By A.K. Fielding
Most of us are familiar with the famous personalities who were responsible for the creation of the United States of America. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton are recognized names around the world. Many biographies and books have been written on these individuals, but this article aims to highlight the contributions of those lesser-known people who were elemental in helping win the war and secure the freedoms we celebrate each Fourth of July.
- George Rogers Clark–George Rogers Clark was born on November 19, 1752, in Virginia. Clark had minimal formal education and was mostly homeschooled and self-taught. He worked as a surveyor in Kentucky and during the Revolutionary War served in the Virginia militia. Clark and his militiamen traveled through the frontier in harsh weather and hostile territory to capture British controlled towns of Kaskaskia and Vincennes. He marched across neck-deep, freezing waters of the Wabash River and used his wit to trick the British intoagreeing to an unconditional surrender. For this, Clark is often called the Father of the Old Northwest.
- Nathan Hale – Nathan Hale was a born on June 6, 1755, in Coventry, Connecticut. Hale was a teacher who became the first man to volunteer to work as a spy for the Americans. Hale disguised himself as a Dutch schoolmaster and entered the British camp to collect all pertinent information that would help the American cause.H ale was discovered and captured by the British, then hanged from an apple tree in Rutger’s Orchard in New York City. His body was on display for three days as an example to anyone who dared to defy the British.
- James Armistead Lafayette – James Armistead Lafayette was born in Virginia. He was an African American slave who helped the American cause by working as a spy. Lafayette served under the French commander Marquis de Lafayette, and supplied him with information about the British movements.He entered enemy camp disguised as a runaway slave to collect important information which helped the Americans find out about Benedict Arnold’s treachery and later, about the movements of the British at the Battle of Yorktown.
- James Forten – James Fortenwas a free African American who worked on the US Navy shipRoyal Louis. At the age of fourteen, Forten and his crew were captured by the British and taken prisoner. Pleased with Forten’s growing friendship with his son, the British ship captain offered to send Forten to England to acquire an education. Forten refused to betray his country and declined the offer. For his loyalty to America’s cause, Forten, along with other American prisoners of war, spent seven months under inhumane conditions on a British prison ship in New York. When he was finally released by the end of the war, he was a mere skeleton. His hair had fallen out and he looked aged.
- Ethan Allen – Ethan Allen was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, on January 10, 1737, or January 21, 1738. Allen worked on the farm to support his family, loved to hunt and enjoyed reading.Recognizing the importance of Fort Ticonderoga as the “Gibraltar of America,” Allen and his Green Mountain Boys were sent to capture it from the British. By doing so, Allen made it possible for Henry Knox to later retrieve priceless cannons which were used to drive out the British from Boston.
- Daniel Morgan – Daniel Morgan was born in 1736. He made his mark in the Revolutionary War at the Battle of Cowpens on January 17, 1781. Morgan and his riflemen were chosen by Nathanael Greene to cut off any routes that would bring support or supplies to aid the British.Morgan carried the plan out strategically, displacing the British and scaring them off the pastureland with heavy firepower. The Battle of Cowpens, under Morgan’s leadership, changed the course of the Revolutionary War for the Americans.
- Polly Cooper– Polly Cooper was a Native American woman from the Oneida tribe of the Iroquois Confederacy. During the terrible winter at Valley Forge, Cooper carried corn and taught the soldiers how to cook it so they would have something to eat. Her arrival with the lifesaving supply of food was a welcome relief for Washington and his men.
- Henry Knox – Henry Knox was born on July 25, 1750, in Massachusetts. He was a bookstore clerk turned revolutionary patriot. Knox guided his men through a brutal winter and treacherous terrain to move fifty-nine cannons across three hundred miles from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston. The cannons provided the Americans the necessary firepower to drive the British out of Boston.
- Nathanael Greene – Nathanael Greene was born on July 27, 1742, in Potowomut, Rhode Island. He was homeschooled and taught in the Quaker style of reading, mathematics, and writing. Despite a limp in one leg which he received in his childhood, Greene pushed to become an American soldier. Indeed, Greene became one of George Washington’s best military officers. He commanded Washington’s right-wing task force at the Battle of Trenton and participated in Germantown and Brandywine.
- Joseph Warren – Dr. Joseph Warren was born on June 11, 1741, in Massachusetts. He played an important role at the Battle of Bunker Hill. The Americans had fortified the city of Boston by building a 160-feet long wall against the British invasion, but the soldiers were beginning to lose their morale. When Dr. Warren arrived, he boosted their spirits and encouraged them to stand firm against the British. Later, as the Americans ran out of ammunition and were reduced to hand-to-hand combat, Warren defended the hill until a bullet struck him on his head and brought this great man down.
As we celebrate Fourth of July this year, may we remember the people, both famous and lesser known, who birthed our great nation. The Founding Generation set a great example for patriotism for us all. It is through their sacrifices that we are able to enjoy the fruits of liberty and freedom today and work towards passing the legacy on to the next generation of Americans.
AK Fielding is a historian, artist, writer, illustrator, and homeschool educator. Her articles on American history have appeared in the Journal of the American Revolution, Illinois Heritage Magazine, Hoosier Heritage Magazine, new media publications, and her blog. Her art has appeared in galleries and national and international publications. For more information about her art and books on American history, please visit:http://trehanstreasures.com/.