J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Old North from the inside

Rhea Becker's blog offers a tour guide's perspective on Old North Church, along with a nice image from an early-20th-century postcard of the landmark.

Ironically, for a church that's now so associated with the Patriot side of the Revolution, in 1775 Old North—known as "Christ Church"—was Anglican and therefore leaned Loyalist. Paul Revere arranged for a signal to be sent from its steeple to Charlestown not because it was his family church but because that was the tallest tower in the North End. Shortly after the two lanterns appeared in the steeple, British military authorities came to take them down.

In another irony, the anonymous rider who got the message that British troops were moving across the Charles (going "by sea," in the rhyming phrase of H. W. Longfellow) didn't carry that warning very far west. He was most likely stopped by British mounted officers as he headed from Charlestown to Cambridge.

Revere, taking it upon himself to carry the same message a while later, spotted trouble ahead and veered off the Cambridge road northwest toward Medford. He thus got through as far as Lexington before other officers captured him. All of which shows that the British military authorities were well aware of the danger posed by a Patriot alarm system, and tried hard to stifle it. They just didn't succeed.

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