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Analyze how Americans resisted British policies before 1775 and analyze the reasons for the American victory and the British defeat during the Revolutionary War

Boston Tea Party, U.S. stamp, 1973
Boston Tea Party, U.S. stamp, 1973

Topics on the Page

Overview and Resources

Patriots and Causes of the Revolution

The Boston Massacre

The Boston Tea Party

The Shot Heard Around the World

African Americans and the Revolutionary War

Women and the Revolutionary War

  • Molly Pitcher

Native Americans and the Revolutionary War

Key Battles

  • Washington Crossing the Delaware Painting

    • Spies and Spy Letters

The Treaty of Paris

Overview and Resources

For an overview, see Teaching the Revolution, an essay by historian Carol Berkin from Baruch College and City University of New York from the History By Era series of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 11.29.04 AM.pngAmerican Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804. Alan Taylor, W.W. Norton, 2016
  • Read Gordon S. Wood review of the Taylor's book How the American Revolution Worked Against Blacks, Indians and Women, The New York Times Book Review, September 11, 2016
    • 25,000 Americans in the military died in the war, one percent of the population, more deaths proportionally than any other war except the Civil War
    • 20 percent of the population remain loyal to the British Empire and faced great suffering and hardship from supporters of the Revolution
      • 60,000 Loyalists fled to other parts of the British Empire

rotating gif.gifFor more, see
  • United States History I.5 for the role of Massachusetts in the Boston Massacre, the Tea Party and other events in the revolutionary period.
    • Grade 5.17 for information on the course of the war as well as the experiences of African Americans and Women

The Repeal, 1760s political cartoon depicting the repeal of the Stamp Act
The Repeal, 1760s political cartoon depicting the repeal of the Stamp Act

Multimedia.pngThe Coming of Independence, a video with transcript from A Biography of America from Annenberg Learner.

primary_sources.PNGThe History of the American Revolution by David Ramsey (1789) is the first American national history written by an American revolutionary and printed in America.

external image 200px-Hebrew_timeline.svg.pngTimeline of British taxes and acts and American reactions until 1775.Provided by the Library of Congress

Rotating_globe-small.gifBattling for Liberty: Tecumseh's and Patrick Henry's Language of Resistance. See also Patrick Henry's Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death speech, March 23, 1775.

external image Red_apple.jpgA Common American Soldier from Colonial Williamsburg details the experiences of everyday members of the Revolutionary Army.

Focus Question: How did Americans resist British policies before 1775?

Patriots and Causes of the Revolution

Nathan Hale, 1925 Postage Stamp
Nathan Hale, 1925 Postage Stamp

Nathan Hale was one of the first American "spies" during the Revolution, and although he was caught, his quote "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country" is still widely known today. This is a short piece about the work he did and his eventual capture.

Paul Revere is another well known patriot. With the help of William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott, Revere
helped to warn the Sam Adams and John Hancock of the imminent British march to capture them. The link above leads to a map detailing their routes, and this is an account of the ride's events.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 1.35.00 PM.pngToo Late To Apologize (with lyrics) is a music video about the Declaration and the Constitution from Soomo Publishing.

Massachusetts_state_seal.pngThere were a number causes to the American Revolution, but the primary cause for the outbreak of war revolved around the colonists' acts of defiance toward British policies. The colonists were not content with laws and taxes being enforced without their consent.
  • The British had just won the French and Indian war [4] and were claiming that the colonists were in their debt for the defense they provided them. They started levying several taxes on the colonies and began enacting laws without the colonists' approval.
  • Colonists began by publicly protesting the Stamp Act [6], which was able to bring together the colonies but also forced the British to repeat that they have full power over the colonies and continued to control them. At the same time they were also attacking the tax collectors, often violently. Colonists were also forced to quarter British troops in private homes.
    • In 1772, the colonists went as far as to destroy a British warship that was being used to make sure British policies were being forced, known as the Gaspee Affair
      • There was also the events known as the Boston Massacre in which British troops shot and killed 5 colonists who were taunting them and the Boston Tea Party, during which the Sons of Liberty, angered by import tariff regulation, dressed up as Mohawks and destroyed a shipment of British tea intended for the colonies by throwing it into the Boston Harbor.
        • The British responded with Coercive Acts effectively limiting Massachusetts' local government.

Multimedia.pngWatch a video from YA author John Green on Taxes and Smuggling
primary_sources.PNGPolitical Cartoon: "The Able Doctor, or America Swallowing the Bitter Drought." (1774), written to convince the British public that Great Britain had the right to tax the colonies.

BostonTea Party, W.D. Cooper. The History of North America, 1789
BostonTea Party, W.D. Cooper. The History of North America, 1789

Boston Massacre

Boston Tea Party

High Tea in Boston Harbor from the PBS website, Liberty.

Focus Question: What were the reasons for the American victory and the British defeat?

The Beginning of Revolution: The Shot Heard Around the World

Massachusetts_state_seal.pngThe first shot fired during the American Revolution is known as The Shot Heard Around the World. It began a revolution that would change the course of history for the entire world.

The Battle of Lexington

  • The Battle of Lexington took place on April 19th, 1775
  • British troops marched from Boston to Concord and were met face to face with colonial militia in Lexington.
    • The militia men arrived so early that they were told to retire to taverns until further notice. When notice was given, the British were only a mile away. This late notice lead to only 77 colonial militiamen to fight 250 British forces.
  • The first shot was fired but it is uncertain from which side it came from.

Map icon.pngThis map depicts the routes taken by British to get to Lexington. It also shows Revere and Dawe's rides to warn of the British coming.

Multimedia.pngWatch this School House Rock video on the Revolution and The Shot Heard Around the World.

Washington leading Continental Army to Valley Forge by William B. T. Trego, 1883
Washington leading Continental Army to Valley Forge by William B. T. Trego, 1883

timeline2_rus.svg.pngClick here for an Interactive Timeline on the American Revolution

Rotating_globe-small.gifAfrican Americans and the Revolutionary War

Massachusetts_state_seal.pngSome 1500 people of African descent from Massachusetts served in the Continental Army and state militia during the Revolutionary War.
  • In Franklin County, the town of Shelburne had the highest participation with 7 African Americans serving in the army.

Colonial soldiers at the siege of Yorktown, by Jean-Baptiste-Antoine DeVerger, watercolor, 1781. The African American soldier is supposedly from the first Rhode Island Regiment.
Colonial soldiers at the siege of Yorktown, by Jean-Baptiste-Antoine DeVerger, watercolor, 1781. The African American soldier is supposedly from the first Rhode Island Regiment.
In the colonies, some 5,000 black men served in the Continental Army, and hundreds more served on ships at sea.

African Americans in the Revolutionary Period, National Park Service

For more, go to the website of the National Mall Liberty Fund DC.

rotating gif.gifFor more on African American participation, see AP United States History Theme 4.

For a perspective from Rhode Island, see Deeds of Desperate Valor: The First Rhode Island Regiment

primary_sources.PNGBlacks also fought for the British. Click here to read Lord Dunmore's Proclamation, 1775 that offered freedom to slaves that fought for the British.

Women and the Revolutionary War

Molly Pitcher at the Battle of Monmouth from a 1859 print
Molly Pitcher at the Battle of Monmouth from a 1859 print

external image Beautiful_red_apple.jpgWomen of the American Revolution: A Unit of Study for Grades 5-8 from the National Center for History in the Schools.
Female_Rose.pngMolly Pitcher is a revolutionary war figure who may or may not have been one actual individual.

Quill_and_ink.pngClick here for a brief biography.

See also, Will the Real Molly Pitcher Please Stand Up? is a lesson plan from the National Archives.

After Challenging Military Ban on Women in Combat, Molly Pitcher Project's Dreams are Realized details how legal action led to lifting the military's longstanding ban on direct ground combat by women (May, 2013).
womens history.jpgClick here for more women who were involved in the Revolutionary War, such as Martha Bratton and Esther Reed.

external image Gay_flag.svgHere you can also find an article in the Huffington Post from 2012 on Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, also known as "The Baron," a French military genius, and also gay, who helped to train Washington's forces at Valley Forge and was awarded honorary citizenship for his efforts.

Native Americans and the Revolutionary War

Native Americans did not play a significant role but the did assist the British in some affairs regarding the war.
Read the article about Native American involvement.

Key Battles

See Grade 5.17 for specific information about key battles during the war
  • The Continental Army struggled for finances, trained regulars, and supplies early in the war. Forcing the British out of Boston was a critical moment for survival at that particular stage.
  • Great Britain faced long supply routes along the Atlantic Ocean, an unsympathetic population in the colonies, and an increasingly vocal political opposition in Parliament.
  • After Gates' unexpected victory in Saratoga Springs, New York, Ben Franklin had increasing success forming an alliance with the French. Benjamin Franklin to France Lesson Plan
  • The French, bringing a formidable naval power, were vital to the the colonists' victory over Great Britain. The Dutch and Spanish also provided smaller but important assistance.
  • British forces under General Cornwallis surrendered after the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, the last major action to take place on the American mainland.

The Washington Crossing the Delaware Painting

Washington Crossing the Delaware, Emmanuel Luetze, 1851
Washington Crossing the Delaware, Emmanuel Luetze, 1851

On December 25, 1776 General Washington lead 5,400 troops across the Delaware River.
  • He was planning to surprise Hessian (German mercenaries) who were celebrating Christmas in Trenton, New Jersey. Washington lead about 2,400 men himself, the remaining 3,000 were split into two separate groups, which did not make it across the river.
  • They departed around 11pm on the 25th and headed towards the Hessians by 8am the 26th. The Hessians were not only caught off guard, but also underestimated the troops lead by Washington.
  • By 9:30am, the town was surrounded. Hundreds of Hessians escaped, but the troops captured about 1,000 Hessians. Only four men were lost under Washington.
  • However, because not all the troops and weapons made it across the river, Washington was forced to withdraw.
  • Despite this, the attack restored faith in the Continental Army, who suffered many losses and lost control of New York City in the previous months. This gave people confidence the Continental Army could win the war.

Click here for the website for Washington Crossing Historic Park.

external image Red_Apple.jpg

external image 3090175-AB.jpeg

Spies and Spy Letters

Spy Letters of the American Revolution, University of Michigan

Culper Spy Ring, Mt Vernon

  • The Culper Code Book has the code the Culper Spy Ring used to send messages to George Washington's headquarters

Caleb Brewster and the Culper Spy Ring, from Connecticut History.org

The Culper Spy Ring: Path Through History, from Discover Long Island NY

The Treaty of Paris

primary_sources.PNGTreaty of Paris (1783)

The American War for Independence was actually a world conflict, and the end of the Revolution brought the new United States nation into international relationships with many other countries.
    • The Treaty of Paris is a key document for learning about the beginnings of American foreign policy.
      • It was negotiated by Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay. It required British recognition of US independence and allowed for westward expansion of the US.
Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 11.31.08 AM.pngLink here for a lesson plan on the Treaty of Paris


[2] Hewes, G Boston Tea Party- Eyewitness Account. Retrieved April 10, 2007, from The History Place Web site: http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/revolution/teaparty.htm
[3] Boston Massacre. Retrieved April 10, 2007, from Boston Massacre Historical Society Web site: http://www.bostonmassacre.net/
[4] (2007). Seven Years War Timeline. Retrieved April 10, 2007, Web site: http://ns1763.ca/remem/7yw-timeline-w.html
[5] (2000). No Taxation Without Representation. Retrieved April 10, 2007, from Virtuology Web site: http://www.notaxationwithoutrepresentation.com/
[6] (2001). Stamp Act 1765. Retrieved April 10, 2007, from America's Homepage Web site: http://ahp.gatech.edu/stamp_act_bp_1765.html
[7] (April 7, 2007). Gaspee Affair. Retrieved April 10, 2007, from Wikipeida Web site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaspee_Affair
[8] (March 22, 2009). Timeline of Resistance, 1763-1774, from Library of Congress: http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-revolution/4275

Image IDs from left to right

1. Boston Tea Party Wikimedia Commons, "Boston Tea Party - Cooper".
2. Sons of Liberty Wikimedia Commons, Sons of Libery".
3. The Gaspee Affair Wikimedia Commons, "Gaspee Affair".
4. Washington Crossing the Delaware Wikimedia Commons, "Washington Crossing the Delaware".