In the Name of Liberty
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 Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation’s digital collection on Historypin contains biographical sketches that 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.
We encourage you to not only read and learn from these stories, but to look within your own community for stories of revolutionary people, and add them to the Historypin collection!
Taking Informed Action
Taking informed action can manifest itself in a variety of forms and in a range of venues: Students may express action through discussions, debates, surveys, video productions, and the like; these actions may take place in the classroom, in the school, in the local community, across the state, and around the world.
To understand, students will participate in a brainstorming activity to identify instances of historical figures taking action in the name of liberty, freedom, or independence. The individual can be of family, local, or national significance. Teachers may want to have students create a brainstorming list and then share that information with a partner. They might then choose one of these figures and research their story. Teachers may opt to choose one figure to look at as a class or have small groups choose an individual that interests them. Teachers may also decide to have students work individually on this component of the inquiry. Students should then do research to identify basic facts surrounding the historical action. As they begin to build their understanding, teachers can move students to think about the next question, “What motivated this individual to behave this way?”
To assess the problem, students should create a list of possible reasons to explain the actions of their chosen individual. Once students have determined what they feel is the most likely explanation, they should compare/contrast that with the motivations that inspired those involved in the American Revolution.
To act, have students record their impressions of this historical action. Write an editorial for the school or local newspaper, create a visual art piece, or record a video commentary sharing this history, and expressing your feelings on the actions taken in the name of liberty, and the consequences of those actions. Share these action pieces in the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation digital collection “In the Name of Liberty” on Historypin.