How many people were in the American Revolution?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of the Census, the population of the American colonies in 1770 was 2,148,000.  The same data show that the population rose to 2,780,000 by 1780.  Those numbers, of course, represent the total population, including men, women and children, not all of whom supported a war of independence, and not all men of whom fought in war on the side of the revolutionaries.  According the 2003 study "A Companion to the American Revolution" by Jack Greene and J.R. Pole, the breakdown of pro-independence forces was as follows:

35,000 Continentals; 44,500 associated militia; 5,000 sailors in the Continental Navy; and around 12,000 French soldiers.

A 1997 British study, "The British Army in North America," concluded that there were 8,580 British troops in the colonies at the start of the Revolutionary War, with that number climbing to over 50,000 by the end of the war.  Other studies put the number of British troops in the colonies during the period before and during the war higher, but difficult accurate data has been difficult to attain.  In addition to the British soldiers, the British Crown has hired about 30,000 German mercenaries, known as "Hessians."  Once again, the figures provided by Greene and Pole:

56,000 British Red Coats; 171,000 sailors; 30,000 Germans; 50,000 Colonials who fought with the British; and 13,000 Native Americans.