Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Scenes about Paul Revere
"My Name Is Revere"
            “Get off your horse!”
     Revere dismounted. Standing on soft ground, he flexed his knees, arched his back.
     An officer on foot approached. He stopped three feet away, looked Revere over. “Where did you come from?” he asked.
     The officer's eyebrows lifted. “What time did you leave?”
     “10:30, I believe.”
     The officer, approximately Revere’s age, turned his head, squinted at the closest mounted soldier. The soldier nodded some sort of acknowledgement.
     “Are you an express rider, sir?” the officer asked.
     “I am.”
     He frowned. “Sir, I crave your name.”
     “My name is Revere.”
     “What?” The officer’s mouth stayed open. “You are Paul Revere?!”
     The man scowled, pivoted, stalked off to his tended horse. The others, high above Revere, glared.
     “Damn rebel!”
     “Villain! Bloody traitor!”
     “We'll see you hung, you and Adams! And that flash bastard Hancock!”
     “Major Mitchell will have you shot!”
     Revere stared fiercely at his horse’s bridle. The officer on foot, hastily returning, said in a low voice, “You need not be afraid.”
     Revere glared.
     “No one will hurt you.”
     “Gentlemen,” Revere said, addressing the horsemen that had cursed him. “You have missed your aim!”
     They bristled. Barn cocks, he thought.
     One of them said, officiously, “What of our aim?”
     “Our aim is to arrest deserters,” the older officer said. “That is why we stopped you.”
     Revere smiled at the man's duplicity. “I came out of Boston a half hour after your troops had come out of Boston to land at Lechmere's Point,” he said. “I have alarmed the country all the way up. We’ll have 500 men here soon. Your boats have catched aground.”
     “You lie!”
     “We have 1,500 coming!”
     Revere grinned. “If I had not known that other people along the way had been sent out to alarm the country,” and he paused. “If I had not known I had time enough to ride fifty miles,” -- he faced the mounted officer nearest him -- “I would’ve ventured one shot from you before I would’ve suffered you to have stopped me!”
     Curses rained upon him. Dismissing them, he watched the courteous officer pull taut his gloves. The officer mounted. He rode off across the pasture.
     “Captain Cochrane’s getting the Major,” one of Revere's abusers declared, laughing.
     “Bloody good entertainment t’be had, traitor!”
     Two riders returned at a full gallop. Forty feet away, the taller rider, his horse yet in motion, dismounted. Drawing his pistol, he advanced. Revere saw he was the soldier that had threatened him on the road.
     The officer pressed the end of his pistol against Revere's left ear. “You will give me truthful answers or I will blow your brains out!”
     Neck muscles tight, Revere resisted the pressure. “I esteem myself a man of truth and I am not afraid of you!” Heat radiated from his face. “I demand you remove that pistol! By what right is a peaceable citizen detained on this highway?!”
     “The truth, I say, or I’ll scatter your brains on this dirt!”
     The officer applied additional pressure. Revere glowered at a distant tree.
     “You are Paul Revere sent from Boston to alert the provincials. Am I correct?!”
     “You are!”
     “When did you leave Boston?”
     “At 10:30!”
     “And you saw His Majesty's troops leave Boston?” As mercurially as he had brandished it, Mitchell withdrew the pistol.
     “Their boats catched aground.” Mitchell glared at him. “I have roused every minuteman from here to Lexington. Soon you’ll have 500 surrounding you.”
     For ten seconds the officer’s fierce eyes assaulted him. To the closest lieutenant, Mitchell declared, “Search him!”
     Two officers did so. Satisfied that he was not armed, Mitchell ordered the express rider to mount. Drawing his right leg over the horse’s back and saddle, Revere seated himself.
     Mitchell grabbed the bridle. “By God, sir, you do not ride with reins!” He seized them. “Grant, come here!” His face contorting, he whipped the reins into the officer’s reaching hands.
     “If you let me have them, I’ll not attempt to run from you.”
     “I will not! I don’t trust you!”
     Mitchell mounted. To the soldier that had surrendered the reins of Revere's horse, he ordered, “Bring them all out!” He nodded toward the wood.
     The sergeant returned with yet another officer. Walking between them were four county men, each leading a horse. One of them was missing an arm. Ten yards away they were told to mount.
     Mitchell said to Revere: “We will ride now toward your friends. If you attempt to run, or if we are insulted, I will scatter your brains!”
     “You may do as you please!”

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Scenes about Paul Revere
     The young doctor and Billy Dawes had stopped at the door of another farmhouse. Revere rode contentedly ahead. The stillness, crispness, and clarity of the night braced him. He thought, A city man would do well to take a moonlit ride on such a star-bright, spring night.
     Moon-crafted shadows lay upon the road. High above, tiny beads of light glittered. Revere heard a screech and the flapping of wings. The stillness that ensued seemed otherworldly. He heard faintly the passage of water over rocks.
     Such moments renewed his belief in the Almighty Creator. In six days the Lord had made the world. On the seventh He had rested.
     Man, God’s greatest creation, defiled it. Along this peaceful, illuminated roadway many soldiers would march. Tranquility lost. But not yet. There were moments, he thought, when a man, quite alone, did feel God’s purpose.
     He had stopped his horse at the top of a gentle rise to enjoy the night’s serenity. When he heard the sound of his companions’ horses, he urged his own forward. Having ridden ten rods to a turn in the road, he spied two soldiers on horseback, waiting in the darkness of a large maple.
     This time he was not outnumbered!
     “Dawes! Prescott! Come up! British officers!”
     Mounted soldiers, brandishing pistols, burst forth from shadows behind him!
     Kicking his horse’s sides, shouting, Revere propelled his mount forward.
     “God damn you, stop! If you go an inch farther you are a dead man!” Flanking him, a long-bodied, snarling officer rotated the end of his pistol.
     Revere looked over his right shoulder. Prescott, his whip handle turned about, was rapidly advancing.
     Where was Dawes?
     Seconds later Prescott was abreast of him. Cursing officers, waving swords, accosted them.
     “Into that pasture! Through that space into that pasture!” one of them shouted.
     “Into that pasture now or we will blow your brains out!”
     Revere and Prescott veered through the opening in the rail fence.
     Revere strained to see what lay ahead. Two riders sat motionless under a solitary tree. Beyond appeared to be a dark wood. “Put on!” Prescott shouted. The doctor yanked his horse off course.
     Too late to follow, Revere spurred his horse into a full gallop. If he could but reach the wood! Turning his head, he saw Prescott’s horse leap an obstruction. Prescott’s two pursuers halted.
     The two that had been under the tree were now leading Revere’s chasers. He heard their labored pursuit.
     Just ahead! He searched for an opening where, once within, he would pull up, dismount, and escape on foot. To his dismay out of several openings exited more soldiers! Almost immediately they were about him! He veered away but one, reaching dangerously, seized his horse's bridle. They surrounded him. Stopping him, they aimed their pistols at his breast.
     Placing his hands on his horse’s neck, shutting his eyes, Revere aspirated.
     At least Prescott had escaped.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Scenes about Paul Revere
"Then May I Accompany You?"
     Anticipating better fare at Wright Tavern than Reverend Clarke’s bread and cheese, Revere and Dawes proceeded along the Old Concord road.
     “You or me?” Dawes asked, his close-set eyes, long nose, and grinning mouth presenting a comical look, the rooftop of the house they now approached visible beyond a copse of trees.
     Revere watched Billy Dawes rap on the front door; he heard Dawes shout the alarm to a person at an upstairs window. Much better to share this work, he thought. It made the night seem less perilous. Definitely less lonely. His esteemed friend in Boston would be worrying about them. Here they were, working well together, each beforehand having worked well separately.
     “How far d'you think the redcoats have gotten?” Dawes asked, having returned to the road.
     “What time is it?”
     Dawes removed his watch from his coat pocket. He studied the hands in the moonlight. “'Bout 1:15 a.m.”
     “I would say, … Menotomy.”
     They resumed riding.
     The stillness of the night played upon Revere’s sensibilities. He thought, A blessed tranquility swaddles the land. Weary toiler, rest your head, all is safe. He and Dawes violated that dictum.
     As did another. Dawes heard first the cantering horse.
    “The patrol?”
     “It’s one horse. But be ready.”
     Horse and rider appeared in the bright moonlight. Seeing Revere and Dawes hunched in their saddles, the rider slowed his horse to a walk. He stopped ten feet away.
     “Good evening, gentlemen,” he declared, “or should I say good morning, for it is surely that.”
     Revere nodded. The man was cordial.
     “I’m Doctor Samuel Prescott. On my way home from my fiancĂ©e’s house. Which explains my presence at this hour.” The young man beamed. “And you, gentlemen, if I may be permitted to ask?”
     Grinning, Dawes gave his name.
     Transferring his smile, the doctor regarded Revere.
     The silversmith answered. Prescott’s quick change of expression amused him.
     “I am honored, sir! Indeed, … fortunate! I too am a son of liberty! Though admittedly not … Concord is astir because of you! Of the message you so recently delivered.” Prescott leaned forward. “That I should speak to the man who …” Grinning still, he shook his head. “My betrothed, when she hears me speak, will deem me a prevaricator. Would that I have you hiding behind the door!”
     They laughed. The young doctor was engaging, likable.
     “I’m on my way to Concord, sir,” Doctor Prescott stated. “Are you traveling in that direction?”
     “We’re carrying another message, doctor.” Revere paused. Prescott’s responsive face sobered. Revere lengthened the pause. “The regulars are out.”
     “They might be an hour behind us,” Dawes added quickly. The cordwainer repositioned his large, flapped hat.
     Prescott stared. They watched him swallow, grimace. “I wonder why I’m surprised at this.”
     Wanting the conversation to end but exercising patience, Revere stared at the dark tops of two pines.
     “Then may I accompany you, actually assist you? I’m well known here, as a doctor and a patriot.” Prescott looked down the road, looked back at Revere. “I believe that my words would bring special emphasis to your message.”
     Three express riders, to do the job of one. Amused, Revere thought again of his doctor friend. Joseph would want to know everything about this fine young man. “By all means, doctor,” he said, knowing Prescott’s request wanted immediate acceptance. “We welcome your company. But I must warn you. Our work entails risk.” He paused, to elicit a more intense reaction. “Somewhere ahead of us we may yet encounter a British patrol. You accompany us … at your peril.”
     Irises centered, Prescott nodded.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Scenes about Paul Revere

"The Man That Had Made Too Much Noise"

     The militiaman nearest him straightened, raised his musket. “A horse is comin'.”
     Munroe heard it, too, the unmistakable sound of shod hooves striking road.
     “Comin' from the Common,” the militiaman said.
     “Could be from Captain Parker,” a man farther away said. “Maybe them redcoats are lookin' for trouble after all.”
     “Hide yourselves!” Munroe ordered. Crouched behind the maple tree’s thick trunk, Munroe blinked rapidly at the road.
     He saw the single horseman. The large-sized man directed his mount into the very yard! Leveling his musket, Munroe stepped forth.
     Seeing Munroe, the rider swung decisively out of the saddle. “Put that firearm away!” he shouted.
     “Keep your voice down.”
     “I will speak with Mr. Adams and Mr. Hancock at once!” The stranger gave Munroe a smoldering look.
     “No, by God, you will not!” The impertinence! He would be deciding what happened here!
     “Let me pass!” The intruder glowered. “Their lives are in danger!”
     “We know that!”
     It occurred to Munroe that the rider, a servant or hostler, had been sent by another member of the Congress. With old news. He would now have to suffer the man’s explanation, before sending him off. But, first, Munroe would have this puffed up messenger know who issued the orders here!
     “I won't let you in! The family has retired! Say what you've t'say t’me. And keep your voice down. They don't want t'be disturbed by any noise.”
     The rider's teeth glinted in the moonlight. “Noise! You'll have noise enough! The regulars are coming out! Here, tend this!” He handed the militiaman standing next to Munroe his reins. Taking long strides, he reached the front door. He pounded on it.
     Munroe grabbed the intruder’s right shoulder. “I said not t'disturb them!”
     A window opened. Reverend Clarke’s large head protruded. “What’s happening out there?!” the minister demanded.
     “I must see John Hancock at once! Let me in!”
     The clergyman stared at the messenger. “I don't know you,” he said. “I will not admit strangers to this house at this time of night without knowing who they are and what they want!”
     Another window opened. John Hancock’s hostile expression vanished. “Do come in, Revere,” the rich merchant declared, almost laughing. “We’re not afraid of you.”
     Will Munroe’s face burned. A tingling sensation sped across his shoulder blades, coursed up his neck bone. He had argued with Paul Revere! As important a patriot, nearly, as the two at the windows. And Mr. Adams, inside. Worse, he had embarrassed himself! In front of his own guard! He'd be the butt of jokes, in his own tavern, for weeks!
     Well, he’d have to live with it, wouldn’t he? For awhile. Even though everybody knew he didn’t suffer any man’s ridicule! Few tried! This, however -- damned humilitating, cursed unfair -- he’d have to bear!
     It wouldn’t matter that he had had every reason for behaving the way he had. He had not been at fault! Revere hadn’t identified himself! The trouble had been Revere's doing. A name. All he had needed from Revere was his name!
     It occurred to him what Revere’s appearance meant. The officers that Solomon Browner had seen had been a reconnaissance patrol. Gage’s regulars were marching! Whatever Paul Revere was about to say he should be hearing! All of which he would be needing to tell Captain Parker. Something definite would then be done, with nobody thinking to have fun at his expense!
     Uninvited, he passed through the front entrance, following after the man that had made too much noise.

Monday, April 7, 2014

"Honest Tom" Gage
The consensus opinion of most readers of American history is that British General Thomas Gage was an incompetent field commander and administrator.  This judgment is not surprising given that Gage ordered to Concord, Massachusetts Colony, April 19, 1775, the fool-hardy military expedition that started the Revolutionary War.
Nevertheless, I believe that Gage deserves a kinder evaluation.  Lengthy, steadfast military service had earned him his position in 1775, that of Massachusetts Colony military governor and commander in chief of military forces in North America.  During his tenure in Boston prior to the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, he had sought to achieve his country’s purposes first through reasonable compromise.  Only when negotiations with Boston’s radicals failed did he chose to employ force.
The son of aristocratic parents, Gage joined the British army sometime before 1741 when he purchased a lieutenant’s commission in the 1st Northampton Regiment.  He quickly earned the nickname “Honest Tom.”  He was promoted to captain in 1743 and participated in the Battle of Fontenoy on Flanders Field during the War of the Austrian Succession.  He witnessed appalling death.  To harden himself after the battle, he walked amid the dying and dismembered.  A year later in Scotland he survived the Battle of Culloden -- a victory, the power of the Highland clans broken -- witnessing again terrible carnage.  A lieutenant-colonel in 1755, Gage led the vanguard of General Edward Braddock’s expeditionary force to expel French forces from Fort Duquesne -- at the juncture of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers.  Gage’s regiment was ambushed by a company of French soldiers and Indian warriors.  The Battle of the Monongahela resulted.  Braddock was mortally wounded; many of his officers were killed; Gage was slightly wounded, one of 1,600 British and American soldiers wounded or slain.  George Washington, Colonel of the Virginia militia, organized the survivors’ retreat. 
During the winter of 1757-1758, while in New Jersey recruiting volunteers to form a light-infantry regiment, Gage met Margaret Kemble, a beauty of the Brunswick area and granddaughter of New York’s mayor, Stephanus Van Cortlandt.  They were married December 8, 1758.  He was 39.  Eight years earlier he had been engaged to an English lady of rank and fortune; she had broken off their engagement; he had carried on several years thereafter broken-hearted.
A full colonel in 1758, Gage was stationed in Albany, New York Colony.  He commanded the regimental vanguard of a large British army of 16,000 soldiers that attempted on July 8, 1758, to overwhelm 4,000 fortified French soldiers inside Fort Carillon at Lake Champlain.  Led by the Commander-in-Chief in North America, General James Abercrombie, the army, disdaining the use of artillery, sought to capture Fort Carillon (to be renamed Fort Ticonderoga) with a frontal assault.  Abercrombie failed.  His army suffered more than 2,000 casualties.  Gage was again wounded.  Recalled to London, Abercrombie was replaced by Major General Jeffrey Amherst.  Gage was promoted a brigadier general.   Gage participated in Amherst’s uncontested capture of Fort Ticonderoga in 1759.  Given command of British forces on Lake Ontario, Gage incurred Amherst’s displeasure by not attempting to attack one of two strategic French forts that Amherst wanted taken.  As punishment, Amherst placed Gage in command of his army’s rear guard during his capture of Montreal in 1760.
Gage was appointed a major general in 1761.  Montreal’s military governor until England and France’s signing of a peace treaty in 1763, he dealt mostly with civil litigation, territorial disputes, and in the Great Lakes region quarrels between traders and Indians.  Respecting people’s lives and property, he was judged by his peers to be a fair-minded administrator.  When Amherst, on leave, returned to England, Gage was named temporary Commander in Chief of North America.  He took over Amherst’s command in New York City November 17, 1763, and replaced Amherst permanently when Amherst declined to return to North America.
Gage inherited the consequences of Amherst’s ill-advised Indian policies.  Native resentment that government policy permitted British expansion into Indian territories resulted in Pontiac’s Rebellion.  Ottawa Chief Pontiac led a series of attacks on lightly garrisoned frontier forts and settlements.  Eight forts were destroyed.  Hundreds of colonists were killed or captured.  Many more fled the territory.  Employing diplomacy, Gage was able to quell the rebellion, getting disaffected tribes to sign peace treaties in 1764, 1765, and 1766.
As commander in chief, Gage was responsible for more than 50 garrisons and stations stretching from Newfoundland to Florida and from Bermuda to the Mississippi.  He spent most of the twelve years carrying that responsibility in New York City, where he relished the social scene.  His authority gave him the opportunity to line the pockets of high-ranking subordinates.  By all accounts, he did not do so; but he did practice nepotism and political favoritism, securing for family members and friends advantageous positions. 
He believed initially that colonial discontent after the passage of the Stamp Act (1765) had been caused by a small number of colonial elites, led especially by dissident leaders in Boston.  To quash potential rebellion, he transferred troops from frontier encampments to several large cities, most notably New York City and Boston.  Reaction to the passage of the 1767 Townsend Acts forced Gage to send additional troops to Boston.  In March 1770 friction between hostile soldiers and embittered citizens escalated into an altercation that left five citizens dead, an event heralded thereafter by Massachusetts radicals as the Boston Massacre.
By then Gage had concluded that democracy itself was the prime instigator of colonial rebellion.  Too prevalent, it needed to be curbed.  Acting on this belief, he forwarded to King George III and his counselors specific recommendations.  Confine the colonials to the Atlantic seaboard, where they must adhere to English law and authority.  … Abolish immediately their rancorous town meetings, which were the wombs of sedition.  Remove trials of such matters to England, away from intimidated judges and corrupt juries” (Titus 77).  The King ordered Gage to return to England to defend his recommendations.  During his absence, Bostonians dumped 342 chests of imported East India Company tea into their harbor.  In the minds of the King, his cabinet, and most members of Parliament, the Boston Tea Party necessitated harsh punishment.  Parliament passed the Coercive Acts, the most important of which was the Boston Port Act, which closed the harbor to all commerce until the colony paid for the value of the destroyed tea.  Gage returned to America in 1774 to serve additionally as Massachusetts’s military royal governor.  His attempts to enforce the provisions of the Coercive Acts were stymied by radical leaders.
Refusing to violate constitutional law, eschewing heavy-handed repression, implementing, instead, a benign, yet firm, consistent policy, Gage had attempted to win the obedience of the populace. His attempts to do what was lawful and just had been thwarted at virtually every turn.
“He had been unable to stop the town meetings in Salem and Boston. He had nominated royal judges to the Massachusetts bench. Loyalist juries had refused to serve. Many judges, fearful of reprisal, had refused to sit.  … he had removed 250 half-barrels of powder from the Provincial Powder House at Charlestown and, additionally, several cannon at Cambridge. The powder had been the lawful property of the Province of Massachusetts, not the illegal Provincial Congress [Gage had dissolved the Massachusetts Assembly in June] and the proliferating town militias. The following day 4,000 provincials, incited by fraudulent rumors, had demonstrated on the Cambridge Common! Dubbed the ‘Powder Alarm,’ the uprising had instructed him to proceed thereafter with greater circumspection. 
“Subsequently, he had fortified the Neck; entrance and egress were now carefully monitored. He had ordered the inhabitants of Boston to surrender their weapons, after having purchased the inventory of every gun merchant” (Titus 77).    
In September 1774 Gage brought to Boston additional soldiers, from garrisons in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Halifax, and Newfoundland.  He ordered to Boston a fleet of warships.  In November he wrote Lord Dartmouth, Secretary of State for the American Colonies, that the Coercive Acts should be suspended until additional troops from England were provided; “there was ‘no prospect of putting the late acts in force, but by first making a conquest of the New England provinces.’ That would necessitate a force of at least 20,000 soldiers” (Titus 77-78).
While waiting for Dartmouth’s response Gage attempted in December to remove royal gunpowder and cannon from a crumbling fortress near the entrance of Portsmouth Harbor.  Express rider Paul Revere alerted the local militia before the arrival of Admiral Graves and a detachment of British troops.  400 militiamen overwhelmed the guard of 6.  100 barrels of gunpowder and 16 cannon were carried away. 
In late February 1775, Gage dispatched a regiment of soldiers under the command of Colonel Alexander Leslie by sea to Marblehead to march to Salem to seize eight new brass cannon and field pieces converted from the cannon of four derelict ships.  A raised drawbridge that provided access to the cannon thwarted Leslie’s attempt.
In early spring Gage received a response, dated January 27, from Dartmouth.  “… the King had angrily rejected his requests. Troops were, in fact, on the way: 700 Marines and three regiments of foot. But, the King and his ministers did not accept Gage’s estimate that 20,000 soldiers were needed to quell the rebellion. If General Gage sincerely believed that more soldiers were required than what he was being provided, he should recruit men from ‘friends of the government in New England.  … The King’s dignity, and the honor and safety of the Empire, require, that, in such a situation, force should be repelled with force.’ Seize the ringleaders; disarm the populace. They are ‘a rude Rabble without plan, without concert, and without conduct. A smaller force now, if put to the test, would be able to encounter them with greater probability of success than might be expected from a great army’” (Titus 78-79).  Dartmouth informed Gage that Generals John Burgoyne, Henry Clinton, and William Howe were accompanying the Marines and regiments of foot.   It was obvious to Gage that to avoid being replaced and recalled he would indeed have to put his “smaller force … to the test.”
More information to follow.
Source cited:
Titus, Harold.  Crossing the River.  BookLocker.com, Inc.  2011.  Print

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Scenes about Paul Revere

"Parson Larkin's Finest"
            The horse was slender, nervous. Good Yankee horses tended to be. Placing his left hand on the horse’s nose, speaking gently, Revere watched the animal’s alert eyes. “Good horse,” he said to Colonel Conant.

             “Parson Larkin's finest.”

     “He needs to be.” Richard Devens touched the straw-laden dirt with the end of his walking stick. “You should know, Revere, that I was detained by British officers along the Menotomy road!”

     Revere squinted.

     “I encountered them at dusk. Five or six officers. Several servants -- sergeants, I presume -- accompanying them. They demanded I direct them to ‘Clark's tavern’!”

     It took Revere a moment to comprehend Devens’s statement.

     He wondered how much more the General knew. Gage’s spy continued to do them damage.

     “I’ve dispatched a rider to warn Hancock. I shouldn’t be surprised if he’s intercepted. With this horse you might have better luck. I would advise you …”

     “Another express rider left Boston!” Revere interrupted. “A half hour before me. By Boston Neck.” He didn’t need this man's assessment.

     “Good.” Stepping back two feet, Devens crossed his forearms.

     Revere didn’t want to hear the man’s prattle. He needed to think. He set about shortening the stirrups’ leg length.

     “Which road will you take?” Colonel Conant asked.

     “The Cambridge road, then on to Menotomy.” He placed a forefinger under the girths.

     “That’s the road I was stopped on,” Devens said, testily.

     Revere studied the horse's bit. “Both roads might be patrolled. Time is important.” It was 11:25 o'clock.

     The horse tossed his head, stamped his hooves. Revere stroked the horse’s muscular neck.

     He mounted. The horse stepped backward. “I will alert as many households as I can,” he said, looking down. “Our message will get through. Whether or not I'm stopped.” He placed his right hand familiarly on the horse's neck. “But, I think, this animal will outrun any British plow horse.” He smiled, his irritation gone. He turned the horse onto the road.

     To his left, in the bright moonlight, he saw the dark waters of the Charles River. To his right he saw the Mystic. The smell of the sea was strong and rank.

     He would ride across this neck of salt marsh, moors, clay-pits, and brushwood at a pace that would neither fatigue his horse nor send them recklessly into an ambush. How far inland from their landing place the redcoats had marched he had no way of estimating. Reaching Cambridge, he would take the road through Menotomy to arrive at Lexington, a distance of eleven miles, less than a two hour ride, he thought. The other route, through Medford, across the Mystic, then to Menotomy -- bypassing Cambridge -- and then to Lexington would add at least a half-hour.

     His hands easy with the reins, his body accustomed to the horse’s hoof falls, Revere recalled other times he had delivered important news from Boston.

     He remembered best the morning after he had toppled East India chests of tea into the harbor. Other men, having slept through the night, could have delivered the news more easily to Committee of Correspondence leaders in New York and Philadelphia; but he, knowledgeable, entirely reliable, had volunteered.

     White spires above the bare branches of maples, birches, and beech had told him of the close proximity of each country town. In the better taverns he had enjoyed bowls of hot punch, tankards of flip, legs of lamb, country bread, butter, and roasted apples. He had returned to Boston eleven days after having left it, having averaged 63 miles a day in the saddle. It had been the first of three trips he had made to Philadelphia.

     He had savored each assignment.

     This ride, so perilous, so important, had its own satisfying enticements. A clear sky had that afternoon banished the threat of additional rain. He admired in the moonlight the angular shadows of solitary trees, sentinels, he mused, of an undisturbed wetland. He imagined farmers, directing oxen to their farthest fields, beholding God’s canopy of brittle lights: sensory gratifications to soothe the troubled soul, treacherous distractions to his purpose at hand!

     Riding past the Medford road, Revere scrutinized each approaching shadow. On a less bright night two weeks hence, the deciduous growth being then in full leaf, he would have seen nothing. Each shade stimulated his imagination.

     Beneath that tree, a mounted soldier. No. What was it? Having passed it, he would never know.

     Directly ahead another soldier! No. Something abandoned. Two empty casks, one atop the other, he guessed.

     His little horse steadfastly galloped. He thought that if he were challenged, the animal had enough run in him yet; but after they had ridden through Cambridge, perhaps not. More than likely they would be confronted there, not before.

     Another soldier! No, two! Holsters and cockades! Mounted! In the broad shadow where the road narrowed!

     They moved. One of them, leaving the shadow, raised a hand. The other, already ten yards beyond, turned his horse to block the road.

     Pushing hard against his stirrups, pulling his reins to his chest, Revere brought his horse to an abrupt stop. Yanking the reins sideways, he forced his mount to turn. Spurring the horse in the direction they had come, he heard the nearest officer shout.

     “Stop! By God, stop or I’ll shoot!”

     Parson Larkin’s finest sped toward the Medford road. Bent low over the horse’s neck, Revere calculated. A pistol shot would miss him, he thought, but maybe not the horse. Quick separation was essential!

     No shot was fired. Too far behind to waste ball and powder, he concluded. Or, too difficult to fire accurately.

     Wanting to know, Revere glanced backward. Twenty rods lay between. Parade horses, he derided.

     In a half minute he was at the junction.

     Down the Medford road his horse raced. Not until he looked across the field separating the two roads did Revere realize that his pursuers had anticipated his intent. He saw a horse and rider traversing the angle of the triangular field. Watching their up and down movement, he knew he would be losing half the distance he had gained. This time the soldier would attempt a shot. Revere demanded greater speed.

     Looking again, he saw that his pursuer had vanished! Two seconds later the horse’s head and neck appeared as if out of a hole. Revere saw nothing of the rider or of the other officer, who had apparently not joined the chase.

     Revere slowed his blowing horse to an easy walk. His own body adjusting to its rush of adrenaline, Revere marveled. Two officers had accosted him. Devens had seen, how many, seven? Nine? More, then, waited along the main road.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Scenes about Paul Revere

     The dark shape of Christ Church dwarfed him. He moved quickly across the street into its shadow. A young man, twenty-three, he was the church sexton. His older brother was the organist. Times were hard; Newman did not like his job; too bad. When Paul Revere had explained to him what he had wanted, Newman had been eager to participate. Afterward, he had reckoned the peril.
     Hearing footsteps on the cobblestones, he stepped behind the church’s corner. John Pulling emerged from the darkness. “Sssst! Over here!” Newman whispered.
     Pulling was a church vestryman. Revere had recruited him to be Newman’s lookout.
     “Not here yet?” Pulling asked.
     “He didn't say when. Any time, I suspect.” He was right. Soon they heard aggressive footsteps. Paul Revere’s broad figure approached.
     “Nervous?” Revere asked, joining them at the church’s darkest corner.
     Newman nodded.
     “You become accustomed to it.” For perhaps ten seconds Revere gazed at the deserted street.
     Newman was taken by the silversmith’s air of confidence.
     “The British soldiers are in the boats,” Revere informed. “Go easy. Take your time. But do your work to its completion. If I’m arrested, our fortune may rest entirely upon what you accomplish.” He patted Newman’s left shoulder. “I must prepare to leave. God be with you.”
     Newman listened to Revere’s footfalls and then, too soon, but the night sounds.
    It was too late to renege.
    “All right,” he said, raising angrily his hands. He pulled out of his side coat pocket a ring of keys. He inserted a long key into the lock of the side entrance door. He turned the key and pushed open the door. Pulling nodded. Newman closed the door, locked it, and in darkness felt his way to a closet. Leaving it, carrying two lanterns, he moved to the stairway that led to the belfry.
     Past the bell loft he climbed, the eight great bells within somnolent. He reached the highest window. To the north he saw in the moonlight the shoulder of Copp's Hill. Beyond lay the mouth of the Charles River and the glimmering lights of the Somerset, a moving, ethereal flicker.
     He reached downward, lit the lanterns, and raised them chest high. Somewhere amid the lights of Charlestown, beyond the Somerset, Sons of Liberty were watching. They would now know that Gage’s soldiers were crossing the Back Bay.
     Softly, softly, the muffled oars dipped into the water. The boat was marking a broad semi-circle about the Somerset, turning ever so slightly against its cable.
     The boat’s occupants did not speak. Joshua Bentley and Thomas Richardson were laboring to bring the boat closer to the mouth of the river. Neither man glanced at the Somerset’s dark hull. Paul Revere, motionless as stone, regarded little else.
     Up current, longboats were ferrying soldiers to Lechmere’s Point. If he and they in the boat reached the Charlestown landing, he would have little time to act following his conversation with Colonel Conant.
     He glanced at the North Boston skyline, confident that the lanterns had been lit and the Colonel and those assisting him had witnessed them. How long would they wait for his arrival before deciding that he had been taken? Because of their hesitancy, how late would be his replacement’s departure?
     These questions did not require answers. Having left the Somerset behind, the little boat now approached the Old Battery. He and they at the oars had won. Joy replaced trepidation. Impulsively, Revere lifted Richardson’s feet. The muscular rower let loose a robust oath.
     Laughing yet, Revere saw over Richardson’s left shoulder one of Colonel Conant’s militiamen, gesturing at the edge of the Battery dock. Waving his arms, Revere shouted.