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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 and author of the 2014 book Independence: the Tangled Roots of the American Revolution. 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.

Other facts about the American Revolutionary War

When did the American Revolution start?

The American Revolution started on April 19, 1775, with the exchange of gunfire at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts.

When did the American Revolution end?

The American Revolution officially ended on September 3, 1783, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

How long was the Revolutionary War?

The American Revolutionary war lasted just over seven years, with the end of conflict coming after British forces were removed from Charleston and Savannah in late 1782.

Who won the Revolutionary War?

The Americans, with help from Spain, the Netherlands and France, defeated the British during the American Revolutionary War.

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