|This a Useful Notes page.|
Once upon a time, in 1775, The British Empire dominated North America, having won Canada from France in the Seven Years' War. However, a series of unresolved issues of authority and administration met with misunderstandings, misjudgements and tragedies which led to most of the colonies of British North America seceding from the Empire and later declaring themselves the United States of America. In the beginning, roughly a third of colonists felt this was justified; roughly a fifth never did, and a twentieth left the new country to remain the crown's loyal subjects. This was the American Revolution, the era of King George III of the United Kingdom, General Charles Cornwallis, King Louis XVI of France, General Jean-Baptiste de Vimeur, George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benedict Arnold, the crossing of the Delaware, the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (which was actually a rather underwhelming affair). As it would later be portrayed, this was a time when idealistic demagogues overthrew a tyrant and gave voting rights to the people -- Well, if you were north-european, owned land, and male. The time of Modern Mythology in America, in short. In reality, it was a lot more complex, and in many ways far more divisive and terrible, and human - and British - than that.
Britain's colonies on the North American mainland were largely co-operative and patriotic until after the Seven Years' War. Britain's sound victory had three very important consequences. First, the seizure and formal concession of French Canada effectively removed the immediate security threat France had posed to British America. This meant that local elites no longer had any reason to avoid antagonising the central government in disputes between the two. Second, it left France thirsting for revenge and willing to pay a high price to get it. Third, it left the Crown short of cash. This led King George III and his cabinet to conduct an overhaul of the Crown's finances. This meant the cutting of defense expenditure, limited campaigns against governmental corruption, moves to ensure the proper collection of taxes and new laws to close tax loopholes. This led the civil service to re-examine the colonies' fiscal relationship to the crown relative to other possessions. Local elites in northern America worried that this could well mean the introduction of indirect taxes (tariffs, tolls, licenses &c) in line with Britain itself, which would hit themselves hardest of all.
Despite the strong sense of patriotism and loyalty to the crown that most colonists possessed, many colonists were unhappy with the government. Allow us to explain; King George III was in many senses the glue that held the United Kingdom of England, Scotland and Ireland together. It was to him that every subject pledged their tacit allegiance as one nation under God, regardless of who might actually govern them in day-to-day affairs. But King George was not his government; they were a separate entity, capable of being judged on their own merits—you know, like, say, a chancellor. And as it happens, for the better part of a century many British citizens considered them Evil Chancellors, few more so than in British America. The American British had a somewhat distorted perception of the country's longer-term political issues due to their geographical remoteness and the Gossip Evolution that came with it. In this way, the American British came to perceive the national parliament at Westminster as being hopeless corrupt and inefficient. Which, to be fair, it was; Cavendish Bentinck's government - toppled after one scandal too many in 1773 - was quite easily the worst administration Britain has ever seen.
The upshot of this was that many colonists felt (what they considered to be) a justified reluctance in following the laws and policies set down by Westminster and the Cabinet, despite being fairly co-operative with their own local (un-acknowledged and not always strictly legal) assemblies. Since the signing of the Magna Carta, it had been the right of all Englishmen to be represented before the King in Parliament, through which all laws were passed and by which all taxes had to be approved. However, the colonists - despite accounting for perhaps a fifth of the population of the British Empire by this point in time - had no Members of Parliament representing them; Scotland, a less populous region, had dozens. Just a century ago, the English Civil War had started when the Crown had tried to collect taxes outside of Parliament, ending years after his execution at their hands when Parliament invited his son to become King and rule with their consent. More recently still, when another King started looking a bit too Catholic Parliament invited a Dutchman, William of Orange, to take the Crown. He did so, without too much fuss, in what came to be known as 'The Glorious Revolution'. Long story short: by popular belief, the King ruled only with the consent of Parliament—and by extension, the people. And since the Cabinet and Parliament wielded the King's powers on his behalf (the "royal prerogative"), they ought to do the same in ruling with the consent of the people. In attempting to collect taxes from subjects who were not represented by Parliament, Cabinet was both exceeding its authority and (by omission) denying His Majesty's subjects their constitutional right to have a say in how they were governed.
Compounding this issue were administrative issues. Westminster had assumed a largely hands-off policy in regards to the colonies prior to the Seven Years War. Since the beginnings of British colonization the Crown had subsidized the colonies and protected them, but had little to do with their day-to-day affairs and had been largely content to let them manage themselves. The Government was far more interested in the sugar-rich islands of the Caribbean: they were not only three times wealthier than the entire North American colonies, but easier to tax as well, due not just to their smaller size but to a stronger military presence stemming from the proximity of French and Spanish interlopers. As a result, the American-born British aristocracy had gotten used to running the colonies by themselves, and thus did not take it well when Westminster started interfering in their affairs.
Tensions waxed and waned in the years after the Seven Years War as Westminster tried pushing the boundaries of collecting and enforcing new taxes in the colonies. Reactions in each colony were different, but the New England colonies in particularly fiercely resented these attempts. Much of this came from resentment at non-representation and Westminster's refusal to officially acknowledge the Colonies' self-appointed legislatures, but a good deal of it came from good old-fashioned greed, as smuggled goods were cheap and career smugglers had no wish to be put out of business. As it was, many people resisted payment, violently even. Eventually a majority of (generally conservative and aristocratic) MPs came to see the issue less in terms of money and more in terms of their own authority. To them, it was no longer about the amount of money collected but rather their perceived right to collect the money at all. None of the controversial taxes were ever collected. As things stood, the colonies could've likely been appeased if Parliament had simply drawn up a few new electorates in the Americas, as they had done with Scotland and would in the not-too-distant-future do with Ireland: they'd have representation, but they would always be soundly out-voted by the majority of English MPs on issues concerning them.
That said, what the colonial elites really meant when they said they wanted proper representation for their colonies was that they wanted themselves and their own assemblies to be recognised by the crown, and they for one would have been likely to reject proposals for American constituencies for MPs to Westminster as this would mean they would have to give up much of their semi-official power - in addition to taking a hit to the profits from their trading and smuggling operations in the form of tariffs and tolls. (Even so, Barbara Tuchman in The March of Folly examines the general ignorance and short-sightedness of Parliament and the Cabinet as an example of governments acting against their own self-interest.)
Matters came to a head at the 'Boston Tea Party' of December 1773. The Crown had attempted to undercut tea-smuggling by arranging for a surplus of good quality British East India Company tea to be shipped to the colonies at prices which undercut those of the smugglers, whose tea was also of inferior quality. There was a catch, however; the tea was taxed. Anti-tax protestors and smugglers alike opposed the move, and the East India Company's ships were left at their moorings in Colonial harbours, the locals refusing to unload the cargo for sale. One company ship spent several weeks moored in Boston Harbor, holds full of tea, as the matter went back and forth between the authorities. Taking matters into their own hands, a group of wealthy smugglers dressed up as American Indians and dumped the entire cargo of tea overboard, assaulting several company workers in the process. The East India Company was a bit peeved at the enormous expense of this act of defiance, and company executives used their considerable sway with Parliament to persuade them to enact a series of punitive measures which in turn greatly inflamed public opinion in the colonies and led to the first meeting of the Continental Congress, which would become the colonies' revolutionary government. Blood was finally shed in April 1775 at the battles of Lexington and Concord, where local militiamen and regular troops had a stand-off when the regulars attempted to confiscate their weapons. No-one knows who fired the first shot, but the regulars, after brushing aside militia at Lexington, were ambushed by more militia at Concord and retreated in disorder to Boston. The bloody Battle of Bunker Hill two months later, followed by Westminster's rejection of the Olive Branch Petition sent by the Continental Congress, meant civil war.
After years of marching to battle crying 'God Save the King!' and 'Long Live King George!' while carrying Union Flags and clashing with the army in the name of King George, it was to everyone's great surprise that representatives of the colonies gathered together to declare treason. That is to say, they wrote a document which said that their colonies were now independent of Britain. The importance of declaring such a permanent break with the government that would, if they were caught, get them all hanged is that they were trying to rally support for their cause - 'Give me Liberty or Give me Death' and all that - and that they were trying to get France on-side by showing that they really, really meant this rebellion business. As it was, it was a few years before Louis XVI felt confident enough in their resolve and ability to fight before he intervened.
What underpinned much of the popular support for the declaration was in large part due to Thomas Paine, a very smart man who wrote a best-selling pamphlet called Common Sense. Common Sense attacked the whole concept of monarchy in clear, unambiguous terms, using the Bible to decisively prove that God did not in fact like Kings at all, whatever people might say about 'giving unto Caesar what is Caesar's'. Combined with the usual railing against the corruption of parliament and the cabinet and the potential tyranny of all Kings in general, this led to a sea change in colonial political opinion toward anti-monarchist feeling. By default, this led said anti-monarchists to favor a republican government. On July 2, 1776, the representatives of the Continental Congress voted to divorce the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain. (For some reason, the new nation wound up celebrating its Independence Day two days later, on July 4, the day that the Declaration announcing the event was approved.)
The Declaration was followed by a series of devastating military defeats. A large expeditionary force led by William Howe landed in Jamaica Bay, Long Island, and very nearly trapped and destroyed George Washington's army in Brooklyn. After what was left of the Patriot army escaped across the East River, Howe made another landing in Manhattan, and easily defeated the colonials again. The regulars threw the colonials out of Manhattan Island completely and sent them fleeing in panic all the way across New Jersey and across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. New York City and all of New Jersey had fallen into the hands of the English. Most of Washington's army had ran away or been captured, and what was left was in dire straits.
General Howe, who had defeated the Americans but missed chances to surround and destroy them in Brooklyn and Manhattan, now decided that the weather in December 1776 was too cold for further campaigning and the Army went into winter quarters. Washington seized this opportunity to cross back into New Jersey on Christmas night and attack the Hessian garrison at Trenton on Dec. 26. This victory, and another victory at Princeton a week later, greatly boosted American morale and eventually led the British to abandon New Jersey.
Once the weather got warm in 1777, Howe wasted much of the spring and summer before putting his army into boats, sailing up Chesapeake Bay, and capturing the by-now-American capital of Philadelphia. However, he failed to win a decisive victory against Washington's army. Meanwhile, in New York state, an expeditionary force from Canada was decisively defeated at Saratoga and shortly thereafter surrendered to the Americans. The intensity of the fighting and the result persuaded France that the rebels meant business and that this war would be a good opportunity to get revenge on Britain - even if it meant siding with people who they had once fought against and were opposed to everything they stood for (A strong monarchy, a large nobility, a vibrant Catholic Church). Seeing which way the tide seemed to be turning, the king of Spain also declared war on Britain, and the Dutch - the second-biggest commercial power after Britain - started to bankroll the French and the British-American rebels. The colonies were now the least of Britain's problems; they were now practically at war with every major power except Austria, Russia and China, which had no navies with which to threaten Britain's dominant fleet.
The transformation of a reluctant civil war into a world war with the foremost foreign powers of the day threatened Britain's holdings in the Caribbean and India. Britain itself was threatened, with the (Catholic) Irish making rumbles about siding with Britain's (Catholic) enemies again. All this led to a change in strategy. Having failed to achieve decisive victory in the northern colonies, in 1778 the Army shifted its efforts to the South, where there were more Loyalists (colonists still loyal to the Crown) and revolutionary fervor was weaker. The Southern strategy led to a series of successes. Savannah was captured and royal government was restored in Georgia. A Patriot army was captured at Charleston, South Carolina, another Patriot army was annihilated at Camden, and most of South Carolina returned to the Crown. Meanwhile, bitter over General Gates, his senior, stealing his credit, and politicians frustrating his military plans, General Benedict Arnold, hero of the failed Canadian expeditionary force and the great victory at Saratoga, defected back to the Crown in 1780. He conspired with the Army to hand over the Patriot fort at West Point, New York; the plot was discovered before he could act, however. Arnold defected without being caught and American morale suffered another body blow.
Just when things seemed darkest for the Patriot cause the Americans again rallied. A Patriot victory at Kings Mountain, North Carolina in October 1780 was followed by an even bigger victory at Cowpens, South Carolina in January 1781, where some of the best units of the Army in South Carolina were captured. The Commander in South Carolina, Lord Cornwallis, abandoned that state and marched into North Carolina in pursuit of the main American army led by Nathanael Greene. Cornwallis defeated Greene at Guilford Court House, but took too many losses in the process. He led his much reduced force into Virginia and conducted a series of raids in the lightly defended Virginia countryside. Finally Cornwallis was ordered by Henry Clinton, the Commander at New York—who feared an attack from Washington there—to march to the coast and establish a fortified position. Cornwallis chose the city of Yorktown, Virginia.
Unfortunately for Cornwallis, a French fleet seized control of Chesapeake Bay and beat back all attempts to displace them. This cut Yorktown off from relief by sea. Meanwhile the Franco-American army had left New York and was marching south. It arrived at the end of September and surrounded Cornwallis' army at Yorktown. Now completely cut off by sea and land, Cornwallis surrendered on Oct. 17, 1781, after enemy bombardment rendered Yorktown untenable.
This decisive defeat marked the collapse of Parliament's will to prosecute the war, and the end of major combat operations in North America. After further fighting between the French, Spanish, and British at sea, at Gibraltar, and elsewhere around the world, the Treaty of Paris (1783) ended the war and established the United States of America as an independent nation. A twentieth of the population of the former colonies, some hundred thousand people, emigrated to remain under the patronage of George III. Most loyalists emigrated to Canada, a milestone in the history of that nation which effectively secured it for the Empire by reducing the potentially rebellious French majority to a minority.
It would be a mistake, however, to think that the fledgling nation was now an incontrovertible fact. The United States of America were - 'were' and not 'was' because the constitution as known today had yet to be drafted and the federal government was very weak - under-populated, poor, debt-ridden and exhausted from a civil war which had practically torn them in half. They had no real army to speak of and no naval forces whatsoever. It remained to be seen if the secessionist colonies could form a strong and coherent state of their own or whether they would return to the Crown, by mutual agreement or by force. If there was one lesson history taught about republics, it was that they inevitably failed, and the state of the republic in the following decades would seem to confirm this assertion. Ironically, the Republic's survival was ultimately due to the actions of some hundred powerful oligarchs acting against the wishes of the majority of the people. Together they conspired to write and have ratified by the states a constitution, one that bound the states under a central government, to keep the fledgling nation afloat. Out of this clandestine agreement came the Constitution and, later on, the Bill of Rights as Americans know it today - the point of the bill being to undercut popular opposition to their attempt to subvert the power of the states to which most people who remained owed their allegiance. It would be another half-century, and a war that nobody really wanted before people could say with confidence that the new nation would be around to stay, in one form or another.
The American Revolution is oddly underrepresented in American films, given its importance.
- Achilles in His Tent: At one time or another, many of the best Patriot officers went home in disgust and/or exhaustion at least temporarily (usually when someone was promoted over them by Congress). Occasionally, this was very convenient. John Stark (a very experienced and competent colonel), was available to command the New Hampshire and Vermont militia at Bennington, because he was retired from the army when they made a bunch of colonels into generals and left him off the list. He won the battle, got the promotion and went back to the army.
- The Alliance: American rebels, the French, the Spanish, and the Dutch (yes, those last two were in fact in the war on the Americans' side).
- American Dream: "We hold these truths to be self-evident..."
- An Asskicking Christmas: Washington's attack on the Hessians.
- Anti-Villain: For the rebels, Benedict Arnold. Younger and less competent officers with better connections were forever being promoted over him, his competence and personal bravery were largely ignored and he had financial problems. These and other issues besides counted for more than his lingering loyalties to the crown in prompting his eventual Face Heel Turn in re-joining the British.
- Back in the Saddle : Many veterans of the Highland regiments settled in Canada after the Seven Years War. When they heard about the revolution, many of them picked their weapons back up and formed the Royal Highland Emigrants.
- Badass Army: Numerous examples
- Hessian mercenary troops were particularly good at killing people, and were feared for it. (Their one weakness was the day after Christmas, when they were too pissed to fight back.) Guess what kinds of times the rebels chose to surprise-attack them.
- In reality, their weakness was arrogance, for the Hessians had received warnings from Loyalists that the Americans intended to attack Trenton. The warnings were dismissed, in large part because the Hessians had been dealing out one Curb Stomp Battle after another to poorly-equipped and undisciplined Patriot forces and held them in utter contempt. Add to that the terrible weather conditions at the time and all they had to worry about was a very desperate American general with enormous brass balls...
- George Rogers Clark's small army that re-captured Vincennes. Walking across Illinois when the whole state's flooded and it's winter is one of those "badasses only" kinda gigs.
- Richard Montgomery's and Benedict Arnold's (USA ...for now) march to Quebec.
- Although an army in name only, the American militia at the Battle of King's Mountain qualify. A semi-organized mob of mountain men who named their guns decided to kill some of their Loyalist neighbours. They did. A lot. Unfortunately, we can't really glorify their cruel treatment of the loyalist dead and wounded afterwards.
- Three words: The British redcoats. Their skill in both musket and bayonet, combined with their courage and determination, was a nasty combo which had already proven itself effective against the best armies their opposite numbers in Continental Europe could field. Early on in the war, American patriots attempted to engage the British army in straight battles. Until the Saratoga campaign, they never went well.
- Hessian mercenary troops were particularly good at killing people, and were feared for it. (Their one weakness was the day after Christmas, when they were too pissed to fight back.) Guess what kinds of times the rebels chose to surprise-attack them.
- Badass Long Hair: It was custom for men in the 18th century to wear their hair long and tied in a ponytail (then 19th century came along and destroyed everything) so naturally many soldiers seen in war films during the period have bad ass ponytails.
- Berserk Button: At the battle of Harlem, a British officer blew a hunting horn which infuriated the Americans and caused them to stop retreating and make a fight of it. The Brits won but they lost more than they expected.
- BFS: Peter Francisco had nicknames like "the Virginian Hercules" and "Giant of the Revolution." He often used a sword in battle, but when he complained that the sword he had was too small, George Washington had a five-foot long broadsword made for him.
- Black and White Morality: Unfortunately, a lot of American depictions of the war are this. It was probably closer to Grey and Gray Morality or White and Gray Morality in real life.
- Blood Knight : American General "Mad" Anthony Wayne.
- Big Good/Big Bad: King George III once commanded the loyalty if not the devotion of all his subjects. Then, after the rebellion and Paine's pamphlet, he came to be personally demonized by the republican rebels.
- Canon Discontinuity: The Articles of Confederation, which were a disaster and largely led to the more federalist nature of the Constitution itself.
- The Captain: John Paul Jones.
- The Cavalry: "Light-Horse" Harry Lee.
- Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Averted hard. The critical contributions of the French in both fighting and financing the war - with Dutch loans and Spanish... something - are often downplayed in modern tellings, though most Americans are aware of them to some extent. The sheer number of towns named Lafayette alone should be indicative.
- Church Militant: The British-American Priesthood of the Church of England was split right down the middle, and some even took up arms against the country or in its defense. Not only did ministers of the Church owe allegiance to his majesty as their sovereign, but he was also the highest authority in the Church. Some back 'home' called the whole affair a 'Presbyterian rebellion'.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Charles Lee. He believed he was a better general than Washington, and made various ill-advised attempts to get full command of the American armies. It culminated in a serious breach of insubordination during the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse, and Lee was court-martialed. Years later, documents were found that revealed Lee had given the British suggestions on how to beat Washington while briefly held prisoner in 1777.
- Cincinnatus: George Washington, given near-dictatorial powers by the Congress as leader of the nation's first army during the war emergency, resigned his commission and went home after the peace treaty was signed. He also voluntarily retired after two terms as President when he could have held that office as long as he wanted.
- Cold Sniper: Daniel Morgan's "hit squad". He told them "Get up a tree and shoot that guy (General Fraser at 2nd Freeman's Farm) on the big horse over yonder." This kind of thing was really not done in European-style warfare at the time. Morgan wasn't interested in fighting a European-style war; he was interested in winning.
- Colonel Badass: Colonel Tye, the most feared and respected guerrilla commander of the Revolution, a freed African slave fighting for the government. Not actually an officer, the 'colonel' part was an honorary rank given as a mark of respect.
- Combat Pragmatist: Benedict Arnold is the poster child by ordering his troops to kill a captured government officer at Saratoga. The trope can be applied to the war in general, especially when it came to the Loyalist-Patriot skirmishes which sometimes involved killing civilians and the destruction of property. Ambushes were a dime a dozen, and both sides tried to persuade Amerindian tribes to side with them.
- Conflicting Loyalty: This was a transatlantic Civil War, and may have been the first conflict since antiquity (and maybe the first ever) in which ideology, was a credible competitor for loyalty with religion, family, regional or ethnic ties, or esprit de corps.
- Many officers refused to fight the rebels in the early part of the war, which is why the government hired so many German mercenaries. This began to change when the fighting started to get messy and the rebels declared that they were fighting against the King and not for him. Then, the rebels welcomed the intervention of the French and Spanish suddenly their talk of British patriotism and freedom from the oppression of monarchy seemed very hollow. That they would side with Catholic Absolute Monarchies that they had all fought together against for decades (if not, as most people like to see it, centuries) was the last straw for many Loyalists.
- Cool Guns: The Pennsylvania Long Rifle. A splendid combination of craftsmanship, aesthetic attraction and lethality.
- The Brown Bess. Not as lethal on a weapon for weapon basis because they were for line infantry, not skirmishers. However they could be mass produced and did have a higher ROF (to put into perspective, one man with a long rifle would win a duel; 1000 men against a 1000 would be different except in broken terrain) the Brown Bess is handsome, especially with the bayonet fixed, and was the generic arm of the British infantry for generations.
- Mentioned for mechanical interest is the Ferguson's Rifle. Invented by a British officer assigned to Loyalist forces, it was one of first breech loading rifles to be put into practical use. Despite the obvious advantages of being able to load kneeling or prone and make a smaller target (which is hard with a muzzle loader), most experiments in breech loaders at the time were unsuccessful.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Brits are red, rebels are blue, Hessians are green, and when the French are lucky enough to turn up they're white. Paradoxically both Truth in Television and Did Not Do the Research at the same time: With the technology of the time it made perfect tactical sense to wear brightly colored, distinct uniforms. However, while the British and French could afford uniforms for all their troops, the Americans were perpetually strapped for cash and most of their troops fought in whatever clothes they brought from home, with the exception of a few small units and wealthy officers until late in the war. Also, Hessian mercenaries employed by the British (Germans from Hesse-Kassel) had their own uniforms which did not in the slightest resemble those of any of the other combatants.
- Courtroom Antics: The trial after the Boston Massacre. Not only was it an awesome display of courage by John Adams who defended the British soldiers, it was a Crowning Moment of Awesome for both sides. At the brink of a civil war, both factions had enough reverence for the rule of law to put their trust in it.
- Crowning Moment of Awesome: The gutsy, brilliantly planned and executed attack on Trenton.
- Benedict Arnold, who had been relieved of command, leaving his tent and leading a critical charge at the battle of Bemis Heights during the second battle of Saratoga. Winning that battle convinced the French to aid the states.
- The Battle of Cowpens. Daniel Morgan tricks, traps, and destroys Banastre Tarleton's greatly feared army. With about 1,200 per side, the Americans lose about 150 killed and wounded. The British lose more than 1,000 killed, wounded, and captured.
- Ben Arnold's balls out awesome naval engagement (a draw) against a British flotilla coming from Canada at Valcour Bay. There was no American navy prior to this.
- John Paul Jones capturing a British warship.
- Culture Shock: One theory of the cause of it all is that the American and British systems had drifted apart for so long that when forced to cooperate by the Seven Years' War they discovered they could not abide one another.
- Cycle of Revenge: Quite a bit of this in fact, between loyalist and revolutionary forces, especially in the South where the loyalists were strong.
- Especially in the Deep South...
- Dance Battler: The British Army. Generally better drilled, they could usually outmaneuver the Continentals and shoo away the militia.
- Darkest Hour: In 1776, there was still very little support for the Revolution within the colonies, and it looked about to end as quickly as it started, after the American army suffered a string of disastrous defeats in and around New York. Paine begins The American Crisis with this chilling assessment: "These are the times that try men's souls."
- The war was also considered the Darkest Hour in Britain at times, especially when it seemed as though the country was about to be subject to a Franco-Spanish invasion.
- Defeat Means Friendship: George III's words to John Adams after the war was over:
"I was the last to consent to the separation; but the separation having been made and having become inevitable, I have always said, as I say now, that I would be the first to meet the friendship of the United States as an independent power".
- Designated Villain: King George III of the British Empire. Always described by Americans (both in movies and real life) as a "tyrant" (indeed most grade-school US children learn this vocabulary word AS they study this part of history), with most of the Declaration of Independence indicting him for his "tyranny". Perhaps he technically fit the definition but almost every other historical US villain (Santa Anna, Hitler, Tojo, Noriega, Hussein, Al-Qaida) were guilty of acts that were far far worse then anything George III could be blamed for. Indeed, King Louis XVI of France, whose aid was indispensable to the Americans was a far less benevolent and socially conscious monarch than George III.
- The Determinator: The Continental Army, which usually lost battles but won the war. Many of them marched barefoot, wore rags, and in general suffered a tremendous military poverty. And they kept going.
- Did Not Do the Research: By the American government, in commemorating the day America declared its independence as a federal holiday on July 4. The votes for independence took place on July 2.
John Adams: The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
- Only if you take the date literally, as it's when the votes were drawn, but not when it was publicly announced.
- Dirty Coward: Horatio Gates at Camden. When his army collapsed Gates hopped on his horse and rode for some sixty miles before finally stopping. He never commanded troops in the field again.
- Divided We Fall: The Americans didn't, but Benjamin Franklin's only partially facetious warning to the Continental Congress was the Trope Namer.
- Draco in Leather Pants: John Andre is still popular in Britain. Partially applies to America as well, which sees him as less of a villain than Benedict Arnold, and even at the time of his death he chose to Face Death with Dignity and those present though well of him for it.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Baron von Steuben the Hired Gun who trained the Continental Army at Valley Forge. Legend says he always kept a Cunning Linguist nearby during inspections to provide him a proper supply of English language profanity.
- A brilliant commander and skilled drill instructor, not doubt about that. Some people credit him with the Continental Army's level taking in badass after the disaster that was Valley Forge, but according to many of the writings of the day his bombastic attitude and love of said profanity made him a walking Crowning Moment of Funny to the troops.
- When Nathanial Greene was put in control of the forces in the South, he decided to whip the undisciplined militiamen into shape...literally.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Benedict Arnold. It was constant application of this trope that prompting his Face Heel Turn.
- The Empire: Specifically, The British Empire. British accents, but alas, no Death Star. Frankly, it really wouldn't suit their style.
- Face Heel Turn: Benedict Arnold. To this day he's a Trope Codifier in American colloquialism for "traitor". There's a famous (if probably apocryphal) story about Arnold leading a Loyalist raid late in the war and capturing some Patriot soldiers. When Arnold asked one of the captives what would happen if the rebels ever captured him, the soldier replied, "We'll remove the leg you wounded at Saratoga and bury it with full honors. The rest we'll hang." The Saratoga battlefield park has a memorial to Arnold. It's dedicated to the boot from Arnold's wounded leg, and pointedly does not name him while praising what he did then.
- For loyalists, it's Benjamin Franklin. He always thought himself an Englishman until he was publicly humiliated for leaking letters proving the governor of Massachusetts instigated Britain's tax policies.
- A Father to His Men: George Washington.
- Fatal Flaw: William Howe was undefeated in battle but his lack of a killer instinct often allowed Washington's army to escape.
- Feuding Families: It was common in the back country to choose a side simply because it was opposite the side The Clan next door picked.
- Foreshadowing: The slavery issue was left out of the Declaration of Independence to be solved for another day. That was a very bad day.
- Freudian Trio: Burgoyne (id), Clinton (ego) and Howe (superego).
- Four-Star Badass: None other than George Washington, leading his men into battle personally at Princeton and taking charge at Monmouth Courthouse. For the British, William Howe did the same at Bunker Hill, as did John Burgoyne at Saratoga.
- Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death!: Revolutionary Patrick Henry is the Trope Namer.
- Glory Seeker: Nearly every major officer on both sides.
- The Handler: John Andre, Benedict Arnold's handler.
- Hellhole Prison: The Brits turned decommissioned warships into floating jails. The Jersey, or "Hell", was the most infamous.
- Hero of Another Story: The French Navy. It's often downplayed - or else simply forgotten - that the conflict was not isolated to North America. After 1778 France allied itself with the Revolutionaries and engaged the British in many theaters around the globe, including South America, India, and the Caribbean. In fact, since the Americans had no navy to speak of at the time, the French played a key role in keeping the British Navy occupied while the Americans could win a war of attrition on the mainland.
- Hide Your Gays: Why Baron Von Steuben couldn't give his services to European armies.
- Hired Guns: The Hessians.
- There were several Hired Guns on the Patriots' side. These were mostly unemployed officers providing technical experience for reasons running the gamut between Impoverished Patrician and We Help the Helpless.
- The Hessians weren't "hired guns" in the strictest sense. They were Germans (some but not all of which came from Hesse, hence the name) who were effectively rented out by their princes to the British. Furthermore, some "Hessians" were actually from Hanover, which at that time was in a personal union with (i.e. ruled by the same monarch as) Great Britain, so they weren't even hired in that sense: they were fighting for their King (well, Elector) just as much as any Redcoat.
- Historical Domain Character: Washington has a tendency to pop up toward the end of a colonially themed fiction to give a good word to the hero.
- Pretty much every "Founding Father," really. Washington is merely the most popular.
- Well, damn. Guess we'd better edit out that scene where our hero got rescued by Thomas Jefferson and nursed back to health by Sally Hemmings before taking a walk across the gardens with John Adams and Ben Franklin... (don't mind us, we write historical fiction)
- Pretty much every "Founding Father," really. Washington is merely the most popular.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: Brits are bad. They often commit gratuitous atrocities and are made a tyrannical European despotism rather than the original source of the very ideals of the rebels. Rebels got executed a lot (most executions were commuted because Britain was that strapped for men), but no loyalist ever seems to get his house burned down. Because there are no loyalists. Ever. Most people are unaware that the state of Georgia effectively returned to being a British colony for some time at the end of the war.
- Truth in Television: As with all wars there were numerous atrocities (on both sides) including the Waxhaw massacre, where wounded American troops were bayoneted to death after surrendering, and the Battle of Kings Mountain (where Loyalist corpses were stripped, looted, and in some cases urinated on by the American troops, and a couple dozen prisoners were hanged).
- Benedict Arnold also gets a huge dose of it, most history books (in the US anyway) either largely or completely ignore that he was a valuable military leader for the colonials and his turn was not just a random thing he decided to do one morning.
- Historical Hero Upgrade: George Washington! (Twelve stories tall/Made of radiation!) Amazing man, one of the few people ever to give back dictatorial power. Inventor of the USA and freedom? Subject to some slight exaggeration, pretty much. That great a tactician? Not really. Able to fire freedom beams from his eyes? Sources indicate no.
- Portraits do make you think he had a very intimidating Death Glare though.
- Hollywood History: One would almost think colonies in the South were sitting back, twiddling their thumbs the whole time for all the mention they get in history books. Forget that it basically forced the British to split their forces and that South Carolina hosted the most battles of any single colony. The revolutionaries were also working from North to South with the larger armies, and had Yorktown not gotten the forces to leave, the army would have continued on down.
- Two reasons for this. First, what we remember of the Revolution is what Washington did. He wasn't in the South, and he wasn't at Saratoga (the most important American victory of the war!) so those are forgotten. Second, one could argue that the American performance in the South was best forgotten. The first two years after the British shifted their efforts to the Southern colonies were a series of disasters for the Americans: the fall of Savannah, the fall of Charleston and capture of the American army inside it, total defeat at Camden, and the re-institution of full British government in Georgia. Also, the Loyalists were stronger in the South than anywhere else. It wasn't until Nathaniel Greene came south to take charge in late 1780 that things started to turn around.
- Most Egregious example: Washington's Crossing of the Delaware. The Hessians weren't sleeping, and they weren't drunk. Washington did not casually walk into Trenton and declare victory. The battle had been fought with fixed bayonets (because the American weapons were too wet to fire) in the middle of a snowstorm, with the Hessians, already on guard because guerilla fighters had been crossing over the Delaware nearly every night, engaged the enemy in the field outside the city before falling back to defend from the town's side streets. As McCullough points out in 1776, it's incredible that "a battle of such extreme savagery" would result in no American combat deaths. The biggest weakness of the British defense of Trenton was the lack of fortifications, not a lack of preparedness. An actual Crowning Moment of Awesome by General Washington.
- Longfellow's "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" implies that Paul Revere rode alone, when in fact he was accompanied by two other people. He also got captured and detained by the British before he could reach Concord, and by his own account, confessed everything at gunpoint.
- Probably because "Listen, my children, and you shall hear / of the midnight ride of William Dawes" (The one rider who actually made it to Concord) doesn't scan.
- Honor Before Reason: That soldier who almost killed Washington but refused because killing officers was bad form.
- Joisey: They don't call it "The Crossroads of the Revolution" for nothing. New Jersey's strategic location between New York City and Philadelphia (the colonies' largest cities, both of which served as the US capital at various points) made New Jersey an extremely important battleground. George Washington crisscrossed the state during the war fighting numerous major battles here.
- Lady Macbeth: Peggy Shippen, young, sexy, Loyalist wife of Benedict Arnold, who egged him on to treason.
- La Résistance: The colonists.
- Large and In Charge: Washington.
- Leave No Survivors : What Banastre Tarleton is widely remembered for. This provided the inspiration for the villain of the movie The Patriot.
- Line in the Sand: With the enlistments for many of his soldiers about to expire just before the Battle of Trenton, Washington made a desperate appeal to his men to stay with the army. At first no responded, then one man stepped forward, soon followed by the rest.
- Mama Bear: Molly Pitcher
- Mildly Military: The Colonial Militia, reports of whose prowess were greatly exaggerated. Although not always exaggerated. Even militia can have a good day once in a while especially when fending off a frontal assault. The main thing they did in the war was dominate no-mans-land because the enemy couldn't spare the manpower. And ensured that the Continentals got recruits that had already been through basic.
- When you think about it, one disadvantage may have been simply that a militia officer was the neighbor of his men in normal life and thus unlikely to have the proper ruthlessness that is often needed to be enterprising. In a passive defense with simple orders that is less of a problem.
- Another distinction that bears keeping in mind is that between the militias of the eastern coastal regions and those on the western frontier bordering (or, in some cases, on the other side of) the Appalachian Mountains. The former territory had been thoroughly civilized for a number of years, to the point where before the Revolution militia drilling was largely a formality. In the latter, the settlers were already used to fighting for their survival in some fashion or another on a daily basis and were thus both willing and eager to be as ruthless as necessary to protect their homes.
- Moral Event Horizon: Just as a MEH changes the tone of a work, and turns audiences firmly against a villainous character, several events in the Revolution DRASTICALLY altered the way one side was seen or tolerated by the other.
- In the eyes of Parliament, the Boston Sons of Liberty crossed the horizon when they dumped tea into the harbor.
- It wasn't just a matter of dumping a bunch of boxes into the water, it constituted multiple cases of very expensive property damage and assault.
- In the eyes of the colonists (including people who had been undecided on whose side to take) King George III crossed the horizon when he brought his German troops and hired mercenaries to subjugate the more rebellious colonies.
- In the eyes of the folks back home, the Colonials crossed this when they formed an alliance with the French. Ya know, the enemy since, like, forever, dude! Most of the Colonials with military experience had fought them as part of his majesty's armed forces not more than thirty year ago!
- On the American side of things, the most hated MEH committed by the British before actual hostilities began was the passing of the aptly-nicknamed Intolerable Acts. Originally intended as punishment for the Sons of Liberty, many colonists, including those who didn't live in Massachusetts, considered the Quartering Act, the closing of Boston's ports, and the suspension of Massachusetts' colonial government unforgivable attacks on their rights.
- During the war, the British viewed the American habit of shooting officers to be a Moral Event Horizon.
- For the Indians, it was Washington's order to destroy the 4 Iroquois tribes helping the Brits. They would call him and all future presidents "Burner of Villages".
- There's also the Battle of King's Mountain, where loyalists were killed by patriot militia, then their bodies were looted, stripped and in some cases urinated on.
- Finally, the Battle of Waxhaws. British dragoons engaged some Continental army forces, and began kicking their asses. As the patriot forces called for surrender, the British commander Tarleton's horse was struck by a shot and fell. The dragoons believed the patriots had shot their commander (he was actually OK) while calling for surrender, and proceeded to slaughter them down to the last man. Afterwards, "Tarleton's Quarter" became a battle cry for patriot forces everywhere, denoting that British and loyalist troops would not be taken prisoner. Nice job breaking it, Tarleton.
- In the eyes of Parliament, the Boston Sons of Liberty crossed the horizon when they dumped tea into the harbor.
- Motive Rant: The Declaration of Independence.
"The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world..."
- My Country, Right or Wrong: William Howe fought for Britain out of loyalty, not because he believed Parliament was right about taxing the colonies.
- My Greatest Failure: Washington's failure to bring Benedict Arnold to justice. William Howe's failure to administer the coup de grace and finish off Washington's army in the 1776 campaign.
- Never Tell Me the Odds: Towards the end of the war, Britain stood alone against not only the American rebels, but also the French and Spanish Empires, the Dutch Republic and the Kingdom of Mysore (in India). The book The Very Bloody History of Britain dubbed it "The War Against Just About Everybody".
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Louis may not have realized that he would bankrupt himself and screw France over economically by helping the revolutionaries against Britain. This more than anything else led to The French Revolution. Ironically, the French hoped to profit from the war by ganking Britsh possession in the process, but it didn't turn out that way.
- Howe's capture of Philadelphia, which was good publicity but strategically irrelevant, stopped him from helping Burgoyne at Saratoga. The American victory there convinced France to declare war on Britain, turning a colonial uprising to a world war.
- Numerological Motif : 1777, Year of the Bloody Sevens, or (because of the shape of the numeral seven) Year of the Hangman.
- Outlaw: These prospered excruciatingly during the time because both armies and governments were busy with each other. Both sides of the conflict found them occasionally useful.
- Perspective Flip: Although actions such as the Royal Proclamation (which prevented further settlement west of the Thirteen Colonies until Native land rights had been dealt with) and the Quebec Act (which recognized the rights of recently-conquered New France to its Catholic faith and civil law tradition) were decried by the American colonists, from a Canadian standpoint they were actually beneficial. The Quebec Act provided an essential base that allowed French-speaking Canadians to maintain their identity and civil rights, which they enjoy even today. The Royal Proclamation is still seen by Canadian aboriginals as a recognition by the British Crown (under which Canada is still governed) of their territorial and treaty rights, and is used as a basis for land claim negotiations going on even today.
- Pirates: Or privateers. Baltimore was very enthusiastic over this capitalistic way of waging war for the sake of Patriotism and Plunder.
- And let's not forget John Paul Jones, who although started off as a free-lancing privateer, became the "father of the American Navy".
- Freudian Trio: Hamilton et all not to be downplayed, but it was the combination of Washington's charisma on and off the battlefield, Jefferson's steadfast beliefs and ability to keep the Congress in line, and Benjamin's Franklin's political tactics and quiet, patient brilliance which formed the very core of the Continental Congress, and where perhaps the three most important leaders in ensuring an American victory for the colonies.
- Proud Warrior Race: Iroquois, Irish, the Scots-Irish Scottish Highlanders. All of whom got on so well together...
- Pyrrhic Victory: Lots, but Bunker Hill is the most well known. Although the British won that battle mainly because the colonists ran out of ammunition, their casualties were FAR higher than the colonists. In another one, the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, the British technically won because they drove off the American troops, but they also lost a quarter of their troops in a mere 90 minutes.
- The Quisling: Arnold. Also Joseph Galloway, who was a member of the First Continental Congress but eventually cleaved to the British and was head of civil government in Philadelphia during the British occupation. On the other hand, it was a bit of a Foregone Conclusion Galloway would do this since he was heavily in favor of trying to remain loyal to Britain anyway.
- In 1857, documents were found implicating Gen. Charles Lee of giving British Gen. Howe suggestions on how to defeat Washington's forces. Lee did this while a prisoner during the winter of 1777, and was released during a prisoner exchange back into Washington's command. It didn't help that Lee was convinced he was a better general than Washington and back-stabbed his superior officer on several occasions.
- Race Against the Clock: The reason for the attack on Trenton, or at least its timing (Dec. 26, 1776), was that most of Washington's army was scheduled to evaporate in five days, when their enlistments expired on New Year's 1777. Washington had to do something with the men while he still had them. (The victory helped him convince some of the troops to stick around until the army could be reconstituted).
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The colonial side, more or less strapped for funds for most of the war. Their victory is often attributed to gross incompetence within the British ranks, as much as the Revolution was caused by gross mismanagement (i.e. arbitrary taxation led to rebellion led to suppression led to stronger rebellion led to harsh suppression led to ultimatums on either side...). In Britain proper, political opinion was sharply divided, with a coalition of businessmen (who wanted colonial markets open) and a public sympathetic to the philosophical aspects of the Revolution; on the other side, there were those few wanting to suppress the rebels hard (a faction historian Eugen Weber describes as "The Stupid Party", awarding this title on basis of the British army's usual conduct in the war, which was to lose of their own accord more than to be defeated). The colonies didn't have much of a navy to speak of (the French supplied one), and when everything was said and done, the treaty ending the war was signed in Paris (because the Europeans at the time preferred to see it as a war between France and England, with France winning this time around).
- Rashomon Style - Rarely (if ever) mentioned in history lessons in Britain - and when it is, it is generally taught as an extravagant form of tax avoidance.
- To be fair while for Americans this is the single most important event in their history for the British it's really just one more thing that happened during the 18th Century. In fact the Colonial Rebellion was not even at the top of their list of Things To Worry About. They were much more worried about the Spanish and the French, not to mention the Dutch.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The Declaration of Independence. Go past the lyrical, poetic "we hold these truths to be self-evident" part, and read the long, angrily-worded and overblown list of unconstitutional offenses supposedly committed by King George III against his subjects in the American colonies. The point of this part of the declaration was to appeal to King Louis XVI by showing that they weren't going to give up and that they were more than willing to accept his majesty's intervention against his majesty George III.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Sir Henry Clinton, William Howe and John Burgoyne were respectively sent to Gibraltar, Spain and Ireland. Cornwallis avoided this fate and saw a lot of action in India against the Maratha.
- Rebellious Rebel: The Loyalists, or "Tories". John Adams' offhand guess that a third of the colonists were Loyalists was probably high, but they were a substantial minority. Most were passive if Government forces were not not on the scene, but they were a significant factor throughout the colonies, even in the rebellious hotbed of New England. They were probably stronger than the rebels in the southern colonies. As a result the civil war shed most pretenses of civility in the South, especially the deep south.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Hot headed John Adams and cool tempered Ben Franklin during their stint as American diplomats in France.
- Redshirt Army: The British Army.... was not really an example, but the infantry were wore red dress uniforms (which often faded to brown) so we're listing this trope anyway.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized : Both sides were guilty of a number of acts that might easily be considered uncivilized. American history books grudgingly report this.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: Showing the truth might be appropriate for a serious historical work, but if it's a mass audience movie you don't say anything bad about the founders.
- Rousing Speech: Washington's militiamen were fleeing in panic at the Battle of Princeton. Washington rode up to them himself and, while under fire from the enemy, said "Parade with us my brave fellows! There is but a handful of the enemy and we shall have them directly!". It worked.
- The Scrounger: Benjamin Franklin was this in France as well as being a diplomat and a spymaster.
- Shocking Defeat Legacy: For the Americans, the series of defeats around New York City in the fall of 1776 that nearly destroyed Washington's army. For the British, the loss of one entire army captured by the Americans at Saratoga, and the loss of another army captured by the French and Americans at Yorktown.
- The Smart Guy: Benjamin Franklin
- Sobriquet: General Burgoyne, "Gentleman Johnny".
- Played With: Generals Burgoyne, Clinton and Howe together were called "The Triumvirate of Reputation".
- Sorry That I'm Dying: Nathan Hale. "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
- The Spymaster: George Washington. He oversaw American spying operations, especially the Culper ring run by able spy Benjamin Tallmadge. Other than the blemish of Nathan Hale's capture and hanging, the American spy networks performed well, keeping Washington fully appraised of British activity and allowing Washington to pull off some daring feints such as discreetly moving Washington's entire army from New York/New Jersey into position at Yorktown, leading to General Cornwallis' epic defeat.
- The Starscream: George Washington seemed to collect a few of these (including both Benedict Arnold and Horatio Gates), but the most overt of these was Charles Lee, who was very vocal about his opinion of himself being the overall commander of the Continental Army. However, his efforts to undermine Washington through inaction backfired, as he was captured easily by the British once, and a second time, court-martialed for failing to initiate an attack on the British on Monmouth. Years later, it came out that he had actually been supplying the British with information on American positions and Washington's strategy while in captivity. At any rate, the court-martial led to his being dismissed from the army dishonorably and he died before the war ended with his reputation in tatters.
- The Strategist: Daniel Morgan, who achieved the great tactical masterpiece of the war at the Battle of Cowpens.
- George Washington was not this by any means. In fact he was something of a General Failure when it came to battlefield tactics, being repeatedly worsted in battle by William Howe. But the attack on Trenton was his idea, and it worked like a charm.
- As a tactician, he may have been unimaginative and unimpressive, but Washington as an actual military strategist (tactics being something very distinct from strategy in military terms) was brilliant. He knew the British could only ever truly defeat him by destroying his army, so Washington based his own strategy on simply keeping his army together at all costs and frustrating the British at every turn. The defeats he suffered at Long Island, White Plains, and Brandywine may have destroyed another commander, but Washington kept fighting, kept the British tied down in and around New York, and eventually, won the war. Furthermore, Nathaniel Greene, Washington's Lancer, used a variation of this strategy to slowly wear down Cornwallis when the war shifted south, a strategy that did in fact lead to victories at King's Mountain and Cowpens after the debacle of Camden.
- Subculture : In some ways this was a war between two coalitions of subcultures some of whom took sides opposite their opponents in earlier, civil wars.
- According to Kevin Phillips in The Cousin's Wars, Yankees took the rebel side and Londoners took the Loyal Opposition as both were descended from Puritans. Scottish Highlanders on both sides of the ocean supported the crown, and the Irish tended to be rebels. In general the more traditionalist cultures favored the crown and extreme Protestants the rebels. Quakers were more-or-less neutral, and of course German Pacifists (Amish, Mennonites, etc) mainly wanted to be left alone. Good luck with that one.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: Deborah Sampson
- Tar and Feathers: Well, they do say that The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized.
- Team Dad: George Washington.
- Theme Park Version: As has been mentioned everywhere in this document; Americans are Always Lawful Good nice guys who fight for freedom and all that is good and just. Brits, meanwhile, are Exclusively Evil bastards who hate freedom, keep dogs purely for kicking and are always bad. Yeah, sure it was.
- Took a Level in Badass: The Continental Army spent the beginning of the war running for their lives. After the disastrous winter at Valley Forge they came back bigger and badder than ever. They still suffered their share of defeats but the British hardly recognized them as the same army they had fought six months earlier.
- Training the Peaceful Villagers: A number of European military officers helped train the Americans. Prussian officer Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben became a major general of the Continental Army, wrote the Revolutionary War Drill Manual, and served as General George Washington's chief of staff. This whole thing was, in fact, part of the Continental Congress's grand strategy; by fielding a professional army that could defeat the British on their own terms, they would be adding legitimacy to their cause.
- Unwitting Pawn: The French, who were left holding the bag when peace was signed.
- Warrior Poet: British general John Burgoyne fancied himself an actor and playwright.
- We Have Reserves: Cornwallis at the Battle of Guilford Court House.
- Wham! Line: Thomas Paine's suggestion of American independence, "'Tis time to part".
- The Wild West: The back country, known at the time as "The dark and bloody ground", specifically. Where some of the nastiest things took place and nobody had much regard for The Laws and Customs of War.
- Won the War, Lost the Peace: France, Spain and Holland got nothing out of helping win the war while Britain continued to be America's partner in trade. Louis XVI of France got much less than nothing, actually, as the sizeable debt that his government ran up while supporting the Americans led to The French Revolution and his execution just a few years after the American Revolution ended.
- Wooden Ships and Iron Men: Britain's blockade of France devastated its economy. However, the French Navy played a pivotal role at Yorktown.
- Young Future Famous People: Many, of course, as the Revolution made reputations. Lieutenant James Monroe took a bullet in the shoulder at Trenton and nearly bled to death before a Patriot surgeon tied off the wound. Forty years later, he was elected President of the United States.
- Many British leaders of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars were young officers in this war. Even Nelson's ship HMS Victory made its first wartime appearance here.
- Thirteen-year-old Andrew Jackson, serving as a militia courier, was captured by the English. After he refused to clean a British officer's boots, said officer slashed at Jackson's head with a sword, giving the future President scars he bore for the rest of his life.
- Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The Founding Fathers were well aware that if they lost, they'd be tried and hung for treason - or worse, if the loyalists got to them first (see Franklin's bit about having to hang together, lest they all "hang separately").
- Zerg Rush: The British were VERY fond of bayonets, probably because the less well-drilled Americans had a hard time maintaining discipline while staring at a large number of sharp metal object coming at them very fast.
- Also because musketry of the day was not good enough to allow for massed killing volleys, being too inaccurate, too short-ranged, and too slow to reload.
- British tactical doctrine tried to ensure that their troops fired second in open field engagements. The goal was to close with the enemy, get them to fire fire first, take advantage of the long reload times to close the range still more, then fire their own barrage at short range while the enemy was attempting to reload and charge with bayonet, the combined effect shattering the enemy formation.
- Also because musketry of the day was not good enough to allow for massed killing volleys, being too inaccurate, too short-ranged, and too slow to reload.
- Axis Powers Hetalia features this in one fan-favourite strip. The anime drew said strip out over several episodes, just to milk the suspense for all it was worth.
- It's also notable for subverting and averting the usual portrayal of the Revolution as a glorious patriotic war, instead showing it as the painful breaking of England and America's once loving relationship
- What happens when one combines mystic powers, a traitorous Ben Franklin and a failed revolution? Two Words: Code Geass.
- DC character Thomas Haukins, aka Tomahawk, fought on the Rebel side.
- DC character Gerald Shilling, aka Lord Shilling, was Tomahawk's Tory arch-enemy.
- Miss Liberty, a DC masked hero, fought on the Rebel side.
- Captain Steven Rogers, a namesake ancestor of Captain America (comics)'s, fought on the Rebel side.
- Sir William Taurey, a Tory (natch) was killed by Captain Steven Rogers during the Revolution. His descendant, also named William Taurey, attempted to undo the American Revolution; he was stopped by Captain Rogers' Descendant, Captain America (comics).
- Immortal MARVEL character Ulysses Bloodstone was a major in the Continental Army and fought alongside Captain Steve Rogers.
- There was an Elseworlds story about Superman arriving on Earth earlier than expected and he was raised by British parents and he ended up fighting against the revolutionaries.
- General Wallace Worthington, an ancestor of Warren Worthington's (aka The Angel from The X-Men) fought on the Rebel side.
- Lady Jean Grey (an ancestor of Jean Grey's ) and Patrick Clemons (both members of the Philadelphia branch of The Hell Fire Club) fought on the Tory side.
- Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)
- Johnny Tremain
- The Patriot (aka Braveheart in America)
- Where Do We Go From Here? (1945)
- The 1959 film version of George Bernard Shaw's The Devil's Disciple (Starring Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, and Laurence Olivier).
- Revolution (1985). So bad that it killed Al Pacino's movie career for a while.
- The Howards Of Virginia, starring Cary Grant, depicts the American Revolution in Virginia.
- John Paul Jones, starring Robert Stack.
- Dear America and its spinoff series have a few:
- The Winter of Red Snow
- Love thy Neighbor
- The Revolutionary War trilogy of My America
- The Journal of William Thomas Emerson: A Revolutionary War Patriot
- This is what the original Rip Van Winkle slept through.
- Treegate Series by Leonard Wibberley.
- Israel Potter, by Herman Melville.
- Several novels by Kenneth Roberts, including:
- Rabble In Arms
- Oliver Wiswell (Noteworthy for giving the Tory side of things)
- The first two books in John Jakes' Kent Family Chronicles deal with the Revolution:
- The Bastard
- The Rebels
- Gore Vidal's Burr.
- Esther Forbes' novel Johnny Tremain.
- Many novels by Howard Fast, including:
- Conceived In Liberty
- Haym Solomon Son Of Liberty (fictionalized account of the Polish Jewish immigrant who was the key financier of the Rebel side in the Revolution)
- The Proud And The Free (fictionalized account of the Pennsylvania Line Mutiny)
- April Morning
- The Hessian
- A couple of the Richard Bolitho novels by Alexander Kent are notable for presenting it from the Tory side.
- Jonathan Barret, Gentleman Vampire is set in this era. The Barrets are Loyalists living on Long Island dealing with both the rebels and Hessian mercenaries raiding their supplies.
- Bernard Cornwell, author of the Sharpe series, has written at least one novel about the Revolution, titled Redcoat.
- Cornwell's Sharpe series also includes a recurring character who fought on the losing side of the Revolutionary War and was forced to leave the colonies.
- The Alexander Swift stories by Edward D. Hoch, which describe the adventures of a Rebel intelligence agent during the Revolution.
- Liberty Tavern by Thomas Fleming. The tavern is owned by a retired British officer; this gives him some trouble when corrupt militia officers accuse him of being a Tory. Especially because his love interest's estranged husband is a Tory.
- Mystery of the Empty House is about 1960s kids finding clues that clear the name of an allegedly Tory ancestor, revealed to be one of George Washington's secret agents, possibly the most effective of them all, whose identity was lost to history.
- The Crossing, 2000 TV movie about the battle of Trenton starring Jeff Daniels as Washington
- George Washington (the 1984 miniseries)
- The Bastard, the television adaptation of the John Jakes book, followed by:
- The Rebels.
- John Adams (HBO miniseries)
- Episodes 1-3 of The Adams Chronicles deal with the Revolution.
- April Morning, an adaptation of the novel by Howard Fast. Stars Tommy Lee Jones.
- The 1987 adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's The Devil's Disciple(Starring Patrick Stewart).
- The Swamp Fox, a Disney TV show about the adventures of Rebel guerrilla leader Francis Marion, the eponymous Swamp Fox. Starred Leslie Nielsen.
- Many episodes of the Fess Parker Daniel Boone tv series were set during the Revolution.
- The Young Rebels The 1970 colonial version of The Mod Squad. It featured Louis Gosset Jr. as the rebel Token Minority, but otherwise notable for a rural Pennsylvania setting that looked amazingly like rural Los Angeles.
- Some of the campaigns in Age of Empires III.
- Empire Total Wars Road To Independence Campaign.
- Maximilian Roivas' chapter in Eternal Darkness.
- Europa Universalis lets you play the Revolution out. That being said, this IS Alternate History at work, so the Revolution might show up at a time and place well away from the original timeline.
- The FPS The Battle Grounds, a Half-Life Mod.
- Many Colonization games, although you can also play in alternate realities where it is the French, Spanish, or Dutch colonies that are most successful in the Americas and rebel against their respective monarchies.
- According to the lore of Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, rather than the American Revolution, the war was fought between the British Empire and Jickleberg. The army wasn't led by George Washington but Crispus Attucks (or in this case, Clispaeth Ryuji Atuck), the war lasted for 666 years and the end result is The Cyberpocalypse.
- Assassin's Creed III is set during this time period.
- The webcomic The Dreamer is partially set during the American Revolution.
- Ben and Me
- Two Histeria! episodes (1998)
- Liberty's Kids - For a kids' show, its take on the period is very sophisticated with the negative elements of it like slavery, mob violence and The Suffering of Native Peoples given their due.
- Looney Tunes Bunker Hill Bunny (1950)
- Schoolhouse Rock offers many a one-sided take on the revolution.
- This Is America, Charlie Brown ("The Birth of the Constitution")
- An I Am Weasel episode with Weasel as Washington and The Red Guy as King George.