Patriotic primer: How well do you know the facts about the American Revolution?

As American families gather to celebrate our glorious freedoms this weekend, a 13-
question history quiz about the War for Independence may serve as a source of fun and lively discussion.


1. Why were British troops sent to Boston in 1768?

The troops were sent to help officials enforce the Townshend Acts, a series of laws passed by the British Parliament. These laws were to make colonial governors and judges independent of colonial control, to create a more effective means of enforcing compliance with trade regulations, and to establish the controversial precedent that Parliament had the right to tax the colonies.

Colonists objected that the Townshend Acts were a violation of the natural, charter and constitutional rights of British subjects in the colonies. Boston was a center of the resistance.

2. What was the largest city in the American colonies and the first capital of the United States?

Philadelphia. (Boston and New York followed in size.)

3. At the outbreak of The Revolutionary War, what states comprised the 13 colonies?

New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

The oldest was Virginia, founded in 1607 by The London Company; next came Massachusetts, founded as Plymouth Colony in 1620, settled by the Pilgrims; and Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, settled by the Puritans. They were united in 1691, and annexed Maine.


4. What crop served as the backbone of the Southern colonies?

Tobacco. Ships from England collected the tobacco and delivered in exchange goods that enabled the most successful planters to maintain the lavish lifestyle of English country gentlemen. More than 50 percent of the Southern colonial population was composed of African slaves.


5. What war, fought in Europe, India and the West Indies, left Britain with great debts that led the British government to tax the American colonies to reduce that debt?

The French and Indian War, 1755 to 1762, saw the French forced out of Canada, with Britain assuming government of the French population, and the American colonies released from the threat of French invasion and dominance. France had a powerful base along the St. Lawrence Seaway in Canada and the western borders of New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. This kept the colonies and the British Crown in uneasy alliance.

6. Why did the citizens of Boston throw a famous Tea Party?

Angry and frustrated over a new tax on tea, colonists calling themselves the Sons of Liberty and disguised as Mohawk Native Americans boarded three British ships (the Dartmouth, the Eleanor and the Beaver) and dumped 342 crates of British tea into Boston Harbor on Dec. 16, 1773. Similar incidents occurred in Maryland, New York and New Jersey in the next few months, and tea was eventually boycotted throughout the colonies.

7. What triggered the Boston Massacre?

The Boston Massacre, on March 5, 1770, was a pre-Revolutionary incident growing out of the resentment against the British troops. The troops, constantly tormented by gangs, finally fired into a rioting crowd and killed five men — three on the spot, two died of wounds later.

The funeral of the victims was the occasion for a great patriot demonstration. British captain Thomas Preston and his men were tried for murder, with Robert Treat Paine as prosecutor, John Adams and Josiah Quincy as lawyers for the defense. Preston and six of his men were acquitted; two others were found guilty of manslaughter, punished and discharged from the army.

8. What event trigged The Revolutionary War?

The first shots fired between the Sons of Liberty and the British troops occurred on April 19, 1775, in Lexington, Mass., when the British commander-in-chief in Boston, Gen. Gage, chose to march to the nearby town of Concord because colonists stockpiled weapons there.

British troops were marching on Concord as they passed through Lexington. No one is still sure who fired first, but it was the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” and both sides opened fire. The Patriots were forced to withdraw. But they had slowed the British advance.

By the time the “Redcoats” got to Concord, the Patriots were waiting for them in force. The weapons depot was saved, and the British were forced to retreat. The skirmishes were preceded by Paul Revere’s famous ride, warning the countryside: “The British are coming!”

9. Why was crossing the Delaware a turning point in the war for the Patriots?

When George Washington decided to cross the ice-filled Delaware River, from Pennsylvania to New Jersey with 2,000 troops near death in the dead of night on Christmas 1776, it was a desperate gamble that paid off. Washington was advised that since it was Christmas, the Hessians (German soldiers fighting for Britain) on the other side of the Delaware River in New Jersey were sure to be drunk and tired from partying. By waiting until nightfall, Washington was able to achieve maximum surprise. The Patriot forces routed the Hessians, sending them running. The whole affair lasted only 45 minutes, and soldiers took 900 Hessians prisoner. The tired, hungry Americans also found food, supplies and especially ammunition.

Building on their success, the Patriots marched onward, toward Princeton, where they defeated the British a few days later. These two victories drove the British out of New Jersey and gave the American army and the American people new hope that their cause was right and they could win their independence at last.

10. Who was Benedict Arnold?

Born in Connecticut, Arnold was a merchant operating ships on the Atlantic Ocean when the war broke out in 1775. After joining the growing army outside Boston, he distinguished himself through acts of cunning and bravery. His actions included the capture of Fort Ticonderoga in 1775.

In spite of his successes, Arnold was passed over for promotion by the Continental Congress while other officers claimed credit for some of his accomplishments. Adversaries in military and political circles brought charges of corruption, but Arnold was acquitted in most formal inquiries. Congress investigated his accounts, and found he owed it money after he had spent much of his own money on the war effort.

Frustrated and bitter, Arnold changed sides in 1779 and opened secret negotiations with the British. In July 1780, he sought and obtained command of West Point in order to surrender it to the British.

Arnold’s scheme was exposed when Patriot forces captured British Maj. John Andre carrying papers that revealed the plot. Upon learning of Andre’s capture, Arnold fled down the Hudson River to a British sloop-of-war, narrowly avoiding capture.


11. When did the war end?

On Oct. 19, 1781, Gen. Cornwallis, surrounded on land and sea, surrendered at Yorktown to Gen. Washington and the French commander de Rochambeau. The war was over and the American colonies had won their independence (though some fighting lasted for two more years until the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783.)

12. How much did George Washington get paid to serve as commander of the army?

Washington did not receive pay for his military service.

13. What percentage of the colonial people supported the king and thought of themselves as Loyalists?

About one-third of colonists stayed loyal to King George III.

— Compiled by Susan DeMaggio

Sources: www.britishbattles.com/american-revolution.htm, www.pocanticohills.org/revolution/facts.htm

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