Few events shaped the course of history so significantly as the Revolutionary War. Colonial America’s struggle for independence affected the country and the world in ways that can still be felt today.
Most people know the basics of the conflict; however, some Revolutionary War facts have been obscured by time. These fun facts give greater insight into the American War for Independence.
When you think about the Revolutionary War, technological innovations likely aren’t the first thing that come to mind. However, it was during the Thirteen Colonies’ fight for independence that the world’s first submarine attack took place.
The American Turtle, a submersible vessel shaped rather like a giant acorn, was constructed in 1775 by David Bushnell. The seven-and-a-half-foot long pod was used in a 1776 attempt to attach explosives to the hull of the British flagship Eagle, which was docked in New York Harbor.
The Turtle was successful in approaching the ship unnoticed; however, the operator’s tools were unable to breach the ship’s layer of iron. The bomb exploded nearby, causing no harm to its target. Subsequent attempts had similar results.
A good first attempt—but perhaps the American revolutionaries were a bit ahead of their time.
Spies were used extensively during the Revolutionary War. Some of the earliest patriot victories can be attributed to their work. The Revolutionary War’s espionage tactics were sophisticated and included invisible ink, ciphers, and code names.
Among the spy networks used, the Culper Ring was perhaps the most elite and the most secretive. In fact, its existence wasn’t public knowledge until the 1930s, over 150 years later. A fun fact—General George Washington’s code name in the Culper Ring was Agent 711.
The Culper Ring supplied information on troop positions, plans, supplies, and much more. Today, the identity of most Culper agents is known; however, the identity of Agent 355, a female spy in the Culper Ring, remains a mystery.
An International Conflict
It’s fairly well known that the French supported Colonial America in the Revolutionary War. In fact, the war would likely have been impossible for the United States to win without their support. The French provided the patriots with cash, weapons, ammunition, and troops.
However, it wasn’t just the French military that became involved in the American Revolution. Spain, a prominent French ally, and the Netherlands, an important trading partner, also aided the Thirteen Colonies’ fight for independence.
Diversity in the Ranks
Thousands of African Americans participated in the Revolutionary War—on both sides of the conflict. Many were enslaved people who were promised their freedom at the end of the war. Inspired by the promise of liberty, African Americans enlisted in the continental army.
These men served in the battlefield, in the navy, and in noncombatant roles such as cooks, wagoners, and artisans. African American war hero Agrippa Hull was an orderly for General John Patterson and was present for the surrender at Saratoga. He spent the remainder of the war constructing defenses at West Point.
Colonial women were also involved in the war effort and regularly served the continental armies as cooks, nurses, and seamstresses. At times, these women were also given the opportunity to fight.
One woman, Mary Ludwig Hayes, carried water to and from the battle field–and, as legend states, took her husband’s place at an artillery canon to fire at British troops during the Battle of Monmouth. Because of her actions, she is commonly believed to be the inspiration behind “Molly Pitcher”. Another woman, Anna Maria Lane, disguised herself as a man and joined the continental army.
The Revolutionary War and You
If your ancestry traces back to Colonial America, it’s likely that this turning point in history may also be a part of your family’s legacy. FamilySearch has hundreds of thousands of records that can help you find your ancestors in the American Revolution and learn their stories.
If you know of an ancestor living in the continental United States during the Revolutionary War, type his or her name in the search form below. You never know what you might find!