Born November 22, 1744
Died October 28, 1818
Second First Lady of the United States, women's rights advocate
Abigail Adams, one of the most well-known women of the eighteenth century, was the wife of one United States president and the mother of another. During her husband's long absences from home, she successfully managed her family's affairs and ran their farm. In a new country based on the principles of equality and independence, this American patriot loved and loyally supported her own country and sowed the seeds for the movement to make women full citizens of the United States.
Abigail Adams was born Abigail Smith on November 22, 1744, to William Smith, a Protestant minister, and Elizabeth Quincy Adams. Both were from wealthy, educated New England families. Adams was a shy but stubborn child who suffered several illnesses during her early years. Her strict mother...
(The entire section is 2449 words.)
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Born October 1735
Died July 4, 1826
President and vice president of the United States, diplomat, lawyer, writer
John Adams was an enemy of British oppression who worked tirelessly for American independence. A man with a great mind, he wrote vivid diaries, letters, and essays; gave patriotic speeches; and negotiated effectively on behalf of his country. Although he could be a vain and stubborn politician, this passionate patriot was one of America's most important founding fathers.
Adams, one of three brothers, was born on his family's farm in Quincy (then known as Braintree), Massachusetts. His father, also named John, was a farmer and a church deacon who directed the affairs of his hometown for more than twenty years. Adams's mother, Susanna Boyleston Adams, came from a respected Brookline, Massachusetts, family. John Adams was very close to his mother. His biographer Page Smith wrote that "she brought a touch of [city...
(The entire section is 3422 words.)
Born September 27, 1722
Died October 2, 1803
Political leader, governor of Massachusetts, brewer, publisher
Samuel Adams was a leading organizer of the independence movement in Massachusetts and the other American colonies that culminated in the Revolutionary War and the creation of the United States of America. Though he was an outstanding writer, speaker, and planner, he kept himself so far in the background that historians have found it difficult to determine the total scope of his contributions to the birth of the nation.
Samuel Adams was the son of a generous beer brewer, also named Samuel, and Mary Fifield Adams, his religious wife. Mary Adams passed her Puritan beliefs on to her three children—Samuel, his older sister Mary, and younger brother Joseph. A well-mannered, heavyset boy, Samuel Adams had dark blue-gray eyes, heavy eyebrows,...
(The entire section is 3440 words.)
Born January 21, 1738
Died February 12, 1789
Military leader, businessman, writer
The fiery Ethan Allen was one of the first heroes of the American Revolution. He is remembered for leading a small group of soldiers against the British at Fort Ticonderoga, New York, in May 1775, and winning the surrender of the fort with no bloodshed. He is honored as the folk-hero of Vermont for strongly promoting its statehood and representing Vermonters' independent spirit.
Little is known about the early life of Ethan Allen. He was born in Connecticut in 1738, one of eight children of Joseph and Mary Baker Allen. His father died when the boy was preparing for college in 1755, cutting short his education and forcing him to take over as head of the large Allen family. In 1757 the young man took part in the French and Indian War (1754–63), which was fought between England and France to determine who...
(The entire section is 2268 words.)
Born January 14, 1741
Died June 14, 1801
Military leader, traitor
Benedict Arnold occupies a place in American history as the most famous traitor of Revolutionary times. In the early years of the American Revolution (1775–83), Arnold was known as a brave and skilled military planner who has been credited with the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga in New York. But over the years his contributions have been all but forgotten and his name has come to represent disloyalty to one's country.
Born in 1741, Benedict Arnold V was the son of Benedict Arnold IV, a businessman and landowner, and Hannah Waterman King, a stern and commanding woman. The first Benedict Arnold, who came to America in 1657, once served as the governor of Rhode Island.
(The entire section is 2187 words.)
Fighters, Black Freedom
Died March 5, 1770
Sailor, leader of the Boston Massacre
Sailor, sailmaker, inventor, businessman, social activist
Born c. 1758
Death date unknown
In the late eighteenth century, during the time of the American Revolution, black slaves were the second-largest labor force in America, second only to white farmers. The Dutch introduced the first African slaves to North America in 1619, but only about 20,500 had arrived by 1700. When the growing of tobacco, rice, and indigo (a plant that contains a substance...
(The entire section is 2443 words.)
Born c. March 1742
Upper Ohio River (near present-day Akron, Ohio)
Died November 24, 1807
Grand River, Ontario, Canada
Mohawk war chief, politician, missionary
Joseph Brant was a Mohawk leader who led his people into battle on the side of the British during the Revolutionary War (1775–83). Brant was a skilled politician with the manners of a British gentleman, and he learned to live in both the white and Indian worlds. Brant's loyalty to Great Britain was surpassed only by his loyalty to his people, and he spent his lifetime trying to ensure their land rights and the continuation of their culture.
Joseph Brant was born about 1742 in the forest along the Ohio River near present-day Akron, Ohio, while his parents were on a hunting trip. His father was a Mohawk chief, and his mother may have been part European and part Indian. Brant's...
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Brant, Mary "Molly"
Born c. 1736
Died April 16, 1796
Mohawk tribal leader
Her influence over the Indians of the Mohawk Valley was "far superior to that of all the Chiefs put together."
British Colonel John Butler
Mary "Molly" Brant, a Mohawk Indian, was one of the most powerful women in the New World in the eighteenth century. She played a major role in helping her British husband maintain good relations with Native Americans in the Mohawk Valley region. After her husband's death, she influenced several tribes to unite around the cause of the British during the Revolutionary War (1775–83).
The time at which Brant lived—the middle of the eighteenth century—was a time of great upheaval for the Mowhawk people, who fiercely resisted European settlement of their land. The Mohawk was one of six tribes (Mohawk, Oneida [pronounced oh-NEYE-duh], Onondaga, Cayuga [pronounced KEYE-you-guh], Seneca, and Tuscarora) that lived peacefully among themselves and belonged to the Iroquois (pronounced IR-uh-kwoy) Confederacy (union). Members were sometimes called "Iroquois" instead of by their tribal name. Many Iroquois, including Molly Brant's parents, were converted to Christianity by missionaries in the seventeenth and eighteenth...
(The entire section is 2451 words.)
Born February 24, 1723
Died August 4, 1792
Military leader, politician, playwright
British general John Burgoyne was best known for leading a failed military campaign against the rebel colonists during the American Revolutionary War (1775–83). Back in England, Burgoyne had to defend himself before the British government for his defeat and was stripped of his military rank and privileges. He spent his later years as a politician, a playwright, and a leader of London society.
Burgoyne was born in 1723 in Sutton, England. His mother, Anna Burenstone Burgoyne, the daughter of a very wealthy man, brought a large sum of money to her marriage. It was soon gambled away by her husband, an army captain named John, who spent a good deal of his life in prison for failing to pay his debts. Anna Burgoyne was rather free with her affections, and it was rumored that young John Burgoyne's real father may not have been...
(The entire section is 3036 words.)
Born January 12, 1729
Died July 9, 1797
Beaconsfield Estate, Buckinghamshire, England
Politician, political thinker, writer, public speaker
Edmund Burke was the most widely respected British political thinker and speech writer of his time. As a politician and speaker, however, he lacked the ability to lead or bring men together. His ideas continue to find favor today, especially with conservatives who wish to preserve society's existing institutions. He is widely admired for his defense of those who are too weak to defend themselves.
Edmund Burke was born into a middle-class family in Dublin, Ireland, on January 12, 1729. He had a difficult relationship with his father, a Protestant attorney, but was close to his Roman Catholic mother who, he once reported, suffered from "a cruel nervous disorder."
Burke was a sickly child. In 1735, when he was six, his parents sent him away from the big...
(The entire section is 2855 words.)
Corbin, Margaret Cochran
Born November 12, 1751
Franklin County, Pennsylvania
Died c. 1800
Westchester County, New York
Camp follower, soldier
A tablet in her honor at Corbin Place in New York City praises Margaret Cochran Corbin as the "first woman to take a soldier's part in the war for liberty."
Margaret Cochran Corbin picked up the gun of her soldier husband and took his place after he was killed by gunfire in a Revolutionary War battle. Wounded herself, she became the first woman in the United States to receive an annual payment from the government as a disabled soldier.
Corbin was born on November 12, 1751, reportedly near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of a Scottish-Irish colonist named Robert Cochran, but the name of her mother is unknown. In 1756 Native Americans killed Corbin's father and kidnapped her mother. Five-year-old Margaret and her brother, John Cochran, escaped capture and were raised by their uncle.
Around 1772 Margaret Cochran married John Corbin, a Virginian by birth. Four years later, when her husband joined a unit in Pennsylvania fighting on the American side in the Revolutionary War, Margaret went with him. At that time wives often accompanied their soldier husbands to cook, do washing, and nurse sick soldiers (see...
(The entire section is 2095 words.)
Crèvecoeur, Hector St. John de
Born January 31, 1735
Died November 12, 1813
Map maker, surveyor, farmer, writer, soldier, government official
Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, a Frenchman known in America as Hector St. John, experienced both the American Revolution (1775–83) and the French Revolution (1789–99). He traveled throughout America and Europe as a soldier, writer, and government official. His books describing life in the American colonies during the time of the American Revolution became popular in both France and the United States.
Michel Guillaume Jean de Crèvecoeur (pronounced Mee-SHELL ghee-OHM JHON deh KREV-ker; his original name) was born in 1735 near Caen, France, to a family that was of lower-level noble rank. His father was Guillaume Jean de Crèvecoeur, owner of a large farm, and his mother was Dame Marie-Anne Blouet (pronounced...
(The entire section is 2583 words.)
Born November 8, 1732
Talbot County, Maryland
Died February 14, 1808
Wilmington, North Carolina
Politician, lawyer, writer, soldier
John Dickinson helped guide American public opinion in the years before the American Revolution. He opposed British taxation of the colonies but also opposed the use of force against mother England. He was widely admired for his mastery of legal history and his writing skills, but he lost much of his influence when the Revolution got underway against his urging. Once it had begun, though, he worked to make his new nation stronger. He served in the legislatures of both Delaware and Pennsylvania, also serving as president of each state.
John Dickinson was born in Maryland in 1732 to Samuel Dickinson, a well-respected Quaker judge and farm owner, and his second wife, Mary Cadwalader. Historians disagree on whether or not Dickinson himself was a member of...
(The entire section is 2819 words.)
Born January 17, 1706
Died April 17, 1790
Political leader, diplomat, printer, publisher, writer, scientist, inventor
Benjamin Franklin was a man who combined genius and imagination with humor and common sense; it seemed he could do almost anything. By the time the American Revolution broke out in 1775, Franklin was world-famous as a writer, inventor, and scientist. He then became the world's most famous rebel, although his contributions to the establishment of an independent United States are often overlooked.
Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1706. His father, Josiah, was an Englishman who had seven children by his first wife before she died. He moved to New England in 1683 in search of religious freedom, and married Abiah Folger, daughter of an old New England family. She bore him ten more children. Benjamin Franklin was her seventh child and the youngest son.
Not much is known about Benjamin...
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Franklin, Deborah Read
Born c. 1707
Died December 19, 1774
Deborah Read Franklin played an important role in the founding of the United States simply by taking on the management of her family business. By doing so she allowed her husband, founding father Benjamin Franklin (see entry), the opportunity to actively pursue his role in state and national politics in the decades before and after the American Revolution.
Deborah Read was born about 1707 to John Read, a carpenter from London, England, and Sarah White Read of Birmingham, England. Whether the child was born while her parents still lived in Birmingham, or after they moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, remains uncertain. The second of seven children, Read received little formal education; almost nothing else is known about her childhood.
(The entire section is 1716 words.)
Born c. 1744
Died December 1829
Slave, nurse, midwife
Elizabeth Freeman, who lived as a slave for thirty years, was known for her courage, wit, kindness, dignity, and intelligence. Her 1781 victory in obtaining freedom from slavery played a large part in putting an end to slavery in the state of Massachusetts.
Freeman was born around 1744, possibly on the estate of Pieter Hogeboom of Claverack, New York; this approximate birth date is based on the fact that she was said to have been about eighty-five years old when she died in 1829. Being a slave, she was not given a last name at birth. Known for most of her life as Mum Bett or Mumbet, a name that apparently came from Elizabeth, she adopted the last name Freeman upon being freed from slavery. Freeman and her sister lived as slaves on...
(The entire section is 2167 words.)
Born c. 1721
Died April 2, 1787
Governor of Massachusetts, military leader
Thomas Gage was the top British official in America at a time when the British were not popular. On the eve of the American Revolution, Gage was told by his superiors in England to make the colonists see reason and, if they would not, to put them down with the might of the British army. Gage kept the peace for as long as he could, finally giving the orders that led to the confrontation at Concord, Massachusetts, and the start of the American Revolution.
Thomas Gage was born at his family's estate, called High Meadow, in Firle, England, about 1721. He was the second son of Benedicta Hall and Thomas Gage, a member of Parliament's House of Lords (like the U.S. Senate) who also held the aristocratic titles of Viscount Gage of Castle Island and Baron Gage of Castlebar. These titles were passed from father to eldest son and, in the case of the Gages, were...
(The entire section is 2820 words.)
Gálvez, Bernardo de
Born July 23, 1746
Died November 30, 1786
Mexico City, Mexico
Governor of the Spanish province of Louisiana, viceroy of New Spain (Mexico)
Bernardo de Gálvez, an aristocrat born in Spain and trained for a military career, became governor of the Spanish colony of Louisiana in 1777. When Spain entered the Revolutionary War on the side of the American colonies, he helped fight the British in Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida. He kept the British busy in the South, and finally drove them from the area, freeing it up for American trading. For these successes, he was named a don (an aristocratic title similar to the British earl) by the Spanish government, and eventually was made viceroy (overall ruler) of New Spain (Mexico).
Bernardo de Gálvez was born in the Malaga province (state) on the southeast coast of Spain in 1746. His parents were Matías and Josepha Madridy Gallardo de Gálvez. He came from a wealthy and highly regarded family, whose members served the...
(The entire section is 2736 words.)
Born June 4, 1738
Died January 29, 1820
King of Great Britain and Ireland
King George III is widely blamed for Great Britain's loss of the American colonies in the Revolutionary War (1775–83). In some ways, George III was a capable king who stubbornly controlled the British government as best he could. But in the last decades of his life, George III suffered from a mental disorder that caused him to lose his hold on reality.
George III was the son of Frederick Louis, prince of Wales, who was the eldest son of King George II. Frederick Louis died in 1751, while George II was still king, leaving behind Augusta, his German-born wife, and their twelve-year old son, who later was crowned King George III.
George III was an emotionally immature boy and a poor student. His suspicious mother did her best to keep him from contact...
(The entire section is 2657 words.)
Born 1741 Chambers' Mill, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Died February 18, 1818
Malden, near Amherstburg, Ontario
Frontiersman, interpreter of Indian languages, scout, raider
Simon Girty, roughneck son of the American wilderness, spent nearly his entire life involved in warfare. He was first caught up as a child in Indian-white struggles over land on the frontier. At fifteen he was captured by Indians and lived among them, learning their language, their ways, and their deep distrust of white settlers. During the American Revolution, he fought for both the British and the Americans and led Indian raids against white pioneers. His name is so closely linked with stories of savage brutality against American pioneers that it is difficult to...
(The entire section is 3064 words.)
Goddard, Mary Katherine
Born June 16, 1738
Died August 12, 1816
Publisher, postmaster, printer of the "authentic copy" of the Declaration of Independence
"An expert and correct compositor of types [typesetter]," according to her brother William.
Mary Katherine Goddard was a successful businessperson of the eighteenth century who turned enterprises begun by her undependable brother into financial successes. She was the most acclaimed female publisher during the American Revolution. Her reputation for quality work spread far beyond the cities where her newspapers were produced. In the end, she was forced to live in near-poverty when she lost her government job because of limitations set on women of her day.
Mary Katherine Goddard was the daughter of Dr. Giles Goddard and printer Sarah Updike Goddard (see box). She was born in Groton, Connecticut. She and her brother William were the only two of the couple's four children who lived to maturity. Goddard received her schooling from her educated mother. Few facts are known about her early life, except that the family moved from Groton to nearby New London, Connecticut, where her father practiced medicine and served as postmaster.
In 1762, after the death of her father, Goddard...
(The entire section is 1512 words.)
Born June 6, 1755
Died September 22, 1776
New York, New York
Military leader, spy, schoolmaster
Nathan Hale was a schoolteacher who became an officer in the Continental (American) army during the American Revolution (1775–83). When General George Washington (see entry) needed information about the British military plans to take New York City, Hale volunteered to go behind the British lines as a spy. He was captured and killed by hanging, but his brave words have inspired generations of soldiers and schoolchildren ever since.
Nathan Hale was born on June 6, 1755, in Coventry, Connecticut, the son of Richard Hale and Elizabeth Strong. He was one of twelve children born to the couple, and one of nine sons. (Six of those nine sons would fight for the patriot cause in the American Revolution.) The Hales were well-to-do farmers and the family was devoted to the cause of American independence.
Nathan Hale was a...
(The entire section is 2677 words.)
Born January 11, 1755
Nevis, British West Indies
Died July 12, 1804
New York, New York
Secretary of the treasury, political leader, lawyer, soldier, journalist
Alexander Hamilton served as a trusted secretary to General George Washington (see entry) during the American Revolution (1775–83) and fought in the famous battle at Yorktown that ended the war. He is best known for his economic policies after the war, and for his role as the main author of the Federalist Papers. A brave soldier and talented writer and speaker, he seemed to have a solution for every problem he encountered.
Alexander Hamilton was born on January 11, 1755, in the town of Charleston on the island of Nevis (pronounced NEE-vus) in the West Indies, a group of islands that are located between the United States and South America. He was born...
(The entire section is 3324 words.)
Born January 23, 1737
Died October 8, 1793
Political leader, businessman
John Hancock played an important role in American life during the early days of the Revolution. He served as a unifying force among men who displayed a wide variety of opinions about the wisdom of declaring independence. Although criticized for his vanity and self-interest, he showed strong abilities as the president of the Second Continental Congress. But after 1776, Hancock spent most of his time attending to the affairs of his home state of Massachusetts, where he was immensely popular.
John Hancock was born in 1737 in what is now Quincy, Massachusetts. He was the second of three children born to John Hancock, a Protestant minister, and his wife, Mary Hawke Thaxter Hancock. When young John Hancock was seven years old, his...
(The entire section is 3747 words.)
Hart, Nancy Morgan
Born c. 1744
North Carolina or Pennsylvania
Died c. 1841
Henderson County, Kentucky
Legend has it that Nancy Morgan Hart captured British soldiers during the American Revolution, then sang the words to "Yankee Doodle" as she watched them die by hanging.
It is difficult to separate the facts from the myths about Nancy Morgan Hart, a patriot from the American South who captured and killed Tories (colonists who were loyal to England) during the Revolutionary War (1775–83). Although some people question whether Hart ever existed, there are memorials throughout Georgia honoring her, the South's most famous Revolutionary War heroine.
Nancy Morgan was born in the 1740s, probably in North Carolina or Pennsylvania. The identity of her parents has never been confirmed. Named Ann at birth, she was always known as Nancy. Nancy Morgan married Benjamin Hart (who was related to Thomas Hart Benton [1782–1858], a famous American senator, and to the wife of Henry Clay [1777–1852], who was an American secretary of state) and the couple settled in the Broad River area of Georgia around 1771. They were living there in 1775 when the Revolutionary War broke out as America fought to gain its independence from England. After the war, they moved to Brunswick, in Glynn...
(The entire section is 2294 words.)
Born May 29, 1736
Died June 6, 1799
Charlotte County, Virginia
Politician, lawyer, public speaker
During Revolutionary times most Americans got their information by the spoken word. Patrick Henry's fiery speeches inspired the American colonies to turn their dreams of freedom from England into reality. His ability to relate to the common man as well as lawmakers allowed him to capture the loyalty of a wide audience and become one of the major heroes of the American Revolution.
Patrick Henry was the son of John Henry, a wealthy planter, and his wife, Sarah Winston Syme Henry. He was born on May 29, 1736, in Hanover County, Virginia. For a few years he attended the local schools, but he was mostly taught by his father, who had attended college in his Scottish homeland.
At sixteen he and his older brother, William, opened their own store. Despite their hard...
(The entire section is 2934 words.)
Born August 10, 1729
Died July 12, 1814
Commander-in-chief of the British army in North America
William Howe was the British general given credit not for losing the war against the American rebels, but for failing to win it. Howe was an excellent soldier but a less-than-adequate commander-in-chief. On many occasions he won battles against the Americans but failed to suppress the rebellion early in the war when he did not pursue and decisively defeat the army of General George Washington (see entry).
William Howe was born on August 10, 1729, in London to Emanuel Scrope Howe and his wife, Mary Sophia, the eldest daughter of Baron Kielmansegge. William was their third son, and they had at least one daughter, Caroline, who was a famous letter writer.
Although the Howes lived in England, the...
(The entire section is 3178 words.)
Born December 12, 1745
New York, New York
Died May 17, 1829 Bedford, New York
First chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, lawyer, diplomat
John Jay was a highly respected lawyer who distinguished himself in several different high state and federal offices, before, during, and after the Revolutionary War (1775–83). He helped negotiate two major treaties with foreign nations that were of tremendous benefit to the newly formed United States. As chief justice, his fairness and courage in making unpopular decisions secured the public's respect for the U.S. Supreme Court.
John Jay was born in 1745 in New York City. He was the eighth child of Peter Jay, a merchant, and Mary Van Cortlandt, whose ancestors were some of the original Dutch settlers of New York. Peter Jay was widely known and respected as a man of wealth and good character....
(The entire section is 2872 words.)
Born April 13, 1743
Died July 4, 1826
President and vice president of the United States, lawyer, philosopher, writer
Thomas Jefferson was a brilliant man with broad-ranging interests who greatly influenced the political and intellectual life of America. His gift for language made him the most eloquent leader of the American Revolution. His vision for America helped make him one of its most respected presidents.
Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, to Peter Jefferson, a pioneer farmer and surveyor, and his wife, Jane Randolph Jefferson. The family was not wealthy, but Jeffer son's mother was from a well-respected Virginia family. As a teenager, Jefferson boarded with the local schoolmaster to learn Latin and...
(The entire section is 3038 words.)
Born February 12, 1746
Breescin, Lithuania (then part of Poland)
Died October 15, 1817
Polish-born American military leader
Thaddeus Kosciuszko is one of Poland's most honored patriots as well as one of America's most honored heroes. Kosciuszko came to America during the Revolutionary War to help create a new independent nation. He built vital forts, then went on to become widely admired for his kindness and military skill. Back in Poland, he led his comrades in an effort to rid his country of Russian domination. Even today, his name stands as an international symbol of the fight for liberty and human rights.
Thaddeus Kosciuszko (pronounced THAD-ee-us ko-SHOE-sko) was born in the Lithuanian region of Poland on February 12, 1746. His parents were Ludwig Kosciuszko, an army colonel (pronounced KER-nuhl) and member of the minor nobility, and Thecla Ratomska Kosciuszko. As the youngest...
(The entire section is 2050 words.)
Lafayette, Marquis de
Born September 6, 1757
Died May 20, 1834
French military leader, politician
Among the heroes of the Revolutionary War (1775–83), only the name of George Washington (see entry) ranks higher than that of the Marquis de Lafayette, the renowned Frenchman who put his life and fortune at the disposal of the American rebels in their fight with England. Although his political skills were sometimes not equal to his lofty purposes, he had an important influence on the creation of new governments in both America and his French homeland. Lafayette supported social equality, representation of the common people in government, religious tolerance, and freedom of the press, which was unusual for a person of his time and class in society.
For centuries, members of the wealthy Motier (pronounced mo-TYAY) family of French nobles lived at the family mansion in the province of Auvergne (pronounced oh-VAIRN), France. There Marie...
(The entire section is 3305 words.)
L'Enfant, Pierre Charles
Born August 2, 1754
Died June 14, 1825
Near Bladensburg, Maryland
Architect, engineer, city planner, army officer
Pierre Charles L'Enfant was a French-born architect and engineer. Although he had little formal training, he designed the brilliant plan for the city of Washington, D.C., as well as other public and private buildings. His designs became models for city planners. His grand ideas and haughty attitude caused problems with many of his clients, however, and his life ended in poverty and bitterness.
Pierre Charles L'Enfant (pronounced pee-AIR sharl LON-FON) was born in Paris, France, on August 2, 1754. His father, Pierre, was a painter of battle scenes and landscapes. His mother, Marie Charlotte Leullier (pronounced luh-LYAY), was the daughter of a French military officer. Pierre had a brother, Pierre Joseph, who died in 1758, and...
(The entire section is 2652 words.)
Born August 23, 1754
Versailles Palace, France
Died January 21, 1792
King of France during the American and French revolutions
France's King Louis XVI started life in the majesty of the French royal court and ended it with a horrible death among the jeering crowds of Paris. History has often portrayed Louis XVI as simple-minded and cowardly. But some historians con tend that Louis XVI was a dynamic, dedicated leader who tried to act in the interests of the French people during very turbu lent times, and was an unfortunate victim of circumstances.
Louis-Auguste (pronounced lew-EE oh-GOOST), who later became King Louis XVI, was born in 1754 to the French royal family known as Bourbon. Their ancestors had ruled France since 897. Louis-Auguste's father was the son of King
Louis XV. His mother, Marie-Joseph, was the...
(The entire section is 3228 words.)
South Uist, Hebrides
Died March 4, 1790
Flora Macdonald became famous in Scotland and England by helping Charles Edward Stuart escape from his enemies in Scotland in 1746. Stuart believed himself to be legally entitled to become King of England. As a result of that adventure, Macdonald has been celebrated in many songs and legends. Macdonald later moved to America, where she took part in unsuccessful British efforts to defeat the American colonists in the Revolutionary War (1775–83).
Flora Macdonald was born in 1722 on Milton Farm in South Uist (pronounced YEW-ist) in the Hebrides (pronounced HEB-ruh-deez), a group of Scottish islands west of Scotland. Her last name is sometimes spelled MacDonald or McDonald. She and two older brothers were the children of Ranald Macdonald, a farmer who died when Flora was...
(The entire section is 2664 words.)
Born March 16, 1751
Port Conway, Virginia
Died June 28, 1836
Orange County, Virginia
President of the United States, secretary of state, congressman
James Madison was a wealthy man with a careful but creative mind who gave his whole life to public service. He worked to gain American independence and helped establish the nation's new government. Madison is known as the person most responsible for making the Bill of Rights part of the U.S. Constitution.
James Madison, the first of ten children, was born in 1751 to a wealthy young couple, James and Eleanor Conway Madison. Members of the Madison family were longtime residents of Virginia and owned a great deal of land. Although he was frail and sickly, James Madison was an excellent student. He was brought up in Orange County, Virginia, and entered what is now Princeton University in New Jersey in 1769, graduating in a mere two years. While at college, he was a...
(The entire section is 3278 words.)
Fairfax County, Virginia
Died October 7, 1792
Fairfax County, Virginia
Political leader, judge, plantation owner, writer
George Mason was one of the most important Americans of Revolutionary times. The intelligent and thoughtful man made a great impact on the development of the American government. He is especially remembered for the passionate arguments he made in favor of freedom for individuals at the Federal Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1787. There the Constitution of the United States was written and passed.
George Mason was born in 1725 on the Virginia plantation of his parents, George and Ann Thomson Mason. His father drowned when Mason was ten. With the approval of Mason's mother, his uncle, a lawyer named John Mercer, took charge of bringing up the boy. Mason had...
(The entire section is 2781 words.)
McCauley, Mary ("Molly Pitcher")
Born October 13, 1754
Trenton, New Jersey
Died January 22, 1832
Domestic servant, camp follower
Mary McCauley ran a household and tended to children, the typical duties of a woman of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. But when her country needed her, she showed independence of thought and action. Nicknamed "Molly Pitcher," Mary McCauley demonstrated courage under fire and helped save American lives at a critical Revolutionary War battle.
The woman believed to be the Molly Pitcher of Revolutionary War fame was born Mary Ludwig on October 13,1754. Her parents were dairy farmers who lived on a small farm outside of Trenton, New Jersey. In some documents the name "Ludwig" is spelled "Ludwick." Many people in Colonial times were illiterate and so could not correct others who misspelled their names. Mary herself could not read or write, and...
(The entire section is 2101 words.)
Born c. 1752
Lamington, New Jersey
Died July 27, 1777
Fort Edward, New York
As the Revolutionary War (1775–83) raged, dramatic tales were told of how Jane McCrea died. Her capture and murder led people in New York and New England to rally against the British forces stationed there. McCrea's story continued to arouse patriotic feelings among Americans for more than a century after her death.
Jane McCrea (pronounced Ma-CRAY) was the daughter of James McCrea, a Presbyterian minister from New Jersey, and Mary Graham McCrea. Jane McCrea was born the sixth of seven children, and the younger of two daughters. After her mother's death, her father remarried and had five more children.
When her father died (date unknown), Jane McCrea went to stay with her brother, John McCrea, a lawyer living in northern New York State. He served in the Continental army during the Revolutionary War. Few other facts are known about Jane McCrea's early life. Like many families at the time of the American Revolution, her family was divided by...
(The entire section is 2855 words.)
Murray, Judith Sargent
Born May 1, 1751
Died July 6, 1820
Writer and editor
Judith Sargent Murray was an eighteenth-century writer known for her essays on education for women, on equality, and on economic independence for all people. Murray was the first American woman to self-publish a book, one of the first American writers of plays, and the first woman to have a play produced on stage in America. Her personal letters, discovered only in modern times, offer valuable insights into life in revolutionary America.
Judith Sargent Murray was born in 1751 in Gloucester (pronounced GLOSS-ter), Massachusetts, to Captain Winthrop Sargent, a wealthy ship owner and merchant, and his wife, Judith Saunders, who was from a well-known seafaring family. Murray was the oldest of eight children. Her father supported her desire to learn, and she received an excellent education. Murray was tutored along with her...
(The entire section is 2107 words.)
Born September 25, 1737
Newark, New Jersey
Died November 25, 1818
Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada
Clergyman, physician, essayist, satirist, spy
"Thou hast supported an atrocious cause Against thy King, thy country, and the laws."
Jonathan Odell, a multitalented American who stayed loyal to England during the American Revolution, is best remembered for the poetry he wrote in support of England. A strong believer in the authority of the church and state in society, Odell feared that the leaders of the American Revolution (1775–83) were bringing evil on America. He was a stern and serious man with strong opinions, and he wrote about the Revolution with grimness and bitterness.
Jonathan Odell was born in New Jersey in 1737 to John Odell, a carpenter, and Temperance Dickinson, the daughter of the first president of the school that became Princeton University in New Jersey. He was a descendant of William Odell, one of the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Jonathan Odell graduated from Princeton in 1754 with a bachelor's degree. For a short time, he ran the college's elementary school, taking two-thirds of that school's profits as a salary. In 1756 he continued his studies at Princeton, and in 1759 he received his master's degree in...
(The entire section is 2548 words.)
Born January 29, 1737
Died June 8, 1809
New York, New York
American writer, political leader, reformer
Thomas Paine was one of the first writers to realize the power of the press in bringing about political reform. Paine's writings greatly influenced the American Revolution (1775–83) and the French Revolution (1789–99). In them he expressed his beliefs that man is rational and basically good but corrupted by society, that all men are equal, and that justice is dependent on a nation's economic system.
Thomas Paine was born on January 29, 1737. His father, Joseph Pain (Thomas later added the final "e" to his last name) was a Quaker, a member of the Society of Friends. Quakers like young Paine's father distrusted both religious and governmental authority. Thomas's mother, Frances Cocke Pain, known for having been bad-tempered and a bit strange, was eleven years older than...
(The entire section is 2367 words.)
Born November 15, 1708
Died May 11, 1778
Kent County, England
British prime minister, member of Parliament
William Pitt was a politician of tremendous influence in Great Britain for more than forty years. He opposed the unfair taxation of the American colonies in the critical years leading up to the American Revolution (1775–83), and advised settling the quarrel with them so they would remain part of the British empire. As leader of the British government, Pitt led Britain to victory over France in the French and Indian War (1756–63), gaining Canada and the Mississippi Valley for the British empire. He was known as William Pitt the Elder because his son also served in British government.
William Pitt was born on November 15, 1708, on fashionable Piccadilly Street in...
(The entire section is 2825 words.)
Born March 4, 1747
Winiary Estate near Warsaw, Poland
Died October 11, 1779
Casimir Pulaski, freedom fighter, was a young man of outstanding bravery and energy. He fought to free his own country of Poland from domination by Russia. Falsely accused of trying to assassinate the king of Poland, he went into exile in France, where he heard talk of revolution in America. He offered his expertise to the cause and distinguished himself as a military instructor and soldier before his tragic death during the battle for Savannah, Georgia.
Casimir Pulaski was born in 1747 on his family's estate, about forty miles southwest of Poland's capital city of Warsaw. He was the second son and one of eight children born to Josef Pulaski, a lawyer, and Marjanna Zielinska Pulaski, an heiress. The Pulaskis were among the wealthiest of Poland's lesser nobility (a step below the upper ranks). All eight of the Pulaski...
(The entire section is 2836 words.)
Born April 2, 1749
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
Died May 8, 1815
Charleston, South Carolina
Physician, politician, historian
David Ramsay was a man of many talents. He was born into humble circumstances and lacked family connections. But he became a wealthy and successful physician in an America that had freed itself from the type of European social system in which this would not have been possible. Ramsay became the foremost American historian of Revolutionary times and a spokesman for the revolutionary generation's politicians and thinkers.
David Ramsay was born in Drumore Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. His parents had come to America from Ireland and were the owners of a small farm. Ramsay's older brother, Nathaniel, went on to become an officer in the Continental army (formed during the American...
(The entire section is 1902 words.)
Reed, Esther de Berdt
Born October 22, 1746
Died September 18, 1780
Esther De Berdt Reed was a patriot and the head of a women's group that provided goods needed by the soldiers of the Continental army during the Revolutionary War (1775–83). Her involvement in public affairs and her often-criticized efforts to involve women in patriotic activities broadened the role of women in the new country.
Esther De Berdt, born in 1746 in London, England, was one of two children of Martha Symon De Berdt and Dennys De Berdt, an English businessman who traded with colonists in Delaware and Massachusetts. The fair-haired, attractive young Esther was a lively talker and a lover of books. Whether or not "Hette" or "Hettie," as she was known to her family, received any formal schooling outside her home is unknown.
In 1763, when Esther De Berdt was seventeen,...
(The entire section is 1740 words.)
Born January 1, 1735
Died May 10, 1818
Silversmith, industrialist, political leader, courier, soldier
Paul Revere, one of colonial Boston's leading silver artisans, was accomplished in several fields. This creative and versatile man was an innovator in the processing of copper and bronze and an important political organizer in Revolutionary Boston. He is best known as the subject of a famous poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow titled Paul Revere's Ride.
Paul Revere's father was a man of French descent named Apollos De Rivoire (pronounced ah-po-LOW duh ruh-VWAR), who later changed his last name to the simpler Revere. He came as a boy to Boston from the British Isle of Guernsey and learned the silversmith trade, which included the crafting and repair of silver articles. Paul was the third of...
(The entire section is 2621 words.)
Riedesel, Frederika von
Born July 11, 1746
Died March 29, 1808
Baroness, camp follower
"I was an eyewitness of the whole affair [the Battle of Saratoga]…. I knew my husband was in the midst of it…. I shivered at every shot."
Frederika von Riedesel was a German noblewoman who spent six years living in America during the time of the Revolutionary War (1775–83). She saw battles, was taken prisoner, nursed her children through illnesses, and maintained a brave and optimistic outlook. A book comprising the letters she wrote during that time offers a vivid picture of that eventful period in American history.
Frederika Charlotte Luisa von Massow (later von Riedesel) was born into a wealthy German family in 1746. The baroness, as she was most often referred to in adulthood, was the daughter of Count Massow, head of an army formed by the German King Frederick William II (1744–1797).
Count Massow had his family come and live with him near the various battle sites where he was posted. During times of peace the family lived in their permanent home. As the von Riedesel daughters grew up, they became beauties, and young soldiers were drawn to their home.
In 1762, at age seventeen, "Fritschen," as young Frederika was...
(The entire section is 3083 words.)
Died July 4, 1802
New York, New York
Publisher, printer, bookseller, spy
James Rivington, born in London to a family of publishers, was named by the king of England as the Royal Printer of New York during the Revolutionary War (1775–83). His Royal Gazette became one of the best-selling newspapers in the colonies, and it is considered the first daily newspaper to be published in the United States. He began the war as a Tory or Loyalist—someone who wanted to remain loyal to and keep the American colonies a part of England—but in 1781 he began to work as a spy for General George Washington (1732–1799; see entry). Rivington's work for the patriot cause was not known during his lifetime, however, and he died poor and unrecognized.
James Rivington was born in England in 1724, the sixth son of Charles Rivington and Eleanor Pease. His early...
(The entire section is 2932 words.)
Born January 1, 1752
Died January 30, 1836
Shop manager, upholsterer, seamstress
Betsy Ross is widely believed to have made the first American flag. Widowed three times, she had seven daughters, lived through the American Revolution, and for sixty-two years ran her own small business. This spirited, independent woman lived a remarkable life that was very much tied up with the events of the Revolution.
Elizabeth "Betsy" Griscom Ross Ashburn Claypoole, who will be called here by her more popular name, Betsy Ross, was born on January 1, 1752, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ross was the eighth of seventeen children born to Rebecca and Samuel Griscom, who ran a construction business. Young Ross was an attractive girl with thick brown hair and blue eyes who showed strong skills with a needle...
(The entire section is 2578 words.)
Born December 24, 1745
Died April 19, 1813
Physician, educator, writer, reformer, political leader
"The American war is over: but that is far from the case with the American Revolution."
Asigner of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Rush was the best known medical man of his day and the first to also gain a reputation as a writer. A driving force in the fields of American politics and education, he was a vigorous enemy of slavery and capital punishment and was also noted for his enlightened treatment of the mentally ill.
Born in Pennsylvania in late 1745, Benjamin Rush was only six years old when his father died. His mother then opened a grocery store to support her seven children. At age eight, Rush studied at a school in Maryland run by his uncle, Samuel Finley. The boy made such rapid progress that he entered college only five years later.
In 1760, at age fifteen, Rush graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). Samuel Finley urged his nephew to become a medical doctor. In 1761, Rush went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and for six years studied medicine with Dr. John Redmond. Next he traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland, then the world's leading center of...
(The entire section is 2313 words.)
Born December 17, 1760
Died April 29, 1827
Farmer, soldier, public speaker
Disguised as a man, Deborah Sampson served admirably as a soldier in the Continental army during the American Revolutionary War (1775–83) and later gave speeches about her time in the military. She established a public presence for women that went far beyond the normal cultural limits of her time. The former soldier then went on to become a wife and mother. She asked for and received a military pension (money benefits) from the U.S. government, also unheard of for a woman of her time.
Deborah Sampson was born on December 17, 1760, to a poor family in Plympton, Massachusetts (located near Plymouth, Massachusetts). Her father, Jonathan Sampson Jr., deserted his family to go to sea. His wife, Deborah Bradford Sampson, a...
(The entire section is 2954 words.)
Born c. 1747 Hopkinton, Massachusetts
Died September 29, 1825
Sparta, New York
Farmer, soldier, political leader, insurrectionist
During the American Revolution (1775–83), Daniel Shays served with distinction in the American army, earning battlefield promotions for bravery. He later gained notoriety as the leader of the Shays Rebellion of 1786. Like those who began the war, Shays and his followers were protesting what they considered unfair taxation. The rebellion was suppressed, Shays and the other rebels were pardoned, and the event led political leaders to press for a strong federal government.
Not much is known about Daniel Shays's life before he enlisted as a soldier in the American army during the Revolutionary War. He was the second of six children born to Patrick Shays and Margaret...
(The entire section is 2646 words.)
Born August 27, 1725
Died September 4, 1767
Member of Parliament
Charles Townshend was a brilliant and witty man, and a member of the British Parliament who strove to please those he thought could do him the most good. He is mostly remembered for the Townshend Acts of 1767, which taxed and angered the American colonies to revolt. The acts had a huge and fatal impact on relations between the colonies and Great Britain, and for this reason Townshend will always be remembered as the man who did so much to bring on the American Revolution.
Charles Townshend was born on August 27, 1725, to Charles Townshend and his wife, Audrey, daughter and heiress of Edward Harrison. Charles was their second son and one of five children. His siblings were George; Edward, who died in infancy; Roger, who was killed in a war in America in 1759; and...
(The entire section is 2598 words.)
Born September 24, 1717
Died March 2, 1797
Writer, historian, politician
Horace Walpole was a brilliant eighteenth-century man of letters. An accomplished writer of essays, Walpole was also an expert in the fields of history, art history (particularly painting), and gardens. His Memoirs, which he wrote secretly from about 1751 to 1791, is one of the greatest sources of information about the political history of his time.
Horace Walpole, born in London, England, on September 24, 1717, was the fourth child and youngest son of the great British prime minister Sir Robert Walpole, First Earl of Orford, and Catherine Shorter Walpole. The child was christened Horatio, but he disliked the name, preferring to be called Horace.
Young Walpole enjoyed the advantages of wealth and family influence. After his early schooling, in...
(The entire section is 2970 words.)
Warren, Mercy Otis
Born September 25, 1728
Died October 13, 1814
Mercy Otis Warren produced both prose and poetry while running a home and parenting five sons. She wrote plays making fun of Americans who stayed loyal to Great Britain during the American Revolution (1775–83), as well as patriotic poems and a history of the Revolution. This intelligent woman also exchanged letters and engaged in political discussions with such well-known patriots of her day as Samuel Adams, John Adams, and Abigail Adams (see entries).
Mercy Otis Warren was the daughter of James Otis, a farmer, merchant, and politician, and Mary Allyne Otis, a descendent of the Pilgrims. The Otises, who lived in Barnstable, Massachusetts, had thirteen children in their strict but loving home. Six of them died before reaching...
(The entire section is 2944 words.)
Born February 22, 1732
Pope's Creek Plantation, Virginia
Died December 14, 1799
Mount Vernon, Virginia
First president of the United States,
military leader, farmer, surveyor
George Washington is one of the greatest soldier-statesmen the United States has ever produced. He led his country to victory in the American Revolution, helped draft the U.S. Constitution, served as first president of the new nation, and established a lasting reputation for honesty, heroism, dedication, and service.
George Washington was born at Pope Creek Plantation in northeastern Virginia on February 22, 1732. His parents were Augustine Washington and his second wife, Mary Ball. Washington had two older half-brothers, Lawrence and Augustine, and five younger brothers and sisters: Betty, Samuel, John Augustine, Charles, and Mildred (who died as a baby)....
(The entire section is 3610 words.)
Born c. 1753
Died December 5, 1784
"In every human breast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Love of Freedom."
Phillis Wheatley, who spent her childhood as a slave, has been called the "Mother of Black Literature." The young girl became a sensation in Boston in the 1760s when her well-crafted poems made her famous. Wheatley's writing abilities and intelligence were an impressive example to English and American audiences of how a person can triumph over the circumstances of oppression.
In the mid-eighteenth century, slave trading played a large role in America's economy. Ships would leave the American East Coast for the West Indies in the Caribbean Sea with products to trade there for rum. They then traveled on to Africa, where they traded the rum for men, women, and children, who were transported back to America to be sold as slaves. During the trip across the seas from Africa, people were jammed together in unsanitary conditions, and many died from sickness or starvation. Young Phillis was kidnapped from West Africa and brought across the Atlantic Ocean on the slave ship Phillis, which landed in Massachusetts's Boston Harbor on July 11, 1761.
(The entire section is 3083 words.)
Born October 17, 1725
Died December 26, 1797
Political leader, writer, publisher
John Wilkes was a London radical who favored revolutionary changes in England's political structure. His newspaper articles irritated King George III (see entry) and British lawmakers (Parliament) so much that he was several times expelled from his seat in Parliament. The public was outraged over this treatment, and the important question was raised—whether Parliament could ignore the will of voters. Wilkes became known as a champion of the common people and a crusader for freedom of the press and the reform of Parliament. American colonists made a hero out of him because of his support for the American Revolution (1775–83).
John Wilkes was the second son and one of five children born to Israel Wilkes, a London malt distiller (a...
(The entire section is 2474 words.)