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1The Revolutionary War breaks out – Ch. 7-8 of The American Pageant, “The Road to Revolution” – “America Secedes from the Empire,” pp. 133-143
Overall main idea: Despite disadvantages and no desire for independence, American resistance to British policies turned into warfare in 1775-1776 with early victories for the Americans.

Main idea: Americans responded to the Intolerable Acts by organizing a Continental Congress, a boycott and military troops, which led to the outbreak of the Revolutionary War at Lexington and Concord.

Though the Intolerable Acts were directed at Massachusetts, the rest of the colonies responded with sympathy and sent supplies

First Continental Congress, 1774 – 12 of the 13 colonies sent delegates to Philadelphia to discuss ways to address the Intolerable Acts and colonial complaints against Britain; included Samuel Adams, John Adams, George Washington, Patrick Henry; results:

Issued a Declaration of Rights and appeals to other British subjects for help

Created The Association – a complete boycott of British goods

Agreed to meet again in 1775 if problems weren’t fixed

Did not even discuss independence from Britain yet

Parliament rejected the petitions of the Congress; the boycott and general harassment of British sympathizers continued; colonial militia and troops were drilled and prepared in case of fighting

“Minutemen” – colonial American troops who could be ready “at a minute’s notice”

1775 – British troops were sent from Boston to Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts; they were to arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock, leaders of the resistance, and confiscate military supplies there

Battle of Lexington and Concord, 1775 – at Lexington, the British dispersed colonial minutemen and killed some before marching on to Concord; at Concord the minutemen surrounded them and fired at all sides, then continued to fire on them as the British retreated back to Boston, killing and wounding some 370 men; American victory and the outbreak of the Revolutionary War

Emerson called Concord “the shot heard round the world,” as it started the American Revolution, which influenced many other revolutions for freedom afterwards
Imperial Strength and Weakness

Main idea: The British had many advantages over the Americans but also some handicaps.


Population of Britain: 7.5 million; population of America: 2.5 million

Britain had great advantages in monetary wealth, naval power and military strength: 50,000 of the best soldiers in the world, plus 30,000 German mercenaries (a.k.a. “Hessians”), plus 50,000 American loyalists, plus some Indians


It was also preoccupied with continued problems in Ireland and against France

Confused and incompetent British government in London

Political divisions in British government: Whigs vs. Tories; Whigs supported many of the Americans ideas

British generals were not very competent overall; soldiers were brutally treated; supplies were scarce or bad; 3,000 miles from home country

British had to conquer the colonists in a huge expanse of land with no major capital city to concentrate on
American Pluses and Minuses

Main idea: The Americans had many handicaps against the British but also many advantages.


Outstanding leadership:

George Washington – military and moral leader, with experience

Benjamin Franklin – excellent diplomat with foreign countries

Marquis de Lafayette – wealthy French military commander, teenager, who fought with the Americans and donated money

Other foreign military officers fought with the Americans

Defensive war; just had to keep from being conquered and subdued

Self-sustaining colonies with little “supply line” compared to the British

Morale in a strong cause of liberty


Badly organized and lacking unity; divided by colonies and even among the people themselves

Little national government beyond the Continental Congress; the Articles of Confederation weren’t established until the end of the war

Economic problems – little coinage, no taxation, near worthless paper money, inflation

Military supply shortage

A Thin Line of Heroes

Main idea: Those who fought on the American side in the Revolutionary War were a small amount of ill-supplied, unreliable militiamen, well-trained regulars, and African-Americans.

The cost of defending America increased due to the war at the same time that the major source of supply ended, since they were fighting those from whom they were normally supplied, the British

Valley Forge, 1777-1778 – Americans suffered miserably cold conditions in Pennsylvania winter with few supplies; manufactured goods were hard to come by in agricultural America

Militiamen were poorly trained, especially compared to the professional British regulars

American regular troops were finally organized and trained well by the end of the war

Baron von Steuben – German organizer and drillmaster who helped train American troops into better soldiers

More than 5,000 blacks served in American forces, especially from northern free black populations; many were soldiers; others were cooks, guides, spies, drivers, manual labor

British offered black slaves freedom in exchange for escaping their masters and fighting for the British side; as many as 14,000 former slaves were evacuated by the end of the war

Many Americans did not support either side and merely made profit off of it

There were never a large amount of American soldiers; only a minority of colonists fought in the Revolutionary War
Chapter 8: America Secedes from the Empire
Second Continental Congress began meeting in 1775 – sent more petitions to Britain asking to redress grievances; began to raise money and troops and a navy; choose George Washington as military commander
Congress Drafts George Washington

Main idea: The Second Continental Congress made a wise choice in George Washington as military commander.

George Washington – Virginia planter, slaveholder, 43 years old, tall, with some military experience, though not a military genius at all

Washington was chosen as military commander of the Continental Army largely for political reasons: the majority of the fighting and problems had come from New England, so they wanted a southerner, especially from the wealthy and populous Virginia colony, to balance

It was a good choice; he had strong powers of leadership, charisma, character, courage, discipline and justice; he was like a symbol and rallying point; he was trusted and prepared
Bunker Hill and Hessian Hirelings

Main idea: The war and tensions escalated after the Battle of Bunker Hill, the rejection of the Olive Branch Petition and the hiring of Hessian soldiers to the British side.

Before 1776, Americans were in a tough spot; they did not want independence, they wanted to be loyal to Britain, but they were fighting violently against British troops to defend their rights

1775 – Fort Ticonderoga, New York – Americans under Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen captured a British fort and seized military supplies needed for the war

1775 – Battle of Bunker Hill (actually Breed’s Hill) – British troops in Boston directly attacked Americans who were dug in on top of Breed’s Hill, losing a lot of casualties; the Americans eventually retreated when they ran out of ammo, but it was at a large cost to the British; considered an American victory; “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes”

Olive Branch Petition - After the battle, the Second Continental Congress sent a peaceful petition to the King, pledging their continued loyalty and asking him to stop the fighting and help solve their problems; but King George III refused to even read it and declared the colonies in a state of rebellion, a treasonous crime

The King also hired German troops to fight for the British, known as “Hessians” because most of them came from the province of Hesse in Germany; the Americans were outraged; most Hessians came for money, though, and many deserted and later became respected American citizens
The Abortive Conquest of Canada

Main idea: American attacks to gain Canada were unsuccessful but the British were defeated in Boston and the Carolinas.

In late 1775, Benedict Arnold and Richard Montgomery attacked Canada, hoping to bring the French Canadians onto the American rebels’ side; they captured Montreal but were defeated at Quebec and were forced to retreat; after the generous Quebec Act, the French had little desire to help the rebellious anti-Catholic colonists

The British were forced to evacuate from Boston in early 1776; the Americans won other small victories in North and South Carolina

Overall main idea: Despite disadvantages and no desire for independence, American resistance to British policies turned into warfare in 1775-1776 with early victories for the Americans.
1Revolutionary ideas, Patriots vs. Loyalists – Ch. 8 of The American Pageant, “Toward Independence,” pp. 143-151
Overall main idea: In 1776, Americans turned to ideas of independence and republicanism, which led to divisions between “patriots” and “loyalists.”
Thomas Paine Preaches Common Sense

Main idea: Americans continued to pledge allegiance to the King until the burning of American towns, the hiring of the Hessians, and the publication of the popular pamphlet “Common Sense.”

As late as early 1776, American soldiers continued to pledge allegiance to the King of England

Events pushing Americans away from the King and toward independence:

The burning of American towns in Falmouth and Norfolk

The rejection of the Olive Branch Petition by the King

The declaration that the colonies were in a treasonous “state of rebellion” by the King

The hiring of Hessian mercenary soldiers

The publication of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense”

Paine said that independence for American was “common sense,” that it was ridiculous for a tiny island (England) to rule an entire continent (America), and that the King was a “royal brute”

Paine and the Idea of “Republicanism”

Main idea: Thomas Paine’s call for republicanism was well received by Americans, whose previous experience made them more receptive of it.

Paine called for independence and a new republic in America

Republic – a form of government where power flows from the common people, usually to elected representatives, instead of a monarch

Republican ideas had been around since ancient Greece and Rome and were promoted by the English in the 1600s, leading to their “mixed government” of monarch and Parliament

American experiences prepared them for republican ideas – they had years of self-government experience, no hereditary aristocracy, relatively few social classes

Republicans believed that citizens must be virtuous and sacrifice their private self-interests for the public good

Some Republicans believed that the “natural aristocracy,” but not hereditary, should still have the most power in the Republic, to prevent the wild and ignorant lower classes from ruining it

Jefferson’s “Explanation” of Independence

Main idea: Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence to explain the rationale and reasons for America’s breaking away from Great Britain.

June 7, 1776 – In the 2nd Continental Congress, Richard Henry Lee of VA proposed the resolution to break free from Great Britain; it was approved and adopted after much debate, on July 2, 1776; John Adams predicted July 2 would be a major holiday later

July 4, 1776 – the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Congress; it would later be signed, mostly on August 2, 1776

Jefferson, John Adams, and Franklin were assigned with two others to a committee to write the Declaration, to explain the reasons and ideas behind American independence, to inspire other Americans and to inform other countries; Jefferson was known as a great writer and was given the task

Thomas Jefferson – Virginia planter, lawyer, slaveholder, only 33 at the time, writer and “renaissance man”; wrote the Declaration of Independence

Jefferson used John Locke’s ideas of “natural rights” and contract theory of government (see notes on Declaration of Independence)

The Declaration would become a source of inspiration for many other people, countries, and years later

Patriots and Loyalists

Main idea: The Revolutionary War was also a civil war as many people sided with the patriots and many with the loyalists.

Patriots – those who supported the revolution; a.k.a. “Whigs,” in reference to the opposition party in British government

Loyalists – those who supported the King and were against the revolution; a.k.a. “Tories,” in reference to the dominant party in British government

Patriots were a minority of Americans, just as loyalists were; many Americans were neutral or indifferent

Patriot militiamen were excellent at propaganda and convincing their countrymen to support the revolution

Likely to be loyalists: the educated, the wealthy, those with lots to lose, the older generations, royal officials and beneficiaries of the crown, Anglican clergy and congregations, New York, Charleston

Likely to be patriots: young, New Englanders, Virginians, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, non-English Americans

Makers of America: The Loyalists

Main idea: Loyalists came from many parts of society, were subject to harassment and confiscation of property, escaped to other British colonies and stayed at home to become future U.S. citizens.

The Loyalist Exodus

Main idea: While some loyalists were violently harassed and had their property confiscated by patriots, many escaped to British lines or joined the British military.

Harassment of loyalists grew after the Declaration of Independence; they were imprisoned, tarred and feathered, beaten, and some hanged; yet they were not nearly as brutalized or killed like would later occur in French or Russian revolutions

Many loyalists were driven out or fled to the British, but more stayed home; their property was often confiscated and sold to pay for the war effort

Other loyalists aided the British war effort as spies, by inciting Indians, and joining the British military
Overall main idea: In 1776, Americans turned to ideas of independence and republicanism, which led to divisions between “patriots” and “loyalists.”

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