America typically celebrates the 4th of July as a unifying victory for the country, but the road to independence was more divisive and violent than most people realize, according to Thomas Slaughter, the Arthur R. Miller Professor of History at the University of Rochester. As we approach Independence Day, Slaughter shares three little known facts about the American Revolution for you to bring to your 4th of July picnic:
1. At no time did more than 45 percent of colonists support the war, and at least a third of colonists fought for the British. Unlike the Civil War, which pitted regions against each other, the war of independence pitted neighbor against neighbor. Americans were not only rebelling against the mother country, they were fighting each other.
2. A higher percentage of the population died in the American Revolution than in any other war fought by Americans. As a result, more people who lived through the American Revolution knew someone who died or lost someone in the war, than in any war we have fought since.
3. Many Americans switched allegiance and changed signs during the revolution depending on which side was winning. For example, at one inn along a well-traveled road in New Jersey—what is today Route 1—the innkeeper would send a servant out to look down the road every morning and throughout the day. If an army was spotted, the servant was charged with identifying the colors and raising the corresponding flag to keep soldiers from burning down the inn.
Note to editors: Thomas Slaughter is available for phone interviews to discuss the roots of the American Revolution and the importance of recalling the story today as we approach the 4th of July. He provides comprehensive insight into the causes of the American Revolution in his just published book, Independence: the Tangled Roots of the American Revolution (2014).