There's been a bit of a kerfuffle the past couple days over something Sarah Palin said about Paul Revere.
The former Alaska governor, 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, potential 2012 GOP presidential contender and Fox News contributor told reporters in New England that Revere "warned the British that they weren't going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and making sure as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free."
Now, that doesn't quite sound like what many of us remember from school, when we were taught about the "midnight ride of Paul Revere" and all of us read Longfellow's famous poem.
But on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, Palin did not retreat:
"You know what? I didn't mess up about Paul Revere. Here is what Paul Revere did. He warned the Americans that the British were coming, the British were coming, and they were going to try to take our arms and we got to make sure that we were protecting ourselves and shoring up all of ammunitions and our firearms so that they couldn't take it," she said.
"But remember that the British had already been there, many soldiers for seven years in that area. And part of Paul Revere's ride — and it wasn't just one ride — he was a courier, he was a messenger. Part of his ride was to warn the British that we're already there. That, hey, you're not going to succeed. You're not going to take American arms. You are not going to beat our own well-armed persons, individual, private militia that we have. He did warn the British. And in a shout-out, gotcha type of question that was asked of me, I answered candidly. And I know my American history," she said.
Well, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, we can all read what Revere himself had to say about that famous night. The Massachusetts Historical Society has posted a PDF of a letter that Revere wrote, as well as a transcription. In the statement, Revere recounts his travels through the countryside to warn the colonists.
It began, he writes, when "it was observed, that a number of [British] Soldiers were marching towards the bottom of the Common. About 10 o'Clock, Dr. Warren Sent in great haste for me, and beged that I would imediately Set off for Lexington, where Messrs. Hancock & Adams were, and acquaint them of the Movement, and that it was thought they were the objets."
And then he offers this account of being captured and telling the British that there was a militia waiting for them:
"I observed a Wood at a Small distance, & made for that. When I got there, out Started Six officers, on Horse back, and orderd me to dismount;-one of them, who appeared to have the command, examined me, where I came from, & what my Name Was? I told him.
it was Revere, he asked if it was Paul? I told him yes He asked me if I was an express? I answered in the afirmative. He demanded what time I left Boston? I told him; and aded, that their troops had catched aground in passing the River, and that There would be five hundred Americans there in a short time, for I had alarmed the Country all the way up."
[All copy "as is" except the bold, which we inserted to highlight the line.]
The Associated Press adds that "Revere was probably bluffing the soldiers about the size of any advancing militia, since he had no way of knowing, according to Joel J. Miller, author of The Revolutionary Paul Revere. And while he made bells, Revere would never have rung any on that famous night because the Redcoats were under orders to round up people just like him. 'He was riding off as quickly and as quietly as possible,' Miller said. 'Paul Revere did not want the Redcoats to know of his mission at all.' "
Indeed, Revere says elsewhere in the letter that "it was then a common opinion, that there was a Traytor in the provincial Congress, & that [Gen.] Gage was posessed of all their Secrets."
Also, Revere describes his several successful efforts to avoid British troops.
So, there you go, the great man's own words.