Israel Bissell's Ride

"Israel Bissell's Ride © D. W. Roth"

On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere and William Dawes were instructed by Dr. Joseph Warren to ride from Boston to Lexington to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams of the movements of the British Army, which was beginning a march from Boston to Lexington, to arrest Hancock and Adams and seize the weapons stores in Concord.

Since the Boston Tea Party, the kings soldiers had been keeping an eye on Revere and other patriots as word began to spread that they were planning a move. On the night of April 18, 1775, the army began its move across the Charles River toward Lexington, and the Sons of Liberty immediately went into action. At about 11 PM, Revere was sent by Dr. Warren across the Charles River to Charlestown, on the opposite shore, where he could begin a ride to Lexington, while Dawes was sent the long way around, via the Boston Neck and the land route to Lexington. What followed was the stuff of legends: The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.

Paul Revere was the only one of the riders to get famous that night. This was in a large degree to a poem that was written about him and his famous ride. The poem was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and called "Paul Revere's Ride."

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year

Revere and Dawes are the only two names that have made it in to the history books. However, there was another person involved, who road a heck of a lot farther than both Revere and Dawes. His name was Israel Bissell. Israel Bissell was born in 1752 in East Windsor, Connecticut. He was a postal express rider and was only 23 years old at the time of his ride. On the night of April 18, Dawes and Revere were both captured after having ridden less than twenty miles, but Bissell rode incredibly fast, all the way to Massachusetts, in the span of two hours, a thirty mile ride which normally took two days. Far surpassing his original goal of riding to Connecticut, Bissell continued to ride for a total of 345 miles through Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and finally to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in only five days, averaging approximately 70 miles per day.

After the ride to Philadelphia was completed, Israel Bissell returned to New England where he joined the army in July of 1776 with his brother and fought until the death of his father that year made him return home and establish his farm.

At this time, most normal mail deliveries took approximately two weeks. Bissell travelled farther and faster than the other riders carrying similar letters. It is unfortunate that his long journey isn't remembered, as his name is often missing from many popular recollections of the American Revolution and U.S. History textbooks. Israel Bissell deserves to be remembered. This Web Site is one attempt to have that happen.

To learn more about the story of Israel Bissell, click on the links below.
Israel Bissell from
A Tribute to a Fast White Horse?
The true story of Bissell’s Ride in 1775
Israel Bissell in Verse and Song