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Paul Revere's Ride
Book Discussion Guide -
Chapters 10 and 11

Paul Revere

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Chapters 10 and 11 of our Paul Revere's Ride Book Discussion Guide cover the rising up of the militia in local towns across Massachusetts on the evening of April 19th and the great fear that struck the population as war broke out around them.

Read Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer along with us as part of our American History Book Club. You will learn not only about the life of Paul Revere, but a great deal about the history and customs of New England that prepared the colonists for battle. You will also gain a great deal of understanding about the events and people that played major roles in the outbreak of the Revolution.

Chapter 10 covers the raising of the local militias throughout Massachusetts. As the alarm was spread that the British were marching on Lexington and Concord, men across the colony were aroused in the middle of the night, gathered their arms and marched off to join the fight. The chapter contains a fascinating description of the colonial history that led to the formation of the militia in every town, showing that this was not a spontaneous happening, but the careful result of generations of fighting and planning.

Chapter 11 is called "The Great Fear," and gives a unique look into the response of the average person, especially women and children, upon hearing that the war had begun. Fear struck the countryside, causing people in towns everywhere to gather up what belongings they could and flee for areas further away. Roads were congested with wagons and carts, children crying and women fearful for their husbands' lives. Some hid in the woods. Whole towns evacuated to other areas. Rumors of death and destruction spread everywhere. This is a truly enlightening chapter about the effects of war that we don't often think about.

If you have not yet ordered your copy of Paul Revere's Ride, you can order a copy from Amazon here.

This page has Chapters 10 and 11 of our reading guide. You can also go to the first page and start reading with us from the beginning here - Paul Revere's Ride Book Discussion Guide.

If you would like to learn more about Paul Revere, go to our Paul Revere Facts page or find out the true events of his famous midnight ride.

Find other book discussion guides on our American History Book Club page.

Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer

Chapter 10 - The Muster


  • The Lexington militia gathers under the leadership of Captain John Parker.
  • Each town across Massachusetts prepared its militia and gathered supplies according to its own local traditions, with everything decision being voted on by the constituents.
  • As the alarm spread across the colony through the night and into the next morning, local militia members gathered their guns, met at designated places and marched toward Lexington.

Discussion Questions

  • The Massachusetts militia looked upon war as a necessity for self-defense, while the British army looked at it as a matter of honor and empire. How do people look at war in our nation today?
  • What do you think of the idea that each able-bodied man was to provide his own gun for military service and that even the poor had guns provided to them?
  • According to Captain Levi Preston, what was the real reason the militia members fought against the British?

Things That Caught Our Eye

  • The idea that the raising of the militia in time of need was not spontaneous, but rather was the product of the practices of six generations of self-defense and a hundred years of war with European powers in the New World is quite interesting.
  • There were no actual "minutemen" in Lexington! Instead, the militia of Lexington were called by the old Puritan name, the "training band." That's something you don't see in the history books!
  • Even the elderly who were not officially part of the militia rolls got out of bed and marched to Lexington with their younger counterparts. There is apparently no age limit for those who desire to protect their belongings and their way of life.


  • "The muster of the minutemen in 1775 was the product of many years of institutional development. Like the alarm itself, it was also the result of careful planning and collective effort."
  • "The Regulars of the British army and the citizen soldiers of Massachusetts looked upon military affairs in very different ways. New England farmers did not think of war as a game, or a feudal ritual, or an instrument of state power, or a bloodsport for bored country gentlemen. They did not regard the pursuit of arms as a noble profession."
  • "Young man, what we meant in going for those Redcoats was this: we always had governed ourselves and we always meant to. They didn't mean we should."

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Thanks for reading Paul Revere's Ride with us. If you have not yet ordered the book and would like to, you can order from Amazon here.

Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer

Chapter 11 - The Great Fear


  • The first alarms that the British are coming strike fear into the hearts of the townspeople everywhere, knowing that war is upon them.
  • A flood of refugees begins fleeing the towns around Boston, not knowing how the war would affect them.
  • Rumors abound; the British are invading this or that town, killing everyone they see; soldiers are burning down houses; the Negroes are uprising; even the British soldiers succumb to the fear as they realize they are in the middle of a sea of people who are angry with them.

Discussion Questions

  • The families of New England were struck with fear as the war began and their husbands and sons marched off to battle. How would you feel upon hearing that war was breaking out in the area near your house, not yet knowing how it would affect your family?
  • If you were a British soldier realizing that you were in the middle of an uprising of the local population, how would you feel and respond?
  • If a war were to break out in your local area, what rumors might you hear?

Things That Caught Our Eye

  • The fear that struck the women and children whose husbands and fathers went off to fight is not something we normally think about when thinking of the outbreak of the Revolution. We normally think of it as a triumphal thing.
  • We also don't envision floods of refugees crowding the roads trying to get away from the fighting to come.
  • You can imagine how rumors would abound in the midst of an outbreak of war. It's interesting that the people of Ipswich fled north to the town of Salisbury, only to stay in the abandoned houses of people there who had fled even further into New Hampshire!


  • "The people of New England did not wish for war. This was not a warrior culture. It did not seek glory on the field of valor, and showed none of the martial spirit that has appeared in so many other times and places."
  • "The great fear in New England began with the first alarm that was spread by Paul Revere and the other midnight riders. We remember that moment as a harbinger of Independence... But at the time it was perceived in a very different way - as a fatal calamity, full of danger, terror, and uncertainty."
  • "Terrible news from Lexington... rumor on rumor... men and horses driving past, up and down the roads... People were in great perplexity; women in distress for their husbands and friends who had marched... All confusion, numbers of carts, etc. carrying off goods etc. as the rumour was that if the soldiers came out again they would burn, kill and destroy all as they marched."

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Paul Revere's Ride Book Discussion Guide Chapters

Introduction - 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

Thanks for reading Paul Revere's Ride with us. If you have not yet ordered the book and would like to, you can order from Amazon here.

Find other book discussion guides on our American History Book Club page.

Published 11/29/12

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