WootBot


quality posts: 14 Private Messages WootBot

Staff

July is the season of barbecues and coolers full of watermelon and supermarket-brand soda. In the United States, at least, it all happens in the service of the nation’s birthday. On the 4th day of this month, Americans celebrate 236 years of independence from their British oppressors, who wanted them to pay taxes on stamps or spell the word “color” with an extra ‘u’ or something. But, as leading political figures occasionally remind us, a lot of what we think we know about the nation’s Founding Fathers is actually a load of hooey. Let Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings give you liberty from all the misinformation before you run for office yourself and make one of these red-white-and-bloopers.

Independence Myth #4: Two Lanterns Alerted Paul Revere That The British Were Coming.

It should come as no surprise that much of what we think we know about Paul Revere’s legendary midnight ride isn’t 100 percent accurate. After all, the most popular account of Paul’s exploits comes not from historical documents but from “Paul Revere’s Ride,” a poem—a poem!—written almost a century after the actual event. My favorite part of the story was always the “Two if by sea” lanterns in the tower of Boston’s Old North Church. What kid wouldn’t like the idea of sending battle plans via lantern signal? Secret codes! Espionage! Pre-Industrial Revolution walkie-talkie technology!

In Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s version of events, Paul tells a confederate to shine the signal if the British march, “and I on the opposite shore will be, ready to ride and spread the alarm through every Middlesex village and farm.” The lanterns, in other words, are a signal to Paul. In reality, though, Paul ordered the signal himself and then left Boston. The lanterns weren’t for him, but for patriots across the river in Charlestown, a backup plan in case he didn’t get through himself.

Longfellow tweaked history in many other ways. Paul didn’t row himself across the Charles River alone “with muffled oar”—two friends took him. He never said “The British are coming,” going instead with the slightly less catchy “The regulars are out!” Most surprisingly, Revere never made it to his destination at Concord, even though that’s how the poem ends. Instead he was detained on the road by British troops, and it was a chance traveling companion, a doctor named Samuel Prescott, who ended up delivering the warning to Concord Minutemen. Unfortunately, “Prescott” is considerably harder to rhyme than “Revere,” even if you’re a skilled as poet as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Quick Quiz: On a 1986 single, what music group claimed they met while their guitarist was crossing a desert with a quart of beer and “a little horsy named Paul Revere”?

Ken Jennings is the author of Brainiac, Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac, and Maphead. He's also the proud owner of an underwhelming Bag o' Crap. Follow him at ken-jennings.com or on Twitter as @KenJennings.

Illustration: "View of the Attack on Bunker's Hill with the Burning of Charlestown" by Lodge (1783).

homesickalien42


quality posts: 0 Private Messages homesickalien42

To describe Adrock as the guitarist of the Beastie Boys is a bit of a stretch.

drexel96


quality posts: 0 Private Messages drexel96

He only had one Lantern lit, the other light was a cigar. He did get a free humidor though.

mikehunt


quality posts: 0 Private Messages mikehunt

That is 1 minute that I have lost forever........

socalr1rider


quality posts: 0 Private Messages socalr1rider
mikehunt wrote:That is 1 minute that I have lost forever........



Oh, so very true. What ever will I do?

cronikslacker


quality posts: 0 Private Messages cronikslacker

It is sad that most Americans do not know this...

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jai151


quality posts: 8 Private Messages jai151
cronikslacker wrote:It is sad that most Americans do not know this...



Most people, regardless of country, are of average intelligence or lower. Average intelligence isn't saying much, and ignorance respects no borders.

Josephus


quality posts: 25 Private Messages Josephus
jai151 wrote:Most people, regardless of country, are of average intelligence or lower. Average intelligence isn't saying much, and ignorance respects no borders.



oh, I don't know that I agree. Mythology about our country's past isn't all bad. the poem does bring this event into the minds of a whole lot of people, even if some of the details are muddled. without the poem, I'd say that almost noone would even know who Paul Revere was, other than antique silver dealers. that'd be a shame, because he was a revolutionary.

LJ25


quality posts: 0 Private Messages LJ25
jai151 wrote:Most people,... are of average intelligence or lower.



Did you seriously just say that?

gak0090


quality posts: 78 Private Messages gak0090
jai151 wrote:Most people, regardless of country, are of average intelligence or lower. Average intelligence isn't saying much, and ignorance respects no borders.



So does that make you part of the majority?

gak0090


quality posts: 78 Private Messages gak0090
homesickalien42 wrote:To describe Adrock as the guitarist of the Beastie Boys is a bit of a stretch.



It's the Beastie Boys- OK a bit of a stretch, but this is classic stuff.

dufus2506


quality posts: 0 Private Messages dufus2506

Actually, the BEST ride that day was the ride taken by Israel Bissell, who covered 345 miles in 4 days bringing the news of the battles of Lexington and Concord, and the siege of Boston to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. (Killed a horse doing it too.)

Paul Revere? Pfft.... what a wimp.

bacalum


quality posts: 4 Private Messages bacalum
dufus2506 wrote:Actually, the BEST ride that day was the ride taken by Israel Bissell, who covered 345 miles in 4 days bringing the news of the battles of Lexington and Concord, and the siege of Boston to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. (Killed a horse doing it too.)

Paul Revere? Pfft.... what a wimp.



You forgot to mention ol' Izzy had one of his Bissell cleaners attached in order to cover the horses' tracks.
;)

=====
My first thought was the song was something by Paul Revere and the Raiders, then I thought of the song by America, THEN I got to the Beastie Boys. Dang, being old sucks... and we're back to Bissell!

When rich or powerful people propose a change, it is designed to make them richer or more powerful.

whoiskenjennings


quality posts: 7 Private Messages whoiskenjennings

Guest Blogger

The Beasties is correct! You're right that calling Ad-Rock a guitarist seems a little weird, but it's not incorrect. (Mostly I was trying to ask a question in a way that didn't tip off that the band in question was a rap group.)

I like historical poetry too, no matter how inaccurate, but I'd argue that it's better when people know what the facts are and where the exaggerations happened. In the specific case of Paul Revere, we've recently seen people trying to justify modern-day policy positions based on knowledge of the historical events that was totally incorrect! So facts do matter too.

jai151


quality posts: 8 Private Messages jai151
LJ25 wrote:Did you seriously just say that?



Yes, I did, and it holds up.

Think about what I actually said. Of average or lower. That leaves those with above average intelligence, who, by definition in a perfect distribution (and, with a sample group in the billions we will have a nearly perfect distribution), cannot be greater than half. Therefore, most fall into the average or lower group.

RWoodward


quality posts: 58 Private Messages RWoodward
jai151 wrote:Yes, I did, and it holds up.

Think about what I actually said. Of average or lower. That leaves those with above average intelligence, who, by definition in a perfect distribution (and, with a sample group in the billions we will have a nearly perfect distribution), cannot be greater than half. Therefore, most fall into the average or lower group.



It would be just as accurate to say "Most people are of average intelligence or higher," which renders your math pretty much meaningless.

jai151


quality posts: 8 Private Messages jai151
RWoodward wrote:It would be just as accurate to say "Most people are of average intelligence or higher," which renders your math pretty much meaningless.



True, but not really relevant.

Average intelligence is fairly low. You have to get a ways into "above average" before you start hitting people who aren't mosquitos.

In fact, let me just take math completely out of the equation and change my original statement to "Most people, regardless of nationality, are s'mores."

Oh. That's right, I had to make the remark the way I did because of Woot's love of editing common words about the lack of intelligence.

Whatever, fill in the blanks as you like