Otherwise known as the Revolutionary War, the revolution was a period of time where the residents of American colonies rose up against their colonial rulers, the British crown. It was a moment that defined a group of people and birthed a new nation that was no longer bound by government rules and taxes they had no say in.
These few years lead to some pivotal moments in history but what actually happened? Most people have a general idea but read on to learn 17 facts about the American Revolution that you probably didn’t know.
Learn some interesting facts about George Washington, a founding father of the country and the man who played an important role in the war for independence.
Now, time to dive in and discover 17 American Revolution facts that you might not know about.
Not all American colonists wished to leave British rule and remained loyal to the Crown, being referred to as the Tories. Actually, a majority of the entire American population didn’t want to alter their stance on the war.
It was only after the war that quite a few switched their stance to become patriots after America gained its independence.
Although this was a decisive battle, the common notion that the war ended in Yorktown isn’t entirely true.
This was a famous victory with the British General Cornwallis refusing to surrender himself to the American patriots. He instead sent a subordinate to surrender on his behalf. It was important as it was at this battle the British lost a significant stronghold but still held more in different colonies.
This meant that the talks of peace only started at this point in 1781, with British strongholds in New York and Charleston remaining at full strength. There were no further decisive battles over the next two years. A notable sign that the war was ending was when the British recalled their troops from two different locations towards the end of 1782.
Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were some of the most vital contributors to the Revolutionary war. They created partnerships and ratified agreements with both the French and Spanish to assist them in their war efforts.
The Treaty of Paris saw the official end to the war in 1783 when The United States’ independence was recognized by the British. The British also had to sign separate treaties with Spain and France, nations that had joined the war and fought alongside the American colonists.
The British government was in immense debt and so imposed stricter taxes on the colonies in America to help bolster their economy. The British felt this was owed to them as they were fighting a number of wars and the Americans should help with some of the costs.
The colonies had no say in these taxes, with no representation in the British government. This ‘taxation without representation’ was a major driving force for starting the war. They felt that they deserved some form of voice or opinion with the British if they were to live according to laws established by the British.
Britain was a military powerhouse, famous for what was the largest and most commendable navy and also their professional army who conquered many lands. The Americans were seen as inexperienced farmers for the most part who had no history of working together.
Interestingly, this fundamental underestimation favored the Americans. The first two battles of the Revolutionary War were when the British suffered humiliating defeats. The battles of Concord and Lexington were a wake-up to the British who then started to take the Colonists more seriously in military engagements.
Brooklyn Heights was a pivotal moment in the war where George Washington, fresh off his victory over the British in Boston, almost lost his entire army in New York. General William Howe’s army attacked the American defenses, while his main army went around to the rear of the Americans.
This caused chaos within the American ranks and they retreated to Brooklyn Heights. The Americans were surrounded on all sides but Howe was slow to follow and a storm had blown in. Washington used the storm to evacuate the army and its supplies to Manhattan, saving his army.
Believe it or not, the first-ever submarine was created during the Revolution, the American Turtle. It was an acorn-shaped structure, built in 1775 and first used in 1776. It attempted to sneak to the flagship of the British Navy, Eagle, while it was in port in New York.
They wanted to attach an explosive charge to the hull and managed to sneak up to the ship but the tools they had were not able to pierce the hull to attach the charge. Ultimately, no damage was done to the ship, even with further attempts.
Yes, spies and espionage were a thing during the Revolution. A large number of them were women and they employed techniques that were well ahead of their time. Spies were critical with some early Colonial victories being a direct result of espionage.
Things such as code names, ciphers, and even invisible ink were used. The Culper Ring was the most infamous and important. It took around 150 years for this secret network to be made known to the public.
George Washington was among those in the network and had the code name “agent 711”. Most of the agent’s identities have been discovered, however, the identity of a female, agent 355, is still a complete mystery to this day.
Both sides had help from international allies, sending troops, supplies, and other things but it wasn’t only the important supplies that were brought over. A lot of diseases from other continents were being brought over and transferred between the soldiers, often without them knowing due to their different immune systems.
The most notable and common of the diseases was smallpox. There is no exact number of deaths related to smallpox as the data was lost as time went on. But, the belief is that two or more had died of smallpox and other diseases for every one soldier that was killed in action.
This was more of a local thing that was restricted to the various towns and areas. Small groups of poorly trained and younger militia were formed to protect their own towns if needed. These local militias actually were involved in a number of small skirmishes before the Revolution War started.
They were constantly on alert with most being ready to fight at a moment’s notice. The downfall however was they were all self-trained and used their own personal weapons. There was no cohesive or commanding structure either so they were poorly led.
Although a majority of the battles took place on the mainland in North America, surprisingly there were battles fought almost all around the world. The island of New Providence in the Bahamas was captured by the Continental Navy. Warships also fought in the Atlantic ocean close to the British Isles.
The alliances that the Americans had formed also meant that the French and Spanish navies were engaging with British warships and merchant ships. These conflicts took place in Europe and even all the way to the waters off the coast of India.
The British ended up diverting key resources, army and navy, to fight on other continents. This ultimately gave the Colonial army a chance as the British could not send their full force.
This was the last and most decisive battle in the Revolutionary War. George Washington laid siege to Yorktown and bombarded it. The town was surrounded and with close to 7000 British troops remaining, General Cornwallis showed the white flag of surrender.
This battle had forced the British to start negotiations with the Colonists for peace with only minor skirmishes taking place during the talks for peace.
There were a total of seven tribes that were actively involved in the Revolutionary War. Most of them favored the British and chose to side with them but there were still tribes that remained neutral.
This was in the hope that the British would stop pushing into the Native American territories if they won the war. There were some that did fight alongside the Continental Army.
No representatives from Native tribes were present at all during the peace talks and so the Americans were granted land in a region that was inhabited mostly by the Native Americans.
After the war, a rapid expansion by the Americans saw them brutally take the land and inhabit it themselves.
A slave, James Armistead, was a spy for the Continental Army who was pivotal in the battle for Yorktown. He eventually found his way to Yorktown where he was recruited by Cornwallis to be a spy for the British.
He became a double agent, supplying inaccurate information to British commanders and extremely accurate information to the Colonial Army commanders.
Slaves fought for both the Continental Army and the British. The British offered freedom to any slave that fled their master and fought against the Colonial Army.
Only a handful that fled actually fought with the British soldiers, they were mainly used as laborers and cooks. Others fought with the Colonists and volunteered for service, after being offered freedom for fighting against the British.
After the end of the war, slavery was completely abolished within the Northern States but continued in the South to various degrees. This would ultimately lead to being one of the main factors in the American civil war later on.
During the war, the Americans had their own currency, the Continental Dollar. They used this to purchase supplies and trade with other countries. Unfortunately, it was an incredibly easy currency to counterfeit.
The British created large numbers of counterfeit coins and flooded the American colonies with them. This led to a massive increase in inflation and almost crippled the Colonist economy by dropping the value of the Continental Dollar to almost nothing.
Interestingly, the war did not only involve the British against the Colonials. The American colonies formed an alliance with different European countries. The Americans had help from French, Dutch and Spanish soldiers during the war. The French also helped by sending some of their navies to help the Colonial navy against the British.
The British had alliances with colonial loyalists who wished to remain under British law, as well as the British having tribes of Native Americans supporting them.
Amongst the most feared of those who aided the British were the Hessian soldiers. These were German forces that wore their normal uniforms and fought under their national flag but were still commanded by British generals.
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The American Revolution is one of the most written about and defining moments of history. It forever changed and shaped the world that we know and live in today.
There are probably a few things here that you may have known and things that you perhaps had no idea about. There are also near countless stories or facts that we still do not know as they have been lost to time.
What we do know is that there were many brave individuals who fought for their independence and achieved it. What interesting fact did you learn that made you explore it further?