The American Revolution1 Biography Online. https://www.biographyonline.net/facts-american-revolution/. would begin in April of 1775 and end in September of 1783. While it was war against Great Britain, it was very much also a civil war within the colonies. Loyalists wanted to remain part of the empire or Britain. Patriots wanted complete autonomy and freedom, to be an independent nation.
Approximately 25,000 American Patriots died during military service – the biggest cause of death was disease – often in unsanitary British prisoner of warships. Approximately 42,000 British sailors deserted in the war, only to become future citizens of America. Information on the Revolution and its battles is plentiful, and it is not the intent of this Camp Manual to document this. However, there are some notable events that can work well in a class setting to stimulate discussion.
Loyalists and Patriots
Loyalists 2 Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loyalist_(American_Revolution). were American colonists who remained loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolutionary War. At the time they were often called Tories, Royalists, or King’s Men. Historians have estimated that between 15 and 20 percent of the 2 million whites in the colonies in 1775 were Loyalists, or about 300,000-400,000 men, women and children. They were opposed by the Patriots, those who supported the revolution. Prominent Loyalists repeatedly assured the British government that many thousands of loyalists would spring to arms and fight for the crown. The British government acted in expectation of that, especially in the southern campaigns in 1780-81. In practice, the number of loyalists in military service was far lower than expected. Across the colonies, Patriots watched suspected Loyalists very closely, and would not tolerate any organized Loyalist opposition. Many outspoken or militarily active loyalists were forced to flee, especially to their stronghold of New York City. William Franklin, the royal governor of New Jersey and son of Patriot leader Benjamin Franklin, became the leader of the Loyalists after his release from a Patriot prison in 1778. He worked to build Loyalist military units to fight in the war, but the number of volunteers was much fewer than London expected.
When their cause was defeated, about 15% of the Loyalists (65,000–70,000 people) fled to other parts of the British Empire, to Britain itself, or to British North America (now Canada). The southern colonists moved mostly to Florida, which had remained loyal to the Crown, and to British Caribbean possessions, often bringing along their slaves. Northern Loyalists largely migrated to Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. They called themselves United Empire Loyalists. Most were compensated with Canadian land or British cash distributed through formal claims procedures. Loyalists who left the U.S. received £3 million or about 37% of their losses from the British government. Loyalists who stayed in the U.S. were generally able to retain their property and become American citizens.
Patriots 3 Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriot_(American_Revolution).(also known as Revolutionaries, Continentals, Rebels, or American Whigs) were those colonists of the Thirteen Colonies who rebelled against British control during the American Revolution and in July 1776 declared the United States of America an independent nation. Their rebellion was based on the political philosophy of republicanism, as expressed by spokesmen such as Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Thomas Paine. They were opposed by the Loyalists who instead supported continued British rule.
As a group, Patriots represented a wide array of social, economic and ethnic backgrounds. They included lawyers like John Adams and Alexander Hamilton; planters like Thomas Jefferson and George Mason; merchants like Alexander McDougall and John Hancock; and ordinary farmers like Daniel Shays and Joseph Plumb Martin. Patriots also included slaves and freemen such as Crispus Attucks, a free man and the first martyr of the American Revolution; James Armistead Lafayette, who served as a double agent for the Continental Army; and Jack Sisson, who, under the command of Colonel William Barton, was leader of the first successful black operation mission in American history, resulting in the capture of British General Richard Prescott.
Discussion should center around the loyalty to a King such as King George III versus individual freedoms. Is it better to be taken care of, to have your protection and economic wellbeing the responsibility of someone else or whether being a free person, responsible for your own wellbeing is better. Remind the students of the impact of debt on the colonies and the grievances that Patriots had with the King. Were the Patriots being reasonable?
Mystery at the Old North Church on April 18, 1775
Early in 1775, the colonists had been gathering arms and gunpowder, storing them in Concord, MA. Paul Revere, re-enters history. Revere had been operating as part of Boston’s Sons of Liberty. For months, he had served as the group’s messenger, carrying information as far away as Philadelphia. When the leader of the Sons of Liberty, Dr. Joseph Warren, learned that General Gage’s army would march on Lexington and Concord to confiscate the weapons, he called on Revere (and another young man, William Dawes) asking them to ride into the countryside to warn area militia members. Dawes was to take the land route out of Boston through the Boston Neck. Revere would cut across the bay in a small boat and then ride to Lexington.
With Boston under curfew, British soldiers were on guard to arrest anyone caught wandering the streets after dark. If both Revere and Dawes were detained, their warning would not reach Lexington. A back-up plan was needed; Revere recalled the view of Charlestown from atop the Old North Church where he rang the bells as a teenager. Revere would choose to engage an intimate friend, business associate and a congregational member, John Pulling for help.
John was the perfect choice. Both Paul and John were members of Boston’s Committee of Correspondence, whose principle role was to gather intelligence and track the movements of British troops within the Colonies. If caught hanging the lanterns, John hoped he could provide a believable reason for being in the church, he was a vestryman, a church elder who would have the right to be there any time of day. So, on April 18th, John Pulling was ready to go to the church and hang two lanterns from the steeple window on the north side facing Charlestown. This would be the signal that the British Regulars were coming by sea. Robert Newman, the sexton (janitor) had the keys to the building and lived just across the street from the church.
Dawes left by horseback taking the land route while Revere went to his boat in Boston Harbor and was rowed across by two friends. The men used a petticoat to muffle the noise made by the oars. Soon, 700 British soldiers embarked on their journey to Lexington. While Revere and Dawes planned to deliver their messages to Lexington personally, using the lantern method, they would have a fast way to inform the backup riders in Charlestown about the movements of the British; these back-up riders, about 40 of them, could also deliver the warning message.
It was about 10:00 PM when Robert Newman opened the church door with his key and John Pulling joined him inside. A third patriot, Thomas Bernard, stood guarding the door. John Pulling lit the lanterns and proceeded with the task of climbing to the top of the steeple and hanging the two lanterns that would signal the British troops were now disembarking by sea. The lanterns were hung for less than a minute, but this was long enough for the message to be received in Charlestown. The militia waiting across the river were prepared to act as soon as they saw them. At Lexington and Concord, 49 patriots were killed, 39 wounded and 5 missing; and 73 British regulars died, 174 were wounded and 26 were missing in action.
The lanterns were tin, and the steeple was the tallest building in Boston. Simple candlelight can be seen for miles. This is an excellent time to talk about how people, before telephones, could signal each other.
History remembers Robert Newman as raising the lanterns. 4Google Books. Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society. March 1878. Pg. 163 Yet, John Pulling is barely mentioned. The British arrested Newman but released him and immediately pursued Pulling. John, hiding in a wine barrel in his home, eluded the search party and escaped. Later that night, Sara, his pregnant wife, left to join him in a cooper’s house in Cohasset MA. They would lose everything and John, upon returning a year later, would be in ill health and die. The challenge for students is to understand that there is bias in history. John Pulling had fired the church rector that week for preaching against the patriot cause. This would cause the Old North Church to selectively remember history in a way favoring the Loyalist’s view. The question is “Did Robert Newman turn in John Pulling?” Newman was released by the British and despite heavy losses at Concord, never re-arrested by the British. Only Pulling was pursued.
There is much additional history on this subject. Revere’s famous ride did not happen quite the way the story is told. Revere was detained, Dawes fell off his horse, both arrived after the battle had begun. It would be the backup riders that saved the day.
Lexington and Concord – April 19, 1775
It was early in the morning, before daybreak, on April 19, 1775, when the Battle of Lexington began. The British were given secret orders to capture and destroy Colonial military supplies reportedly stored by the Massachusetts militia at Concord. Captain Parker assembled 77 men near Lexington realizing they were too small to take on the British force. “Stand your ground. Do not fire unless you are fired upon, but if they mean war, let it begin here,” he encouraged his men. A British lieutenant rode ahead of his ranks, waving his sword in the air and shouting to the patriots, “Lay down your arms, you damned rebels, or you are all dead men!” At that point, an unknown shot came from someone in the ranks or maybe from someone hiding behind a wall or tree. “A shot that would be heard around the world.” The British soldiers then opened fire on the Americans. Badly outnumbers, the minutemen quickly fled. The British suffered only one casualty.
Lexington Green would never be the same. The first to die in the Revolutionary War that day would be John Brown, Samuel Hadley, Caleb Harrington, Jonathon Harrington, Robert Munroe, Isaac Muzzey, and Asahel Porter. Jonas Parker, Captain Parker’s cousin, would crawl to his own doorstep and die. About 400 Regulars marched on to Concord to search for arms and smaller groups of 100 divided up to cover the countryside. Here, however, is where things changed. Due to the warnings by Revere and the many riders seeing the signal lanterns at the Old North Church, the British troops encountered several thousand minutemen. The British Regulars began their retreat to Boston. As the day ended, 73 British regulars died, 174 were wounded and 26 were missing in action. Our Patriot forces suffered 49 killed, 39 wounded and 5 missing. It would be the first of many battles but for this day, a victory for the Patriots.
Hands on Opportunity
Providing that the venue will allow such items, this is a perfect place to introduce the flintlock musket. Loaded from the muzzle with black powder and ball, it was the weapon of choice for the entire war. Because of the difficulty of loading during a battle, most engagements ended in hand to hand combat using bayonets, tomahawks and swords. Introducing the simplicity of a soldier’s life is appropriate. It is suggested that teachers obtain and read the diary of Joseph Plumb Martin, a young minister’s son who joined and fought with George Washington. It is the only record of daily life, unbiased by rank.
The colonial government would make many promises to those who would enlist in a militia, but few would be kept. Our colonial army was always short on supplies, short on clothing, and often, more suffered from disease than from wounds.
The fundamental learning moment here is that when people lose the capacity to protect themselves, their freedom is often removed from them. Our forefathers believed deeply that all people need to retain the right to bear arms. While our 2nd amendment offers civil protections and protections against foreign forces, our right to bear arms protects us against an unscrupulous leader. 5 Concealedcarry.com. https://www.concealedcarry.com/gun-quotes-from-our-founding-fathers-2nd-amendment/
“Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.” ~ James Madison, Federalist No. 46, January 29, 1788
Battle of Bunker Hill – June 1775
The British Troops were an occupational force in Boston. This would open the initial phase of the American Revolutionary War. It would be here that the New England militiamen (also called minutemen) would surround the town of Boston. The siege began April 19th, after the battles of Lexington and Concord. The militia from the many communities surrounding Boston would block access to the area, thus limiting British resupply to its operations. It would be at this time that the Continental Congress chose to adopt the militia and form the Continental Army. George Washington would be unanimously elected as the Commander in Chief. In June of 1775, the British seized Bunker Hill and Breeds Hills, but the casualties they suffered were so heavy that they could not break the siege.
More than 15,000 colonial militia assembled near Boston on nearby hills. The colonists also fortified Breed’s Hill in Charlestown, across the Charles River. They withstood cannon fire from British ships in Boston Harbor and fought off two assaults by British troops. Although technically, the colonists were forced to retreat, and the British won the battle, over 1,000 British soldiers were killed. England was given notice that to win against the colonists would not be easy.
In November of 1775, Washington sent a young book seller turned solider named Henry Knox to bring heavy artillery that had been captured at Fort Ticonderoga to Boston. While technically complex, Knox was successful. By March of 1776, the artillery was used to fortify Dorchester Heights, overlooking Boston and its harbor. The Americans, led by George Washington, would eventually force the British to withdraw from the town after an 11-month siege. British commander William Howe, realizing he could no longer hold the town, ended the siege and evacuated.
The Burning of Falmouth October 18, 1775
The destruction of Falmouth was an attack by a fleet of Royal Navy vessels on the town of Falmouth, Massachusetts (site of the modern city of Portland, Maine). The fleet was commanded by Captain Henry Mowat. The attack began with a naval bombardment which included incendiary shot, followed by a landing party meant to complete the town’s destruction. The attack was the only major event in what was supposed to be a campaign of retaliation against ports that supported Patriot activities in the early stages of the American Revolutionary War.
Among the colonies, news of the attack led to rejection of British authority and the establishment of independent governments. It also led the Second Continental Congress to contest British Naval dominance by forming a Continental Navy. Both Mowat and his superior, Vice-Admiral Samuel Graves, who had ordered Mowat’s expedition, suffered professionally because of the act. Such a provocation became a tipping point, thus accelerating the war of Independence drawing even more patriots into the cause.
This is an excellent place to introduce a colonial map of the times. Be aware that while 13 colonies joined together to seek independence from Great Britain, there were three additional colonies that remained British throughout the revolution. These were East Florida, West Florida and The Royal Proclamation of 1763 enlarged the colony of Canada under the name of the Province of Quebec, which with the Constitutional Act 1791 became known as The Canadas.
This event can offer an opportunity to discuss how news of unjust acts upon innocent people can become a call to action. The burning of Falmouth occurred just prior to winter. Homes, food stores, clothing, etc. were all destroyed. The citizens of a town not even involved yet in the war were made to suffer. When we see unjust actions leading to the suffering of men, women and children, even today, it is in our nature to become angry and want to help.
Declaration of Independence – July 4, 1776
The Declaration of Independence is not its proper title. Entitled, “The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America,” it signifies a time in our nation’s history where there was unity in our government. Colonies, pushed to their limits by excessive taxes, military actions against its citizens, and eroding freedom, took the dramatic step of separating from Great Britain. The document, only one page penned on vellum, would be adopted July 4, 1776. The document outlined grievances against Great Britain. The actual vote was July 2, 1776. There would be 56 signers 6US History.ORG. http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/signers/index.html of the document. Over half would lose everything they had and many their very life.
It is more than just a list of complaints, but it catalogs the natural rights, including the right of revolution. The most noteworthy of its statements is that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These words very well may be the most potent and consequential words in American History.
After finalizing the text on July 4, Congress issue the Declaration in several forms. It was initially published as a printed sign to be displayed publicly throughout the colonies. The most famous version, the signed copy, is on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
History of the Declaration
The clearest call for independence up to the summer of 1776 came in Philadelphia on June 7. On that date in session in the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall), the Continental Congress heard Richard Henry Lee of Virginia read his resolution beginning: “Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” The Lee Resolution was an expression of what was already beginning to happen throughout the colonies. When the Second Continental Congress, which was essentially the government of the United States from 1775 to 1788, first met in May 1775, King George III had not replied to the petition for redress of grievances that he had been sent by the First Continental Congress. The Congress gradually took on the responsibilities of a national government. In June 1775 the Congress established the Continental Army as well as a continental currency. By the end of July of that year, it created a post office for the “United Colonies.”
You can find additional resources for understanding the 27 grievances in the Declaration HERE. The resources compare each grievance to the historical events that triggered its inclusion, and the U.S. Constitution articles and amendments that made sure these things would not impact a free nation again.
In August 1775 a royal proclamation declared that the King’s American subjects were “engaged in open and avowed rebellion.” Later that year, Parliament passed the American Prohibitory Act, which made all American vessels and cargoes property of Great Britain. And in May 1776 the Congress learned that the King had negotiated treaties with German states to hire Hessian mercenaries to fight in America. These actions convinced many Americans that the mother country was treating the colonies as a foreign entity. One by one, the Continental Congress continued to cut the colonies’ ties to Britain. The Privateering Resolution, passed in March 1776, allowed the colonists to fit out armed vessels to attack the enemies of these United Colonies. On April 6, 1776, American ports were opened to commerce with other nations, an action that severed the economic ties fostered by the Navigation Acts. A “Resolution for the Formation of Local Governments” was passed on May 10, 1776. At the same time, more of the colonists themselves were becoming convinced of the inevitability of independence. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, published in January 1776, was sold by the thousands. By the middle of May 1776, eight colonies had decided that they would support independence. On May 15, 1776, the Virginia Convention passed a resolution that “the delegates appointed to represent this colony in General Congress be instructed to propose to that respectable body to declare the United Colonies free and independent states.”
It was in keeping with these instructions that Richard Henry Lee, on June 7, 1776, presented his resolution. There were still some delegates, however, including those bound by earlier instructions, who wished to pursue the path of reconciliation with Britain. On June 11 consideration of the Lee Resolution was postponed by a vote of seven colonies to five, with New York abstaining. Congress then recessed for 3 weeks. The tone of the debate indicated that at the end of that time the Lee Resolution would be adopted. Before Congress recessed, therefore, a Committee of Five was appointed to draft a statement presenting to the world the colonies’ case for independence.
The Committee of Five
The committee consisted of two New England men, John Adams of Massachusetts and Roger Sherman of Connecticut; two men from the Middle Colonies, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Robert R. Livingston of New York; and one southerner, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. In 1823 Jefferson wrote that the other members of the committee “unanimously pressed on myself alone to undertake the draught. I consented; I drew it; but before I reported it to the committee, I communicated it separately to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams requesting their corrections … I then wrote a fair copy, reported it to the committee, and from them, unaltered to the Congress.” (If Jefferson did make a “fair copy,” incorporating the changes made by Franklin and Adams, it has not been preserved. It may have been the copy that was amended by the Congress and used for printing, but in any case, it has not survived. Jefferson’s rough draft, however, with changes made by Franklin and Adams, as well as Jefferson’s own notes of changes by the Congress, is housed at the Library of Congress.)
Jefferson’s account reflects three stages in the life of the Declaration: the document originally written by Jefferson; the changes to that document made by Franklin and Adams, resulting in the version that was submitted by the Committee of Five to the Congress; and the version that was eventually adopted.
Signing of the Declaration of Independence
The United States Declaration of Independence is a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain were now independent states, and thus no longer a part of the British Empire. Written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration is a formal explanation of why Congress had voted on July 2 to declare independence from Great Britain, more than a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. The birthday of the United States of America-Independence Day-is celebrated on July 4, the day the wording of the Declaration was approved by Congress. The Declaration justified the independence of the United States by listing colonial grievances against King George III, and by asserting certain natural rights, including a right of revolution.
Life size reproductions on parchment-like paper are readily available. Students should become familiar with the list of complaints and the names of the signers. There are many stories about the signers that would be appropriate for this part of the discussion. John Hancock, signing large enough for King George III to see his signature was angered over the confiscation of his ship, the Liberty. Caesar Rodney, commander of the Delaware delegation, rode 80 miles through a thunderstorm to break a tie vote. This ride is credited with pulling over several other colonies to make the Declaration unanimous.
Other stories can include an introduction to Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and other signers that would later become of American History. A good exercise here is to let the students sign their name with a quill and ink. A great exercise, especially when one considers no spell checker, no way to erase a mistake, just perfection.
As men signed the Declaration, there were 45,000 British Regulars in over a hundred ships off the coast of the colonies. They would immediately invade and hunt each signer e as a criminal, ready to face the gallows. What makes people accept the risk of death? The colonies could have remained under the protection of the King but chose freedom over life itself. Therefore, as a nation, we can never squander the sacrifices of our forefathers. America is unique in the world, granting freedom and opportunity to all.
Hewitt’s Mill – An Example of Using Field Trips to Teach History
Next Section: The War
- 1Biography Online. https://www.biographyonline.net/facts-american-revolution/.
- 4Google Books. Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society. March 1878. Pg. 163
- 6US History.ORG. http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/signers/index.html