There is no better day to talk about the American Revolution than on the 4th of July. It’s that date we celebrate our Independence from King George and the British government. While that simple fact should never be forgotten, here are some other facts about the American Revolution that every American should know. I’m not going to link to these facts as it will be better for you to read up and verify them.
The first comes 50 years after the Declaration of Independence. On July 4th, 1826, Thomas Jefferson finally gave in to his illness. He was the author of the Declaration of Independence and the 3rd President of the United States. His final words were “No Doctor, nothing more” but is often remembered as a line he uttered before taking his final nap -“This is the fourth?”
Over in Massachusetts, John Adams died peacefully in his bed. He was the second President of the United States and fiery proponent of Independence from England in the second continental congress. His final words were “Thomas Jefferson survives”. He did not know that Jefferson had passed away just a few hours earlier.
These two men had a different vision of how government should rule, but both agreed on the principle that slavery was wrong. In fact, when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he wrote a clause that would have abolished slavery and he called slavery a cruel war. Unfortunately, the Declaration of Independence had to pass with the unanimous consent of every state, though those states needed just a simple majority. This meant that Southern States would not vote for the Declaration of Independence with that clause in there. Specifically, the delegation led by Edward Rutledge would oppose the abolish of slavery
The Declaration of Independence went through a rigorous debate with most of the delegates needing to be convinced to overthrow the British government. Taxation without representation was just 1 of the many reasons why the founders voted to overthrow King George. While most of us know the opening words of the Declaration of Independence, many people don’t realize it cited many reasons for Independence. The list of offenses by King George were numerous, and knowing those reasons makes it clear why the Founders fought for freedom.
Perhaps the staunchest opponent to the Declaration of Independence was John Dickinson, arguing for reconciliation with the British, who did not vote for Independence, and he refused to put his name on the Declaration. While we would think him to be a traitor, Dickinson went on to serve in the continental army and fought vigorously despite his Quaker beliefs.
One person who is unquestionably a traitor is Benedict Arnold. We all know his name, but his story is quite interesting. He was a war hero in his own right and rose to the rank of Major General and was also wounded in battle. Without a doubt, had he remained loyal to the American cause, statues would have been raised in his honor. Instead, his betrayal to the American colonies led to the capture of British Officer John Andre. Andre had worked a deal with Arnold in that Arnold turned over key information which would have led to the capture of West Point by the British, in return, Arnold would become a commissioned officer in the British Army.
Andre would go to meet with Arnold, but Andre would be captured, and Arnold would escape. During John Andre’s military tribunal, he asked to be shot by firing squad and not hung. The reason was that firing squad was fit for a soldier and hanging was for spies and traitors. Since he was captured in civilian clothing, he was treated to the latter. The British resented the loss of Andre and blamed Arnold for the loss of such an honorable man, which they considered Arnold not to be as he was a traitor to his country.
George Washington is remembered for his crossing of the Delaware in which he launched a surprise attack against the Hessians on Christmas night. This marked a turning point in the American Revolution and encouraged the re-enlistment of men. What is often forgotten is Washington was face with defeat of the entire revolution just four months earlier when his men were cornered by the British on Long Island. In the middle of the night, Washington moved his soldiers in retreat over the river to Manhattan while leading the British to think the American soldiers were staying cornered on Long Island. This successful retreat kept the revolution going.
The Culper Spy Ring, led by Samuel Culper was named after the county Culpepper County in Virginia where George Washington worked as a surveyor in his youth. The Culper spy ring was instrumental in bringing about the capture of John Andre.
On the American shores, frustration was growing with France as they were slow to send aid, but unbeknownst to the Americans was that France had been fighting the British all throughout the world, tying up British soldiers so they couldn’t fight Americans. France was sending aid, but they prevented the full might of the British forces against Americans.
One last fact to get in. The decision to severe ties with the British actually happened on July 2, 1776. It Declaration of Independence passed on July 4th. Despite our common belief thanks in part to the famous painting, The founders were never in the room at the same time to sign the Declaration of Independence.
One final note, though July 4th is the day we remember as declaring our independence, the American Revolution actually began over a year before on April 19, 1775 when the Redcoats marched on Lexington and Concord to seize the cache of weapons that was being horded by Samuel Adams and John Hancock.
There are a lot of facts left to be uncovered and it really is an amazing piece of world history. I’d encourage you to verify any of these facts and dig much deeper. There is no better time to remember the American Revolution then on the fourth of July.