world.
It started on the night of April 18, when the royal governor of Massachusetts, General Thomas Gage, ordered 700 British soldiers, under Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith and Marine Major John Pitcairn, to seize the colonists’ military stores in Concord, some 20 miles west of Boston.
But the colonists had devised a plan to warn the militia that the British troops were approaching. As a signal, lights would be hung in the tower of the Old North Church —one lantern if the British were marching in, two lanterns if they were coming in by sea. Then riders would leave for Lexington to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams, that the British were headed their way.
On the night of April 18, 1775, church sexton Robert Newman hung two lanterns in the steeple to warn Charlestown patriots of the advance of British soldiers, and two riders departed: Paul Revere and William Dawes.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow memorialized Old North Church’s role at the start of the Revolutionary War in his poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride.” Written sixty-five years after the incident, greatly embellished, and not strictly accurate, Longfellow’s poem nevertheless was and continues to be a fine example of narrative poetry. It tells a thrilling story that readers still love. Best read aloud, to young and old alike.
Paul Revere’s Ride
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,–
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.” Continue reading April 18 and April 19, 1775—And the shot heard ’round the world