The Surprising Thing Paul Revere Did At The Battle Of Bunker Hill Battleground

If you're an American reader, you almost certainly know who Paul Revere was. As immortalized in the poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Revere was a Boston patriot who rode at midnight to warn the colonists about the invading British at the start of the American Revolution. His heroics, you'll remember, led to the American victory at the Battles of Lexington and Concord. As we've previously discussed at Grunge, however, Paul Revere was a far cry from the dashing young man of action portrayed in elementary-level history books. He was a stout, middle-aged guy who was there to get the job done.

Sometimes that job was silversmithing or warning the Americans of a midnight invasion. And sometimes it was amateur dentistry and digging through piles of corpses. Confused? Listen, my children, and you shall hear of the time Paul Revere apparently became America's first forensic dentist — at least, according to the New England Historical Society.

Yes, Paul Revere did dentistry

Paul Revere was, of course, famously a silversmith, but in the early 1760s, he found himself struggling to make ends meet (via Mental Floss). His solution was to take up a secondary trade, apprenticing himself to an oral surgeon named John Baker. By 1770, Revere had hung his shingle, advertising that he could fix teeth "as well as any Surgeon-Dentist who ever came from London, fixing them in such a Manner that they are not only an Ornament, but of real Use in Speaking and Eating" (quoted by the New England Historical Society).

One of Revere's patients was Dr. Joseph Warren, the man who famously enlisted Revere for his midnight ride — and for whom, less famously, Revere had made a dental implant out of some gold wire and a walrus tooth. Sadly, Warren didn't live long after the famous ride, dying as a general at the Battle of Bunker Hill just a couple of months later — and the British dumped his body unceremoniously into a mass grave.

Revere became America's first forensic dentist

The 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill — this was the one at which Colonel William Prescott famously told his soldiers, "Don't fire till you see the whites of their eyes!" (via History) — is remembered today as a great moral victory for Americans, but the end result of it was that the Bunker Hill territory was controlled by the British, which meant that the bodies of fallen American soldiers were inaccessible for nearly a year. The Americans regained the territory in March of 1776, at which point many of the soldiers' families wanted to exhume their remains and give them a proper burial — including the family of Dr. Warren.

Unfortunately, when you bury a pile of bodies together for nearly a year, they tend to come out the other end hard to tell apart. So, knowing they wouldn't be able to identify Warren's remains, his family enlisted the help of our guy. Revere agreed, and, together with his family, spent a day digging around in the rotting corpses until he recognized the walrus tooth he'd used, and was therefore able to identify Warren's body (via the National Museum of Health and Medicine). Say what you will about Revere — the guy got the job done. Wonder why no one wrote an epic poem about that adventure.