From 1775 until 1783, 13 American colonies waged a war against the ruling Great Britain. Influenced by strong political ideas and revolutions from around the globe, this small fledgling nation won its independence from one of the strongest military forces of their time. Keep on reading to learn 50 facts about the American Revolution.
Fact 1: There was a sequel to the original Boston Tea Party incident!
- On December 16, 1773, Boston’s Sons of Liberty tossed 342 chests of tea, from 3 individual ships, into the Boston Harbor to protest against the taxes imposed on them by the Tea Act. Not satisfied with the results they staged a second Tea Party on March 7, 1774, just to make sure senior Officials understood their message.
Fact 2: The Daughters of Liberty used molasses and flowers instead to “tar and feather” Loyalists.
- It was common practice for Patriots to tar and feather Loyalists, but the ladies opted for a less painful alternative.
Fact 3: The word “independence” never appears in the Declaration of Independence.
- Instead, it’s titled “The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America.”
Fact 4: In 1782, 21-year old Deborah Sampson dressed as a man, called herself Robert Shurtlieff Sampson after her deceased brother, and enlisted in the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment of the Continental Army.
- She served for over a year, until a doctor discovered her secret while treating her for an unhealed injury. She was discharged with honour.
Fact 5: 16-year old Sybil Ludington, the daughter of a Colonel, rode 40 miles on her own from 9 pm to dawn to alert New York militia members that the Brits were burning down Danbury, Connecticut.
- In contrast, a Boston Silversmith was accompanied by as many as 40 other men on his midnight ride to sound the alarm that the British were coming.
Fact 6: Some soldiers took time away from the battle to act in professionally produced plays, in cities like New York during the war.
- These cities were controlled by the British Army.
Fact 7: Since they didn’t have money for a big navy, the Continental Congress hired privateers, aka pirates, to attack British ships.
- The pirates were then supposed to split the booty with the U.S.
Fact 8: The Marquis de Lafayette was only 19 when he joined the Continental Army as a major general in 1777.
- He was instrumental in General Washington’s defeat of the British at Yorktown in 1781.
Fact 9: The General’s teeth were a lie!
- The General’s dentures weren’t made of wood, as legend has it, but rather of hippopotamus ivory and cows’ teeth, held in place by metal springs.
Fact 10: King George III was a mad king.
- The king had a debilitating illness that caused abdominal pain, constipation, fever, insomnia, delirium, convulsions, and stupor to which historians have speculated rendered King George unable to quell the discontent in the Thirteen Colonies.
Fact 11: A study of King George’s hair revealed extremely high levels of arsenic, that was 17 times greater than the minimum threshold for arsenic poisoning.
- This presents a darker alternative explanation of King George’s ailment, previously thought to be caused by Porphyria.
Fact 12: The Colonists were frustrated with the British because they were being forced to pay taxes, but had no representation in the British Parliament.
- Colonists used the phrase “No Taxation Without Representation” as a rallying cry.
Fact 13: The first shot fired in the war was on the morning of April 19, 1775, during the Lexington Mass.
- It became known as “The Shot Heard Around the World”, a phrase borrowed from the opening stanza of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s epic poem, “Concord Hymn”.
Fact 14: John Adams acted as defense attorney for the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre.
- He took on their case because he believed in the importance of justice and a fair trial, which eventually became one of the catalysts for the revolution.
Fact 15: In addition to being the maker of America’s first flag, Betsy Ross was an ardent supporter of the Patriot cause.
- When the British soldiers occupied her house in winter of 1777-78, they nicknamed her “The Little Rebel” for her strong patriotic views.
Fact 16: Colonel Officer William Prescott ordered his troops not to fire at the British soldiers until they could see the whites of their eyes.
- Having the discipline to hold their fire until the enemy was near, was considered a sign that the American army had a chance at winning.
Fact 17: The Continental Army was a military force representing all of the colonies who were resisting British authority in North America.
- The day after the Second Continental Congress formally announced the army’s creation, George Washington was named the army’s commander.
Fact 18: On the night of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere, along with 2 other riders, set out to warn the Colonial Militia of British advancement from Boston.
- However, Revere was captured by the British before he could reach Concord, but he was the only one that Henry Longfellow focused on in his famous poem depicting the ride.
Fact 19: The Battle of Saratoga was a major turning point during the American revolution.
- It marked the first great American victory, and prompted France to openly enter the war on the American side.
Fact 20: On December 16, 1773, 342 chests of tea weighing over 92,000 lbs were dumped into the Boston harbor by the Sons of Liberty.
- The Boston Tea Party was the first major act of defiance by the Colonists, which led to the start of the American Revolution in 1775.
Fact 21: Many of the Sons of Liberty tried to pass themselves off as Mohawk People.
- This was to hide their identities, since the Sons of Liberty knew that they would be facing severe punishment when caught.
Fact 22: George Washington condemned the Boston Tea Party.
- Washington believed that the East India Company should be compensated for their loses, which were estimated to be $1 million.
Fact 23: Benjamin Rush, one of the Founding Fathers, wrote a strong letter to Patrick Henry lobbying for Washington’s removal as Commander in Chief after Washington’s several defeats in 1777.
- What Rush hadn’t realized was that Henry was a loyal friend to Washington, and he immediately alerted him to the plot against him.
Fact 24: After the battle of Germantown, American soldiers found a fox terrier on the battlefield with British General Howe’s name on its tag.
- Washington’s men wanted to keep the dog as retribution for defeat, but Washington instead returned the dog, keeping with the etiquette of the times.
Fact 25: When the American Revolution began in 1775, not all Colonists were in favour, and as many as a third wanted to remain loyal to Britain.
- Those who supported the revolution became known as “Patriots”, and those remaining loyal to the British Crown were called “Loyalists”.
Fact 26: The Non-Commissioned British Soldiers who served in the American Revolution were often called “red coats” because of the brightly coloured red coats they wore.
- Contrary to popular myth, the colour red was chosen as a symbol of power and wealth, not to conceal blood stains.
Fact 27: A lack of rations and pay, along with poor living conditions led to a high desertion rate in Washington’s army.
- In late 1776, as many as half of Washington’s troops had fled, pushing him to promise his men formal discharges, and a $10.00 bonus to reenlist.
Fact 28: On January 1, 1781, 1500 soldiers from the Pennsylvania line mutinied upon discovering that their enlistments were not for 3 years as they’d believed, but for the whole duration of the war.
- Frustrated and angry about their lack of pay and poor conditions, they marched to Philadelphia and brought their issues to Congress.
Fact 29: Haym Solomon was a Jewish broker who was responsible for funding the Continental army and keeping the revolution going.
- A 10-cent commemorative stamp was issued in his honor in 1975, with the words “financial hero” printed on the back of the stamp.
Fact 30: Of the 25,000 American troops who died during the American Revolution, only about 1/3 of them died in battle.
- The rest died from sickness and other non-battle related causes.
Fact 31: The French saw the American Revolution as an opportunity to take advantage of British difficulties.
- Less than a year after the revolution broke out, the French sent arms and ammunition to the Americans, as well as large sums of cash.
Fact 32: When the French formally entered the war, the Spanish entered the war as allies to the French as well.
- The Spanish and French fleets combined, outnumbered the British Royal Navy.
Fact 33: The Dutch entered the war and sided with the Americans at the end of 1780, turning the war into a true international conflict.
- The Dutch extended the geographical range of the war and supplied weapons to the American forces.
Fact 34: King George III purchased 30,000 German soldiers to assist in the war, since he didn’t have enough soldiers in his own army to fight America.
- The soldiers were known as Hessians because the majority of them came from Hesse-Cassel.
Fact 35: The British Governor, Lord Dunmore printed a proclamation promising that African American slaves who fought with the British would be freed when the war was over.
- Prompting the African American slaves to join the war to fight for their freedom.
Fact 36: When the war was over, Lord Dunmore stayed true to his promise and relocated those who had signed their names to the ledger to Jamaica, Nova Scotia and Britain.
- The ledger is now referred to as “The Book of Negroes”.
Fact 37: The African American slaves who signed up became known as the “black regiment”.
- The Rhode Island Assembly who issued the decree allowing them to enlist, also stipulated that they immediately be made free men after the revolution.
Fact 38: Washington’s forces suffered a major defeat at the Battle of Brooklyn in the summer of 1776.
- The British occupied New York City and chased the remnants of the Colonist army to the Delaware River.
Fact 39: The French and American troops trapped General Cornwallis’ army at Yorktown, Virginia in the autumn of 1781 while the French Navy cut them off from relief.
- The British surrendered.
Fact 40: When the Americans marched to war, Patriots sang a piece of music called “Chester.”
- It was written by American Composer William Billings–a friend of Paul Revere and Samuel Adams and was regarded as America’s first National Anthem.
Fact 41: The iconic painting, “Washington Crossing the Delaware” was actually painted in Germany by a German artist 75 years after the Battle of Trenton.
- The artist hoped the scene would inspire liberal reformers during the European Revolutions of 1848.
Fact 42: Nathaniel Greene was appointed the youngest Brigadier General in the Continental Army in 1775.
- Interestingly, Greene was born a Quaker, was raised a pacifist, was asthmatic and had a pronounced limp, but taught himself to be a soldier by reading books about military tactics.
Fact 43: Women made great spies during the American Revolution.
- They were able to overhear important information, count soldiers, and observe troop movements while pretending to be maids, selling goods, or delivering food.
Fact 44: On November 16, 1776, Margaret Corbin and her husband John Corbin were defending Fort Washington from attacking Hessian troops when her husband was killed.
- She immediately took over by firing the cannon they were crewing, and continued to do so until she was seriously injured. Three years later, she became the first woman to receive a pension from Congress.
Fact 45: George Washington almost didn’t serve in the Revolutionary War.
- In 1755, during a vicious battle between Native American and British troops, Washington was almost shot and killed.
Fact 46: Catherine Moore Barry was an American spy and a messenger who played an instrumental role in warning the militia of invading British forces before the Battle of Cowpens.
- Legend has it that Barry tied her baby to her bed post before riding out to issue her warning.
Fact 47: George Washington was actually a master at military deception.
- He and General Lafayette tricked the Brits by drafting a proclamation stating that the French army was going to attack Canada.
Fact 48: John Hancock was the first and only person to place their signature on the Declaration of Independence on July 4th.
- No other delegates signed the finished document until August 2nd of that year.
Fact 49: The British army managed to inflict a major defeat on Washington’s forces at the battle of Long Island.
- The British then went on to occupy New York City and chased the disintegrating remnants of the American army across New Jersey.
Fact 50: On September 3, 1783 Britain formally recognized U.S. independence with the Treaty of Paris.
- Towards the end of 1782, British and American negotiators in Paris signed preliminary peace terms.