At Gettysburg: Paul Revere’s Grandson

Here at Gazette665, we usually feature an American War for Independence theme in July. This year we’re adding a twist. I’ve found four Founding Fathers whose descendants fought at the Battle of Gettysburg which occurred in 1863 – 155 years ago this month. Prepare for some surprises!

Today, we’ll talk about the patriot Paul Revere and one of his grandsons…

Paul Revere

Founding Father: Paul Revere

Most famous for his “midnight ride” immortalized by Henry W. Longfellow’s poetry, Paul Revere – the Boston silversmith – actually did much more to aid the patriot cause during the 1770’s and 1780’s. He led militia troops in several campaigns and battles, designed fortifications, and tried to build a gunpowder factory. Still, Revere is mostly remembered for his pre-war activities with the Sons of Liberty in Boston, engraving a scene of the Boston Massacre, and riding to warn the citizens in Lexington that British troops were heading to that town and Concord.

After the war, Revere continued his silversmith and metal smith work in Boston, semi-industrializing his shop practices. Politically, he supported the Federalists and stayed active in local and state politics until his death. Paul Revere died in 1818 – 43 years before the American Civil War began.

Paul Joseph Revere

Great-Grandson: Paul Joseph Revere

Born on September 18, 1832, Paul Joseph Revere – one of Paul Revere’s grandsons – grew up near Boston, Massachusetts and attended Harvard University – graduating in 1852. When the Civil War began in 1861, Revere enlisted on July 1 as a major and shortly after received a commission in the 20th Massachusetts Infantry.

Captured at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff later in 1861, Revere spent time in a Richmond prison before his exchange. He served briefly as assistant inspector general for General Sumner and was wounded at the Battle of Antietam. Returning to military service in the spring of 1863, Revere was promoted to Colonel of the 20th Massachusetts between the Second Battle of Fredericksburg and Gettysburg.

20th Massachusetts: Fight For The Union

The 20th Massachusetts – nicknamed “The Harvard Regiments” since many of the units officers were young graduates – formed at the end of August 1861. Ball’s Bluff was the units first battle and afterwards they fought at most battles involving the Army of the Potomac, including, Peninsula Campaign/Seven Days Battles, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Second Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Petersburg, and the Appomattox Campaign. By the end of the war, the 20th suffered 409 casualties, ranking it among the most severely battered regiments of the war.

On The Fields Of Gettysburg

At the Battle of Gettysburg, the 20th Massachusetts was in Hall’s Brigade, Gibbon’s Division, Hancock’s II Corps – Army of the Potomac. Colonel Revere had recently returned to command but wasn’t exactly welcomed back by his subordinates who wanted another officer who had been with the regiment in more 1862 battles promoted to command.

20th Massachusetts Monument at Gettysburg (By Wilson44691 – Own work, CC0,

On July 2, 1863, Colonel Revere and his regiment helped hold the Union lines along Cemetery Ridge, taking casualties from Confederate artillery as the fighting unraveled in the advanced position of the Union III Corps. (Not familiar with Gettysburg? That’s okay – check out the battle overview here.) While his men lay on the ground, trying to avoid the artillery shells, Colonel Revere stayed upright, walking among his soldiers – encouraging the frightened and recording the dying’s last messages. At approximately, 6 P.M. an artillery projectile exploded overhead and a ball struck Revere, passing through his lungs and deep into his body. Stretcher-bearers carried him off the field to the II Corps hospital.

Although Revere spent the rest of his life at the field hospital, the Harvard boys fought again on July 3, 1863; they dug a shallow, one foot trench along their position on Cemetery Ridge, just south of Ziegler’s Grove, near The Angle. Here, they waited and crouched through the Confederate artillery barrage. When the Confederate infantry attack began, they fired on the advancing units and eventually shifted north along the battle lines to help repel the breakthrough at The Angle. The regiment lost 31 killed, 93 wounded, and 3 missing at Gettysburg; Colonel Revere was among the injured.

Paul Joseph Revere – a descendant of patriot Paul Revere – fell defending the idea of Union and freedom ignited by his ancestor. He lived long enough to know that the Union men had won the battle; when his men came to tell him about the victory “his eye lighted up with gratitude, and he sunk into unconsciousness.” On July 4 or 5, 1863, Paul Joseph Revere died of his wounds at the 2nd Division, II Corps field hospital at Gettysburg. He body was returned to Massachusetts and buried beside his brother (who had also died defending the Union) in Mt. Auburn Cemetery.

Revere’s mother wrote in her journal: “They knew the risk they ran, but the conflict must be met. It was their duty to aid it. The claim on them was a strong as on any and gallantly they answered it.”

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

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