Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride

April 18–19, 1775

Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride is one of the most famous events in American History and was memorialized by Ralph Waldo Emerson in his 1861 poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride.” The poem is partially based on Revere’s testimony regarding the events of the night of April 18–19, 1775.

Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, 1775, Painting, Wyeth

This 1922 painting by N.C. Wyeth depicts Paul Revere warning people during his Midnight Ride. Image Source: American Antiquarian Society.

Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride Summary

Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride on April 18–19, 1775, is one of the most famous — and sensationalized — events in American History. Sent by Dr. Joseph Warren, Revere rode through the Massachusetts countryside from Boston to Lexington, warning of British troop movements and the impending arrest of Patriot leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock

In 1860, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a fictionalized account of the events, “Paul Revere’s Ride,” which was published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1861. Although the poem made many people aware of Revere’s heroics, it also created many of the myths associated with the Midnight Ride.

Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride Facts

The following facts provide a detailed overview of what happened during Revere’s Ride on the night of April 18–19, 1775.

Paul Revere, Portrait, Copley
Paul Revere. Image Source: MFA Boston.

Paul Revere’s Role as an Express Rider and Spy

  • Paul Revere served as an Express Rider for the Boston Committee of Correspondence and the Massachusetts Committee of Safety.
  • Revere’s duties included carrying news, messages, and copies of important documents to Patriot groups in other colonies, including New York, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania.
  • Revere was also involved in Boston’s Patriot Spy Network, which kept watch on the movements of British troops in the area.

Paul Revere’s First Ride to Lexington

  • On April 15, 1775, British grenadiers and light infantry in Boston were taken off duty and boats used for transporting troops were moved near the British warships in the harbor.
  • These movements were detected by the Patriot Spy Network, which notified Dr. Joseph Warren. 
  • The next day, April 16, Warren sent Paul Revere to Lexington to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams about the suspicious movements of British troops. 
  • Hancock and Adams were in Lexington, staying with the Reverend Jonas Clarke.
  • Hancock responded to the news by sending a message to the Patriots in Concord, instructing them to move the weapons and military supplies to other towns.

The Signal Lanterns at the Old North Church

  • Revere returned to Boston but stopped in Charlestown, where he met with Colonial William Conant. Together, they decided on a signal system Revere would use to warn Conant if the British were marching to Concord.
  • The system was simple. If the British marched out of Boston over Boston Neck — by land — Revere would have one lantern hung in the tower of Christ Chuch (the Old North Church). If the British troops moved over the water, across the harbor — by sea — Revere would have two lanterns hung in the tower.
  • The lanterns would serve as a warning to Patriots in Charlestown, in case Revere and others were not able to leave Boston.
  • Conant and others were supposed to keep watch on the tower and if they saw the signal, they were to send Express Riders to raise the alarm through the countryside.

Warren Calls on Revere to Ride to Lexington

  • On the night of April 18, British troops assembled and prepared to march to Concord.
  • Warren called for Revere and William Dawes to make the ride to Lexington to warn John Hancock and Joseph Warren.
  • Before he left Boston, Revere went home to pick up his boots and overcoat and informed John Pulling and Robert Newman to hang two lanterns in the tower of Christ Church.
  • Revere crossed the Charles River in a rowboat with two other men, Joshua Bentley and Thomas Richardson.
  • When he arrived, Colonel Conant confirmed he had seen the signal lanterns.
  • Revere borrowed a horse from John Larkin.
  • Right before Revere started his Midnight Ride, Richard Devens, a member of the Committee of Safety, warned him that he had seen the British Patrol on the road that evening.
  • Paul Revere started his Midnight Ride around 11:00.

Revere’s Route to Lexington

  • Revere planned to ride over Charlestown Neck then through Summerville and Cambridge, and on to Lexington.
  • As he approached Charlestown Neck, he saw two British soldiers hiding under a tree near the road but avoided being captured.
Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, 1775, Painting, Kendrick
This 1900 painting by Charles Kendrick depicts Paul Revere warning people during his Midnight Ride. Image Source: American Antiquarian Society.

Revere Spreads the Alarm

  • Revere rode to Medford, where he woke Isaac Hall, Captain of the Minutemen, and warned nearly every house.
  • From there, he rode through West Medford to Menotomy, where he turned north at Cooper Tavern and went toward Lexington.

Revere Arrives at Lexington

  • Revere arrived in Lexington around 12:30 a.m. and went directly to the home of Reverend Jonas Clarke, where Sargeant William Munroe and other members of the Lexington Militia were on guard.
  • Munroe told Revere to keep quiet because he was making too much noise. 
  • Revere responded, “Noise! You’ll have noise enough before long. The regulars are coming out!”
  • Hancock was still awake and heard Revere’s voice. He went to a window, opened it, and shouted, “Come in, Revere! We’re not afraid of you.”
  • Revere went inside and delivered the message to Hancock and Adams.

Dawes Joins Revere on the Midnight Ride

  • Dawes arrived about 30 minutes after Revere. 
  • With Hancock and Adams having been warned, Revere and Dawes started their ride west to finish their mission and warn the Patriots in Concord.

Samuel Prescott Joins the Midnight Ride

  • On the road to Concord, Revere and Dawes were joined on the road by another rider — Dr. Samuel Prescott
  • Prescott had been in Lexington that night and was returning home to Concord. 
  • According to some accounts, Prescott was visiting a woman he was courting, named Lydia Mulliken. Her brother, Nathaniel, was a Lexington Minuteman. 
  • Prescott was still at the house when Nathaniel received the message that he needed to report for duty.
  • Prescott agreed to join Revere and Dawes and help warn the people living along the road to Concord.

Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride Ends

  • Around 1:00 a.m., Revere was riding about 200 yards ahead of Dawes and Prescott. 
  • They passed the boundary into Lincoln, where a British Patrol was hiding. 
  • Two of the British officers were hiding in an opening in the wall that ran along the road when they jumped out and surprised the three riders. 
  • Revere tried to escape and rode hard into the nearby pasture — where he was surrounded by six more British officers and taken as a prisoner.
  • Dawes and Prescott were able to escape, but Dawes fell from his horse and was unable to continue the Midnight Ride.
  • Prescott made his way to Concord, where he raised the alarm.

Revere Held Prisoner

  • Revere was held as a prisoner and questioned by the British soldiers, who had already captured four other men, including Solomon Brown, Jonathan Loring, and Elijah Sanderson (see Lexington and Concord, Deposition #1 for their testimony).
  • When the British found out they had captured Paul Revere, some of them threatened him, but one of the officers promised he would be kept safe, as long as he did what he was told.
  • Despite threats against his life, Revere boldly told the British they were too late to seize the military stores in Concord.
  • When gunshots were heard in Lexington, the British released the prisoners, including Revere.
  • Revere made his way back to Lexington, where he helped Hancock and Adams pack their things and leave.
  • He returned early in the morning to retrieve some more of Hancock’s belongings and witnessed the British column marching into Lexington.
  • Although he did not see the first shots that were fired at the Battle of Lexington, did report hearing them.

Paul Revere’s 1775 Account of the Midnight Ride

The following is Paul Revere’s account of the events that took place during his famous Midnight Ride. Please note that section headings and spacing have been added to make the text easier to scan and comprehend.

Testimony of Paul Revere

Paul Revere of Boston, in the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay in New England; of Lawfull Age, doth testify an say; that I was sent for by Docr. Joseph Warren, of said Boston, on the evening of the 18th of April, about to o’Clock; 

When he desired me, “to go to Lexington, and inform Mr. Samuel Adams, and the Honl. John Hancock Esqr. that there was a number of Soldiers, composed of Light troops, & Grenadiers, marching to the bottom of the Common, where was a number of Boats to receive them; it was supposed, that they were going to Lexington, by the way of Cambridge River, to take them, or go to Concord, to distroy the Colony Stores.” 

I proceeded immeaditly, and was put across Charles River and landed near Charlestown Battery, went in town, and there got a Horse, while in Charlestown, I was informed by Richd. Devens Esqr. that he mett that evening, after Sun sett, Nine Officers of the Ministeral Army, mounted on good Horses, & Armed, going towards Concord; 

Midnight Ride, Paul Revere Landing, Historical Marker, HMDB
This marker indicates the spot in Charlestown where Revere’s boat landed. Image Source: Historical Marker Database.

I sett off, it was then about 11 o’Clock, the Moon shone bright. I had got almost over Charlestown Common, towards Cambridge, when I saw two Officers on Horse-back, standing under the shade of a Tree, in a narrow part of the roade. 

I was near enough to see their Holsters, & cockades; One of them Started his horse towards me, the other up the road, as I supposed, to head me should I escape the first. 

I turned my horse short, about, and rid upon a full Gallop for Mistick Road, he followed me about 300 Yardes, and finding He could not catch me, returned: 

I proceeded to Lexington, thro Mistick, and alarmed Mr. Adams and Col. Hancock. 

After I had been there about half an hour Mr. Daws arrived, who came from Boston, over the neck; 

We set off for Concord, and were overtaken by a young Gentleman named Prescot, who belonged to Concord, & was going home; when we had got about half way from Lexington to Concord, the other two, stopped at a House to awake the man, I kept along, 

when, I had got about 200 Yards a head of them, I saw two officers as before. I called to my company to come up, saying here was two of them, (for I had told them what Mr. Devens told me, and of my being stoped) 

in an instant I saw four of them, who rode up to me, with thier pistols in their hands, said G-d d-n you stop. If you go an Inch further, you are a dead Man, 

immeaditly Mr. Prescot came up we attempted to git thro them, but they kept before us, and swore if we did not turn in to that pasture, they would blow our brains out, (they had placed themselves opposite to a pair of Barrs, and had taken the Barrs down they forced us in, when we had got in Mr. Prescot said put on. He took to the left, I to the right towards a Wood, at the bottom of the Pasture, intending, when I gained that, to jump my Horse & run afoot; 

just as I reached it, out started six officers, siesed my bridle, put thier pistols to my Breast, ordered me to dismount, which I did: 

One of them, who appeard to have the command there, and much of a Gentleman, Asked me where I came from; I told him, he asked what time I left it; I told him, he seemed supprised, said 

Sir may I crave your name, I answered my name is Revere, what said he Paul Revere; I answered yes; the others abused much; but he told me not to be afraid, no one should hurt me; I told him they would miss their Aim.

He said they should not, they were only awaiting for some Deserters they expected down the Road: I told him I knew better, I knew what they were after; that I had alarmed the country all the way up, that their Boats, were catch’d a ground, and I should have 500 men their soon; one of them said they had 1500 coming; 

he seemed supprised and rode off, into the road, and informed them who took me, they came down immeaditly on a full gallop, one of them (whom I since learned was Major Mitchel of the 5th Regiment Clap’d his Pistol to my head, and said he was going to ask me some questions, if I did not tell the truth, he would blow my brains out. 

I told him I esteemed my self a Man of truth, that he had stopped me on the high way, & made me a prisoner, I knew not by what right; I would tell him the truth; I was not afraid; 

He then asked me, the same questions that the other did, and many more, but was more particular; I gave him much the same Answers; he then Ordered me to mount my horse, they first searched me for pistols. 

When I was mounted, the Major took the reins out of my hand, and said by G-d Sir you are not to ride with reins I asure you; and gave them to an officer on my right, to lead me, 

he then Ordered 4 men out of the Bushes, & to mount their horses; they were Country men which they had stopped who were going home; then ordered us to March. 

He said to me “We are now going to wards your friends, and if you attempt to run, or we are insulted, we will blow your Brains out.” 

When we had got into the road they formed a Circle, and ordered the prisoners in the centre, & to lead me in the front. We rid to wards Lexington, a quick pace; They very often insulted me calling me Rebel &c. &c. after we had got about a mile, I was given to the Serjant to lead, he was Ordered to take out his pistol, (he rode with a hanger,) and if I run, to excecute the Majors Sentence; 

When we got within about half a Mile of the Meeting house, we heard a gun fired; the Major asked me what it was for, I told him to alarm the country; 

he Ordered the four prisoners to dismount, they did, then one of the officers dismounted and cutt the Bridles, and Saddels, off the Horses, & drove them away, and told the men they might go about their business; 

I asked the Major to dismis me, he said he would carry me, lett the consequence be what it will; He then Orderd us to march. When we got within sight of the Meeting-House, we heard a Volly of guns fired, as I supposed at the tavern, as an Alarm: 

the Major orderd us to halt, he asked me how far it was to Cambridge, and many more questiones, which I answered; 

he then asked the Serjant, if his horse was tired, he said yes; he Ordered him to take my horse; I dismounted, the Serjant mounted my horse; they cutt the Bridle and saddle of the Serjants horse, & rode off, down the road. 

I then went to the house were I left Messrs. Adams & Hancock, and told them what had happined; their friends advised them to go out of the way; I went with them, about two miles a cross road: after resting my self, I sett off with another man to go back to the Tavern, to enquire the News; 

when we got there, we were told the troops were, within two Miles. We went into the Tavern to git a Trunk of papers, belonging to Col. Hancock, 

before we left the House, I saw the Ministeral Troops from the Chamber window. We made haste, & had to pass thro’ our Militia, who were on a green behind the Meetinghouse, to the number as I supposed, about 50 or 60, I went thro’ them; as I passed I heard the commanding officer speake to his men to this purpose, 

“Lett the troops pass by, and don’t molest them, with out The [They] begin first.” 

I had to go a cross Road, but had not got half Gun shot off, 

When the Minesteral Troops appeared in sight, behinde the Meeting House; they made a short halt. When one gun was fired, I heard the report, turned my head, and saw the smoake in front of the Troops, they imeaditly gave a great shout, ran a few paces, and then the whole fired. 

I could first distinguish Iregular fireing, which I supposed was the advance Guard, and then platoons: at this time I could not see our Militia, for they were covered from me, by a house at the bottom of the Street, and further saith not. 

Paul Revere

Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem memorialized — and mythologized — the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. When the poem was published in 1861, Revere was not the household name he is today. Historians often credit the poem for establishing the legend of Paul Revere — and also the source of many historical inaccuracies associated with the events of April 18–19, 1775.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Photo, c 1862, NPG
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Image Source: National Portrait Gallery.

Longfellow’s poem follows:

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
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.”

Then he said “Good night!” and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war:
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon, like a prison-bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street
Wanders and watches with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed to the tower of the church,
Up the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry-chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,—
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town,
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night-encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,—
A line of black, that bends and floats
On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride,
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse’s side,
Now gazed on the landscape far and near,
Then impetuous stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle-girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry-tower of the old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height,
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns!

A hurry of hoofs in a village-street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed that flies fearless and fleet:
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.

He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders, that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
And felt the damp of the river-fog,
That rises when the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadows brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket-ball.

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 red-coats 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.

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 at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

Popular Myths About Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride

The following myths were perpetuated by Longfellow’s poem:

  1. Paul Revere was the only Midnight Rider. Revere was not the only Midnight Rider. Revere was joined by William Dawes and Samuel Prescott, along with many more Express Riders who raised the “Lexington Alarm” throughout the countryside.
  2. The Signal Lanterns were for Paul Revere. The Signal Lanterns were for the Patriots in Charlestown, not Revere. Revere arranged them as a way to alert the Patriots in case he was unable to ride out of Boston. By the time Revere arrived in Charleston, some Express Riders had already been sent to warn the countryside.
  3. Revere was waiting for the Signal Lanterns before he started his ride. Revere did not wait, because the signal was not for him. He informed John Pulling and Robert Newman to hang two lanterns in the tower of Christ Church and then climbed into a boat to row across the river to Charlestown.
  4. Revere raised the alarm in Concord. Revere was taken as a prisoner by British officers while he was on his way to Concord. Although he was released later in the morning, he never made it to Concord. Dr. Samuel Prescott is credited with raising the alarm in Concord.

Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride APUSH

Use the following links and videos to study Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride, the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and the American Revolutionary War for the AP US History Exam. Also, be sure to look at our Guide to the AP US History Exam.

Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride Definition

Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride refers to the historic event that occurred on April 18–19, 1775, during the American Revolutionary War. Revere, along with William Dawes and Samuel Prescott, rode from Boston to warn American Patriots in Lexington and Concord of approaching British troops. Revere’s Ride became famous because of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride,” which was published in 1861. Since then, the Midnight Ride has been recognized as one of the most important events in American History.

Citation Information

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  • Article Title Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride
  • Date April 18–19, 1775
  • Author
  • Keywords Paul Revere's Midnight Ride, Who wrote Paul Revere's Midnight Ride, What was Paul Revere's Midnight Ride, When did Paul Revere's Midnight Ride happen, Where did Paul Revere ride to, Why did Paul Revere's Midnight Ride happen, How far was Paul Revere's Midnight Ride
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date April 18, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 11, 2024