American Revolution A-Z | Word List


    About the author

    Edward St. Germain.
    Edward St. Germain

    Edward A. St. Germain created in 1996. He was an avid historian with a keen interest in the Revolutionary War and American culture and society in the 18th century. On this website, he created and collated a huge collection of articles, images, and other media pertaining to the American Revolution. Edward was also a Vietnam veteran, and his investigative skills led to a career as a private detective in later life.



      Albany Plan of Union

      Patriot political leaders, especially Benjamin Franklin, had promoted the importance of colonial unity long before the start of the Revolutionary War.

      The Albany Plan of Union, proposed in 1754, called for a unified government of the Thirteen Colonies. It was never implemented, but its ideals and principles of government came to be hugely influential during the Revolutionary War, and the subsequent creation of the United States.

      Alexander Hamilton

      Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, frontline soldier, advisor to George Washington, and first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States.

      He was famously killed in a duel with Aaron Burr in 1804.

      American flag

      The American Revolution saw the birth of the American flag thanks to the Flag Act of 1777.

      The Act stated that the Thirteen Colonies must be represented with alternating red and white stripes, and as white stars on a blue background, but did not specify the positioning of the stars in the canton.


      Benedict Arnold

      Benedict Arnold is the most famous traitor of the American Revolution.

      He was a successful, widely respected Major General in the Continental Army, who had the full trust of Washington. In 1780, he planned to surrender West Point in New York to the British, but his plot was discovered, and he retreated to British lines.

      Benjamin Franklin

      Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father of the United States, played a key role in the Revolution as ambassador to France, where he helped win French support for the American war effort.

      During the war, he helped draft the Declaration of Independence, and he was also involved in negotiations for peace.

      Boston Massacre

      On March 5, 1770, a group of British soldiers let out a volley of shots into a crowd of civilians outside the Boston Custom House, killing five people.

      This event became known as the “Boston Massacre”, and was used in Patriot propaganda to encourage the colonists to revolt against the British.

      Boston Tea Party

      On December 16, 1773, Patriot rebels boarded a British East India Company ship docked in Boston Harbor, and dumped more than $1,000,000 worth of tea into the sea.

      This event led to a harsh response from the British, fueling the conflict between the two sides. Today, it is seen as an iconic act of rebellion against the British in the colonies.

      Bunker Hill (Battle of)

      On June 17, 1775, the British fought the Americans for control of the strategically significant Charleston Peninsula.

      This was one of the first major battles of the war, and although the Patriots lost, it was a close defeat – the Americans showed that they were a serious threat against the much more organized British Army.


      Common Sense

      In January 1776, Thomas Paine published Common Sense, a political pamphlet that argued for American independence from Great Britain.

      This pamphlet became incredibly popular in the Thirteen Colonies, and is credited with helping to garner support for the Patriot cause.

      Continental Army

      In 1775, Congress formed the Continental Army, and placed it under George Washington’s leadership.

      The Continental Army was the primary Patriot military force during the war, and despite coming up against a wealthier, often better-supplied British Army, it performed extremely well during most of the Revolutionary War.

      Continental Congress

      The First Continental Congress began in 1774, when representatives of 12 of the Thirteen Colonies met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to discuss their response to British policies such as the Intolerable Acts.

      During the war, the Second Continental Congress led the war effort, organized the Army, and took key steps towards removing British influence in America, such as adopting the Declaration of Independence.


      Declaration of Independence

      On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress, officially marking the creation of the United States as a separate nation from Great Britain.

      Delaware River (Washington’s Crossing)

      On the night of December 25-26, 1776, George Washington led his men across the frozen Delaware River, to launch a surprise attack on Hessian troops in Trenton.

      The mission was a success, and provided a crucial morale boost at a time when the Continental Army desperately needed it. Washington’s crossing of the Delaware is arguably the greatest military move of the entire Revolutionary War.


      Dragoons were a type of cavalry troops used by both sides during the war.

      They were fast, and highly mobile, making them useful for reconnaissance and mounting quick attacks.

      Their name comes from the weapon they carried, a type of short Blunderbuss that could be fired and reloaded easily.


      East India Company

      The East India Company was a British-owned enterprise that traded in the East Indies, as well as elsewhere around the world.

      In 1773, the company was performing poorly, so the British implemented the Tea Act, giving the East India Company an effective monopoly of the tea trade in the Thirteen Colonies.

      This enraged the Americans, who saw it as another tyrannical tax implemented by the British, leading to the Boston Tea Party of December 1773.

      Enlightenment Ideals

      Many of the Founding Fathers of the United States were proponents of Enlightenment thinking, a European philosophy that promoted ideals such as the separation of church and state, checks and balances in government, individual liberty, and equality in the eyes of the law.


      French alliance

      From as early as 1776, the French sent munitions and other supplies to the Continental Army, to support the war effort.

      On February 6 1778, the French officially became an ally of the United States, which led to them ramping up the amount of supplies they could provide, and also led to French military support in the later battles of the Revolutionary War.

      French and Indian War

      The French and Indian War (1754 – 1763) was fought between the British and their colonies on one side, and the French on the other, with various Native American tribes supporting both countries.

      When the war ended, the British had cemented their control of the Thirteen Colonies. However, the war had been very financially expensive, leading Britain to impose taxes on the colonies to pay off the war debt.


      George Washington

      As Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, George Washington’s heroics in battle are credited as instrumental to American victory in the Revolutionary War.

      His leadership and cunning military strategy helped the Continental Army through some of its lowest points, and without his leadership and military strategy, it’s likely that the Patriots would not have won the war.


      Gunpowder was an essential commodity for both sides during the American Revolution. Every single piece of artillery and gun used on the battlefield relied on gunpowder to fire.

      The Americans were initially very short on black powder, and almost ran out 1775-76. They relied heavily on imports from the French. It was also common for Patriots and Loyalists to raid each others’ magazines in search of gunpowder, as well as weapons and other supplies.


      Henry Knox

      Henry Knox was a Founding Father of the United States and Head of Artillery in the Continental Army. His leadership was instrumental to American victory at the Battle of Trenton, the Battle of Princeton, and the Siege of Yorktown.


      The Hessians were a group of German soldiers paid by the British to fight on their side during the Revolutionary War.

      They made up a huge proportion of British forces on the continent, numbering about 30,000 troops, or a quarter of the British forces at certain points of the war.


      Intolerable Acts

      The Intolerable Acts, also known as the Coercive Acts, were a series of laws enacted by Great Britain in 1774 to punish the colonies for their acts of rebellion in the years prior, such as the Boston Tea Party.

      The Acts closed the port of Boston, preventing trade, and were extremely unpopular, galvanizing support for the Patriot cause.


      James Madison

      James Madison, Founding Father and fourth President of the United States, was highly politically active for the Patriot cause during the American Revolution.

      He worked in the Continental Congress and Virginia House of Delegates, focusing on the nation’s finances. Today, he is known as the “Father of the Constitution”, for his contributions to this historic document.

      John Adams

      John Adams was a Patriot politician during the Revolutionary War, who served in the First and Second Continental Congresses.

      He played an important role in drafting the Declaration of Independence, before becoming President in 1797.

      John Jay

      John Jay was a Patriot politician who served in the First and Second Continental Congresses, and helped draft the Articles of Confederation.

      He played an important role in peace negotiations at the end of the war, and later became the first Chief Justice of the United States.

      John Paul Jones

      John Paul Jones was a legendary naval captain during the American Revolution, and is considered the father of the United States Navy.

      He is renowned for his daring raids in British waters during the war, which helped to disrupt Loyalist supply lines.


      King George III

      King George III was the King of England during the American Revolution.

      He was at least partly responsible for the escalation of the colonists’ grievances into a full-scale war, as he signed off on laws such as the Stamp Act, and the Intolerable Acts.

      He also ignored a colonial petition about their grievances in 1774, instead labeling the colonists as rebellious traitors.


      Lexington and Concord

      The American Revolution began with the “shot heard round the world” at the Battles of Lexington and Concord, on April 19, 1775.

      It is unclear who fired the first shot, but it is widely believed that the battle began in the town of Lexington on that fateful day.

      Liberty Bell

      The Liberty Bell was cast for the Pennsylvania Independence Hall, and legend has it the bell was rung to announce the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

      As this story was told over time, the bell gradually became a symbol of American independence.

      The bell can be viewed by the public today, complete with its iconic crack.

      Liberty Tree

      The Liberty Tree stood near Boston Common. In the 1760s and early 1770s, it was a common meeting point for Patriot gatherings, and a starting point for protests and demonstrations against the British government.

      The tree was cut down by the British in August 1775, but its symbolism endured. It was soon replaced by a flagpole known as the Liberty Pole, in the exact same spot the tree once stood.


      People and military forces in America who were loyal to the British Crown.


      Marquis de Lafayette

      Marquis de Lafayette was a skilled general from France, who arrived in America in 1777, after volunteering to fight for the Continental Army.

      Through his diplomacy, he also played a crucial role in securing French support for the Americans during the war.


      Minutemen were volunteer fighters for the Patriot forces, who played an important role in the early stages of the war.

      The name Minuteman has a very literal meaning – these types of troops were able to mobilize at a minute’s notice, thanks to their preparedness and training.


      Nathanael Greene

      Nathanael Greene was one of Washington’s best generals during the Revolutionary War.

      He became Quartermaster General of the Continental Army in 1778, and later took charge of its southern forces, where he was incredibly successful through a focus on hit-and-run tactics.

      Native Americans

      While many Native American tribes preferred to remain neutral during the American Revolution, most ended up choosing a side to fight on, in return for promises of protection, or favorable trading terms.

      Native American forces were renowned for their ability to do damage with quick raids on enemy towns and encampments.

      At the end of the war, the Native American population saw the continued destruction of their culture, and continued encroachment on their lands, despite promises of protection made by both sides during the war.


      Olive Branch Petition

      The Olive Branch Petition was a document adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 5, 1775, and sent to King George III of England.

      It expressed the colonists’ continued loyalty to the Crown, and offered a way towards reconciliation, and the avoidance of all-out war.

      The King rejected the petition, refusing to read it, and later proclaimed that the colonies were in a state of rebellion.


      Paris Peace Treaty

      Signed in 1783, the Paris Peace Treaty ended the Revolutionary War.

      It defined the new borders of the United States, and saw Britain give up a huge amount of land in North America.


      People and military forces in America who fought for independence from Great Britain.

      Paul Revere

      Paul Revere was an American Patriot and Sons of Liberty member, who is most famous for his midnight ride from Boston to Lexington on April 18-19, 1775.

      On the 18th, Revere gathered intelligence of the British Army’s plan to advance on Lexington and Concord, and rode through the night with other Patriots to warn troops inland of the British plans.

      Revere was also an astute propagandist for the Patriots. He produced a cartoon of the Boston Massacre which succeeded in garnering public support for rebellion against the British.


      Quartering Act

      The Quartering Act of 1774 was a piece of legislation enacted by the British parliament that stated local governments had to provide food and shelter to British troops stationed in the Thirteen Colonies, including potentially in private homes.

      This act was a part of the Intolerable Acts, and was hugely unpopular among the colonists.



      A nickname given to British Army soldiers, thanks to the distinctive red coats that they wore on the battlefield.


      Samuel Adams

      Samuel Adams was a key political player for the Patriots during the Revolutionary War.

      He was a founding member of the Sons of Liberty rebel group, and represented Massachusetts in the First and Second Continental Congresses.

      Saratoga (Battle of)

      The Battle of Saratoga was a significant victory for the Continental Army, which concluded on October 7, 1777.

      Ten days after the battle ended, General John Burgoyne surrendered his entire army of approximately 8,000 men to the Americans, representing a huge loss for the British.

      Many historians believe that this Patriot victory was pivotal in convincing the French to join the war on the American side.

      Sons of Liberty

      The Sons of Liberty were a Patriot political group formed in Boston in 1765, which was instrumental in organizing resistance against the British in the colonies.

      Their methods were sometimes violent, but were generally very effective. They helped organize protests against the Stamp Act, and orchestrated the Boston Tea Party, among other acts of rebellion.

      Stamp Act

      The Stamp Act of 1765 was a law implemented by the British government in the colonies, stating that all printed media had to be printed on special paper manufactured in London, which came with a special tax.

      The Act was met with a huge amount of resistance, most notably from the Sons of Liberty, leading to growing discontent in the colonies.

      The tax was repealed a year after being implemented.


      Taxation without Representation

      In response to the Stamp Act, protestors used the slogan “no taxation without representation”.

      Despite the amount of tax they were paying to Great Britain, people living in the Thirteen Colonies had no representation in British parliament.

      They had no say in how much tax they paid, or what the money would be used for, which was part of the reason for their discontent with the British.

      Thomas Jefferson

      Thomas Jefferson was a Founding Father of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence.

      He was also the Governor of Virginia from 1779 to 1781, and later became the third President of the United States in 1801.

      Trenton (Battle of)

      After crossing the Delaware River, Washington launched a surprise attack on Hessian forces at the Battle of Trenton, on December 26, 1776.

      The Continental Army won the battle, providing a huge morale boost that was sorely needed after a series of defeats early in 1776.



      Valley Forge

      In the winter of 1777-78, Washington and his troops set up camp at Valley Forge, PA.

      The troops were underequipped – starving, and without blankets. When they arrived at the camp, Washington’s men  had to build their own log cabins from scratch.

      It is estimated 2,000 people died at the camp, at one of the lowest points for the Continental Army.



      Another name for a Patriot.



      Yorktown (Siege of)

      The American Revolution ended when the British surrendered at Yorktown, VA.

      American and French troops arrived in Yorktown in September 1781, and were able to trap the British in the town, after implementing a complete naval blockade.

      Eventually, General Cornwallis surrendered to the combined forces on 19 October 1781.


      Related posts