Paul Revere, road warrior and speed king

August 15, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: American Road, history, journalism.

File this under The American Road, History Division.

Paul Revere, we all know, is famous for riding through the night of April 18-19, 1775, spreading the alarm “to every Middlesex village and farm,” letting everyone know that the British Army, too, was hitting the road, and things were about to turn nasty. (More on that in a later post.)

But that’s not the only important ride he ever took — not by a long shot.

David Hackett Fischer, a historian of the first order, in his book Paul Revere’s Ride, points out that Revere mounted up several times during the pre-Revolutionary War period to deliver important information. He could be called, according to Fischer, an American Mercury, but as a man intimately involved in the Patriot circles of Boston and Massachusetts in the 1770s, Revere was more than just a messenger. He was a representative to what was happening in that colony.

One of Revere’s most important rides occurred in September 1774, when he rode from Boston to Philadelphia, a distance of 350 difficult miles, in just five days.

Boston and the colony of Massachusetts had been at the forefront of anti-British activity and sentiment. Boston was also the focal point of British authority in the colonies. General Thomas Gage, commander of the British Army in America was headquartered in Boston. So, throughout the other colonies, those who sympathized with those feelings eagerly awaited news from there.

The news was worth waiting for. By the summer of 1774, colonists had actively resisted (though not always effectively) a number of attempts by Parliament to levy taxes on the colonies, and those disputes had resulted in the Boston Tea Party, a piece of political theater that captured the imagination of the British and colonial public. Parliament responded to Boston impudence with a series of harsh measures that became known in America as the Intolerable Acts. That summer, representatives from towns in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, met and passed a set of resolutions vowing to resist the enforcement of the Intolerable Acts by any means possible. These resolutions were known as the Suffolk Resolves.

Once they were passed, news about them needed to be sent to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia as quickly as possible. That’s when Paul Revere became America’s most important road warrior.

The day after Revere arrived in Philadelphia, the Congress passed a resolution strongly supporting the Suffolk Resolves. It was a significant step toward the eventual separation from Great Britain.

Revere got back on his horse, and five days later, he was back in Massachusetts with the new from Congress. It was news that would encourage the Patriots in Massachusetts to maintain their resistance, which would lead to the confrontation at Lexington and Concord the next spring.

Revere stayed on the road for a good part of the fall with trips to New York and back to Philadelphia. His travels on the roads of America — which were anything but ideal — did much to unite the colonies against their British occupiers.

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