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The American Revolution (1775-1783)

American Revolution PowerPoint Study Guide uploaded to Google Drive
Check out these videos; can you name each person who played an important role in the American Revolution?   (The answers will be in short paragraphs further down the page.)






Definition of 'revolution':  the overthrow of a government, with a new government taking its place.
The colonies WERE ruled by Britain, but when they had the REVOLUTION, they kicked them out to start their OWN country...the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!

But remember, wars don't just "happen."  Everything in history has a reason (cause).

Let's look at the causes of the American Revolution:

  • Britain defeated France in French & Indian War; it needed to pay for costs of the war; so it taxed the 13 colonies.     (Notice how Britain gained LOTS of new land, but consider that since wars are very expensive, Britain was in lots of debt.)



  • British Imperial Policy was to keep strong control over the colonies by using the British Army/quartering.  Quartering was when the military forced people to let them have their homes for the soldiers' usage.


  • The Sugar Act was a tax on all sugar in the colonies.  Britain raised this tax, hoping that the colonists would pay it, and British soldiers would collect the money (which would then be taken back to Britain to pay down the debt).  
  • Another tax, the Stamp Act of 1765, placed a tax on newspapers, legal documents, and even playing cards!
  • Colonists began rising up against "taxation without representation", since the colonies had no representatives in British Parliament.
  • The Sons of Liberty, a secret group, dressed as Indians, boarded ships in Boston Harbor, and tossed British tea overboard to protest the monopoly; this was the Boston Tea Party.



  • After the Boston Massacre, where British redcoats and Boston townspeople got into a bloody fight, King George III sent more redcoats to force the colonists to obey British laws.


  • The First Continental Congress met in 1774 to discuss peaceful solutions to ending problems with Britain; Britain didn't listen to their suggestions and instead kept sending more soldiers to the colonies; so the Second Continental Congress met in 1775 and told Thomas Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence.
  • The Declaration was basically a 'divorce letter' to Britain, as well as the 'birth certificate' for the new United States.  Jefferson said there were three things that were unalienable, meaning no king could give or take away from the people.  These rights were LIFE, LIBERTY, and the PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.
  • Jefferson also said that "All men are created equal."  (Sadly, even the Founding Fathers didn't treat blacks, both slave and free, with much respect and equality.)  But this concept of equality eventually made its way into the U.S. Constitution, under the Due Process clauses of the 5th and 14th Amendments.  (Sorry, I'm a Con. Law nerd.)




Important People in the Revolution.    (Here are the answers to the videos!)
  • George Washington: Commander of the Continental Army; defeated Lord Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown, and later became the first president of the United States.  Known for his bravery, courage, and honesty.


  • King George III: King of Great Britain and the British Colonies.  He refused to let the colonial governments have a say in their own business, and sent British soldiers to the colonies to collect taxes and crush the rebellion.


  • Benjamin Franklin: A famous newspaper printer, scientist, and teacher from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; helped Jefferson write the Declaration of Independence, and was also a member of the committee that wrote the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution.
  • Patrick Henry: A member of the Virginia colonial government, he wanted freedom from Britain so badly that he said "give me liberty, or give me death!" 
  • Thomas Jefferson: A wealthy Virginia lawyer, Jefferson was the main writer of the Declaration of Independence, in which he said that "all men are created equal" and have the "inalienable rights" of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  (He later became the third president of the United States, serving two terms, and was famous for also purchasing Louisiana from France.)
  • John Adams: A lawyer from Massachusetts, he was a member of the Sons of Liberty.  He also helped on the Declaration of Independence.  (He later became the second president of the United States.  He only served one term, because he lost the next election to Thomas Jefferson.)
  • Benedict Arnold: A great general in the Continental Army, Benedict Arnold was secretly making plans to surrender his fort and join the British side.  His plans were discovered, but he managed to escape and became a British Army general.  He is the most famous traitor in American history.  Because he changed sides, his name still means "traitor" today.


(Also, don't forget men like John Hancock, who wrote his name so large on the Declaration so that King George III wouldn't need his reading glasses!  These men really took a huge risk, because if they had lost the war, they would likely have been executed as traitors against Britain!  Except for ol' Benedict Arnold, of course...)


Major battles:
  • Lexington, Massachusetts (the first battle); the "shot heard 'round the world";  after being warned by Paul Revere that the British were coming, the Minutemen chased them out of Lexington.  The Redcoats then went to Concord hoping to find the Minutemen's weapons, but when they got there the armory was empty.  They were chased back to Boston, where they were met by Boston's Minutemen at the Battle of Bunker Hill.
  • Trenton, New Jersey; where on Christmas Day, George Washington and his men sneaked up on the Hessian mercenaries, capturing them by surprise.  After the battle of Trenton, Washington's army spent the cold, bitter winter at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania.
  • Saratoga, NY (the turning point); changed the tide of the war; following the American win, the French joined their side against the British.
  • Yorktown (Yay! The last major battle); with the help of the French Navy, George Washington defeated Lord Charles Cornwallis's British Army at Yorktown, Virginia.


*CLICK HERE to try several different American Revolution and history games!



LEGAL DISCLAIMER TO OTHER EDUCATORS:  All clip art as well as information on this page was painstakingly gathered, researched, and written by me (Matt Foster) over hundreds of hours.    If you are an educator and wish to use this information for your page, please have professional courtesy and contact me via email at mcfoster@polk.k12.ga.us.  (Original texts owned by the author and protected under Title 17, U.S.C.)

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