William Dawes was a member of the Sons of Liberty and the first rider sent by Joseph Warren on the night of April 18, 1775, to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the British were marching to Lexington and Concord. Dawes went on to serve in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.
Biography of William Dawes
William Dawes lived in Boston, Massachusetts where he worked as a tanner and was involved in the resistance to British taxation policies that developed as part of the American Revolution. He was a member of the Boston Sons of Liberty and the Boston Militia. After Parliament passed the Coercive Acts, General Thomas Gage was made Governor of Massachusetts and given the authority to put an end to the rebellious activity of the Sons of Liberty and others in Boston. After the Massachusetts Powder Alarm took place in September 1774, the Massachusetts Militia forces started to hide weapons and ammunition in towns around Boston, including Concord. Gage learned about the supplies hidden in Concord and on the night of April 18, 1775, he sent troops on a mission with orders to go to Concord and destroy the supplies. On the road to Concord was the village of Lexington, where Samuel Adams and John Hancock were staying the night. Joseph Warren was the leader of the Patriot resistance in Boston. When he learned the British were marching to Concord, he called for Paul Revere and Dawes and ordered them to ride to Lexington – each by a different route – to warn Adams and Hancock that the British were headed their way. Dawes left Boston first and rode directly to Lexington, but Revere had already arrived and raised the alarm. After the fateful night, Dawes returned to Boston where he stayed in the city during the Siege of Boston and is believed to have fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill. He became a member of the Continental Army and was appointed a commisary by Congress.
This painting depicts the British advance on the American redoubt at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Image Source: Library of Congress.
5 Things to Know About William Dawes
- William Dawes was born on April 6, 1745, in Boston, Massachusetts, and died on February 25, 1799, in Marlborough, Massachusetts.
- In 1767, Dawes signed a non-importation agreement, along with about 650 other Bostonians, in protest of the Townshend Acts. Dawes and others agreed not to buy shoes, clothes, and other products from Britain. Then in 1768, he married Mehitable May. At their wedding, he wore a suit that was made entirely in North America.
- In 1768, Dawes joined the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts.
- In the fall of 1774, Dawes was very likely involved in stealing two small brass cannons, which were hidden from the British and then used by the Americans during the war.
- After he met Revere in Lexington, the two of them rode to Concord. They met Dr. Samuel Prescott and he joined them. However, they were spotted by a British patrol around 3:00 a.m. Dawes and Prescott escaped. Revere was captured, held for questioning, and eventually released.
William Dawes is important to United States history because of his role in the Midnight Ride on April 18, 1775. His involvement in resistance to British policies was also important, along with his involvement in the theft of cannons that were used by American forces during the war.