John Adams estimated that one-third of the country were Patriots supporting independence, one-third were Loyalist Americans supporting the British and one-third were neutral supporting neither side. Not hardly an “us verses them” scenario.
Even after the battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775 the numbers shifted only some what. Those neutral remained steadfast at about one-third, while the shift to the Patriots jumped to over 40%, or just over one million Americans, the Loyalist numbered around 20%, or just under a half million.
Throughout the war the division of allegiances remain much the same. While the American Civil War of 1861-1865 was a division primarily between the North and South, the partisanship in the Civil War of 1775-1783 were far more heterogeneous. There were divisions among almost every category of people; not only brother against brother, but also wife against husband.
At the beginning of the war there were about 2.5 million Americans; half lived in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina. Of that number there were a half million African Americans; most were in the South, but 10% lived New York, New England and Delaware.
There were 200,000 Native Americans in some 85 tribes east of the Mississippi River; mostly in the northwest. All of these groups were divided to some extent in their allegiance to the Patriots and the Loyalists.
Though George Washington never commanded more than 19,000 men in the Continental Army at any one time, it is estimated that 250,000 Americans fought for the Patriots at some point during the war. This number is likely over stated because many soldiers reenlisted at the end of their contracts,and this number is not known. Every able bodied man not in the Continental Army was expected to serve in their state militia on an as-needed basis. It is estimated that the total number of Patriots serving at any one time was never more than 90,000.
25,000 Americans fought for the British, as did 20,000 African-Americans, but 5,000 African-Americans fought for the Patriots. At the beginning of the war in 1775 at least five African-Americans were killed by the British at the battles of Lexington and Concord. According to Historycentral.com “Among those fighting in Massachusetts was African-American Salem Poor, whose courage and dedication to military service attracted so much attention that fourteen officers petitioned the Massachusetts legislature to present to him a monetary award. Another Massachusetts patriot soldier of African descent was Barzillai Lew, who was believed to have organized a group of African-American guerilla fighters. African-Americans such as Crispus Attucks, first person killed in the Boston Massacre, and Peter Salem, who killed the first British officer in the Battle of Bunker Hill, were hailed as national heroes by some who might not ordinarily praise a black man.”
13,000 Native Americans, fearing American westward expansion, fought for the British, especially the Iroquois tribes who contributed 1,500 men. The Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga, and Cayuga also sided with the British, while many Tuscarora and Oneida sided with the Patriots.
The battle of Yorktown is often referred to the last battle of the war. While George Washington and his Continental Army never fought another battle, the war continued for another two years ending with the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Most of the combat was among the Patriots and the Loyalist and the Native Americans. More Americans were killed after Yorktown than were killed during the first year of the war. The fighting between the Patriots and the Loyalist was particularly savage, especially in the South.
Animosities ran raw, even at wars end. The British felt a responsibility to the Loyalists who had supported them. They agreed after the negotiations of the Treaty of Paris to provide free transportation to remove any Loyalist who wanted to leave the United States. 70,000 Loyalist were transported mostly to what is now Canada and a few to England. 100,000 African-American Loyalist were taken primarily to the islands of the Caribbean and Spanish controlled Florida; about 500 went to England.
Again Historycentral.com reports, “Although the many loyalists and much of the patriot leadership were dominated by people of English ancestry, many non-English Europeans were involved in the war, on both sides.
German-Americans in the Mohawk Valley on New York’s frontier strongly supported the Revolution, whereas those in British-occupied Philadelphia were generally Loyalists.
Members of the same religious group often had different opinion on the revolution depending on the region in which they lived and their particular interests. Anglicans in the South had developed a very Americanized church, so that many of them supported the revolution and felt no qualms about fighting England. Anglicans in New England and the Middle Colonies, however, concerned about their minority status, maintained closer ties to England, and were generally loyalists.
In addition to the loyalist Anglicans in Pennsylvania, there were pockets of loyalist Quakers, many of whom were thankful to King George for having been their protector and benefactor. An even greater problem for the patriots was the pacifism embraced by Quakers, Moravians, Mennonites, and many others. Benjamin Franklin was able to convince many to serve the patriot cause in civilian capacities.
The presence of a vast variety of ethnic, national, and religious backgrounds among the Americans of 1776 is certainly reflected in the individuals who participated in the Revolutionary War. Some of these Americans fought for reconciliation with Britain, while others fought for independence from Britain. Some fought in the military, while others served on the civilian front.
Their efforts created a war of historic proportions, and the victorious Patriots established the first nation of its kind. Later years would see a country of immigrants from even more diverse backgrounds. Because of the participation of such a broad range of people, the new nation of the United States of America was built upon the labor and from the blood of a near microcosm of the world”
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Gifted Education Writer
Houston, TX 77024-4026