Out of Left Field
The Mystery of
Paul Reveres Horse
Was Paul Revere riding "Silver,"
"Trigger," "Champion," "Rosinante"?
The quest for truth continues...
Do you recall the name
of the nag he rode to fame?
By STAN ISAACS
During this week of the 128th anniversary of Paul Reveres famous ride my thoughts turn anew to what has long been a burning question for me: What was the name of Reveres horse?
Think about it. We celebrate Stymie, Citation, Secretariat and such as Trigger and Silver, but we dont know the name of this great horse. Hence the pursuit here of the name of an important, yet overlooked figure in the history of the republic.
For those not quite up on the details of this significant matter, a pause for a review.
Revere was an on-call messenger for the American colonies. As immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellows poem Paul Reveres Ride (it is full of inaccuracies, but it is a helluva public relations coup for Revere) our hero was a 40-year-old silversmith. He was taken in a rowboat on the night of April 18, 1785, across the Charles River from Boston to Charlestown. He took off on a borrowed horse of Deacon Larkin and rode almost 13 miles toward Concord, warning colonists along the way that the British were coming. He was captured outside of Lexington where a British major ordered him to give his horse to a sergeant.
I dismounted, Revere wrote in one of his three diaries, the Sarjint mounted on my horse and they told me they should make use of my horse for the night, and rode off down the road. The noble beast disappeared into the British army and was never heard from again.
We know from the diaries that he got a horse of Deacon Larkin I set off upon a very good horse, he wrote.
Thats all we know. My research has not nailed down the name of the horse, but it has disproved names that were made up out of the cloth or mistakenly handed down through the years with no particular verification.
Scheherazade was a name given to the horse in a childrens story that had no basis in fact. Sparks comes from the lines in Longfellows poem noting the spark struck out by the steed that night. Dobbin was used by one lazy historian hardly worthy of his craft. Peg and Thunderer also have been ruled out as having no documentation.
My pursuit has taken me to various venues. I felt I was almost in the horses mouth when I visited the Massachusetts State Archives in Boston. They told me that the name of Reveres horse was the question most often asked by children.
The people there gave me a pained look when I mentioned Reveres horse. I was turned over to Leo Flaherty, the head archivist. He said, If only people would pay as much attention to important matters as they do to unimportant ones.
This did not go down well with me you can be sure. I said, Gee, if kids can get interested in history by learning the name of Paul Reveres horse then they could go to the so-called important things.
I have learned that not only kids want to know the name. James A. Rhodes, the onetime mayor of Columbus who went on to become Governor of Ohio, wrote these lines when he was mayor:
Deep under the sod of New Englands hills,
Historians are sleeping with tongues so still;
Silent by time are these lifeless lips;
To us they willed a million manuscripts,
That honor a man and worship his deed,
His ride they record but forget his steed,
Wake up historians! Have you no remorse?
Tell us what became of Paul Reveres horse.
Tell us what became of this gallant horse
After he finished his courageous course.
Cant you recall or remember his name,
Or tell us his color from tail to mane?
How did he die or where was he buried?
To your grave these secrets you have carried.
If you historians cannot trust his source
We Americans will call him
Freedoms Horse. "
My pursuit led me as well to the Public Record Office at Kew outside London. I came upon the handwritten diary of the Sarjint who had taken Reveres horse. It was a bit of a trial to decipher his handwriting on the parchment, but I could conclude that he made no mention of being given a name when handed the horse by Revere.
Upon thinking about it, that was a logical dead end because the horse was a borrowed one. It was unlikely Revere would have known its name and even if he had been told it by Larkin, it is unlikely he would have passed the name on to the British.
The trail led back to the Deacon Larkin, the owner of the horse. He, if anybody, would have known the name. That led to the one legitimate claim for the name of the horse. That name is: Brown Beauty.
This comes from a thin book entitled Some Descendants of Edward Larkin (Knickerbocker Press, 1930) by William Ensign Lincoln. It states, Samuel Larkin, born Oct. 22, 1701, died Oct. 8, 1784; he was a chairmaker, then a fisherman and had horses and stable. He was the owner of Brown Beauty, the mare of Paul Reveres ride The mare was loaned at the request of Samuel Larkins son, Deacon John Larkin, and was never returned to her owner.
The book was called to my attention by George Vincent, now deceased, I think, and I was able to read the citation from the book which is at the New York Public Library.
Historian David Hackett Fischer in his book Paul Reveres Ride makes a strong case for Brown Beauty. He calls Lincoln, the genealogist of the Larkin family and relies on the thin book I noted above. He said it was an excellent specimen of a New England saddlehorse--big strong and very fast.
That should be the end of it, shouldnt it? But the name Brown Beauty . Doesnt that ring a little too pat, too much like Black Beauty?. At one point the name came up as Brown Betty, which the historians ruled out as a typo for Brown Beauty.
Maybe it is Brown Beauty. But a little part of me says it is not quite time to quit this pursuit. I shall continue to ride off in all directions if necessary to run down any more leads to the name of the great horse.
I must confess there was one person who didnt give a damn for the horse or Paul Revere. That was Joe E. Lewis, the pixieish comedian and degenerate horse player. He said he disliked Revere because he gave one of historys bad rides. He took the horse wide at Lexington.
©2003 by Stan Isaacs. The Stan Isaacs caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. The illustration is from IMSI's Master Clips Collection, 1895 Francisco Blvd. E., San Rafael, CA, 94901-5506, USA.
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