Moonlight and Messengers

When Paul Revere and two cohorts rowed across the Charles River from Boston to Charleston to begin his infamous “midnight ride,”  there were a few very tense moments.  It was just after ten o’clock on the night of April 18th, 1775 and Revere was dispatched by Dr. Warren to ride to Lexington to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the Redcoats were headed that way.  Then he would go on to Concord, further spreading the word.

But before he could mount up on Deacon Larkin’s horse for this ride, he had to make it across to Charleston.  The moon was full that night and Revere later described the scene.  He said the little rowboat would have been clearly visible in the moonlight.

Between the Boston and Charleston was moored the H.M.S. Somerset.  It was a huge hulk of war ship, with sixty-four guns and a crew of four hundred.  As they quietly but quickly rowed past, moon bright in the night sky, they knew that if anyone looked out from the ship, they would be seen and their mission would fail.  Their lives might well be forfeit as well.

Here’s how Henry Wadsworth Longfellow described the Somerset in the less-than-accurate “Paul Revere’s Ride’’

“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.”

As the little boat drew near, though, the ship turned slightly and, as if Providence were protecting them, the shadow from the huge hulking mass actually hid them from sight as they crossed.

As if Providence were protecting them….