May 22, 2007

Paul Revere’s Ride

Paul Revere's Ride
David Hackett Fischer


(May 22, 2007)

To preserve operational security, the soldiers woke up and set off in the middle of the night. It was a large patrol. Insurgents had been increasingly active over the recent weeks.

Their mission: to locate explosives that the insurgency had hidden in houses and religious buildings in a farm town about 18 miles from the capital. Their goal: to support the shaky government by improving security, and perhaps to apprehend two notorious insurgent leaders.

Every effort was made to maintain secrecy, but of course the soldiers were observed by townspeople as they moved through the night-darkened streets and into the boats that the navy had supplied. Their equipment and uniforms made them conspicuous. The news passed from door to door. Someone climbed a tower and waved a pair of lanterns alert anyone watching on the other side of the river. People who saw the signal got word to the activists. Messengers set off to warn insurgent sympathizers: they are coming.

What I want to know is, how did we get from Revere to Baghdad? When did Americans decide to change sides? All this happened, pretty much, on my doorstep. Revere tried to get from Boston to Concord by the usual road, found it guarded, and so took the back way through the unfashionable towns of Malden and Medford. Malden, remaining unfashionable, is where I live; my daily commute takes me down the road Revere road toward Mass. Ave., where Revere turned right toward Lexington and I go straight on to Watertown.

David Hackett Fischer's history of the dawn of the American insurgency is brilliant, lively, and intelligent. The research is immaculate, the historiography brilliant, and Fischer's judgments unclouded by legend, hagiography, or academic timidity.