Paul Revere and his famous midnight ride is so much a part of the collective memory of the American Revolution that it is often forgotten that Revere was just one of several men and one woman who alerted the Minutemen of the impending British advancement. It was William Dawes who rode through Cambridge on Tuesday April 18, 1775 at 11:30 a.m. to warn Cantabrigians to prepare for the inevitable.
After being instructed by Dawes, the inhabitants of Cambridge removed the planks from the “Great Bridge” (named so because when it was built in 1662 it was the largest bridge in the colony) and left them piled at the Cambridge end to prevent British reinforcements from crossing the Charles River. Because Dawes’ cousin and a cousin of Mehitable (May) Dawes (William Dawes’ wife) were students at Harvard College, it is thought that several Harvard students participated in the deplanking of the Great Bridge.
With his mission accomplished, Dawes continued on Massachusetts Avenue for Menotomy (Arlington) where he met up with Paul Revere. As he was speeding away from the Cambridge Common, Dawes’ horse left hoof prints on the south-east corner of the common and a few heading north on Massachusetts Avenue. Today you can see these hoof prints in a memorial set into the pavement on the edge common.
1. Dawes, Burr. William Dawes, First Rider for Revolution. Newark, Ohio: Historic Gardens Press, 1976.
2. Paige, Lucius. History of Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1630-1877 with a Genealogical Register. Cambridge, Mass.: Riverside Press, 1877.