Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Midnight Riders, Lincoln, MA

When I was a child, many years before the establishment of the Minuteman National Park, my parents would sometimes take me to Buttrick's ice cream stand in Lincoln, Massachusetts. I don't recall that their ice cream were as good as Brigham's but the stand was a short drive from home. And at the end of the parking lot, this was this large stone that you could climb on.

It was this stone, marking the place where the three "midnight riders", Paul Revere, William Dawes and Samuel Prescott, were stopped by a British patrol early on the morning of April 19th, 1775. Revere was captured but Dawes and Prescott rode on to complete the warnings - and into history.

On the evening of April 18, 1775, William Dawes had been sent out by Dr. Joseph Warren to warn the people of Concord about the impending excursion to seize the munitions stored in that community. Leaders such as John Hancock and Samuel Adams were also out in the Lexington/Concord are; they needed to be warned as well as orders had recently come from London to capture the leaders of the unrest.

Dawes took the "land" route - which was longer. In order to make sure someone provided notice, Warren sent out a second rider: Paul Revere. He took the "sea" route, across the river and under the guns of British warships.

Revere arrived first in Lexington and warned Hancock and Adams as they rested in the home of Rev. Jonas Clarke. Dawes showed up shortly thereafter. Around 1 AM, Revere and Dawes headed towards Concord.

Shortly before that, a young Concord doctor, Dr. Samuel Prescott, left the home of his Lexington fiancé, Lydia Mulliken. Just after the green, Prescott encountered the two riders and was recognized by Revere as "a high son of liberty". They rode together for a short while and then were surprised by a heavily armed British patrol. While Revere was captured, Dawes and Prescott made daring escapes. Dawes went on to notify Captain William Smith of Lincoln. Unfamiliar with the area, Dawes stayed in Lincoln. Prescott went on to warn the leaders in Concord, awaken his brother, Abel, to carry further warnings and then finished his night waking the Acton minutemen. Abel Prescott rode to Sudbury and Framingham.

Pictured to the left is another rock monument: it is the memorial to the 20th Massachusetts regiment know as the "Harvard Brigade" at Gettysburg. When I first visited the battlefield and passed by the unique monument, I thought it was strikingly ugly.

And then I learned the story: many of the members of the regiment had come from Roxbury, Massachusetts. When it came time to commemorate their fallen comrades, they returned to their childhood. They took a stone from a Roxbury playground, a site where they laughed, played and first bonded as friends.

Among the men from the 20th Massachusetts who fell at Gettysburg: Colonel Paul Joseph Revere, a grandson of the patriot Revere. He was not the only grandson of a midnight rider on those fields of Pennsylvania: across the way on the battlefield was Lt. Colonel Rufus Dawes of Wisconsin, who played a critical role on the first day of the three day battle.

Rufus Dawes went on to serve a term as a Congressman from Ohio. A son, Charles Dawes, went on to win a Nobel Peace Prize and serve as vice president in the Coolidge administration.

While Revere and Dawes lived to see the birth of the nation, Samuel Prescott's destiny ws largely determined by this happenstance of a late night encounter. I will write about that in another post, but his courage and patriotism did not end with this period.

The Revere capture site is now part of the Minuteman National Park; parking is available nearby.


  1. I always thought those British officers must have been really glad to find a good solid stone wall in the shape of a C to keep their detainees inside. Too bad for them Dr. Prescott's horse jumped over the wall.

  2. Well, as Grover might observe, "C" is for "captured"...

  3. I was delighted to read this blog about the plaque and about Buttrick's Ice Cream stand. I have told people about my experience "discovering" the plaque, but few to whom I've told the story believed me. My parents used to take me to Buttrick's when I was a child, but that was way back in the early 1950s. I believe the parking lot at the end of which the stone marker stood was in some woods way back then and not in a clearing. Fascinating to find this online.

    1. I remember that plaque. I worked at that Buttrick's stand when I was in high school. It was a seasonal stand & closed for the final time after Labor Day, 1974. When they told us that was to be "Bulldozed", All the employees stripped the building of every worth taking. I still have the rattan chairs from the office & the extremely heavy oak & cork filled freezer door has been a picnic table top for the last 40 years.