American Revolutionaries

American Revolutionaries2018-11-28T09:54:35+00:00

American Revolutionaries for APUSH

About the Author: Johnny Roy has been an Advanced Placement US History teacher for the past 8 years at Cuyahoga Heights High School just outside of Cleveland, Ohio. He has been actively involved with the AP Reading as a grader for the past 3 years having scored the DBQ, LEQ, and SAQ sections of the exam.

Abigail Adams (1774 – 1818)

Abigail Smith was born in 1744 in a town just outside of Boston, Massachusetts.  Her father was a minister and her mother came from a prominent New England family.  Her maternal grandfather was an active member of the Massachusetts colonial government, which had a profound effect on young Abigail. At the age of 19, Abigail Quincy would marry lawyer John Adams.  As John Adam’s law practice grew and he became more involved in the events of the American Revolution, Abigail was left to care for the couples 6 children, including future president John Quincy Adams. Always an advocate for her causes, constant correspondence through numerous letters allowed Abigail to have direct influence on her husband as he and others worked to establish a new government. These letters included one of her most memorable lines requesting that the framers consider more rights for women. She remarked, “Remember the ladies, and be more generous to them than your ancestors” when establishing the rights of the new government.

Abigail was the first First Lady (1797-1801) to live in the new “President’s House” (present day White House) and made frequent public appearances. She would serve as the president’s confidant and she would council him frequently on issues she felt were important. Abigail was a great advocate of women, trying to secure more marriage rights and greater access to education. She was an early abolitionist and thought slavery to be evil. She urged women to move out from their husband’s shadows and try to make their own mark on the new country.  Abigail exchanged numerous letters with Thomas Jefferson and Martha Washington as well and was even called, Mrs. President due to the influence she carried with her husband and her impact on his policies.

Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814)

Mercy Otis was born in Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1728 and would later marry James Warren in 1756. James would go on to have a distinguished political career that Mercy would follow closely and actively participate in. She was a frequent writer of poems and plays.  However, when the events of the American Revolution began to take root in Boston, Mercy became a more dedicated political writer and propagandist. Using a pseudonym (false name), she frequently wrote Anti-British poems and plays that promoted the cause of the revolution.  She regularly opened up her home to host meetings of the Sons of Liberty and worked with Samuel Adams to establish Committees of Correspondence in and around Boston. It was in these meetings that Mercy developed personal relationships with key figures of the revolution and future government.

As a respected thinker, writer, and historian her influence extended to a great number of people, she frequently advised and communicated with John and Abigail Adams, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Alexander Hamilton, and George Washington. Though the majority of her work was published under pseudonym or anonymously, after 1790 she began to publish under her real name. In 1805, she published a 3 volume history of the American Revolution titled, The Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution.  The account was widely read and even purchased by Thomas Jefferson which was later donated to the newly established Library of Congress. It even led to a falling out with close friend John Adams over his role in the revolution. Mercy continued to be a trusted advisor throughout the early 19thcentury to some of the country’s most influential men till her death in 1814.

Martha Washington (1731-1802) and Lucy Knox (1756-1824)

Martha Washington and Lucy Knox were wives to Revolutionary hero’s George Washington and Henry Knox. However, they also represented numerous officer’s wives whose contributions throughout the Revolutionary War shouldn’t go understated as they traveled to encampments throughout the campaign. Henry Knox served as Washington’s Chief of Artillery during the Revolutionary War and was at his side as often as she could. Martha and Lucy traveled with their husbands when conditions allowed (Martha more so than Lucy) and would work to help around camp however they could. They were at several important battles throughout the revolution and even spent time at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-1778. There they would try and help feed soldiers and provide shelter to as many cold and hungry soldiers as they were able to.

Following the winter encampment at Valley Forge, Martha and Lucy would become close and during George’s presidency in which Henry would serve as his Secretary of War, the First Lady and Lucy would host numerous social gatherings in the new capitols of New York and later Philadelphia.  Though Martha was not as political as First Lady Abigail Adams, these social gatherings she hosted were important to solidifying support for the new Constitution among some of the country’s political elite. Like many things the Washington’s did, her actions established precedents for future First Ladies as hostesses, good will ambassadors to dignitaries, and social buffers for their often times less tactful or disinterested husbands.

Martha Washington (1731-1802) and Lucy Knox (1756-1824)

Martha Washington and Lucy Knox were wives to Revolutionary hero’s George Washington and Henry Knox. However, they also represented numerous officer’s wives whose contributions throughout the Revolutionary War shouldn’t go understated as they traveled to encampments throughout the campaign. Henry Knox served as Washington’s Chief of Artillery during the Revolutionary War and was at his side as often as she could. Martha and Lucy traveled with their husbands when conditions allowed (Martha more so than Lucy) and would work to help around camp however they could. They were at several important battles throughout the revolution and even spent time at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-1778. There they would try and help feed soldiers and provide shelter to as many cold and hungry soldiers as they were able to.

Following the winter encampment at Valley Forge, Martha and Lucy would become close and during George’s presidency in which Henry would serve as his Secretary of War, the First Lady and Lucy would host numerous social gatherings in the new capitols of New York and later Philadelphia.  Though Martha was not as political as First Lady Abigail Adams, these social gatherings she hosted were important to solidifying support for the new Constitution among some of the country’s political elite. Like many things the Washington’s did, her actions established precedents for future First Ladies as hostesses, good will ambassadors to dignitaries, and social buffers for their often times less tactful or disinterested husbands.

Benedict Arnold (1741-1801)

Before he became America’s most famous traitor, Benedict Arnold was a General in the Continental Army and trusted by George Washington with important military assignments. Born in the Colony of Connecticut in 1741, Arnold joined the revolutionary cause and participated in key battles including the capture of Fort Ticonderoga and its supplies in 1775. However, frequent accusations of corruption and being passed over for promotions by the Continental Congress Arnold felt he had earned, led to a growing disenchantment with the revolutionary cause. He frequently visited with loyalist sympathizers and eventually married the young and beautiful Peggy Shippen who her herself had close ties to British military leaders and later facilitated communication between Arnold and the British.

Having recently been assigned by Washington to oversee the defenses of the strategic outpost of West Pointe, New York, Arnold had begun secret negotiations to betray the Americans and join the British. After having weakened the defenses at West Pointe and prepared to surrender the fort in September of 1780, the plot was discovered when correspondence was intercepted between Arnold and the British. Before Arnold could be captured, he fled New York and joined the British. He then led British troops against the men he had previously commanded for the remainder of the war. The name Benedict Arnold has become synonymous with that of a traitor.

Marquis De Lafayette (1757-1834)

Born in France into a wealthy aristocratic family and commissioned as an officer at a young age, Marquis de Lafayette became enamored with the American cause of revolution. He traveled to America and quickly became close with George Washington and became a member of his staff. Lafayette became an important liaison between America and France. Desperate for French support against the British, Washington and the Continental Congress urged Lafayette to advocate on their behalf with the French government for increased support in their efforts. Which Lafayette did and was able to help secure future troop, navy, and financial support for the Americans. Lafayette also commanded troops and fought in several revolutionary battles and stayed at Washington’s camp at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-1778.

A mid-war trip to France to plead for more support and eventual return and reunification with Washington, solidified Lafayette’s importance to the revolutionary cause. Yet, his contributions to the victory at Yorktown and the eventual surrender of British Commander General Charles Cornwallis made him a revolution and American hero. Following the end of the American Revolution, Lafayette returned to France where he was heavily involved in the tumultuous French political scene for the next several decades. A return to the United States in 1824 at the invitation of President James Monroe afforded Lafayette the opportunity to tour every state in the union and receive a hero’s welcome at every stop as one of the few remaining heroes of the Revolutionary War. He was even able to visit with old friends Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, and then Mount Vernon to visit the grave of one of his oldest friends, George Washington.

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