Born January 1, 1735
Died May 10, 1818
Silversmith, industrialist, political leader, courier, soldier
Paul Revere, one of colonial Boston's leading silver artisans, was accomplished in several fields. This creative and versatile man was an innovator in the processing of copper and bronze and an important political organizer in Revolutionary Boston. He is best known as the subject of a famous poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow titled Paul Revere's Ride.
Paul Revere's father was a man of French descent named Apollos De Rivoire (pronounced ah-po-LOW duh ruh-VWAR), who later changed his last name to the simpler Revere. He came as a boy to Boston from the British Isle of Guernsey and learned the silversmith trade, which included the crafting and repair of silver articles. Paul was the third of thirteen children born to Apollos and his wife, Deborah Hichborn Revere.
Young Paul was educated at the North Writing School in Boston and learned from his father how to create elegant silver and gold objects. Apollos Revere died when Paul was nineteen, leaving his son with the major financial responsibility for the large family. The young man now had to pay the rent for the house and fully equipped silver shop, either with money he earned or with the items he crafted. In time, the shop Revere operated for nearly forty years provided hm with a very comfortable living.
Revere employed a number of assistants in his shop to produce his designs for items ranging from spoons and forks to entire tea sets. His bowls and pitchers were especially prized. His work remains among the outstanding achievements in American decorative arts.
Revere also branched out into other crafts, including engraving copper printing plates. His shop produced business cards, songbooks, certificates, magazine illustrations, and menus for taverns. He would later engrave the printing plates for the state of Massachusetts's first money and design the official seal for the State of Massachusetts, which remains in use today.
Military service, marriage, business expansion
In 1754 France and her Indian allies were fighting the British in the American colonies in a conflict known as the French and Indian War (1754–63). The war was part of a larger global conflict. In 1756, when Massachusetts asked for volunteers to fight, Paul Revere served as a second lieutenant (pronounced lew-TEN-ant) in the colonial artillery (the gunners' group). He took part in an unsuccessful expedition to capture Crown Point in New York. But before the next winter set in, he returned to Boston and went back to running his shop. At that time, armies did not continue to fight in the winter.
In 1757 Revere married Sarah Orne. When she died in childbirth in 1773, Revere married Rachel Walker. Revere had sixteen children, eight by each wife; five died in infancy.
As the nation prepared for war and Revere approached middle age, he helped in the war effort and also expanded his business activities. From 1768 to 1775 Revere ran his silversmithing business, produced surgical instruments, and worked repairing teeth and wiring in false teeth made from walrus ivory or animal teeth. He also made engravings of political cartoons that reached a wide audience.
It was through his contacts with businessmen and members of Boston organizations that Revere became involved in politics. Revere was a member of the Masons, a secret society that promoted charity and mutual aid. As a result of his membership in the Masonic Lodge of St. Andrew from 1760 to 1809, he became friends with revolutionary activists such as James Otis and Joseph Warren (see Mercy Otis Warren entry). As an old man Revere said that the period he served as the grand master of the Massachusetts Grand Lodge of Masons (from 1795 to 1797) brought him the "greatest happiness" of his life. During the 1760s and 1770s, as the political situation in America heated up, Revere spent most of his free time on revolutionary activities.
In 1765 Revere became a member of the Sons of Liberty, a radical political organization. Radicals desire extreme change in the political system or social structure. In 1768 Revere fashioned one of the most famous pieces of colonial silver, the Liberty Bowl. It had been ordered by the Sons of Liberty to honor the members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives who stood up to their British rulers by protesting the Townshend Acts. The Townshend Acts imposed taxes on the colonists for such items as glass, paints, paper, and tea.
Revere's most famous engraving was an image of the Boston Massacre, an encounter between a group of American patriots and British soldiers that took place on March 5, 1770. The violent street encounter left four men dead and eight wounded. Revere's engraving of colonists being shot by British soldiers stirred up Americans to oppose British rule and made him one of the best-known producers of anti-British propaganda. Propaganda is information and argument designed to influence public opinion about political matters.
In 1770 Revere bought an old but roomy brown house at Boston's North Square. This home is preserved as a memorial to the renowned patriot and remains one of the biggest tourist draws in Boston.
Helps plan Boston Tea Party
Revere observed the movements of British soldiers in and around Boston and reported them to his fellow revolutionaries. He frequently delivered messages on horseback for the Boston Committee of Correspondence and the Massachusetts Committee of Safety. The committees of correspondence were groups in the various colonies that shared information, coordinated the activities of colonial agitators, and organized public opinion against the British government. The Massachusetts Committee of Safety was one of many committees in different locales that had the authority to call up militias, groups of volunteer soldiers.
Along with other members of the Sons of Liberty, Revere took an active part in planning and carrying out the 1773 Boston Tea Party, a political action in which Boston citizens threw hundreds of crates of tea into Boston Harbor to protest British taxation practices.
Gains fame as courier
Revere was one of the most respected couriers of the American Revolution. Couriers are messengers who deliver information, usually in haste. It was an important strategy on the part of the Sons of Liberty to make sure every British action against the colonists was well publicized, in order to rile up Americans against their British rulers and prepare them to go to war.
After the Boston Tea Party, Revere spread the word about the event to the cities of New York and Philadelphia. He made the seven-hundred-mile winter trip in a mere eleven days, faster than anyone thought possible. Revere then became the official courier of the Massachusetts provincial assembly to the First Continental Congress, the revolutionary government that met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1774.
The First Continental Congress met to discuss what the colonies should do about their worsening relations with the British government. Revere brought Congress news of events in Boston (where British soldiers were stationed) and carried copies of Congressional documents to the colonies. Revere became so well known that he was mentioned by name in England's newspapers.
Paul Revere's most famous ride was carried out on April 18, 1775. Revere and two men went from Boston to Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, to warn the revolutionaries there about the coming of British troops. In fact, Revere was prevented by British troops from getting the message through, but one of his companions succeeded in doing so (see box).
After the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, Revere served as a lieutenant colonel in a Massachusetts artillery unit. From 1778 to 1779, he was commander of Castle Island in Boston Harbor. Revere and his soldiers did not see much action at this post. However, they did take part in minor expeditions to Newport, Rhode Island, and to Worcester (pronounced WUSS-ter) Massachusetts.
Revere's military career was undistinguished and ended under a black cloud because of the failure of the Penobscot Expedition of 1779. Revere had been ordered to keep himself and one hundred men in a state of readiness, so that with one hour's notice they could leave their camp and attack the enemy at Penobscot, Maine.
But Revere ran into trouble with two of the leaders of the Penobscot Expedition, who were plagued by indecision and confusion. Their lack of leadership allowed time for the enemy to organize a relief expedition. The Americans were forced to retreat.
Court-martialed, found not guilty
After the defeat at Penobscot, Revere was accused of disobedience, cowardly behavior, and unsoldierly conduct. He lost his command at Castle Island on September 6, 1779. Revere demanded a court-martial, a trial in a court made up of military personnel. Three years later he was found not guilty of any wrongdoing.
Starts new businesses
The fighting ended in 1781 and Revere returned to his silver shop. Before long he was leaving more and more of the shop's business in the hands of his oldest son while he branched out into other business ventures. In 1783 Revere began importing goods from Great Britain to stock a small hardware store, where for the next six years, he sold such items as eyeglasses, cloth, wallpaper, playing cards, and sealing wax.
As American manufacturing industries took off at the end of the eighteenth century, Revere saw that the United States was importing all of its sheet copper from England. He became the first man in the United States to learn how to roll sheet copper. He set up a foundry and began producing copper goods at Canton, Massachusetts, where he also opened a gunpowder mill. Canton was a village outside of Boston where Revere could get the water power he needed to turn copper rolls and press metal flat. He supplied nails, bolts, and spikes to Boston's developing shipyards.
Expands business operations
In time Revere expanded his business to produce cannons and cast bells. Finally his foundry replaced his silversmithing. The foundry eventually became the Revere Copper and Brass Company, which is still operating today. One of his bells can still be heard ringing in Boston's famous King's Chapel.
Copper sheeting he produced was used on the hull of the U.S.S. Constitution and on the dome of the Massachusetts State House. Revere worked with inventor Robert Fulton in 1808 and 1809 to develop copper boilers for steamboats.
By the turn of the nineteenth century, Paul Revere was a rich man. No one in America was a more skilled artist with silver, and his bell casting operation produced more than four hundred bells for churches throughout the new nation. The Reveres moved into a handsome yellow-painted brick house. Revere sent his sons to be educated in Europe and bought luxurious clothing for his daughters. He bought himself a fine horse.
Throughout his lifetime, Revere was involved in many community and social groups. He was very active in working for the passage of the Constitution of the United States (1789). Revere was the first president of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association, an organization founded in 1794 and made up of artisans, laborers, and businessmen. Its aim was to improve working conditions for laborers and aid members who fell on hard times. He was also a member of the Massachusetts Charitable Fire Society and the Boston Library Society.
From 1795 until 1802 Revere served as the coroner of Suffolk County. A coroner is a public official whose chief duty is to determine the causes of any deaths that are not obviously due to natural causes. He also helped to create Boston's first board of health, and he held the position of its president for two years, begining in 1799.
Paul Revere continued his work in the metal trade until his retirement at the age of seventy-six. In 1804 he formally made his son, Joseph Warren Revere, his business partner. A few years later, he turned over his successful copper business to be run by his sons and grandsons. He was grief-stricken by the deaths of his wife Rachel and his son Paul in 1813. He lived for five more years until his death at the age of eighty-three on May 10, 1818.
After his death, his obituary in the Boston Intelligence newspaper stated, "seldom has the tomb closed upon a life so honorable and useful." Paul Revere was buried at Boston's Granary Burying Ground, alongside several other patriots.
For More Information
Boatner, Mark M., III. "Revere, Paul." Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1996, pp. 930-32.
Bourgoin, Suzanne M,. and Paula K. Byers, eds. "Revere, Paul." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale Research, 1998, vol. 13, pp. 110-11.
Forbes, Esther. America's Paul Revere. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1946, renewed 1974.
Rinaldi, Ann. The Secret of Sarah Revere. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1995.
"Boston Society of Mechanics History." [Online] Available http://www.mindstorm.com/mechanics/history.html (accessed on 10/15/99).
"Paul Revere: A Brief Biography." Paul Revere Memorial Association, 1997. [Online] Available http://www.paulreverehouse.org/theman/bio.html (accessed on 10/15/99).
Paul Revere's Famous Ride
Around the time of the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Paul Revere was a silversmith with a flourishing business in colonial Boston. He designed and crafted beautiful teapots, silverware, and platters from silver and pewter (a less expensive mix of tin and lead). Although he could have lost his business and his life, Revere was a rebel. Today we would call him a patriot, one of the first to object to British tyranny and rise in the fight for liberty.
Like most of the rebels, Revere at first wanted the British to recognize the Americans' rights to make some decisions for themselves. Soon, however, the rebels wanted more. They wanted complete freedom from England.
As part of the rebel spy network in Boston, Revere had watched the British seize the American war supplies at the nearby towns of Jamaica Plains, Salem, and Marshfield. He knew that the British would be marching again and, this time, the Americans planned to be prepared. But the rebels didn't know exactly where the British would head and whether they would make their move by ship, up the Charles River, or by land. The rebels' goal was to learn more about the British plan and then send out messengers to warn the America militiamen throughout the countryside.
Then on the night of April 18, 1775, a signal came from the Old North Church in Boston. From the bell tower, high above the town, the light of two lanterns gleamed into the darkness. Revere and William Dawes, waiting below, now knew that the British were crossing the Charles River to march overland to the American arsenal at Concord, a town about twenty miles west of Boston. Revere managed to warn the Americans in several towns before being detained for questioning by the British, but Dawes continued his ride through the night.
The Americans were warned and on the morning of April 19, their militia (citizen soldiers) formed up at Lexington, on the road from Boston. When the British attempted to march through, the Americans blocked their path. The British ordered them to desist, the Americans refused, the British gave the order to fire, and there came "the shot that was heard 'round the world." It was the beginning of the American Revolutionary War.
Paul Revere's midnight ride and the battles at Lexington and Concord are celebrated in a famous poem called Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The poem somewhat distorted events as they happened, but made Revere's name one of the best known in the popular history of the American Revolution.
Paul Revere's Account of His Ride (1775)
PAUL REVERE'S ACCOUNT OF HIS RIDE (1775)
Like the Boston Massacre or Washington crossing the Delaware, the midnight ride of the Boston silversmith and printmaker Paul Revere (1734–1818) has become one of the most enduring and misrepresented images of the American Revolution. Asked by his friend, the political activist and fellow Mason Dr. Joseph Warren, to carry news of the British landing and advance toward Lexington, Massachusetts, Revere set out from Boston at around ten o'clock on 18 April 1775. He and his two companions, William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott, were detained by British troops just outside Lexington. Although all three eventually escaped, Revere was left without a mount and had to continue toward Concord afoot. Revere himself would compose several versions of the incident throughout his life, but it was not until 1861 and the publication of William Wordsworth Longfellow's commemorative poem in the Atlantic Monthly, that Revere's reputation expanded beyond the local. That poem made him a figure of lasting national prominence, a symbol of all things American, intrepid, and fleet.
See also Revere's Ride .
I, PAUL REVERE, of Boston, in the colony of the Massachusetts Bay in New England; of lawful age, do testify and say; that I was sent for by Dr. Joseph Warren, of said Boston, on the evening of the 18th of April, about 10 o'clock; when he desired me, "to go to Lexington, and inform Mr. Samuel Adams, and the Hon. John Hancock Esq. that there was a number of soldiers, composed of light troops, and grenadiers, marching to the bottom of the common, where was a number of boats to receive them; it was supposed, that they were going to Lexington, by the way of Cambridge River, to take them, or go to Concord, to destroy the colony stores."
I proceeded immediately, and was put across Charles River and landed near Charlestown Battery; went in town, and there got a horse. While in Charlestown, I was informed by Richard Devens Esq. that he met that evening, after sunset, nine officers of the ministerial army [British regulars], mounted on good horses, and armed, going towards Concord.
I set off, it was then about 11 o'clock, the moon shone bright. I had got almost over Charlestown Common, towards Cambridge, when I saw two officers on horse-back, standing under the shade of a tree, in a narrow part of the road. I was near enough to see their holsters and cockades. One of them started his horse towards me, the other up the road, as I supposed, to head me, should I escape the first. I turned my horses short about, and rode upon a full gallop for Mistick Road, he followed me about 300 yards, and finding he could not catch me, returned. I proceeded to Lexington, through Mistick, and alarmed Mr. Adams and Col. Hancock.
After I had been there about half an hour Mr. Daws arrived, who came from Boston, over the Neck.
We set off for Concord, and were overtaken by a young gentleman named Prescot, who belonged to Concord, and 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 ahead 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 stopped). In an instant I saw four of them, who rode up to me with their pistols in their bands, said "G––d d––n you, stop. If you go an inch further, you are a dead man." Immediately Mr. Prescot came up. We attempted to get through them, but they kept before us, and swore if we did not turn in to that pasture, they would blow our brains out, (they had placed themselves opposite to a pair of bars, and had taken the bars down). They forced us in. When we had got in, Mr. Prescot 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 and 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 "Sir, may I crave 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 waiting 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 caught aground, and I should have 500 men there soon. One of them said they had 1500 coming; he seemed surprised and rode off into the road, and informed them who took me, they came down immediately on a full gallop. One of them (whom I since learned was Major Mitchel of the 5th Reg.) clapped his pistol to my head, and said he was going to ask me some questions, and if I did not tell 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, and 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 Sir, 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, and to mount their horses; they were country men which 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, and to lead me in the front. We rode towards Lexington at a quick pace; they very often insulted me calling me rebel, etc., etc. After we had got about a mile, I was given to the sergeant 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 cut the bridles and saddles off the horses, and 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, let 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 far it was to Cambridge, and many more questions, which I answered. He then asked the sergeant, if his horse was tired, he said yes; he ordered him to take my horse. I dismounted, and the sergeant mounted my horse; they cut the bridle and saddle of the sergeant's horse, and rode off down the road. I then went to the house were I left Messrs. Adams and Hancock, and told them what had happened; their friends advised them to go out of the way; I went with them, about two miles across road.
After resting myself, I set off with another man to go back to the tavern, to inquire the news; when we got there, we were told the troops were within two miles. We went into the tavern to get 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, and had to pass through our militia, who were on a green behind the Meeting House, to the number as I supposed, about 50 or 60, I went through them; as I passed I heard the commanding officer speak to his men to this purpose; "Let the troops pass by, and don't molest them, without they begin first." I had to go across road; but had not got half gunshot off, when the ministerial troops appeared in sight, behind the Meeting House. They made a short halt, when one gun was fired. I heard the report, turned my head, and saw the smoke in front of the troops. They immediately gave a great shout, ran a few paces, and then the whole fired. I could first distinguish irregular firing, 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. And further saith not.
Paul Revere Court-Martial: 1782
Paul Revere Court-Martial: 1782
Defendant: Paul Revere
Crimes Charged: Disobedience of an order; leaving the Penobscot River without orders from his commanding officer
Chief Defense Lawyer: No record
Presiding Officer: No Record
Chief Prosecutor: No Record
Court: No Record
Place: Boston, Massachusetts
Date of Trial: February 1782
Verdict: Acquitted on both counts
SIGNIFICANCE: The reputation of Paul Revere as a patriotic hero of the American Revolution was tarnished by the accusations made against him after the disastrous Penobscot expedition in 1779. A court-martial was eventually held, at Revere's insistence, in 1782, and he was acquitted.
Paul Revere has become an icon in the mythology of the American Revolution largely as a result of the historically inaccurate account of his famous "midnight ride" given in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's popular poem. Revere was born in 1735, the son of a Boston silversmith. He took up his father's craft and excelled in it. His contributions to the design and manufacture of fine silverware justify his place in history perhaps as much as his patriotic and military exploits.
The Penobscot Expedition
The legendary night ride to warn the patriots of the advance of British troops took place in April 1775. Paul Revere was captured by the British, but released without his horse. As the Revolutionary War progressed he was given command of a garrison at Castle Island in Boston Harbor, with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Then, in 1779 he was made commander of the land artillery on the Penobscot Expedition, notorious for turning into one of the worst naval disasters in American military history. The commander of the expedition was Dudley Saltonstall, commodore of the fleet; the purpose was to drive the British out of what is now Castine, Maine (then known as Maja Bagwaduce, with various alternate spellings), where they had begun the construction of a fort. The American expedition, which left Boston on July 19 and reached Penobscot Bay six days later, consisted of 900 men with 21 armed ships and 24 unarmed transport vessels. Construction of the British fort, in fact, had hardly begun, and it had only three guns, but Commodore Saltonstall refused to believe reports to this effect and did not attack. British land reinforcements arrived, but the Americans, though still having the advantage, did not attack. On August 14 four British warships arrived, and the American fleet fled up the Penobscot River, where the ships were trapped. The Americans burned at least 17 of their own fleet rather than let the British capture them, and they fled overland.
Initial Allegations Against Revere
The charges brought against Paul Revere were a consequence of the confusing events that ended this ignominious expedition. The major blame for the disaster lay clearly with Commodore Saltonstall, and he was court-martialled and dismissed from the service. Other factors at work, how-ever, resulted in the charges against Revere. There was bad feeling and rivalry between the different branches of the military forces—friction and argument between the naval command and the artillery and marines. In his diary Revere commented on the undisciplined nature of his forces—raw recruits, old men and boys, undisciplined and difficult to work with. There was also personal animosity between Revere and certain other officers with whom he had clashed while commanding the garrison at Castle Island.
As soon as he returned overland to Boston, Revere attempted to resume command of his garrison, but was asked to resign and await the results of an inquiry into the Penobscot expedition to be conducted by a committee of the Massachusetts General Court. Captain Thomas Jenners Carnes, who had commanded the marines on board the General Putnam, charged Revere with disobedience, unsoldierlike behavior, and cowardice. Revere was also criticized by General Peleg Wadsworth, particularly in regard to his refusal to give up a boat that he was using during the flight.
Revere conducted his own defense before the inquiry very vigorously, depicting the charges as motivated only by a desire for personal revenge, and bringing several officers to testify that he was a diligent officer. In support of this he introduced as part of his deposition sections of the diary he had kept throughout the operation. However, he had a relatively weak defense against the specific charges of insubordination.
The report of the inquiry came out on October 7. It found that the principal reason for the disaster was "the want of proper spirit and energy on the part of the Commodore;" the inquiry recommended a court-martial, and it was quickly done, resulting in his dismissal from the service on October 25. Revere, however, was extremely distressed to find that the report made no mention whatever of his activities or the charges made against him. Anxious to vindicate himself and insisting that it was unsatisfactory to be neither condemned nor acquitted, he asked for a court-martial under the direction of an artillery officer. He was to file six such petitions before getting his wish. In response to his petition, a second committee of inquiry met in November 1779, but Revere was even more dissatisfied with its report. The committee criticized his conduct, though in rather ambiguous terms, declaring him to have been blameworthy for "disputing the orders of Brigadier-General Wadsworth" and holding that his leaving the Penobscot River with his men without specific orders to do so was "not wholly justifiable."
Revere Court-Martialled at His Own Insistence
Several months after all hostilities in the Revolutionary War had ceased and only after several more petitions, Revere was reluctantly granted the courtmartial he wanted. By this time, all references to cowardice had disappeared from the charges, and the allegations had been reduced to two:
- "For his refusal 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 Orders from his Commanding Officer."
The court, consisting of one general and 12 captains, met in February 1782. Its ruling, though late and not entirely without qualification, provided Revere with the vindication of his character that he sought:
The Court finds the first charge against Lieu't Col Paul Revere to be supported (to wit) his refusing to deliver a certain Boat to the Order of General 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 Lieu't Colo Paul Revere to effect the Purpose ordered by the General as appears by the General's Deposition, are of the Opinion that Lieu't Colo Paul Revere be acquitted of this Charge … On the second charge, the Court considers that the whole army was in great Confusion and so scattered and dispersed, that no regular Orders were or could be given, are of the Opinion, that Lieu't Colo Paul Revere, be acquitted with equal Honor as the other Officers in the same Expedition.
Revere accepted this as a vindication of his character, in spite of its ambiguous wording; some have thought there was a particular sting in its tail, since no officers seemed to have come away from Penobscot with much honor. Revere lived for almost 40 years after the war, becoming renowned as a craftsman. Pioneering in a number of areas, he designed and printed the first issue of Continental paper currency, cast cannons and bells in bronze, and built the first copper-rolling mill in America. Ironically, he even engaged in a successful trading venture with Dudley Saltonstall. While his conduct as a military officer was perhaps less than exemplary, the circumstances were unusual and neither he nor his forces were professional military men.
—David l. Petts
Suggestions for Further Reading
Flood, Charles Bracelen. Rise, and Fight Again. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1976.
Forbes, Esther. Paul Revere and the World He Lived In. Boston: Houghton Miflin, 1942.
Triber, Jayne E. A True Republican: The Life of Paul Revere. Amherst, Mass: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998.
REVERE, PAUL. (1735–1818). Patriot, artisan, and courier. Massachusetts. Known to every American schoolchild for his midnight ride, immortalized in the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1861), Paul Revere was a relatively unknown figure until the appearance of that work. Yet Revere deserves an important place in American history, not particularly for his dramatic ride to warn the patriots of the British advance on Lexington and Concord, 19 April 1775, but for his activities as a leader among Boston's artisans, mariners, and shopkeepers, as an effective political cartoonist, and for several other important rides before and after he became the official courier for the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. He was also one of the period's finest silversmiths and pioneered significant developments in metallurgy and founding.
Revere was the third of thirteen children born to Apollos Rivoire, a Huguenot who came to Boston from Bordeaux, France, at the age of thirteen to apprentice to the silversmith John Coney. He Anglicized his name to make it easier to pronounce. His mother was Deborah Hitchbourn, whose family owned the Boston wharf of that name. Paul learned his father's trade, and served as a second lieutenant of artillery in the Crown Point expedition of 1756. There being an abundance of silversmiths in Boston, Revere branched out into copperplate engraving (portraits, a songbook, political cartoons, seals, bookplates, and coats-of-arms), and manufacturing dental devices. A strong opponent of British imperial policies, he was an influential leader in the artisan community of Boston, where his prominence brought him into close contact with John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Dr. Joseph Warren. His engraving of the Boston Massacre of 3 March 1770 is a masterwork of visual propaganda, designed to tell the story of Boston's outraged and injured innocence to the rest of the colonies. He helped organized the Boston Tea Party on 16 December 1773 and likely participated as one of the "Indians."
Revere began his career as a trusted courier after the Tea Party, when he made the long ride, in mid-winter, to inform New York City's Sons of Liberty of the event. The next spring he rode to New York City and Philadelphia with word of the Boston Port Bill and with an appeal for help. He carried the Suffolk Resolves (September 1774) to Philadelphia. When the radicals learned that General Gage had ordered the seizure of valuable military supplies at Fort William and Mary, Revere galloped to Durham, New Hampshire to warn John Sullivan, and then rode on to alert the radicals of Portsmouth. Two days before making his most famous ride he rode to warn the radicals to move their military stores from Concord.
Although he wanted a military commission, Revere was kept busy printing currency for the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, at Watertown where he set up shop during the siege of Boston, and learning how to make gunpowder at Canton, Massachusetts. On 29 March 1776 he became a member of the Boston committee of correspondence. On 10 April 1776, he was appointed major in a state regiment raised to fortify and defend Boston, and a month later he was appointed major in the state train of artillery, with the same mission. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the state train on 27 November 1776, and was given command of Castle William at the mouth of Boston Harbor. In early September 1777, he escorted Brunswick prisoners, captured at Bennington, from Worcester to Boston, and on the 27th was ordered to join in the expedition against Newport, Rhode Island, which proved abortive. On 1 March 1778 his command of Castle William was extended to include defensive works on Governor's Island and Long Island, and he remained in command of the state train when it was reduced to three companies in early 1779.
Opportunity for field service came finally when he was ordered on 8 July 1779 "to hold himself and one hundred of the matrosses [artillerymen] under his command, including proper officers, in readiness at one hours notice to embark for the defence of this state, and attack the enemy at Penobscot" [the Majorbagaduce peninsula (the spelling varies), now Castine, in Penobscot Bay, Maine]. The Penobscot Expedition, July-August 1779, was a fiasco, and in the epidemic of recrimination that ensued, Revere was accused by Captain Thomas Carnes, who commanded the marines aboard the Putnam, of disobedience, unsoldierly conduct, and cowardice. Brigadier General Peleg Wadsworth, second-in-command of the expedition, also criticized his performance. On 6 September 1779 Revere was relieved of command at Castle Island and placed under house arrest. Historian Jayne E. Triber notes that a court of inquiry held in mid-September "neither condemned nor acquitted him," and that a second inquiry, on 16 November 1779, found him culpable for "disputing the orders of Brigadier General Wadsworth" and of leaving Penobscot River "without particular orders from his superior officer" (p. 138). After many delays a formal court-martial convened in February 1782 and found that he had refused "to deliver a certain boat to the order of General 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 Lieutenant Colonel Paul Revere to effect the purpose ordered by the General …, are of the opinion that … Revere be acquitted of this charge." On the charge of leaving Penobscot River without orders, "the Court considers that the whole army was in great confusion and so scattered and dispersed, that no regular orders were or could be given, are of the opinion, that Lieutenant Colonel Paul Revere, be acquitted with equal honor as the other officers in the same expedition."
Revere, meanwhile, had been expanding his business as a silversmith. He also continued to be active in civic affairs, especially in working for ratification of the federal Constitution in January 1788. With his reputation as an innovative silversmith already established, he turned to the casting of bells and cannon at the foundry he opened in Boston's North End in November 1788. It later supplied the bolts, spikes, pumps, and copper accessories for the USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides"), the frigate built at the Charlestown Navy Yard in 1797–1798. In January 1801 he embarked on his most significant industrial venture, the manufacture of sheet copper in a mill built on the site of the Revolutionary War powder mill at Canton, Massachusetts. The business prospered, and it produced rolled copper for the dome of the Massachusetts State House, a new copper bottom for the Constitution in 1803, and in 1808–1809 boilers for a steam boat built by Robert Fulton. By his first wife, Sarah Orne, whom he married 17 August 1757, he had eight children. By his second, Rachel Walker, whom he married 10 October 1773, he had eight more. He died at the age of 83 at Boston.
Fischer, David H. Paul Revere's Ride. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
Forbes, Esther. Paul Revere and the World He Lived In. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988.
Triber, Jayne E. A True Republican: The Life of Paul Revere. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998.
revised by Harold E. Selesky
Paul Revere (1735–1818) is best known as an American patriot during the American Revolution (1775–1783). He is the man who helped carry news of the approach of British troops to Lexington, Massachusetts, in what became known as Paul Revere's midnight ride. When Revere wasn't fighting for American independence, he was a creative and successful silversmith.
Paul Revere was born January 1, 1735 in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the third of twelve children born to Apollos De Revoire, a Frenchman. De Revoire changed the family name to Revere to make it easier for Americans to pronounce. Apollos De Revoire was a silversmith and he taught the trade to his son.
Paul Revere married Sarah Orne in 1756 after serving for a short time in the French and Indian War (1754–1763). At age twenty-one he began work in his father's silversmith business. Revere was a talented silversmith and an innovator in processing commercial-grade bronze and copper. His skills made him a success in his trade.
In his early years as a silversmith Revere developed an intense interest in the issue of American independence from England. He became involved in revolutionary activities and attracted wide public attention when he used his engraving skills to create a number of political cartoons aimed at the issue of independence.
Revere began to work closely with revolutionary leaders, such as Samuel Adams (1722–1803) and John Hancock (1737–1793). He also participated in the famous Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773. He and other Boston protestors raided a British ship in Boston harbor and dumped the tea cargo into the ocean, dissenting against British taxes in the colonies. This protest was one of the crucial events leading up to the American Revolution (1775–1783).
In addition to his activities as a revolutionary, Revere directed his energies to a variety of areas. He pursued work on a wide-ranging field, from working with silver to the manufacture of gunpowder. In Massachusetts he created a mill that ground wheat and oats by using the swirling flow of river water to move grindstones. He designed and printed the first issue of U.S. paper money and was the first in the United States to discover the process of rolling sheet copper. In Canton, Massachusetts, he built the first copper-rolling mill in the country.
Revere was continually involved in the politics of his new nation. He served as an activist, a soldier, and a political thinker. He achieved great success as a silversmith and expanded his business efforts towards growing U.S. industries. Paul Revere was an entrepreneur and a patriot. He died in 1818.
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."
henry wadsworth longfellow, paul revere's ride
American Antiquarian Society. Paul Revere's Engravings, by Clarence S. Brigham. Worcester: American Antiquarian Society, 1954.
Encyclopedia of American Biography. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1996, s.v. "Paul Revere."
Forbes, Esther. Paul Revere and the World He Lived In. (1942; reprint), Peter Smith, 1992.
Goss, Elbridge Henry. The Life of Colonel Paul Revere. Boston: Gregg Press, 1972.
Taylor, Emerson G. Paul Revere, by Emerson Taylor. New York: E.V. Mitchell and Dodd, Mead & Co., 1930.
Paul Revere was an American revolutionary leader who became famous for riding to warn colonists in the towns of Lexington and Concord in the Massachusetts Bay Colony of the approaching British army in 1775. The battle that followed between the colonists and the army was the first battle of the American Revolution (1775–83). Revere was a talented metalsmith, working especially in silver. He was married twice and had sixteen children and fifty grandchildren.
Revere, the third of twelve children, was born on January 1, 1735, in Boston, Massachusetts Bay Colony. His father, Apollos De Revoire, was a Frenchman and a metalsmith. Apollos changed the family name to Revere. Revere's mother, Deborah Hitchborn, was descended from Puritans .
Revere learned metalworking from his father. When his father died in 1754, Revere took control of the business. He was just nineteen years old. The silverware he made was among the finest in America.
Revere served for a short time in the French and Indian War (1754–63). In 1756, he married Sarah Orne, with whom he had eight children. After Sarah died in May 1773, Revere married Rachel Walker in October. They had eight children, too.
As tension grew between Great Britain and the American colonies, Revere became involved in revolutionary activities. He was a member of the Sons of Liberty, a group in Boston that protested British tax laws, such as the Stamp Act of 1765 and the Townshend Acts of 1767. Revere also served as an express rider for Boston's Committee of Safety, an organization that coordinated resistance activity between the colonies. Revere rode horseback delivering messages between Boston, Massachusetts ; New York City; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from December 1773 to November 1775.
On April 18, 1775, members of the Committee of Safety learned that British general Thomas Gage (1721–1787) planned to send an army to Lexington to arrest revolutionary leaders John Hancock (1722–1803) and Samuel Adams (1737–1793), and then to Concord to destroy colonial supplies of gunpowder. Revere sent men into Boston's North Church tower to light two lanterns to warn colonists across Boston Harbor in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Then Revere crossed the harbor in a boat.
Revere and another man, William Dawes (1745–1799), rode horses from Charlestown by different routes to warn colonists in Lexington. From there, joined by Samuel Prescott (1751–c. 1777), they rode toward Concord. British patrols captured all three. Dawes
and Prescott escaped, and Prescott made it to Concord to deliver the warning there. Colonists spread the word through the countryside using a system that Revere helped to design, which allowed them to gather together and confront the British army. Revere was released in time to return by foot to Lexington before the first battle of the revolution began the morning of April 19. (See Battle of Lexington and Concord .)
During the war, Revere was involved in two engagements, one in Rhode Island in 1778, and the other at Penobscot Bay in 1779. He was court-martialed (accused of breaking a military law) for disobeying orders at Penobscot Bay, but he was found not guilty in 1782.
Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882) wrote a poem called Paul Revere's Ride in 1860 about Revere's ride to warn the colonists of the approaching British army. The first two stanzas of the poem say:
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.”
Revere worked for the rest of his life as a metalsmith. He also made church bells, a stone grain mill, paper money, and rolled sheet copper. As a member of the Federalist Party , he participated in the Massachusetts convention that approved the U.S. Constitution in 1788. Revere died at home in Boston on May 10, 1818.
Born: January 1, 1735
Died: May 10, 1818
American patriot, silversmith, and engraver
Paul Revere is remembered for his ride to warn fellow American patriots of a planned British attack before the Revolutionary War (1775–83), the war fought by Americans to gain independence from England. He was also a fine silversmith (a person who makes objects out of silver) and a master engraver (a person who cuts designs onto things such as metal or wood).
Learning a trade
Paul Revere was born on January 1, 1735, in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the son of Apollos De Revoire, a French Huguenot (member of the Protestant faith) who had come to Boston at the age of thirteen to apprentice (a person who works for another to learn a trade) in the shop of a silversmith. Once Revoire had established his own business, he changed his name to the English spelling Revere.
Paul Revere was the third of twelve children and the oldest of his father's sons to survive into adulthood. As a young man, he studied at the North Writing School in Boston. As a teenager, he learned the art of gold and silversmithing from his father. With help from his mother, he began running the Revere family silver shop at age nineteen, after his father died. On August 17, 1757, he married Sarah Orne and eventually fathered eight children.
As early as 1765, Revere began to experiment with engraving on copper and produced several portraits and a songbook. He was popular as a source for engraved items such as bookplates, seals (stamps with raised designs that could make a print on another substance), and coats of arms (designs that indicated a family line).
Revere also began to fashion engravings that were anti-British. In 1768 he made one of the most famous pieces of silver of the American colonial era—a bowl created at the request of the fifteen Sons of Liberty. The Sons of Liberty were organizations formed in order to protest the 1765 Stamp Act, a taxation on printed materials imposed by the British that the Americans considered unjust. The bowl that Revere created was engraved to honor the "glorious Ninety-two Members of the Honorable House of Representatives of the Massachusetts Bay" who had refused to withdraw a letter they had sent to the other colonies protesting the Townshend Acts (another measure imposed by the British). Revere's extraordinary skill also extended to his carving picture frames for the painter John Singleton Copley (1738–1815). Copley painted a famous portrait of Revere, shown in shirt sleeves and holding a silver teapot.
Revere became a trusted messenger for the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, an organization set up to resist the British. He foresaw an attack by the British troops against the location of military supplies in Concord, Massachusetts, and arranged a signal to warn the patriots in Charlestown, Massachusetts. During the late evening of April 18, 1775, the chairman of the Committee of Safety told him that the British were going to march to Concord. Revere signaled by hanging two lanterns in the tower of Boston's North Church. This showed that the British were approaching "by sea," that is, by way of the Charles River. He crossed the river, borrowed a horse in Charlestown, and started for Concord. Arriving in Lexington, Massachusetts, at midnight, he awakened American rebels John Hancock (1737–1793) and Samuel Adams (1722–1803), allowing the two men to flee to safety.
Revere was captured that night by the British, but he persuaded his captors that the whole countryside was aroused to fight, and they freed him. He returned to Lexington, where he saw the first shot fired in the first battle of the Revolutionary War (1776). This ride and series of events were made legendary by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882) in the poem "Paul Revere's Ride."
A master craftsman
After the Revolutionary War Revere remained in Boston, where he created objects in silver for distinguished members of local society. He died in Boston on May 10, 1818. Today, he is still remembered as a craftsman in silver, as well as a master of engraving. An on-the-spot reporter, he recorded the events leading up to and during the revolution with great accuracy. He engraved what he saw on metal plates, which were then used to create prints on paper that were highly popular with the people of Boston.
For More Information
Forbes, Esther. Paul Revere and the World He Lived In. New York: American Past, 1983.
Lee, Martin. Paul Revere. New York: F. Watts, 1987.
Sullivan, George. Paul Revere. New York: Scholastic Reference, 1999.
Triber, Jayne E. A True Republican: The Life of Paul Revere. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998.
Paul Revere (1735-1818), American patriot, silver smith, and engraver, is remembered for his ride before the Revolutionary War to warn American patriots of a planned British attack. His silverware was among the finest produced in America in his day.
Paul Revere was born on Jan. 1, 1735, in Boston, Mass., the son of Apollos De Revoire, a French Huguenot who had come to Boston at the age of 13 to apprentice in the shop of a silversmith. Once Revoire had established his own business, he Anglicized his name. Paul, the third of 12 children, learned silversmithing from his father. On Aug. 17, 1757, he married Sarah Orne and eventually became the father of eight children.
As early as 1765, Revere began to experiment with engraving on copper and produced several portraits and a songbook. He was popular as a source for engraved seals, coats of arms, and bookplates, and he began to execute engravings which were anti-British. In 1768 Revere undertook dentistry and produced dental devices. The same year he made one of the most famous pieces of American colonial silver—the bowl commissioned by the Fifteen Sons of Liberty. It is engraved to honor the "glorious Ninety-two Members of the Honorable House of Representatives of the Massachusetts Bay, who, undaunted by the insolent Menores of Villains in Power … Voted not to rescind" a circular letter they had sent to the other colonies protesting the Townshend Acts. Revere's virtuosity as a craftsman extended to his carving picture frames for John Singleton Copley, who painted the famous portrait of Revere in shirt sleeves holding a silver teapot.
Paul Revere's Ride
Revere became a trusted messenger for the Massachusetts Committee of Safety. He foresaw an attempt by the British troops against the military stores which were centered in Concord, and he arranged a signal to warn the patriots in Charlestown. During the late evening of April 18, 1775, the chairman of the Committee of Safety told him that the British were going to march to Concord. Revere signaled by hanging two lanterns in the tower of the North Church (probably the present Christ Church). He crossed the river, borrowed a horse in Charlestown, and started for Concord. He arrived in Lexington at midnight and roused John Hancock and Samuel Adams from sleep; the two fled to safety. Revere was captured that night by the British, but he persuaded his captors that the whole countryside was aroused to fight, and they freed him. He returned to Lexington, where he saw the first shot fired on the green. It is this ride and series of events which have been immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem "Paul Revere's Ride."
In the same year, 1775, the Massachusetts provincial congress sent Revere to Philadelphia to study the only working powder mill in the Colonies. Although he was only allowed to walk through the mill and not to take any notes about it, he remembered enough to establish a mill in Canton. During the Revolutionary War, he continued to play an active role. He was eventually promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel.
After the war Revere became a pioneer in the process of copper plating, and he made copper spikes for ships. In 1795, as grand master of the Masonic fraternity, he laid the cornerstone of the new statehouse in Boston. Throughout the remainder of his life, he continued to experiment with metallurgy and to take a keen interest in contemporary events. He died in Boston on May 10, 1818.
Revere is also remembered today as a craftsman. His work in silver spanned two major styles. His earliest work is in the rococo style, which is characterized by the use of asymmetric floral and scroll motifs and repoussé decoration; this was done before the Revolution. From this, he evolved a neoclassic style after the Revolution. This style, developed in England, was based on the straight lines and severe surfaces of Roman design. In 1792 Revere produced one of the acknowledged American masterpieces in this style—a complete tea set commissioned by John and Mehitabel Templeman of Boston. The type of ornamentation employed in this tea set was being used in Massachusetts architecture by Charles Bulfinch and Samuel Mclntire.
Revere's silver is marked with the initials "P R" in a block. This was the usual type of marking on American silver of the 18th century. Revere commanded a very distinguished Boston clientele and was called on to make a number of memorial and commemorative pieces. Like many silversmiths of the period, he also worked in brass.
Revere was also a master of engraving. An on-the-spot reporter, he recorded the events leading up to and during the Revolution with great accuracy. These engravings were advertised in Boston newspapers and were eagerly purchased by the public. In 1770 the Boston Gazette advertised for sale Revere's engraving A View of Part of the Town of Boston in New England and British Ships of War Landing Their Troops, 1768. Revere added to the print a description of the troops, who paraded "Drums beating, Fifes playing… Each Soldier having received 16 rounds of Powder and Ball." Today, all his silver and engravings are eagerly sought by collectors.
A full-length study of Revere is Esther Forbes, Paul Revere and the World He Lived In (1942). For information on his work see the publication of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Colonial Silversmiths: Masters and Apprentices, edited by Richard B. K. McLanathan (1956). □
Paul Revere, 1735–1818, American silversmith and political leader in the American Revolution, b. Boston. In his father's smithy he learned to work gold and silver, and he became a leading silversmith of New England. He also turned to various other skills—designing, engraving, printing, bell founding, and dentistry. In the French and Indian War he was a soldier, and in the period of growing colonial discontent with British measures after the Stamp Act (1765), he was a fervent anti-British propagandist. He early joined the Sons of Liberty, took part in the Boston Tea Party, and was a courier (1774) for the Massachusetts committee of correspondence. Revere became a figure of popular history and legend, however, because of his ride on the night of Apr. 18, 1775, to warn the people of the Massachusetts countryside that British soldiers were being sent out in the expedition that, as it turned out, started the American Revolution (see Lexington and Concord, battles of). William Dawes and Samuel Prescott also rode forth with the news. Revere did not reach his destination at Concord but was captured by the British; nevertheless, it is Revere who is remembered as the midnight rider, chiefly because of the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He designed the first seal for the united colonies, designed and printed the first Continental bond issue, and established (1776) a powder mill at Canton, Mass. His military career was not distinguished. On the ill-fated expedition against Penobscot he was arrested for disobeying orders (though a court-martial later acquitted him of the charges), and in 1780 he returned to silversmithing. His shrewdness in other enterprises, particularly the establishment of a copper-rolling and brass-casting foundry at Canton, helped to make his later years very prosperous.
See biographies by E. G. Taylor (1930) and E. Forbes (1942, repr. 1962); D. H. Fischer, Paul Revere's Ride (1994); R. Martello, Midnight Ride, Industrial Dawn: Paul Revere and the Growth of American Enterprise (2010).