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10 Foreign Fighters Who Helped America Win Its Independence
The American Revolution was about more than just America. It was a worldwide event. America did not fight alone. They got help from every part of the globe.
And we don’t just mean Marquis de Lafayette and Casimir Pulaski. Countless soldiers from all over the world stood up and fought with America, and without them, the United States never would have won its independence.
The Slave Who Was The First Casualty Of War
The first man to fight and die in the War of Independence was born in America, but most of his fellow Americans didn’t think of him as a countryman. His name was Crispus Attucks, and he was a runaway African slave.
Attucks was working as a sailor, even though there was a price on his head. His master wanted him back, and he was willing to pay anyone who would drag him back into slavery. Nobody tried it, and if someone had, the American Revolution might never have happened.
Attucks and his fellow seamen were in a pub when a British soldier walked in. Attucks and his friends didn’t take kindly to the British presence, and they started taunting the soldier. Staring down a hulking 6’3″ man, the soldier got nervous. Seven of his friends, other British soldiers, rushed in to help. In short time, things got out of hand, and the British opened fire.
Attucks fought back. He grabbed a soldier’s bayonet and knocked him over, but the British gunned him down before he could do any more. Four other men in that bar would die before the massacre was over.
History has debated whether Attucks was a hero or just a violent drunk, but it can’t deny his impact. He was the first to die in the Boston Massacre, a moment that would spark the American Revolution.
The Prussian Who Trained The American Army
The Americans who fought for Independence weren’t all seasoned veterans. Before Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben came in from Prussia, they were using bayonets to skewer meat more often than they were using them to skewer their enemies.
Von Steuben crossed the ocean to teach the Americans how to fight. He was the Inspector General of the American Army, in charge of drilling the soldiers and organizing their training, and he barely spoke a word of English. Von Steuben would bark at people in Prussian, his secretary would translate it into French, and then another secretary would translate that into English.
It was complicated, but it worked. He taught the American army how to fight and how to use bayonets, and that made a huge difference in the war.
In 1779, General Wayne used Von Steuben’s lessons to take Stony Brook. He and his men took a fort protected by 750 men without firing a single shot. They won the battle entirely with bayonets. Without filling the night with the sound gunfire, they were able to launch a sneak attack the British didn’t expect. Thanks to Von Steuben, Stony Brook was taken.
The Polish War Hero Who Tried To Free The Slaves
Tadeusz Kosciuszko was one of the chief engineers for the US Army. He planned the defensive strategy in Saratoga, a moment that turned the war in America’s favor. He built the military fort at West Point, which, today, is the site of the US Military Academy.
The real story for Kosciuszko, though, happened after he died. He became close friends with Thomas Jefferson, and when he died, he trusted the president to carry out his final wishes. Every penny he had, he said, should be used to free and educate African slaves.
Thomas Jefferson was almost 75 years old, so he passed the job on to someone else. That man didn’t want the responsibility of trying to get white people to educate black people, though, and he passed it on, too. Eventually, Col. George Bomford was put in charge of it, and he decided to blow the money on himself instead.
By the time Col. Bomford died, only $5,680 of Kosciuszko’s $43,504 was left. His will made it into the hands of the Supreme Court, and they just threw it out. Despite his wishes, not a single penny was put toward freeing slaves.
The Spanish Governor Who Secretly Supplied The American Army
Bernardo de Galvez was the governor of Louisiana, which, at the time, was a Spanish colony. He wasn’t exactly invested in the cause of democracy, but he was deeply involved in the cause of messing with England.
And so, when America went to war with England, he started sending them everything he could. He promised them all the weapons and medicine he could get them, warning them, “It must appear that I am ignorant of it all.”
Spain entered the war in earnest in 1779, and De Galvez didn’t have to hide it anymore. He could fight, and he did. Within a year, he’d chased the British out of Mobile, Alabama. The year after that, he chased them out of Florida.
The Man Who Led A Canadian Regiment For America
Canada was a British colony during the Revolutionary War. They were, quite directly, America’s enemies, which makes it surprising that some of them fought alongside America. The Americans sent out political tracts and messengers to try to get Canadians to switch sides, and some of them did. A ragtag group of Canadians, most of them French, joined the American army.
The American army had two Canadian Regiments. The first group of turncoats, appropriately enough, was commanded by Benedict Arnold. They tried and failed to take over Quebec and then spent the rest of the war stationed in New York.
The Second Canadian Regiment, commanded by Moses Hazen, was a bit more successful. Hazen was a Canadian himself, and he led his army through some of the most important battles in the war. That included the Siege of Yorktown, the battle that ended the war.
When the war ended, Moses Hazen and the Canadians who fought with him no longer had the option to return home. They had to give up everything they’d known to fight for American Independence and had to live, from then on, in the United States.
The Spaniard Who Fought The Biggest Battle Of The War
We usually think of the American Revolution as a war on American soil, but it was more than that. The Spanish and the French took the fight straight to the English. In fact, the biggest and longest battle of the whole war took place in Europe.
It was on Gibraltar, a tiny, 3-square-mile island that happened to be in an important strategic location. On June 24, 1779, a fleet of French and Spanish ships tried to take it, and they kept trying for more than three years.
Their best attack was the brainchild of Antonio Barcelo. He set up a fleet of small ships loaded with cannons called “floating batteries” and sent them against the British. It didn’t work. The British held them off, but it was the closest they got.
The siege didn’t end until the peace treaty was signed. Antonio Barcelo and his men failed, but even if it was a waste, 3,000 Spanish soldiers gave their life fighting in Gibraltar.
The Dutchman Who Led A Guerrilla Army
In its early years, there were a lot of Dutch settlers in the United States. They had their own community, one that seemed separate from the rest of America, and when the Revolutionary War started, that let them do things the Americans couldn’t.
After the British took New Jersey, John Mauritius Goetschius formed a guerrilla militia of Dutch farmers and struck back. They would attack and raid the British under the cover of night, and then, when morning came, pretended to be nothing more than farmers.
They might have been farmers, but they were capable of a lot more than they seemed. That became clear when, in 1781, Washington sent his army to take Fort Lee from the Loyalists. By the time the American troops had made it to their destination, the Loyalists were gone. Goetschius and his Dutch guerrillas had already taken the fort on their own.
The Native Chief Who Fought For The Us
No one could be more American than the Native Americans, but they weren’t treated that way. They played a role in American Revolution, though, and it’s one that’s often overlooked.
Most, if they picked a side, went with the British. That only makes sense: Part of the reason the Americans wanted independence was so that they could move into native land.
The Oneida tribe, though, refused to believe that the Americans had any intention of hurting them. Their main contact with Europeans had been through a missionary named Rev. Samuel Kirkland, and he had been good to them. And so, when they knew that Kirkland’s people needed their help, they raised up their arms and fought alongside them.
The Oneida tribe worked as guides, harassed British sentries, and even joined some of the battles. They were good at it, too. In the Battle of Oriskany, their War Chief Tewahangarahken single-handedly took out nine British soldiers.
Despite that, they still had to struggle to convince America they were on their side. At one point, they sent them six prisoners from another tribe and a rescued American soldier. The Americans had asked for scalps instead, but they sent along a letter that apologetically explained, “We do not take scalps.” They ended it, “We hope you are now convinced of our friendship toward you and your great cause.”
The French General Who Made The British Surrender
The decisive battle of the American Revolution came when George Washington led a troop of American soldiers into battle against the British at Yorktown. Washington, though, was not alone. He was joined by an even bigger army of French soldiers and ships, led by Comte de Rochambeau.
The Siege of Yorktown ended in the British surrender. Lord Cornwallis was the leader of the English soldiers there, but he refused to stand in front of his enemy and surrender—instead, he sent his deputy, Brigadier General Charles O’Hara.
O’Hara offered the sword of surrender to Rochambeau, but Rochambeau refused it. This, he believed, was America’s war. He insisted that the English surrender to George Washington instead.
Washington, too, refused the sword. He made O’Hara surrender to his second-in-command, Benjamin Lincoln. Lincoln had been overwhelmed by the British in Charleston and was denied the honors of a proper surrender. Washington wanted to see he got to experience one firsthand.
The Indian Sultan Who Fought The British
The last battle of the American Revolution wasn’t on American soil. It was in India. In the 18th century, communication was far from instant, and so the men fighting on the other side of the world had no idea it was over.
India had been a battleground for the American Revolution for the last five years of the war. When France declared war on England, the British East India Company started attacking their colonies there. Hyder Ali, the Sultan of Mysore in India, took the side of the French and led the fighting there.
When Hyder Ali died in 1783, the British started making serious advances on French India. They moved their forces to Cuddalore, a city on the Bay of Bengal, and very nearly took it. The French, however, managed to send a fleet in time to fight them off.
That French fleet kept the battle going. An army of French and Mysorean soldiers fought across India, struggling to hold back the British. Then, on June 29, 1783, word finally came in that the war had been over for eight months. The last fighters of the American Revolution put down their arms and went home, a whole world away from the country they had liberated.