Modern critics of the poem emphasize its many historical inaccuracies. For example, the poem depicts the lantern signal in the Old North Church as meant for Revere, but actually the signal was from Revere: the historical Paul Revere did not receive the lantern signal, but actually was the one who ordered it to be set up. The poem also depicts Revere rowing himself across the Charles River when, in reality, he was rowed over by others. He also did not reach Concord that night. Another inaccuracy is a general lengthening of the time frame of the night's events.
The majority of criticism, however, notes that Longfellow gave sole credit to Revere for the collective achievements of three riders (as well as other riders, whose names do not survive to history). In fact, Revere and William Dawes rode (via different routes) from Boston to Lexington to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams that British soldiers were marching from Boston to Lexington to arrest Hancock and Adams and seize the weapons stores in Concord. Revere and Dawes rode toward Concord, where the militia's arsenal was hidden; they were joined by Samuel Prescott, a doctor who lived in Concord and happened to be in Lexington. Revere, Dawes, and Prescott were stopped by British troops in Lincoln on the road to Concord. Prescott and Dawes escaped, but Revere was detained and questioned and then escorted at gunpoint by three British officers back to Lexington. Of the three riders, only Prescott arrived at Concord in time to warn the militia there.