11 Surprising Locations That Played a Key Role in the Revolution
From the Boston Massacre to the Boston Tea Party, the Massachusetts capital’s effect on the American Revolutionary War is widely documented. But, while Boston was a hotspot of revolutionary activity, it far from single-handedly won the war. Here are 11 locations that are often overlooked by the history books, but nevertheless significantly impacted the war effort.
1. Weare, New Hampshire
One of the first open acts of rebellion against the British crown happened in the small town of Weare, New Hampshire, on April 14, 1772, when a group of colonists took a stand against Britain’s oppressive pine tree laws. Beginning in the 17th century, England reserved all New Hampshire’s white pine trees larger than one foot in diameter for the Crown—a repressive rule since the thick, tall trees were used for ships’ masts. Luckily for colonists, these laws were rarely enforced until John Wentworth was appointed governor of New Hampshire in 1766.
In 1772, Wentworth and his deputy charged six mill owners in Goffstown and Weare with breaking the law (by cutting down the trees for their own purposes). The Goffstown mill owners readily paid their fines, but the Weare mill owner refused. On April 13, Sheriff Benjamin Whiting issued a warrant for the arrest of the leader of the Weare mill owner, Ebenezer Mudgett. At dawn the next morning, Mudgett and a group of townspeople burst into Whiting’s room at the Pine Tree Tavern and drove him from the town.
2. Rhode Island
On May 4, 1776—a full two months before the signing of the Declaration of Independence—Rhode Island became the first colony to sever ties with England and renounce allegiance to King George. Rhode Island, home to the significant ports of Providence and Newport, suffered under the new trade restrictions and tariffs set forth by the Sugar Act and decided to take an early stand.
Louisiana wasn’t one of the 13 original colonies or even part of the British empire, but thanks to its Spanish governor, Bernardo de Galvez, the territory made a major impact on the American Revolution. Galvez sent supplies to the colonial armies and, upon Spain’s entry into the war in 1779, captured the British-held forts at Baton Rouge in Natchez. In 1781, Galvez would secure Mobile, Alabama, for the American cause and lead a heroic attack on the British in Pensacola, Florida that drove the British out of Western Florida. Thanks to Galvez, Louisiana provided some much-needed relief to General George Washington’s troops just as the British were turning their attention towards the Southern colonies.
Virginia’s involvement in the Revolutionary War isn’t exactly surprising—the colony was the site of many major battles throughout the war, including the Battle of Yorktown, where the British ultimately surrendered. However, Virginia’s early support of Boston and the Northern colonies is often lost in the shuffle. In 1774, while the Intolerable Acts (called the Coercive Acts by the British) kept Boston Harbor closed, Virginia sent supplies and men to the besieged city and pledged to back Massachusetts in its revolutionary effort.
5. New York Harbor
On September 7, 1776, New York Harbor became the site of the world’s first use of a submarine in warfare, as the American submersible Turtle attempted to attach a time bomb to the British flagship Eagle. Unfortunately, due to the submarine pilot’s lack of skill in operating the vessel, which was entirely hand-powered, the bomb failed to attach to the Eagle and exploded nearby as the Turtle made its retreat. No harm came to either ship. However, George Washington would later give the bomb’s inventor, David Bushnell, a commission as an Army engineer, which led to Bushnell perfecting drifting mines that sank a number of British ships.
6. Charleston, South Carolina
Thirteen days before Boston’s famous Tea Party, the people of Charleston had one of their own. On December 3, 1773, a ship carrying East Indian tea docked in Charleston Harbor. The Charlestonians refused the purchase the tea, and insisted it be returned to England. When the ship’s captain refused, the colonists seized the tea and locked it in the Old Exchange Building. Over time, the South Carolinians would seize hundreds of tea chests from the British; these were sold in 1776, with the proceeds going to the Revolutionary cause.
One of the most devastating naval losses for the Continental forces happened off the east coast of Barbados on March 7, 1778. The frigate USS Randolph, helmed by Captain Nicholas Biddle, was escorting a fleet of American ships to the West Indies when it was attacked by the HMS Yarmouth. A superior ship, the Yarmouth made quick work of sinking the Randolph and killing 301 men on board (all but four of the Randolph’s crew). While the Battle off Barbados would become one of the deadliest battles of the Revolutionary War (and America’s most costly naval defeat until the sinking of the USS Arizona in 1941), Captain Biddle would go down in history as a war hero.
While no Revolutionary War battles took place on Connecticut soil, the tiny colony was instrumental in outfitting the Continental troops. George Washington dubbed Connecticut the Provisions State for its generosity to the war effort—while Connecticut was the third-smallest colony, it provided more food and cannons for Washington’s army than any other.
9. Bennington, Vermont
While Vermont declared itself an independent state in 1777, it was not officially one of the 13 original colonies (its land was disputed by New York and New Hampshire, and Vermont would go on to become the 14th state)—but that didn’t prevent it from leaving its mark on the American Revolution. During the summer of 1777, British troops made their way down the Lake Champlain-Hudson River corridor toward Albany, planning to isolate New England from the rest of the colonies. But by August, they were in great need of supplies, so the British General John Burgoyne sent his men into the small town of Burlington, Vermont, to capture provisions from the colonists.
But the Patriots would not give up their goods without a fight—and indeed, won the Battle of Bennington on August 16. While itself a minor victory, the Battle of Bennington weakened General Burgoyne’s troops, thus allowing for an American victory at the Battle of Saratoga (a major turning point in the war, as it convinced France to lend its support to the colonies) just a few months later.
10. Baltimore, Maryland
For its second session (from December 1776 to February 1777), the Second Continental Congress moved from Philadelphia to Baltimore, as the advancing British troops made Philadelphia too dangerous for a Congressional meeting. This means that, during this brief period, Baltimore was considered America’s capital.
11. Annapolis, Maryland
Not to be outdone by its fellow Maryland city, Annapolis became the United States’ first peacetime capital in 1783. The Treaty of Paris, which formally ended the war, was ratified by the Continental Congress—temporarily located in Annapolis—on January 14, 1784.