Before there was the holiday of Presidents’ Day and Presidents’ Day sales, there was George Washington’s birthday. But who was George Washington and what really happened during the American Revolution and afterwards? In this article we take a small step in separating myth from reality. It is in the form of a true (T) or false (F) test. Good luck and no cheating.
There Were 12 Original Colonies
True. At the time of the American Revolution, Delaware was still officially part of Pennsylvania. However, by the time of the ratification of the Constitution in 1787, Delaware was an independent colony. In fact, it was the first colony to ratify the Constitution.
George Washington Had Wooden False Teeth
This is one of the most enduring myths about George Washington, but it is False. George Washington lost his first tooth at age 22, had dentures constructed of cow and horse teeth, ivory, lead-tin, copper and silver alloys No wonder they were ill-fitting and uncomfortable!
George Washington Stood While Crossing the Delaware
Probably false, but if you need to mark yourself correct in choosing “True,” go do so.
You probably are aware of the Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze painting depicting Washington and the Continental army on their way to fight the famous battle of Trenton on Christmas Eve, 1776.
The painting has several inaccuracies: the American flag shown is wrong, the sky is unnaturally bright; the boat is of the wrong model and looks too small to convey all of its occupants and stay afloat. And as any good seaman knows, standing in a boat is not recommended.
George Washington Was an Excellent General who won More Battles than he Lost
False. George Washington was rarely victorious in battle. His greatest strengths were in keeping the Continental army functioning and living to fight another day. Early in the war he nearly had his army surrounded and destroyed by the British in the battles of Brooklyn and New York, but he escaped. (A remnant of the Continental army was surrounded and surrendered at Fort Washington in November, 1776).
Washington’s greatest victory at Yorktown was due to the participation of the French, headed by Admiral de Grasse, whose fleet cut off the escape of the British general Cornwallis.
There Were 12 Original Amendments to the Constitution
True. The first 10 amendments to the Constitution (the “Bill of Rights”) were accompanied by two other amendments that were not ratified in 1789. The first non-adopted amendment set a limit on the size of the population in each congressional district. If adopted, we would have a Congress of 6,000 or so representatives.
The second amendment that was not adopted at that time prevented Congress from giving itself a pay raise. Although not originally adopted, in 1992 it became the 27th amendment to the Constitution.
On His Famous Ride, Paul Revere Shouted “the British are Coming”
False. Paul Revere rode on April 18th, 1775 to alert the American militias at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts that the British army were on their way. Most people at that time considered themselves British, so shouting “the British are coming” was patently absurd. He probably would have shouted that the regulars are coming.
In any event, Paul Revere never made it to Lexington to alert the militias. He was stopped on the way by the British; Samuel Prescott and William Dawes were the ones who alerted the militias.
America’s Revolution was a True Revolution
True. Although debated by historians, the American Revolution was a true revolution. A revolution causes a dramatic change, while a rebellion is the action or process of resisting authority. The Revolution ended up eliminating the monarchy, a radical idea at that time. After 1776, traditional elites (merchants, planters, lawyers) were challenged by artisans, small farmers, and other workers. Inherited political office and the rule of aristocracy were abolished.
The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia Rang Out American Independence on July 4th, 1776
False, sorry to say. It is more likely that the Liberty Bell sounded on July 8th, when the Declaration of Independence was read publically. Also, the bell was not called the Liberty Bell until the 1830’s when abolitionists adopted it as a symbol of the anti-slavery abolitionist movement.
The American Revolution was Supported by a Minority of the Population
True. John Adams said that one third of the population supported the revolution, one third opposed it and one third had no opinion. One third in support was an exaggeration at best. For many, taxes were inevitable in any case and it did not matter to whom the taxes were paid. In fact, some farmers equipped their homes with two flags—the British and the American.
Americans Won the War by Using Guerilla Tactics
Mostly False. Although the Americans did employ guerilla tactics, they were not the norm and certainly not in decisive battles. The war was won when the Americans learned to use European tactics, learned to pick its battles and got major assistance from the French. The British also wearied of the war which was a tremendous drain on their treasury.
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