The American Revolution was about more than just America. It was a worldwide event. America did not fight alone. They got help from every part of the globe.
And we don’t just mean Marquis de Lafayette and Casimir Pulaski. Countless soldiers from all over the world stood up and fought with America, and without them, the United States never would have won its independence.
10 – Crispus Attucks,
The Slave Who Was The First Casualty Of War
The first man to fight and die in the War of Independence was born in America, but most of his fellow Americans didn’t think of him as a countryman. His name was Crispus Attucks, and he was a runaway African slave.
Attucks was working as a sailor, even though there was a price on his head. His master wanted him back, and he was willing to pay anyone who would drag him back into slavery. Nobody tried it, and if someone had, the American Revolution might never have happened.
Attucks and his fellow seamen were in a pub when a British soldier walked in. Attucks and his friends didn’t take kindly to the British presence, and they started taunting the soldier. Staring down a hulking 6’3″ man, the soldier got nervous. Seven of his friends, other British soldiers, rushed in to help. In short time, things got out of hand, and the British opened fire.
Attucks fought back. He grabbed a soldier’s bayonet and knocked him over, but the British gunned him down before he could do any more. Four other men in that bar would die before the massacre was over.
History has debated whether Attucks was a hero or just a violent drunk, but it can’t deny his impact. He was the first to die in the Boston Massacre, a moment that would spark the American Revolution.
9 – Von Steuben,
The Prussian Who Trained The American Army
The Americans who fought for Independence weren’t all seasoned veterans. Before Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben came in from Prussia, they were using bayonets to skewer meat more often than they were using them to skewer their enemies.
Von Steuben crossed the ocean to teach the Americans how to fight. He was the Inspector General of the American Army, in charge of drilling the soldiers and organizing their training, and he barely spoke a word of English. Von Steuben would bark at people in Prussian, his secretary would translate it into French, and then another secretary would translate that into English.
It was complicated, but it worked. He taught the American army how to fight and how to use bayonets, and that made a huge difference in the war.
In 1779, General Wayne used Von Steuben’s lessons to take Stony Brook. He and his men took a fort protected by 750 men without firing a single shot. They won the battle entirely with bayonets. Without filling the night with the sound gunfire, they were able to launch a sneak attack the British didn’t expect. Thanks to Von Steuben, Stony Brook was taken.
8 – Tadeusz Kosciuszko,
The Polish War Hero Who Tried To Free The Slaves
Tadeusz Kosciuszko was one of the chief engineers for the US Army. He planned the defensive strategy in Saratoga, a moment that turned the war in America’s favor. He built the military fort at West Point, which, today, is the site of the US Military Academy.
The real story for Kosciuszko, though, happened after he died. He became close friends with Thomas Jefferson, and when he died, he trusted the president to carry out his final wishes. Every penny he had, he said, should be used to free and educate African slaves.
Thomas Jefferson was almost 75 years old, so he passed the job on to someone else. That man didn’t want the responsibility of trying to get white people to educate black people, though, and he passed it on, too. Eventually, Col. George Bomford was put in charge of it, and he decided to blow the money on himself instead.
By the time Col. Bomford died, only $5,680 of Kosciuszko’s $43,504 was left. His will made it into the hands of the Supreme Court, and they just threw it out. Despite his wishes, not a single penny was put toward freeing slaves.
7 – De Galvez,
The Spanish Governor Who Secretly Supplied The American Army
Bernardo de Galvez was the governor of Louisiana, which, at the time, was a Spanish colony. He wasn’t exactly invested in the cause of democracy, but he was deeply involved in the cause of messing with England.
And so, when America went to war with England, he started sending them everything he could. He promised them all the weapons and medicine he could get them, warning them, “It must appear that I am ignorant of it all.”
Spain entered the war in earnest in 1779, and De Galvez didn’t have to hide it anymore. He could fight, and he did. Within a year, he’d chased the British out of Mobile, Alabama. The year after that, he chased them out of Florida.
6 – Moses Hazen,
The Man Who Led A Canadian Regiment For America
Canada was a British colony during the Revolutionary War. They were, quite directly, America’s enemies, which makes it surprising that some of them fought alongside America. The Americans sent out political tracts and messengers to try to get Canadians to switch sides, and some of them did. A ragtag group of Canadians, most of them French, joined the American army.
The American army had two Canadian Regiments. The first group of turncoats, appropriately enough, was commanded by Benedict Arnold. They tried and failed to take over Quebec and then spent the rest of the war stationed in New York.
The Second Canadian Regiment, commanded by Moses Hazen, was a bit more successful. Hazen was a Canadian himself, and he led his army through some of the most important battles in the war. That included the Siege of Yorktown, the battle that ended the war.
When the war ended, Moses Hazen and the Canadians who fought with him no longer had the option to return home. They had to give up everything they’d known to fight for American Independence and had to live, from then on, in the United States.