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Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesHistory · 1 decade ago

What difference did it make if the Redcoats crossed the Charles River in boats or by walking across a bridge?

Concerning Paul Revere and "one if by land, two if by sea" ("by sea" meaning that the Redcoats crossed the Charles River in boats and "by land" that they walked across a bridge to the south, at Boston Neck): In either case the Redcoats would have to walk about 15 miles to Lexington. The only part of the trek that would be different was the part around Boston and the Charles River. When Paul Revere and Willian Dawes warned their countrymen that the Redcoats were coming, did they expect the countrymen to fight the Redcoats along the route to Lexington, or did they expect the countrymen to gather at Lexington as a militia? If they didn't expect fighting along the road from Boston to Lexington, what difference did it make how the Redcoats crossed the Charles? Why couldn't just one lantern be hung in the tower of the Old North Church to show simply that the Redcoats were on the way to Lexington (to arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams and then to confiscate weapons 5 miles west at Concord)?

2 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Congratulations on what I consider to be a great question: it shows that you don't just accept what the book says and move on.

    I think that you are right. The only difference that the "one if by land, two if by sea" lantern signals could have made is if the Patriots intended to ambush the British before they reached Lexington, and therefore needed to know which road to ambush.

    My suspicion is that Longfellow made up the "one if by land, and two if by sea" lantern signals for dramatic flourish, to add suspense to the story.

    And, in truth, there wasn't much suspense anyway. Before the lantern signal was lit, Revere had already been told by fellow members of the Sons of Liberty that the British were coming. Before commencing his ride, he even had time to go home for his riding boots, then get rowed back across the Charles river to set out on his trusty steed.

    My guess is that the lantern signal was just a fail-safe precaution, a visible warning in case Revere was for some reason unable to make his night ride.

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