Every April, I don a cape and tricorn hat, ride through the center of my New England town and rouse the Minute Men. While most people in the audience believe I am Paul Revere, it was actually Captain Will Smith who rode into the center of Lincoln, Mass., calling to arms the first of the Minute Men companies to march to the aid of Concord.
Although Paul Revere gets all the press, he couldn’t have ridden to alert all the surrounding towns in a single night; there were nearly 60 riders in all who spread the word. This was fortuitous because after riding into Lexington to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that their lives were endangered, Revere was captured by the British on what was then the Lexington-Lincoln line (now a memorial in the Minute Man National Park at the intersection of Mass Avenue and Mill Street). Only one of his companions, Dr. Samuel Prescott escaped capture and sent the alert out through the series of riders.
Riding in the event is a hoot. I come down over the hill as fast as the pavement allows (normally a fast trot), and then circle one of the houses and wake the residents. “Sound the alarm! The regulars are marching on Concord!” I shout as I canter around the houses. There’s usually a pretty good crowd of people gathered to watch and my horse is a crowd pleaser; a big black bay who really looks impressive in the twilight.
The first year I rode I had no idea what to expect. My horse is not particularly used to crowds and certainly has had no experience with musket fire. I’d taken him to the site the day before and done a ride through so he’d had the chance to sniff noses with the goats who lived near the historic house, and made peace with the tarpaulin covering the logs where we needed to ride off. At the actual event, he was a star! No spooks or hesitations. He certainly enjoyed hamming it up. During the musket fire, he stood like a champ. It was the drums that sent him over the edge! Go figure.
It has been a thrill to participate in the program and I feel honored to be invited back. It has given me a new appreciation of my town’s history and the role that the residents played in the American revolution. Plus, I get to wear the great cape every year.