Prof. ALLISON: Well, he's not firing warning shots. He is telling people so that they can ring bells to alert others. What he's doing is going from house to house, knocking on doors of members of the Committees of Safety, saying the regulars are out. That is, he knew that General Gage was sending troops out to Lexington and Concord, really Concord, to seize the weapons being stockpiled there, but also perhaps to arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams, leaders of the Continental Congress who were staying in the town of Lexington.
Remember, Gage was planning - this is a secret operation; that's why he's moving at night. He gets over to Cambridge, the troops start marching from Cambridge, and church bells are ringing throughout the countryside.
BLOCK: So Paul Revere was ringing those bells? He was a silversmith, right?
Prof. ALLISON: Well, he was - he also was a bell ringer. That is, he rang the bells at Old North Church as a boy. But he, personally, is not getting off his horse and going to ring bells. He's telling other people - and this is their system before Facebook, before Twitter, before NPR - this was the way you get a message out, is by having people ring church bells, and everyone knows there is an emergency.
And by this time, of course, the various town committees of safety, militia knew what the signals were, so they knew something was afoot. So this is no longer a secret operation for the British.
Revere isn't trying to alert the British, but he is trying to warn them. And in April of 1775, no one was talking about independence. We're still part of the British Empire. We're trying to save it. So this is a warning to the British Empire what will happen if you provoke Americans.
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