Paul Revere's midnight journey on the eve of the Revolution is the most famous of the many rides he made throughout the colonies as official courier for the Provincial Assembly to Congress. Prior to April 18, Boston and the surrounding countryside were teeming with intelligence-gathering British and colonials alike. With increased activity in Boston Harbor on April 16, General Thomas Gage's plans to march on Lexington and Concord were anticipated, and Revere was sent to alert John Hancock and Samuel Adams, who, as enemies of the crown, were sequestered in Lexington.
Two nights later, upon the crossing of the British into Cambridge, messengers were again dispatched to Lexington: Revere by way of Arlington and Medford, and William Dawes through Roxbury and Cambridge. The pre-arranged warning by lantern in the steeple of Christ (Old North) Church signaled other riders to spread the word that the British army was on the march. After delivering their message, Revere and Dawes, joined by Samuel Prescott, proceeded to Concord. Revere was captured and interrogated, but in the mounting confusion of the morning allowed to go free. On his way back to Lexington Green he witnessed the arrival of the British troops, and heard the first shots fired in the War for Independence.
Revere, an ardent patriot and successful businessman, offered his talents as an engraver, printer, and metal smith to activities from unloading tea in Boston Harbor and producing patriotic broadsides like the Boston Massacre to designing the first continental currency and coppering the dome of the new State House on Beacon Hill. He was a member of the Committee of Correspondence and worked to gain support for the federal constitution. Revere died at the age of eighty-three; his house still stands on Revere Street in the North End, Boston.
Robert Reid has pictured Revere riding through one of the many towns between Boston and Lexington, waking the residents and calling en route. A minuteman leaves his house, responding to the call. Firelight escapes the open door, illuminating the figures. Reid, a painter better known for a light impressionist style, has drawn on his academic training in Boston, New York, and Paris to reproduce the drama of this historic night scene.