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Paul Revere's Ride

Paul Revere's Ride

4.6 21
by David Hackett Fischer

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Paul Revere's midnight ride looms as an almost mythical event in American history--yet it has been largely ignored by scholars and left to patriotic writers and debunkers. Now one of the foremost American historians offers the first serious look at the events of the night of April 18, 1775--what led up to it, what really happened, and what followed--uncovering a truth


Paul Revere's midnight ride looms as an almost mythical event in American history--yet it has been largely ignored by scholars and left to patriotic writers and debunkers. Now one of the foremost American historians offers the first serious look at the events of the night of April 18, 1775--what led up to it, what really happened, and what followed--uncovering a truth far more remarkable than the myths of tradition. In Paul Revere's Ride, David Hackett Fischer fashions an exciting narrative that offers deep insight into the outbreak of revolution and the emergence of the American republic. Beginning in the years before the eruption of war, Fischer illuminates the figure of Paul Revere, a man far more complex than the simple artisan and messenger of tradition. Revere ranged widely through the complex world of Boston's revolutionary movement--from organizing local mechanics to mingling with the likes of John Hancock and Samuel Adams. When the fateful night arrived, more than sixty men and women joined him on his task of alarm--an operation Revere himself helped to organize and set in motion. Fischer recreates Revere's capture that night, showing how it had an important impact on the events that followed. He had an uncanny gift for being at the center of events, and the author follows him to Lexington Green--setting the stage for a fresh interpretation of the battle that began the war. Drawing on intensive new research, Fischer reveals a clash very different from both patriotic and iconoclastic myths. The local militia were elaborately organized and intelligently led, in a manner that had deep roots in New England. On the morning of April 19, they fought in fixed positions and close formation, twice breaking the British regulars. In the afternoon, the American officers switched tactics, forging a ring of fire around the retreating enemy which they maintained for several hours--an extraordinary feat of combat leadership. In the days that followed, Paul Revere led a new battle-- for public opinion--which proved even more decisive than the fighting itself. ] When the alarm-riders of April 18 took to the streets, they did not cry, "the British are coming," for most of them still believed they were British. Within a day, many began to think differently. For George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Thomas Paine, the news of Lexington was their revolutionary Rubicon. Paul Revere's Ride returns Paul Revere to center stage in these critical events, capturing both the drama and the underlying developments in a triumphant return to narrative history at its finest.

Editorial Reviews

Paul Maier
"Paul Revere's Ride" both to inform and to entertain readers as it carefully corrects old myths and introduces us anew to one of the most deceptively familiar stories of the American past. Even the appendixes are interesting. Those are reasons enough to take up Mr. Fischer's invitation, to "put Paul Revere on his horse again" and "take the midnight ride seriously as an historical event." The story he tells can stand on its own without labored sets of contingencies. -- New York Times
Library Journal
It is rare when a scholarly history will appeal to a general readership, but such is the case with this book. Part biography of Revere and part history of the battles of Lexington and Concord, it places the ``midnight ride'' in the broad context of American resistance to Great Britain as just one of many similar actions taken by Revere and others. Particularly good is Fischer's (history, Brandeis Univ.) description of the civilian reaction to the British march to Concord and his exploration of the ``spontaneous'' rising of the New England militia to fight the British. Fischer's ulterior motive is to return contingency to its central importance in the historical process--to restore the ``causal power of particular actions and contingent events.'' In the process he has written a meticulously researched and wonderfully evocative narrative that will be enjoyed by history lovers and scholars alike.-- David B. Mattern, Univ. of Virginia, Charlottesville
School Library Journal
YA-A whole book about a minor incident? You bet, and a terrific book, at that. Fischer's exhaustive research shows that Revere played an important role in pre-Revolutionary Boston that included, but was by no means limited to, his midnight ride. The author shows how Longfellow's poem deliberately distorted the facts in order to suit the political climate of the times; the real story surrounding Revere's role and the battles of Concord and Lexington is infinitely more interesting because it involves planning, courage, danger, suspense, and national destiny. This is exciting history, and Fischer adeptly paints it in stirring tones while giving background information on Revere and General Thomas Gage. For the rest of their lives, people remembered where they were when Revere made his famous midnight ride, as readers will remember this fascinating account.-Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA
Gilbert Taylor
An iconic patriot, or an insignificant courier--Fischer plays these opposing images of the Bostonian silversmith against the middle in a lively reconstruction of the man and his role in the outbreak of war on Lexington Green. Supported by meticulous research, but using a brisk pace, Fischer begins his recounting of "contingent events" with the British decision in late 1774 to seize colonial munitions. The British commander, General Gage, had mounted several raids before the fateful one on Concord; and Revere in response had galloped hither and yon, keeping his fellow Whigs alert to the next attempt to disarm them. The midnight rides (there were two other messengers besides Revere) and the bloody clashes on April 19 unfold in a volley-by-volley drama that factors in all known participants, including a few spies unknown to this day. Once celebrated as an event that galvanized, much like Fort Sumter, each side in the irreconcilable imperial/colonial dispute, Revere's period of glory has perhaps been unduly relegated to obscurity (many school texts don't mention him). This balanced recounting of his activities restores his importance--and the feel for the motivations of his compatriots and their antagonists. An enjoyable work that doesn't compromise its scholarly accuracy.
From the Publisher

"Fischer knows how to grip the reader as few historians do....Fischer succeeds brilliantly in re-creating the milieu of the 1770s."--The Commercial Appeal (Memphis)

"This well-written, carefully researched, and interesting book dispels much of the myth and legend that has grown up around Paul Revere's famous ride and has replaced it with an exciting account of the events on those early spring days of April, 1775....A good read as well as an excellent reference."--KLIATT, September 1995

"In one of the best recent books on the Revolution, Fischer takes what might be the most famous episode from the war and carefully sifts accumulating legend from a substantial body of fact heretofore little recognized about the famous 'midnight right.'"--The Virginian-Pilot and the Ledger-Star

"Fischer has provided a nice update of one of the semi-mythological events associated with the American revolutionary experience. What is most impressive about the book is the scholarly apparatus indluded. Revere is now a human figure acting out an historical role without mythology to get in the way. For contextural biography, this is a first-rate volume."--Gerald Michael Schnabel, Bemidji State University

"The action in this exciting history illuminates New England's culture--especially the ways that it differed from old England's--on the eve of the American Revolution....Fischer's details are meticulous, and provide an irresistible sense of immediacy as a slumbering countryside is wakened to war."--The New Yorker

Product Details

Oxford University Press
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8 MB

Meet the Author

David Hackett Fischer is Warren Professor of History at Brandeis University. His books include the highly acclaimed Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America and Growing Old in America.

Brief Biography

Wayland, Massachusetts
Date of Birth:
December 2, 1935
Place of Birth:
Baltimore, Maryland
A.B., Princeton University, 1958; Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, 1962

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Paul Revere's Ride 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read many books on the American Revolution; no one can write like David Hackett Fischer! This book provides a detailed biograph of Paul Revere's life and his participation in the war for independence. Fischer debunks the myth of Paul Revere's solitary ride, describing the collective participation of the Americans from the infamous signal at the North Church to the arrival of Minutemen from many areas of Massachusetts to the coordinated attacks on the British as they retreated from Lexington. Alvin Gritz
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author's writing style is second to none for this genre. His breadth of knowledge and attention to detail is stunning. Yet, unlike far too many authors of early American history, Fischer's narrative flows exceedingly effectively, and is highly organized. Most of all, Fischer wholly avoids the kind of smug, needlessly-esoteric, choppy, poorly-written, political-agenda-riddled prose that plagues the vast majority of his fellow academics. I have read at least 100 books on the subject of the American Revolution and this is easily in the top 5, if not in first place.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the best historical books on the early years of the American Revolution I have ever read. Exremely informative and yet still entertaining. It belongs on everyone's bookshelf.
Ross_in_Topeka More than 1 year ago
This book is fantastic. All of Fischer's books are worthy of a Pulitzer prize, and Paul Revere's Ride is no exception. This book is a biography of Paul Revere, and better yet a biography of that famous April morning in 1775 when the first shots of the American Revolution were fired. Most of us who choose to read this book know by now that Revere did NOT say "The British are coming! The British are coming!" But what did he say? To whom did he say it? Did he act alone? How far and long was the ride? What was unexpected about this book was the compassionate and robust description Fischer tells of the King's men, the men who were tasked with dampening the increasingly rebellious colonials around Boston. Not only are the events of that morning eminently fascinating, Fischer's storytelling ability is top notch. No need to be a scholar to enjoy Paul Revere's Ride.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book. I always considered myself reasonably well educated, but I was almost completely unfamiliar with what really happened on April 18-19, 1775, in Boston, Lexington, and Concord. I visited Lexington recently, and was told by a volunteer at the local Visitors' Center that David Hackett Fisher's book is the most authoritative work on the subject. This is a must read for anyone interested in the Revolutionary Period.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fatastic read. Well written by a great author .
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Hunter76USA More than 1 year ago
My son bought this book for me for Christmas, and I am glad he did! I highly recommend this book to anyone who lets their mind wonder; "What was it like to be there..."
Fischer's research on the subject matter is outstanding. He uses historical documents, journals, town records, military manuals, as well as a plethora of other resources to paint a picture of a segment of our history like none I have read.
Read it, you won't be disappointed.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a very big fan of Paul Revere. The Author of this book really concentrated on not only Paul Revere's famous ride, but also gives us specific details about the battle of Lexington and Concord. Mr.Fischer also wrote wonderfully about frustrated mind and dilenma of General Gage (the biggest enemy of Massachussetts colonists). I was very satified by his research and writing. The chapter which the New England militia (minute mens) kept attacking British troops is the most exciting part of this book.