The American Revolution in Red and Black

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Introduction

The American Revolution is one of the most significant events in the history of the United States. The events that comprised the revolution constituted the beginning of a new era of independence and liberty on the American continent. The American Revolutionary War, which is the cornerstone of the fight for freedom, lasted for eight years and involved not only soldiers of the American colonists but youth, women, native Americans, and African Americans.

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Despite the supremacy of the British, Americans managed to win the war because the majority of the people supported the fight for independence. This paper explores the intricacies of the American War of Independence, describes the roles of youth and older generations during the war, and contributions of women, African Americans, and natives.

Background

In 1765, the English government passed the Stamp Act through parliament, according to which all trade and other civil documents were subject to a stamp. At the same time, it was decided to station British troops in America in the amount of 10 thousand people with the obligation of Americans to provide them with housing, certain food products, and furniture for the convenience of soldiers.1 The Stamp Act was unfair in the eyes of Americans. For instance, to get notary rights, one had to pay only two pounds in England but ten pounds in America.2 It was the first tax law that was specifically intended for England. Before, taxes were used to develop the infrastructure of trade and industry in Thirteen Colonies and were just from the viewpoint of the population.

John Otis’s famous phrase, “Taxation without representation is tyranny,” later shortened as “No taxation without representation,” became the slogan of anti-British attitudes.3 The Stamp Act was seen as a clear desire to reduce American freedom. In the same 1765, the Stamp Act Congress was formed and gathered in New York, representing most of the colonies; it developed the Declaration of Rights and Grievances.4 In almost all colonies, an organization that called itself Sons of Liberty began to appear. Its members burned pictures and the homes of English officials.

Among the leaders of the Sons of Liberty was John Adams, one of the founding fathers of the United States and the future second president of the country.5 Although the act was canceled by the British government, the tension between the colonies and the Crown continued to persist. Followed by repressions and cruelty in regard to those who opposed British taxes and presence on the continent, most people started to see that revolution is the only way to liberty.

Individual Experiences

When one thinks of the Revolutionary War, there is usually a picture of white colonists fighting for their independence from Great Britain. However, the war involved not only white males but also women, who played a significant role in the economics of the Revolutionary War. African Americans were actively enlisted in the army because they were incentivized by the promises of freedom. While many blacks supported the cause of the revolution, some supported the activities of the British. Generally, it can be said that expectations regarding the post-war period shaped the participation in the war.

Youth and Adults

Age was a significant factor in the Revolutionary War – the older population objected to the motives of the younger people that wanted independence from Great Britain. Boys that could not yet enlist in the army had to assist their mothers, and the oldest son became the head of the household while their father was off to war. Girls helped sew uniforms for soldiers and cared for the younger siblings.6 When the battles broke out, family businesses that were primarily run by male adults were abandoned, and the owners’ children were forced to take control. Every age group had their roles, but the older population had the tendency to oppose the revolution.

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Women and Men

Men and women had different roles during the war, and thus, different experiences. As it has been since ancient times, men took part in armed conflicts and were the front men during the war. Women, on the other hand, were responsible for providing clothing, food, and supplies. Before the start of the American Revolutionary War, women were asked to increase their efforts at the home front.7 Because much of the British goods were boycotted, they had to be alternatives to sustain life. Women were responsible for manufacturing some of the products that previously came from Europe.8 Active participation on behalf of women was also required to adjust lifestyles to do without goods that could not yet be manufactured in the country.

Nursing also became necessary when the number of casualties started rising. Women took the role of medical staff while men fought on the battlefronts. Some women cooked for the army and grew vegetables and other food. Some wives, such as Abigail Adams, played a significant role in shaping the political moves of their husbands. In summary, women’s experiences were much different than men but not less struggling. Because men went to war, women had to take many more responsibilities and work harder than usual.

Native Americans

Most Indian tribes did not see much reason to get involved in the conflict of some Europeans with others and tried not to participate in the war and maintained neutrality. However, the Indians, in general, supported the British Crown. The main reason was the fact that Great Britain forbade the colonists, in order to avoid conflicts with the Indians, to settle west of the Appalachian Mountains.9 This restriction was one of the regulations that most irritated the colonists. At the same time, historians noted the insignificant participation of the Indians in the war. Four Iroquois clans, with British support, attacked American outposts.10 The Oneida and Tuscarora tribes living in New York State, on the contrary, supported the revolutionaries.

The British organized a series of Native American raids on frontier settlements from Carolina to New York, providing the Indians with weapons and loyalist support. During these raids, many settlers were killed, especially in Pennsylvania. In 1776 the Cherokee attacked American colonists along the entire southern frontier.11 The most significant Indian leader in these attacks was the Mohawk Joseph Brant, who, in 1778 and 1780, attacked a number of small settlements with a detachment of 300 Iroquois and 100 white loyalists.12 Tribes of the Iroquois Confederation of Seneca, Onondaga, and Cayuga allied with the British against Americans

African Americans

Tens of thousands of black slaves took advantage of the revolutionary chaos. They fled from their owners, which brought the plantations of South Carolina and Georgia into a nearly dilapidated state.13 The metropolis planned to recruit slaves against the revolutionaries in exchange for their release. However, at the same time, the British were afraid that such a move could provoke massive uprisings of slaves in other colonies.

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They came under pressure of wealthy plantation owners – loyalists of the American South, as well as Caribbean planters and slave traders who did not like the prospect of riots at all.14 On the other hand, the struggle for independence under the slogans of the defense of freedom was becoming somewhat ambiguous. Many revolutionary leaders, advocating freedom, were themselves rich plantation owners and had hundreds of black slaves at their service.

Different Classes

The main reason for loyalism was, first of all, the strong ties of a person with the metropolis. Often, large merchants in major ports, such as New York, Boston, and Charleston, fur traders from the northern frontier, or colonial administration officials became loyalists. In some cases, loyalists could also have relatives in the metropolis or other colonies of the British Empire.15 On the other hand, farmers, blacksmiths, and small traders of the New York State frontier, the outback of Pennsylvania and Virginia, settlers along the Appalachians often advocated for independence.16 The revolution was also supported by many planters in Virginia and South Carolina.

The viewpoint of proponents and opponents of independence was often different. Loyalists, in general, drifted toward conservative views, and considered the rebellion against the Crown a betrayal, while their opponents, on the contrary, sought everything new. Loyalists could also consider the revolution inevitable, but they feared that it could degenerate into chaos and tyranny, or ochlocracy. With the beginning of the revolution, loyalists often became victims of violence, such as burning houses or smearing with tar and feathers. Among both the patriots and loyalists, there were poor and rich, and leaders on both sides belonged to the educated class. Loyalists were joined by recent immigrants who had not yet had time to be imbued with revolutionary ideas.

Prevailing Attitudes

People supporting the British cause were called Loyalists, and the proponents of the revolution were Patriots. Loyalists believed that resisting the British government was not right. They also did not favor innovation and change because their lives were established. Patriots, on the other hand, urged that the state had severely violated the rights of colonists by imposing tax while disallowing representation in the government. African Americans fought on both sides, but more often, they supported the Patriots. Both sides tried to attract the black population to their cause, generously promising freedom and land allotments to those who would fight on their front.17 In summary, it can be said that the prevailing portion of the population supported the revolution.

Post-war Expectations and How They Shaped Participation

Many slaves hoped that the Crown would give them freedom.18 Native Americans wanted to save their lands from colonial expansion and expected that British victory would grant them that chance. Drawn by their interests, both natives and African Americans participated in battles. The more established population did not want change, and therefore resisted the activities of Patriots. Women believed that active participation and independence from the Crown would grant them liberties not offered by the current legislation. Consequently, they tried to take part in the war and supported the Patriots.

Conclusion

The American Revolution and the Revolutionary War are among the decisive events in the history of the United States. The revolution started because of unfair taxes and unfavorable attitudes of the British government toward the colonists. Patriots felt that the colonies should be independent of the influence of the British, while Loyalists believed the opposite. Blacks wanted freedom and were ready to fight alongside the whites. Native Americans, on the other hand, wanted safety for their lands. All people, including women and children, had their roles and incentives during the war.

Works Cited

Martin, Joseph. A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier. New York: New American Library, 2010.

Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Nash, Gary. “The American Revolution in Red and Black.” Phi Kappa Phi Forum 86, no. 3 (2006): 19-22.

Shorto, Russell. Revolution Song: A Story of American Freedom. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2018.

Footnotes

  1. Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789, 74-75.
  2. Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789, 75.
  3. Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789, 122.
  4. Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789, 252.
  5. Shorto, Revolution Song: A Story of American Revolution, 317.
  6. Middelekauff, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789, 544-550.
  7. Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789, 544-550.
  8. Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789, 544-550.
  9. Shorto, Revolution Song: A Story of American Revolution, 57.
  10. Shorto, Revolution Song: A Story of American Revolution, 4-5.
  11. Shorto, Revolution Song: A Story of American Revolution, 48-85.
  12. Shorto, Revolution Song: A Story of American Revolution, 278.
  13. Martin, A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier, 118-123.
  14. Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789, 441.
  15. Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789, 74-90.
  16. Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789, 30-40.
  17. Martin, A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier, 118-123.
  18. Nash, “The American Revolution in Red and Black,” 19-20.

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