Learning Objectives:

1. How was a resistance movement transformed into a coalition in favor of independence?

2. Would you have been a Loyalist, Patriot, or Neutral? Why?

3. Why did the patriots (a small force) win and the British (the most powerful military in the world) lose the Revolutionary War?

4. What lessons, if any, does the British experience provide for America in 2012?

The American Revolution required patriot leaders to do three things:
  • Establish a coalition in favor of independence
  • Gain foreign recognition.
  • Triumph over the British army

First Continental Congress (Philadelphia, Sept 1774)

First Continental Congress (Massachusetts Historical Society)

First Continental Congress:

1. Declaration of Rights and Grievances (Library of Congress)

Colonists would obey normal laws of British Parliament
Colonists would not obey taxes in disguise (like Townshend Duties)

2. Continental Association: boycott of English goods (Library of Congress)

3. . Committees of Observation & Inspection
Committee members (7000) assigned to monitor boycott,
Became, in effect, the local leaders of the American resistance.

Provincial conventions:
Independence was being won at the local level, without formal acknowledgement and without much bloodshed.

Popularly elected congresses took over government in each colony

These conventions

  • a. elected delegates to the Second Continental Congress
  • b. organized militia units
  • c. gathered arms and ammunition
  • d. collected taxes

Choosing sides

1. Patriots (40% of population)

Americans who were against the British

To win, Patriots had to neutralize or defeat potential internal enemies.

2. Neutrals (40% of population)

Those who tried to remain in the middle

  • Sincere pacifists (Quakers)
  • Those who supported whoever controlled their area
  • Those who simply wanted to be left alone

3. Loyalists (20% of population)

The Author’s Corner with Virginia DeJohn Anderson
Loyalist vs Nathan Hale

Loyalists were Americans who remained loyal to the British:

  • British–appointed government officials
  • Merchants whose trade depended on British connections
  • Anglican (Church of England) ministers

100,000 loyalists left America, many to Canada

4. African–Americans

Slaves sought freedom by supporting the British.
British eventually took away 55,000 slaves
Colonies with highest slave %—less support for revolution.

5. Indians

Both British and patriots tried to keep Indians neutral
Indians bitter at aggressive expansionism of colonists
Most taking sides supported British—less threat than Patriots

The War itself

British military planners made three erroneous assumptions:

1. Americans would not stand up to professional troops

2. English could fight a conventional war as they would in Europe

3. Military victory would be sufficient to win the struggle

Map (a static one of the war):

EDSITEment interactives

British r Coming. Pls RT! What if Twitter had been around during the American Revolution? (Foreign Policy)

Revolution Chronology:

1. Battles of Lexington and Concord (April 1775).

Lexington and Concord (Massachusetts Historical Society)

Battles of Lexington and Concord (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Video: Paul Revere mini bio

Paul Revere's ride

Paul Revere's Ride (Finding Dulcinea, On This Day)

One if by land, two if by sea (Paul Revere Heritage Project)

Battles of Lexington and Concord (Animated Map)

British Battle account

Good map in the Wikipedia account of the battle

2. Battle of Bunker Hill (June 1775)

Battle of Bunker Hill (Massachusetts Historical Society)

Battle of Bunker Hill (Animated Map)

Grave marker at Old North Church in Boston reads as follows:
"Major Pitcairn, a British officer, fatally wounded while rallying the Royal Marines at Bunker Hill, was carried from the battlefield to the boats on the back of his son, who kissed him and returned to duty."

British Battle account

British Account of Bunker Hill

3. Boston siege

Patriot troops surrounded British in Boston for next year

4. Second Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress (Massachusetts Historical Society)

Convened in May 1775 at Philadelphia

a. Became the intercolonial government during American Revolution
b. Authorized the printing of money
c. Established a committee to supervise relations with foreign countries
d. Created Continental Army

e. Washington appointed commanding general

Washington from the South

Washington as Commander (Massachusetts Historical Society)

Washington's Letter to the Continental Congress (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Spy Letters of the American Revolution -- Clements Library, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Note: George Washington named Britain's greatest ever foe (Telegraph)

See also:

Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms

Olive Branch Petition

Threat of Bioterrorism in 1775

5. Continental army

a. Never numbered more than 18,500 men
b. Included black (5,000) troops
c. Short–term militiamen helped in their own area
d. Women traveled with the army

Who: wives and widows of poor soldiers
Doing what: cooks, nurses, and launderers

Creating a Continental Army (Library of Congress)

Spy Letters of the American Revolution (University of Michigan)
My Website Spotlight blog post

6. Thomas Paine: Common Sense (Jan 1776)

a. Wildly popular book
b. Helped Americans accept the idea of separation from Britain
c. Advocated creation of an independent republic
d. Downplayed benefits of links to mother country
e. Insisted Britain had exploited colonies unmercifully
f. Americans hated Parliament, but thought King was sympathetic
g. Paine disagreed:
h. King was a royal brute
i. King only pretended to care for the colonist's welfare

Thomas Paine: Citizen of the World (BBC)

Celebrating Thomas Paine (PBS)
Program Transcript

Thomas Paine (National Portrait Gallery exhibit)

7. PBS video LIBERTY! The American Revolution

Play "The Road to Revolution Game"
Class should try to navigate its way to independence!

Liberty! The American Revolution (PBS)
My Website Spotlight blog post

8. Religion and the American Revolution (Library of Congress)

Read the Introductory paragraphs
Read "Resistance to Tyranny a Christian Duty"
Read "Revolution Understood in Scriptural Terms"
Read "A Fighting Parson"

Invoking God.
Us in 1776.
Muslims in current Iraq and Afghanistan.


9. Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776)

Declaration of Independence (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Congress Declares Independence from Britain (Finding Dulcinea, On This Day)

a. Noted committee members: Jefferson, Adams, Franklin

Thomas Jefferson (Finding Dulcinea)

Thomas Jefferson (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Abigail Adams: “Remember the Ladies” Letter to John Adams (1776) (Milestone Documents)

Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died exactly 50 years later (July 4, 1776)

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson Die (On This Day, Finding Dulcinea)

Intimate Enemies: Adams and Jefferson (American Heritage)

Friends At Twilight: Adams and Jefferson (American Heritage)

Jefferson was chosen to draft the Declaration

He wrote well
He had recently drafted the Virginia state constitution

b. Colonists no longer accept legitimacy of Parliament

c. Declaration concentrated on King George III as the villain

The King had attempted to destroy representative government
The King oppressed Americans by excessive force

d. All men are created equal: principle to live up to

e. Signers of the Declaration at great risk: treason.
John Hancock's big signature: "King won't need his spectacles"

f. (A Project of the Claremont Institute)
Go to "The Declaration" along the top of HOME page
Three annotated versions are provided: click on the "Historical Context" version.
Read carefully through the complete text of the Declaration of Independence

10. Lineup of opponents during the war itself:

a. War took place on several levels

Regular troops: British against Patriots
Irregular troops: Partisan warfare (Patriots versus Loyalists)

b. Fighting moved chronologically from North to South:
  • New England
  • Middle colonies
  • Southern colonies

Note sure where to put this:

Selections from the diary of Joseph Plumb Martin

11. Patriot winter camp: Valley Forge

Valley Forge (National Park Service)

Valley Forge (US

Tremendous suffering

Time for needed training (Baron von Steuben)

General Von Steuben (National Park Service)

Valley Forge (Library of Congress)
Click on "Revolutionary War, The Turning Point, 1777-1778"
Then look at the following document:
"Washington Describes the Continental Army at Valley Forge, Winter 1777-1778"

Continental army
a. Never numbered more than 18,500 men
b. Included black (5,000) troops
c. Short–term militiamen helped in their own area
d. Women traveled with the army

Who: wives and widows of poor soldiers
Doing what: cooks, nurses, and launderers

Creating a Continental Army (Library of Congress)

Spy Letters of the American Revolution (University of Michigan)
My Website Spotlight blog post

12. Treason of Benedict Arnold (21 September 1780)

Officers developed intense commitment to the revolutionary cause

Arnold betrayed the cause (

Arnold bio sketch

Peopling the Past: Benedict Arnold (Colonial Williamsburg)

13. Washington "crossed the Delaware" River

Battle of Trenton

Attacked Trenton and Princeton
These victories cheered American spirits

Battle of Trenton (Animated map)

14. Battle of Saratoga

Battle of Saratoga (Today in History, Library of Congress)

a. British invaded New York to cut off New England from rest of colonies
b. British General Burgoyne surrendered 6,000 troops
c. American victory led to French recognition of American independence

Saratoga (Animated Map)

Benedict Arnold's Leg

British Battle Account

15. Franco–American Treaty of Alliance (1778)

French Alliance (Historian of the State Department)

Treaty of Alliance with France 1778 (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Treaty of alliance brought France into war on American side:

a. Americans had mixed feelings
b. France had been major enemy in past
c. French were Catholic
d. But French were anxious to avenge their defeat in the French and Indian War

French help was critically important to the overall Patriot victory against the British.

See Also:

Marquis de Lafayette

16. Fighting moved to the south

British had taken key cities in the North:
  • Boston
  • Newport, Rhode Island
  • New York City (their headquarters for most of the war)
  • Philadelphia

But still the British were not stopping the Patriots

British thought they would have better success in the South

Southern Campaign (Animated map)

17. Charleston (South Carolina)

Results were the reverse of Saratoga.

Americans surrendered 5,000 troops to the British.

18. Nathanael Greene

Nathanael Greene (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Nathanael Greene (US

Nathanael Greene: Key Patriot general in South (Library of Congress)

He was a Quaker.

He operated effectively against the British militarily.

But he was much more than just a military man.

He showed tolerance for the problems of loyalists and Indians.

19. British Surrender at Yorktown (1781)

Siege of Yorktown

Cornwallis Surrender at Yorktown (Today in History, Library of Congress)

a. British General Cornwallis trapped on Tidewater peninsula

b. American and French armies surrounded him on land.

c. French navy defeated British rescue effort off Chesapeake Bay

d. Great American victory.
Though wait a minute! Did killer mosquitoes cause the British defeat?

e. Yorktown (Animated Map)

f. Joseph Plumb Martin at Yorktown

Voices in Time: New Nation:

The World Turned Upside Down lyrics

The World Turned Upside Down music

The World Turned Upside Down music (Fifes and Druns)

20. Peace Treaty of Paris (1783)

Treaty of Paris Signed (Finding Dulcinea, On This Day)

American diplomats: Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay
Won a tremendous settlement for America

Continental Congress Approved Preliminary Articles of Peace, 15 April 1783 (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Treaty of Paris Signed in Paris, 3 September 1783 (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Continental Congress Ratified the Treaty of Paris, 14 January 1784 (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Great map:

a. England recognized American independence
b. Britain kept Canada—but reduced to its original boundaries before Quebec Act
c. U.S. got all territory east of the Mississippi
d. Britain ignored territorial rights of its Indian allies
e. French GOT NOTHING out of the peace treaty

See also:

England’s Vietnam: The American Revolution (American Heritage)