People of the Revolution

Essays about People of the American Revolution Who Had to Choose Sides
Statue of Patrick Henry

Statue of Patrick Henry at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown galleries,

After the colonies declared their independence, the military conflict between America and Great Britain developed into an all-out war, involving American, British, German, and eventually, French soldiers. The Revolution eventually became a long and brutal struggle that divided many communities and affected all Americans. After more than two centuries, the conflict that won American independence has been obscured by an aura of glory and patriotism. In reality, the Revolution created confusion, blurred loyalties, and redefined the concepts of patriotism and treason. Some Americans chose sides early on, moved by ideals such as liberty or loyalty to the king. Many acted primarily to defend their families and property, or in response to extreme mistreatment. Others simply attempted to remain neutral and uninvolved.

The war often forced individuals to choose sides whether they wanted to do so or not. As the fighting continued and the war seemed unwinnable, many Americans became discouraged or “disaffected” but others remained committed to the “Glorious Cause” – or to the King. The American Revolution acted like a crucible, dissolving the earlier colonial society and fusing together a new, more egalitarian one.

The Revolution eventually involved and affected a wide variety of people, ranging from small farmers, high-ranking military officers, housewives, Indian warriors, enslaved African-Americans, and common soldiers from several countries. The following biographical sketches tell the stories of a representative sample of just a few individuals who experienced the impact of the conflict. They include some famous figures such as the Marquis de Lafayette, but most will be relatively unknown people who have not been written about in history textbooks. Their experiences demonstrate how the war changed their lives – for better or for worse.

Included along with these short biographies are selections of what these people had to say about their experiences in their own words – taken from their diaries, letters, or other accounts, as well as suggestions for further reading for those who want to learn more.

Marquis de Lafayette

Benjamin Rush

Little Abraham (Tigoransera)

Rachel Warrington

Boston King

Elizabeth S. Drinker

Thomas Sullivan