Paul Revere, Sarah Palin, Politics and History

At Almost Chosen People we normally attempt to avoid contemporary controversies as our focus is on American history.  However, when an issue pertaining to American history arises in current politics, we think it appropriate for us to comment.

Recently, Sarah Palin came under fire for the comments in the video below regarding Paul Revere:

Responding to the controversy, a few days later in an interview on Fox News, she said this:

This all strikes me as a very minor tempest in a Boston tea pot.  Her statement clearly indicates that she was referring to Revere’s ride as a challenge to the British and the bells ringing and the warning shots as a result of that ride. She was inarticulate about it, as most politicians tend to be when they make off the cuff remarks, but that was the clear sense of what she said. The facts of Revere’s ride indicate that her remarks were closer to describing what actually happened than the over the top reaction of her critics would indicate.

Paul Revere was captured by the British during his ride and attempted to mislead the British by vastly exaggerating the number of militia that the British would face.  As for Palin’s reference to church bells and warning shots, after Revere reached Lexington the Church bells began to ring.  That is how the militia were summoned in colonial days. That is how the militia were summoned throughout Massachusetts on that fateful early morning of April 19. Where bells weren’t available artillery shots were used and where that wasn’t available muskets shots were used to call in the militia. 

“Dawes initially appeared to have escaped his pursuers, but was thrown from his horse and captured. Paul Revere was taken prisoner and during his interrogation deliberately provided greatly inflated numbers of militiamen awaiting the British at Concord.

During the ride back to Lexington, Revere and his captors heard shots fire and church bells ring throughout the area — events that gave some credence to Revere’s report of colonial preparations. Fearing for their safety, the British released Revere, but took the precaution of giving him a tired horse to slow his return to Lexington.”

As for her reference to the attempt by the British to disarm the Americans, a key target of the British was to destroy the militia gunpowder magazine at Concord. 

Palin wasn’t very articulate in her Revere comment, but most of her critics were shakier on American history than she was, and seized upon the comment for political purposes before doing basic fact checking to understand what actually occurred in regard to Revere’s ride.  That’s politics for you, but history goes by a higher standard.

Published in: on June 12, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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One Comment

  1. As a New Englander who grew up along the route of “The Great Ride”, I would recommend to all who are interested in American history the book Paul Revere’s Ride by David Hackett Fischer, a Massachusetts historian. His research is meticulous and his writing style makes him a joy to read. Since most of us grew up depending on Longfellow’s poem for our facts about the event it is good to remember that he was an artist and not an historian. There is so much more to Paul Revere’s story than quibbling about whether he made it to Concord or not .From 1772 on he was the chosen messenger who brought news of the Boston Tea Party to Philadelphia via Springfield,Hartford and points between. He was a spy who kept his eye on troop movements in the town and harbor. He was the ultimate networker joining guilds,churches,committees, while running a number of businesses.
    Read the book-you’ll have tidbits of real history to share for months with your friends


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