Commonplace Book – Pages: 189-192
He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light-
One of by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middle sex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.”
Then he said “Good-night!” and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charleston shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
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.
Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore
Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,-
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.
Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay -
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.
Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse’s side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.
A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.
It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
And felt the damp of the river’s fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.
It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.
It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of the birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who was at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.
You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,-
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.
So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,-
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And midnight message of Paul Revere.
Commonplace Book – Pages 87-89
Misconception: Henry VIII beheaded all his wives.
Fact: Henry VIII had 6 wives. First, Katherine of Aragon, was annulled NOT divorced. Second, Anne Boleyn, was beheaded with a sword. Third, Jane Seymour, died. Fourth, Anne of Cleves, was annulled. Fifth, Katherine Howard, was beheaded with an axe. Sixth, Catherine Parr, survived him.
Misconception: Napoleon Bonaparte was short.
Fact: After Napoleon died in 1821, his body was autopsied in France, and his height was noted at 5’2″. This measurement was in French feet and was never correctly converted to standard English measure. In English feet, Napoleon stood 5 foot 6.5 inches tall. So in fact, Napoleon was actually slightly taller than the average Frenchman of 1800.
Misconception: George Washington chopped down a cherry tree.
Fact: Washington did not chop down a cherry tree. The story was invented by Parson Mason Weems who wrote a biography of Washington shortly after his death. Since so little is known about Washington’s childhood, Weems invented several anecdotes about his early life to illustrate the origins of the heroic qualities he exhibited as an adult.
Misconception: George Washington had wooden teeth.
Fact: He had a large collection of false teeth, made of everything from elephant ivory, walrus tusk, hippopotamus tusk, and one of human teeth. But none were made of wood.
Misconception: George Washington wore a wig.
Fact: George Washington did not wear a wig. Even though wigs were fashionable, he kept his own hair, which he wore long and tied back in a queue, or ponytail. He did, however, powder his hair as was the custom of the time.
Misconception: Betsy Ross sewed the American flag.
Fact: Betsy Ross did not sew the first American flag. In 1870 Ross’s grandson, William J. Canby, presented a paper to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in which he claimed that his grandmother had “made with her hands the first flag” of the United States. Smithsonian experts point out that Canby’s romantic tale appealed to Americans eager for stories about the Revolution and its heroes and heroines, but is a myth.
Misconception: William Shakespeare in Love.
Fact: William Shakespeare actually wrote about half of his romance sonnets for a young man.
Misconception: Hitler was German.
Fact: Adolf Hitler was not German at all, he was Austrian. He didn’t become German until he took office 19 years after arriving in Germany.
Misconception: The US is a democracy.
Fact: The United States is not a democracy, it is a constitutional republic. The People have a voice in what happens, but the Constitution is what rules unless it is changed. In practice it keeps the majority from tyranny over the minority.
Misconception: Witches were burned at Salem.
Fact: Victims of the Salem Witch trials were not burned at at the stake. There is no record of burning at the stake in any New state in the 17th c. Hanging was the method of execution.
Misconception: Queen Marie Antoinette said “Let them eat cake.”
Fact: Marie Antoinette never said “Let them eat cake.”In 1766, Rousseau was wrote that he was quoting the famous saying of “a great princess”, which was incorrectly attributed to Marie Antoinette. She couldn’t have made the statement because in 1766, she was only 11 years old.
Misconception: You can see the Great Wall of China from the moon.
Fact: You cannot see the Great Wall from the moon, or space for that matter. The Great Wall is only a maximum of 30 feet wide and is about the same color as its surroundings, so it’s barely visible to the naked eye while orbiting Earth under ideal conditions and the moon is 239,000 miles away.
Misconception: Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity.
Fact: Benjamin Franklin did not discover electricity when his kite was struck by lightning in 1752. In fact, electricity was already well known at the time. Instead, Franklin was trying to prove the electrical nature of lightning.
Misconception: The first shot of the US Civil War was fired at Ft. Sumter.
Fact: While its true that the first shot of the Civil War was fired by South Carolinians, it was not fired at Ft. Sumter. Instead, it was fired at the vessel the “Star of the West” which was taking supplies to Major Anderson at Ft. Sumter. Citadel cadets under Major Stephens fired on the “Star of the West” from a battery placed on Morris Island fronting Charleston harbor.
Misconception: Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea began their expedition in St. Louis.
Fact: Lewis and Clark did not begin their journey in St. Louis. The first entry of the Lewis & Clark Journals state that Lewis began the expedition in Pittsburgh, PA where he sailed with supplies down the Ohio River. Clark would join him later with other men in Indiana and only then did they call themselves the ‘Corps of Discovery.” The Lewis and Clark expedition The Lewis and Clark expedition did not consist of just Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and Sacajawea. There were 51 other people involved.
Misconception: The Beatles were introduced through the Ed Sullivan Show.
Fact: The Beatles were first introduced to America on tape in Jan. 1964 on the ‘Jack Paar Show’, not the Ed Sullivan Show.
Misconception: Charles Lindbergh was the first person to cross the Atlantic in an airplane.
Fact: Lindbergh was not the first, 66 people did it before him, however he was the first to do it solo.
The Hundred Years’ War lasted 116 years.
Misconception: Paul Revere rode alone to warn revolutionaries of approaching British soldiers.
Fact: Paul Revere did not single-handedly ride on horseback to warn residents of the British attack. There were 60 riders who spread the word that night. One man alone could never have covered such a distance, especially on horseback.
Misconception: As Paul Revere rode, he shouted “The British are coming!”
Fact: He did not say “The British are coming!” In 1775 the colonists still thought of themselves as British. British soldiers were called “the regulars”. When Revere came galloping along in the middle of the night, the guard told him to stop making so much noise. Revere responded by saying “Noise? You’ll have noise enough before long. The regulars are out.”
Misconception: “Bloody Mary” and the “Blood Countess” are the same person.
Fact: “Bloody Mary” was not the woman who bathed in the blood of young girls in a bathtub. That was Erzerbet Bathori or the “Blood Countess” (1560 – 1614). “Bloody Mary” was the nickname given to Queen Mary I of England (1516 – 1558) during the Marian Persecutions or the persecutions of religious reformers and Protestants.
Misconception: Christopher Columbus was the only one who knew the Earth was round.
Fact: Christopher Columbus’s efforts to obtain support for his voyages were not hampered by a European belief in a flat Earth. In fact, sailors and navigators of the time knew that the Earth was spherical, but disagreed with Columbus’ estimates of the distance to the Indies.
Misconception: All slaves during the Civil War were declared free by the Emancipation Proclamation.
Fact: Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation did not immediately free all American slaves, just the ones in the area under revolt (i.e. the South). Since that area did not recognize his authority, only a few slaves were immediately freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. Most slaves were freed as Confederate territory.
Misconception: JFK made the mistake of saying “I am a jelly doughnut”
Fact: The German crowd witnessing John F. Kennedy’s speech in Berlin in 1963 did not mistake “Ich bin ein Berliner” to mean “I am a jelly doughnut.” The pastry is known as a Berliner only in some parts of Germany, but not in Berlin.
Misconception: Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.
Fact: Thomas Edison neither invented the light bulb, nor held the first patent to the modern design of the light bulb. In reality, light bulbs used as electric lights existed 50 years prior to Thomas Edison’s 1879 patent date in the U.S. Additionally, Joseph Swan, a British inventor, obtained the first patent for the same light bulb in Britain one year prior to Edison’s patent date. Edison’s light bulb, in fact, was a carbon copy of Swan’s light bulb.
Misconception: Martin Luther rebelled against the Catholic Church after nailing his 95 theses to the church door.
Fact: Martin Luther did not nail his 95 theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg. Instead, he included them, round about the same time (1517), with a letter he wrote to his superiors denouncing the sale of indulgences. Most historians now believe it’s likely that the story of the nailing is a Christian urban legend, invented after the fact for greater dramatic effect.
Misconception: The infamous “Iron Mask” was a royal torture device.
Fact: When concerning the story of the “Man in the Iron Mask” disputed to be either the Duc de Vermandois, a twin brother of Louis XIV, or an elder brother of Louis XIV, it should be noted that the “Iron Mask” wasn’t an iron mask at all. It was a simple mask of black velvet.
Misconception: Louis XIV said “I am the State.”
Fact: The phrase “L’État, c’est moi” (“I am the State”) is frequently attributed to King Louis XIV, though this is more likely to have been conceived by political opponents as a way of confirming the stereotypical view of the absolutism he represented. Quite contrary to that apocryphal quote, Louis XIV is actually reported to have said on his death bed: “Je m’en vais, mais l’État demeurera toujours.” (“I am going away, but the State will always remain”).
Misconception: Washington was the first president to live in the White House.
Fact: George Washington was not the first president to live in the White House. The White House was not completed until after his presidency, although he did help select the site of the new capital city and the executive mansion. As President, Washington first lived in New York and later, Philadelphia.
Misconception: Natives in the Carribean were cannibals.
Fact: It is believed that the Carib people of the Carribean were cannibals. But even after Columbus was presented with evidence that this was untrue, the myth was perpetuated because in 1503, it was ruled that ‘only people who were better off under slavery’ (including cannibals) could legally be taken as slaves. This provided Spaniards an incentive to enslave them. The film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest was criticized for portraying the Carib people as cannibals.
Misconception: Admiral Lord Nelson had a missing eye and wore an eye patch to hide the socket.
Fact: While Nelson did have a bad eye, he did not wear an eye patch. The nearest he came to it was a peaked eye-shade which he had built onto his naval hat, but that was there to protect his good eye from the sun, not to hide his bad eye. Nelson had no need to wear an eye-patch, because there was no obvious disfigurement to hide.
Misconception: Galileo Galilei invented the telescope.
Fact: Galileo did not invent the telescope nor was the first person to look through a telescope and draw his observations. That honor belongs to Thomas Harriot, an Englishman, who bought his first “Dutch trunke” (i.e. telescope) shortly after its invention in the Netherlands and made a sketch of the moon as seen through it in July of 1609.
Misconception: British troops forced themselves into American homes during the Revolution.
Fact: While many sources claim that the Quartering Act of 1774 allowed troops to occupy private homes, this is a myth. The act only permitted troops to be quartered in unoccupied buildings. The freedom from having soldiers quartered in private homes was a liberty guaranteed since 1628 by the Petition of Right. Although many colonists found the Quartering Act objectionable, it generated the least protest of the Intolerable Acts.
Misconception: British soldiers fired on innocent, unarmed Boston civilians during the Revolution.
Fact: Concerning the Boston Massacre, it was certainly not a massacre but rather a moment of self-defense. The mob had grown to 300-400 people and was pressing around the soldiers. They harassed and threw small objects at them, one soldier was struck down with a club, and many were taunting the soldiers by shouting “Fire!”. In the trial of the soldiers, which opened November 27, 1770, John Adams argued that if the soldiers were endangered by the mob they had the legal right to fight back, and so were innocent.
Misconception: The Lewis and Clark reached the Pacific Ocean.
Fact: Lewis and Clark, sadly, did not actually see the Pacific Ocean. They landed at the mouth of the Columbia River, Astoria, Oregon on November 7, 1805. The day was rainy and foggy, and the Columbia River estuary was four or five miles wide and they could not see the Oregon side of the river or Point Adams at the mouth of the river in the distance. But they were close enough to have reached their goal.
Misconception: The pronunciation is “Blackfoot” for singular and “Blackfeet” for plural.
Fact: The name of the “Blackfeet” tribe of Montana, though the official name of this tribe, is actually a misnomer given to them by white authorities. The word is not plural in the Blackfoot language, and some Blackfoot people still resist this name.
Misconception: The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776.
Fact: A final copy of the Declaration of Independence was produced by Timothy Matlack, assistant to the secretary of Congress, on August 2, 1776, at which time most of the delegates signed it. Because it is dated July 4, 1776, many people falsely believe it was signed on that date.
Misconception: The Liberty Bell was cracked as it rung for independence.
Fact: The Liberty Bell was not rung to celebrate independence, and it certainly did not acquire its crack by doing so: that story comes from a children’s book, Legends of the American Revolution, by George Lippard. The Liberty Bell was actually named in the early nineteenth century when it became a symbol of the anti-slavery movement.