American Revolution
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American Revolution


To Lecture Notes

The American Revolution on YouTube
Best Scenes from The Patriot
"Yankee Doodle" Fife and Drum
Declaration of Independence
"John Adams" HBO Trailer

American Revolutionary Exercise

General Resources:
Liberty: The American Revolution (PBS)
The History Place: American Revolution
The American Revolution
Principles of 1776

Events Leading to the Revolution:
The Royal Proclamation of 1763
Lexington and Concord
Prelude to Revolution
Resolutions of the Stamp Act
Declaration of Rights of the Stamp Act Congress
Declaration of Rights and Grievances (1774)
The Declaratory Act
Paul Revere's Engraving of the Boston Massacre
Boston Massacre
Graves of Boston Massacre Victims
Boston Tea Party - Eyewitness Account
The Intolerable or Coercive Acts // Summary of the Intolerable or Coercive Acts
Coercive Acts
Library of Congress Documents of the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention
Carpenters' Hall
Virtual Tour of Historic Philadelphia

The British:
King George Proclaims the Rebellion
George Grenville

The People of the Revolution:
Sons of Liberty: Patriots or Terrorists?
Mercy Otis Warren
Quotes of Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope
Cato's Letters by John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon
John Hancock
Crispus Attucks
Nathanael Greene and the American Revolution
William Ellery
Biography of James Wilson
Connecticut Patriots
People of the Revolution
George Washington Timeline during Revolution
George Washington Papers
George Washington
George Washington
Thomas Gage Biographical Information
Paul Revere House
Paul Revere's Other Ride
Women Soldiers in the American Revolution
American Women's History - A Research Guide: The American Revolution
Women of the American Revolution
Contributions of Women in the Revolution
The Enigma of Benedict Arnold
Benedict Arnold
Thomas Paine
The American Crisis by Thomas Paine
Meet Thomas Paine
Marquis de Lafayette: French Soldier and Statesman
Tadeusz Kosciuszko

Declaring Independence:
The Olive Branch Petition
Declaration of Independence
Library of Congress: Declaration of Independence

The War:
The American Revolution in Georgia
Virtual Marching Tour of the American Revolution

John Chalmers and "Plain Truth" - Response to "Common Sense"

Social History:
Free Labor in the American Revolution
Labor in the Revolutionary Period

American Indians During the Revolutionary Era:
Indians and the American Revolution

Lecture Notes

To get in the mood, we need to sing a song. So read the short introduction, and at the top of your lungs, sing "Yankee Doodle!"

Yankee Doodle

When the Revolutionary War began, the colonists had no national hymn. It is believed that during the French and Indian War a Dr. Richard Shackburg in a spirit of dirision gave to the poorly clad and awkward colonial soldiers the words and music of "Yankee Doodle." Twenty years after these same militiamen marched to victory at Lexington to this tune. When Cornwallis marched to his surrender at Yorktown, the same tune was played. Historians continue to disagree about the origins of the song's name and tune. It has been attributed to the Spanish, Dutch, and Germans as well as the Puritans. The word "Yankee" itself may be a Native American corruption of the word "English" and was used as a contemptuous term applied to the Puritans. "Doodle" means a "simple fellow." - The Golden Book of Favorite Songs.

This is the oldest version I could find so the words differ from the song you may know.

...Fath'r and I went down to camp,
A-long with Captain Good'in,
And there we saw the men and boys
as thick as hasty puddin'.

Yankee Doodle keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy,
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy.

And there we see a athousand men,
As rich as squire Da-vid;
And what they wanted ev-'ry day,
I wish it could be sav-ed.

And there was Captain Washington
Up-on a slapping stallion,
A-giving orders to his men,
I guess there was a million.

And then the feathers on his hat,
They look'd so very fine, ah!
I wanted peskily to get
To give to my Jemima.

And there I see a swarming gun,
Large as a log of maple,
Upon a mighty little cart;
A load for father's cattle.

And every time they fired it off,
It took a horn of power;
It made a noise like father's gun
Only a nation louder.

And there I see a little keg,
Its head all made of leather,
They knocked upon't with little sticks.
To call the folks together.

And Cap'n Davis had a gun,
He kind o'clapt his hand on't
And stuck a crooked stabbing iron
Upon the litte end on't.

The troopers, too, would gallop up
And fire right in our faces;
It scared me almost half to death
To see them run such races.

It scared me so I hooked it off,
Not stopped, as I remember,
Nor turned about till I got home,
Locked up in mother's chamber.


Conflict with England led to the American Revolution. The "shared experiences" had brought the colonists together and American culture had emerged. The relationship between England and the colonies began to deteriorate rapidly after 1763 and the French and Indian War.

England issued the Proclamation of 1763 that ordered colonists not to settle in the Ohio River Valley region that had been won in the war. England wanted to keep settlers out to keep them from fighting with American Indians due to the increasing trade with Indians. The English government also wanted to keep the colonists near to the coast where it was easier to control them. At the same time, the British established a permanent army of 10,000 troops in the colonies. Americans began to question what rights they had. They were used to England leaving them along. The map below shows the Proclamation of 1763 line that was supposed to limit American settlement.

Other issues added to the conflict. Americans disliked "mercantilism," an economic system in which colonies exist to benefit the mother country. That meant England had the ultimate authority and could restrict trade so England benefited and colonists could not compete with them. As early as 1651, England had tried to regulate trade with the Navigation Act. This required the colonists to conduct trade on English colonial ships. Crews had to be least 1/2 English or colonial. In addition, legislation stipulated what goods colonists could trade or so-call "enumerated products." Colonist could only trade certain goods with England including tobacco, sugar, indigo, cotton, and rice. England also required all products pass through England before going elsewhere so they could be taxed. England also prohibited colonists from manufacturing some items made in England such as wool, felt hats, and iron. As a result England prospered and London became the largest city in western Europe.

Americans were not happy, though. The colonists resented the Quartering Act that required colonists to provided soldiers' barracks and supplies. Colonists already worried about the dangers of a "standing army" or a permanent army even in peace time. They also resented the Currency Act of 1764 that prohibited the colonists from printing their own money. Then came the Sugar Act of 1764 with new duties or tariffs on colonial imports while increasing the number of enumerated produces. England also strengthened enforcement. They ordered trials in Vice-Admiralty Court located in Nova Scotia without a jury. Colonists objected.

Then in 1765, Parliament enacted the Stamp Act, another tax on Americans. But, this was different. It was a direct tax like a sales tax not hidden like tariffs. The tax was on all documents, newspapers, playing cards, and contracts. The tax doubled if the document was in a foreign language. The law also endorsed "writs of assistance" or search warrants that gave customs officials the right to search any building suspected of holding smuggled goods.

To Americans this was a constitutional issue. They said they could only be taxed by elected representatives. "Taxation without Representation" became the protesters call. Parliament argued Americans had "virtual representation" or that all members of Parliament represented all Englishmen so, therefore, represented the Americans. That did not go over well with the colonists. Parliament finally agree to allow the colonists to send one representative to Parliament, but that was not good enough either because he would always be outvoted. In reaction to this, most colonial assemblies passed resolution saying the Sugar Act and Stamp Act were unconstitutional. Protests emerged especially over the Stamp Act. Activists like the Sons of Liberty formed groups. With growing unrest, nine colonies formed the Stamp Act Congress to petition Parliament but Parliament refused to accept the petition. As protests spread, stamp distributors resigned, Americans avoided stamped paper and other activities that required the stamps, and boycotted English goods.

As a result, the Stamp Act was repealed in 1765 and the Sugar Act modified. The Declaratory Act, though, accompanied the repeal. The Declaratory Act told Americans that Parliament had the right to legislate for all cases and reminded colonists of the "royal veto" to veto any colonial legislation. The relationship between the colonies and England would never be the same. And, England had not given up on taxing the colonies. They wanted the Americans to pay their own way in terms of paying for government. So in 1767, Parliament passed the townshen Duty Act, new tariffs or duties on tea, paper, paint, lead, and glass. It also established a new board of customs commissioners located in the port of Boston. Troops were also sent to Boston. This led to more resistance throughout the colonies. There was no congress like with the Stamp Act since England banned that. So, Americans organized a non-importation movement.

In 1770, England repealed most of the duties but left the one on tea. On the same day, Parliament rescinded most of the Townshend duties but too late to avoid the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770.

While British soldiers had been stationed in Boston, the center of anti-English sentiment, colonists had harassed them by throwing rocks and sticks at them. The troops eventually retaliated by firing into a crowd of protesters. Five men died including Cripus Attucks (portrait above). He was described as half Indian, half black, and altogether rowdy. To preserve order, the British troops retreated from Boston. Eventually, two were tried for murder and acquitted. They were defended by a future President, John Adams. He came under great criticism for this, but explained he believed everyone had the right to a fair trial with representation. In the end, it did not hurt his political career.

For awhile things settled down, but the issues were just under the surface. The next confrontation came June 9, 1772, and is known as the Gaspee incident. This was British ship that patrolled the coastline looking for smugglers. When it ran aground off Rhode Island colonists boarded the ship, shot the captain in the butt, and put him and the crew ashore before burning the ship. England offered rewards to find out who did it but there were no takers.

All this led the colonists to establish the Committees of Correspondence in twelve willing colonies to keep each other informed about British actions. But, England had a way of doing the wrong things at the wrong times. In 1773, the British added to problems with the Tea Act of 1773. It actually lowered duties/tariffs on tea that made tea cheaper than it had ever been and cheaper than smuggled tea. Several merchants were then selected as exclusive agents for tea in the colonies. The plan backfired and the colonists got angrier. They saw it as a trick to get them to pay taxes. Many Americans just gave up tea an started drinking coffee.

This also led to the organization of the Boston Tea Party, December 16, 1773.

A band of men disguised as American Indians boarded an English ship and tossed 342 chests of English tea into Boston Harbor. This was a large amount of tea. Some American colonists were shocked, too. The destruction of private property was not the American way. And, England erupted with fury. Parliament passed the Coercive or Intolerable Acts in 1774. This closed Boston harbor port until the East India Company received compensation for the lost tea. The law also established the rule that if a colonist was killed by an English official trying to perform duties, the trial would be in England. The Massachusetts Government Act limited the number of elected official and others would be appointed. The law even limited the number of town meetings to discuss political issues. Also, added was the New Quartering Act of 1774 that demanded troops be housed in any vacant building. At the same time, Parliament passed the Quebec Act that enlarged Quebec to boundaries south to the Ohio River to reward them for their less radical behavior.

All this led to the formation of the First Continental Congress representing 12 colonies (Georgia being the exception). Delegates met in Philadelphia in 1774 with 55 delegates. Some wanted to compromise with England. Others such as Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry wanted stronger measures. They convinced the others to support the Suffolk Resolution that denounced the Coercive Acts as unconstitutional. Meanwhile, they advised the colonists to arm themselves and called for economic sanctions against England that ended up stopping all imports from and exports to England. The British were labeled "enemies of American liberty." But, no one was calling for independence at this point.

There were lively debates throughout the colonies about what to do. Americans were increasingly divided. On the one side, the Whigs (or Patriots) were the most anti-British. On the other side, the Tories (or Loyalists) tended to want to resolve the issues with England and move on. As tensions continued to grow, some localities formed special military companies called Minutemen because they could be ready to fight in a minute. Attacks on Loyalists also began who made up about 20% of the population and mostly farmers, officeholders, professionals, and recent immigrants.

Meanwhile, Parliament tried to appease the colonists with the Conciliatory Proposition in 1775. It promised not to tax the colonies if they would voluntarily contribute to their defense. The British would decide how much that cost. This effort might have worked earlier, but it was too late. The British government had already sent orders for the military to take decisive action against Massachusetts rebels. This will lead to the first clash between the colonists and the mother country, England.

On April 18, 1775, 700 British troops marched toward Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. The mission was to arrest rebel leaders like Samuel and John Hancock. They were also ordered to confiscate supplies including weapons. The Patriots heard about it and send people out into the country side to warn the colonists that the British were coming. Paul Revere is the most famous but not the only one. He just got lucky and had a poem written about him. There may have been women involved, too.

The Battles of Lexington and Concord

When the British reached Lexington, they were met by 70 militiamen. The British ordered them to disperse. A shot was fired. No one knows who did it but it became known as "the shot heard 'round the world" as Ralph Waldo Emerson described it. The British responded by killing 18 Americans and marched to to Concord where they came under fire including from women in second story fortresses. 73 British were killed, 174 wounded, and 26 were missing. 49 Americans were killed, 39 wounded, and 5 missing. The British retreated back to Boston ended the Battles of Lexington and Concord. This signaled the beginning of the American Revolution.

This led to the formation of the Second Continental Congress (1775-6) which became in effect a national government. Still, there was no declaration of independence. The Congress did declare colonists would rather die as freemen that slaves. They did not clarify how this affected those already in slavery.

With the aggression, the Second Continental Congress appointed George Washington as the commander of the Continental Army. Fighting erupted in Massachusetts, Virginia, and the Carolinas. More and Patriots began to think about independence from England altogether. That was just in time for the publication of Common Sense by Thomas Paine in January of 1776. He denounced King George and made a case for independence. The colonies were, he argued, bigger, stronger, and superior to England. He concluded "Tis Time to Part." Over 100,000 copies sold and the movement toward independence grew.

The Continental Congress responded by appointing Thomas Jefferson to compose a draft for the "Declaration of Independence." After some editing, it was officially announced on July 4, 1776. Within this document is a phrase that has had an impact throughout world history ever since 1776. Jefferson promoted "all men are created equal." Many revolutions have been inspired by those words. But, what did he mean? He owned slaves. He was a white man. He was an educated, aristocrat. What did he mean? Who did he mean? Historians have debated this question ever since because Jefferson never explained. Perhaps, he was a visionary who saw a more perfect future.

So then the colonists had this war called the American Revolution. Americans actually lost more battles than they won, but Washington brought some order to some very disorderly troops. Many colonists participated including women who served as nurses, prostitutes, and domestic servants including the story of Molly Pitcher. While the facts of her life are debatable, the overall story could represent the roles of many women. She brought water to the fighting troops, and when her husband was killed, she took up his gun and began to fight.

African-Americans also participated in the war, on both sides. About 5,000 African-Americans fought usually with the reward of freedom as their incentive. But, many others switched to the British who had promised them freedom if they did. About 3,000 African-Americans chose that route.

France also assisted the colonists and really made victory possible. The French did not like the English so intervened to help Americans win independence. They were an integral part of that eventual victory.

If you are interested in reading about individual battles, here are some resources:

American Revolution Battles
American Revolution Battles
List of American Revolution Battles

The last major battle of the Revolution was the Battle of Yorktown in Virginia (1781). The British surrendered and the Peace of Paris was signed. The Treaty created the United States of America (named by George Washington in a speech). The British signed over all the territory east of the Mississippi River. By 1783, all British troops had departed and the war was over. A new republic had been created.

To Unit 2: The New Republic and George Washington

Page created by: Wanda Downing Jones