"Listen my children and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere."
April 18, 1775. The horseman leaves Boston at 10 o’clock that evening, riding through the night, stopping at villages and farms, warning the colonists that the British are coming.
You certainly can read about Paul Revere’s ride in history books, full of dry facts in scholarly language. But "Paul Revere’s Ride," the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, all through its 129 lines will always send shivers up my spine.
"He said to his friend, if the British march by land or sea from the town tonight, hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch of the North Church tower as a signal light, — one if by land and two if by sea; and I on the opposite shore will be, ready to ride and spread the alarm through every Middlesex village and farm, for the country folk to be up and to arm."
Signal lanterns were placed in the belfry of the old North Church where they would be easily seen across the Charles River. If one lantern was displayed, the British would be advancing by land over the Boston Neck then north and west to Concord. If two lanterns were hung, the redcoats would have chosen to cross the Charles by boat to Cambridge, then west to their target.
"So through the night rode Paul Revere, and so through the night went his cry of alarm, to every Middlesex village and farm, a cry of defiance, and not of fear, a voice in the darkness, a knock on the door, and a word that shall echo for evermore."
The following day, on April 19, just as the sun was rising over Lexington, the first shots were fired in Middlesex County in what was then known as the Province of Massachusetts Bay becoming the first military engagement of the American Revolutionary War.
"You know the rest in the books you have read how the British Regulars fired and fled, how the farmers gave them ball for ball, from behind each fence and farmyard wall, chasing the redcoats down the lane, then crossing the fields to emerge again, under the trees at the turn of the road, and only pausing to fire and load."
Throughout New England, and especially in Massachusetts, Patriots Day, a civic holiday commemorating the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord is celebrated on the third Monday in April.