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.

Discussion Questions

  • 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 have responded?
  • 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.

Discussion Questions

  • 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 he did?

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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Paul Revere's Ride Book Discussion Guide

Chapters Intro - Chapter 1     Chapters 2 and 3     Chapters 4 and 5           Chapters 6 and 7     Chapters 8 and 9     Chapters 10 and 11                                Chapters 12 and 13     Chapters 14 and 15     Chapters 16 and 17

Revolutionary War and Beyond Home

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