How to Be a Revolutionary Hero

Have you ever wondered why it is some names are listed in history books and others are not? Take for instance the moment Dr. Warren is sitting at Boston’s North Church waiting to light the lamps warning of British arrival. Who galloped to Lexington as the second lamp was lit?

Repeat with me Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous first lines: Listen my children and you shall hear/ Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere. It was at that moment Paul Revere’s name lived on and William Dawes became ‘the other rider’ with Samuel Prescott left out of my teacher’s edition altogether.
My joy of teaching this story comes in asking the question—Why would one rider become more famous than another? True, Revere was already well-known and active with the Revolutionary cause—as was Dawes. Revere was a silversmith whose craft lasted well beyond his years. Dawes was a mere tanner and Prescott a physician who just happened to be in Boston visiting his girlfriend. Yet, Prescott was the only successful rider of the three.
Let’s not forget the most obvious answer—Revere is easier to rhyme than Dawes and Prescott.
My students were challenged to write historically correct poetry about Dawes and Prescott. It was impossible! A memorable line included-Is it a bird, a plane, or Santa Clause? No, my dear, it’s William Dawes! A lovely parody of Longfellow’s poem, written by Helen F. Moore in 1892, can be found at http://www.colorpro.com/wmdawes/theride.html.  Not even Helen F. Moore mentions Samuel Prescott!

The Midnight Ride of William Dawes
I am a wandering, bitter shade,
Never of me was a hero made;
Poets have never sung my praise,
Nobody crowned my brow with bays;
And if you ask me the fatal cause,
I answer only, "My name was Dawes"
'Tis all very well for the children to hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere;
But why should my name be quite forgot,
Who rode as boldly and well, God wot?
Why should I ask? The reason is clear --
My name was Dawes and his Revere.
When the lights from the old North Church flashed out,
Paul Revere was waiting about,
But I was already on my way.
The shadows of night fell cold and gray
As I rode, with never a break or a pause;
But what was the use, when my name was Dawes!
History rings with his silvery name;
Closed to me are the portals of fame.
Had he been Dawes and I Revere,
No one had heard of him, I fear.
No one has heard of me because
He was Revere and I was Dawes.

If you were hoping to become a Revolutionary War hero or remembered beyond your years, might I suggest making sure your name is easy to rhyme.
Learn more about storytelling at www.carolknarr.com