Find the True Life Stories of Our Revolutionary War Ancestors

GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives have not only the stories of our Revolutionary War ancestors – but daily news reports of the war itself.

newspaper articles about the American Revolutionary War from GenealogyBank's archives

With newspapers in GenealogyBank’s collection spanning the entire 1700s, you can find thousands of exclusive historical news articles about Revolutionary War battles, politics and day to day life as it was reported in the newspapers of the time. Track your ancestor as he went from battle to battle…and then through the years after the war.

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Where else can you find these stories of the American Revolutionary period – recorded as our ancestors lived them?

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Brave Women of the American Revolutionary War Era

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena searches old newspapers to find stories of some brave American women and their deeds during the Revolutionary War.

When we think of the American Revolutionary War we reflect on the sacrifices and bravery exhibited by the men of the era. We tell the stories of heroes like George Washington and John Paul Jones. But what did women do during the Revolutionary War era? What were these early American women like? We tend to believe that they were “just housewives,” more “delicate” than women of a latter era. Sure, they were tough due to lack of technology, access to medical care, and the hardships they faced. But how tough were they?

Illustration: “Heroism of Miss Elizabeth Zane” depicts Elizabeth Zane’s legendary feat of retrieving gunpowder during the siege of Fort Henry during the American Revolutionary War

Illustration: “Heroism of Miss Elizabeth Zane” depicts Elizabeth Zane’s legendary feat of retrieving gunpowder during the siege of Fort Henry during the American Revolutionary War. Lithograph by Nagel and Weingaertner, 1851. Source: Library of Congress.

When we look at our Revolutionary War foremothers, in some cases they were so tough that they kicked butt and didn’t bother to take names. Yes, that’s right. Our Revolutionary War-era foremothers were TOUGH!

Hannah Gaunt

My first introduction to this was from my own family history research: the story of Hannah Gaunt of South Carolina, daughter of Israel Gaunt who was a Quaker. Now let me set the scene for you. It seems that Israel was known to have some money. During the war, three Tories decided to go over to the Gaunt house to relieve Israel of that money. After sunset, the would-be robbers rode up to Israel’s home and asked for lodging. The Gaunts refused their request. One of the men, a guy named Hubbs, rode up to the kitchen door and asked Mrs. Gaunt for some water. When Mrs. Gaunt went to get the water, Hubbs jumped into action and entered the house. Mrs. Gaunt yelled to her husband so that he could lock the other doors, preventing the other two outlaws from getting in. Suddenly Hubbs drew his pistol and aimed it at Mr. Gaunt’s chest.

Now, let’s stop there. Here is Mr. Gaunt with a pistol to his chest while his wife and daughter look on, seemingly helpless. Two other outlaws who would do them harm are outside waiting for their chance to grab the family’s money. What do you do?

Well if you are Hannah Gaunt you leap into action: you wrestle the bad guy for his gun and pin him to the ground. According to this later 1859 newspaper article recounting the episode:

…she held him with an iron gripe [sic], notwithstanding his violent struggles to release himself, and his plunging his spurs again and again into her dress and her limbs. While the Amazonian damsel thus pinned him down, her father snapped two loaded muskets at his head…

article about Hannah Gaunt, Weekly Wisconsin Patriot newspaper article 22 January 1859

Weekly Wisconsin Patriot (Madison, Wisconsin), 22 January 1859, page 3

Mary Hooks Slocumb

So was Hannah Gaunt the only woman who had a fighting spirit? Certainly not; we know that some women during the American Revolutionary War fought on the battlefields, while others protected their homes. Newspapers reported on these brave women’s exploits.

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This 1851 newspaper article, a review of Mrs. Elizabeth F. Ellet’s 1850 three-volume book The Women of the American Revolution, recounts one of the stories from that book involving a very brave woman: Mary Hooks Slocumb. One night after having a dream where she saw her soldier husband injured from battle, she took to her horse and rode all night alone, approximately 60 miles, to reach the battle where her husband’s unit was. Although he was not one of the injured, many others were – and Mary ignored the sounds of cannon fire and tended to their needs. So that readers would not get the impression that Mary was anything but a lady, the article added:

Though Mrs. Slocumb could ride a horse, shoot a pistol, or take part in many masculine employments, she was not inattentive to many feminine duties…

article about Mary Hooks Slocumb, Daily National Intelligencer newspaper article 19 June 1851

Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, D.C.), 19 June 1851, page 3

Elizabeth Zane

Women volunteered to do all sorts of tasks to help the Revolutionary War effort, often at great risk. This 1849 newspaper article recounted the story of Elizabeth Zane’s bravery during a British attack on the American Fort Henry. After two days of holding the enemy at bay, the patriots were running out of gunpowder. They needed someone to run through enemy fire to a nearby block-house and retrieve more. At first, when asked, none of the men would volunteer. Finally a boy said he would do it, which of course prompted the men to volunteer. The men then started arguing about who should go – when the sister of Colonel Silas Zane (who was in the outside block-house) volunteered. Another of her brothers was in the fort, and he didn’t want her to run the risk.

The old newspaper article reports:

Her brother thought she would flinch from the enterprise, but he was mistaken. She had the intrepidity to dare, and the fortitude to bear her up in the heroic risk of her life.

Her brother tried to talk her out of it, but Elizabeth was resolute. She ran to the block-house unharmed, and then returned to the fort with the precious extra gunpowder through a volley of enemy bullets.

article about Elizabeth Zane, Semi-weekly Eagle newspaper article 11 October 1849

Semi-weekly Eagle (Brattleboro, Vermont), 11 October 1849, page 1

Mrs. Porter Philbrook

The bravery and heroism of American women during the Revolution continued to be discussed long after the fighting ended. Newspaper obituaries and memoirs noted those women and their acts of valor during the Revolutionary War period. Even latter-day women who displayed strength and cunning were likened to their Revolutionary mothers, as in this case involving an 1850 home burglary that resulted in the capture of the culprit by the lady of the house, Mrs. Porter Philbrook of Wilton, New Hampshire.

In telling of her bravery in apprehending a burglar while her husband was away, this 1850 newspaper article said she performed:

“a deed of daring”…which would not be unworthy of the bravest of the “women of the Revolution.”

As Mrs. Philbrook was preparing to retire for the night, she heard a noise and found a burglar breaking in – whom she confronted and subdued.

article about Mrs. Porter Philbrook, National Aegis newspaper article 25 December 1850

National Aegis (Worcester, Massachusetts), 25 December 1850, page 2

What did your Revolutionary War-era ancestress do? Probably more than you imagine. While you might think that these women sat at home and waited, more likely they were involved in something to assist in the war effort. In some cases they were true heroines.

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Researching Contested & Special Military Pension Applications

From its earliest days, the U.S. government has granted pensions to soldiers or their surviving relatives in cases where the soldier was killed or “disabled by known wounds in the…war.” Those early pensions were not granted for a lifetime of service in the military – as we think of pensions today – but instead were granted based on a clear demonstration of need, as shown in the pension application. Think of these as long-term disability claims rather than pensions.

In this special military pension appeal request, the widow of Captain Morgan appealed to the government on behalf of her six children and herself, knowing that his death did not meet the specific requirements of the pension act (he did not die of wounds received in battle, but rather of exhaustion afterward). The House committee examining her claim stated that it “is within the spirit of [the] provisions” of the pension law. The Committee on Pensions and Revolutionary claims presented a bill to the 14th Congress to grant her a pension.

military pension request of Elizabeth Morgan

Source: Historical Documents, GenealogyBank.com; “Pension granted to the widow of a captain in the army who died in service.” Communicated to the House of Representatives, January 26, 1816. American State Papers, 036 Claims Vol. 1, number 285.

In his pension request, Lieutenant William Monday appealed to the 9th Congress for a pension – but the committee members hearing his request did not agree and encouraged him instead “to withdraw his petition, and the papers accompanying the same.”

He did not receive a pension, but his application gives us important details about his service during the American Revolutionary War.

military pension request by William Monday

Source: Historical Documents, GenealogyBank.com; “Application for a pension by a dismissed officer.” Communicated to the House of Representatives, December 16, 1806. American State Papers, 036 Claims Vol. 1, number 176.

After the Revolutionary War the U.S. gave pensions to disabled soldiers, their widows and children. Congress also granted bounty land warrants to the able-bodied troops that survived the war. These land warrants were certificates redeemable for government lands.

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In his special bounty land warrant request, Samuel Frazer confirmed that he served in the Revolutionary War but had a problem when he went to claim his land. He found that his land warrant was redeemed on 24 January 1792 by William Thomas. He appealed to the 7th Congress to correct this error, stating that “he had given no authority whatever for that purpose.”

The Committee of Claims acknowledged that “…warrants have doubtless been issued, in many instances, on forged powers of attorney…” but did not act to grant him a new bounty land warrant because it said it was impossible to determine the facts of the case, and left that determination up to the courts.

bounty land request by Samuel Frazer

Source: Historical Documents, GenealogyBank.com; “Bounty land warrant.” Communicated to the House of Representatives, January 12, 1803. American State Papers, 028 Public Lands Vol. 1, number 71.

Genealogy Tip: Get details on the lives of your ancestors from a range of sources, including contested and special pension applications. You want to find those ancestors who received pensions and bounty lands, as well as those that applied for them but had their cases rejected by Congress. You will find these contested and special pension applications in the Historical Documents section of GenealogyBank.com.

screenshot of GenealogyBank's Hostorical Documents search page

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Hungarian-Born Revolutionary War Vet Dies

I found this interesting obituary for John Baker (1741-1826).

obituary for John Baker, Boston Traveler newspaper article 3 May 1826

Boston Traveler (Boston, Massachusetts), 3 May 1826, page 3

It says that Baker:

was a native of Hungary, came to this country with [British General John] Burgoyne, and deserted from his army and joined the Americans, in whose service he continued his aid till the close of the revolution.

Is there more to know?

On its website, the Johannes Schwalm Historical Association describes itself this way:

JSHA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to researching those German auxiliary troops (generically called Hessian) who remained in America after the Revolutionary War, became loyal citizens, made cultural contributions and were the progenitors of any thousands of Americans living today.

An article in Hessians, the JSHA journal, gives more possible details about John Baker:

John Baker (Johann Becker) a so-called Hessian, is said to be buried in Westfield [Massachusetts]. He could have been Johann Becker, drummer (tambour) with Captain Ahler’s Company of the von Rhetz Regiment of the Brunswick Army. He was from Friedersdorf and born in 1749. He deserted (date unknown) and joined the American forces.

Article citation: Webler, Robert M. “German (so called Hessian) soldiers who remained in Massachusetts and neighboring states, particularly after the Battles of Bennington and Saratoga.” Hessians: Journal of the Johannes Schwalm Historical Association, Issue number 9 (2006), pages 82–88.

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A Reminder: Records do not always agree. In this example, the obituary pegs his birth year as about 1841, while the Hessians article suggests “He could have been Johann Becker, drummer… [who] was from Friedersdorf and born in 1749.”

Since this might not be the same person and we don’t know the basis for Webler’s statement that Baker was born in 1749, I have used the earlier birth year suggested by his obituary notice for his life dates.

Are you a descendant of Revolutionary Ward soldier John Baker? If so, please contact us – we’d like to know more.

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Revolutionary War Ancestry: Our Top 6 How-to Posts

With the Fourth of July approaching, America prepares to celebrate Independence Day – and genealogists’ thoughts turn to their Revolutionary War ancestry. There are many good sources of information about this crucial period in American history, including historical newspaper archives, museums, and various Revolutionary War and military websites that can tell you about the times your ancestors lived in, the roles they played, and details of their individual lives.

This blog post highlights some of the past articles we’ve published on the GenealogyBank Blog about researching Revolutionary War ancestors. Just click on the title of any article that interests you to read the full blog post. Also, please note that in addition to the 27 Colonial newspapers listed in the graphic below, we just added 450+ newspaper titles from the 1700s and 1800s to GenealogyBank’s archives, creating one of the most comprehensive online resources for researching your Colonial and Revolutionary period ancestry on the web.

list showing 27 Colonial American newspapers in GenealogyBank's online collection

Painting: "Washington Crossing the Delaware," by Emanuel Leutze (1851)

Painting: Washington Crossing the Delaware, by Emanuel Leutze (1851). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

screenshot of the Daughters of the American Revolution website

Source: Daughters of the American Revolution

photo of Philipse Manor

Photo: Philipse Manor. Source: Library of Congress.

obituary for Isaac Van Wart, Barre Gazette newspaper article 31 July 1840

Barre Gazette (Barre, Massachusetts), 31 July 1840, page 2

obituary for Mary Wyckoff, Minerva newspaper article 29 May 1797

Minerva (New York, New York), 29 May 1797, page 3

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GenealogyBank’s Detailed Revolutionary War Burial Lists

GenealogyBank has a strong collection of Revolutionary War records. We have thousands of newspapers that were published before, during and after the war that permanently recorded the troops that served: their battles during the war, and their accomplishments throughout the rest of their lives.

The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) was founded in 1890 and chartered by Congress in 1896. First Lady Caroline Lavina Scott Harrison, wife of U.S. President Benjamin Harrison, was its first President General. From the earliest days of the organization, the DAR has worked to document every person that fought in the Revolutionary War – and in particular, to document where each veteran was buried.

Because the DAR was chartered by Congress, their annual reports were published in the U.S. Congressional Serial Set. GenealogyBank has the entire run of these reports in our Historical Documents section.

Here is a typical entry.
This example is the entry for Phineas Bronson (1764-1845) who died in Illinois.

entry for Phineas Bronson from the Seventy-Fifth report of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution

Seventy-Fifth report of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (Washington, D.C.), 1973, page 30

This entry tells us that Phineas Bronson was born on 9 November 1764 and died on 25 October 1845; he “served in 3rd Company, 2d Regiment, under Maj. Benjamin Walbridge and Col. Zebulon Butler”; and he was a pensioner. The entry further informs us that he was buried in the Princeville Cemetery in Princeville, Peoria County, Illinois.

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Phineas Bronson was born in Connecticut. See his birth record here. You can read more about the 2nd Connecticut Regiment in the Revolutionary War here.

An earlier DAR Report tells us that the Peoria Chapter of the DAR (Peoria, Illinois), under the direction of Mrs. James N. Butler, the chapter regent, had seen to it that Bronson’s grave was marked with a DAR memorial plaque.

record of Phineas Bronson's grave being marked with a DAR memorial plaque, from the Sixteenth report of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution

Sixteenth report of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (Washington, D.C.), 1914, page 130

That plaque still marks his grave.

photo of Phineas Bronson's gravesite

Find-a-Grave, FamilySearch partner site

Genealogy Tip: GenealogyBank is your go-to resource for your ancestors that served in the Revolutionary War. Like the example in this article, you can learn: what regiment your ancestor fought in; who his commanding officers were; his birth and death dates; the name of the cemetery where he was buried; and whether his grave was marked with a plaque by the local DAR Chapter.

Don’t let your ancestors’ stories be lost.
Find their stories – document them and pass them down.

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A Native American Revolutionary War Veteran’s Final Request

When I am gone, beat the drum and fire the guns. ~ Captain and Chief Tishomingo

As we get closer to July 4th, we think back on the stories of our American ancestors who fought for our freedom in the Revolutionary War. This old newspaper obituary tells us about the story of one of those Revolutionary War veterans, whose heroic story deserves to be more widely known.

obituary for Chief Tishomingo, Evening Post newspaper article 24 June 1841

Evening Post (New York, New York), 24 June 1841, page 2

Chief Tishomingo was the last great chief of the Chickasaw Nation.

According to his obituary:

Although but little known beyond the limits of his nation, yet he was a man who had seen wars and fought battles; stood high among his own people as a brave and good man. He served under Gen. [Anthony] Wayne in the revolutionary war, for which he received a pension from the government of the United States; and in the late war with England [the War of 1812] he served under Gen. [Andrew] Jackson, and did many deeds of valor.

Chief Tishomingo was born in Tishomingo, Mississippi – the town was renamed in his honor. The early history of the 19th Century was not kind to Native Americans – even those like Chief Tishomingo who had “fought in nine battles for the United States.” He and his tribe were forced to relocate to Oklahoma. He died on the trip near Little Rock, Arkansas.

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The first capital of Oklahoma was located in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, which was also named in Captain Tishomingo’s honor.

Watch this video about Chief Tishomingo’s life that was produced by Chickasaw.tv https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PL9O9lNNzTk

Find your ancestors’ true life stories in more than one billion historical articles that cover over 300 years of American history from coast to coast. Start searching in GenealogyBank.com.

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Note: FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) and GenealogyBank are partnering to make over a billion records from recent and historical obituaries searchable online. The tremendous undertaking will make a billion records from over 100 million U.S. newspaper obituaries readily searchable online. The newspapers are from all 50 states and cover the period 1730 to the present.  Find out more at: http://www.genealogybank.com/family-search/

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Massive 1700s-1800s Newspaper Collection Added to GenealogyBank!

GenealogyBank is especially pleased to announce a major addition to its vast newspaper archives – the single largest release of newspaper titles since the launch of GenealogyBank. More than 450 historical newspapers have been added with more coming soon – all newspapers are digital so that you can easily search every word.

What has been added:

  • Over 450 historical newspaper titles
  • Covering all 50 U.S. states
  • Years of coverage: 1730-1900
  • Over 160 of the 450 historical newspapers date back to the 1700s
  • Millions of never before available obituaries, birth and marriage notices, and news stories

illustration of a newspaper boy

This example from a Hawaii newspaper documents a marriage onboard the ship Collingwood performed by the ship’s chaplain – a very unusual venue – and likely a record that would be difficult to find if not for this major new set of newspapers being added to GenealogyBank. This is just one example of the millions of new marriage records, obituaries and birth announcements that we are pouring into GenealogyBank.

wedding announcement for Thomas Lindsay and Mary Fay, Sandwich Island News newspaper article 9 September 1846

Sandwich Island News (Honolulu, Hawaii), 9 September 1846, page 3

1700s Newspapers for Colonial & Revolutionary Research

Over 160 of these 450 historical newspapers date back to the 1700s, including more than 60 newspapers from Florida, New York, North Carolina and Ohio – all with back runs dating into the Colonial/Revolutionary War period.

montage showing front pages of historical newspapers

Sample List of Our New Historical Newspapers

We have added very old newspapers from multiple states, pushing back family history documentation in these states to periods when other genealogical records can be difficult to find.

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Here are just a few examples of the new content that’s been added:

It’s a great day for genealogy!

Start searching these new additions in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives to see what genealogy records are now available about your ancestors that have never been this easily available online before.

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Linus Lounsbury, Revolutionary War Veteran

I found this obituary for Linus Lounsbury, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War, by searching in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

obituary for Linus Lounsbury, Columbian Register newspaper article 23 July 1836

Columbian Register (New Haven, Connecticut), 23 July 1836, page 3

He died on 15 July 1836.
He was a pensioner.

He was in the Siege of Fort Johns in Newfoundland, Canada – 17 September 1775 to 3 November 1775, and was in the Battle of White Plains on 28 October 1776.

Great information.

photo of a two-cent stamp depicting the Revolutionary War Battle of White Plains

Image Credit: Battle of White Plains 1926 Issue 2c, U.S. Post Office, 20 February 2010

Here is the confirmation of his death, as reported in the 1838 Pensioners List on the page showing deaths of Connecticut pensioners.

photo of a Revolutionary War pension list showing that Linus Lounsbury has died

Publication: Pensioners — pension agents. Letter from the Secretary of War, transmitting the information required by a resolution of the House of Representatives of 26th March last, in relation to pensioners and pension agents, and the payment of pensions. June 22, 1838. — Referred to the Committee on Revolutionary Pensions. June 27, 1838. — Ordered to be printed, as per resolution of the Committee herewith. Date: Wednesday, June 27, 1838. Serial Set Vol. No.331-1; Report: H.Doc. 444. Source: GenealogyBank.com

Continuing my newspaper search on Linus, I found this notice from 1817 reporting that there was a letter for Linus at the post office.

list of people who have letters waiting for them at the Woodbridge, Connecticut, post office, Columbian Register newspaper article 19 July 1817

Columbian Register (New Haven, Connecticut), 19 July 1817, page 1

It would be great if we had that old letter.

Re-reading his obituary, I like that last line about his character:

He truly possessed the spirit of ’76 as long as he lived.

It makes me think of the George M. Cohan chorus from “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” as found on Wikipedia:

I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,
A Yankee Doodle, do or die;
A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam,
Born on the Fourth of July.

Find the life story of your ancestors – search GenealogyBank today. Start your 30-day trial now!

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Note: FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) and GenealogyBank are partnering to make over a billion records from recent and historical obituaries searchable online. The tremendous undertaking will make a billion records from over 100 million U.S. newspaper obituaries readily searchable online. The newspapers are from all 50 states and cover the period 1730 to the present.  Find out more at: http://www.genealogybank.com/family-search/

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Bloody News: Battles of Lexington & Concord Begin April 1775

Stirring front page news – as gripping as a breaking news bulletin on television today

Bloody News – This town has been in a continual alarm since Mid-day… the attack began at Lexington (about 12 miles from Boston) by the regular troops, the 18th Inft., before sunrise… From thence they proceeded to Concord where they made a general attack…

article about the Battles of Lexington and Concord, New Hampshire Gazette and Historical Chronicle newspaper article 21 April 1775

New Hampshire Gazette and Historical Chronicle (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), 21 April 1775, page 1

The British had attacked: the Battles of Lexington and Concord began the fighting between Great Britain and its 13 American colonies that led to the Revolutionary War and the founding of a new nation.

article about the Battles of Lexington and Concord, New Hampshire Gazette and Historical Chronicle newspaper article 21 April 1775

New Hampshire Gazette and Historical Chronicle (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), 21 April 1775, page 1

The reports continued to be published in Colonial newspapers up and down the coast. The newspapers printed them all – and the New Hampshire Gazette and Historical Chronicle added: “The foregoing is the different accounts we have receiv’d, but how far and what part is authentic, presume not to determine.”

This reads like any breaking news story today – when the reporters read every detail as the “raw news” comes in over the satellite feeds.

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The British had attacked and the committees of safety from colony to colony were responding and getting the word out – through the newspapers – that it was time to act.

Thanks to GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives we can read the same newspapers our American colonial ancestors read and feel the impact of the news as they lived it. No other site has the depth of coverage found on GenealogyBank – spanning the news from 1690 to today.

Illustration: “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere"

Illustration: “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” Credit: National Archives’ Pictures of the Revolutionary War — Beginnings in New England, 1775-76; Wikimedia Commons.

In his long-famous poem, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote of that day:

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.”

Then he said “Good-night!” and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,–
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,–
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse’s side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

April is National Poetry Month. Did you know GenealogyBank’s newspaper collection has a special search category for Poems & Songs? Come take a look today and see what poetic gems you can find.

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