May 292013

You may remember the 1960’s band known as Paul Revere and the Raiders, but have you ever heard of Paul Revere and the Mechanics? The Mechanics, who generally did not have any formal espionage training, were actually infiltrated by a British operative. After becoming suspicious that one amongst them was a spy, Revere wrote that “We were so careful that our meetings should be kept secret, that every time we met, every person swore upon the Bible that they would not discover any of our transactions, but to Messrs. Hancock, Drs. Warren and Church, and one or two more leaders. They took turns to watch the soldiers, two by two, by patrolling the streets all night.” The spy, Dr. Benjamin Church, became aware of the Mechanics’ regularly scheduled meeting at the Green Dragon Tavern, and established himself as one of the leaders of the group. Church was actually the highest paid spy in General Gage’s network. Gage was able to persuade Church to spy for the British in order to support his extravagant lifestyle. Swearing an oath on a Bible did not dissuade or deter Church who used money paid to him to support a mistress. As he continued to covertly spy on Gage’s behalf, Church was able to not only attend the Continental Congress in May, 1775, but also become chief physician of the Continental Army! Church’s true colors were finally revealed when he tried to have his mistress pass information concerning Continental stockpiles, troops, provision, and recruitment practices to the British. Eventually, George Washington ordered Church’s arrest, and he was later imprisoned. 

Despite Church’s efforts, the Mechanics were able to organize and execute several notable operations. Several of the Mechanics, including Revere, are credited with planning and carrying out the Boston Tea Party. Of course, there was the famous ride of Paul Revere and Richard Dawes. It was members of the Mechanics who first noticed that British vessels seemed to be waiting to ferry troops across the Charles River. Revere then notified Joseph Warren of the awaiting transporters, and then Revere made preparations (including those for the lanterns in the Old North Church) to notify Samuel Adams and John Hancock if the British troops did indeed begin to move toward Lexington. Revere’s use of the lanterns as a signal was quite brilliant. The rector of the church was known to be a loyalist. However, plans were made for him to be called away from the church, so another person who worked at the church could raise the lanterns in his absence. Four months prior to riding to Lexington, Revere made a less known, but equally important, trip. He rode to New Hampshire’s Oyster River to notify John Sullivan of General Gage’s plan to seize munitions from Fort William and Mary. Patriot forces were able to secret away 16 canons and other military supplies which were eventually used in the Siege of Boston. 

The Green Tavern, as featured in John Johnston’s 1773 watercolor sketch, was often a meeting place for the Mechanics and other patriot groups. Johnston wrote on the sketch: “Green Dragon Tavern: Where we met to Plan the Consignment of a few Shiploads of Tea, Dec 16 1773.” That “consignment” was also known as the Boston Tea Party. In the 1760’s, the “Tavern” was not actually a bar, but instead a meeting place. It was owned by the St. Andrews Lodge of Freemasons. Although the Freemasons held their own meetings on the ground floor of the building, the basement is sometimes referred to as the “Headquarters of the Revolution.” The basement was the site for meetings of groups such as the Mechanics, Boston Caucus, Sons of Liberty, and Boston’s Committee of Correspondence. 

The following is a rallying song, purportedly sung at the Green Dragon, prior to the Boston Tea Party: 
Rally, Mohawks! – bring out your axes!
And tell King George we’ll pay no taxes
On his Foreign tea!
His threats are vain – and vain to think
To force our girls and wives to drink
His ‘vile Bohea!
Then rally boys, and hasten on
To meet our Chiefs at the Green Dragon. 
Our Warren’s there, and bold Revere,
With hands to do and words to cheer
For Liberty and Laws!
Our country’s “Braves” and firm defenders,
Shall neer be left by true North-Enders,
Fighting Freedom’s cause!
Then rally boys, and hasten on
To meet our Chiefs at the Green Dragon.

The effort and actions of patriots such as Paul Revere, and other members of the Mechanics, assisted the untrained, unpaid, and unrelenting forces of the independence movement in the eventual topple the greatest army of its time. 

Please take a moment to remember What Is Right With America!


Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.


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