Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, American poet, is born
Midnight Ride of Paul Revere: Fact, Fiction, and Artistic License
An interdisciplinary lesson focusing on Paul Revere's Midnight Ride. While many students know this historical event, this lesson allows them to explore the true story of Paul Revere and his journey through primary source readings as well as to compare artist Grant Wood's and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's interpretations of it.
Grant Wood painted American scenes and subjects during the first half of the 20th century in a simplified style reminiscent of American folk art. Like poet Henry Wordsworth Longfellow, Wood wished to tell and preserve stories of the American Revolution. Longfellow wrote his poem 88 years after the event when he found letters belonging to his grandfather, who had known Revere. Only a few people who had been children during the Revolution were still alive in 1860 when he wrote Paul Revere's Ride. Wood based his 1931 painting on Longfellow's heroic poem with no attempt to make it historically accurate.
This lesson encourages close study of Wood's painting, American Revolution primary sources, and Longfellow's poem to understand the significance of this historical ride in America's struggle for freedom. By reading primary sources, students learn how Paul Revere and his Midnight Ride became an American story of patriotism.
Discuss and analyze how Grant Wood manipulated viewpoint, composition, and scale in his painting "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" to present an idealized view of this American tale.
Understand the significance of the midnight ride to United States history.
Analyze different perspectives about this event, using primary sources.
Synthesize the primary and secondary source works to develop an overall sense of the events.
What does the visual evidence in Wood's painting tell us about this American legend and historical event?
What is the true story of Paul Revere and others' midnight ride?
Why Do We Remember Revere? Paul Revere's Ride in History and Literature
In his account of his famous ride, Paul Revere described the impetus for his journey: "…I was sent for by Dr. Joseph Warren, of said Boston, on the evening of the 18th of April, about 10 o'clock; when he desired me, 'to go to Lexington, and inform Mr. Samuel Adams, and the Hon. John Hancock Esq.'" Though the lantern signal from Christ Church had been Revere's idea, he never mentions seeing it, though he does go on to say, "I set off, it was then about 11 o'clock, the moon shone bright." Anyone who learned the story from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow heard it told a little differently. Virtually all students, at one point or another in their schooling, are exposed to Longfellow's ballad, "Paul Revere's Ride." How accurate is it? Is it responsible for Revere's ride achieving such iconic status?
Provide the opportunity for your students to think about the answers to these and other questions as they read primary and secondhand accounts of events during the American Revolution. Extend the study of American Revolutionary history into literature by discussing how Revere's ride has been dealt with in poems by Longfellow and others.
Note: Your students can learn more about other rides during the American Revolution in the related EDSITEment lesson plan Not Only Paul Revere: Other Riders of the American Revolution
After completing the lessons in this unit, students will be able to
Recount the circumstances prior to, during and after Paul Revere's ride
List differences between Longfellow's poem and the historical event
Determine possible political reasons for Longfellow's writing the poem
State and critique some hypotheses that might explain why we remember Paul Revere's ride as we do
What are the essential differences between Longfellow's account of Paul Revere's ride and historical fact?
Why does Revere's ride occupy such a prominent place in the American consciousness?