Paul Revere Heritage Project


The Beginning of the Midnight Ride

On the early spring night of April the 18th, 1775 there was a knock on the door of Paul Revere’s House in Boston’s North End. It was 10 o’clock at night and the messenger requested Revere’s presence at a different house few block’s away. The house belonged to Dr. Joseph Warren one of the top leaders of Patriot movement in Boston.

In the spring of 1775 the situation in Boston was very tense. The Patriot militias were preparing for armed resistance against the British troops who were present in Boston in ever increasing numbers. The British authorities in New England headed by the appointed governor were also on the highest state of alert arresting the Whig party leaders and seizing any stores of weapons and ammunition. In this is exactly why Revere was called to Dr. Warren’s house.

Trying to assert it’s authority in Massachusetts the Parliament of Great Britain in 1774 passed the Government Act greatly limiting the powers of the elected House of Representatives in the colony. Instead the patriots organized as the alternative Massachusetts Provincial Congress which proclaimed to be the new government of Massachusetts. The president of the Congress was John Hancock. Of course the congress could not openly meet in Boston. Instead it gathered in Concord, MA where Hancock, Samuel Adams and other patriots could stay in relative safety from persecution. But only until the day when the late-night visitor knocked on Revere’s door.

Among the most trusted persons in the circle of Patriots was Dr. Joseph Warren. Even though the British considered him a threat, Warren managed to stay in Boston to be the link with his Whig associates. Perhaps it was his profession as the doctor that gave him more leeway with the authorities.

The decision to ride to Lexington and Concord did not come as a spare of the moment. Both Warren and Revere were well prepared and had been planning the mission. Dr. Warren was the top man in the Boston Committee of Correspondence of which Revere was also a member. The Committee was especially created to coordinate activities between patriot groups. Weeks and even months before the ride it became clear that General Thomas Cage, the colony’s new military governor was planning a retaliatory action against pro-independence colonists in Concord. Not to be caught off-guard the patriots started patrolling streets of Boston at night in pairs and monitored the movement of the British troops. Finally on April 18th, 1775 the day of the ride Dr. Warren received a tip from a reliable informant that the march to Concord will happen on that night.

The best description of the meeting that occurred at Warren’s house was given by Revere himself:

“ Dr. Warren sent in great haste for me and begged that I would immediately set off for Lexington, where Messrs. Hancock and Adams were, and acquaint them of the movement, and that it was thought they were the objects. When I got to Dr. Warren's house, I found he had sent an express [fast messenger] by land to Lexington — a Mr. William Daws [Dawes]. I left Dr. Warren, called upon a friend and desired him to make the signals. I then went home … went to the north part of the town, where I had kept a boat; two friends rowed me across Charles River...”

And so from the shores of Charlestown begun the famous Midnight Ride.

Related: Detailed description of the Midnight Ride >>