Paul Revere's Ride
Book Discussion Guide
Chapters 12 and 13

Chapters 12 and 13 of our Paul Revere's Ride Book Discussion Guide cover John Hancock's and Sam Adams' escape from Lexington and the battle scene on Lexington Green. Paul Revere returned to Lexington after seeing Hancock and Adams safely to Woburn. As he retrieves a trunk of important papers left behind by Hancock, the British soldiers come into view and the battle takes place soon after.

We are reading through the book Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer. You can join in the reading at any time by purchasing the book from your favorite book store and following along with our notes, where you will find a synopsis of each chapter, discussion questions, interesting points and prominent quotes from each chapter.

In Chapter 12, Paul Revere takes John Hancock and Sam Adams to Woburn after expending much effort to get Hancock out of Lexington. Hancock wanted to stay and fight, but he was finally convinced that his services would be better used elsewhere. Back in Lexington, Revere and John Lowell rescue a trunk left behind by Hancock and are pulling the trunk through the assembled militia on Lexington Green as the British troops come into view of the town.

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Chapter 13 gives a great description of the Battle of Lexington Green - so much so that you feel like you are almost there. Confusion reigns in the British troops as part of the line splits off from the rest and marches into town, against the wishes of the Major in charge. They take up battle positions as soon as they come near the assembled militia. Major Pitcairn attempts to get the soldiers to disperse, but a shot is fired, no one knows from who or from where and the soldiers begin firing furiously on the colonists. 17 colonists are killed or wounded, while only one British soldier is injured. The soldiers fire a triumphant volley, cheer and march on to Concord, while the townspeople begin to assess the death and destruction.

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Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer

Chapter 12 - The Rescue


  • Paul Revere makes his way back to Lexington after being released by the soldiers who captured him.
  • John Hancock has to be persuaded by Revere, Sam Adams and others to leave the town immediately. Paul Revere sees them to Woburn and returns to Lexington.
  • Paul Revere and John Lowell go to Buckman's Tavern to retrieve a trunk full of important papers left behind by John Hancock. News comes that the Regulars are approaching Lexington. Hancock and Adams hide in the woods near Woburn as the soldiers approach the area.

Discussion Questions

  • The author says New Englanders in Paul Revere's day were more cognizant of their role in the chain of their ancestors and their posterity. Do Americans think this way today? Why or why not?
  • If you were Captain John Parker, the leader of the militia in Lexington, would you have dismissed your men when the scout came back and said the British were not coming? Why or why not?
  • Dorothy Quincy, John Hancock's fiancee, wanted to go back to Boston to look after her aged father, but Hancock wouldn't let her go. If you had been John Hancock, would you have let her go back to Boston? Why or why not?

Things That Caught Our Eye

  • When we think of America's Founding Fathers and the American Revolution, we often don't think of them being in actual danger during the war, but John Hancock and Samuel Adams were in real danger on April 19, 1775 and were targets of the British soldiers coming to Lexington.
  • Interesting how the Lexington militia was caught off guard even though they had been warned by Revere hours earlier, but you can see how this could easily happen with all the confusion of the night.
  • The picture of John Hancock's trunk is striking. It still exists in the Worcester Historical Museum.


  • "Like the old Puritans who had preceded them, these new Puritans were driven by an exalted sense of mission and high moral purpose in the world. They also believed they were doing God's work in the world, and that no earthly force could overcome them."
  • "I... can see, in my mind, just as plain... the whole scene, how Aunt Hancock and Dolly Quincy, with their cloaks and bonnets on, Aunt crying and wringing her hands and helping mother dress the children, Dolly going round with Father to hide money, watches and anything down in the potatoes and up in the garrett."
  • "Mr. H. (Hancock) was all the night cleaning his gun and sword, and putting his accoutrements in order, and was determined to go out to the plain by the meetinghouse, where the battle was, to fight."

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Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer

Chapter 13 - The First Shot


  • Paul Revere's ex-captors reach the main line of soldiers just east of Lexington and tell them the whole countryside is aroused against them. The terrified soldiers hear alarm shots, and town bells ringing, see signal fires from high hills and notice scores of men with guns in the distance outracing them to the west.
  • Various colonial patrols pass and are caught by the advancing soldiers. One fires a warning shot and the entire column is stopped to load their weapons. The soldiers hear the drum beating the call to arms in Lexington.
  • Paul Revere and John Lowell carry John Hancock's trunk through the assembling militia on Lexington Common just as the British line comes into view.
  • The militia overestimates the numbers of British soldiers. Some begin to talk of backing down due to their own small numbers. Captain Parker threatens to shoot anyone who leaves.
  • The British line splits in two, some going directly into Lexington on the orders of Lieutenant Adair, against the wishes of Major Pitcairn, who was in charge. Adair's soldiers go into town and march directly toward the assembled militia and take up battle positions. Pitcairn follows the soldiers and tells them to disperse. Captain Parker tells the militia to disperse as well. Some do and some don't in the confusion.
  • Soon a shot is fired, then a few more, then a continuous barrage of musket fire. No one to this day knows who fired first. Many eyewitnesses believe it was a soldier, Major Pitcairn or a spectator outside of Captain Parker's line.
  • The colonists scatter as the soldiers go on a rampage, shooting anyone they can find. Colonel Francis Smith rides into the middle of the scene and restores order by calling for a drummer to beat the "to arms" signal, causing the soldiers to stop and gather together again.
  • The soldiers fire a victory salute and shout cheers of victory as they march on to Concord. Eight colonists are dead and nine wounded in Lexington. Only one British soldier is wounded.
  • The Lexington militia musters again, this time intending to fight. The town begins to mourn its dead.

Discussion Questions

  • If you had been a young British soldier marching to Lexington, never having been in battle before, what would you think upon hearing the alarm shots, church bells ringing in the middle of the night to awaken the militia, seeing signal fires in every direction and realizing you were heading into an armed, hostile area?
  • If you had been a militiaman assembled on the Green when the well-armed and trained British soldiers came into view, and thinking there were ten times as many of them than of your own militia, what would you have been thinking and how would you have responded?
  • Once order was restored in Lexington, Colonel Smith informed his officers that the object of their mission was the ammunition stores in Concord. The officers desperately tried to convince him to call off the mission after the disaster that had just taken place. The troops were too green for this type of dangerous action and the whole countryside was now aroused against them. Colonel Smith went on with the mission anyway. What would you have done in the same situation and why?

Things That Caught Our Eye

  • As we've noted before, it's amazing how well planned the colonial resistance was. The messengers, the alarm system, the militia gathering in predetermined spots. They knew about the mission of the soldiers before the soldiers did.
  • The valiancy of these average people is awe-inspiring. Just imagine Captain Parker shouting, "If they want to have a war let it begin here!," even when they were completely outnumbered and less well-armed.
  • The confusion in the heat of the moment reminds us of the confusion just before the Boston Massacre. The firing took place in both instances, and a battle ensued, due to confusion about the actual circumstances and fear of what the other side was about to do, rather than by a planned attack of any kind.
  • Colonel Smith's leadership in Lexington was remarkable. His wisdom got the soldiers to stop attacking the colonists and saved many lives. It's too bad he didn't listen to his officers and call off the rest of the mission.


  • "The first man who offers to run shall be shot down... Stand your ground! Don't fire unless fired upon! But if they want to have a war let it begin here!"
  • "The British firing made at first a slow irregular popping sound, which expanded into a sharp crackle. Then suddenly there was a terrible ripping noise like the tearing of a sheet, as the British soldiers fired their first volley. That cruel sound was followed by what Paul Revere described as a "continual roar of musketry" along the British line."
  • "The toll was heavy in that small town. Eight pairs of fathers and sons had mustered on the Common. Five of those eight were shattered by death. Most families in that small community suffered the loss of a kinsman - if not a father or son, then an uncle or cousin."

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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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