During the American Revolution, patriots (also known as revolutionaries, continentals, rebels, and American Whigs) were the colonists of the original 13 states that rebelled against British rule and proclaimed the United States of America an independent nation in July 1776.
Their choice was motivated by republicanism’s political tenets, as articulated by thinkers like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Thomas Paine. Loyalists, who favored British rule continuation, fought against them.
Also Read: Loyalists vs Patriots
Many Patriot organizations, such as the Sons of Liberty, existed before 1775; today, Americans call their most notable leaders the Founding Fathers.
They were diverse in origin and ethnicity, representing a representative sample of the people of the Thirteen Colonies.
1. George Washington
George Washington, who lived from February 22 (in the Julian calendar) to December 14 (in the Gregorian calendar), was the first president of the United States (from 1789 to 1797).
President of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, Washington led the Patriot troops to victory in the American Revolutionary War. He also played a key role in the creation of the United States Constitution and the federal government of the United States.
Washington’s visionary leadership throughout the country’s early years earned him the nickname “Father of the Nation.”
Many historians and average Americans consider Washington to be one of the best presidents in American history, and he is commemorated with monuments, a federal holiday, many media depictions, geographical landmarks (such as the nation’s capital and the State of Washington), stamps, and currency.
In 1976, Washington was posthumously promoted to the rank of General of the Armies of the United States.
2. Thomas Jefferson
From 1801 to 1803, Thomas Jefferson was the third President of the United States. He was also a prominent politician, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and Founding Father.
He was John Adams’ second Vice President and George Washington’s first Secretary of State.
Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, advocated for democracy, republicanism, and individual liberty, which motivated the American colonies to break away from the British Empire and form a new nation.
Important documents and rulings were produced by him at the regional, national, and international levels.
Also Read: Famous Women of the American Revolution
In the Continental Congress, where the Declaration of Independence was ratified, Jefferson stood in for his home state of Virginia. He drafted a bill protecting religious liberty while serving in the Virginia legislature.
From 1779 to 1781, he served as the second Governor of Virginia during the Revolutionary War. In 1785, Jefferson became the United States’ first Minister to France; from 1790 to 1793, he served as President George Washington’s first Secretary of State.
3. Benjamin Franklin
Born on January 17, 1706, and passing away on April 17, 1790, American Benjamin Franklin was a prolific author, scientist, inventor, statesman, diplomat, printer, publisher, and political philosopher.
Benjamin Franklin was not just the first Postmaster General of the United States but also one of the Founding Fathers, having drafted and signed the Declaration of Independence.
After leading the charge in London to have the unpopular Stamp Act repealed by the Parliament of Great Britain, Franklin became a national hero in America in his role as an envoy for many colonies.
During his time as the American diplomat in Paris, he earned the respect of the French people and played a crucial role in forging cordial connections between the United States and France. His work was crucial in getting France to support the American Revolution.
He participated in politics on a local, colonial, state, national, and international scale. From 1785 to 1788, he served as the state’s governor.
A former slave owner and trader, by the 1750s he was an outspoken advocate for black literacy and full participation in American society.
4. Ethan Allen
Born on January 21st, 1738, Ethan Allen lived until February 12th, 1789, and during his life he worked as a farmer, merchant, land speculator, philosopher, writer, lay theologian, American Revolutionary War hero, and politician.
He is best known for his role in establishing the state of Vermont and for seizing Fort Ticonderoga in the early stages of the Revolutionary War. In addition to being the father of Frances Allen, he was also the brother of Ira Allen.
Early on, in September of 1778, Vermont’s request to join the Union as a sovereign state was presented by Allen, who spoke on behalf of the state.
He claimed that Congress was reluctant to grant Vermont statehood because of the state’s expansion into New Hampshire border communities.
Between 1780 and 1783, Allen and others communicated with Frederick Haldimand, the governor of Quebec, ostensibly about prisoner exchanges but secretly about making Vermont a new British province and gaining military protection for its population.
5. John Adams
An American statesman, lawyer, diplomat, author, and Founding Father, John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was the nation’s second president, holding office from 1797 to 1801.
After playing a key role in the American Revolution that won independence from Britain, he became a diplomat in Europe before becoming president.
He served as vice president twice, beginning in 1789 and ending in 1797. Adams was a devoted diarist who kept in touch with many influential people of his time through letters, including his wife and advisor Abigail Adams and his friend and competitor Thomas Jefferson.
Adams was a revolutionary leader who served as a delegate for Massachusetts in the Continental Congress. In 1776, he helped Jefferson with the Declaration of Independence.
With his diplomatic skills, he was able to secure important government financing and work out a peace pact with Britain. Adams’s essay, “Thoughts on Government,” and the 1780 Massachusetts Constitution that it inspired were both influential in the creation of the United States Constitution.
6. Paul Revere
Known for his work as a silversmith, engraver, early industrialist, Sons of Liberty member, patriot and founding father, Paul Revere (December 21, 1734 – May 10, 1818) died on May 10, 1818.
He is remembered for riding through the night in April 1775 to warn the colonial militia of the impending battles of Lexington and Concord.
Also Read: Famous Battles of the Revolutionary War
When Revere was 41 years old, he had already made his mark as a successful and well-known silversmith in Boston. He had helped set up a network of sensors and informants to keep tabs on the British army.
Later, Revere served as an officer in the Massachusetts militia; nevertheless, he was exonerated of any wrongdoing in connection with the disastrous Penobscot Expedition during the American Revolutionary War.
Revere resumed his silversmithing career after the war. He financed his ventures into iron casting, bronze bell and cannon casting, and the forging of copper bolts and spikes with the proceeds from his rapidly growing firm.
7. Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams (September 27, 1722 – October 2, 1803), was a Founding Father and a major political player in early American history.
Politically active in colonial Massachusetts, he played a pivotal role in the creation of the ideas of American republicanism that would come to define the political landscape of the nascent nation and set the stage for the American Revolution. He was a Founding Father and a cousin of former President John Adams.
Since he was such an important player in the independence movement that preceded the Revolutionary War, his achievements in pushing his brother colonies toward liberty were praised in histories written in the 19th century.
In the early 20th century, mostly British historians wrote harsh assessments that threw doubt on the idea that Adams was a master of propaganda who inspired “mob violence” to achieve his goals.
8. Patrick Henry
At the Second Virginia Convention (1775), American lawyer, landowner, politician, and orator Patrick Henry famously declared, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”
To his credit as a Founding Father is the fact that he was the first post-colonial governor of Virginia, from 1776 to 1779, and the sixth, from 1784 to 1786.
Henry signed the Petition to the King, which he helped prepare, and joined the Continental Association in 1774 and 1775 as a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses.
After the Gunpowder Incident, he gained greater popularity in Virginia by his oratory before the assembly and by leading troops towards Williamsburg, the colonial capital, to demand payment for the stolen royal government arms.
Henry served on the committee that drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the first Virginia Constitution after the Virginia Convention voted in favor of independence in 1776. As soon as the new charter went into effect, Henry was chosen governor and ended up serving for five consecutive one-year terms.
He was strongly against the Constitution being adopted because he was afraid of a centralized government and there was no Bill of Rights at the time. He rejected down many federal government positions in his later years to return to practicing law.
His entire adult life he had been a slaveholder, and he now wished to see the institution fail. However, he had no strategies to achieve this goal other than to halt the importation of slaves. In addition to being an eloquent speaker, Henry is well-known for his passionate advocacy of the American Revolution.
9. Joseph Plumb Martin
Veteran of the American Revolutionary War in the Connecticut Militia and Continental Army, Joseph Plumb Martin (November 21, 1760 – May 2, 1850) was mustered out as a Sergeant in a Sapper company at the age of 23.
In the 1950s, his published account of his experiences was unearthed again, providing historians with a wealth of information on the everyday life of soldiers during that time and the fights in which Martin took part.
10. John Hancock
American Founding Father, merchant, statesman, and major Patriot of the American Revolution, John Hancock (January 23, 173–October 8, 1793).
He was the first and third governor of Massachusetts and presided over the Second Continental Congress.
John Hancock or Hancock has become a slang phrase in the United States for a signature because of his prominent and elegant signature on the Declaration of Independence.
He was also a signer of the Articles of Confederation and played a key role in getting Massachusetts to ratify the Constitution in 1788.
Hancock, who had inherited a successful commercial firm from his uncle, was one of the wealthiest men in the Thirteen Colonies before the American Revolution.
He got his start in Boston politics as Samuel Adams’ protege, however the two eventually grew apart and became bitter rivals. As tensions between the colonies and Great Britain grew in the 1760s, Hancock utilized his money to back the colonial cause.
11. Alexander McDougall
Alexander McDougall (1732–1786) was an American sea captain, merchant, leader in the Sons of Liberty in New York City before and during the American Revolution, and military commander in the Revolutionary War. He was born in Scotland.
His military service with the Continental Army included the rank of major general, and he also represented the army in Congress. He went on to lead the first bank in New York and serve a term in the state senate when World War II ended.
McDougall joined the Sons of Liberty when revolutionary fervor grew in response to the Stamp Act and rose to prominence as a leader in the revolutionary movement in the province of New York.
After Benedict Arnold’s betrayal in 1780, American forces under McDougall’s leadership were stationed at West Point, New York (Fort Clinton) on the Highlands of the Hudson for the duration of the war.
McDougall was a vocal supporter of the Continental Army and its men during the conflict. During the winter of 1783, he led the army officers’ committee that conveyed Newburgh’s pay grievances to Washington.
McDougall also helped found the American Navy in 1776.
12. Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine, an American born in England on February 9, 1737, died on June 8, 1809. He was a political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary.
As the author of two of the most significant pamphlets of the American Revolution, Common Sense (1776) and The American Crisis (1776-1783), he encouraged the Patriots to pursue independence from Great Britain in 1776, although doing so was widely opposed. The international human rights concepts of the Enlightenment period can be seen in his thinking.
At the urging of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, a man born in Thetford, Norfolk, moved to the British American colonies in 1774. He arrived in time to take part in the American Revolution.
His 47-page pamphlet Common Sense, which sparked the revolutionary movement for independence from Great Britain, was the proportionally best-selling American title ever. A series of revolutionary pamphlets, The American Crisis was published in the 1790s.
13. Crispus Attucks
For many, the African and Native American whaler, sailor, and stevedore Crispus Attucks (1723–March 5, 1770) was the first American killed in the American Revolution since he was the first victim of the Boston Massacre.
Christopher Seider, a young American boy of eleven years old, was killed by the British a few weeks before he became famous as the first American casualty of the Revolutionary War.
All historians believe that Attucks had both Native American (especially Wampanoag) and African ancestry, but they disagree on whether he was a free man or an escaped slave.
Bostonians likely viewed him as of mixed descent because he was not referred to as “black” in two key sources of eyewitness material published in 1770 about the Boston Massacre.
There was a “Mulattoe man, called Crispus Attucks, who was born in Framingham, but recently belonged to New Providence, and was here in order to depart for North Carolina,” as reported by the Pennsylvania Gazette at the time.
Attucks rose to prominence as a spokesperson for abolitionists in the mid-nineteenth century. His valiant actions were celebrated by those who saw them as integral to the abolitionist struggle in the United States.