The American Revolution is the series of events which involved the American colonies breaking away from Great Britain and forging a new, independent nation. The most critical period of the Revolution was the American Revolutionary War (1775-1883), which ultimately led to the victory of American forces.
This list of people includes military leaders, the Founding Fathers of America, British protagonists and ordinary people who became involved in the American War of Independence.
George Washington (1732–1799) Regarded as one of the principal ‘Founding Fathers’ of the United States. Washington served as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army (1775-83), during which he often outmanoeuvred the British army, despite a frequent numerical disadvantage. After securing victory on the battlefield, he resigned as Commander in Chief but was elected the first President of the United States in 1788, serving for eight years.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) Jefferson was the principal author of The Declaration of Independence (1776), which was pivotal in creating a sense of idealism behind the new nation of the United States. Jefferson drafted the Declaration to affirm America’s independence, but it was also a groundbreaking affirmation of human rights. Jefferson went on to become the third President of the US.
Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) Founding Father, who served as a soldier, economist, and lawyer. During the War of Independence, Hamilton served as senior aide to General Washington, often communicating with Generals in the field. Hamilton wrote most of the Federalist Papers, arguing for a stronger Federal government. He was also the first United States Secretary of the Treasury, establishing a national bank and taxation system.
John Adams (1735-1826) A Founding Father and the second US President. Adams played an important role in encouraging Congress to declare Independence. He assisted Thomas Jefferson in writing the Declaration of Independence and helped to pass the Declaration through Congress.
James Madison (1751-1836) During the American Revolutionary War, Madison served in the Virginia state legislature (1776–1779) and allied himself with Jefferson in promoting independence and religious tolerance. Madison was the fourth president of the US. (1809-1817) He drafted the US Constitution and the US Bill of Rights.
Samuel Adams (1722 – 1803) Adams was a political philosopher and governor of Massachusetts. Adams was influential in opposing the British tax on tea and fomenting protest and rebellion, which led to the Boston Tea Party. Adams coordinated the efforts of the various colonies creating the Continental Congress, (1774) and guiding Congress to the Declaration of Independence. (1776)
Abigail Adams (1744 – 1818) Adams was the wife and confident of John Adams. During the wars of Independence, Adams wrote extensively to her husband offering advice and encouragement. Adams was an early advocate of human rights for both women and black Americans.
Nathan Hale (1755 – 1776) Hale was a soldier and spy of the Continental Army. He joined a Connecticut Militia in 1775, and in 1776 undertook an espionage mission to New York. Captured by the British, he was executed but became a symbol of American heroism.
Marquis de Lafayette (1757 – 1834) French military officer who fought in the Wars of Independence. Lafayette was a friend of Washington, Jefferson and Hamilton. Believing in the virtue of the American Revolution, he sought to encourage French participation in the war. In 1781, Lafayette was in command of soldiers holding down troops of Cornwallis, before the decisive Battle of Yorktown.
Aaron Burr (1756 – 1836) Burr served as a soldier in the Continental Army during the Wars of Independence. He frequently distinguished himself on the battlefield, leading a 300-mile trek to take part in the Battle of Quebec. He also gallantly saved a brigade of troops during the retreat from Manhattan. Burr later served as Vice-President under Jefferson.
Paul Revere (1734 – 1818) American Patriot who helped American forces during the War of Independence. Though a businessman, Revere set up an intelligence system to keep watch on British troop movements. This information was helpful to Continental troops during the Battle of Lexington and Concord.
James Armistead Lafayette (1760-1830) Armistead was an African-American slave from Virginia. During the Wars of Independence, he volunteered to act as a spy for the Continental Forces. He gained the confidence of British forces led by turncoat Benedict Arnold. Acting as a double agent, his espionage activities were influential during the Battle of Yorktown. He took the name Lafayette in honour of the French General who also helped him gain his freedom from slavery.
Crispus Attuck (1723 — 1770) Attuck is considered the first American casualty of the American Revolution. He died during the Boston Massacre of 1770 and became a symbol of the Revolution. Attuck was possibly a black slave or freeman of mixed ethnicity. Attuck has also become a symbol of the anti-slavery movement and also Native Indians.
Molly Pitcher (1754 – 1832) Molly Pitcher joined the Continental Army in 1777 with her husband, William Hays. With other camp followers, she served as a water carrier to troops during battle. In 1778, during the Battle of Monmouth, her husband was killed or injured. Molly took his place and loaded the artillery during the fighting. After seeing her in battle, George Washington made her a Warrant Officer, leading to the nickname Sergeant Molly.
Writers and philosophers
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) Author, politician, diplomat, scientist and statesman. Franklin urged the colonies to join together and was one of the strongest supporters of the idea of a United States.
Thomas Paine (1737-1809) English-American writer and political activist. In 1776, he wrote the best-selling pamphlet Common Sense. This advocated America seeking independence from Great Britain and was influential in shaping public opinion behind American Independence. Paine also wrote a series of pro-revolutionary pamphlets – The American Crisis (1776–83).
Joseph Brant (1743 – 1807) – A leader of the Mohawk Native Americans, Brant led Native Americans and white loyalists in fighting for the British forces and against the American revolutionaries. He fought in the capture of New York.
King George III (1760-1820) As reigning British monarch, George resolutely sought to hold onto the American colonies and continue the fight against the Continental Forces. In 1775 he issued a Proclamation of Rebellion and issued measures to suppress the revolt. However, in 1781, he finally accepted defeat and authorised the Treaties of Paris, which recognised America as an independent state.
Lord North (1732 – 1792) Lord North was British Prime Minister from 1770 to 1782. North was hostile towards the demands of the American colonists. In response to the Boston Tea Party, he passed the Coercive Acts which sought to cut off and penalise the Boston government. However, these ‘intolerable acts’ inflamed tensions and galvanised the American colonies to pursue full independence. He delegated control of the war to others but is often criticised for his mishandling of the situation.
William Howe (1729 – 1814) Howe was a British Army Officer who was Commander in Chief of the British forces during the Wars of Independence. Howe successfully led British troops in the capture of New York and Philadelphia, but strategically Britain lost ground after the Battle of Saratoga, and Howe tended his resignation in October 1777. Back home, Howe was criticised weakening the Hawkish government of Lord North.
General Henry Clinton (1730-1795) British Commander in Chief from 1778-1782. Clinton issued Philipsburg Proclamation encouraging slaves to escape and enlist in the British Army. Clinton was replaced as Commander in Chief in 1782 after the British surrender at Yorktown.
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “People of the American Revolution”, Oxford, www.biographyonline.net, 18th February 2017.
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