American Heroes of the Revolution (who were foreigners)

Happy Independence Day, America! Oh, okay… so I’m a day late. I was kind of busy yesterday.

In any case, even though I’m a little late, I still wanted to do something on the theme of the American Revolution. So, I decided to honor the people who risked their lives for the independence of a country… that wasn’t even theirs.

John Paul Jones

Widely regarded as the first hero of the U.S. Navy, he had a reputation for bravery (or bravado) that surpassed anything the far-superior Royal Navy could throw at him. On his very first mission, he raided a key British base in the Bahamas to get supplies for the Continental Army. Then, he was sent to France, where Jones began a series of raids against British shipping off European waters.

Jones not only took on some of the finest British warships – and won – but he also invaded England itself. He and his crew assaulted the British town of Whitehaven, destroying its cannons and attempting (unsuccessfully) to set the British fleet there ablaze. To a Britain that had been reassured by its government that the rebellion was on the ropes and would fall soon, this was a psychological disaster.

His actual nationality: Scottish.

Jones was born in Scotland and spent most of his early career sailing in British merchant ships, including one named the King George. He came to the New World to escape a court-martial after killing a mutineer (in self-defense, he claimed).

Thomas Paine

When the American revolution first broke out, there was some confusion as to what, exactly, the Continental Army was fighting for. Was this just a dispute over taxes? Were they fighting to get laws they disliked repealed? To get their rights as Englishmen? Or was there something more they were after?

In those early days, the Continentals fought using a flag that included the Union Jack, and the officers would often toast King George III, even though they were fighting his army.

Thomas Paine stepped in with his famous pamphlet, Common Sense. In it, he pointed out that the American colonies were actually at war with Britain (kind of a “duh”), and that the only logical course of action was to seek independence. This book was extremely popular, and became the most published and read book in the United States during the war. It inspired the decision to have a Declaration of Independence, and became the manifesto of the Revolution.

His actual nationality: English.

Paine didn’t even come to America until 1774, as the Revolution was about to get underway. Although no one knows for sure why he supported the independence movement, it has been known that he was not very successful in Britain, having gone bankrupt, separated from his wife and sold all of his possessions to get out of debt. He came to America feeling that Britain had nothing more to offer him, so maybe that played a part in his willingness to support the creation of a new country.

Marquis de Lafayette

It could be said that there would be no America without the Marquis de Lafayette. Offering his services to the Continental Army for free, he became a distinguished general who saved the Continental Army from being wiped out by the British at the Battle of Brandywine, stopped an attempted mutiny against George Washington, prevented the Continental Congress from sending the Army on a suicidal mission into Canada, enlisted the Oneida Indians to the cause of independence, and through quick thinking secured American victory at the Battle of Monmouth. At the Battle of Yorktown, the last major engagement in the Revolution, his forces cut off the British Army’s escape route, giving Washington the ability to force the British surrender.

It is no wonder, then, that so many states have cities and counties named “Lafayette”, “Fayette”, or “Fayetteville”. There are even “Lafayette Streets” in each of New York City’s five boroughs.

His actual nationality: French (in case the name didn’t give it away).

Lafayette was an unapologetic Frenchman, and as soon as the war was over returned to his native country. He is one of the few people who could be called a Founding Father of two countries. He was a major player in the French Revolution, writing the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, the document that got that conflict started.

Today, he is buried in France, and at his grave are two flags: one French and one American.

Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben

In the dark days of Valley Forge, when the British held the newborn nation’s capital of Philadelphia and the Continental Army was starving to death in the frigid winter without proper clothing or supplies, a strange man appeared out of nowhere and decided he would whip this ragged band of farmers with guns into a fighting force to be feared.

His version of military discipline kept America in the fight and would remain the nation’s standard for decades.

His actual nationality: German.

Von Steuben was a failure in Europe, who was forced to flee his country because he was accused of being a homosexual. He claimed to be a baron, though this was later proven false. He spoke very little English, relying on a translator during those days in Valley Forge. Not that it mattered, because most of what he said the soldiers were curse words.

But Washington didn’t care. The man’s methods worked. The rest was immaterial.

Information from the History Channel series The Revolution and Wikipedia.

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8 Responses to American Heroes of the Revolution (who were foreigners)

  1. AuntLeesie says:

    Thanks! I love it!

    • David Macko says:

      How about Pulaski and Kosciusko?

      • The U.S. has forgotten the incredible amount of help Poland has given for over 400 years. Jamestown would have failed without the Polish craftsmen who built the wells to provide fresh water, constructed the first factory and got industry and manufacturing started in the colonies. The contributions from two of Poland’s finest men in the formation of the fighting force that would defeat the British and the strategy and fortifications used to do so are barely a foot note in American history books. Also, we should not forget the much more recent efforts of Saint John Paul II and Lech Walesa to bring down communism in Poland and subsequently the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union. Despite these contributions, and many more in WWII, including the Battle of Monte Casino, constant vigilance and harassment in Poland against the Nazis, etc., etc., etc.
        Kazimierz Pulaski not only created and trained the American cavalry, but asked for and was granted permission to form his own Legion of cavalry to aid in fighting the British. Pulaski saved Washington’s life, was made a General in the Continental Army and is one of only 8 people to ever be awarded honorary American citizenship. Finally, Pulaski also gave his life in the fight for freedom as the General raced into battle he was gravely wounded and succumbed to his wounds shortly after the Battle of Savannah. He is still considered to be the father of the American Cavalry by the very well informed and students of militaria.
        Tadeusz Koscuiszko was a hero in his homeland of Poland as well as Lithuania, Belarus and the U.S. as a result of his bravery, intelligence and love of freedom. As an engineer he possessed a keen eye and sharp mind for choosing terrain to defend and fortify. His warning and advice were dismissed to put batteries on Sugar Loaf to defend Fort Ticonderoga before British attackers were able to do so. Burgoyne did precisely as Koscuiszko predicted making any defense of the fort futile. The American troops were forced to withdraw and retreat under duress.
        If not for Koscuiszko devising a plan for delaying the British pursuers the Revolutionary War may have taken a much different turn. He had soldiers destroy bridges and causeways, cut down trees to block roads, build dams to flood large areas behind them and otherwise make it impossible to keep pace with the Continental Army. The British were neither able to engage the retreating army nor capture those in retreat.
        Major General Horatio Gates then tapped Koscuiszko to seek out the best terrain between them and their pursuers so that they may choose the field of battle and have the tactical advantage. It was his genius that lead to the American army setting up camp at Bemis Heights which over looked the Hudson and was just outside of Saratoga. He then began to fortify the position with an array of defenses making the encampment practically impenetrable to the British oppressors.
        In the span of time between the embarrassing retreat from Ticonderoga in July of 1777 and October 7, 1777 much had changed regarding the fortunes of a once pursued and beleaguered army. A mere 10 days later, on October 17, 1777, the British and General John Burgoyne surrendered. The surrender would come to represent the major turning point in the war for freedom. This was the first major victory and capture of significant numbers of men, ammunition, arms and supplies. Also, it was the deciding factor the French needed to convince them to formally enter the war. Also, Spain would join forces with France in their war against the British. This would not only provide the American Patriots with much needed money, naval support, soldiers, munitions and a boost to morale, it would also result in the British having to divert resources to protect England, its holdings around the globe, shipping and trade routes, colonies, citizens abroad, ports, trading partners and other interests as well as reconfigure its naval strategy and defenses.
        As if the above was not a great enough contribution to the war effort, Koscuiszko would venture south and engineer the famous “Race to the Dan” thwarting General Cornwallis and leading him to eventually give up his chase. This gave Major General Nathaneal Greene enough time to regroup and plan his return to the site chosen by Koscuiszko, Guilford Courthouse, where the Continentals would meet Cornwallis and effectively destroy his ability to continue to wage an effective campaign leading to his eventual surrender, victory and the establishment of the greatest nation in the history of mankind.
        Despite this rich history and indispensable contributions to the U.S. and the birth of our nation Poland, citizens of Poland and the ancestors of Poles now living in the U.S. are denied the benefits of inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program. So the failure to include two heroes from our war for freedom who hailed from Poland is really no surprise. Regardless, it is still disheartening and disappointing.

  2. Pingback: Four Often-Forgotten Heroes of the American Revolution | Cat Flag

  3. Konrad says:

    yeah exactly what he said Polish dudes helped too.

  4. What about Patrick henery or Samuel adams?

  5. Pingback: The History of the French Flag | Cat Flag

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