The cold wind blew heavy out of the north under a clear sky as oars, muffled by petticoats, sliced through the water of the Charles River. The sound of rigging rattling on the nearby British man-of-war echoed across the water, but nary a sound came from the small skiff. Two lights shown from the tall tower of Christ Church, their glow sporadically dimmed by the flickering of the candles at their source. They were to remain only a minute, just long enough for those keeping watch on the nearby shore of Charlestown to note their presence. Any longer and the British would spot them.
Inside the small skiff, three men sat huddled in heavy wool capes. Two were drawing the oars quickly through the water, while the third waited patiently to leap out upon arrival to the shore. If all went well, there would be an able mount waiting. Back across the water in Boston, there had been many long days of observing and waiting, trying to keep up the pretense of normality whilst watching for any sign that the British were on the move. Life in Boston had been hard since the blockade. Trade had all but ceased and the entire town waited on pins and needles for something to happen.
Based on intelligence received earlier in the night, British troops were preparing to move north. Not far away, in a farmhouse in Lexington, two men rested, unaware that they were in the cross hairs of a coming storm. Sam Adams and John Hancock – men from completely different backgrounds now found themselves thrown together in a similarity of purpose. All their hopes, and perhaps their very lives, hinged on receiving warning that the British Regulars were en route.
In addition to the small skiff racing towards the Charlestown shore, a lone rider had fled Boston by horseback earlier. Moving south, past the Common, where British troops were preparing to depart, and out through the Neck, William Dawes now raced northwards, over dark, rough roads. As Paul Revere’s skiff landed in Charlestown, he also began galloping through the night towards Lexington. With any luck, at least one of them would dodge British patrols and make it in time. Beyond just warning Adams and Hancock, the Patriots also had a store of ammunition in nearby Concord that had to be hidden before the British arrived or all was lost.
As Revere raced along, his horse’s hooves made a muffled sound as they made contact with the dirt road. The pounding of hoofs was accompanied by snorting due to the animal’s heavy exertion. It was pitch black so Revere had to rely on his horse’s keen eyesight to stay on the path, all the while, his ear was primed for any sound of an approaching British patrol. With any luck, Dawes was already there or at the very least, the message conveyed by the the Christ Church lanterns had been spirited along to its intended recipients. Before long, the dim lights of Lexington came into view.
Galloping past the Buckman Tavern, Revere soon reined in his mount outside a two story, clapboard farmhouse. It was midnight, so all was quiet as he dismounted and approached the door. His hard knocking on the simple door, immediately awakening the household. Dawes arrived soon after – miraculously, they both had made it.
Due to the efforts of Revere, Dawes, and countless others, when the British arrived in Lexington, they were greeted by armed colonials. As the sun rose, shots were fired and the American Revolution had begun.
All photos by the author.