Paul Revere's Ride
Book Discussion Guide
Chapters 4 and 5
Welcome to Chapters 4 and 5 of our Paul Revere's Ride Book Discussion Guide. Our American History Book Club is a great way to increase your knowledge of the Founding Fathers, their beliefs and hopes for America. Paul Revere's Ride
by David Hackett Fischer will give you deeper understanding not only
into this iconic American hero, but also into the mindset and beliefs
that made the New England patriots the people they were.
In Chapter 4 of Paul Revere's Ride, we see
how poor morale and living conditions among the British soldiers helped
contribute to the friction between the soldiers and the colonists. We
see skirmishes and incidents begin to break out between them. We also
catch the first wind that General Gage has been ordered to capture the
patriot leaders and all of the colonists' arms.
Chapter 5 sees General Gage making his plans to march on Concord to
capture the colonists' arms. He sends spies to several towns to assess
the best place to make his attack. Paul Revere and
others learn of the plans and make counterplans. An intricate messenger
system is arranged and on the eve of the attack, Gage sends out soldiers
to stop all the colonial messengers in hopes that he can still maintain
surprise. The presence of the soldiers only alarms the colonists to the
fact that something is about to happen.
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Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer
Chapter 4 - Mounting Tensions
- Sickness, food shortages, lack of supplies and infighting plague the British soldiers.
- Incidents and skirmishes begin to break out between soldiers and the citizens of Boston.
- General Gage and Great Britain are humiliated in American newspapers.Word arrives in Marblehead on April 2 that General Gage will soon be
ordered to capture the patriot leaders in Boston.
- Word is sent quickly
to Boston and all of the patriot leaders flee the town. On April 8, only
two remain - Dr. Joseph Warren and Paul Revere.
- Gage receives (too late) his orders from England explicitly ordering
him to capture the patriot leaders and confiscate all patriot arms. He
is also told he will not be getting the 20,000 troops he had asked for.
- Gage begins to plan his move against the patriots.
- Food shortages, disease, lack of supplies and warm clothes so
plagued the British soldiers that many deserted the army. Infighting
plagued the British leadership. How did this poor morale affect the
relationship between the soldiers and the colonists? How did it
contribute to the outbreak of the war?
- Imagine that you were General Gage and the newspapers were
constantly printing slanderous things about you, calling you an
alcoholic and a pederast. How should he have responded? How would you
- The patriots found out about General Gage's orders to capture the
patriot leaders even before he did. If you were the General, how would
these serious leaks have affected your mindset? What would you have done
to try and stop these leaks?
Things That Caught Our Eye
- Funny how the war nearly started because the citizens of Boston, due
to their own accent, heard "Fire, Fire!," when the soldiers were saying
"Fie, Fie!" after Dr. Warren's speech on the 5th anniversary of the Boston Massacre!
- New Hampshire Whigs promised to give any British soldier who deserted 300 acres of land. Not a bad deal!
- It's amazing how the Lords in London underestimated the colonists,
informing General Gage that the colonists were merely "a rude Rabble
without plan, without concert and without conduct."
"'One active campaign, a smart action, and burning two or three of
their towns, will set everything to rights,' Pitcairn wrote, 'Nothing
now, I am afraid but this, will ever convince those foolish bad people
that England is in earnest.'"
"It is the opinion of the King's servants, in which His Majesty
concurs, that the first and essential step to be taken towards
reestablishing Government, would be to arrest and imprison the principal
actors and abettors of the Provincial Congress whose proceedings appear
in every light to be acts of treason and rebellion."
"In England itself, between 1740 and 1775, there had been at least
159 major riots, and minor ones beyond counting. Many were put down by
the army. To the King's ministers in London, the troubles in distant
Boston seemed merely another routine disturbance that could be dealt
with in the usual way."
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Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer
Chapter 5 - The Mission
- General Gage makes plans to mount a decisive blow against the
colonists. The colonists prepare to respond, knowing a move is coming,
but not knowing exactly where.
- General Gage sends spies to assess a march on Worcester.
- The spies are sent again to assess a mission to Concord.
- Gage makes plans and readies his troops to march on Concord.
- Paul Revere is sent to Concord on April 8 to warn
the locals the British will be marching on them the next day. The
warning turned out to be false, but only the date was wrong.
- Citizens of Concord remove their mass of munitions to other
communities and the Provincial Congress that had been meeting there
disbands for a few weeks.
- On April 15, Revere takes messages to John Hancock and Sam Adams in Lexington and meets with Whig leaders in Cambridge and Charlestown to discuss the early warning system.
- On April 16, Revere finalizes plans to get word out of Boston if an
imminent attack arises, including the plan to put lanterns in the Old North Church.
- Gage begins to realize the mission to Concord is seriously jeopardized by Revere and other messengers.
- On April 18, Gage sends out twenty soldiers with orders to stop all
colonial messengers, but their presence only informs the colonists that
the attack is about to begin.
- Word is spread that soldiers are about. The colonists begin to arm themselves and assemble.
- Messengers on both sides exposed themselves to great risk every time they acted. Daniel Bliss found this out when he helped Gage's spies. Elijah Sanderson and Jonathan Loring
were caught when they tried to report on the soldiers' movements. If
you found yourself in the middle of a civil war like this and you wanted
to act in some way to help your side, with neighbors or friends likely
to report on your activities, what would you do? Would you have the
courage to act and why?
- If you were General Gage, knowing that your most important mission
was in jeopardy because of leaks and the activities of spies, what would
you do? What could he have done to secure the mission? What, if
anything, did he do wrong?
- Josiah Nelson was slashed by a British sword when
he mistook the British soldiers for his countrymen in the night. He was
warned not to tell anyone or his home would be burned down, yet, after
his wife bandaged the wound, he armed himself and went off to warn the
neighbors. What would have been going through Nelson's mind at the time?
What made him respond the way he did? Would you have responded the way
Things That Caught Our Eye
- The account of the "black maid" at the Whig tavern in Watertown is
interesting. Some might assume that all blacks were pro-British because
the British were against their colonial slave owners. We should remember
though that all blacks were not slaves, especially in the north, where
free blacks were more common. In this case, certainly, the black woman
was on the side of the colonists.
- It's interesting that the route to Concord through Lexington was
discovered by accident. The spies were taken home from Concord by that
route by the Loyalist lawyer Daniel Bliss because they
were being threatened in Concord. Bliss took them home by the Lexington
route, which he knew to be safer and more out of the way, rather than by
the main Boston-Concord road. This led the spies to recommend sending
the troops by this route.
- It's interesting that neither side could do anything with secrecy.
Every movement of the British was reported to Whig leaders by local
supporters and every movement of the patriots was reported to the
British by Tory supporters. They were all mixed in together. Your
neighbor or your cousin could be reporting to the other side and you
wouldn't even know it. This is very similar to the divide between
families in the Civil War.
"The lessons of experience were very clear. He must strike at the
heart of the rebel movement and cripple it with quick, clean blows
before its large numbers could be mustered against his little army."
"He wrote that he was 'firmly persuaded that there is not a man
amongst [them] capable of taking command or directing the motions of an
army.' It was his only error in a remarkably trenchant analysis - but
one error would be more than enough."
"Paul Revere's trip was quickly reported to General
Gage. A secret agent in Concord sent a personal message to Province
House: 'last Saturday the 7th [actually the 8th] of April P:__ R:__
toward evening arrived at Concord, carrying a letter that was said to be
from Mr. W[arre]n.'"
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