5 Myths About the Revolutionary War Everyone Believes

#2. Except for a Few Loyalists, Most Americans Fought for Liberty

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The Myth

Textbooks generally acknowledge the presence of some Loyalists in the Colonies. After all, no matter what your goal is, there's always someone who thinks it's idiotic. Even so, the sentiment for independent America must've been pretty overwhelming. Even allowing for the occasional Benedict Arnold, colonists crazy enough to continue supporting the king despite all the taxes and shit were surely just a ridiculous minority. Right?

Via Wikipedia
Yep. Benedict Arnold was the only one. Suck it, history!

The Reality

Wrong! In fact, the numbers of Colonial and Loyalist supporters were almost even.

The Revolutionary War was every bit as much of a civil war as, well the Civil War. If anything, there was a better chance for brother to be pitted against brother, because unlike the actual Civil War, your side in the conflict didn't depend on what part of the country you lived in. With the Loyalist and Patriot factions, a single street was fully equipped to have a civil war all its own.

Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images
It was like WWE's Royal Rumble, except with less genital outlines on the outfits.

In fact, there were not two but three sides: about a third of Americans fought for independence, another third opted for the king's side, and the remaining third didn't give a rat's ass as long as they survived with all appendages intact. Although recent research has revised the figures slightly in favor of the Patriots, that still leaves them in the minority. Yes, Patriots were a minority in America.

Incidentally, these power dynamics also tear down the traditional "Americans were the good guys, save for a few rotten apples" view of the Patriot/Loyalist relationship. Once you realize that back then literally anyone could be the enemy, the Revolutionary War is revealed as the all-out blood feud it actually was. "Good guys" were scarce, and Patriots dealt out at least as much dickitry as they received: Apart from the usual wartime horrors, after the war, at least 60,000 men, women, and children were forcibly cast out of the newly minted nation as refugees.

Meanwhile, Britain was busy trying to help its exiled supporters and, oh yeah, freeing the thousands of African-(ex-)Americans who had supported the losing side.

Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images
"Stay a slave, or get used to British cooking ... that's one hell of a choice."

#1. The Colonists Defeated the Mightiest Army of the Time


The Myth

The American Revolution is an 18th century David and Goliath tale. The Americans defeated the mightiest army of its time -- a force that was vastly superior in every way, except for their love of freedom.

Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images
"Stab them! Stab them with liberty!"

The Reality

When war broke out, the Colonies boasted a population of 2.5 million. Even with just a third of them actively supporting the revolution, and just, say, a quarter of them able-bodied men, the British still had a hell of a crowd to contend with ... especially when you consider the fact that just 40,000 British soldiers were expected to subdue them. That's 40,000 soldiers facing 2.5 million people, spread out over thousands of miles, each of them a potential enemy until proven otherwise.

Colonists never, ever faced the fearsome British army of the late empire. For the most part, the field armies tasked with suppressing the rebellion were softened units that hadn't seen combat in a decade. As for asking for backup, no matter how belated: There was none to send. In 1776, the total manpower of British military might reached 96,000. That was their entire worldwide strength. With these men, the British were fighting the Patriots, while holding Caribbean possessions, while manning their stations at Gibraltar and Minorca, and Ireland, and Gold Coast territories ... and defending England itself.

Via Wikipedia
"I realize there are only six of us, but we were kind of hoping you could maybe surrender? As a favor?"

So, yeah. It was not David versus Goliath as much as it was lots of Davids plus France versus a handicapped and distracted Goliath. Maybe that's why almost as soon as the war began, the British were trying to get out of it. Lord North, the chief minister, feverishly begged the king to let him resign, as he felt he wasn't up to the task of subduing a rebellion. So, the Brits were not only grossly outnumbered, but had freaking Chicken Little running the show.

And that was just the beginning. When France entered the war, they didn't mess around: They swooped in with over 300,000 soldiers, and they equipped the Continental Army with new weapons with a range and accuracy that were vastly superior to British infantry weapons.

"He said his name was 'Chad Future,' and he gave us these."

And then America won! Just like that time when David and 300,000 of his well-trained buddies strangled Goliath in his sleep! Just like heroes do!


Want more J.? You can get some here, or find him here, continually mashing history into list form.

For more reasons why you're just wrong about everything, check out 5 Ridiculous Cold War Myths You Learned in History Class and 6 Ridiculous Myths About the Middle Ages Everyone Believes.

If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 3 Reasons the Harlem Shake Sucks as a Form of Protest.

We have some bad news: the Civil War wasn't the close struggle you think it was, Columbus didn't discover America and your favorite book sellers are now taking pre-orders for a text book written and illustrated entirely by the Cracked team! Hitting shelves in October, Cracked's De-Textbook is a fully-illustrated, systematic deconstruction of all of the bullshit you learned in school.

It's loaded with facts about history, your body, and the world around you that your teachers didn't want you to know. And as a bonus? We've also included the kinkiest sex acts ever described in the Bible.

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