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The American Revolution


Chapter 12 begins with the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. For the next several years the British colonists fought to win independence from Great Britain. Read the time line to follow some of the events of the American Revolution. Almost 300 years after Columbus first reached the Americas, the English colonists began forming their own country, free from European control.




Focus Activity


What was the purpose of the Declaration of Independence?


Second Continental Congress

Continental Army


Declaration of Independence


Thomas Paine

William Howe

Henry Knox

Thomas Jefferson

John Locke




Benjamin Franklin had hoped that Britain and the colonies would make peace. Yet after the Battle of Bunker Hill, Franklin gave up this hope. He wrote to a friend who was a member of Parliament, "You have begun to burn our Towns, and murder our People. Look upon your Hands! They are stained with the Blood of your Relations! You and I were long Friends: You are now my Enemy, and I am, Yours."


News of the Battle of Bunker Hill had made Franklin break with a good friend. Yet not all Americans were ready to break completely from Britain in 1775. Many still wanted Britain and the colonies to compromise. Some felt that the colonies were not strong enough to govern themselves. Most colonists spoke English, shared English customs and laws, and had relatives in Britain. The British were the colonists' major trading partner. British ships protected colonial trade routes.

One fact, however, could not be forgotten. Colonists had lost their lives at Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill. The fight for liberty had begun.

King George III did not think much of the colonists' will to fight. He was sure that once they "have felt a small blow, they will submit." In this lesson you will see how the colonists proved the king's prediction wrong.



By 1776 more and more colonists wanted to declare independence immediately. "We must be content to wait till the fruit is ripe," Sam Adams told them, "before we gather it."

Common Sense

A talented writer helped to ripen the "fruit" of independence. He was Thomas Paine, an Englishman who had settled in Pennsylvania in 1774.

In January 1776 Paine published a pamphlet entitled Common Sense. In it Paine argued that the colonists owed no loyalty to an unjust ruler. It made no sense, Paine wrote, for "a continent to be perpetually [forever] ruled by an island ... Tis time to part."

Paine used language most people could easily understand. In three months, more than 100,000 copies of his pamphlet were sold. "I find Common Sense is working a powerful change in the minds of many men," observed George Washington.

The British Leave Boston

Meanwhile, 15,000 American soldiers surrounded the British troops in Boston. When British General William Howe showed no signs of leaving Boston, Washington sent Henry Knox, a former bookseller, to Fort Ticonderoga. Knox and his men dragged cannons from the New York fort more than 250 miles over frozen rivers and snowy hills to Boston. When the British awoke on March 5, 1776, they saw the cannons staring down at them.

The showdown was over. As George Washington told his brother, the British soldiers, along with some 1,000 colonists loyal to Britain, retreated "in a shameful and precipitate [hurried] manner." The colonists had retaken Boston.

Common Sense (left) inspired support for independence. Cannons from Fort Ticonderoga (above) helped the Patriots retake Boston.



In May 1775, soon after the battles of Lexington and Concord, the Second Continental Congress had begun to meet. Colonists cheered the delegates as they arrived in Philadelphia. However, the delegates faced troubling new issues. When they had met the year before, the delegates had decided on a peaceful protest. Now British and American soldiers were fighting in New England. The Congress had to decide how to respond.

Preparing for Defense

The delegates did not agree on what path to take. They knew that any actions they took must help protect the colonies against future attacks. John Adams suggested that the Congress form a "Grand American Army," with troops from every colony.

Adams nominated Virginian George Washington to be commander-in-chief of the new Continental Army. He praised Washington as "a gentleman whose skill as an officer . . . would command the respect of America." Washington accepted and promised to use "every power I possess . . . for the support of the glorious cause."

The Second Continental Congress , headed by John Hancock (below right), met in Independence Hall (right) in Philadelphia. Today, thousands visit the site of our country's beginnings (below).


Franklin's cartoon (left) urged the colonies to unite. It was first used to support Britain in the French and Indian War.

The Congress also started a post office so that all the colonies could share news. Benjamin Franklin, a new delegate to the Congress, was appointed Postmaster General. Afraid that Native Americans would side with the British, the Congress set up a committee to make peace with them. The Congress also began to ask foreign countries to support the colonies against Britain. By taking all of these steps, the Second Continental Congress had begun to act like the central government for a new country.

A Last Chance for Peace

"The war is now heartily entered into," wrote Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, a new delegate to the Congress. Many agreed with him, including John Hancock. Hancock, a new delegate from Massachusetts, was serving as president of the Congress.

In July 1775 the Congress agreed to try one last time to make peace with Britain. The delegates sent what they called the "Olive Branch Petition" to King George. The olive branch is a symbol of peace. The petition assured Britain of the loyalty of the Americans. The Olive Branch Petition also asked for the repeal of the Intolerable Acts and an end to the fighting.

Declaring Independence

The king refused to even read the petition from what he called an "illegal congress." He threatened to "bring the traitors to justice." A traitor is someone who turns against his or her country. Many colonists were shocked at the king's angry words.

The delegates then took their biggest step. Early in June 1776 Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee proposed "that these United colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States." Many agreed. The Congress named a committee to write a statement of independence.

The new committee then asked John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston to write the Declaration of Independence. Adams convinced Jefferson to draft the document. "You can write ten times better than I can," Adams argued. Jefferson was only 33 years old at the time.


Jefferson's love of architecture and European culture can be seen in his design for Monticello, his home near Charlottesville.


Despite his youth, Jefferson was a perfect choice to write the Declaration. The quiet redheaded man, who had served in the Virginia House of Burgesses, rarely took part in debates. However, he worked hard writing articles, laws, and speeches.

A Man of Many Talents

Jefferson was born in 1743 on his family's plantation in what is now Albemarle County, Virginia. He went to school at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. Later he practiced law. In his free time Jefferson played the violin and studied history, science, and architecture.

Jefferson's appreciation of European culture can be seen in Monticello (mahn tih SEL oh), the beautiful home he designed and had built near Charlottesville, Virginia. Monticello means "little mountain" in Italian. Jefferson also designed the Virginia Capitol building and the University of Virginia, which he founded.

Jefferson owned several slaves in his lifetime and lived in a slave-owning colony. Yet he often spoke out against slavery. "Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free," he wrote.

Writing the Declaration

When Jefferson sat down to write the Declaration, he was well-prepared. As a law student he had heard Patrick Henry speak against the Stamp Act. He had read Thomas Paine's Common Sense. He had also studied the ideas of John Locke, an English philosopher from the late 1600s. Locke wrote that all people are born with certain rights, including life, liberty, And the right to own property. Locke believed that it was the responsibility of governments to protect these rights.

Jefferson wrote his draft in two days and then showed it to


Franklin and Adams. They made a few changes, but agreed the Declaration was ready to be shown to the Congress. Jefferson was proud of his work. He felt that it was "an expression of the American mind."

Debating the Declaration

On a hot July day the Congress began debating the content of the Declaration. For three days Jefferson sat silently fuming as the delegates made . changes in his work. Adams defended the Declaration. Franklin whispered reassuring words to Jefferson.

The delegates toned down some of Jefferson's attacks against King George and Parliament. Because some of the colonies opposed a passage in which Jefferson described slavery as a "cruel war against human nature," the Congress cut it out of the document. After the Declaration was approved, Richard Henry Lee told Jefferson that the delegates had mangled his draft: "However," he added, "the [Declaration] in its nature is so good that no cookery can spoil the dish."

On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved. John Hancock was the first delegate to sign it. He wrote his name in large letters, "so the king doesn't have to put on his glasses," he is supposed to have said. Today a person's signature is sometimes called a "John Hancock."

Signing the document took courage. Each person who signed it knew that he would now be considered a traitor by the British. "We must all hang together," half-joked Benjamin Franklin, "or [else]. we shall all hang separately."

In the painting (above) Jefferson, right, works with John Adams, center, and Ben Franklin, left, on a draft of the Declaration of Independence (left).



What did the Declaration say that made it so powerful? The purpose of the document was to explain to the world why the colonies had to separate from Great Britain. The colonies took a bold step. No other colony had declared independence from its ruling country in writing before. As one President said many years later, the Declaration gave "hope to the world, for all future time."

Basic Principles of the Declaration

When Jefferson wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident," he meant that there are truths that should be clear to everyone. The first is that "all men are created equal." Men have the right given by God to "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

The second truth is that people establish governments in order to "secure these rights." As you have read in Chapter 1, these governments get their power, or authority, from "the consent of the governed."

Jefferson then listed the colonists' grievances, or complaints, against King George. The king had, for example, dissolved the colonial assemblies, kept soldiers in the colonies, and taxed the colonies without their consent. King George, in short, was "unfit to be the ruler of a free people."

To conclude the Declaration, Jefferson echoed the words of Richard Henry Lee. It was time, he argued, for the colonists to declare "that these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States."

Read the following excerpt from the Declaration. Can you predict what its impact might have been on colonists remaining loyal to Britain?



Excerpt from The Declaration of Independence, 1776.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it. .. .

entitle: have as a right

impel: inspire

endowed: given

unalienable: cannot be taken away

instituted: set up



After the Declaration was approved, copies were sent immediately to the Continental Army and to cities and towns throughout the colonies. Bells rang, cannons roared, and colonists cheered when the Declaration was read. Today we celebrate Independence Day, July 4th, as the birth of our country. Abigail Adams wrote to her husband John about the celebration that was held in Boston in 1776:

After dinner the King's [coat of] Arms were taken down from the State House and every [symbol] of him from every place in which it appeared [was] burnt. . . . Thus ends royal Authority in this State.

The Declaration of Independence was one of the most important documents in human history. It was the first to set out the rights and responsibilities of people in a democracy Although in 1776 only white male property owners were allowed to vote, over time the phrase '"all men are created equal" has been expanded to include all people.

People of other countries have also looked to the Declaration of Independence to express their desire for self-government and freedom. Over the years peoples of Europe, Asia, Africa, Central America, and South America have used it as a model for their own statements of independence.

Reviewing Facts and Ideas


• Published in January 1776, Thomas Paine's Common Sense inspired many colonists to break with Britain.

• In 1775 the Second Continental Congress established the Continental Army and chose George Washington as its commander. The Congress also sent the Olive Branch Petition to King George of Britain.

• Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, which explained why the colonies were breaking away from Britain. The Second Continental Congress approved it July 4, 1776.


1. How did Henry Knox help to force the British to leave Boston?

2. What act did the Second Continental Congress make in 1775? In 1776?

3. FOCUS What was Thomas Jefferson's purpose in writing the Declaration of Independence?

4. THINKING SKILL Read the excerpt from the Declaration of Independence on page 316. Are the statements facts or opinions? How do you know?

5. WRITE Write a pamphlet like Common Sense on a subject you would like to inspire others about.

Thomas Jefferson presented the Declaration of Independence to the Second Continental Congress.




Focus Activity


How did the leadership of George Washington help the Continental Army?






Nathan Hale

Martha Washington

John Burgoyne

Thaddeus Kosciuszko

Marquis de Lafayette

Friedrich von Steuben


Mount Vernon



Valley Forge


In August 1776 Nathan Hale slipped into New York City. George Washington had asked the 21-year-old teacher from Connecticut to spy on British soldiers. In September the British arrested Hale. They found maps he had drawn of British troop positions. On the morning of September 22, Captain Hale calmly walked to the gallows and said "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."


The dying words of Nathan Hale proved his loyalty to the new United States of America. At the time things had not been going well for George Washington and the Continental Army. The British had hired German mercenaries to fight the Americans. A mercenary is a soldier paid to fight for another country. In August 1776 these mercenaries, called Hessians after their home in the German state of Hesse, helped the British capture Long Island near New York City.

The British continued to gain territory in New York. In December Washington and his last 3,000 men retreated to Pennsylvania. "1 think the game is pretty near up," the tired commander wrote.

Only a few thousand poorly-equipped soldiers stood between the British and the home of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. How would the Americans keep the British from crushing their revolution, once and for all?


Washington takes command of the Continental Army. (below) The Patriot flag of Rhode Island (left) has 13 stars.


The winter of 1776 was a sad time for the soldiers of the Continental Army. The winter winds chilled them to the bone. Some fought in their own clothes because uniforms were in short supply. Food and ammunition were running low. Most soldiers joined the army for a certain amount of time only and looked forward to leaving as soon as their time was up. As Thomas Paine wrote:

These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

Redcoats and Continentals

In contrast, the British soldiers in their fancy red uniforms were well-trained and well-supplied. Britain had the strongest navy in the world and the money to hire mercenaries. The Americans, however, had some strengths. They were defending their homes. Unlike the British, the Americans knew the land well.

Another advantage the-Americans had was that it was slow and very costly for Britain to ship troops and supplies across the Atlantic Ocean. As the war dragged on, many British people began to wonder whether the war was worth it.

Patriots and Loyalists

Not all Americans supported the American Revolution. About one out of three of the colonists were Loyalists. Loyalists were people who remained loyal to Britain.

Another third supported the fight for independence. These Americans were known as Patriots. The remaining one-third of Americans did not take sides. This group included many Quakers, who oppose all wars.



Another advantage the Patriots had was strong leadership. George Washington had been commander of the Virginia militia during the French and Indian War. Now he faced a much greater responsibility. Who was this man who was charged with getting an untrained army ready to fight against a major world power?

The Life of a Leader

George Washington was born in 1732 in Westmoreland County, Virginia. Although his parents were landowners, they were not one of Virginia's wealthiest families. Washington was good at mathematics, but never went to college.

Washington's first job, at the age of 16, was as a surveyor. A surveyor is a person who measures land. In the middle of the 1700s many colonists were moving west and needed his services. His work paid well, and he was able to use his money to buy land.

In 1752 the young Washington joined the Virginia militia. Washington hoped a military career would bring him honor. He became angry when he learned that soldiers from the colonies were paid less to fight for the British than soldiers in the regular British army. Then, during the French and Indian War, the British lowered Colonel Washington's rank because they did not want colonists to rise above captain. Washington left the militia in protest. He later returned when the governor of Virginia restored his original rank.

In 1758, while still in the military, Washington was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses. There he met Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, and later joined colonial protests against the British.

In 1759 Washington retired from military life to manage his lands. By then he had become the most famous American in the military. That same year he married a wealthy widow named Martha Custis. George and Martha Washington moved to Mount Vernon, the plantation he owned on the Potomac River in Virginia. Martha


George Washington married Martha Custis in 1759 (left). The young couple went to live on Washington's Virginia plantation, Mount Vernon (below).

Washington also supported the Patriots. During the American Revolution, she helped her husband with his paperwork. She also sewed socks and cooked soup for the soldiers.

Victory in Trenton

Martha Washington often joined George Washington in the field, where things were going badly for the Continental Army at the end of 1776. Washington was discouraged. He wrote, "Such is my situation that if I were to wish the bitterest curse to an enemy on this -side of the grave, I should put him in my [place] with my feelings."

Certain of future victories, General Howe decided to rest for the winter in New York City. Washington knew that the British would not try to advance again until the spring. So he planned a surprise attack on the close to 1,400 Hessian troops in Trenton, New Jersey. The password Washington gave his soldiers was "Victory or Death!" After nightfall on Christmas Day, December 25, 1776, Washington and his troops crossed the Delaware River into New Jersey. The next morning, they surprised the Hessians, who quickly surrendered. "This is a glorious day for our country," said Washington.

The Continental Army and Slavery

Among the troops that crossed the Delaware with Washington were Prince Whipple and Oliver Cromwell. They were two of the many African Americans who fought with the Patriots.

In 1775 the Americans had debated whether to allow enslaved men to be soldiers. Many were afraid that enslaved African Americans might rebel if given guns. Washington agreed not to allow any more African Americans to join the army. He himself owned slaves, which his wife's family had given him.

In 1776, however, Washington changed his mind. Britain had won the support of many enslaved people by promising them their freedom.

How could the colonies continue to enslave African Americans when they were willing to fight and die for the freedom of all Americans? Some states began to answer that question. In 1780 Pennsylvania adopted a plan for abolishing, or ending, slavery. Many northern states soon followed. In other states, such as Virginia, enslaved African Americans who fought with the Patriots were freed. One of the plantation owners who freed his slaves after the war ended was George Washington.



In June 1777 a British general named John Burgoyne (bur GOYN) decided to capture the Hudson River valley. This would cut New England and New York off from the rest of the colonies.

The Battle of Saratoga

Starting from Canada, Burgoyne's troops headed south toward Albany, New York. Along the way, groups of Patriots attacked from the woods. Burgoyne's troops were forced to cut roads through thick forests and swamps. It took them all day to travel one mile.

The Americans had time to prepare. Thaddeus Kosciuszko (THA dee us kahs ee US koh), a Polish engineer serving with the Americans, had placed cannons on a high cliff overlooking the road to Albany. Local farmers, many with excellent shooting skills, poured in to the area to help the Patriots. By the time Burgoyne reached Saratoga, New York, the Americans vastly outnumbered the British. After two months of fighting, Burgoyne surrendered on October 17, 1777.

Marquis de Lafayette

Kosciuszko was not the only European who helped the American Patriots.

The Marquis de Lafayette (mahr KEE de laf ee ET) was a wealthy French nobleman. His father had died fighting the British when Lafayette was a child.

In July 1777, when he was 19, Lafayette wrote to John Hancock. He asked for two things. The first was to serve at his own expense. The second was to begin his service as a volunteer. Hancock made Lafayette a major general on George Washington's staff. He and Washington became like father and son.

The Winter at Valley Forge

While General Burgoyne was marching to Saratoga, General Howe had captured Philadelphia. The Continental Congress fled to York, Pennsylvania. Washington and his

At Valley Forge (above) Lafayette, left, joins Washington, right. Von Steuben trains the troops (right).


troops set up camp at Valley Forge, near Philadelphia.

Supplies were dangerously low. Most survived by eating firecakes, a thin bread of flour and water cooked over an open fire. Many soldiers left and went home. At least 2,500 died of disease. Martha Washington helped comfort and nurse the sick. One out of three soldiers had no shoes at all. Washington noted bitterly that "you might have tracked the army ... by the blood of their feet" upon the snow.

Friedrich von Steuben (FREED rihk vahn STOO bun), an energetic soldier from the German state of Prussia, helped train the ragged troops. Von Steuben expected them to be on time. Even rags, he told them, could be kept clean. Von Steuben taught the troops the latest European fighting methods. Under his watchful eyes, a group of storekeepers, farmers, and other citizens was turned into a powerful army.


George Washington's strong leadership helped the Continental Army survive the winter at Valley Forge. His men did not know how Washington begged the Continental Congress for food, supplies, and money. By the end of that winter, however, the troops at Valley Forge were willing to follow George Washington anywhere.

The Battle of Saratoga was also a turning point. It proved to Europeans that the Patriots could beat the British. Early in 1778 France joined the war t against their longtime enemy, Britain. They sent gunpowder, soldiers, and ships. French support would make a big difference in the outcome of the war.

Reviewing Facts and Ideas


• Britain had a strong navy and troops who were well-trained and well-supplied. The American soldiers had little training, but they were fighting on their home ground.

• The Patriot victory at the Battle of Saratoga in June 1777 helped the Americans win European support.

• American troops survived a difficult winter at Valley Forge in 1777 and trained to become a strong army.


1. What were the strengths and weaknesses of the British and American forces at the start of the Revolution?

2. How did the Patriots and Loyalists feel about the war for independence?

3. FOCUS How did George Washington help the Continental Army?

4. THINKING SKILL Based on the events in this lesson, what predictions would you make about the rest of the war? Explain your answer.

5. GEOGRAPHY What role did climate play in the American victories discussed in this lesson?





By 1776 many Patriots believed independence was the only answer to their conflicts with Great Britain. As Thomas Paine expressed in his viewpoint, the Patriots saw only disadvantages in being ruled by Britain.

The Loyalists were against separating from Great Britain. Many of them agreed that the colonists had not always been treated fairly. Still, they believed that strong advantages remained in being connected to Britain. According to William Franklin, they did not feel the colonies's economy and military could stand on their own.

Many African Americans refused to take sides. As the unsigned newspaper letter in the third Viewpoint explained, slavery was an exception to the Patriots' call for liberty. Some African Americans joined the Patriot cause hoping that the Revolution would result in the end of slavery. Others supported the British because of the British promise to free any enslaved African Americans who joined their side. Many wondered if either side would end slavery when the war was over.

Read and consider the three viewpoints on the issue of separating from Great Britain. Then answer the questions that follow.

Spirit of '76, the famous painting by Archibald M. Willard, was unveiled at our country's Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876.


Three DIFFERENT Viewpoints


Governor of the New Jersey Colony

Excerpt from Letter to the New Jersey Legislature, 1776

Depend upon it, you can never place yourselves in a happier situation than in your dependence on Great Britain. Independence has not even a chance of being gained, without the loss of the lives and properties of many thousands of the honest people of this country—yet these, it seems, are as nothing in the eyes of the patriots! But remember, Gentlemen, that I now tell you, that should they by chance achieve their purpose, yet their government will not be lasting.



Excerpt from Common Sense, 1776

I challenge the warmest [supporter] to show a single advantage that this continent can [gain] by being connected with Great Britain. . . . Any submission to, or dependence on, Great Britain, tends directly to involve this continent in European wars and quarrels, and sets us [against] nations who would otherwise seek our friendship, and against whom we have neither anger nor complaint.


Excerpt from Letter written by an enslaved or free African American published in Massachusetts Spy, February 10, 1774

You are taxed without your consent, (I grant that a grievance,) and have petitioned for relief, and cannot get any. Are not your hearts also hard, when you hold men in slavery who are entitled to liberty by the law of nature, equal as yourselves? When the eyes of your understanding are opened, then will you see clearly between your case and Great Britain, and that of the Africans. If so, is it lawful for one nation to enslave another?


1. What was the viewpoint of each person? How did each person support his view?

2. In what ways were some of the viewpoints alike? In what ways were they different?

3. What other viewpoints might people have on this issue? What are some ways in which the issue of colonies separating from their ruling country might be discussed today?


Suppose you were a colonist during the American Revolution. Why might you have expected the speakers to have the viewpoints they did? As a class discuss which viewpoints you would have agreed or disagreed with. Are there any statements you could make about the separation from Great Britain with which all speakers could agree?




Focus Activity


Who helped the Patriots win the Revolution?


Treaty of Paris


George Rogers Clark

John Paul Jones

Benedict Arnold

Mary Ludwig Hays

Haym Soloman

Francis Marion

Nathanael Greene

Charles Cornwallis

Bernardo de Galvez

James Armistead

Joseph Brant


Fort Vincennes



The minutemen had left Groton, Massachusetts, for the battlefield. Yet the town was still protected. "Armed with muskets, pitchforks, and such other weapons as they could find," Prudence Wright, Sarah Shattuck, and some 30 other women guarded the town bridge.


You have read about the hardships endured by the Continental Army and about such leaders as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Yet the war could not have been won without the help of ordinary citizens like the women of Groton, Massachusetts.

Farmers, craftworkers, and merchants left their families to join the army. Women like Abigail Adams kept the farms and businesses running in addition to raising their families. She wrote to her husband that she was "sometimes thrown into an agony of distress" trying to get everything done.

Some colonists joined the army as cooks and servants. Others raised money, sewed clothes for the soldiers, and nursed the wounded. It was this quiet work that often made the difference between victory and defeat in the Revolution.

Both the Americans and the British had expected the struggle for independence to end quickly. Instead it was eight years before a peace treaty would be signed. In this lesson you will read about some of the men and women who helped to bring the war to an end.


In the battle between the Bonhomme Richard and the Serapis, the United States defeated the great British navy.


In the early days of the American Revolution, much of the fighting took place in the Northeast. However, brave Patriots in the Middle West and on the high seas also fought the British.

Patriots Fight in the West

George Rogers Clark was a surveyor living in Kentucky when the Revolution began. In 1778 he set out to drive the British out of the Ohio River valley, which was then called "the West."

One of the forts Clark captured, Fort

Vincennes (vihn SENZ), was soon retaken by the British. Clark refused to give up. He knew that the British would not expect an attack in the winter. So in February 1779, Clark's men marched to the fort again, wading waist-deep through icy, flooded swampland. At night the soldiers slept in mud, covering themselves with wet blankets. "Our suffering is too terrible for any person to believe," Clark said.

By having his men yell and scream as they attacked the fort, Clark tricked the British into believing that he had a large army. The British quickly surrendered. As Clark wrote, "great things" have been done "by a few men." Americans now controlled the Ohio River valley. Clark became known as the "Washington of the West."

Patriots Fight on the Seas

Like the Continental Army, the American navy was also poorly equipped in comparison to the British. However, an American sea captain, John Paul Jones, proved that a strong fighting spirit can make a difference) Some historians have called Jones our country's first naval hero.

In September 1779 Captain Jones's battleship, the Bonhomme Richard, faced the British battleship Serapis. Jones had named his ship, which means "Poor Richard" in the French language, after Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac. The British pounded the Bonhomme Richard with cannon fire, leaving it in ruins. When the British captain asked Jones if he was ready to surrender, Jones yelled back, "I have not yet begun to fight."

After three hours of close fighting, it was the Serapis that surrendered. One of Jones's men called the battle "the most bloody, the hardest fought .. . between two ships of war of any nation under heaven."


Patriot women who fought the British included Mary Ludwig Hays (left), Nancy Hart (top), and Deborah Sampson (above), who is disguised as a man.


Patriots like George Rogers Clark and John Paul Jones led the Americans to victories over the British. Other men and women also played important roles in the fight for independence.

Benedict Arnold Turns Traitor

As a Patriot commander, Benedict Arnold had helped the Americans win at Fort Ticonderoga and Saratoga. In 1778, however, Arnold married a woman from a Loyalist family. He lived a life of luxury and was soon in debt.

In 1780 Washington gave Arnold command of West Point, a key fort on New York's Hudson River. In exchange for money, Arnold planned to tell the British about West Point's defenses. When the Americans found out, Arnold escaped and became an officer in the British army. Many British soldiers, however, never fully trusted him. Today, a "Benedict Arnold" has come to mean a traitor to one's country.

Supporting the Soldiers

Fortunately there were many Americans who helped the Continental Army. Mary Ludwig Hays went with her husband to the battlefield. Because she brought pitchers of water to the thirsty soldiers during battles, she was called "Molly Pitcher." She also helped load cannons and even took up her husband's gun when he was wounded.

Some women like Deborah Sampson disguised themselves as men and fought


as soldiers. Others like Dicey Langston of South Carolina served as spies. The 16-year-old Langston crossed a river at night to bring news of enemy troop positions to her brother's Patriot camp.

The businessman Haym Soloman (HI am SAL uh mun) spied for the Patriots when the British captured New York City. A Jew who had fled Poland when it was invaded by Russia, he believed strongly in the cause of independence and freedom. He also raised money for the Continental Army. Salomon gave so much of his own money to the Patriots that when he died in 1785, he was penniless.

Patriots Fight in the South

The British headed south after the Patriot victories in Saratoga and Vincennes kept them from advancing in the north and the west. You can see some of the major battles fought in the South on the map on pages 332-333. In South Carolina, however, the British were stopped by Captain Francis Marion.

Marion's small band of soldiers made lightning-quick attacks on the British before fading back into the Carolina swamps. Because of this, Marion became known as the "Swamp Fox." Years later the poet William Cullen Bryant wrote:

Our band is few, but true and tried,

Our leader frank and bold;

The British soldier trembles

When Marion's name is told.

Marion's men also fought in North Carolina under General Nathanael Greene. Greene's approach was simple: "We fight, we get beat, rise, and fight again." By the spring of 1781, British commander Charles Cornwallis declared he was "quite tired of marching about the country" chasing Greene. Instead, Cornwallis decided to head north to Virginia.

The Spanish Help the Patriots

A year after France joined the war Spain followed suit. Many Spanish soldiers, like Jorge Ferragut (HOR hay FAIR uh gut), fought with the Patriots. Women in Cuba sold their jewelry to raise money for the American cause.

In 1777 Bernardo de Galvez (bair NAHR doh de GAHL vez) became Governor of Spanish Louisiana. He opened up the port of New Orleans to American ships and ended British trade with Louisiana. Galvez also sent money and supplies to George Rogers Clark. As a commander of Spain's troops in America, Galvez won control of several key cities along the Gulf Coast including Pensacola, Florida.

James Armistead spied for the Patriots and was one of many enslaved African Americans who aided the Revolution.



Battles of the American Revolution

The map on this page shows the major battles of the Revolution. The American Revolution began in the New England Colonies. As the map shows, the fighting shifted south during the long war. It moved first to the Middle Colonies and then to the Southern Colonies. The time line can help you follow the sequence of the major battles and events of the Revolution.


The three-cornered hat worn by American soldiers during the Revolution came to be seen by Europeans as a symbol of liberty.

The first United States military medal was created by George Washington. Known as the Purple Heart, it is still given to soldiers who are wounded in battle.


As the Infographic on these pages shows, the fighting of the Revolution moved to the south. Before heading north to Virginia, General Cornwallis had taken his forces to the Carolinas where he won a series of battles. Cornwallis counted on support from the southern Loyalists. But although some Loyalists joined British troops, they were a small part of the British force.

The vast number of southerners supported the Patriots. They fed and clothed the American troops that marched through the countryside. Still from 1778 to 1781, the outnumbered and poorly equipped Patriots were defeated at Savannah, Charles Town, and Camden. At Kings Mountain, North Carolina, in October 1780 the Patriots achieved one of their few victories in the south.

Battle of Guilford Court House

As you have read, the British Army marched its men shoulder to shoulder toward the enemy's fire, which made the soldiers easy targets. Cornwallis continued to use this traditional European style of fighting despite warnings from his men.

In March 1781 at Guilford Court House, North Carolina, the strategy proved costly once again. Cornwallis lost one-fourth of his men during the fierce battle. The British were able to claim victory only because the Patriot forces led by Nathanael Greene had retreated.

"Another such victory," one British officer said, "would destroy the British army." Although Cornwallis won most of the battles in the south, he left the Carolinas with his forces greatly weakened and in need of supplies.



When Nathanael Greene forced the British to retreat north, General Cornwallis went as far as Yorktown, Virginia. This was to be the last stand for the British troops.

Victory at Yorktown

When General Cornwallis asked his servant James Armistead to spy on the Americans, he did not realize that Armistead was already spying for them. Armistead alerted Lafayette to Cornwallis's plans. He also gave Cornwallis false information about the Americans.

Washington was therefore able to trick Cornwallis into thinking he was going to attack New York. Instead more than 17,000 American and French soldiers surrounded Yorktown. French warships blocked the harbor and prevented the British from retreating. The map on page 337 shows the routes each side took and the positions of their troops. Realizing that he was outgunned and outnumbered, Cornwallis surrendered on October 19, 1781. The Battle of Yorktown was the last major battle of the Revolution.

After the Battle of Yorktown, a disappointed King George III wanted to continue the fight. The British House of Commons, however, was tired of the war. It wanted to make peace.

In the Treaty of Paris of 1783, Britain finally recognized the independence of the United States. The land west of the Appalachian Mountains that had been won by George Rogers Clark became part of the United States. Florida, which had come under British control, was returned to Spain, an ally of the Patriots.

The Iroquois Confederacy

At the end of the war, many Loyalists left the United States for good. Among them were members of the Iroquois Confederacy.

During the Revolution, both the Americans and the British tried to win

The painting by artist John Trumbull shows the British surrendering to the Americans at Yorktown in 1781.


the support of Native Americans. In the Iroquois Confederacy, the Tuscarora and Oneida chose not to take sides. The Mohawk, Cayuga, Seneca, and Onondaga fought with the British. Their leader, Joseph Brant, had hoped that the British would protect Iroquois lands from settlement by the colonists. When the British lost the war, many Iroquois moved north to Canada.


The United States was now independent. Some years later, John Adams was asked about the meaning of the American Revolution. He replied that there had been two revolutions. One was the war itself. The other "was in the minds and hearts of the people." Indeed, by the end of the war many Americans like John Adams wanted more than independence. They wanted the chance to form a new kind of government. In the next chapter, you will read about how this was done.


How did the colonists celebrate their victory?

After the Battle of Yorktown, bells all across the country rang out to announce the victory. When the Treaty of Paris became final, weary Continental Army officers cheered and sang the song "Independence." The jubilant Patriots held dances and drank toasts to General Washington. They also honored the heroes who died in the war. Everywhere Washington went, crowds lined the roads to see him. "With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take my leave of you," Washington told his troops at a farewell dinner in Fraunces Tavern in New York City. Tears were streaming down his cheeks as he hugged each soldier and said goodbye. As one soldier wrote, "such a scene of sorrow and weeping I have never before seen."

Reviewing Facts and Ideas


• In 1779 George Rogers Clark won control of the Ohio River valley. Later that year John Paul Jones won a victory over the mighty British navy.

• Americans supported the Patriots by running farms and businesses, serving as spies and nurses, and raising money for the cause.

• Francis Marion, Nathanael Greene, and Bernardo de Galvez helped stop the British advance in the South.

• The Battle of Yorktown in 1781 was the last major battle of the war. The Treaty of Paris of 1783 recognized American independence and set new boundaries for the United States.


1. How did the capture of Fort Vincennes help the Americans?

2. How did colonists who stayed home support the Patriot cause?

3. FOCUS Name some of the people who helped win the Revolution and list their contributions.

4. THINKING SKILL What were the goals of France and Spain in deciding to help the Patriots? Explain your answer.

5. GEOGRAPHY Look at the map of the Battle of Yorktown on page 337. Why was it a good location for the Patriots and their allies to trap Cornwallis?



Comparing Maps at Different Scales


map scale

large-scale map

small-scale map


As you have read, the battles of the American Revolution were fought in different parts of the United States. A map, such as the one on page 332, can give you a great deal of information about the major battles of the Revolution. By looking at that map you can find out the state in which a particular battle was fought.

Most of the time you only need one map to give you all the information you need about a topic. Yet sometimes you may want to find more detailed information. The map of major battles, for example, does not give you information about the route George Washington took to reach Trenton. If you were writing a report on the Battle of Trenton, you would need a map that showed a smaller area—Trenton--in greater detail.


No map can be as large as the part of Earth it shows. So all maps are drawn to scale. A map scale uses a unit of measure, such as an inch, to represent a real distance on Earth. Each map has its own scale depending on the size of the area and the amount of information that needs to be shown. A large-scale map, like the one you would need to show the Battle of Trenton, shows a smaller area in greater detail. A small-scale map,


like the map of major battles, shows a large area but not much detail.

Look at the map of the Southern Colonies on page 336. Note the scale. It shows the entire South and the major battles that were fought there during the American Revolution. In order for you to locate each of the battles, the map has to show almost the entire geographical area of the present-day South. On this map, 1 inch stands for about 230 miles. Using the map scale, you can determine the distance Cornwallis had to cover between the Battle of Charles Town and the Battle of Camden that followed it.

Now find the location of the Battle of Yorktown on the same map. Can you see the exact route General Cornwallis took after Yorktown? No, because this is a small-scale map. It is not detailed enough to give you this information. You would need a large-scale map that focuses on the area around Yorktown to show Cornwallis's exact route. A large-scale map helps make some information easier to read and interpret.

Helping Yourself

Large-scale maps show more detail.

Small-scale maps show less detail.

• Compare the map scales and other information to decide which map to use.


Look at the map of the Battle of Yorktown on this page and find the map scale. Now, look again at the map of the Southern Colonies on page 336. How many miles does 1 inch represent on the map of the Battle of Yorktown? Which map scale is larger? How can you tell?

As you can see from the Helping Yourself box on this page, different map scales give you different types of information. First you have to determine which map scale would best give you the information you are looking for. Which map would you use if you want to find out the distance between Yorktown and Savannah? The areas in the Southern Colonies the British probably controlled? The positions of the troops around Yorktown? Why?


1. What is a map scale? How is it used?

2. When would it be better to use a small-scale map? A large-scale map?

3. What information can you find on the Southern Colonies map that you cannot find on the Yorktown map?

4. Which map would help you understand the plan of the Americans at the Battle of Yorktown? How do you know?

5. When might you need to compare maps of different scales in your own life?




Number a paper from 1 to 10. Beside each number write the word or term from the list below that best completes the sentence.

Continental Army

Declaration of Independence

large-scale map


map scale



Second Continental Congress


Treaty of Paris

1. Colonists cheered the delegates of the ____ when they met in May 1775.

2. A ____ was someone who supported the fight for independence.

3. A ____ is a soldier paid to fight for another country.

4. If your map shows great detail of a small area, it is a ____.

5. Thomas Jefferson wrote the ____ in Philadelphia in 1776.

6. Britain agreed to the colonies' independence in the ____ in 1783.

7. You must look at the ____ to calculate real distances on a map.

8. John Adams named George Washington as commander-in-chief of the ____.

9. King George III thought that anyone who supported the colonies' independence was a ____.

10. One out of three colonists was a ____ or remained loyal to Britain.


1. Why was Common Sense important to the cause of independence?

2. Why did the issue of slavery come up during the American Revolution?

3. What advantages did the Patriots have in the war?

4. How did Bernardo de Galvez help the Patriot cause?

5. Look at the time line above. Compare and contrast the events that occurred in 1777.




Write a dialogue in which a Loyalist and a Patriot discuss their opinions about the American Revolution.


Suppose that George Washington has asked you to help him inspire his troops during their bitter winter at Valley Forge. Write a speech for him to make to his soldiers.


Write an article in which you describe one of the battles you have read about in this chapter. Include dates, events, and people who played a key role in the battle. Write a headline for your article.



Answer the questions below to practice the skill of comparing maps at different scales.

1. What is a map scale?

2. What is the difference between large-scale and small-scale maps?

3. How do you decide whether to use a large-scale map or a small-scale map?

4. Look at the map of the Southern Colonies on page 336. What is the distance between Yorktown and Savannah, Georgia?

5. What kind of information could you see on a large-scale map of Savannah that is not on this map?

Summing Up the Chapter

Copy the main idea map on a separate piece of paper. Then review the chapter to complete the map. After you have finished, choose two of the events shown on the map and answer the question "How are these events related?" For example, how did the approval of the Declaration of Independence lead to the debate over slavery?


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