Revere’s famous Midnight Ride on April 19, 1775 lead to the Battles of Lexington and Concord which marked the beginning of the Revolutionary War.
At the beginning of the war in 1775 Revere continued to serve as a messenger for the Massachusetts Committee of Correspondence. His actual military service started in 1776 and continued until 1779. As a committed patriot P.R joined the Massachusetts infantry militia in the rank of Major. Few months later he transferred to the artillery and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and in late 1778 became commander of Castle Island in Boston Harbor. He was put in charge of three artillery companies.
Unfortunately despite the great cause it was fighting for, Patriot’s military organization suffered from the lack of leadership and experience causing numerous conflicts and politicizing between the commanders. For Revere this became apparent during his participation in the failed Penobscot Expedition.
The Penobscot expedition was planned by the Massachusetts military as a massive and bold attack on the newly established British base in Penobscot Bay, Maine. The British commanders planned to use the newly established position to protect their maritime routs in Nova Scotia and to launch attacks on New England colonies further south. Interestingly the British planned to call the newly occupied area the New Ireland.
When Massachusetts colony realized the threat it was facing, it was decided to assemble a massive fleet and land force to deal with it. The size of the operation can be judged by the number of ships that were assembled despite of the cost. The fleet included 21 transport ships to carry the marines and the militia and the convoy of 18 heavily armed ships to protect the fleet. The guns and ammunitions were equally impressive, totaling 308 guns equipped to shoot 9, 6 and 4 pound balls. One of the battle ships was proudly called ‘Warren’ to commemorate the famous patriot Dr. Joseph Warren who helped Paul Revere to organize the midnight ride and who died heroically during the Battle of Lexington.
On July 28, 1779 the American land forces that arrived on the ships few days earlier started the assault and the siege of the British fort. But with poor training and constant disagreements among the leaders the siege did not succeed even with the patriot’s prevailing numbers. With such delay, the British were able to dispatch a fleet of 10 battle ships as reinforcement. The British known for their superior Navy used their experience to completely destroy the Massachusetts fleet which first fled upstream but was pursued and burned by the enemy. The surviving men were forced to escape by land without any food and supplies.
After such a disaster it was no surprise that the American commanders of the Penobscot Expedition faced less than warm welcome back in Boston. Heads had to roll and rightfully so. The biggest blame was laid on Dudley Saltonstall, the naval commander who was in charge of the battle ships. He was court-martialed, found guilty and dismissed from the military service. The commanders of land troops faced lesser punishment. Solomon Lovell, the brigadier general did not return to Boston almost for two month until September 20th and was also accused but acquitted of the charges. Revere who commanded the artillery was charged with disobedience and cowardice, dismissed from militia and even put under the house arrest. For several years he fought to clear his name and was only able to do this in 1782 when his case was heard by the military.
Revere’s contribution as an artisan and silversmith during the Revolutionary War was more remarkable than his humble military career. At the beginning of the war the Massachusetts Provincial Congress allowed P.R. to set up a gun powder mill at Canton, the second one in the country. Being a silversmith by trade, P.R. did not have much experience in gun-powder making but was able to obtain the necessary know-how from a mill in Philadelphia despite the refusal of the mill’s owner to share his technology without first being generously compensated. After the initial setback Revere’s mill in Canton became very efficient and undoubtedly made big contribution to the Patriot’s victory.
Another non-military success of P.R. during the Revolutionary War was his printing of the first Massachusetts currency used to finance the Patriot’s military. The committee of Continental Congress appointed Revere to design the plates to engrave the first issue of the Continental currency which was the first paper currency issued in the colony. He was also commissioned to make the first official seal for the colonies and the state seal for Massachusetts.
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