First of all, Revere wasn’t the only man to ride that night as it was more of a pony express type of run in order to keep the horses and riders fresh to make better time. Paul was from Boston and Boston had a good newspaper to get word out about the great ride and of course he sounded great to give Revere the credit. The military liked it because Boston had a lot of potential recruits so a story like Revere’s would make for good marketing. Revere was apparently a very arrogant man so he enjoyed the notoriety. But here is where a serious problem began. Famous people were often given positions in the military they didn’t deserve because the thinking was it would be easier to get soldiers to follow someone well known; there’s an inherent sense of security in it. So Paul Revere was made a Lieutenant Colonel and was given command of an artillery division (mostly cannons for use on ship and on land). Basically if the ship didn't need certain cannons for a fight then Revere could remove them and use for an on-land assault then take them back to the ship; a lot of logistics involved.
The British established a small fort at Majabigwaduce which helped them maintain control of Maine (Massachusetts had this territory at the time).The Americans had lost this land to the Brits and decided to take it back. The Massachusetts Militia was going to lead the charge so this meant Revere was going to get his first military action.
The plan was to go in with 19 warships knowing the Brits had only 10. They knew this because there were some loyal civilians there that helped keep an eye on what the British were doing. Keep in mind, they couldn’t grab a phone and call so they had a network of people up and down the coasts to get word out. They also had a good count of around 700 British soldiers so the Militia sent 1,000. The plan of attack was to drop off the soldiers before they reached the harbor where the British ships were anchored and where the fort was on top of the hill. The fort was actually far from finished which is another reason why the Americans thought it would be an easy victory. The ships would then come around the corner and attack the British ships and the fort with their cannons while the soldiers attacked the fort.
A lot of errors took place none more so than by the Commodore of the Navy but Revere was a terrible follower and leader and that was one of the main reasons they lost the battle. When the Army and Navy would tell him he needed to move cannons in various positions he didn’t worry about following orders and did what he thought. When they asked him for 12 pound cannonballs he’d sometimes use four pound. While his men slept on the ground in the cold, he’d have someone row him back to the ship to sleep in nice quarters. When they had to be up by sunrise to start firing their weapons he’d show up after he had a good breakfast. As you can imagine his men didn’t like him. He also didn’t know what he was doing. His men were firing all over the place barely hitting anything and Revere wasn’t in the bunkers helping them revise their aim. A couple of times his men were asked to participate in a march on the enemy and all the other military leaders were up front with their troops while Revere led from behind.
What was supposed to take the Americans a few days ended up going on for weeks. This gave the British an opportunity to sneak up on our fleet with big warships. When the Americans saw them coming they loaded up the ships with the military and took off up the channel. Revere was told to position his guns on the banks overlooking the channel so they could shoot down on the British ships; they didn’t want the British to catch up to them and either destroy or capture their
ship. Normally the Americans would avoid having their ships captured and would instead burn them down so the Brits couldn’t use them in the war. Revere refused to help and boarded a barge with some of his men and left. Later in the day they were being chased by the Brits back up the river and came upon the fleet again. One of the commanders told him to use his vessel to help move men off of the ships they were going to scuttle (burn) before the British got to them. Revere used to help and took off with what looked like a large load of supplies.
There were other problems as well that led to our defeat which I won’t get into but the bottom line is Revere failed his duty in many ways including always voting to retreat during their daily officers meetings. When he got back to Boston he was court martialed in private and they just gave him a reprimand so his reputation was still pretty much intact. He even became a very wealthy businessman after the war. You might be wondering why the court martial was kept low key and the answer is the same one that has been around for thousands of years. The media and the military made Paul Revere a hero for his famous ride because they were looking for heroes. The military sent a man who wasn’t qualified to do the job but they thought his reputation would make people want to follow him. They didn’t have a clue whether he was a good soldier or good leader. So if Revere failed they failed and they weren’t going to let that happen.
Revere deserved to be publicly humiliated and in my opinion thrown in prison for desertion. He was partly to blame for over 400 Army, Marine, and Navy personnel losing their lives; but politics saved him. Revere’s fame died dramatically over the years until Henry Longfellow wrote his famous poem in 1861: “Listen my children for you shall hear the midnight ride of Paul Revere.” Next thing you know he’s famous again even getting a beautiful statue made of him prominently displayed in Boston. Amazing, isn’t it?
A shocking tale but a good dose of the real world. Our history books are filled with a lot of good stories that probably aren’t historically accurate. As someone once said: “History is written by the victors.” The real story about Paul Revere wouldn’t sound as good as the one we read in school. We already had Benedict Arnold so I guess we didn’t need any more bad stories of Americans during the Revolutionary War.