This project began in the Spring of 1992, with an invitation from Len Tucker to present a paper to the Massachusetts Historical Society. I am grateful to the members and staff of the Society for their encouragement and support.
In the following year that paper grew into this book. A critical stage in its conceptual development came in an unexpected place during the summer of 1992, when James McPherson and I were refighting the western campaigns of the Civil War for a floating alumni college on board the steamboat Delta Queen. We had occasion to talk about our mutual interest in contingency and choice in history. One night, while making an advance visit to the battlefields, we made a mistaken choice of our own, and tried to get too close to the site of Fort Henry (now underwater). Our car sank deep into the mud of the Tennessee River. As we walked many miles through a dark night while bolts of lightning flashed on the horizon, the idea of contingency struck home with special force! I have a major debt to Jim for his pathbreaking work on this problem.
Another large debt is due to Bertram Wyatt-Brown, who read a rough draft and offered many helpful suggestions for the narrative construction of the work. As always I have learned much from his depth of insight into historical problems.
In Boston, many scholars shared their expertise on various aspects of the midnight ride. A large debt is due to Nina Zannieri, director of the Paul Revere Memorial Association, and to Patrick Leehey, head of research at Paul Revere House. Both Nina and Pat found time in their busy schedules to read the manuscript in several drafts. They gave it the most careful, rigorous, and constructive criticism I have ever received on any project. In subsequent conversations they and Edith Steblecki and other members of the staff at the Paul Revere House helped on many questions of substance, detail, bibliography, and illustrations.
On the fighting at Lexington and Concord, I have learned much from Douglas Sabin, chief historian at Minute Man National Historic Park, the leading authority on the battle. Doug generously shared his own unpublished research, walked the Battle Road with me, and closely criticized several drafts of this manuscript. Three historians of Lexington and Concord also read the manuscript: Robert Gross of the College of William and Mary, Joseph Fairbanks of Whittier College, and David Wood at the Concord Museum. All made helpful suggestions, and shared unpublished materials. Other scholars helped with specific problems in the course of the research: Marjorie Hubbell Gibson and Nathaniel Champlin on HMS Somerset, and Thomas Boaz on Major Pitcairn and the Royal Marines, Thomas Smith on Loammi Baldwin, the Reverend Robert W. Golledge of Old North Church, and S. Lawrence Whipple on Lexington Common. Colonel Vincent Kehoe sent the results of his latest research on the 10th Foot.
At the American Antiquarian Society, Georgia Barnhill was as always a model of high efficiency. With her unrivaled expertise on early American imprints, she also helped to locate materials at other institutions. Also helpful in other ways were Judith McAllister Curtis at the Adams National Historic Site, Braintree; Christine MacKenzie and Diane Broadley at Anderson Photo, Inc.; Meredith McCulloch at the Bedford Public Library, Philip Bergen of the Bostonian Society, Laura Monti at Boston Public Library, the staff at the British Library and the British Public Record Office, Susan Danforth of the John Carter Brown Library, Charles Sullivan at the Cambridge Historical Commission, John Dann and Arlene Shy at the William L. Clements Library, Mrs. William H. Moss and Joyce Woodman at the Concord Free Public Library, Carol Haines at the Concord Museum, Robert Hanson at the Dedham Historical Society, Nancy Heywood and William La Moy at the Essex Institute, Mark Burnette at the Evanston Historical Society, Ed Olsen and Susan Cifaldi of the Fifers and Drummers Museum, Sanna Deutsch at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Sarah Brophey and Anne Ireland at Lexington Historical Society, Jane Eastman at the Lexington Library, Bernice H. Fallick, Town Clerk of Lexington, Louis Plummer of Photoassist, Inc.