We’re adding five “Revolutionary Superheroes.” Here’s how you can vote for the next five.


"I founded The History List in 2011 and The History List Store in 2016. One of our earliest designs was of a group of five individuals from the Revolutionary War period that we had illustrated in a heroic style and labeled “Revolutionary Superheroes:” Washington, Franklin, Hamilton, and John and Abigail Adams.

"My larger goal was to raise awareness of the wide variety of individuals that contributed to the Revolution. I picked the first five to introduce the idea, always intending to open up the process to nominations and ultimately voting. When we released this first design, it was a hit, and we immediately had people posting comments on who should be added or replaced.  (Jefferson for Hamilton was a frequent request.)  

"Thanks to everyone who supported that design, everyone who sent nominations during our multiple social posts, and to everyone for their patience while we built out the voting platform.  Other designs and projects came up, and finally, we’re ready to go.

"If you would like to cast a vote, just purchase one of the qualifying products. A few minutes after you complete your purchase, you’ll receive a unique link that will enable you to cast your vote. (The page is similar to this one, but it has includes a ballot below the bios.) For more information, see the FAQ near the bottom of the page.

"The five will be announced and the new design with all 10 will be revealed about 60 days of the end of voting.  These will first appear in our “Insiders” newsletter, which you can sign up for below.

"Thanks for participating in selecting our next five Revolutionary Superheroes—and in raising awareness about so many interesting people who played a role during the Revolution. Delighted that you’re here and I’m sure you’ll enjoy learning about all 57 individuals as much I did."

Which of these nominated individuals should be our next five “Revolutionary Superheroes?"

Learn more about the candidates' contributions during the American Revolution from the profiles below, written by author J. L. Bell of Boston 1775. Voting is open to people who make qualifying purchases and ends Sunday at midnight. The five who are selected will be revealed within about 60 days of the end of voting. The individuals below were nominated based on responses to multiple posts we made on social media over the last 18 months or so. Learn more, including how to nominate someone for the future, in the FAQ below.

Aaron Burr

Burr distinguished himself as a Continental Army officer before becoming the third Vice President of the U.S. of A.

Coming from a prominent clerical family in New Jersey, Aaron Burr (1756-1836) volunteered for military service in the summer of 1775. He was an aide on Benedict Arnold’s expedition to Quebec, impressing the colonel with his “great spirit and resolution.” Burr then led his own units in the battles for Manhattan, at Valley Forge, and at the battle of Monmouth before leaving the army as a lieutenant colonel in 1779 for health reasons. In the early republic Burr settled in New York to practice law. He helped to found the original Republican Party and became Vice President under Thomas Jefferson. However, Burr’s career was forever overshadowed by his killing of Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804 and his trial for treason in 1807 (even though he was acquitted).

Abraham Woodhull

Woodhull was a central figure in the Culper Spy Ring, sending intelligence from British-occupied New York City out to Gen. Washington’s staff.

Son of a judge in Setauket, New York, Abraham Woodhull (1750-1826) was a Long Island farmer who found himself living in British-held territory. In August 1778 he was arrested in Connecticut for trading with the enemy. Woodhull’s neighbor Benjamin Tallmadge, now a major in the Continental dragoons, arranged for his release and convinced him to become a spy. That October, Woodhull sent his first dispatch from the island under the code name “Samuel Culper.” At first Woodhull visited New York City to chat with British officers and observe troop and ship movements. Later, fearing he was under suspicion, he recruited others to gather and carry the information. Reports from the Culper Ring included a warning that a high-ranking Continental officer was plotting to turn West Point over to the enemy. Woodhull and his network operated to the end of the war, and historians did not uncover their secrets until the 1930s.

Annis Boudinot Stockton

As a poet, Stockton praised the American cause and lamented its martyrs while maintaining an estate in the crossroads of the war.

By age sixteen, Annis Boudinot (1736-1801) was writing poetry, and in 1758 she had her first publication—anonymously—in the New-York Mercury. Around the same time she married Richard Stockton, an attorney in Princeton, New Jersey, and started raising a family. In 1776 Richard was elected to the Continental Congress and signed the Declaration of Independence. Late that year, the British army swept down from New York. Annis Stockton hid the papers of the local American Whig Society. Redcoats captured Richard, and as a condition of release he apparently promised to stay out of the independence struggle. Annis Stockton continued to write poetry celebrating American victories. As her husband took ill and died of cancer in 1781, Stockton managed the family estate, hosting and corresponding with many American leaders, including Washington. Over her lifetime she published twenty-one poems, but almost one hundred more survived in manuscript form, finally printed in 1995.

Benjamin Edes

Edes not only co-published Boston’s most radical newspaper and incendiary pre-Revolutionary pamphlets, he also helped to organize the political protests it reported.

In 1755 Benjamin Edes (1732-1803) purchased the Boston Gazette newspaper with John Gill. The partners became Boston’s official printers, and in the 1760s their newspaper strongly supported the town’s resistance to new Crown taxes. Edes was the more political partner, a member of the “Loyall Nine” club that organized the first public protests against the Stamp Act in 1765. Later Edes and Gill published Boston’s official report on the Massacre, which blamed British government policies, and Edes’s house was a rendezvous for men who carried out the Boston Tea Party. Threatened by a British regiment with tar and feathers in March 1775, Edes slipped out of town just before the war began. He set up a press in nearby Watertown and issued the Boston Gazette from there. Returning to Boston after the siege, Edes continued printing the newspaper until 1798. Then he moved a press into his home and with his daughter supplied small printing jobs until he died.

Benjamin Rush

Signer of the Declaration and later a surgeon general of the Continental Army, Rush was a medical and social reformer with a wide network of correspondents.

Born outside Philadelphia, Benjamin Rush (1745-1813) graduated from Princeton and studied medicine with a local doctor and at the University of Edinburgh. Back in Philadelphia, he set up his practice and also became a professor of chemistry, an officer of the American Philosophical Society, and a critic of slavery (as well as a slaveowner). Rush supported independence as a Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress and participated in the state’s constitutional convention. He served as a surgeon general of the army from April 1777 until October 1778 when his complaints about Gen. Washington’s management came to light. After the war Dr. Rush stayed active in public life, advocating for abolition, prison reform, capital punishment, and women’s education on top of writing about such medical topics as the yellow fever and mental health. Before he died, Rush cajoled John Adams and Thomas Jefferson into renewing their correspondence.

Benjamin Tallmadge

A Continental Army major, Tallmadge managed intelligence operations for Gen. Washington for much of the war, setting up spy networks behind British lines.

Son of a minister in Setauket, New York, Benjamin Tallmadge (1754-1835) graduated from Yale and taught school before enlisting in the Continental Army as a major of dragoons. Duties carrying messages and rendezvousing with agents led him deeper into efforts to gather intelligence on the British. Gen. George Washington put Tallmadge in charge of spy operations in October 1778. He recruited neighbors from Setauket to create the Culper Spy Ring, later supplying them with codebooks. Maj. Tallmadge also led a Continental raid on Long Island in November 1780 and then served at Washington’s headquarters through the end of the war. From 1801 to 1817 Tallmadge represented Connecticut in the House of Representatives. His memoirs, published posthumously, say next to nothing about his espionage work.

Bernardo de Gálvez

As governor of Spain’s North American colonies, Gálvez aided the American independence effort, first covertly and then by leading the Spanish military against the British.

Born in the mountains of Málaga, Bernardo Vicente de Gálvez y Madrid (1746-1786) studied the military arts and saw combat in Europe, Spanish America, and north Africa. In 1777 King Charles III appointed him governor of the province of Louisiana. The king had already decided it would be useful to offer covert assistance to the new U.S. of A., so Gálvez sold an American agent gunpowder, weapons, medicines, and other supplies. In 1779 forces under Gálvez’s command seized parts of West Florida from the British. Spain formally declared war on Britain on June 21. Gálvez quickly pushed British forces out of the lower Mississippi Valley, then recaptured Mobile. In May 1781 he led a successful attack on Pensacola. The Treaty of Paris confirmed that Florida would return to the Spanish Empire, and Gálvez became a count and then viceroy of New Spain. His government in Mexico City coincided with a typhus epidemic, however, and he died at age forty.

Casimir Pulaski

In exile after a failed uprising in his native Poland, Pulaski came to America and formed a cavalry legion for the Continental Army before dying in the fight for Savannah.

An untitled son from a noble family in Warsaw, Casimir Pulaski (1745-1779) participated in an unsuccessful uprising against Russia from 1768 to 1772 and had to leave his native country. Benjamin Franklin recruited Pulaski for the American cause, writing home that he was a famous count. Pulaski arrived in Massachusetts in July 1777. As a mounted volunteer at the battle of Brandywine, Pulaski prevented the British from cutting off Gen. Washington’s retreat. The Congress quickly authorized making him a brigadier general. Pulaski organized and led several cavalry units, though he had difficulty working with other officers and commanding Americans with his limited English. He fought in New Jersey and South Carolina before joining the Americans’ 1779 siege of Savannah, where he was mortally wounded by grapeshot. Skeletal remains exhumed in 1996 have been matched to a Pulaski relative. Furthermore, those bones suggest that Pulaski was intersex, though he always identified as male.

Crispus Attucks

At the head of a crowd of Bostonians confronting British soldiers outside the customs-house in 1770, Attucks was one of the first people killed in the American Revolution.

Of both African and Native parentage, Crispus Attucks (c. 1723-1770) was born into slavery in Framingham, Massachusetts. In 1750 he freed himself, prompting owner William Brown to publish an advertisement offering a reward for the capture of this 6'2" man. For the next two decades Attucks remained free, most likely working as a sailor. In 1770 the town of Boston was in turmoil over Crown taxes, the presence of two British army regiments, and a customs officer killing a young boy during a political riot. This conflict came to a head on King Street outside the customs-house. Witnesses described Attucks leading a crowd of men from the waterfront, picking up firewood clubs on the way. He pushed to the front lines, striking soldiers’ guns and grabbing their bayonets. Ultimately one private shot Attucks straight in the chest. He is widely regarded as the first person killed in the Boston Massacre and a symbol of African-American sacrifices for the nation.

Daniel Bissell

After volunteering to spy inside New York, Bissell became one of three Continental soldiers who received the Badge of Military Merit from General Washington.

Born in Connecticut, Daniel Bissell (1757-1824) enlisted in the Continental Army in April 1776 and rose to become a sergeant. In August 1781 he entered British-occupied New York City as a deserter. However, Sgt. Bissell was working under orders from General Washington. To avoid being “pressed” into the Royal Navy, Bissell enlisted in the Crown’s American Legion under Gen. Benedict Arnold, then spent much of the next year in hospital with a fever to avoid fighting his own countrymen. He finally slipped back out to the American lines in September 1782 and was soon drawing maps of the British fortifications for the commander-in-chief. In June 1783, Washington praised Sgt. Bissell for “having performed some important services” with “fidelity, perseverance, and good sense” and awarded him the Badge of Merit.

Daniel Morgan

A frontier planter, Morgan rose in the Continental Army through fighting at Québec and Saratoga, then came out of retirement to lead Americans to victory at the battle of Cowpens.

Reared in New Jersey, Daniel Morgan (c. 1735-1802) left home at seventeen after a fight with his father. He settled on the Virginia frontier and built a sawmill and trucking business. Morgan was a contractor for the British army early in the French and Indian War, punished with 500 lashes for striking an officer. When the Continental Congress issued a call for riflemen in June 1775, Morgan quickly recruited a company and marched to Boston. He then joined Col. Benedict Arnold’s expedition to Québec, where he was captured. Back in the American ranks in 1777 as a colonel, Morgan commanded riflemen at Saratoga. In June 1779 he resigned and returned home. After the war came south, however, Morgan rejoined the fight, now ranked as a brigadier general. He devised a strategy to use militia and regular troops together at Cowpens, capturing hundreds of soldiers in the British Legion and badly weakening Cornwallis’s forces. In the 1790s Morgan helped quell the Whiskey Rebellion and served one term in Congress.

Deborah Sampson

In May 1782 Sampson enlisted in the Continental Army as a young man named Robert Shirtliff, serving a year and a half and surviving a battle wound.

A middle child in an ordinary Massachusetts family, Deborah Sampson (1760-1827) was about 5'9" tall and plain-featured. In early 1782 she disguised herself as a young man and collected a cash bonus for enlisting in the Continental Army, only to be recognized by a neighbor and made to pay back most of the money. That May, Sampson went to another town and enlisted again as Robert Shirtliff. In July her light infantry company fought the British at Tarrytown, New York, and Sampson was hit by two musket balls. At the army hospital she managed to avoided being recognized as a woman by removing one ball herself. After Sampson fell ill in 1783, a doctor finally realized her sex but did not tell commanders until all soldiers were being sent home anyway. Sampson married and had children. Strapped for money, Sampson publicly revealed her service as Pvt. Shirtliff by petitioning Massachusetts for back pay, publishing an as-told-to biography, and giving public lectures and demonstrations of the musket drill.

Ebenezer Mackintosh

Head of Boston’s South End Gang when news of the Stamp Act arrived in 1765, Mackintosh became the town’s most visible protest leader.

Raised poor, Ebenezer Mackintosh (1737-1816) became a shoemaker, not a prestigious or lucrative profession. Nonetheless, he was a local leader—captain of the South End Gang during Pope Night processions (and brawls), member of a firefighting company, and elected to a minor town office. When Bostonians started to protest against the Stamp Act in August 1765, Mackintosh was the most visible leader while other organizers stayed behind the scenes. The sheriff arrested Mackintosh after a riot destroyed the lieutenant governor’s house, but he was released to keep the peace. He then led several marches without violence—though the threat always remained. In the following years Mackintosh was supplanted by upper-class crowd leaders, and he spent time in jail for debt. By 1774 he had moved to rural Haverhill, Massachusetts, where he mustered with the local militia during the Burgoyne invasion. Mackintosh died poor, most of his children in distant Ohio.

Elizabeth Freeman

Enslaved at birth, Freeman sued for her freedom under the new Massachusetts constitution in 1781, her case leading to the end of legally enforceable slavery in the state.

Born into slavery in Claverack, New York, Elizabeth “Bett” Freeman (c. 1744-1829) came to Sheffield, Massachusetts, as a child—and as a wedding present for Hannah Hogeboom and lawyer John Ashley. Working for the Ashleys, Bett reportedly married and had a child; her husband left to serve in the Revolutionary War and never returned. In 1780, Bett blocked Hannah Ashley from striking a servant girl with a hot shovel, sustaining a wound she left uncovered for people to see. That same year, the new Massachusetts constitution proclaimed, “All men are born free and equal…” Bett consulted another lawyer, Theodore Sedgewick, about suing for freedom. In August 1781 a jury ruled in Bett’s favor and awarded her damages, setting a state precedent. Bett then took the name Elizabeth Freeman and moved in with Sedgewick as governess of his children, who called her “Mumbet.” Known locally as a healer and midwife, Freeman eventually owned her own house in Stockbridge.

Enoch Crosby

Crosby worked as a spy for the Americans around New York, infiltrating Loyalist circles in the guise of being an agent for the British army.

From a poor family in Putnam County, New York, Enoch Crosby (1750-1835) became a shoemaker. He enlisted in a Connecticut regiment in 1775, participating in the invasion of Canada. In September 1776, on his way to reenlist, Crosby found himself in a meeting of Loyalists. He brought news of what he heard to Patriot committee member John Jay, who had the Loyalists arrested and urged Crosby to continue to spy. Crosby was “employed in the secret service for a period of full nine months,” he later declared, acting the part of a Loyalist employed by British commanders, letting himself be captured by Americans to deliver information, and then “escaping” back to neutral ground. In 1779 and 1780 Crosby served as a sergeant in regular Continental service. After James Fenimore Cooper’s novel The Spy was a hit, in 1828 Crosby cooperated with a writer to publish the somewhat sensational The Spy Unmasked; or, Memoirs of Enoch Crosby, making himself a local celebrity.

Francis Marion

Known as the “Swamp Fox,” Marion led deadly guerrilla campaigns against British and Loyalist forces in South Carolina.

Born on his family’s slave-labor plantation in Berkeley County, South Carolina, Francis Marion (c. 1732-1795) fought against the Cherokees in the French and Indian War. He became a South Carolina army captain in 1775 and a Continental Army lieutenant colonel in 1776. In May 1780 the British captured Charleston and a large contingent of American soldiers. Marion was not among them only because he was away recovering from a broken ankle. More British victories followed. With no Continental forces in the state, Marion organized a small irregular company, at first consisting of about fifty men, to harass the British and their local supporters. He gained a reputation for ruthlessly punishing Loyalists, particularly freed slaves. Marion fought under Gen. Nathanael Greene at Eutaw Springs, finally leaving the army when he won elective office.

Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben

Starting at Valley Forge, Baron von Steuben brought the disciplined methods of the Prussian military to the Continental Army, creating a more effective fighting force.

Son of an army engineer, Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (1730-1794) joined the Prussian military at the age of seventeen. Thirty years later, he presented himself to Benjamin Franklin as a highly experienced officer. He had indeed served through the Seven Years’ War, been wounded and captured, worked on Frederick the Great’s staff, and become a baron. However, his most recent experience was being accused of sexual misbehavior with young men as an official of a small German state. Franklin sent Steuben to America, describing him as a Prussian lieutenant general—a rank he had not achieved. The baron arrived at Valley Forge in February 1778. After Gen. Washington made him inspector general, Steuben picked 120 men to train as a model for the rest of the army. He standardized training and the next winter wrote a drill manual that remained the American standard for decades. He also served in the field as a major general, proving popular with both fellow officers and enlisted men. In 1784 Baron von Steuben became an American citizen.

George Mason

Mason wrote Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, and he refused to sign the U.S. Constitution of 1787 because it lacked the same guarantees.

A wealthy slave-owner in Fairfax County, Virginia, George Mason (1725-1792) was a friend and neighbor to George Washington. Together they moved toward resisting the Crown, Mason writing the Fairfax Resolves of 1774. When Virginia declared independence two years later, he drafted Virginia’s Declaration of Rights and much of its constitution. In 1787 the state chose Mason as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia; he had never spent extended time outside Virginia before. At the convention Mason was active in shaping the document but decided he could not sign it, citing the lack of a bill of rights, no end to the slave trade, and other matters. Mason published his objections and spoke out at the Virginia ratifying convention, ending his friendship with Washington. The new Constitution went into effect, but Congress responded to the complaints from Mason and others by adding the amendments eventually called the U.S. Bill of Rights.

George Robert Twelves Hewes

A poor shoemaker, Hewes witnessed the Boston Massacre, took part in the Boston Tea Party, and even inspired his own small riot in the years leading up to war.

From a middling Boston family, George Robert Twelves Hewes (1742-1840) was too small for many crafts and thus became a poorly paid shoemaker. The arrival of British regiments in town in 1768 turned Hewes into a Son of Liberty. He was on King Street in March 1770 when British soldiers fired into the crowd, and the next day he testified about what he saw. In December 1773 Hewes joined men set on destroying the East India Company’s tea before it could be unloaded and taxed. The next month he got into an argument with a customs officer, who knocked him unconscious. When Hewes came to, he found that the crowd had tarred and feathered his opponent and was carting him around town, beating him at each stop. During the war, Hewes served for months at a time on privateers and on militia duty. In the 1830s, when he was in his nineties, Hewes shared his detailed memories with biographers, becoming a revered relic of the Revolution.

Haym Salomon

An immigrant of Shepardic Jewish background, Salomon used his contacts in European business to help finance the Continental cause when its credit was failing.

Born in Leszno, Poland, Haym Salomon (1740-1785) arrived in New York just as the Revolutionary War began. Through his travels in Europe, he had learned several languages and developed a wide network of contacts. In late 1776 the British authorities arrested Salomon as a spy and kept him for over a year to translate for Hessian troops. Arrested a second time and sentenced to death, Salomon escaped to Philadelphia in 1778. There he began to work with the French consul and Robert Morris, the Continental Congress’s superintendent of finance, to fund the American war effort. Between 1781 and 1784 Salomon raised and loaned more than $650,000 for the Continental government. In particular, he sold bills of exchange worth $20,000 to make it possible for Gen. Washington to move troops to Yorktown. Salomon was also a member of Philadelphia’s Congregation Mikveh Israel, which pushed to remove religious tests for office-holding. Salomon died unexpectedly in 1785, when Continental notes were at low value, so his estate was in deep debt.

Henry Knox

Knox commanded the Continental Army artillery from late 1775 to the end of the war and then worked as the nation’s Secretary of War.

Born in Boston to an Ulster Scot family that fell apart, Henry Knox (1750-1806) secured valuable training as a bookseller. He helped to launch a grenadier company for the town’s militia regiment, his uniform catching the eye of a royal appointee’s daughter, whom he married in 1774. The couple broke with her parents and left Boston after the war began. In July 1775, while helping to lay out a provincial fortification, Knox met the new Continental commander-in-chief, George Washington. By October, Washington was lobbying to put Knox in charge of the army’s artillery regiment. The new colonel’s first assignment was to bring more heavy cannon to the siege lines around Boston. Knox remained close to Washington through the war, seeing action in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and eventually Virginia. His strength was logistics, as he established artillery training and manufacturing facilities. After the war, the Continental Congress and then President Washington asked Knox to oversee the country’s military, which included responsibilities for coastal forts, militia regulation, and relations with Native nations.

James Armistead Lafayette

Posing as a runaway (and still legally enslaved), Armistead spied on the British forces in Virginia and reported back to Gen. Lafayette.

Enslaved from birth in Virginia, James Armistead (c. 1760–1830) convinced his owner, William Armistead, to let him join the Continental Army column under the Marquis de Lafayette. With the French-born general’s approval, Armistead went into the British column under Gen. Benedict Arnold, convincing officers that he was a runaway slave who could provide valuable information. While working as a guide for the British, Armistead also collected details on their forces, slipping away and reporting back to Continental officers. Meanwhile, he fed false information to the British. In the months leading up to Yorktown, Armistead infiltrated Gen. Cornwallis’s army the same way. In 1786 Armistead petitioned the Virginia legislature for his freedom, supplying a testimonial from Lafayette. After receiving his manumission, Armistead added “Lafayette” to his name.

James Forten

As a young teenager, Forten served on a Pennsylvania privateer and survived capture; he grew up to be a political leader, only to see the republican rights he had fought for stripped away.

Born to a free black couple in Philadelphia, James Forten (1766-1842) worked from an early age. In 1781, at age fourteen, he signed onto the privateer Royal Louis. On its second cruise, that ship was captured by the Royal Navy. Forten worried about being sold into slavery, but instead Capt. John Bazely assigned him to be a companion for his younger son, then offered to send both boys to England. Forten declined, saying he would “never prove a traitor” to America. After months on the prison ship Jersey, Forten was freed. Becoming a sailmaker, he built a highly profitable business in Philadelphia. Forten was a leader of the city’s African-American community, a major contributor to the Liberator newspaper, and vice president of the American Anti-Slavery Society, but he lost the battle in Pennsylvania to preserve equal voting rights for all men regardless of color.

James Madison

Called “Father of the Constitution” for his work shaping that document and the Bill of Rights, Madison worked closely with Washington and then Jefferson to build the new U.S. of A.

Scion of a wealthy Virginia family, James Madison (1751-1836) was 5'4" tall and slight, not cut out for military service. Instead, during the Revolutionary War he served in the Virginia government and at the Continental Congress from 1780 to 1783. Back in Virginia, he pushed Thomas Jefferson’s Statute for Religious Freedom through the legislature. In the 1780s Madison argued for a new Constitution, speaking often at the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 and helping to write the “Federalist” essays. A leader in the first House of Representatives, Madison fulfilled a promise to contingent supporters of the Constitution by introducing amendments to spell out individual rights and limits on the federal power. In the new century he served eight years as Thomas Jefferson’s secretary of state followed by eight years as President.

James McHenry

McHenry entered the Continental Army as a regimental surgeon, became one of Gen. George Washington’s aides de camp, and went on to serve in high political offices.

Born in Ballymena, Ireland, James McHenry (1753-1816) emigrated to Philadelphia in 1771; reportedly his family feared he was studying too hard at home. McHenry apprenticed in medicine under Dr. Benjamin Rush. He volunteered as a Continental Army surgeon early in the war and was captured with his regiment at Fort Washington in November 1776. In May 1779, Dr. McHenry became one of Gen. Washington’s aides, later filling the same job for Lafayette. On leaving the army McHenry settled in Maryland and represented that state at the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention. President Washington called McHenry back into national service as Secretary of War in 1796, and he stayed in that job (less happily) under President John Adams.

James Smith

An attorney and political leader from York, Pennsylvania, Smith helped to guide his state toward independence and signed his name to the Declaration.

Born in Ulster, Ireland, and coming to Pennsylvania with his family at age ten, James Smith (1719-1806) studied law in the office of his older brother and set up his practice near Shippensburg and then York. He participated in Pennsylvania’s provincial conventions from 1774 to 1776, advocating boycotts of British goods and intercolonial cooperation. He was on the committee to draft a new constitution for the state in 1776. Sent to the Continental Congress in law July of that year, Smith signed the Declaration of Independence that his colleagues had approved. After 1777 he served in state political and militia offices, declining reelection to the Congress in 1785 on account of his age.

Jasper Yeates

A leading lawyer in central Pennsylvania, Yeates served on local and state bodies supporting the cause of independence.

A Philadelphia native, Jasper Yeates (1745-1817) studied law in Pennsylvania and London before setting up a practice and a family in Lancaster. During the Revolution he served on the local committee of correspondence and as a state commissioner to investigate Native American affairs. In 1787 he served as a delegate at Pennsylvania’s convention to consider the new U.S. Constitution. For the federal government he was on the commission to negotiate an end to the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. From 1791 until his death Yeates served on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

John Champe

A sergeant serving under Gen. “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, Champe undertook a dangerous espionage mission inside New York City to capture the turncoat Benedict Arnold.

From Loudoun County in Virginia, John Champe (c. 1752-1798) enlisted in the Continental Army under Maj. Henry Lee in 1776. Lee recalled him as “rather above the common size—full of bone and muscle,” and by 1780 Champe was a sergeant-major. In September of that year, Benedict Arnold defected to the British. Gen. Washington hoped to capture Arnold, interrogate him about collaborators, and try him for treason. On October 20, Sgt. Champe raced past Continental sentries into the British lines around New York. Eventually the redcoats brought this deserter to Arnold, who was forming an American Legion of Loyalist soldiers and wanted a recruiting sergeant. In fact, Champe was on an undercover assignment for Gen. Lee. He formed a plan to seize Arnold one evening. Before he could act, however, Arnold and his legion embarked for Virginia, and Champe had to sail with them. It took months before he was able to desert back to the Americans. In 1783, after an honorable discharge, Champe served as doorkeeper for the Continental Congress.

John Dickinson

A lawyer and estate owner, Dickinson wrote several of the most important documents of the Revolution, from pre-war political arguments to early U.S. constitutions.

Born in Maryland and settled in Pennsylvania and Delaware, John Dickinson (1732-1808) wrote the most influential argument for resisting all of Parliament’s revenue acts, Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania. He also co-wrote the widely popular “Liberty Song.” As a leading member of the Continental Congress, Dickinson drafted its petitions to the king, the final draft of the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms, and the first proposal for Articles of Confederation. Dickinson was wary of independence, however, and John Adams’s exasperation colored his image in history. After the break with Britain, Dickinson left the Congress to lead the Pennsylvania militia. He then retired to his home, focusing on another form of liberty—freeing the three dozen people he enslaved. In 1779 Delaware sent Dickinson back to the Congress, and in 1781 he became president of that small state. Returning to Pennsylvania in 1782, he was elected president there, too. In 1786 Dickinson chaired the Annapolis Convention, and the following year he participated in the convention at Philadelphia, promoting its new Constitution with newspaper essays.

John Jay

As a legislator Jay presided over the Continental Congress; as a diplomat he negotiated two crucial treaties; and he was also the first Supreme Court chief justice and governor of his state.

A wealthy lawyer, John Jay (1745-1829) represented New York at the First and Second Continental Congresses, generally acting as a moderate. In 1777 he helped to draft his state’s new constitution and became its chief justice. The Congress chose him as its president in 1778 and the following year made him minister to Spain, where he lobbied for a large loan and informal alliance. Jay then helped to negotiate the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War. Back in America, he was the Secretary of Foreign Affairs from 1784 to 1789. During that time Jay wrote five of the “Federalist” essays supporting the new Constitution, though debilitated after being hurt in a riot. President George Washington nominated Jay to be the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1794 Washington named him a special envoy to Britain to negotiate a treaty covering such lingering issues as trade and western forts. While overseas, Jay was elected governor of New York, and, though his treaty proved controversial, he held that state office until he retired from politics in 1801.

John Parker

As captain of the Lexington militia company, John Parker saw his neighbors killed and wounded in the first skirmish of the Revolutionary War.

A farmer in Lexington, Massachusetts. John Parker (1729-1775) served in the French and Indian War, experience that prompted the town’s militiamen to choose him as their leader. In April 1775, Patriot leaders John Hancock and Samuel Adams were staying in Lexington. On the night of April 18, Parker received word that British army officers had ridden through town, so he assembled the town’s militia companies to guard those Patriot leaders. At dawn hundreds of British regulars appeared from the east. Witnesses recalled Parker telling his men not to attack. Nonetheless, as the lead companies faced each other, someone fired a gun. Redcoats shot into the militia company ranks, killing eight and wounding ten before marching on. That afternoon, the Lexington company met the British column as it returned from Concord and fired back, an action later dubbed “Parker’s Revenge.” Parker himself was already ill with tuberculosis and died in September.

John Trumbull

One of Gen. Washington’s first aides de camp, Trumbull served in the Continental Army before embarking on a career as an artist, becoming “The Painter of the Revolution.”

Youngest son of Connecticut’s elected governor, John Trumbull (1756-1843) enlisted in the provincial army at the start of the war even though he had lost sight in one eye after a childhood accident. He was already interested in art, so his older brothers urged him to answer Gen. George Washington’s call for an officer able to sketch the British fortifications around Boston. Trumbull fulfilled that assignment during three weeks as an aide de camp. He then returned to the Connecticut command before becoming deputy adjutant-general in 1776. Trumbull resigned the next year in a dispute over his commission. He turned to art full-time, deciding in 1780 to sail to London for training. There he started to paint scenes from the ongoing war, including a portrait of Washington from memory. However, the British authorities locked him up on suspicion of being a spy for seven months. In later years Trumbull painted many individuals and scenes from the Revolution, including four history paintings now hanging in the U.S. Capitol.

Joseph Plumb Martin

Martin fought in the Revolutionary War for seven years as an enlisted man, and his detailed, lively, and occasionally snide memoir turned him into an iconic soldier.

Son of a minister from Becket, Massachusetts, Joseph Plumb Martin (1760-1850) was raised mostly by his grandparents in Milford, Connecticut. He joined a state militia company in 1776, serving in the New York campaign until December. A veteran at age sixteen, Martin enlisted in the Continental Army on April 22, 1777, promising to serve for the duration of the war. He became a corporal in the light infantry in 1778 and a sergeant in the corps of sappers and miners in 1780. Martin was present at the siege of Fort Mifflin, the camp at Valley Forge, the battle of Monmouth, the execution of Maj. John André, and the British surrender at Yorktown. After the war Martin married and settled in Maine, where he was his town’s clerk for twenty-five years. In 1830 he adapted his wartime journal into A Narrative of the Adventures, Dangers, and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier; republished in 1962, it became the classic soldier’s account of the war.

Joseph Warren

In the first half of 1775 Dr. Warren spearheaded Massachusetts’s confrontation with the Crown—within occupied Boston, at the head of the rebel government, and in the ranks at Bunker Hill.

Son of a farmer from Roxbury, Massachusetts, Joseph Warren (1741-1775) trained as a physician and surgeon in Boston. In the late 1760s he joined protests against new Crown taxes with newspaper essays incendiary enough that the royal governor tried to indict him. Warren served on Boston’s committee to respond to the Massacre and twice delivered memorial orations on its anniversary. In early 1775 more responsibilities fell on his shoulders as older leaders died, became ill, or moved out of Boston. Serving on Massachusetts’s committee of safety, Warren gathered intelligence about British army plans. On the night of April 18, he dispatched warnings of an impending redcoat march, then slipped out of town at dawn to participate in the first battle of the war. Chosen head of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, Warren negotiated with Gen. Thomas Gage over prisoners and refugees. In June that legislature commissioned him a major general, but he entered the redoubt on Breed’s Hill as a gentleman volunteer. As the battle of Bunker Hill ended, Dr. Warren died, shot in the head.


A wealthy French nobleman, young Lafayette defied his monarch to join the American fight for independence in 1777, becoming one of Gen. Washington’s closest subordinates. 

Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier (1757-1834) inherited the title of Marquis de la Fayette and a huge fortune before the age of two when his father was killed on the battlefield. He received a commission in the musketeers at thirteen. In 1775 Lafayette learned about the war in America. When the French king forbade him to join that fight, the marquis bought a ship and sailed secretly, reaching Georgia in June 1777. The Continental Congress was won over by Lafayette’s offer to serve without pay and gave him a major general’s commission but no troops. He impressed Gen. Washington, however, and behaved bravely at Brandywine after being wounded. From then on Lafayette led Continental troops in campaigns all over America. He also traveled back to France in 1779, lobbying the government to send a large army. After participating in the siege of Yorktown, Lafayette returned to France again to maintain its support for the U.S. of A. He also advocated for religious freedom, an end to slavery, and a more republican form of government for France. 

Lydia Darragh

A Quaker wife and mother in British-occupied Philadelphia, Darragh learned of an impending attack on American troops outside the city, which included her son.

Born in Dublin, Lydia Darragh (1729-1789) moved to Philadelphia with her husband in the 1750s. As Quakers, the Darraghs were supposed to remain neutral in the war, but their son Charles was in the Continental Army. In September 1777 the British occupied the city. Officers took rooms in the Darraghs’ house near Gen. Sir William Howe’s headquarters. According to a story passed down in the family and first published in 1827, on the night of December 2 Darragh listened in on a meeting of those officers, hearing of a plan to attack Continental troops at Whitemarsh. Obtaining a pass to buy flour outside the city, Darragh headed for the American lines with her information. While the details of this story are uncorroborated, there is contemporaneous evidence the Darraghs provided special services to the Continental Army, and American official Elias Boudinot recalled receiving such a warning from “a little poor looking insignificant Old Woman.”

Martha Washington

Wife of the Continental Army’s commander-in-chief, Washington made sure to spend every winter of the war with her husband and his troops.

Born into Virginia’s planter class, Martha Dandridge (1731-1802) married the very wealthy Daniel Parke Custis at the age of eighteen. The Custises had four children before Daniel died, leaving Martha a widow in her twenties. She controlled five plantations, 17,500 acres, and 300 enslaved people. The next year, an ambitious young Virginia colonel with a smaller fortune, George Washington, proposed marriage. Martha moved with her children to George’s Mount Vernon. In the spring of 1775, her husband accepted the job of commander-in-chief of a new Continental Army, writing home that he hoped to be back that fall. As the war continued, Martha Washington made a habit of traveling hundreds of miles to spend each winter with her husband in camp. She was thus at Valley Forge, at Morristown in the bitter winter of 1780, and at Newburgh in the final years of the war. Later, after her husband was elected President, Martha Washington hosted dinner parties and receptions in the national capitals of New York and Philadelphia.

Mary Ludwig Hays

Accompanying her husband as he served in the Continental artillery at the battle of Monmouth, Hays helped to fire the cannon, gaining the nickname “Sergeant Molly.”

Born in Trenton, New Jersey, Mary Ludwig (1744?-1832) married a barber named William Hays in 1777. He soon joined the Continental Army artillery force, and Mary Hays came along to the winter camp at Valley Forge. Eighteenth-century armies depended on civilian women to wash clothes, nurse sick soldiers, and provide other labor behind the lines. On June 28, the American and British armies met at Monmouth. It was a hot day, so the artillery crews needed water for their guns and themselves. The female camp followers carried that water. According to lore, William Hays collapsed, and Molly Hays took his place on the gun crew. An American soldier wrote how one artillerist’s wife who “attended with her husband” joked, after a British cannonball passed between her legs, that she was lucky it hadn’t flown any higher. From such stories came the legend of Molly Pitcher. Hays claimed that after the Monmouth battle she received a commission. In 1822 Pennsylvania granted “Sergeant Molly” a pension for her wartime service.

Mercy Otis Warren

Linked by blood, marriage, and friendship to some of Massachusetts’s leading Whigs, Warren took up writing for the political cause, first anonymously and then under her own name.

Oldest daughter of a politician and judge in Barnstable, Massachusetts, Mercy Otis (1728-1814) studied with the local minister while her brothers prepared for college. In 1754 she married James Warren of nearby Plymouth, and they had five sons. Mercy’s brother James became the leader of Massachusetts’s resistance to the Crown in the 1760s, and in 1765 James Warren joined him in the provincial legislature. Mercy Warren began to correspond with her husband’s colleagues and their wives. In 1772 she started writing for the public, though anonymously, with the first of several closet dramas making fun of the royal governor and his circle. Warren then added political poetry. In 1788 she published arguments against ratifying the new U.S. Constitution, and two years later collected several poems and plays under her own name. Warren’s largest work was her three-volume History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution in 1805, which provided a Jeffersonian perspective on recent history (and ruined her long friendship with John Adams).

Ona "Oney" Judge Staines

Enslaved to Martha Washington, Judge freed herself from the presidential mansion in Philadelphia and found refuge in New Hampshire.

Born on the Mount Vernon plantation, daughter of an enslaved black seamstress and a free white tailor from England, Ona Judge (c. 1774-1848) grew up as a household servant. “Oney,” as the Washingtons called her, became a “perfect mistress of her needle” and Martha Washington’s maid. At age fifteen she traveled with seven other enslaved workers to President George Washington’s executive mansion in New York. In 1790 the national capital moved to Philadelphia. Under Pennsylvania law, any enslaved person living in the state for six months became legally free. The President quietly rotated his domestic staff back to Mount Vernon to ensure none was in Pennsylvania long enough for this law to take effect. On May 21, 1796, Judge slipped away from the mansion during dinner. As Washington’s steward advertised for her return, she sailed to New Hampshire, a free state. Martha Washington took Judge’s departure personally, so her husband tried hard to get her back, even asking federal employees to track the young woman. She declined to return without a promise of freedom. In January 1797, Ona Judge married Jack Staines, an African-American sailor, and they had three children in Portsmouth.

Patrick Henry

Known for his oratory, Henry prodded the Virginia legislature into resisting the Stamp Act and claiming independence, and he became the state’s first elected governor.

A self-trained lawyer, Patrick Henry (1736-1799) was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1765. At his first session he proposed resolutions condemning the new Stamp Act, delivering a fiery oration called both splendid and treasonous. In the following years Henry built up his practice and plantation holdings, including enslaved workers; though troubled by slavery, he wrote, “I am drawn along by the general inconvenience of living here without them.” The 1774 Boston Port Bill brought Henry back into the imperial debate. At the second Virginia Convention, he reportedly concluded a speech with “give me liberty or give me death!” In April 1775 he broke off a return to the Continental Congress to lead his county militia in a confrontation with the royal governor over gunpowder. Henry then focused his energies on Virginia. He headed the militia, secured a vote for independence in May 1776, and became the state’s first governor in June. Henry was suspicious of the 1787 Constitution, and his speeches against ratification fill nearly a quarter of the Virginia convention’s record; ultimately, the state approved the document but proposed forty amendments. Henry then declined all offers of federal appointments.

Paul Revere

As an engraver, dispatch rider, and leader of Boston’s craftsmen, Revere was active in the town’s resistance before the Revolutionary War and then served as a state artillery officer.

Trained as a silversmith by his father, an emigrant from France, Paul Revere (1734-1818) applied his metalworking skills to engraving political cartoons during the 1760s and 1770s. He was active in the North End Caucus, which chose candidates for town offices, and joined in patrolling the docks to prevent the East India Company’s tea from being unloaded. Covertly, Revere helped to destroy that tea and organized fellow mechanics to watch British soldiers in 1774. As a messenger, Revere carried news of the tea’s destruction to New York and Philadelphia in December 1773 and a year later warned colleagues in New Hampshire that the Royal Navy might soon take over their harbor fort. Most famously, Revere rode to Lexington on April 18, 1775, to warn of an impending British army march, alerting militia commanders along his route. During the war Revere was an officer in Massachusetts’s artillery regiment. He commanded the unit during the disastrous Penobscot Expedition, afterward demanding a court-martial to clear his name.

Peter Francisco

Called the “Giant of the Revolution,” Francisco deployed his unusual size and strength in several of the Continental Army’s most storied battles.

Thought to have been born on the Azores, Peter Francisco (1760-1831) was found at the age of about five on a dock in City Point, Virginia. A local judge took in the little boy, who grew up to be a large man—6'6", over 250 pounds, and trained as a blacksmith. In late 1776 Francisco joined the Continental Army, seeing action at Brandywine, Germantown, and Fort Mifflin. At Monmouth he was wounded in the thigh. At Stony Point in 1779, Francisco was reported to be the second Continental into the fort, killing British soldiers while suffering a gash to his stomach. During the southern campaign he saw action at Camden, Cowpens, and Guilford Courthouse. Recuperating at home in Buckingham, Virginia, Francisco fought off a group of Loyalist raiders. Though Francisco literally became legend as the “Virginia Hercules” and details of his actions may well be exaggerated, his long military service is documented and corroborated by letters from his officers. Francisco spent his last three years as sergeant-at-arms of the Virginia senate.

Philip Freneau

Freneau found inspiration for poetry in the war, and particularly in his experience as a prisoner on hulks in New York harbor.

Raised in Matawan, New Jersey, Philip Freneau (1752-1832) started writing poetry and satire at Princeton College. Although he published some anti-Crown essays in the early 1770s, when the war began he sailed off to be secretary to a Caribbean planter. Returning to the U.S., in May 1780 Freneau signed onto the privateer Aurora, only to be captured by the Royal Navy. He spent six weeks on British prison ships, then published a long poem about the frightening experience. His collection The Poems of Philip Freneau, Written Chiefly during the Late War (1786) prompted later writers to call him “The Poet of the American Revolution.” In the early 1790s Freneau worked for Thomas Jefferson, officially as a translator in the State Department but really as editor of the partisan National Gazette.

Phillis Wheatley

Taken from Africa and sold in Boston, Wheatley proved to be a poetic prodigy, publishing verse in local newspapers and a book printed in London.

In 1761 the ship Phillis docked in Boston with a small cargo of enslaved people, including a little girl missing her front teeth. The upper-class Wheatley family bought the girl, named her after the ship, and started training her as a domestic servant. Phillis Wheatley (c. 1753-1784) showed striking intelligence and facility with language. By age fourteen she was writing poems, many memorializing locals and others on religious topics. In 1773 Wheatley traveled to London to meet patrons, bringing a testimonial from Boston notables about her talent. Her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral was printed in 1773, copies sent back to Boston on one of the tea ships. Wheatley became legally free after she returned. In 1775 she sent an ode to Gen. George Washington, startling the slave-owning planter. During the war Wheatley married businessman John Peters, and they started a family. She tried to collect subscriptions to publish a second collection in Boston but did not succeed before falling ill and dying in 1784.

Robert Morris

A reluctant revolutionary, Morris kept the Continental Congress’s finances and navy afloat for the last years of the Revolutionary War.

Born in Liverpool, possibly out of wedlock, Robert Morris (1734-1806) came to America as a teenager and became one of Philadelphia’s leading merchants. After the war began, he took on government roles, his first project setting up a network to smuggle in gunpowder. In late 1775 Pennsylvania sent Morris to the Continental Congress, where he opposed a full break with Britain. He abstained from voting on independence but signed the Declaration once the Congress adopted it. In 1781 the Congress made Morris its superintendent of finance and later overseer of the navy. He issued new paper currency backed by his own funds while convincing the Congress to launch a bank. Other reforms proved impossible under the Articles of Confederation. Resigning in 1784, Morris pushed for a stronger national government through a new Constitution. President George Washington offered Morris the post of Treasury Secretary, but he declined, instead representing Pennsylvania in the Senate. In the 1790s he invested heavily in land, eventually owning more acreage than any other American but insolvent.

Salem Poor

A black man who had bought his own freedom, Poor fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill, earning particular praise from his commanders.

Born enslaved in Andover, Massachusetts, Salem Poor (1747-1802) purchased his freedom for £27 in July 1769. After the Revolutionary War began, he enlisted in the Massachusetts army for the remainder of 1775. On June 16, Pvt. Poor’s regiment was was sent to fortify Breed’s Hill on the Charlestown peninsula. The next afternoon, redcoats braved deadly gunfire to attack that position, eventually driving the provincials away and seizing the larger Bunker’s Hill. Months later, after Gen. Washington instituted a policy not to let black soldiers reenlist, fourteen Continental officers publicly praised Salem Poor, saying that in the battle of Bunker Hill he had “behaved like an Experienced Officer, as Well as an Excellent Soldier.” Unfortunately, they said describing Poor’s conduct would be “Tedious,” leaving no details about what the man actually did. A strong possibility is that Poor shot one of the first British officers to enter the provincial redoubt. At the end of 1775 Washington reversed policy on black soldiers, and Poor continued to serve in the army. Over the next three years he fought at White Plains, Saratoga, and Monmouth, finally discharged in Rhode Island in 1780.

Samuel Adams

As a political organizer, legislator, and essayist in Massachusetts, Adams waged a relentless campaign against Parliament’s new taxes that led to American independence.

From a politically active, devout Boston family, Samuel Adams (1722-1803) failed in business but found his niche in politics. In 1765 Boston elected him to the Massachusetts assembly, and that body chose him as its clerk. With that salary and Yankee frugality Adams maintained his family while devoting all his time to politics. Over the next ten years he campaigned against Parliament’s new taxes and the royal appointees enforcing them. Never a strong orator, Adams worked through newspaper essays, official resolutions, town meetings, boycotts, and public demonstrations. After the Boston Massacre, he led the crowd in demanding that the governor remove all soldiers from town. He promoted town committees of correspondence to organize resistance. In 1774 Massachusetts sent Adams to the Continental Congress, his first trip outside the province. In Philadelphia he defused Anglican and Quaker worries about his Puritan intolerance. As the war went on, Adams served on vital committees, including the board of war and the group that developed the Articles of Confederation. In 1781 he returned to Massachusetts for good, elected as president of the state senate, lieutenant governor, and finally governor.

Simon Girty

A British frontier settler held for years by Ohio Seneca, Girty worked as a scout for the Americans but then found his loyalty lay with the Native nations.

Born on the British Empire’s frontier in central Pennsylvania, Simon Girty (1741-1818) was captured in 1756 by Lenape soldiers allied with the French. He was sent to an Ohio Seneca community near Lake Erie and lived there for seven years. Returned to Pennsylvania at the end of Pontiac’s War in 1764, Girty became a liaison between Native nations and British authorities. He worked as a scout and translator during Lord Dunmore’s War in 1774. When the Revolutionary War began, Girty initially sided with the Continental forces, helping in negotiations with various tribes. In March 1778, however, he defected to the British. For the rest of the war Girty worked for the Crown, translating and leading occasional attacks on Continental outposts and supply trains. American authorities put a $800 bounty on his head and accused him of cruelty. After the Treaty of Paris, Girty continued to side with the Native nations resisting American expansion. He moved to Detroit and then Canada to keep out of the reach of the U.S.

Sybil Ludington

When the militia needed to march against a British raid on Connecticut in 1777, a sixteen-year-old girl volunteered to spread the alarm—or so the story goes.

Oldest child of Henry and Abigail Ludington, Sybil Ludington (1761-1839) grew up in Dutchess County, New York. In the Revolutionary War her father was a colonel of the county militia. According to family lore, on an evening in April 1777 a messenger brought Col. Ludington news that British troops were attacking the Continental supply depot at Danbury, Connecticut. Sybil reportedly volunteered to spread the alarm to his militia officers. Later authors estimated that she rode through the night for nine hours, covering forty miles around modern Putnam County. There is no contemporaneous evidence to support this story, and the first person to mention it was a Ludington descendant in 1854. Nonetheless, the legend of Sybil Ludington supplied the twentieth century with an icon of a young woman taking an active part in the Revolutionary War.

Tadeusz Kościuszko

An idealistic volunteer from eastern Europe, Kościuszko lent the Continental Army engineering skills before returning to spark a republican uprising in his own country.

Born to a noble family within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kościuszko (1746-1817) studied military science in Warsaw and architecture in Paris. In June 1776 he sailed for America to join the battle for liberty. The Continental Congress took note of his training and assigned him to build fortifications, ranked as a colonel in the Continental Army. Kościuszko helped to slow the Burgoyne invasion and laid out the American defense lines at Saratoga. He spent two years strengthening the fortifications at West Point, then went south. Gen. Nathanael Greene assigned Kościuszko to scout river crossings, locate secure campsites, and build bateaux, resources that kept Greene’s column a step ahead of Gen. Cornwallis. Kościuszko personally led a siege of the Star Fort at Ninety-Six, suffering a bayonet wound in his buttocks before withdrawing. At the end of the war the Congress promoted Kościuszko to brigadier general, though it still owed him back pay as he returned to his homeland.

Thomas Jefferson

Credited primarily with drafting the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was also a governor, diplomat, secretary of state, and game-changing President.

A Virginia planter and lawyer, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) argued for self-government in his 1774 Summary View of the Rights of British America. The next year, Virginia sent him to the Continental Congress. In June 1776 he was placed on the committee to write a declaration of reasons for independence, which John Adams asked him to draft. After debate and changes, Congress approved that document on July 4. Soon afterward Jefferson went home to help write Virginia’s new constitution and law code. He became his state’s governor in 1779, moving its capital from Williamsburg to Richmond, but his second term ended disastrously with an invasion by British forces under Gen. Benedict Arnold. Back in the Congress in 1783, Jefferson’s attempts to work reforms within the Articles of Confederation failed, though he did author the Land Ordinance of 1784. He then went to Paris as a diplomat. Five years later, Jefferson returned to serve as President Washington’s first secretary of state, overseeing not only foreign relations but also patents, the census, and other domestic functions. During those years Jefferson was formulating the principles—a wider franchise for white men, state and local control, opposition to banks—that would define his political party and presidency.

Thomas Paine

The best read political writer of the Revolutionary War, Paine grounded his arguments in a belief in universal rights and a distrust of authority.

Born in Thetford, England, and initially trained to make women’s stays, Thomas Paine (1737-1809) had finished off a difficult career as a customs officer when he met Benjamin Franklin in 1774. Franklin suggested he try America. Paine arrived in Philadelphia in November and became editor of the Pennsylvania Magazine. His editorials strongly supported the cause of liberty, including even the abolition of slavery and worker rights. In January 1776 Paine published Common Sense, an argument for independence and republican government that proved hugely popular and influential. Late that year, as Britain’s counterattack threatened the Continental cause, Paine published his first installment of The American Crisis, acknowledging, “There are the times that try men’s souls…” For two years Paine worked as secretary of the Congress’s committee on foreign affairs, letting secrets slip into the press and feuding with some delegates. In Public Good he argued that western lands belonged to the U.S. of A., not to states or speculators, which alienated other supporters. Paine accompanied John Laurens on a diplomatic mission to France in 1781, bringing back needed silver. A few years later he returned to Europe with renewed enthusiasm for political, religious, and moral reform, as well as iron bridges.

Thomas Young

Enthusiastic in writing, speaking, and street-level organizing, Dr. Young was politically active in four different states and named a fifth.

Growing up in New Windsor, New York, Thomas Young (1731-1777) studied medicine under a local physician and set up his own practice in 1753. Within five years he was indicted for voicing unorthodox religious ideas. In response to the Stamp Act, Dr. Young formed Albany’s Sons of Liberty. Hearing about the protests in Boston, he decided that was the center of political action and moved there. Young became a busy newspaper polemicist and crowd leader, popular despite his deism. In 1771 he delivered the first anniversary oration in memory of the Boston Massacre, an idea the town quickly adopted. During the tea crisis, Dr. Young criticized the leaf on medical as well as political grounds. When British troops returned to Boston in 1774, Young’s wife feared they might attack him, so he joined Patriots in Rhode Island. Later he settled in Philadelphia, part of the circle of radicals who wrote Pennsylvania’s first constitution. And in a letter to his old friend Ethan Allen, Dr. Young suggested a name for the independent territory between New Hampshire and New York: Vermont. When the war came to Pennsylvania in 1777, Dr. Young volunteered to treat the troops, caught a fever, and died.

Timothy Bigelow

A self-educated craftsman in rural central Massachusetts, Bigelow rose to be a local political leader and a Continental Army colonel.

A blacksmith in Worcester, Massachusetts, Timothy Bigelow (1739-1790) founded the town’s American Political Society. In September 1774, the closing of the Worcester County courts confirmed that rural Massachusetts no longer recognized the authority of the royal governor. Over the next few months Bigelow led the local effort to prepare for war if necessary, serving in the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, collecting artillery pieces, and confronting British army officers detected spying in town. Bigelow helped Isaiah Thomas relocate the Massachusetts Spy newspaper to Worcester. On April 19, 1775, he responded to the Lexington alarm as a militia officer. That fall he volunteered to march under Col. Benedict Arnold to Québec, where he was captured and held for months. As a Continental Army colonel, Bigelow was at Saratoga, Valley Forge, and Monmouth. Back in Worcester at last, Bigelow suffered from poor health, depression, and unlucky investments, and he died in debtors’ prison.

William Paterson

A legal and political leader in New Jersey, Paterson helped to write and implement that state’s constitution during the war and served every branch of government.

Born in in County Antrim, Ireland, William Paterson (1745-1806) arrived in Pennsylvania with his family as a small boy. He studied law under Richard Stockton and became a lawyer in 1768. Paterson helped to write New Jersey’s new constitution in 1776 and worked at the state’s attorney general until 1783. At the Constitutional Convention of 1787 he pushed for a stronger national government while also proposing to retain equal representation for each state. As one of New Jersey’s first two senators, Paterson helped to draft the Judiciary Act of 1794, establishing the first national court system. After resigning from the senate to become his state’s governor, Paterson ended his career as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1793 until his death.

William Stephens Smith

A distinguished Continental Army staff officer, Smith went to London on a diplomatic assignment and came back married to John and Abigail Adams’s only daughter.

Son of a wealthy New York merchant, William Stephens Smith (1755-1816) went to Princeton College and was starting to study the law when the Revolutionary War began. In 1776 he became an aide to Gen. John Sullivan, seeing action and being wounded in the battles over Manhattan. After the victory at Trenton he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. Smith served at Monmouth and Newport, and on Lafayette’s and then Washington’s staff. In 1784 he traveled to London to be secretary to the first U.S. minister there, John Adams. Two years later he married Adams’s daughter, Abigail. (His sister Sally later married Abigail’s brother Charles.) In the new republic Smith received some federal appointments and served one term in the U.S. House.

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FAQ and contact

Why are you doing this?
To create a fun way to learn about more of the people from that period.

How were these nominees selected?
We asked folks on social media a few times over the last 18 or so months.  There was only one criteria: The individual had to be active during the Revolution. There was no minimum threshold for what they did during this time and no minimum number of nominations needed. In fact, some shown only had one nomination.

The list doesn't include . . . / The list is too . . . / The list doesn't represent . . .
These were nominated by people on social media. If you’d like to see a name added if we do this next year, please send a note to Editors@TheHistoryList.com.

This person shouldn’t be on this list.
These were nominated by people on social media. If there is a reason you think one of the nominees does not fit the qualifications, please send a note to Editors@TheHistoryList.com.

Does the ordering of the people on my ballot make a difference. 
Yes.  We’re using ranked choice voting. Your top choice carries more weight than your second, and so on.

What is ranked choice voting and how are the votes counted?
Ranked Choice Voting gives more weight to people who are ranked higher on each ballot cast.  We are using software from  Opavote and we are using the  Scottish Single Transferable Vote Rules.  Follow that last link for a deep dive into how it works.

Why did you use ranked choice voting instead of just counting who got the most votes?
We wanted to give people the opportunity express greater preference based on ranking.  In this way, people who are ranked higher on more ballots are most likely to selected.  Consider this thought experiment: Everyone has the same person on their ballot but they are everyone’s last choice. If we just count the votes, they’ll be one of the five, but will this result really reflect the interests of the participants if four, five, or six others are ranked first on a large number of ballots?

Why is voting only open to people who purchase something?
This is for fun and to spur folks to learn more about different people from that period. The selection ultimately carries no more weight than what folks want to see on a t-shirt or poster.  As such, we limited it to people who actually wanted something with these individuals on it.

Can I vote more than once?
Each time you place an order that includes one of the qualifying items, you will receive a link to vote.

I want to get other people to vote for . . .
Great!  You might post to social media with the last name of the person as a hash tag along with #RevolutionarySuperheroes.

When are you going to announce the results?
In roughly 60 days after we close voting.

Are you going to release the counts?
We haven’t decided.  We will, however, definitely have illustrations done and add the top five selected through this voting process.

If the person I want doesn’t make the cut, can I get a refund on the item I selected?

Can I read the bios and come back and vote later?

The list of names keeps changing. 
The list of names is the same, but the order changes every time you come to the page.  We did this to reduce the advantage that people at the top that static list would have.

Can I nominate someone to be added to this year’s list?

Are you going to add more in the future?
We expect that, if folks have fun with this, we’ll do something similar next year, probably adding another five. If you’d like to see a name added then, please send a note to Editors@TheHistoryList.com.

Are you going to keep making items with the original five?

Who creates the illustrations?
An extremely talented illustrator that we’ve worked with for more than 20 years.  All of the original art is owned and copyrighted by The History List.

Can I get the art to print on something else?
We’ll be happy to print other products if there’s sufficient demand, but we don’t sell the art by itself.

I have an idea for a product.
Great!  We’d love to hear it.  Please send e-mail to Editors@TheHistoryList.com.

Who can I contact if I have questions or feedback?

For purchases made just before Sunday at midnight, you will only have until August 2, midnight EST to cast your vote. We will close the voting page after this period.