The American Revolution was a defining moment in our nation’s history. Here are some of the most influential people who participated in the war.
Thomas Jefferson, American Statesman
“Men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master.”—Thomas Jefferson, Letter to George Washington, January 4, 1786
Prominent among the Founding Fathers of the United States, main author of the Declaration of Independence, and the country’s third president, Thomas Jefferson was a consistent advocate of individual freedom and the power of the people to make or unmake governments. He long opposed the slave trade and as president and put a ban on the import of slaves to the United States in 1808, yet he was a slaveholder his whole life.
Abigail Adams, Patriot
“To have Heroes, Statesmen, and Philosophers, we should have learned women.”—Abigail Adams, in a letter to John Adams, 1776
In the upheaval of the war and during John’s long absences, Abigail made decisions that went far beyond her normal “sphere,” although she hid them from anyone who disapproved. In a move of defying contemporary custom, at the end of her life Adams boldly wrote her own will. Although it would not be recognized by the state, she laid out detailed instructions for the dispersal of her money and property to her granddaughters, nieces, and female servants. When she died in 1818, John and her sons carried out her wishes.
Joseph Brant, Mohawk Leader
“I bow to no man…But I will gladly shake your hand.”—Joseph Brant, Addressing King George III, 1776
The Native American leader Nayendanegea, known to English-speakers as Joseph Brant, was a prominent commander of Native American and Loyalist forces fighting against the Patriots. Unjustly blamed for several massacres, he became a hate figure for many Patriots, who dubbed him “Monster Brant.” He is now widely recognized as a skillful leader of irregular troops and an honorable man, who tried to achieve the best outcome for his people despite facing overwhelmingly difficult circumstances.
Henry Clinton, British Commander
“Clinton is the only man who might still save America.”—King George III, 1779
Clinton was born to fight as the son of an admiral and the grandson of a general. He was a skillful and courageous field commander and clear-sighted strategist. Unfortunately, defects of character undermined his performance, ruined his relationship with other generals, and made him waver in executing his own strategic plans.
Marquis de Lafayette, French Commander
“He made our cause his own.”—Thomas Jefferson, 1824
Lafayette volunteered his services to the United States in 1777 and became one of General George Washington’s most trusted officers and a hero of the American struggle for independence. Lafayette was only 25 when the War of Independence ended.
George Washington, American Commander in Chief
“I have heard the bullets whistle…there is something charming in the sound.”—George Washington, Letter to his brother, 1754
George Washington contributed more than any other individual to the War on Independence, though he was a man who loved neither war nor power. Most European observers expected Washington to assume leadership of the new United States as a military ruler. Instead, as soon as peace was agreed, he resigned his post and went home to Mount Vernon. He later returned in 1787 to oversee the conventional that drew up the federal Constitution, and accepted the post of president when elected in 1789.
The American Revolution will transport you back in time and onto the frontlines. This complete overview of the war brings all the action to life, from the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party to the Declaration of Independence and the Treaty of Paris.