Four Often-Forgotten Heroes of the American Revolution

Reenactors image from Revolutionary War Reenacting

It appears I have made something of a tradition to talk about our nation’s war of independence on the Fourth of July. What can I say? I’m a history buff, and the American Revolution is one of the historical subjects that fascinates me most!

It’s true that this crucial moment in our history produced some amazing figures and heroes: George Washington, Paul Revere, Thomas Paine, Nathanael Greene, Nathan Hale, and so on. The problem is that there were just so many of these figures that our history books often overlook some of them. I don’t think that’s fair, that we celebrate some of our founding heroes but not others. So, to make matters right, I’m going to be telling the tales of four founding fathers who we seem to forget, so we can honor their memories as well this Fourth of July.

Crispus Attucks

Crispus Attucks portrait from BiographyWhy He’s a Hero: This man was the first person ever to die for the American nation.

His father was an African slave, and his mother was a Native American. He grew up as a slave on a cattle farm in Framingham, Massachusetts. in 1750, he ran away from his master, who offered a reward for his capture and return. Attucks managed to escape capture, building a career for himself as a sailor on whaling ships.

As tensions grew in the 1760s between the colonists and their British colonial masters, British troops were sent to Boston to maintain order. These soldiers, when not on-duty, would sometimes apply for part-time work at local shops and businesses. This meant more competition for jobs, harming the city’s working class and causing resentment.

Something Americans today can relate to, as well.

Something Americans today can relate to, as well.

When one British soldier went to look for work at a Boston pub on March 5, 1770, he was confronted by a crowd of unhappy sailors. Soon, the angry crowd gathered around the Boston court house, protesting and taunting the British guard on duty. Reinforcements showed up, trying to keep the snowball-throwing crowd in line. What happened next is a matter of debate, as eyewitness accounts vary. What is known is that the British opened fire, and five Americans died. Attucks was the first victim, shot twice in the chest.

The American revolutionary movement seized on this event, calling it the “Boston Massacre” and demanding justice for the dead. The British soldiers were arrested, but claimed during their trial that they were acting in self-defense as the crowd attacked them with stones and clubs. They were found not guilty, which only made public anger even stronger. Whatever the truth of the matter was, the American Revolution reached a turning point on that night, and the path to independence was put in place. From that point on, Americans would see the British not as compatriots, but as a foreign power occupying their country. From that point on, the Patriots had martyrs to point to as inspiration for their struggle for liberty. The deaths of Attucks and the other victims laid the first stone in the foundation of the future United States.

Information from PBS

Samuel Prescott and William Dawes

Midnight Ride image from How Stuff Works

Why They Are Heroes: These two men were the ones that ACTUALLY warned the minutemen at Lexington and Concord that “The British are coming!”

Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride to warn the Americans of the approaching British forces may have been made famous by the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, but the poem is not what you would call historically accurate by any stretch. The real story is that Revere was just one of three men riding through the countryside that night, and he was captured by the British en route!

Our story begins in Boston, where American spy Joseph Warren found out about the British plans and called on Revere and Dawes to ride out and warn the patriots. Revere and Dawes would each take a separate route to Lexington, so that if one was captured, the other could still make it through. Dawes went by land, while Revere took a boat across the river. Those famous lanterns in the church tower? Those were not a signal to Revere about the British movements – they were a signal BY Revere to his friends across the river, warning them that the British were coming by boat.

Eventually, the duo made it to Lexington, where they regrouped at a tavern. There, they met Prescott, who happened to be passing by, sympathized with the Patriots’ cause, and volunteered to warn Concord. It was a good thing, too, as a British patrol managed to discover the riders on the road. Prescott and Dawes managed to escape, but Revere did not, and was questioned by the British troops at gunpoint. The British eventually let him go, on the logic that they could move faster without prisoners. With this stroke of luck, Revere managed to meet up with Samuel Adams and John Hancock, and the trio agreed to flee to Philadelphia. As they left, they heard the first shots of the battle. Prescott had managed to make it to Concord and warn the townsfolk. The war had begun.

Information from How Stuff Works

Molly Pitcher

Molly Pitcher image from Wikipedia

Why She’s a Hero: She fought at the Battle of Monmouth, braving bullet and cannon fire to load the cannons.

This one is perhaps the most infuriating one for me. When I was in elementary school, I learned all about Betsy Ross, who allegedly sewed the first U.S. flag, and Abigail Adams, who reminded her husband John Adams to “remember the ladies.” It turns out that historians now think the Betsy Ross legend was a hoax concocted by her grandson, and as we all know, Abigail Adams wasn’t able to convince her husband to give equal rights to women. Yet the tale of a far more awesome woman in the Revolutionary War that could be an inspiration for modern American girls with modern American values were never mentioned at all; I only learned about her years later.

Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley came from a German-American family in Pennsylvania. She married a barber, who enlisted in the Continental Army in 1777. Mary followed her husband as part of a group of wartime housewives who would mend and wash uniforms, cook for the troops, act as medics and nurses, and bring water for the troops in the heat of battle. She earned the nickname “Molly Pitcher” because she would always carry buckets of water to the artillery soldiers manning the cannons.

Then, at the Battle of Monmouth, her husband, a cannon-loader, was shot and wounded in battle. After tending to her husband and making sure he made it off the battlefield to safety, Mary picked up her husband’s ramrod and began loading the cannons in his place. Throughout the day’s battle, she kept at it. At one point, an enemy cannon ball sped between her legs, ripping her skirt to shreds. She shrugged the near-miss off, remarking “That could have been worse,” and just kept right on fighting.

After the battle, George Washington, who saw the spectacle of this lady loading the cannons, rewarded her by making her an army sergeant. Now that’s a tale we should be telling our children in school, if you ask me.

Information from Wikipedia

 

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