The Midnight Riders -
“Silence only encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” -Elie Wiesel
Communication is the hallmark of human interaction. History tilts upon conversations or actions in which the spoken word stands as the critical element. Without it, the American Revolution would have been lost many times over. In our daily lives we come across dozens of people with whom we must converse, and it we do not get our points across miscommunication could lead to disaster with unforeseen consequences. In our own Revolution had Benjamin Franklin failed to effectively communicate the plight of America to the French and won them over, the United States may have never been. Even more thought provoking are the alarm raisers we call the midnight riders; those men and women who warned of the British approach from horseback. The art of making yourself heard and understood is essential to daily life, without it we are voiceless, and had our founders not spoken their piece against injustice the United States may never have come to be.
In April 1775, the British marched out from Boston to seize a stock of weapons in Concord. Dr. Joseph Warren immediately sent Paul Revere and William Dawes to raise the alarm. Riding frantically through the night the pair hurried from one village to another, alerting the militia that the British were on the way. This signal saw the locals arm themselves to contest the British advance, and had they not had the advanced warning would not have been able to withstand the British onslaught. The Patriot successes that followed can be laid at the feet of these intrepid midnight riders. But Revere and Dawes were not the only ones to ever raise the call. Two years after the celebrated event, a sixteen year old teenager named Sybil Ludington, conducted her own ride in the face of an imminent British assault. They were headed towards Danbury Connecticut; Sybil roused the local militia, and after a blistering forty miles in the saddle of rainy night succeeded in bring four hundred men under arms. Her feat enabled her father to march his men to harass the British around Ridgefield, where they fought a rather nasty battle that encouraged them to never again invade Connecticut, despite its strategic importance for control of the Hudson. And in 1781, when Cornwallis was marching through Virginia towards his destiny at Yorktown, he learned that the Governor of Virginia – Thomas Jefferson – and other noteworthy Virginians, including Patrick Henry, were but a short trip away in Charlottesville. If Cornwallis could bag these preeminent men he would inflict a server blow to the Patriot cause. But again a lone rider by the name of Jack Jouett arrived in front of the British party, allowing Jefferson and the rest to evade capture.
The midnight riders were the early warning system. They were not in uniform, and if captured by the British could have been hung as spies. But their bravery and dedication speak for themselves. Without them, however, history may be radically different. What if the militia had not driven the British from Concord, or if Cornwallis had got his hands on the likes of Jefferson? These United States may not have come to be. But Revere is the only individual known for his ride, thanks to a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. These unsung heroes of the Revolution must be given their time in the light, if only to finally receive the praise and recognition that their singular acts of bravery deserve. For the Revolution was full of people who never carried a musket, yet without whom our war of Independence may have been lost.
Remember these and many more amazing feats found all throughout the American Revolution with the new curriculum of the American Revolution, to be released September 10, 2018. Until then, keep you voice heard loud in times of struggle or necessity.