During the War of 1812, Paul Revere Remains a Patriot by Leading the “Mechanics of the Town of Boston” in the Defense of the City
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At the age of 79, Paul Revere remained as patriotic as he had been in his youthful Revolutionary days. At the outset of the War of 1812, he sets an example to help enlist the skilled tradesmen and craftsmen of Boston to aid in the defense of their city. PAUL REVERE.
Manuscript Document Signed. A pledge of “Mechanics [skilled tradesmen] of the Town of Boston” to aid in the defense of the town during the War of 1812, signed by “Paul Revere”
along with 120 additional members. The text of the resolution is likely in the hand of Isaac Harris. Bound into a 3¾ x 6¼ inch, paper bound blank notebook. Boston, Mass., September 8, 1814. With 5 Harris family letters, circa 1834-1858.
Boston Sep 8 1814
The subscribers, Mechanics of the Town of Boston do evince our readiness to cooperate by manual labor in measures for the defense of the Town and naval arsenal, do hereby tender our services to his Excellency the Commander in Chief to be directed in such manner as he shall consider at this eventful crisis, most conducive to the public good.
[in Revere’s hand:] Paul Revere three days.
[in Harris’s hand] Wm Harris. when not on military duty
[followed by pages of additional signatures]
Boston, well within the reach of British forces stationed in Nova Scotia and the rest of Canada, was vulnerable to attack from the sea. Legendary Revolutionary War patriot Paul Revere was first to step forward, to help rally his fellow tradesmen, by lending his name to an effort to defend the city against seaborne attack. Revere promised three days’ labor, to Isaac Harris, a mast and spar maker who owned well-known ship yard next to Winnisimmet Ferry. Harris then carried the notebook to 120 other merchants and laborers in the North End of Boston, entreating them to sacrifice their bodies or their businesses to protect their city against the British fleet cruising outside Boston Harbor.
The men kept their promise. Massachusetts Governor Caleb Strong enlisted the Mechanics to construct a Fort on one of Boston’s harbor islands (either Williams’ or Noodle’s Island). Twelve-year-old Nathaniel H. Cary—Harris’ nephew—helped his father and uncles build it. In addition to the sweat of their labor, the men offered their blood to defend the fort. Fortunately, the British assault never came, but all 120 remained ready to “defend it to the last man.” (Massachusetts Historical Society, Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1901, p 151). A month earlier, the fledgling U.S. navy scored a major victory against the British: The U.S.S Constitution defeated the H.M.S Guerriere off Boston, and while not eliminating the British threat, the upset by the upstart Americans resulted in a newfound respect for American naval power.
The signatories who pledged their labors included a who’s who of Boston industry, among them: Benjamin Coomey, a mast and spar maker; James Kirkwood, a soap maker; Isaac Harris; William D. Hills; Samuel Aspinwall (Harris’ apprentice); Charles Welles, a mason; George Darracoat, a ship chandler; Nathaniel Clark, a printer; H. Hutchinson; Thomas Lillie; Jacob Hall; N.J. Snelling; Salmer Clap; Edw B.Walker; Josiah Snelling; Samuel Price; George Robinson, a grocer; Thomas Green; Samuel Winslow, a sexton; William Green; Thomas Edes; Henry Turner; Johnathan Cary, brother-in-law of Harris, who was also a spar and mast maker; Samuel Brown, Cary’s partner; Parker Emerson Jr.; Seth Lothrop; Nathaniel Lane; Caleb Wilson, an Irish drain digger; Elisha Norcross; William Barnicoat; Louis Lincoln; Stephen Glubb; William Porter; Rufus Baxter; A.E. Lincoln; Daniel T. Lewis, a cooper; Asa Holbrook; Nathaniel Nottage, a house carpenter; Nathaniel Nottage, Jr.; John Eliot; Amos Lincoln; James Robinson; J. Bray, a major of the militia; William Tompkins; Zeph Sampson; John Childs; Thomas Lewis; Eben Tufts (who pledged 6 days); James Rouse; John F. Truman; Martin Bates; Samuel Parker; Othniel Trench; William Bell, Jr.; Samuel Townsend; Henry J. Oliver; Joseph Woodcock, carpenter and constable; N. Bridge; James Armstrong; Samuel Pierce; John M. Jennison; Isaac Poor; Thomas Avis; Jas Weld; D.D. Pulsifer; Nathaniel Clarke; Bradley Cummings; Ebenezer Andrews; Joseph Urann; John Thayer; Joel Trull; Andrew Drumond; John Fenno; Thomas Pool; Thomas Brooks Pratt; Thomas Badger; Thomas Mickell; Benjamin White; Edward Oliver; Charles Pook, father of Naval Constructor Samuel Pook; Edward Chessman; William Collier; William Burrows; G. Hammond; Thomas S. Bordman; Abijah Luce; Elkanah Cushman; Samuel Topliff; W.J. Hammatt; Larkin Snow; Amos Binney, Naval contractor and captain of the militia; Elisha Webb, schoolmaster; E. Little, teacher; John Ripley; Thomas Whitman; William Wiswell; John Low; Ephm Tufts; Ebenr Rhoades; Adam French; John Sholes; Thos Codman; William Green; William Bell; Ephriam Snow; John Smith; William C. Parke; Robert Lash Jr., bank teller; Charles Belamy; Otis Fay; William P. Shelton; A.L. Stevens; Caleb B. Munroe; W. Mills; Jas Holbrook; George Prince; J.B. Barnes; and Peter Seaver.
Henry N. Hooper Jr. received the book from his grandfather, Isaac Harris, after his death in 1868 and wrote an inscription on the inside front cover.
The book has remained in the family until we recently acquired it.
The Harris Family letters
Many of the five letters are addressed to Isaac Harris from his wife, Eunice or his son, William. One letter is written by Isaac to his granddaughter, Carrie Hooper. The letters discuss family visits and other happenings around Boston.
Paul Revere (1734 - 1818) was an American silversmith, engraver, and Boston patriot most famous for alerting the Massachusetts militia to the approach of British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord. Born in Boston’s North End, Revere was prosperous and prominent, and took considerable risk when organizing the colonial resistance and intelligence networks. The spread of his almost entirely fictitious depiction of the Boston Massacre, largely copied from a commercially less successful print by Henry Pelham, helped galvanize colonial resistance to British rule. He was a leader of the Boston Tea Party and served on the Boston Committee of Public Safety. He later served as a Massachusetts militia officer. Following the war, Revere returned to his silversmith trade and used the profits from his expanding business to finance his work in iron casting, bronze bell and cannon casting, and the forging of copper bolts and spikes. He became the first American to roll copper into sheets for use as sheathing on naval vessels, including “Old Ironsides,” the USS Constitution.