The American Revolution is the foundational moment in the formation of the United States and a defining moment in world history. It is a story of bravery, determination, and the pursuit of freedom. But while the American Revolution is widely studied and celebrated, many aspects of the conflict are often overlooked or underrepresented.
In this list, we take a look at 10 facts about the American Revolution that your teacher might not have mentioned (or even known!). From the motivations to the surprising allies supporting the revolution, these facts shed new light on this moment in history and help to deepen our understanding of the American Revolution and its legacy. Our list below can help clear up some misconceptions you may have had about this important historical time as well. Let’s get into it!
10 Native American Impact
Unfortunately, many people still see Native Americans as one group of people when in fact, they were dispersed into hundreds of tribes around the continent, many with no contact with each other. Even within tribes, there were sometimes disagreements. For example, the Cherokee nation was divided on whether to support the Americans or the British. Another major group of tribes, the Iroquois Confederacy, split because of disagreements about the Revolutionary War. It is easy to see why tribes did not want to take sides; they were truly caught between a rock and a hard place.
Many Native American tribes, including the Mohawk and Creek, played a role in the Revolution, with some fighting on both sides. The tribes saw the conflict as an opportunity to pursue their own interests, and some sided with the British or the Americans depending on what would benefit them the most.
The outcome of the Revolution had a significant impact on Native American communities, as it resulted in the loss of tribal lands and sovereignty. Choices made by tribal leaders during these times set the tone for relations with America for generations to come.
9 The First Continental Congress Was About Diplomacy, Not Revolution
The First Continental Congress was held in 1774 with the purpose of addressing grievances with the British government and coordinating colonial resistance to Britain’s Intolerable Acts, also called the Coercive Acts. The delegates, who represented 12 of the 13 American colonies (sorry, Georgia), discussed colonial rights and agreed to a boycott of British goods until their demands were met.
The Congress ultimately laid the groundwork for the American Revolution by unifying the colonies and creating a shared understanding of their rights and goals. The importance of the first Continental Congress was that it brought together like-minded individuals from different parts of the colonies. They decided to have the second (and far more important) Continental Congress in the following spring in Philadelphia. (Source 2)
8 The Patriots Had Important Allies That Are Often Forgotten
The Continental Army was at a huge disadvantage when compared to Great Britain. At the time, the British Navy was one of the strongest in the world, and the British Empire spanned all across the globe. While the familiar narrative is that the American patriots simply refused to give up and fought with more honor, there is more to it than that.
The patriots had important allies in the form of France, Spain, and the Netherlands. The French allowed American ships to trade with them. At the same time, the Spanish were willing to loan money to the upstart Americans. The Dutch involvement was also based on trade; they were happy to trade with the Americans to exact some revenge on the British. Most of this trading took place in the Dutch colony of St. Eustatius in the Caribbean.
As the saying goes, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and the British Empire had a lot of powerful enemies at the time. Without the aid of their European allies, it is possible the American Revolution would not have been successful.
7 Women Participated in Many Ways, Including Combat!
Despite the fact that women were not granted the right to vote during the American Revolution or for more than one hundred years after, they played a significant role in the struggle for independence. Many women supported the revolutionary cause through acts of protest, such as participating in boycotts of British goods. Women also served as spies, smuggled supplies, and worked as nurses and caretakers for wounded soldiers.
Several women fought alongside men. The most famous “woman,” Molly Pitcher, was actually not even a real person (Think G.I. Joe). The most famous woman who was a real person was named Deborah Sampson. She was only discovered to be a woman by a medical exam in 1783 and was granted an honorable discharge.
Sampson and others like her often faced more significant risks than their male counterparts, as they could be arrested or punished if their true identities were discovered. Despite these challenges, they made significant contributions to the American cause. Although their contributions were often overlooked, over the long term, the actions of these women helped to advance the cause of independence and secure the rights of future generations of American women.
6 The American Revolution Set Other Revolutions into Motion
The American Revolution was not just a singular event but rather part of a larger global trend of broadening ideals and resistance against colonialism. The ideas and ideals that inspired the American patriots (such as liberty and democracy) were part of a growing trend of Enlightenment thinking that was spreading throughout the world.
The success of the American Revolution inspired similar movements in other countries, as other nations were inspired to challenge either their monarchial or colonial rule and gain independence. Around the world, others saw and were inspired by the American Revolution, including the French (1789-1799), Haitians (1791-1804), and Brazilian (1818-1822).
While there were certainly other factors relating to all three of these revolutions, it is fair to say that they were at least partially inspired by the American Revolution.
5 Escaped Slaves Supported the British Cause
Slaves made up a significant portion of the colonial population, and many escaped to fight for the British, estimated to be as many as 20,000 or more by some historians. The promise of freedom was a significant motivation for enslaved people. Though slavery had not been completely abolished in Great Britain, it was a commonly held belief from escaped slaves that it had been.
Another important reason that many escaped slaves supported Great Britain was they were literally offered their freedom in exchange for their fighting support. This was first outlined in 1775 in Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation and later extended by Sir Henry Clinton’s Philipsburg Proclamation in 1779.
Clinton took it a step further and offered freedom to any slaves owned by the rebellious American colonists. While it is hard to say whether these offers were made in good faith, they certainly inspired many enslaved people to run away and side with the British, known colloquially as Black Loyalists.
4 The Real Reason for the Tea Party
The Boston Tea Party was a pivotal event leading to the Revolution. However, it was not actually a protest against taxes but rather against the British East India Company’s monopoly on the tea trade in the colonies. The Boston Tea Party was a protest against the British government’s decision to grant the British East India Company a monopoly. This monopoly allowed the company to control the price and quality of tea and was seen as an attack on the colonies’ rights and freedoms.
Essentially, the colonists saw Parliament’s Tea Act as an attempt to exert control over their economic affairs. In response, American colonists dumped 342 chests of tea, valued at over £10,000, into Boston Harbor as a symbol of their protest. This event was a key moment in the lead-up to the American Revolution, as it demonstrated the colonists’ growing defiance and opposition to British rule.
3 George Washington… Loser?
George Washington, who is often touted as a military hero, actually lost more battles than he won. George Washington is widely recognized as a central figure in the American Revolution. He faced significant challenges in his role as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, however. Despite his reputation now as a skilled military strategist, Washington’s army suffered many setbacks and defeats during the war.
In fact, Washington faced significant criticism from some in the colonies who believed he was not capable of leading the army to victory. He even considered retiring from the military altogether because of his performance in the French and Indian War, which ended in 1763, about ten years before the revolution.
Despite these doubts, Washington remained committed to the American cause. Eventually, he emerged as a hero of the Revolution, in large part due to his tenacity and perseverance. And what do you know? Tenacity and perseverance are two of the qualities that are most associated with the American Revolution and America in general.
2 The Revolution Was So Expensive It Almost Cost America the War
Revolutions ain’t cheap! The cost of the Revolution led to financial hardship, including the national debt and currency devaluation. As the situation became more desperate for the military, inflation also became more and more dramatic. That is because states continued to issue more and more money. The war effort required significant financial resources, and the American rebels faced challenges in financing their army and supplies.
The eventual solution from the Continental Congress was authorizing the army to confiscate anything that it needed in order to continue the war. The end of the Revolution resulted in a national debt that took many years to repay, and the country faced significant financial instability in its early years. In fact, following the Revolution, taxes were actually higher on citizens than they were under British rule.
1 Signing of the Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was not signed by all members of the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. In fact, it wasn’t signed by anyone on that day. Some signed the famous document later, and others never signed at all. The signing of the Declaration was an ongoing process that took several months. Some signers, such as Thomas McKean, did not sign until 1781. Others, like John Dickinson, refused to sign at all because they believed the colonies should reconcile with Britain.
The text of the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. But the document was not signed until August 2, 1776, starting with the “John Hancock” of John Hancock, the President of the Continental Congress. Even though the Declaration was not signed on July 4, 1776, this date is celebrated as Independence Day in the United States.
Another common misconception is that Thomas Jefferson is the sole author of the Declaration of Independence. In actuality, he was on a committee with John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston.