It’s the 4th of July! It’s not the day we really became a nation but it was the day that as teenagers we told our parents we are SOOOOOOOO running away. Instead of talking about how important the time was for this country and all the fantastic things that came out of it, I’m going to share some little known facts about the war and resulting period.
- The Continental Congress actually established an army with Washington in charge over a year before the Declaration was written. It’s often thought the war started in 1776 when the Declaration was signed but the war had in fact already started some time before.
- As much as 20% of the colonial population was loyal to the crown during the war, many of them served in the military as red coats.
- Finding British leaders of the army in America was not easy. Many career soldiers turned down posts saying they couldn’t fight this fight in good conscience.
- Like Darth Vader’s famous phrase, Paul Revere never shouted “the British are coming”. That would have been stupid because everyone was a British citizen at the time. Eyewitness accounts point to him saying the less heroic “the regulars are coming out!”
- Many American victories came from surprise attacks and guerilla strategies. The same strategies used against us in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Like those countries, it was also hard to tell who was a freedom fighter or merely an impartial villager.
- The famous victory the came from Washington crossing the Delaware River was far from the deciding victory in the war. In fact, that was in 1776 and the war lasted until 1783.
- It didn’t take long for King George III of England to basically give up winning the war. He decided to prolong it as long as possible and destroy the coastline as punishment.
- We all know the French helped Americans win the Revolutionary War, but we’re never taught how exactly it worked. Washington’s armies were able to hold back the British soldiers in the rural areas of the colonies where 90% of the population lived. However the British had a strong naval presence and occupied most of the ports and coastal cities. The French navy was able to suppress that threat.
- Spain, as an ally of France, also provided support for the Revolutionary War.
- France spent themselves in a frenzy, gaining so much debt half the revenues of the 1780s went to debt service. The resulting financial troubles led to the eventual French Revolution.
- The Hessian armies from Germany lost about 40% of their ranks (out of 30,000) to America in various forms. Some died in action, most died of illness, but about 5,000 actually settled in the new United States. The number of direct descendants from Hessians is unknown.
- Historian Joseph Ellis suggests one of the smartest moves Washington ever made was having his troops inoculated from smallpox.
- George Washington didn’t really want to be the first president, but he took it. Already a wealthy man he declined the $25,000 a year salary (a very handsome sum). However, Congress urged him to accept it so as not set the precident that presidents would be limited to the independently wealthy. Brilliant move. He didn’t like the lavish ceremonies common in European countries, and as a result preferred the title “Mr. President” to more majestic titles.
Happy 4th of July US Americans. We live in the most amazing country in the world.