1776 reprint of broadside delivered by Bissell
Israel Bissell (1752 – October 24, 1823) was a patriot post rider
who brought news to American colonists
of the British attack on Lexington and Concord
on April 19, 1775. He reportedly rode for four days and six hours, covering the 345 miles from Watertown, Massachusetts
along the Old Post Road
, shouting "To arms, to arms, the war has begun", and carrying a message from General Joseph Palmer
, which was copied at each of his stops and redistributed.
Israel Bissell was born to Israel Bissell (1718–1776) and Hannah Sackett (1726–1799) in the year 1752. His precise date of birth is unknown. His birthplace was East Windsor Hill, Connecticut Colony, now part of the town of South Windsor, Connecticut
. Not much is known in his life up to the 1775 midnight ride from Lexington to Philadelphia.
According to legend, at the end of Bissell's first leg, Watertown to Worcester, his first horse collapsed and died from having been driven so hard.
After completing his ride, Bissell returned to Connecticut, where he joined the army alongside his brother, Justis. After the war, he moved to Middlefield, Massachusetts
, where he married Lucy Hancock and became a sheep farmer. In the 1790 and 1800 United States Census he is listed in Middlefield, and in the 1820 Census he is listed in Hinsdale
. Bissell died on October 24, 1823 and was buried in the Maple Street Cemetery in Hinsdale, Massachusetts.
Timeline of 1775 ride
* April 19, 10 a.m., Watertown, Massachusetts
* April 19, noon, Worcester, Massachusetts
* April 19, 9 p.m. Pomfret, Connecticut
* April 20, 11 a.m., Brooklyn, Connecticut
* April 20, 4 p.m., Norwich, Connecticut
* April 20, 7 p.m., New London, Connecticut
* April 21, 1 a.m., Lyme, Connecticut
* April 21, 4 a.m., Old Saybrook, Connecticut
* April 21, 10 a.m., Guilford, Connecticut
* April 21, noon, Branford, Connecticut
* Fairfield, Connecticut
* April 23, 4 p.m., Wall Street
, New York City
* Elizabeth, New Jersey
* New Brunswick, New Jersey
* Trenton, New Jersey
* April 24, 5 p.m., Philadelphia
This timetable appears in Elias Boudinot's book ''Journal of Events in the Revolution''.
In popular culture
Although Paul Revere
is better known due to the epic poem
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
, Bissell was the subject of the less well known "Ride, Israel, Ride", an epic poem by Marie Rockwood
of Stockbridge, Massachusetts
. According to Syracuse University
professor of television and popular culture, Robert Thompson
, this is not representative of the relative importance or heroism of each feat; rather, "Paul Revere rhymes with a lot more than Israel Bissell". Bissell's place in history was even further smudged by several historical documents which refer to him as "Trail Bissel", or even, as in the document reproduced here, "Tryal Russell". The error occurred when his name was transcribed hastily from the handwritten copy by the printer rushing to get the news set in type. There were also an unknown number of other riders whose names are now completely forgotten. Since many institutions across the country have brought their historical collections online, providing researchers from afar the ability to view original source documents, current scholarship now makes the case for Israel Bissel
Bissell's exploits have been noted in magazines, newspaper accounts, and an anthology of Revolutionary era documents published during the U.S. Bicentennial celebration in 1976. Bissell was first honored in the Berkshires by Hinsdale historian Marion Ransford, who drew upon historic documents in the archives of Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland. At the behest of Mrs. Ransford, the Daughters of the American Revolution installed a special marker at Bissell's grave. Realtor Isadore Goodman donated the Bissell homestead site on Plunkett Lake Road to the town in 1972.
Bissell was mentioned in comedian Robert Wuhl
's 2006 HBO
special, ''Assume the Position with Mr. Wuhl
''. Wuhl timed Bissell as having left at the same time as Revere (which clearly conflicts with Boudinot's timeline), and joked that his name sounded like a Jewish vacuum cleaner
to demonstrate why Longfellow decided to use Paul Revere as the poem's hero instead.
Bissell was portrayed by David Bluvband on the cult public access program, ''The Chris Gethard Show
'' in the episode "18th Century American Gladiators
", which aired in August 2014.
Bissel was mentioned in ABC’s show, American Housewife, Season 5 Episode 2. Greg Otto, the president of Westport, Connecticut’s Historical Society, sees a sign for a future development project on the same field where it is said that Bissel stopped to feed his horse on the way to Philadelphia. Otto then begins to lobby the city council to stop the development of the land.
Historian Lion G. Miles extracted several documents from the Massachusetts Archives that seem to erroneously question whether an "Israel Bissell" actually rode all the way to Philadelphia. The documents reportedly support that an "Isaac Bissell" did, indeed, ride with news of the attack on Lexington, but only as far as Hartford, Connecticut
. Bissell billed for six days of expenses while in Connecticut, rather than a full trip to Philadelphia.
* ''The Boston Globe
'', April 20, 1997
* ''The Boston Globe
'', April 19, 1982
* "Bissell Outrode Paul Revere But History Left Him in the Dust", ''Hartford Courant
'', April 16, 2007
External linksConnecticut SAR: An Alarm from LexingtonBroadside
Category:People from East Windsor, Connecticut
Category:People of Massachusetts in the American Revolution
Category:Patriots in the American Revolution
Category:People of colonial Massachusetts
Category:People of Connecticut in the American Revolution
Category:Burials in Massachusetts
Category:People from Middlefield, Massachusetts