Paul Revere's ride handing out handbills

Paul Revere’s not so famous ride through Ipswich, December 13, 1774

Capt. Michael Farley and Mr. Daniel Noyes represented Ipswich at the First Provincial Congress, which met in Salem on Friday, October 7, 1774. A resolution was adopted that companies of Minutemen be organized and that “each of the minute men not already provided therewith, should be immediately equipped with an effective Fire-arm Bayonet, Pouch, Knapsack, Thirty rounds of Cartridges and Ball, and that they be disciplined three times a week and oftener as opportunity may offer.”

Governor Thomas Gage dissolved the provincial assembly, but the members adjourned to Concord and met anyway, choosing John Hancock as its president. Massachusetts had established the first autonomous government of the Thirteen Colonies.

Meanwhile, the First Continental Congress was meeting in Philadelphia from September – October, 1774. Among the representatives were George Washington, Patrick Henry, and Samuel and John Adams of Boston. At the urging of John Adams, Paul Revere rode from Boston to Philadelphia twice in September, bringing a copy of the Suffolk Resolves, and carrying letters both ways.

At the Ipswich Town Meeting, held on November 21, the Proposals and Resolves of the Continental Congress were read and put to a vote, passing unanimously.

Paul Revere’s ride to Portsmouth

On the cold icy morning of December 13, 1774, Paul Revere headed out on a 60 mile gallop from Boston along the Old Bay Road to warn the citizens of Portsmouth that British troops may be landing.


Revere passed through Ipswich before noon, and arrived in Portsmouth about 4 pm, where he called on the members of the Portsmouth Council of Correspondence for an impromptu meeting at the home of Samuel Cutts. The news he carried was that two regiments of British soldiers would be arriving in the port to secure Fort William and Mary at New Castle.

Although this turned out not to be the case, it sparked the anticipated confrontation nonetheless. Loyalists in Portsmouth sent word to the fort, and a courier was sent by horse along the Old Bay Road to summon General Gage and General Graves in Boston. Graves ordered the sloop HMS Canceaux to head to Portsmouth, and while they were in transit, Revere rode back to Boston.

Four months later, Paul Revere would take the ride that made him famous, but this was a successful trial run. When the British soldiers arrived, Portsmouth men had stormed the fort, ripped down the British flag and stolen all of its weapons and gunpowder.

Contrary to the image portrayed in Longfellow’s poem of a lone hero, Paul Revere was a member of a secret Whig intelligence network known as the “Mechanics,” and undertook his heroic rides as an agent for the Boston Committee of Correspondence.

On his passage back through Ipswich, Revere surely called on our own Committee of Correspondence, which the town had formed two years earlier. In anticipation of the war, Capt. Michael Farley, Dr. Daniel Noyes and Maj. John Baker were instructed by town meeting to “Receive and Communicate all salutary measures that shall be proposed or offered by any other Town.”

The Town of Ipswich had issued the following manifesto on December 28, 1772:

“That infringements on our colonial rights are as stated by our brethren in Boston. It is of the utmost importance for this Province and others to stand firmly for their rights.

  1. All people of the American Colonies have a right, according to the British constitution, to dispose of their property as they see fit.
  2. Parliament, by assuming the right to legislate for the Colonies and to raise a revenue from them, acts contrary to the wishes of the people and the opinion of eminent men in Parliament.
  3. As a great grievance, the Governor is made independent of the Province for his support, and so the Judges of the Superior Court, the King’s Attorney, and Solicitor-General are all to be thus independent
  4. It is matter of alarm, that commissioners have been appointed by late acts of Parliament (for preserving his Majesty’s dockyards, magazines, ships, ammunition, and stores), to inquire out persons who burnt the schooner Gaspe at Providence, because there is a remedy for such offences without commissioners.
  5. Every part of the British dominions have a right to petition the King and Parliament, and to continue to do it till their grievances are redressed. This town are aggrieved, that petitions of this Province have been so little regarded.
  6. We instruct our representative to maintain in the General Court, at its next session, the rights of the Province, to make exertion that the Governor and Judges be paid by the Legislature, and not by the Crown; that the Earl of Dartmouth be informed, that the dissatisfied of this Province are not a small faction, but most of the people, who are dissatisfied because the Governor and Judges, and Board of Commissioners of the Customs, are independent of the Legislature here, and also, because of enormous powers vested in the Court of Admiralty, of posting regular troops in the Province, raising a revenue in America, and appropriating this revenue without the consent of the people in person or by their representatives; and “that his Lordship be assured, that the good people of this Province are and always have been firmly attached to his present Majesty and his royal family, and are desirous, to the utmost of their ability, to support government and promote quietness and good order.” The representative of Ipswich is instructed to use his influence, that an agent of the House, separate from the Governor and Council, represent the condition of the Province to the King or his ministers, and, if the Governor refuse to allow grants of the House for such an agent, the representative is to try for the House to recommend to the several towns to pay the agent.
  7. We thank Boston for proceeding as they have, in their printed pamphlet, for informing the public of alarming encroachments on our Province rights, and for seasonably endeavouring to obtain the sense of the country.
  8. We will choose a committee to correspond with the committee of Boston and other towns on affairs of the Province.”

Ipswich prepares for War

On Nov. 21, 1774, the town approved the enlistment of soldiers according to the Proposals of the Provincial Congress, and a plot of land at the easterly end of the Town House, fifty feet long and twenty-five feet wide was selected to “Erect a House for the Encouragement of Military Discipline.” Every Ipswich man was bound with a contract to “attend Duty two half days in each week,” with a wage of one shilling to each enlisted man for each half day he attended muster.

At a town meeting on Feb. 1, 1775, a series of Resolutions were approved and entered into the Town Records. The third demonstrates indicates that even while the Town was arming for its defense, Tory sympathies remained strong, and the inhabitants of Ipswich were not prepared to demand separation from Britain:

“It is with Regret that we find there are Enemies among ourselves, who insinuate & endeavor to persuade others that This Province is seeking after Independency & want to break off from their allegiance to the Crown of Great Britain, which is a thing that has not the Least Foundation in Truth; neither can these wicked Persons, we believe, Produce so much as one single Instance thereof …. Nevertheless to avoid giving them the least handle against us, we desire you would Endeavor that nothing be done by the Congress to change or alter the Form of Government appointed by Our Last Charter, but that with patience and due Fortitude we bear the Injuries brought upon us, waiting for the time of our deliverance.”


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2 thoughts on “Paul Revere’s not so famous ride through Ipswich, December 13, 1774”

  1. Great record of American History

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