Reanimated History: Give Me Liberty or Give Me Truth

Mar 18 2018

Don’t tread on him, but in this episode, Adam sets the record straight on everything incomplete, outdated or even downright wrong about the American Revolution. Here are his sources.


“In 1775, as few as 1 in 5 colonists even supported the independence movement.”

John Shy. A People Numerous & Armed: Reflections on the Military Struggle for American Independence. University of Michigan Press, 1990.

“On top of that, about one-third of the colonists actually supported the British side.”

“Loyalist,” Encyclopædia Britannica, 2017.

“It grieves me to see so little of that patriotic spirit, which I was taught to believe was characteristic of this people.”

George Washington, The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799, Vol. 4. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1776.

“First, they offered money to bribe potential recruits.”

John Ferling. “Myths of the American Revolution.” Smithsonian Magazine, Jan 2010.

“But the Continental army didn’t have enough money to pay the soldiers so most received IOUs.”

John L. Smith, Jr. “How Was the Revolutionary War Paid For?” Journal of the American Revolution, 23 Feb 2015.

“Next, they’d go into bars with a drum and literally march people to
recruitment centers while they were drunk.”

Erna Risch. Supplying Washington’s Army. University of Michigan Library, 1981.

“They would even trick immigrants with limited English to sign contracts they couldn’t read”

Charles Neimeyer. America Goes to War: A Social History of the Continental Army. NYU Press, 1997.

“But the dirtiest trick of all is when they would frame colonists for crimes and have courts punish them with forced enlistment. “

Erna Risch. Supplying Washington’s Army. University of Michigan Library, 1981.

“Yes. And what’s worse, the wealthy elites, who the war benefitted the most, were able to avoid the draft by paying poor people to take their place.”

Christopher Geist. “A Common American Soldier.” Colonial Williamsburg Journal, Spring 2004.

“Yup! And as a result, desertion was a constant problem. As many as 20% of all the soldiers in the Continental Army ended up deserting.”

James Howard Edmonson. Desertion in the American Army During the Revolutionary War. Louisiana State University, 1971.

“Any soldier who abandoned his post would receive little mercy and suffer death immediately.”

Joshua Shepherd. “George Washington Convenes a Firing Squad.” Journal of the American Revolution, 9 Feb 2016.

“Some soldiers were so upset about the poor conditions and lack of pay that they coordinated full blown mutinies. In one instance in 1781, 200 Continental soldiers conspired to abandon their posts but were soon captured...”

Charles S. Yordy III. “The Pennsylvania Line Mutiny, its Origins and Patriotism.” Arts and Humanities Library, Penn State University Libraries.

“Due to this, there were 20 times more slaves fighting for the British than the Patriot side.”

Katherine Egner Gruber. James Lafayette: Revolutionary War Spy. C-SPAN, 28 Sep 2016.

“With this information General Washington was able to ambush Cornwallis’ army in Yorktown forcing him to surrender.”

Madison Gray. “James Armistead: Patriot Spy.” Time, 12 Jan 2007.

“James petitioned the government for his freedom for years but to no avail. Until one day, a national hero stepped in. That hero was… Marquis da Lafayette!”

“Manumission Petition for James Lafayette.” University of Virginia Library, 2017.

“Call me Lafayette. James Lafayette.”

Ruth Quinn. “James Armistead Lafayette, (1760-1832).” U.S. Army Public Affairs, 31 Jan 2014.

“They actually called the British Army The Regulars.”

Jennie Cohen. “10 Things You May Not Know About Paul Revere.” History, 16 Apr 2013.

“Remember those famous signal lanterns from the beginning of the story? Revere didn’t even see them. They were for a different Son of Liberty named Dr. Joseph Warren. And for the historic ride, he decided to send... “

“The Real Story of Paul Revere’s Ride.” The Paul Revere House, 2017.

“Revere didn’t go on his ride until after Dawes had already left. They wound up warning the militia of Lexington together.”

Oliver Ayer Roberts. History of the Military Company of Massachusetts. A. Mudge and Son, 1895.

“Exactly! In fact, in the years that followed most people forgot about Revere’s midnight ride entirely. It wasn’t even mentioned in his obituary”

Joseph Coohill. “Paul Revere’s Ride.” Professor Buzzkill, 14 Jun 2016.

“In 1860, Harvard professor and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wanted to write a poem that would unify a divided nation.”

Jill Lepore. “Paul Revere’s Ride Against Slavery.” New York Times, 18 Dec 2010.

“Actually, he was SUPER important! He printed the nation’s first currency, manufactured gun powder for the army, and opened the country’s first copper rolling mill. And those things helped the cause way more than his one failed ride. But most people don’t know about them, because no one wrote a poem about them.”

Jill Terreri Ramos. “Canton Advances Plans for New Paul Revere Site.” Boston Globe, 17 Feb 2017.

“His dentures were actually made of the teeth of other humans, and sometimes even donkey teeth.”

Michael Beschloss, New York Times, 28 Apr 2014.

“And despite what most people think, Washington never wore a wig. He just powdered his hair, which was naturally a shade of reddish-brown.”

Robert Krulwich. “George Washington’s Oh-So-Mysterious Hair.” National Geographic, 9 Jun 2015.

“Or that the cherry tree chopping story was just a myth made up by a biographer to sell more books.”

Gwen Ifill. “Of Truth, Myth, and Cherry Trees.” PBS, 13 Nov 2015.

“Or the Pledge of Allegiance was written by a baptist minister to celebrate Christopher Columbus.”

Jeffrey Owen Jones. “The Man Who Wrote the Pledge of Allegiance.” Smithsonian, Nov 2003.

“In 1791, Haiti was a French colony known as Saint-Domingue. By brutally extracting the labor of enslaved people to produce and export sugar, Haiti became France’s most profitable colony.”

Isabel Macdonald. “France's debt of dishonour to Haiti.” The Guardian, 16 Aug 2010.

“Under the leadership of Toussaint, the enslaved people, with no training, no weapons, many still in chains, stormed the homes of their masters.”

Edward E. Baptist. “The Bittersweet Victory at Saint-Domingue.” Slate, 6 Aug 2015.

“Toussaint’s rule would last until 1803 when Napoleon, now ruler of France, sent troops to recapture Saint-Domingue.”

Phillipe R. Girard, The Slaves Who Defeated Napoleon: Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian War of Independence, 1801–1804. University of Alabama Press, 2011.


For More on This Topic

Charles Neimeyer’s book America Goes to War is perhaps the best account of the human dynamics of the Revolutionary War effort.

The Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation undertook the most extensive investigation ever done by historians into the life of James Lafayette, the findings of which are reported in this discussion by curator Katherine Egner-Gruber.

Jill Lepore’s piece on “The Hyperlore of Paul Revere” explores the making of an American myth.