On this date in 1775, Joseph Warren told Revere and William Dawes that the king’s troops were about to embark in longboats from Boston Common bound for Cambridge and then by road to Lexington and Concord. Warren’s intelligence suggested that the regulars’ objective later that night would be to seize arms and ammunitions and capture Sam Adams and John Hancock.
In the days before April 18, Revere had instructed Robert Newman, the sexton of the North Church, to send a signal by lantern to alert colonists in Charlestown as to the movements of the troops when the information became known. In what is well known today by the phrase “one if by land, two if by sea”, one lantern in the steeple would signal the army’s choice of the land route while two lanterns would signal the route “by water” across the Charles River. After seeing two lanterns, Revere crossed the Charles River by rowboat and rode to Lexington, warning almost every house along the route. Riding through present-day Somerville, Medford, and Arlington, Revere warned patriots along his route, many of whom set out on horseback to deliver warnings of their own. Contrary to popular belief, Paul Revere did not yell “The British are coming!” but rather, “The Regulars are about”.
Revere was eventually captured by a British patrol. But his ride set the stage for the “Shot Heard Round the World” the next day and the start of the American Revolution.