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PolitiFact: Sarah Palin has rough ride with Paul Revere story

The statement

"Part of (Paul Revere's) ride was to warn the British that were already there that, 'Hey, you're not going to succeed.' "

Sarah Palin, Sunday in an interview on Fox News

The ruling

We don't remember anything about Revere trash-talking to the British, so let's go to accounts from Revere himself.

The Massachusetts Historical Society has two accounts of the night of April 18, 1775, from Revere.

Revere said his mission that night was to ride to Lexington to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock about English troop movements in that direction, which he did. He then set out for Concord with William Dawes and Samuel Prescott, but halfway there, was captured by British soldiers.

We'll pick up here with Revere's own words from a 1798 letter, explaining that after he was captured, a British commander began to question him:

"He asked me if I was an express. I answered in the affirmative. He demanded what time I left Boston? I told him; and added, that their troops had catched aground in passing the River, and that there would be five hundred Americans there in a short time, for I had alarmed the Country all the way up."

In his 1994 book, Paul Revere's Ride, author David Hackett Fischer relied on historical documents to recount this passage:

With six pistols pointed at him, Revere spoke with a spirit the British officers found infuriating in a provincial prisoner, who seemed not to know his place, or to care about the danger he faced. …

"Gentlemen," Revere told them, "you've missed of your aim."

"What of our aim?" one answered in a "hard" tone. Another insisted that they were out after deserters, a frequent employment of British officers in America.

"I know better," Paul Revere boldly replied. "I know what you are after, and I have alarmed the country all the way up."

So Palin is correct that Revere did warn the British that they were going to face armed resistance from some 500 colonists, but that was hardly his aim that night.

Palin's comment suggests Revere was "running around ringing bells and warning the British," said James Giblin, author of The Many Rides of Paul Revere. "He wasn't, of course."

We rate Palin's comment Barely True.

Robert Farley, Times staff writer

This ruling has been edited for print. For the full version — and to read other rulings — go to PolitiFact.com.

PolitiFact: Sarah Palin has rough ride with Paul Revere story 06/07/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 7, 2011 9:15pm]
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