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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the American Revolution

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As we gather this week to celebrate our great nation’s birthday, it’s a time to reflect on our freedoms and the opportunities granted to us by our forefathers.

So, in honor of Independence Day we want to take you back – way, waaaay back – before the Blackcats, BBQs, and the Budweisers…

Back to a time when there existed only 13 colonies, comprised of brave men & women seeking better life and better opportunity…

Back when freedom existed only as a word, written on a secret document…

Back to a bloody war known only as the American Revolution.

Our forefathers granted us everything: Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In return, we honor and remember these selfless men and women.

We all need a refresher course from time-to-time, so here’s everything you ever wanted to know about the America Revolution:

The Build Up

The London Company was a stock company established in 1606 by King James I with the purpose of colonizing North America.

With financing in place, the British arrived at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 and began the colonization of the Americas.

Although over 4,000 miles from England, the newly arrived settlers were still members of the British Empire – the largest empire in history, comprising roughly 23% of the world’s population at the time.

Thousands of Scotsmen also joined in the English colonization of America, while the Kingdom of Scotland tried unsuccessfully to establish its own colonization of Nova Scotia.

Looking to benefit from the newly acquired land, the English Parliament sought to regulate trade in the American colonies. On October 9, 1651, the Navigation Acts were passed in effort to ensure trading in the Americas only enriched Britain.

By 1686, stricter trade regulations were imposed by King James II triggering bitter resentment throughout the American colonies, then known collectively as New England.

What followed was even more taxation and regulation resulting in economic strife, failure to pay taxes, and colonial wars.
In 1767, the Board of Customs in Boston was established in effort to more rigorously execute trade regulations. In the same year, the Townshend Acts were passed, enacting certain duties on essential goods like paper, glass, and tea.

Resentment continued to build between the colonists and Great Britain, which exploded like a powder keg on March 5, 1770 at an event known as the Boston Massacre. The Massacre cost the lives of five civilians and began a downward spiral in the relationship between Britain and New England.

On December 16, 1773, a group of men, led by Samuel Adams, boarded British ships and dumped nearly $13,000 worth of tea into the Boston Harbor. This event would ultimately become known as the Boston Tea Party.

In response, the British Government passed several punitive Acts which came to be known as the Intolerable Acts.

Without hesitation, Massachusetts rejected the Intolerable Acts and implored the other colonies to refute all British taxes. After a series of secret debates, the other colonies agreed to unite against British rule, birthing the Patriot movement.

The War

Massachusetts was declared in a state of rebellion in February 1775.

The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought on June 17, 1775, resulting in about 1,000 British casualties to America’s 500 casualties.

After the Battle of Bunker Hill, Patriots in all 13 Colonies had overthrown their existing governments, leaving Loyalists without protection of the British army.

On June 2, 1776 all 13 Colonies voted to declare their independence.

Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence which was collectively adopted by the colonists on July 4th, marking the formation of a new sovereign nation called the United States of America. Henceforth, this date is celebrated as Independence Day, or Fourth of July!
George Washington forced the British out of Boston in the spring of 1776, leaving the British and Loyalists without any significant areas of control.

The British returned in force in July 1776, but wrongfully anticipated that the American Revolution was the work of a few miscreants, who would quickly fall back into line once the full strength of the British army was revealed.

On February 6, 1778, France joined the war, in support of the United States, under the signature of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance.

Two years later, both Spain and the Dutch became allies for the French, forcing the British Empire to fight a global war alone. The Revolution occurring in America, thus became only one front in Britain’s war.

From 1778 to 1783, the British concentrated their efforts in the southern United States, which at the time, were perceived as being more strongly Loyalists.

After a few significant victories, the British gained control of most of Georgia and South Carolina. Much to their dismay however, territory that they had captured quickly dissolved in chaotic guerilla war between the few Loyalists and the American militias, negating many of the gains the British had previously made up to that point. The overestimation of Loyalist population in the south combined with their inexperience with guerilla warfare proved to be an Achilles Heel for the British army.

In October 1781, the British surrendered their invading army at Yorktown, Virginia.

Back in Britain, King George III personally wished to continue fighting with the Americans, support was waning. Hi supporters ultimately lost control of Parliament and no further land offensives were planned for the American Theater.

The war officially ended in 1783 and was followed by a period of prosperity and expansion westward.

The Aftermath

Britain’s war against the Americans, French, and Spanish cost nearly $130 million. Heavy spending brought France to the verge of bankruptcy and revolution, while the British had relatively little difficulty financing their war.

Losing the war and the 13 colonies came as a shock to Britain, revealing their limitations when faced with powerful enemies with no allies.
The United States found itself in quite a debt. Nearly $12 million was owed to foreigners, mostly money borrowed from France. It owed $65 million to Americans who had sold food, horses, and supplies to the revolutionary forces. There were also other debts owed to soldiers, merchants, and farmers who accepted these payments on the premise that a new American government would eventually pay these debts.

After the war, not everyone in the United States agreed on political views and attitudes. Loyalties and allegiances varied within regions and communities and sometimes shifted during the war.

Miscellaneous Facts:

The war permeated all aspects of political, civil, and domestic life, thus women found themselves contributing to the American Revolution in many ways, on both sides. They were an integral part of boycotting British goods, spying on the British, following armies as they marched, washing, cooking, and tending for soldiers, delivering secret messages, and even fought disguised as men.

The legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain actually occurred on July 2, 1776 when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence declaring the United States independent from Great Britain rule.

John Adams had written to his wife Abigail: “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

Two United States Presidents, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, died on July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

In 1778, General George Washington marked July 4 with a double ration of rum for his soldiers and an artillery salute.

In 1779, July 4 fell on a Sunday so the holiday was celebrated instead on Monday, July 5.

Massachusetts became the first state to recognize July 4 as a state celebration.

In 1938, Congress declared Independence Day a paid federal holiday.

The eve of the Fourth was once the focal point of celebrations. Usual sights were raucous gatherings alongside bonfires. In New England, towns built towering pyramids, assembled from barrels and casks. The highest could be seen in Salem, Massachusetts, with pyramids composed of as many as 40 tiers of barrels – the tallest bonfires ever recorded.

Most common patriotic songs sung during Fourth Of July celebrations are “The Star-Spangled Banner,”, “God Bless America,”, “America the Beautiful,” “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” “This Land Is Your Land,” “Stars and Stripes Forever,” and, regionally, “Yankee Doodle” in northeastern states and “Dixie” in southern states.

On July 4th, capable Military bases across America fire one gun for each state in the United States in what is known as a “salute to the union.”

 

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Header image: The Death of General Mercer at the Battle of Princeton, January 3, 1777 by John Trumbull; United States public domain tag