It’s often the case that the wrong person gets credit and the right person is forgotten.

On the night of 18 April 1775, Paul Revere had two missions: ride to Lexington and warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the British were on the way to arrest them, then ride to Concord and warn the militia that troops were headed there to capture a stockpile of guns and ammunition.

Revere’s first mission was a success, which today is ignored or forgotten.

His second mission was a failure, which today is fondly misremembered.

A whole bunch of guys were trying to warn the militia in Concord that British troops were headed their way. We know the names of two of them.

One, of course, was Paul Revere. The other was William Dawes.


The two men took different routes from Boston. Revere arrived in Lexington a half-hour before Dawes. It was around midnight. Having warned Adams and Hancock, the two riders headed for Concord, which was six miles further along the road.

About a quarter of the way there, they came upon Samuel Prescott, a young doctor they recognized. It is thought today that Prescott had just proposed to Lydia Mulliken in Lexington. She had accepted his proposal and he was happily riding back to Concord when Revere and Dawes, headed the same way, met up with him.

They explained their mission to Prescott and he agreed to join them.

A bit further on, less than halfway to Concord, disaster struck. In the dark, they came upon a squad of mounted British officers blocking the road. The Brits had already caught riders who were headed to Concord to sound the alarm. They called for Revere, Dawes, and Prescott to halt. The three rode off in different directions. Dawes got away; Revere and Prescott were arrested.

So was it William Dawes who made it to Concord and warned the militia? Nope. He got bucked off his horse and ended up walking back to Lexington.

As the soldiers were leading Revere and Prescott into a field, the two men suddenly galloped off in opposite directions. Revere ran into more British soldiers and was arrested again. He was questioned, threatened, had his horse confiscated, and was released on foot. He, too, walked back to Lexington.


Samuel Prescott rode through forest and swamp and emerged at Hartwell Tavern. The Hartwell family hurried off to warn others. Along the way to Concord, Prescott roused yet more folks who, like the Hartwells, spread the alarm.

Because of Prescott, Minutemen and militia companies were alerted and mustered and were ready to engage the British Army at the Old North Bridge and other locations.

So why does Paul Revere get all the glory for something he didn’t actually manage to do? Mostly because of a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1861 called “Paul Revere’s Ride.”

The poem gives credit to Revere and doesn’t even mention William Dawes or Samuel Prescott. And so it goes.

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