Follow TV Tropes


Useful Notes / The American Revolution
aka: American Revolution

Go To
Johnny-foreigner gets his taste of cold steel, wot note 

"A period when a coincidence of circumstances without example, has afforded to thirteen Colonies, at once, an opportunity of beginning government anew from the foundation, and building as they choose. How few of the human race have ever had any opportunity of choosing a system of government for themselves and their children!"
John Adams, in a letter to John Penn (and partially used in a speech to Continental Congress in the HBO miniseries)

Once upon a time, in 1765, The British Empire dominated North America, having won Canada from France in the Seven Years' War. However, a series of shifting and thus unresolved issues of authority and administrationnote  met with misunderstandings, misjudgments and tragedies which led to most of the colonies of British North America forming a loose association, seceding from The Empire, and later declaring themselves the United States of America. In the beginning, maybe a third of the colonists felt this was justified; roughly a fifth never did, and a twentieth left the new country to remain the Crown's loyal subjects in the Great White North, a land which has ever since prided itself upon being even more loyal to His/Her Majesty than Britain herself. 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, The Franco-Spanish Armada (which failed, obviously), George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Benedict Arnold, the Boston Massacrenote  the crossing of the Delaware, the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (which was actually a group effort). As it would later be portrayed, this was a time when idealistic demagogues overthrew a tyrant and gave voting rights to the peopleWell, if you were English or Scots (don't even mention the Irish and other foreigners), rich, land-owning, 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 patriotic until after the Seven Years' War—which had been fought to defend the country's colonies and trans-Atlantic trade from France. Though the British East India Company's victory over the French East India Company (with the help of royal fleets on both sides) was much more important in the long-term, Britain's sound victory in the Americas had three very important consequences there. First, the seizure and formal concession of French North America (modern Quebec) effectively removed the immediate security threat France had posed to British America. This meant that local elites no longer had any reason to avoid antagonizing the central government in disputes between the two, while also making a very valid point in their favor (why should we have to support a big army to counter a threat that's no longer needed?).


Second, the loss of its colonies was a huge blow to French Royal prestige; granted, Anglo-French relations hadn't been too great beforehand, what with the War of the Spanish Succession and the War of the Austrian Succession, but defeat on this scale made the House of Bourbon willing to pay a very steep price for revenge (just as soon as they weren't broke anymore).

Third, it left the British Crown short of cash; the war had only ended when it did because Britain had been less broke than France because the royal banking system of the latter was kind of a mess. Even so, the cabinet had to conduct an overhaul of the Crown's finances now that they didn't have all those special war-taxes. 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 reexamine the colonies' fiscal relationship to the crown relative to other possessions. Local elites in the North American colonies worried that this could well mean for the first time the parliamentary introduction of indirect, revenue-raising taxes (tariffs, tolls, licenses etc.) in line with the Caribbean territories and the homeland 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. 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. 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 hopelessly 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.) And since the colonists had no parliamentary representation of their own (for a whole host of reasons, not the least being royal prerogatives, though primarily because they would have posed a threat to the status quo) there were no American parliamentarians to gainsay this impression.

Complicating things was that much of the American colonial populace was composed of descendants of the so-called religious "dissenters": Puritans, Quakers, Methodists, Baptists, and dozens of other small denominations who'd come to America to escape the iron hand that the Church of England had upon public life and where they were often prohibited from owning land or practicing professions.note  Most common in northeastern colonies known as New England, these groups (collectively known as "Congregationalists") had spent nearly two centuries of mostly benign neglect developing their local political institutions. And as the name suggests, these institutions naturally grew out of the direct democracy inherent in the congregational nature of their worship, although Church of England-dominated Virginia possessed the oldest of the colonial legislatures. The upshot of this was that many colonists felt reluctant to follow the laws and policies set down by the Cabinet, despite being fairly co-operative with their own home-grown charter-based (often unacknowledged by the crown, and thus not strictly legal) local assemblies. This belief in superiority of local representation was to prove to be the true sticking point. It effectively meant that while the colonists had no parliamentary representation of their ownnote , having grown accustomed to running their own affairs via local governments meant they had no desire for such representation either.

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. Just a century ago, the English Civil War (which deeply involved all three kingdoms, and killed maybe 2% of their total population) had started when King Charles I had tried to collect taxes outside of Parliament and ended years after his execution at their hands. Parliament later 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 and trying to render local institutions irrelevant) denying His Majesty's subjects their constitutional right to have a say in how they were governed.

Compounding this 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.

Finally, there were competing commercial interests. Like all empires, the British had an interest in routing as much trade as possible through English ports under a policy known a mercantilism. The Merchantilists sought to prohibit local manufacture: Colonies were supposed to supply raw material, not competition. Similarly, trade directly between colonies was actively discouraged. This ensured that taxes, tariffs and duties were assessed and the maximum commercial benefit accrued while also insuring that the colonies remained dependent upon the mother country. And, truth be told, it also allowed for a certain amount of graft, corruption, skimming off the top, and restraint of trade in the form of monopolies, patents, and licenses, all of which required influence at court or bribery to obtain. Unfortunately, this policy, while attractive on paper, ignored the simple reality that prevailing winds made sailing along the North American coast a lot easier than voyaging across the North Atlantic. Faced with the prospect of forking much of their profit over to British middlemen (assuming they even had the time, influence, or bribe money to get the required licences) most American merchants became smugglers by default. And—in for a penny, in for a pound—smuggling within the western hemisphere inevitably led to smuggling on a worldwide scale. It's not like they'd hang you any less if you stuck to the coast of Massachusetts.

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, asserting its supreme right to tax and legislate for the colonies in 1766. Reactions in each colony were different, but the New England colonies resented these attempts particularly fiercely. Much of this came from resentment at Westminster's refusal to officially acknowledge the Colonies' self-appointed legislatures, but a good deal of it came from good old-fashioned self interest, as smuggled goods were cheaper and career smugglers had no wish to be put out of business. As it was, many people resisted payment and the tax collectors were subject to enormous community pressure and occasionally even violence. Eventually a majority of (generally conservative and aristocratic) Ministers of Parliament 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 theoretically have been appeased, or at least points of negotiation opened up, if Parliament had simply drawn up a few new electorates in North America, as they had done with Scotland and would in the not-too-distant-future do with Ireland: they'd have Westminster representation, but they would always be soundly out-voted by the majority of English Ministers of Parliament on issues concerning them. Of course, the logistics of representation of the colonies at Westminster in an era when it could take anywhere from 30 days to six months to get across the Atlantic—and there was no such thing as telecommunications—leave one to wonder if this was ever really a possible solution. As it happened, there were talks in England about Parliamentary representation for the colonists, at which point the colonies stopped entertaining the idea in favor of the notion that the colonies could never be properly represented in Parliament.

Matters came to a head with the "Boston Tea Party" of December 1773, in the wake of a lull following the so-called "Boston Massacre", which itself followed the stationing of troops in Boston from 1768, as well as the various Acts and colonial counter measures dating back to the Stamp Act of 1765. 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 low prices, resulting in legal taxed tea that would be better and cheaper than anything the smugglers could provide. Anti-tax protesters and smugglers alike opposed the move, and the locals refused to unload the East India Company's Tea cargoes for sale. Three company ships 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 local activists calling themselves "The Sons of Liberty" (after a line from a Parliamentary speech by Edmund Burke) dressed up as American Indians forced their way aboard and dumped the entire shipment of East India tea into the harbor. The East India Company was a bit peeved at the enormous expense of this act of defiancenote , and company executives used their considerable sway with Parliament to persuade them to enact a series of punitive measures against the culprits (and 'culprits') called the Coercive Acts, which in turn greatly inflamed public opinion in both Boston and the colonies in general (who called them the "Intolerable Acts") and led to the first meeting of the Continental Congress, which would later become the colonies' revolutionary government.

Blood was finally shed in April 1775 at the battle of Lexington and Concord, when a reinforced brigade of regular troops on their way to Concord to confiscate the Massachusetts colony's military stores encountered a company of local militiamen on Lexington Green. No-one knows who fired the first shotnote  (later described as "The shot heard 'round the world" because of the world-wide war that eventually resulted) but the outnumbered and unprepared militiamen were immediately routed and dispersed by the lead company of redcoats. Proceeding with their mission, the regulars soon found the entire countryside had been roused against them by "Paul Revere's ride" (which was actually a network of riders, though Revere himself did play a prominent role). Reaching Concord, they found themselves surrounded and then attacked by a much larger militia formation, and were forced to beat a fighting retreat up the "Battle Road" back to Boston. Their overriding reaction was one of shock and dismay that their own people were trying to kill themnote , and that the situation might not just 'get better' after all but instead lead to the second Civil War in a hundred years. Any remaining hopes that further bloodshed could be averted were dispelled by the pitched battle fought between Army and Rebel forces at "Bunker Hill"note  some two months later. Even then the negotiations continued until Westminster's rejection of the Continental Congress' Olive Branch Petition, which meant Civil War.

Even so it came as something of a surprise to most people when a full year after Lexington and Concord, a year in which most people still thought they were fighting to secure their rights as Englishman, that representatives of the colonies gathered together to declare Independence from Great Britain. That is to say, they wrote and signed a document "to put forth the reasons" as Jefferson later put it, for declaring their colonies were now "free and independent states". The importance of declaring such a permanent break with the government that would, if they were caught, get the conspirators hanged for treason is that they were trying to rally support for their cause, primarily among their Whig supporters in England. They were also trying to get France on their 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. That they were also inspired by the radical political philosophers of the day—Hobbes, Rousseau, and especially Locke, who argued that authority depended upon the consent of the governed—becomes obvious upon reading the document itself.

What underpinned much of the popular support for the declaration was in large part due to Thomas Paine, a very smart young English radical whom Benjamin Franklin had brought over to Philadelphia in November 1774, 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, 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 provided a focus for a growing wave of anti-monarchist sentiment, decades of local tradition (along with their penchant for Locke and Hobbes) naturally led said anti-monarchists to favor a republican government. On July 2, 1776, the representatives of the Continental Congress voted in principle to divorce the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain. (However, the new nation wound up celebrating its Independence Day on July 4 because that was the day that the Declaration of Independence was approved and announced to the public, which makes a certain kind of sense in an "if-a-tree-falls-in-the-woods-and-nobody-hears-it" way: if a deliberative body votes that something will happen but doesn't tell anybody, did it really happen?note )

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 British Army. Most of Washington's army had run 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. Unfortunately for him, the difficulties in feeding and housing his troops conspired with the need to hold a great deal of captured territory to force Howe into disbursing his troops into smaller garrisons that were vulnerable to being cut off and defeated in detail.note  Washington seized this opportunity and crossed back into New Jersey on Christmas night to capture 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 again failed to win a decisive victory against Washington's army, and the ostensible coup in capturing the capital proved to be meaningless—in the decentralized Revolutionary United States, most authority lay in the hands of the states, and Congress had such a small associated bureaucracy it could just pack up and leave, which it did (decamping first to Lancaster, Pennsylvania and then further inland to York, PA). Meanwhile, an expeditionary force from Canada was decisively defeated at Saratoga in northern New York 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, and powerful, 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 American rebels. The colonies were now the least of Britain's problems; they were now at war with three of the five major powers in Europe.

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 Nathaniel 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 settlement of Yorktown, Virginia.

On the north side of the Virginia Peninsula, facing Chesapeake Bay, Yorktown was easy to defend, and assuming the Royal Navy could maintain control of the bay, easy to supply by sea. (Why do you think George McClellan and other Union generals fourscore and some years later would keep trying to base themselves in the same general area?) 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.

We should at this point note that the war was not just a squabble between white men (but good luck finding a textbook that discusses it). The Native Americans mostly allied with the British, as the crown had previously granted the Indians autonomy and prevented the colonists from encroaching on the Indian territories west of the Mississippi River and in the Ohio River Valley. The most powerful, and troublesome to the Americans, were the remains of the Iroquois Confederacy of New York (two of the original six confederate nations split off and allied themselves to the Americans) and the Chickamunga Cherokees of Tennessee and Kentucky. Armed and supplied by the British, they conducted night raids and ambushes on most frontier communities and fortifications. In retaliation, Washington dispatched John Sullivan and his army in 1779 to upstate New York, where they systematically razed 40 Iroquois villages in a scorched earth campaign. The ensuing famine killed so many of them that they would never again be able to field enough men to defend themselves from European raiders and settlers.

At the same time, the British also had great support amongst the African slaves in America (the delicious irony of slave drivers agitating for freedom was not lost on anyone; Ralph Henry, the slave of Patrick "give me liberty or give me death" Henry, ran away to the British the week that quote was uttered, while Samuel Johnson mockingly asked "How is it we hear the loudest yelps for liberty from the drivers of Negroes?"). Most of the support was due to the Earl of Dunmore, the last governor of Virginia, who, critically outnumbered by the rebels, in 1779 offered freedom to any slave who joined the British. Not to be outdone by the Americans on the hypocrisy front, the slaves of loyalists were not freed. Over the course of the war, about 100,000 slaves escaped to the British (or tried to) and about 20,000 of them fought against the Americans as part of the all-black "Ethiopian Regiment" (which was mostly relegated to performing backbreaking logistic and support functions), which first saw action at the Battle of Kemp's Landing, where a black soldier managed to capture his former master. In fact, this was what galvanized the Southern states to seriously support the rebellion: the fear of a British-sponsored total slave uprising. At the end of the war, the remaining black loyalists were resettled in the Canadas or Nova Scotia (many of those later moved to Sierra Leone to found the first freedmen colony). It should be noted that there were also plenty of blacks (both slaves and freedmen) who also supported the Patriots,note  and that several colonial militias had black members, most notably the 1st Rhode Island Regiment, which similarly to the Dunmore proclamation was formed at least partially by slaves who had been promised their freedom. It has been estimated that about 1/5 of the Continental Army was of African descent. It should also be noted that a significant portion of slaves who had been promised their freedom on both sides of the war were not granted it, or were re-enslaved later.

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 republicsnote  it was that they inevitably failed, and the state of the republic in the following years 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—and it would take another war, the world's first industrial war, to make the United States truly one nation, in a position to become what it became.

Perhaps ironically, the French ended up suffering the most for their involvement despite "winning" the war - for the rebels, at no gain to herself. Extensive borrowing and heavy taxation drove the French monarchy even further into debt, and actually inflicted an artificial depression upon the French economy. Louis XVI eventually had to call a meeting of the Estates General to reform the taxation system (albeit raising the overall level of taxation) and restructure his debts so he could actually service them (pay the interest and maybe a bit more) properly. However, the Second Estate (nobility) was completely uncooperative and didn't want to be taxed. And the First and Third Estates (representing the clergy and commoners, respectively) wanted them lowered so the economy could grow again...

Also often forgotten, fellow-victor Spain regained its colony of Florida, which it had to give to the British after the Seven Years' War. It remained in Spanish hands until 1819, when some renegade American general went beyond orders in an attempt to capture Floridian Native Americans who raided American towns on the border.

The American Revolution is oddly underrepresented in American films, given its importance. It's possibly because the type of wide-open frontier landscapes necessary to tell such stories have mostly vanished.

    open/close all folders 

    Tropes from this time period include 
  • 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.
  • Action Girl: While there were several women who took part in actual fighting, the best remembered was Mary Hays AKA Molly Pitcher, a wife of an artilleryman who took over the loading of cannons during the Battle of Monmouth when her husband collapsed due to the extreme heat. While her tale was eventually considered folklore by later historians, Hays was awarded a soldier's pension later in life.
    • Also Agent 355, our nation's first female spy.
  • Actually, That's My Assistant: Happened to George Washington after the Battle of Yorktown. British General George O'Hara offered his sword to the French Comte de Rochambeau, perhaps thinking that only a European general could command such a complicated battle (his boss, Lord Cornwallis, claimed to be sick and didn't come out of the fort). He was informed that Washington was the Commander in Chief, and handed his sword over, only to be told to hand it to General Benjamin Lincoln, whose army had been trapped by and surrendered to the British at Charleston. Lincoln touched the sword and handed it back.
  • The Alliance: American rebels, the French, the Spanish, and the Dutch (yes, the Spanish and the Dutch were on France's side - while they still hated each other, and France, they just couldn't resist this golden opportunity to weaken Britain).
  • An Ass-Kicking Christmas: The Battle of Trenton.
  • 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 was in serious debt. These and other issues besides counted for more than his lingering loyalties to his country when he re-joined the British forces.
    • Arnold was told by one of his former subordinates after the end of the war that if the Americans had gotten their hands on him, they would have buried the leg he'd been wounded in at Saratoga as a national hero, and hung the rest. One statue in his honor is now composed solely of his leg, with the rest demolished.
  • 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
    • The so-called Hessian mercenary troopsnote  were among the better soldiers in Europe, but the combination of people signing on primarily for plunder (thus infuriating the locals into attacking the Hessians whenever and wherever possible) and a complacent view of the American army after Howe's brilliance outmaneuvered it in several battles were their downfall at Trenton. Similarly, poor intelligence and a complacent belief that they had cleared out the only American force in the vicinity lead to their defeat at Bennington; in fact, they had only fought the skirmishers of a much larger enemy.
    • George Rogers Clark's small army that re-captured Vincennes. Walking across Illinois when the whole state was flooded and it's winter is one of those "badasses only" 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 qualified. 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 combination that 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.
      • That said, at the beginning and near the end of the war, the British Army was a mess; soldiers would desert all the time, many Royal Navy sailors died from easily preventable diseases, they were unable to adjust their tactics to fight a non-European enemy, and they had so few reliable soldiers - well, unreliable when facing down their fellow British-man anyhow - that they had to bring in thousands of Germans from Hesse and Hanover to bolster their numbers. They would often get bested by forces that were far less professional, but drastically more vicious and determined, than they were.
      • The rebels also had desertion problems, an undisciplined militiaman might not see the problem in going home if it got too cold, or to help with the fall harvest. These were the "summer soldiers" and "sunshine patriots" Thomas Paine was complaining about when he wrote The American Crisis.
    • The Continental Line- at least by the end. Despite the widely-believed Guerilla Myth, in actual fact those "sharpshooting frontiersmen" militia and irregulars spent the first part of the war getting their asses soundly and repeatedly kicked by the abovementioned British Regulars, except in backwoods skirmishes. But by 1778 the efforts of European drillmasters like "Baron von" Steubennote  to whip European discipline and tactics into the locals began to pay off, starting with the Battle of Monmouth where the Bluecoatsnote  for the first time went toe to toe with Redcoats and held the line. But the new, improved Continentals' Moment of Awesome came at the Battle of Guilford in 1781, when the 1st Maryland Regiment charged the British motherfucking Guards at bayonet point— and broke them.
  • Badass Boast: John Paul Jones, when asked by a crewman of the HMS Serapis if he wished to surrender to the superior British forces, shouted back "I have not yet begun to fight!"
  • Badass Bookworm: Henry Knox, one of Washington's closest assistants, had no military training or experience whatsoever. What he did have, though, was the swankiest bookstore in Boston, where locals came to buy the latest volumes imported from Europe, including many about military strategy. British officers also liked to hang around in the attached tea room and discuss military matters. Knox read much of his inventory, and when the war came, Washington appointed him to look over the artillery and engineering (the most intellectual branch of the army), eventually becoming a Brigadier General in command of all artillery in the Continental Army. Fort Knox, Kentucky is named after him.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: Paul Revere did not ride across Massachusetts shouting "The British Are Coming", since nearly everyone in the colonies still would have considered themselves British at that point. He likely didn't shout anything; it was a secret mission, after all. If he did say anything, it would likely would have been "the ministerial troops are coming" or, more likely, "the regulars are out."
    • Nathan Hale may not have said "I regret I only have one life to give for my country", That specific line comes from a play about him. Most accounts agree he said something along those lines but his exact words are lost to history since no one ever published a firsthand account. One account stated he actually said "It is the duty of every soldier to follow the orders of his superiors." Whether he was justifying his spying activities or forgiving them for hanging him is not known.
  • Berserk Button: At the battle of Harlem, a British officer blew a hunting hornnote  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.
  • Blood Knight : American General "Mad" Anthony Wayne.
    • Benedict Arnold was the most fearless battlefield general the Continental Army ever had: just read about his actions at Saratoga, or leading an invasion force into Quebec, or building on the spot the first U.S. naval force at Lake Champlain to delay a British invasion force. But then...
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: While the most important event in eighteenth-century US' history, in Britain it barely even registers what with the War of the Spanish Succession, the War of the Austrian Succession, the Seven Years' and (related) Anglo-Carnatic Wars, and the French Revolutionary Wars. The Revolution was very much a "war by proxy" for the Bourbons' France; just one more chapter in the centuries-long Anglo-French rivalry.
    • However, the story that King George wrote "Nothing important happened today" in his diary on July 4th is apocryphal, based on a similar (or construed as such) entry in the King of France's diary. Even if he had, he wouldn't have heard about the declaration until the news had had time to travel overseas, weeks later.
  • 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.
    • Also William Washington, a distant cousin of George.
    • On the Loyalist side, the American Legion, working as an effective raiding-and-skirmishing unit under Banastre Tarleton. When the regulars had their butts handed to them on a silver platter at Cowpens, however, they pulled a Cavalry Refusal and fled the field.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Averted. The critical contributions of the French in both fighting and financing the war - with Dutch loans and Spanish... something (all three tied up significant British naval forces) - are often downplayed in modern Anglophone tellings, though most Americans are aware of them to some extent. The sheer number of towns named Lafayette or Fayetteville alone should be indicative.
    • Colonel Charles Staunton of the American Expeditionary Force announced "Lafayette, we have come." when he arrived in France during WWI.
  • Church Militant: The American Priesthood of the Church of England was split right down the middle, and some even took up arms. Not only did ministers of the Church of England 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'.
    • There's a reason why the Protestant denomination referred to as "Anglicanism" is called the Episcopalian Church in the United States
  • 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.
    • Even King George was struck by his recent adversary's eschewing of monarchical or dictatorial main chance. The king asked his American painter, Benjamin West, what Washington would do after winning independence. West replied, “They say he will return to his farm.” “If he does that,” the surprised monarch said, “he will be the greatest man in the world.”
  • Civil War: What it was, though not what it's traditionally been portrayed as, at least on the American side. Sadly, it was only the trauma of the war itself that tore the English-speaking peoples apart.
  • 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 (specifically targeting officers) 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.
    • The German regiments (known colloquially but inaccurately as Hessians) also had their Jaeger companies — rifle armed scouting companies primarily composed of former hunters, gamekeepers, and poachers.
  • Colonel Bad Ass: Colonel Tye, the most feared and respected guerrilla commander of the Revolution, a freed African slave fighting on the British side. He was 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 British officer at Saratoga. The trope can be applied to the war in general, especially when it came to the Loyalist-Patriot skirmishes that 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.
    • In the initial phase of the war, the Continental forces generally could not expect to win when going toe-to-toe with British regulars barring other favorable factors, and so instead avoided set-piece pitched battles whenever possible and used skirmishing tactics to good effect. The Brits themselves stepped up their game in this regard as the war wore on, developing light infantry tactics and propagating them to the line infantry units as well when possible. Both sides were informed by experiences in the American theater of the Seven Years' War in this regard.note  As the war progressed, various Continental infantry units acquired enough experience to give the British regulars a run for their money (all other factors being equal), though skirmishing and guerrilla tactics on the part of the Continentals still played a decisive role in denying the British any effective degree of control in the countryside and the interior regions.
      • In the first stages of the war, the legend of the Battle of Bunker Hill spread far and wide amongst the American officer corp, leading general officers into trying to reenact the circumstances of maneuvering their forces into a defensive bastion that the British would then politely attack. However, the British would not oblige them by walking lockstep into obvious traps. After losing the Battle of Manhattan when they made a standing action against the bulk of the British expeditionary force, George Washington himself went to Congress to report on the war, telling them, "We will never seek a general action. We will instead protract the war." This change in tone set the Americans on course from gearing toward a titanic decisive battle, the kind of war they were least prepared to fight, to a campaign of skirmish and maneuver, the kind of war the British were least prepared to fight.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: This was a transatlantic Civil War, and the second conflict since antiquity (after the English Civil War) in which ideology was a credible competitor for loyalty with religion, family, regional or ethnic ties, or esprit de corps.
    • The Howe brothers were Whigs and known American sympathizers. General Howe's wife Julia was American born, and is believed to have tipped off Joseph Warren that the army was marching to Lexington, leading Warren to dispatch Paul Revere and William Dawes on their famous ride. There's no proof but the circumstantial evidence is almost overwhelming, including the fact that Howe sent her back to England immediately afterwards and never spoke to her again.
    • Many officers refused to fight the rebels in the early part of the war, which is why The Crown shipped so many Germans over to suppress them. This began to change when said officers' men and friends started getting killed, and when the rebels declared that they were fighting against the King and not for him. The last straw came when the rebels invited the French and Spanish to help kill them. 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. However, riflemen of the time were vulnerable to cavalry because it lacked a bayonet—it was originally designed for hunting and frontier defense, where bayonets were unnecessary—and had a slow rate of fire. Eventually, tactics were developed so that riflemen would work in teams, with at least part of them always having a rifle loaded to fend off sudden cavalry attacks.
    • The Brown Bess, although not as lethal on a weapon-for-weapon basis because they were for line infantry, not skirmishers. However, they could be mass-produced, had a higher rate of fire (to put into perspective, one man with a long rifle would win a duel; 1000 against 1000 would be different except in broken terrain), was handsome -especially with the bayonet fixed-, and was the generic arm of the British infantry for generations.
      • The experience with the Revolutionary-era weaponry led directly to a critical development in the other major revolution going on at the time- the Industrial Revolution. The fact that both the Long Rifle and the Brown Bess took serious craftsmanship to make despite being made to a standard pattern is in large part responsible for the development of the American system of manufacturing- the idea that you could make a gun to a more-or-less standard pattern led to the idea you could make a gun part to a standard pattern, which, combined with the fact that the US started off pretty low on gunsmiths and ended up even lower, gave the country a reason to look for a means to manufacture guns en masse. Thus came the development of replaceable parts.
    • 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. The rifle never saw much use due to being very expensive and complicated to build, and being prone to failure in the field due to its finicky nature and certain key structural defects—for instance, the part of the stock near the trigger being very thin and prone to breaking.
      • A very interesting incident occurred when Ferguson, the inventor of the rifle in question, in command of a small unit came upon completely by accident General George Washington accompanied by a tiny bodyguard detail. Ferguson called upon the outnumbered patriots to surrender; instead, Washington spun on his horse and galloped away at full speed, despite the enemy having the drop on him. Ferguson drew his rifle and aimed, still well within effective range to hit Washington in stride... but then lowered his weapon after seeing Washington's courage in acting decisively in the face of certain death.
      • Another version of the story features Ferguson manning an observation post, and seeing two officers pass by without becoming aware of him. He does not take aim and fire because he finds it unsporting to shoot enemy officers—in the back, no less—when they are not engaged in battle. He later hears that George Washington and a French officer had been inspecting troops in the area he was posted, and deduces that the two men were Washington and his companion.note 
  • Colour Coded Armies: 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 artistic license 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.
    • The rebels were unable to afford uniforms most of the time- when they could find uniforms, they would outfit themselves with them to protect themselves from the elements, and they weren't picky about the uniforms' origin or color. For a time, General Washington's troops marched in bright red uniforms from a shipment intercepted by privateers, because the alternative was freezing in the winter. The too-small footwear that was in the shipment? That got boiled and eaten due to lack of supplies at one point as well.
  • Courtroom Antics: The trial after the Boston Massacre. Not only was it an awesome display of courage by John Adams who defended the soldiers, it was a Moment of Awesome and a Crowning Moment Of Britishness for both sides. Even on the brink of the second Civil War in a century, both factions had enough reverence for the rule of law to put the matter before that most English of institutions - a jury, and not just a judge - and stick by the court's ruling. note 
  • Crippling Overspecialization: The Pennsylvania Long Rifle, as mentioned above, was designed for accuracy above all else, at which it excelled. However, it required ammunition made to specific dimensions (the Brown Bess musket could fire anything that would fall into the barrel, so the musket balls only had to be smaller than that), was very time consuming to load since the bullet and wadding had to be packed tightly into the barrel (if it was small enough to fall freely, the rifling wouldn't work), and it could not use a bayonet, as fitting the plug bayonets of the time into the barrel would strip the rifling, which would reduce the accuracy and make the weapon pointless (they evidently would not think of lug bayonets for many years after this). The British Army actually had a breech-loading rifle which could be loaded far more quickly, but it was complicated and expensive to produce and never saw much use.
  • Cycle of Revenge: Civil Wars are notoriously slow to get started because nobody wants to be the first one to kill one's own countrymen. A proper Cycle of Revenge is essential to the conduct of a successful Civil War because if you don't get one going then everyone will just go home and the government probably wins by default. By the end it had taken off in a big way between British-American loyalist and revolutionary forces, especially in the South where the loyalists were strong.
  • Dance Battler: The British Army. Generally better-drilled, they could usually outmaneuver the Continentals and shoo away the militia. The rebels even added a verse to "Yankee Doodle" about Cornwallis "leading a country dance". Strategically, the Contenentials probably had a better march rate; it was in actual battle that the British were faster.
  • 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.
  • Dawn of an Era: Obviously, this was the beginning of the United States. But in a larger, ideological sense, the American victory inspired new lines of political and philosophical thought in Europe and the Americas. Within a few years of the American Revolution came The French Revolution and the Mexican War of Independence. When Spain was occupied by Napoleonic France in the Peninsular War, independence movements swept Latin America. A series of bloody civil wars later the Spanish Empire (except Cuba, Puerto Rico, and The Philippines) was lost, and the Portuguese Empire had lost Brazil as well. Nationalism, republicanism, and radicalism became powerful movements in 19th-Century thought, due in large part to the precedent set in America that a popular rebellion against an unpopular regime could not only be justified, but could also be successful.
  • 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."
    • This carries over even today. Though its true that the two nations experienced their fair share of tension (and another war with each other), as time went on, Britons and Americans tended to end up on the same side and are now considered each other's closest friend and ally, replacing America's short lived best friendship with France.
  • Defensive Feint Trap: After realizing that the Americans wouldn't be reliably able to challenge the British in the open field for some time, George Washington took the strategy of simply keeping his army together and retreating when he had to. He did this knowing that America was just too big for the British to swallow, that there weren't any cities that were important enough that their loss might prove more unbearable than admitting defeat, and that logistics would be a nightmare in a hostile country, which it would soon become when it was well-foraged.
    • Greene followed the same strategy in the South. They even added a verse to Yankee Doodle about it, which references this trope and Dance Battler.
    • The Battle of Cowpens featured a line of rebel Militiamen forming along a low rise in the terrain. When they inevitably retreated after trading only a couple of volleys with the British troops, the Brits followed them over the hill directly into the gunsights of a line of State Regulars and Continentals that had been concealed by the terrain. Then, the "scattered" militia troops re-formed and marched back to the field, lining themselves up on the British left flank. In the meanwhile, a Continental cavalry unit struck the British right flank, initiating the British rout.
  • 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. But they kept going.
  • 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. In his defense, the capture or killing of an officer of his rank would be humiliating to the Americans, so perhaps he decided to humiliate himself instead.
    • Paul Revere was accused of this after a disastrous campaign in Massachusetts where he acted as artillery commander. When the American forces were forced to retreat he supposedly disobeyed orders, fled the area ahead of his soldiers and left some of them behind to be captured by the British. Revere disputed the charges and petitioned for a full court martial so he could be officially vindicated. He was ultimately cleared but his opponents maintained that it was a case of Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!. Ironically the general who filed the charges against Revere, was the grandfather of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who would immortalize Revere in "Paul Revere's Ride".
    • Charles Lee, who ordered his troops to retreat at the Battle of Monmouth after one round of fire in defiance of Washington, only to be rebuked by his commander-in-chief and removed from command.
  • Divided We Fall: The Americans didn't, but Benjamin Franklin's only partially facetious warning to the Continental Congress was once the Trope Namer and provides the pithy page quote.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Baron Friedrich 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, to compliment his arsenal of French and German utterances.
    • A brilliant commander and skilled drill instructor, no doubt about that. Some people credit him with the Continental Army's Taking a Level 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 Funny Moment to the troops. Incidentally, he wasn't all that nasty either, appreciating the democratic ideals of the Americans. He made officers participate in drills with their men, and forbade officers from abusing subordinates, expecting that "their faults are to be pointed out with patience". He also found Americans quite receptive to training as long as he explained to them the purpose of each drill, instead of just barking out orders and expecting unquestioning obedience.
    • 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
  • The Empire: Specifically, The British Empire. British accents, but alas, no Death Star. Frankly, it really wouldn't suit their style.
  • Enemy Mine: While fighting for independence from the constitutional monarchy of Great Britain, the Americans allied with the absolute monarchy of ancien regime France. Spain and the Dutch Republic would also support the rebels — even though the Spanish and Dutch hated each other and the French, an opportunity to weaken Britain was just too good to pass up.
  • Evil Brit: Guaranteed to show up in any fiction about the time, and in a lot of people's understanding of the reality, too. Pretty-much averted in reality on both counts: neither side was exactly evil and, for much of the war, both sides were technically equally British. The one clear atrocity-churning "British" Evil Bastard, Major Christian Houck, was a Loyalist Pennsylvanian of German parentage.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Nathan Hale getting hanged as a spy for the Americans. In turn, Major John Andre for the British who was hanged for his role in Benedict Arnold's betrayal.
    • Andre believed until the very end he would be shot, as an officer, rather than hanged. He was stunned to see the scaffolding but quickly accepted his fate, placing the noose around his own neck. Legend has it every American officer present were moved to tears.
    • For years there's been an unsupported contention that the Rebels wouldn't have hanged Andre if the British hadn't hanged Hale.
  • Famed In-Story: Paul Revere was a noted artisan who would be famous for his silver even if he'd never mounted a horse. His fame (though he did play a central role in organizing the enterprise) is a large reason why it's known as "Paul Revere's Ride" even though at least 30 riders working in relays are known to have taken part. Revere's fame also made him an ideal subject for a poet seeking to produce a propaganda piece for the later The American Civil War
  • A Father to His Men: George Washington. He was figuratively like this for Lafayette, Alexander Hamilton, and a slew of other young officers who would go on to be major players in the young Republic's history.
  • Fatal Flaw: William Howe was undefeated in battle, but his lack of a killer instinct often allowed Washington's army to escape. This was likely because he fought thinking he could end the war by capturing important cities like Philadelphia. He was surprised that the rebels didn't surrender.
  • 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.
  • Forgiveness: Thankfully yes. To the point where this can reliably sell to Americans. Not all civil wars die down so easily and America could have become another Ireland. Perhaps it helps that Americans can identify with the British due to a similar international position.
  • Freudian Trio: Burgoyne (id), Clinton (ego) and Howe (superego).
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: General William Howe and his older brother Admiral Richard Howe. William was a skilled leader, but a hedonist who had an affair with the wife of Joshua Loring, and Richard was diligent and dedicated to his work.
  • 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.
  • The Hedonist: General William Howe, and this was part of why he was late to every military campaign.
  • Hellhole Prison: The Brits turned decommissioned warships into floating jails. Poor ventilation and sanitation rapidly turned them into these, which certainly couldn't have helped in cases of prisoners who were wounded and/or malnourished (as they tended to be, though one imagines the prison rations were also less than adequate). The Jersey, or "Hell", was the most infamous.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: On the Continental side, the earliest example of a commanding officer giving his life was the now little-remembered General Richard Montgomery who died leading a charge to try and take Quebec.
  • Hero of Another Story: The French Royal Navy, as assisted by the Spanish Royal and Dutch Republican Navies. In the USA it's often downplayed -or else simply forgotten- that the conflict was in no way confined to North America. After 1778, King Louis aligned himself with Britain's Republican Secessionist Rebels and engaged British forces in many theaters around the globe, including South America, India, and the Caribbean. In fact, since the Americans had no navy to speak of, the French played a key role in keeping the British Navy occupied while the Americans could win a war of attitrition on the mainland.
  • Hide Your Gays: Why Baron Von Steuben couldn't give his services to European armies.
    • There appears to have been rumors that he was gay. It's not clear that those rumors were true. It is true that he never married and he left his estate to two of his former aides de camp, so, maybe? However, an incident recounted by one of his officers suggests that he carried a pendant with the portrait of a young woman in it and, when questioned about her, teared up and refused to discuss it beyond saying that she was very dear to him, so there's that as well.
  • Hired Guns: The Hessians, though they weren't hired guns in the strictest sense, nor, for that matter, were they all actually from Hesse. They were actually regular soldiers of the various German states of the period. The rulers of these states rented out units of their armies to Britain for a variety of reasons- chief among them being strapped for cash, but frequently also as a means of settling a debt to or extracting a favor from the Elector of Hanover, who happened at the time to be the same person as the King of Great Britain[[note]]This sort of situation is called a personal union. In other words, the arrangement was closer to bribing a foreign state to participate in a war (a legitimate, if shady, practice even today) than hiring mercenaries. To cap it all off, a fair number of these "Hessians" were actually from Hanover, and weren't even rented out by their prince, who, as noted, was actually King George himself, and they were fighting for King (or, well, Elector) and Country as much as any redcoat.
    • There's also the fact that a real war is the best form of training, and troops on campaign overseas don't have to be fed. A bunch of them elected to stay (by deserting) rather than be repatriated overseas.
    • There were several Hired Guns on the Patriots' side as well. These were mostly unemployed officers providing technical experience for reasons running the gamut between Impoverished Patrician and We Help the Helpless. The most famous were Lafayette, Von Steuben and Casimir Pulaski.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Washington has a tendency to pop up toward the end of colonially-themed fiction to give a good word to the hero.
  • 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. 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.
    • Apparently Washington wasn't an exceptionally good tactician, but what he was really good at doing was organizing effective retreats, which was vitally important in a time when the Patriots didn't have many soldiers, and surviving in increasingly unlikely situations.
      • While he wasn't a genius on par with Cornwallis or Howe, Washington still had years of experience serving under various generals during the French-And-Indian/Seven Years war and was able to employ them to great effect. He could, at least, hold his own tactically against the likes of Cornwallis. Washington's biggest asset, however, was his ridiculous amount of luck! He had, for instance, three horses shot out from under him during the infamous Battle of Monongahela, a battle in which every other British officer, including Edward "The Bulldog" Braddock, was slain, wounded, or captured! As a result, he was able to escape capture by the British several times over and was able to have things go just the right way for him whenever he was able to win a battle against the British Army.
      • At the Battle of Long Island, his insane luck came into effect. In the largest battle of the war, the colonists had their collective asses handed to them by the bulk of the British expeditionary force. Almost the entire colonial army was trapped in a series of forts in modern-day Brooklyn, with the British inching ever closer. The decision was made to attempt a night retreat across the East River, a nearly impossible proposition when surrounded on land on all sides and the British Navy closing in on the mouth of the river. But that night, a storm rolled in, simultaneously blanketing the area with sheets of rain and pushing the tides against the East River bay, keeping ships from sailing up the river. The American force began to take ferries across the river, evacuating thousands of men, baggage, weapons, artillery, and supplies without the loss of a single man. When morning approached and the evacuation would be seen with a large portion of the men still behind, the storm ceased but was replaced by a thick blanket of fog, allowing the last few ferries to cross unseen. By the time the British pushed forward past the abandoned defenses, it was as if the colonial force had vanished without a trace.
    • Washington was also the nation's first Spymaster, and it was his vast network of watchers and his skill with handling information that really helped him hoodwink the British Army more than once.
    • The Boston radicals, as led by people like Sam Adams and groups like the the Sons of Liberty, are generally viewed as plucky freedom-loving agitators. In truth, many of these groups were comprised of smugglers and angry men who could be quite brutal in their methods, such as burning down the homes of British officials, intimidating non-radical Bostonites, and generally being thuggish.
      • As far as anyone knows, however, they never actually killed anybody, plus they swept up after the Boston Tea Party. Thuggish, yes; murderous, no; neatniks, apparently.
    • Paul Revere is this trope and its inverse in spades. Largely ignored in the decades immediately following the Revolution, his reputation was first made by Longfellow's highly inaccurate poem after he and all other living witnesses were dead. Since then his reputation has gone up and down as succeeding generations felt the need to either affirm or debunk his story to reflect the tenor of their times, each group putting their own spin on the facts or, as in the case of this debunking article dispensing with the facts. However, Republican pundit Sarah Palin famously proved that the pro-Revere side can be just as uninformed. It's reached the point where a "history of the history" of Paul Revere's ride occupies nearly a full third of a recent book on the subject.
      • Just to show that the silliness never stops, several Palin supporters tried to re-write the wikipedia article on Revere to conform with her version of the ride at the height of the controversy. Whether they thought they were "correcting" the record or intentionally spinning it is unclear.
  • 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) 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. This is because honor is Serious Business, and he betrayed for gain. Modern historians do note the major contributions Arnold gave to the cause, yet they also note he was a bastard for betraying everything for money...
  • 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 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.
    • Three 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 reinstitution 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. Finally, for most of the next two centuries the textbook-publishing capital of America was Boston, followed by New York, with attendant regional biases.
    • 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 guerrilla 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 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 Samuel Prescott" (The one rider who actually did make it to Concord) doesn't scan.
      • Also because this wasn't the first ride Revere made, nor the last and there's considerable evidence that he recruited Dawes in Boston just as he recruited Prescott along the way. There were at least 30 riders, not three, in a relay network spreading in all directions with some getting as far as New York, Philadelphia and Portland Maine. And witnesses to his so-called "confession" reported it as a Badass Boast that convinced the soldiers holding them to abandon their mission and flee.
      • More directly related to the Amazing Vanishing South, the prominence of Revere and Co compared to the complete disappearance of Jack Jouett, whose ride was certainly more arduous and arguably more important than Revere's. In June 1781 Jouett rode 40 miles through the night, most of it straight through dense forest, to warn Governor Thomas Jefferson and the Virginia legislature that Banastre Tarleton's cavalry was right behind him, on a mission to capture (and presumably hang) them all.
  • Home Guard: While popularly remembered as being American colonial militias fighting against British regulars, colonial militias fought on both sides of the war, depending on the given loyalty of any given company. Their effectiveness could vary wildly depending on a particular unit's experience and training and the circumstances of the battle. At the Battle of Cowpens, Colonel Daniel Morgan shaped his strategy around the assumption that the militiamen would be unable to stand in battle against the Brits, and made sure to have their retreat and regroup as part of his strategy ahead of time. Even better, he arranged his troops so that the militia's retreat would lead the advancing British troops directly into his Regulars' lines of fire.
  • Honor Before Reason: That soldier who almost killed Washington but refused because killing officers was bad form.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Both invoked and subverted:
    • Invoked in the case of the Brown Bess musket: the barrel was bored to .75 caliber, but the actual musket balls were significantly smaller (anywhere from .5 to .71) to reduce fouling. This would make using it a waste of powder (since there wasn't a good seal behind the ball, the expanding gas could instead rush past the ball when fired) and give the balls an erratic trajectory, but that didn't matter much when the typical usage was in massed ranks firing at other massed ranks- someone on the other side would get hit, even if not the one that was aimed at.
      • When loaded with a tighter-fitting ball, with a thicker patch, and with the ball being pushed gently down onto the powder, a smoothbore musket can be (perhaps surprisingly) accurate out to about 100 yards or so..... it is just that the military tactics of the day relied on sheer weight of fire instead of long range accuracy. This is why the above method of loading was used: you could load a musket in 10-20 seconds, compared to a minute or more.
    • Subverted in the case of the Pennsylvania Long Rifle and other simliar rifles, whose primary use prior to the war was reliably shooting game animals at range (which unfortunately meant they weren't designed to attach bayonets, to their detriment when the fighting inevitably became close).
  • Improbable Age: A number of high-ranking officers were quite youthful, but the Marquis de Lafayette is the greatest example, being effectively made a Brigadier General at the age of 20.
  • Irony: For all the talk there was about the war being about an oppressed group fighting and winning a war for freedom and democracy, the slave trade would not be abolished until 1810, and slavery not made illegal until the ratification of the 13th Amendment following the end of Civil War. Land owning white males were the only ones allowed to vote, with universal white male suffrage varying from state to state until 1856, when all citizen white males were allowed to vote. Women would not be able to vote until the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.
  • 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.
  • La Résistance: The colonists.
  • The Lancer: Marquis de Lafayette, to Washington. Lafayette was helpful in getting France to side with the colonies, and proved to be Washington's most trusted officer. Washington practically adopted the young man in all but name.
    • Also Alexander Hamilton.
  • Large and in Charge: Washington. He was six one in an era where few men topped five eight.
  • Leave No Survivors: What Banastre Tarleton is widely (though mostly falsely) 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 one responded, then one man stepped forward, soon followed by the rest.
  • Little Miss Badass
    • Sixteen year old Sybil Ludington rode forty miles in the dead of night to warn her father's militiamen that British troops were planning to attack Danbury, Connecticut. She rode over twice as far as Paul Revere, and did so completely on her own.
    • Elizabeth "Betty" Zane, also sixteen years old, saved a garrison of American soldiers at the Siege of Fort Henry by retrieving additional ammunition while under fire from the British and their Native American allies.
  • Mama Bear: Mary Ludwick Hayes, AKA "Molly Pitcher."
  • The Men First: Washington was on the last boat during the desperate retreat from Brooklyn Heights.
  • Mildly Military: The Colonial Militia, reports of whose prowess were greatly but 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 a form of basic training.
    • 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 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.
    • Final point: The performance of any militia was directly proportional to how much service they'd seen in the Seven Years War. New England and New York? quite a bit. The coastal south? not so much.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Benedict Arnold kinda falls under this, as he had risked his life repeatedly in valiant and mostly successful battle, even taking a bullet at Saratoga, yet was repeatedly snubbed and passed over for promotion due to politics and hadn't been payed in over three years. Not that it excuses his behavior.
    • In a way, the war was one of these. The American colonists originally saw themselves as (mostly) loyal subjects of His Majesty, and expected the rights afforded to all Englishmen. The worst part of 'no taxation without representation' wasn't the taxing itself, but that it were imposed upon them without any representation in Parliament. This only became worse after Parliament responded to the Boston Tea Party with the aptly named Intolerable Acts, which made jury trials of British officials discretionary (and sometimes the defendents were transported to a jury in England), closed Boston Harbor, and abolished the colonial legislature.
  • 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.
    • Averted by many British officers who refused to fight because they felt the war was morally wrong. Many of them changed their minds when the American rebels allied with the despotic French and Spanish, considering this to represent a hypocritical betrayal of the principles of liberty the Americans espoused.
  • 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 Bring A Claymore To A Gunfight: At the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge, a Loyalist militia unit mostly composed of settlers recruited from the Scottish Highlands found themselves across the aforementioned creek from a Patriot unit they had been chasing through the North Carolina swamps. Assuming their enemies were fleeing because of the abandoned camp they had found on the west bank of the creek, at daybreak a group of 500 Loyalists armed with broadswords and dirks attempted to storm the other side. They quickly found out that the only bridge had its planks removed and its railings greased, and the well-entrenched Patriot forces had targeted the east bank with muskets and two artillery pieces. As another Patriot commander said while explaining to a newspaper why his forces were late to the fight, “The battle lasted three minutes.”
  • Name's the Same: The General Lee of this war (first name Charles) is not the General Lee (first name Robert) who fought in the American Civil War. Normally the distinction is made by using both names - plus Robert E. Lee being far better remembered and celebrated, despite being on the losing side.
  • Never Live It Down: Charles, Lord Cornwallis will always be remembered as the man who surrendered the British forces at Yorktown. Never mind that he became a Marquis for putting down Tippu Sultan's rebellion and that he crushed the uprising of the United Irishmen, which led to Ireland finally being incorporated into the UK.
  • Never Tell Me the Odds!: By the end of the war Britain stood alone against the French and Spanish Empires, the Dutch Republic, the Kingdom of Mysore (in India), and a dismally large band of her own nationals who'd risen in rebellion in North America. The book The Very Bloody History of Britain dubbed it "The War Against Just About Everybody".
    • Britain could only ever bring a tiny fraction of her strength on the rebels to bear due to the difficulty in transporting larger forces and their better generals past the Dutch-Franco-Spanish fleets and to the American theatre.
  • No Name Given: Agent 355, one of the members of Washington's successful Culper Spy Ring. Never identified by name, only by a number that related to a word ("a lady"). Recent historical research has been able to shed more light on the spy ring's work, how it was a key element of exposing Major Andre and Benedict Arnold, and how 355 was risking her life doing so. While historians have guessed at who 355 might have been, the only things they know for certain is that fellow spy Robert Townsend - the only one who knew her - was in love with her and that she was deep within the Loyalist social circles of New York. The prominent story is that she may have died on the prison barge Jersey after getting captured for exposing Andre and Arnold, although there are no reports or stories of women being held in those ships. Either way, Townsend never married after the war, and never met with Washington when he traveled years later to meet the surviving Culper ring members.
  • Numerological Motif : 1777, Year of the Bloody Sevens, or (because of the shape of the numeral seven) Year of the Hangman.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Continental forces in Fort Ticonderoga finally realized that British cannon on the nearby Mount Defiance/Sugar Loaf Hill could shell them without fear of retaliation, they left the fort altogether. They had been warned of the possibility earlier, but did not take it seriously until Burgoyne's Canada-based expeditionary forces proved otherwise.
  • Old Soldier: Samuel Whittemore, a Massachusetts farmer who was 80 years old when the war started. This would be impressive enough given his profession and the life expectancy back then note , but naturally, he took it Up to Eleven:
    • Upon seeing approaching British soldiers, he loaded a musket and ambushed them, killing one.
    • After that, he took out two pistols and killed two more.
    • After he ran out of ammunition, he drew his sword and took the British soldiers head on, as they had finally reached his position. He was shot in the face, beaten to a pulp, bayoneted 13 times and left for dead. When his neighbors found him, he was reportedly still trying to reload his weapons. Remarkably, he recovered from his injuries and went on to live another 18 years to the ripe old age of 98.
  • One Steve Limit: Completely inverted, as the leaders of both sides were named George.
  • 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 Proclamationnote  and the Quebec Actnote  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 John Paul Jones, who, although starting off as a free-lancing privateer, became the "father of the American Navy".
  • Private Military Contractors: Subverted. The Hessiansnote  are often called this. The reality was more complicated and rather creepier—or less so, depending on how you see it. In the 18th century, the minor German states of the Holy Roman Empire all had well-trained, professional armies, but being minor German states they tended not to fight all that many wars of their own. However, their rulers were keen to live as high of the hog as possible, and were therefore more than happy to rent their armies to foreign powers, particularly if they owed that power a favor. Most of the Hessians were these. The rest were not even minor-state Rent-a-Regiments: they were the lawful soldiers and subjects of a certain Georg, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneberg and Elector of Hanover, who happened to be the same person as George III of Great Britain. In other words, in legal terms, they had the same relationship to the conflict as an Irishman (subjects of a monarch who was also monarch of a belligerent). This makes it complicated, to say the least.
  • Power Trio: Hamilton et al 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 Franklin's political tactics and quiet, patient brilliance which formed the very core of the Continental Congress, and were perhaps the three most important leaders in ensuring an American victory for the colonies.
  • Proud Warrior Race: Iroquois, 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 Continentals ran out of ammunition), their casualties were FAR higher than the Continentals'. In another one, the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, the British technically won because they drove off the Continental troops, but they also lost a quarter of their troops in a mere 90 minutes.
    • General Greene's avowed strategy was to inflict as many casualties as possible before abandoning the field. It worked; Greene never won a battle in the tactical sense, but the attrition his troops inflicted on the Brits took its toll on Cornwallis's forces and eventually led to Cornwallis's final defeat at Yorktown.
  • The Quisling: Benedict Arnold. America's Trope Codifier for "traitor" centuries before Quisling himself showed up.
    • Joseph Galloway, according to some, 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. There is some dispute on this point, however, as Galloway had always been a moderate favoring increased colonial autonomy within the British Empire, and had advocated a position of peaceful reconciliation at the Congress. When the Second Continental Congress voted for independence and war, his moderate position became untenable, and he had to take sides; viewing himself British first and foremost, he chose the Loyalists.
    • 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 Continental side was more or less strapped for funds for most of the war (see Colour Coded Armies). The Continentals 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 world saw it as another war between France and England, with France winning this time aroundnote ).
    • The Continentals' victory is often attributed to gross incompetence within the British ranks, as much as the Revolution was caused by gross mismanagementnote . 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 that historian Eugen Weber describes as "The Stupid Party", on the basis of the British army's usual conduct in the war- losing of their own accord more than being defeated).
  • "Rashomon"-Style - Rarely -if ever- mentioned in history lessons in Britain; 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, the French, and the Dutch. That and Britain has a lot of history to work through. Students are already going to get taught about the war through osmosis of American sources, so it tends to get pushed to one side due to simple time constraints.
  • "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 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.
    • Part of this interpretation is due to our modern tendency to interpret "the King" as a personal attack on George III when it was intended to be a symbolic reference to the monarchy. It's a reminder that even though others rule in his name the king is still ultimately responsible for their actions. It's another sign of their influences showing, in this case Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan. And there is no indication within the historical record that they did this to impress another King so much as they wanted to justify their actions to their whig supporters in Parliament.
  • 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 British 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 more influential than the rebels in the southern colonies, and as a result the war shed most pretenses of civility in the South, especially the deep south.
  • Red Baron: Generals Burgoyne, Clinton and Howe together were called "The Triumvirate of Reputation".
    • Burgoyne had one of his own: "Gentleman Johnny". This name, however, probably refers more to his Modern Major General aspirations towards being a playwright rather than anything particularly badass.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Hot-headed John Adams and cool-tempered Ben Franklin during their stint as American diplomats in France.
  • Refuge in Audacity: John Paul Jones's raids on Whitehaven and St. Mary's Isle. For reference, those two places are located in England and Scotland. The fact that an American ship was able to launch a raid on the British mainland caused a significant loss of faith in Britain's armed forces.
    "Give me a fast ship for I intend to sail into harm's way." — John Paul Jones
    • The Battle of Trenton, as well, to a large degree. At the time, Christmas was seen as a day of respite from fighting, at least among civilized (read: Christian) peoples. That Washington had the abject gall to perform an attack on Christmas against a contingent of drunken mercenaries was nothing short of basically barbaric to British generals.
  • 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.
    • Washington gave an even better speech at the Newburgh Conspiracy gathering. A group of angry officers had gathered to plot an overthrow of Congress due to their not getting paid over the last several years. Washington showed up to dissuade them, but they remained unmoved. Preparing to read a letter from Congress promising action was underway, Washington paused and said "Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country." It moved the men to tears to see Washington admit to how the war had personally cost him, and the conspiracy ended. Congress eventually arranged for the pay and full pensions for the officers for a five-year period.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Desertion was extremely common among the British, particularly in the Navy. On the other hand, the Americans chose Washington as their commander to avert this; he was a pretty average (though incredibly ballsy) general, but he was good at keeping the Ragtag Bunch of Misfits that was the Continental Army from falling apart.
    • Again, the Rebels had a problem with this as well, especially among the militia. Men who joined up to defend their own homes often failed to see any value in going on to defend other people's homes when the tides of war moved elsewhere.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized : Both sides were guilty of a number of acts that can only be described as atrocities. American history books grudgingly report this.
    • Part of this is due to Values Dissonance. Contemporary observers were actually struck by the relative lack of atrocities (by either side), at least when compared to prior wars, because influential people on both sides realized that public opinion mattered. People on both sides were shocked by news of Tarleton's terror campaign in the South, and it might have caused more disaffection with the war in England than it did in America.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: At least, not in movies intended for a mainstream audience, where the Founding Fathers may be presented as flawed or conflicted, but will always emerge as wholly admirable individuals.
  • 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 army captured by the Americans at Saratoga, and the loss of another army captured by the French and Americans at Yorktown, as well as the loss of numerous colonies that would grow to eclipse them in less than two centuries.
  • The Siege: For many contemporaries the most interesting military action of the war was the successful defence of Gibraltar by its British and Hanoverian garrison against the combined naval and land forces of Spain and France from 1779 to 1782.
  • The Smart Guy: Benjamin Franklin
  • The Social Expert: Paul Revere. His position as a silversmith made him a bridge between the rich and the working classnote  and he knew everybody in Boston. He belonged to more patriot organizations than anyone else and effectively served as the communications director for the Sons of Liberty. There's a reason why it's called Paul Revere's ride, even though he never made it to Concord.
  • Sorry That I'm Dying: Nathan Hale. "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." Do note that "[his] country" and Great Britain were not the same thing, in his opinion - he was referring to the colony/country of 'Connecticut'.
  • 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 him to pull off some daring feints- such as discreetly moving Washington's army from New York/New Jersey into position at Yorktown, leading to General Cornwallis' epic defeat.
  • 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 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. In fairness to Washington, many of his tactical plans were fairly solid and only spoiled by poor discipline among the troops, lack of numbers or ammunition, and at times faulty intelligence (see the Battle of Brandywine, where poor knowledge of the local fords allowed Washington to be outflanked in an otherwise good defensive position). A strategy centering around just keeping your army intact doesn't really work if you don't have the tactical ability to extricate yourself from bad situations when you get drawn into them. Whenever the army itself was up to the task, Washington could manage some quite spectacular tactical victories (such as at Trenton, Princeton and Monmouth).
    • It was said that Washington's greatest strength as a military commander was that he was one of the best men of his time of conducting retreats. This sounds like a left-handed compliment until you consider just how difficult it is to get men to retreat under fire while still maintaining military cohesion and discipline. For a less competent officer, or with poorly trained troops, it is far too easy for a retreat to turn into a rout. As a character in the Horatio Hornblower books said: Once you allow your men to run, they will never stop.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Deborah Sampson.
  • Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors: While the American riflemen were famous for their accuracy, they could easily be overwhelmed by Cavalry or Dragoons quickly overrunning their positions due to their long rifles being very time consuming to load (something like one shot per minute, compared to three shots in a minute for a trained musketman) and could not be equipped with bayonets (the plug bayonets of the time would strip the rifling if used in a rifle's barrel, thus damaging the accuracy that made the rifle worth dealing with). In turn, cavalry forces could be turned back by well-drilled musket troops, due to the muskets being relatively rapid-firing, and due to bayonets effectively turning them into a line of pikemen.
  • Take That!: The US Declaration of Independence. At first glance it appears to be directed at King George III for abusing his power. It's actually a very long list of complaints directed squarely at Parliament, one of which is letting the King abuse his power.
  • Tar and Feathers: Well, they do say that The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized.
  • Team Dad: George Washington.
  • Theme Park Version: "Americans are Always Lawful Good nice guys who fight for freedom and all that is good and just". And, inexplicably, speak with strong American accents. "The British", meanwhile, "are Always Chaotic Evil bastards who hate freedom, keep dogs purely for kicking and are always bad". And all speak the Queen's English. Sounds legit.
  • 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.
    • Specifically, the first battle after the winter was the conflict at Monmouth Courthouse when Washington wanted to defeat the British forces retreating from Philadelphia. When the first hour went badly, Gen. Charles Lee called for a full retreat which normally meant the troops would flee in a disorganized mess. However, Washington himself showed up, verbally tore Lee a new one, and used the drilling training taught by von Steuben to regroup his forces and turned the rout into a stalemate. It was the first time the Continental Army stood its ground when the fight wasn't going their way, and it impressed the British enough to change their focus towards fighting in the southern half of the colonies.
  • 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.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: General Charles Lee, who oversaw the fortification of Fort Sullivan in Charleston, South Carolina, which was built out of palmetto logs during the battle of Sullivan's Island, was named the "Hero of Charleston" in June 1776 and had Fort Constitution, New Jersey renamed Fort Lee; he later concocted a letter campaign to convince various members of Congress that he should replace Washington as commander-in-chief, only to lead a hasty retreat at the Battle of Monmounth after one round of fire, and he was later rebuked for not standing his ground and charged with insubordination when his forces encountered General Washington after retreating.
  • Unwitting Pawn: The French, who were left holding the empty moneybag when peace was signed.
  • You Rebel Scum!
  • Warrior Poet: British general John Burgoyne fancied himself an actor and playwright, and was Johnny was at the end of writing an opera before beginning his canada campaign.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: True of both sides. America was divided between loyalists and rebels (and just within the rebels there were divisions). It's less well known that the war was also opposed by many in Britain, especially before the entry of traditional enemies France, Spain and the Netherlands into the conflict. Many British officers refused to fight due to believing the Americans had legitimate complaints, and several British cities (mostly ports that were losing out on trade) petitioned Parliament in opposition to the war.
    • Both Charles Lee and Horatio Gates attempted to undermine and usurp George Washington as head of the Continental Army; both nearly precipitated a disaster by so doing. Gates, ironically, was prevented from doing so when he was captured by the British.
  • We Have Reserves: Cornwallis at the Battle of Guilford Court House; and the colonies, strategically. The British were at the end of a long supply tether and could not have gotten enough numbers to actually conquer the colonies without instituting mass conscription- which it was simply not worth it to do. The Americans were close to large sources of recruits for the Continentals and could always find a lot of militia to do -well, something. Tactically, the American and British armies tended to be of comparable sizes.
  • We Win... Because You Didn't: A major part of the Continentals' battles were to make any British gains too costly, or to outright deny them something. Bunker Hill, as noted above, is even referenced in this trope's page image.
  • When the Planets Align: Uranus was actually discovered as the war was nearing its end... by an Englishman who named it after King George. It didn't get its current name until the Regency.
  • 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. Worth noting, at this time in history, the far Western frontier was somewhere around the Mississippi river, beyond which was the largely unsettled (by Europeans anyways) French Louisiana. In other words: Places like Michigan, Illinois or Kentucky.
  • 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.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The Founding Fathers were well aware that, having signed the declaration of Independence, they'd be tried and probably hung for treason if they were ever captured by the British forces- assuming Loyalists didn't get to them first (see Franklin's bit about having to hang together, lest they all "hang separately").
    • A straighter example was American partisansnote . Rebels who act like conventional troops are in sort of a grey area and Continentals were no exception; often treated no worse then POWs from a sovereign state would have been (which is not saying much). Partisans were in fact considered illegal combatants and hanged out of hand. The fact that many partisans had been provoked by excessive foraging wasn't considered.
  • Zerg Rush: The British were VERY fond of bayonets, probably because the less well-drilled Americans had a hard time staying put when facing an altogether too-numerous collection of sharp pointy things coming at them with little to fight back with (since the Americans' guns could not, for the most part, attach bayonets of their own).
    • British tactical doctrine generally tried to ensure that their troops fired second in open field engagements. The goal was to close with the enemy and spook them into firing first, then take advantage of the long reload times to close the distance before firing their own volley at short range while the enemy was still reloading. That done, they would "charge"note  with bayonets fixed. This is not at all as crazy as it sounds, provided it was properly timed; many rebel forces were broken in just this manner. Bayonets were actually used more as a psychological weapon, which was helped by the fact that if you were attacked by the triangular blade, it left a nasty, gaping wound.
      • As mentioned above, many Americans weren't equipped with bayonets, especially toward the early years, possibly because a musket was useful in peacetime for hunting but a bayonet wasn't. It wasn't until arms started shipping from overseas that Americans used bayonets widely. Furthermore, the Pennsylvania Long Rifle couldn't fit a bayonet. It was common for Americans to make do with tomahawks. To be fair to the Americans, most forces at the time couldn't resist a properly set-up bayonet charge. It was just that the British maneuvering skill and the American lack of bayonets allowed the British to set up a proper charge more often.
      • The battle plan for Cowpens exploited both the British fondness for Bayonets and the Militia's fear of them. The militia were ordered to fire two volleys then retreat before the inevitable bayonet charge, leading the charge-disordered redcoats into a trap where they could be fixed in place by a smaller force of bayonet-wielding Continental Regulars while the militia (and cavalry) swung around to take them from behind. Worked like a charm.

Works set in this time period include:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • 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? Code Geass.
  • While not appearing directly, the war has a huge impact in The Rose of Versailles: Hans Haxel von Fersen, one of the main characters, takes part in it specifically to get away from his growing relationship with Marie Antoinette before it ruined her reputation, and as this manga tells the run-up to The French Revolution the impact on French economy is shown in great detail.

    Comic Books 
  • 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'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.
  • 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.
  • The Italian Disney Mouse and Duck Comics saga "Once Upon a Time... In America" has a story set in late 1775/early 1776, with one of Mickey's ancestor foiling an attempt on George Washington's life.
  • In Lilith a quick mention of "North American Dominions" made in 1933 indicates that the alterations to the timeline made by the protagonist somehow caused it to fail. The exact event is seen at the start of "The Two Frontiers", where it's seen that the remnants of the Joseon Dinasty, that had escaped to China after the shogun Toyotomi Hideyori led Japan to conquer Korea, had sent turtle ships to try and gain Britain's help in retaking Korea, and those turtle ships intercepted the Crossing of the Delaware, killing almost all troops and causing George Washington a head wound that drove him to dementia. Between his loss and the morale blow, the British managed to suppress the "Rebellion of the Thirteen Colonies". Then, as Lilith has reached this point in time, what she does during the course of that issue and the rest of the Grand Finale gets the last survivors of the rebel leadership to start causing a war between the British and the Japanese (who have their own colonies in North America), hinting that, in the final timeline, the rebellion may yet succeed.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • The Horrible Histories book The USA features a rare British (or, more precisely, cynical European) perspective on the war, clearing up the ways it and its main players were subsequently idealised.
  • James Fenimore Cooper's novels The Spy, The Pilot and Lionel Lincoln. The Spy, written in 1821, concerns the actions of a spy ringleader for the American rebels. The plot twist at the end reveals the spymaster to be George Washington, which at the time wasn't a well-known fact to most Americans.
  • 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
  • In Rip Van Winkle, this is what the title character slept through.
  • Treegate Series by Leonard Wibberley.
  • Israel Potter, by Herman Melville.
  • Several novels by Kenneth Roberts, including:
  • The multiple-volume Prelude to Glory series takes readers through most of the war in detail, through the perspectives of several fictional characters interacting with the historical ones in various theaters of action. The series begins shortly before the war does (as in, the Saturday before the Lexington-Concord Battle that set it off) and follows it through to its end and setting up the fledgling nation.
  • The first two books in John Jakes' Kent Family Chronicles deal with the Revolution:
  • Gore Vidal's Burr which examines not only the Revolution but the entire generation and the period of political society building under the presidency of Washington, Adams and Jefferson.
  • TV Writer Donna Thorland's 2013 novel, The Turncoat, dealing with Revolutionary War spies and involving historical figures such as Washington, Howe, Andre and Hamilton.
  • Esther Forbes' novel Johnny Tremain.
  • Many novels by Howard Fast, including:
  • 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:
    • Redcoat
    • The Fort
    • Cornwell's Sharpe series also includes a recurring character whose family supported 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 American Revolution.
  • Jeff Shaara adds two historical fiction novels to his repertoire in the style of his The American Civil War novels, Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure (as well as his father's Killer Angels):
    • Rise To Rebellion follows events from the Boston Massacre up through the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Although the Battle of Lexington and Concord, Battle of Bunker Hill, and some other early engagements are covered, much of the novel centers around the lead-up to the outbreak of hostilities and focuses primarily on the politicians of the First and Second Continental Congress. Particular attention is paid to Adams.
    • The Glorious Cause picks up almost immediately after, starting with the disastrous attempts to defend New York and continuing through the end of the war. Unlike the first part, the military struggle forms the central plot in the second book and the focus shifts primarily to Washington, Greene, Cornwallis, Howe, Lafayette, and other military leaders in the conflict. Efforts by Franklin to secure foreign aid and recognition are also pivotal, while the involvement of political leaders such as Adams and Jefferson becomes relegated more to the background.
  • My Brother Sam Is Dead, a young adult novel about a family split by the war.
  • Simon Hawkes Time Wars book The Hellfire Rebellion is set in colonial Boston just prior to the outbreak of hostilities and actually does an excellent job summarizing the various political factions at play at the time.
  • Lawrence Hill's novel The Book of Negroes around this time.
  • The American Girls Collection Felicity books are set during the Revolutionary War.
  • Animorphs: The Animorphs end up in this time period just as Washington is about to cross the Delaware. Visser Four had warned the Hessians, who were ready for the rebels, and killed Jake, with Washington dying in captivity and the episode referred to as "colonial rebellion". This also caused France and Germany to be allies in World War II (but Hitler was a lowly soldier, we never find out if the Nazis existed in this timeline).
  • In Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, the English put Charles Darnay on trial for having supposedly aided the French in this war. During her testimony, Lucie Manette describes Darnay's politics: "He tried to explain to me how that quarrel had arisen, and he said that, so far as he could judge, it was a wrong and foolish one on England's part. He added, in a jesting way, that perhaps George Washington might gain almost as great a name in history as George the Third." During Darnay's later trial in Revolutionary France, Dr. Manette cites the earlier trial as evidence of Darnay being sympathetic to revolutionary causes.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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:
  • 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.
    • Younger readers who know Nielsen solely as a comic actor may be disappointed: the show was not primarily a comedy.
  • 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.
  • Turn focuses on the Culper Spy Ring on Long Island outside of New York City.
  • The East German series Das große Abenteuer des Kaspar Schmeck (The Great Adventure of Kaspar Schmeck) focuses on a young Hessian soldier during this war. It probably holds the distinction of being the only American Revolution film or TV show to be produced by a communist country during the Cold War.
  • Sons of Liberty covers the beginnings of the Revolution in Boston with a focus on Samuel Adams.
  • The titular character of Poldark is a veteran of this war who fought on the British side. The series begins with him returning home to England after the end of the war.

  • As a celebration of America's Bicentennial, Gottlieb's Spirit of 76 invokes this with the "1776" dropdown targets and A.M. Millard's drum marchers on the backglass.

  • Revolutions covered the American Revolution in the second season and also occasionally mentioned its effects in the third (French Revolution) fourth (Haitian Revolution) and fifth (Latin American wars of independence) seasons.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Washington's War, which uses a modification of the card-driven event system found in Twilight Struggle.
    • Washington's War is actually a remake of We The People, which was the first game to introduce the now-popular card-driven format. So it would be more accurate to say that Twilight Struggle uses a modification of We The People...
  • Colonial Gothic is an occult conspiracy Tabletop RPG set in the era immediately preceding and during the Revolutionary War.

  • 1776. Also adapted into a feature film.
  • George Bernard Shaw's play The Devil's Disciple.
  • Most of the first act of Hamilton covers the Revolution itself. The second act covers the early years of independence, up until Alexander Hamilton's death.
  • The 1777 play Sturm und Drang (Trope Namer for the later artistic movement) uses the then-ongoing American Revolutionary War as a backdrop.

    Video Games 
  • Some of the campaigns in Age of Empires III.
  • The final campaign of American Conquest.
  • 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 and covers many famous and decisive battles, with the Player Character a Native American who meets Washington, Samuel Adams, Marquis de Lafayette, Paul Revere and others. It's also a Warts and All perspective.
    • It also posits, through DLC, an alternative outcome: driven mad by a precursor artifact, George Washington essentially crowns himself King George of America, and becomes an outright tyrant after the conclusion of the war.
  • One of the time periods visited in Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?. Carmen's thief has stolen the Declaration of Independence, and you have to help Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin to redraft it.

    Web Comics 
  • The webcomic The Dreamer is about a modern American girl who is transported to the era of the American Revolution in her dreams.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • 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)
  • School House Rock offers many a one-sided take on the revolution.
    • Most of the episodes dealing with the American Revolution debuted in 1975 or 1976, when the country was in full-blown Bicentennial Fever. Criticizing, even vaguely or by implication, the Founding Fathers wouldn't have gone over well. So, for example, in "No More Kings" it's strongly implied that there had always been an understanding that the colonies would eventually become independent, and George III was just a fat, apoplectic, greedy tyrant who reneged on that promise.
  • 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.
  • An episode of Spongebob Squarepants parodying the conflict with red coats and blue coats fighting over being clean and dirty.
  • Once the storyline of Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? hitched on Carmen stealing The Chronoskimmer, the main characters were forced to travel back in time and recover the Liberty Bell. Notably, the main difference in the present was that the British flag was flying and that Da Chief now wore a deerskinner cap and smoked a pipe.
  • Parodied briefly in an episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, when Billy and Mandy travel through time with a time travelling remote. Notably, it takes a stab at both sides instead of the usual one-sided depiction. While the British are depicted in the usual Hollywood manner, speaking with thick cockney accents, the Americans are depicted as a bunch of fratboys only interested in fighting for fighting's sake.
  • Time Squad goes back to Revolutionary times in a couple of occasions.
  • The Futurama episode "All the President's Heads" has the gang going back in time to 1776, where they accidentally muck up Paul Revere's ride and return to an America still under British rule.
  • Horrible Histories: In "Revolting Revolution", Stitch and Mo get zapped back to the American Revolution of 1773 where they get separated and learn more from the two sides: the Americans and the British. Interesting in that it deals with the British grievances against the colonies, as well as the American grievances against Britain, and does not treat the war as a conflict between the evil British and the heroic Americans.
  • "Yankee Doodle Cricket" is a sequel to the cartoon adaptation of The Cricket in Times Square that was made by Chuck Jones. A cricket, a mouse, and a cat write the Declaration of Independence, help Paul Revere, and create the Yankee Doodle song.

Alternative Title(s): The Revolutionary War, American Revolution


Example of: