11 Ordinary People Who Aided the Revolution

The men who declared American Independence in 1776 get their due respect in the history books. But often, many of the men and women who helped earn that independence are forgotten. Here are 11 of the unsung heroes who made huge contributions to the American Revolution.

1. William Dawes

Wikimedia Commons

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem only immortalized one of the two brave men who rode through the night on April 18, 1775, to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams of possible arrest. After learning that the British were preparing to march on Lexington, Dr. Joseph Warren sent Paul Revere to cross the river in a rowboat while Dawes was responsible for slipping past the British sentries who guarded the land bridge connecting Boston to the rest of Massachusetts. Ultimately, both men made it, with Revere beating Dawes to Lexington by half an hour, so Dawes’ act of equal bravery is often overlooked.

2. Dr. Joseph Warren

Wikimedia Commons

Warren did more than just dispatch Revere and Dawes—he was a steadfast supporter of the Revolution in his own right. After the passage of the Townsend Acts in 1767, Warren wrote a series of inflammatory articles for the Boston Gazette under the pseudonym “A True Patriot” that got him and his publishers accused of libel. He was responsible for raising the militia in Boston and was elected second general in command of the Massachusetts forces by the Provincial congress on June 14, 1775. Despite his position of command, he went into battle along with the rest of the militia and was killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

3. Crispus Attucks

National Archives

This escaped former slave is generally considered to be the first American to die in the Revolution. He was working as a merchant seaman in Boston when Samuel Adams called on colonists to demonstrate against the British troops guarding the customs commissioners. In what became known as the Boston Massacre, 40 to 50 patriots armed with clubs and sticks were fired on by British troops, with Attucks as the first casualty.

4. Nancy Hart

Wikimedia Commons

A comely, rough-around-the-edges frontierswoman, Hart did everything she could to help the patriot cause while tending to the household during the Revolutionary War. While her husband served in the militia, Hart would often disguise herself as a simpleminded man to infiltrate British camps to gather information. Once, she even shot and killed a British solider in her own home after plying a group of them with wine and stealing their weapons. She held the rest of the group at gunpoint until her husband returned home.

5. Pedro/Peter Francisco

Wikimedia Commons

The first few years of Francisco’s life are a mystery because he was abandoned on a dock on the coast of Virginia when he was just four years old. The young boy, thought to be Portuguese, was taken in and raised by local judge Anthony Winston. Francisco grew up while the Revolution was brewing and finally at 16, Winston let the already-towering boy enlist in the militia. Francisco, who at 6’6” was a good foot taller than most of the men of the era, was renowned during the war for his many feats of strength and bravery—one story credits him with carrying a 1,000-pound cannon off the battlefield after a defeat so it didn’t fall into enemy hands. George Washington himself was said to have called Francisco a “one-man army.”

6. Laodicea Langston

Known as “Dicey,” Langston was just a teenager when she started spying to protect her fellow patriots. Although her immediate family all supported the Revolution, with her brothers joining the Continental Army, many of their friends and neighbors remained loyal to King George. Langston used these connections to gather information about the enemy. In one particular instance, she got word that the Bloody Scouts band of Tories was headed towards her brothers' camp. To warn them, she traveled on foot all night, through the woods and icy waters of the Enoree River, arriving in time to save their lives. By the time she got home, the Bloody Scouts were threatening her father at gunpoint. She threw herself in front of him, so impressing the Tories that they spared both Langstons.

7. Betsy Hager

Orphaned at the age of nine, Hager became what was known as a “bound girl,” working as a servant for different families to earn her keep. In doing so, she picked up an array of skills atypical for women at the time. When the war broke out, she put those skills to use by working with blacksmith Samuel Leverett to refurbish old British guns and artillery for use by the Continental Army. She also cared for injured soldiers, picking up skills she would use after the war when she practiced medicine.

8. Hannah Arnett

Arnett herself didn’t participate in the action of the Revolutionary War quite as much as some of the others on this list, but with her words, she reached many of the men who did. In 1776, a group of men in Elizabethtown (where she lived) met to discuss abandoning the Revolutionary cause and pledge their loyalty to Great Britain to try to ensure their safety in the coming war. Barging in on the meeting, Arnett called the men cowards and traitors and even threatened to leave her husband if he sided with the King. The men were swayed by her words and remained loyal to the Revolution.

9. Roger Sherman

NYPL Library

Somehow, Sherman gets forgotten while his fellow Founding Fathers are lauded. He held a number of political positions in our fledging country, including associate justice on the Supreme Court of the colony and the first mayor of New Haven. In addition to his various day jobs, Sherman helped draft the Declaration of Independence and, in fact, is responsible for the nation’s bicameral congressional system. Although often overlooked, he was the only member of the Continental Congress who signed all four of the great state papers: the Association of 1774, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution.

10. Joseph Plumb Martin

Martin was a typical soldier in the Revolutionary War. He joined the Connecticut state militia at just 15 years old and went on to serve almost seven years in the Continental Army of General George Washington. What set Martin apart is that he kept a detailed diary during the War and many years later published an anonymous account based on that diary entitled A Narrative of Some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier, Interspersed with Anecdotes of Incidents that Occurred Within His Own Observation. Although it sold poorly during his lifetime, the book was republished over 100 years later under the title Private Yankee Doodle and shed new light on the daily life of the men who made independence possible.

11. Jeremiah O’Brien

O’Brien was responsible for the first naval victory in the Revolutionary War. Just as tensions between the British and colonists were coming to a head in 1775, the Unity and Polly ships arrived in Machias, Maine with much needed supplies from Boston. When they arrived, however, residents were outraged to find that the ships were accompanied by the British armed schooner Margaretta, which had been sent to retrieve lumber to build British barracks. When attempts to capture the Margaretta’s captain and lieutenant on land failed, O’Brien led a group of 40 men armed with guns, swords, axes, and pitchforks aboard the Unity to engage Margaretta at sea. After the British captain was killed, the colonists claimed weaponry from the ship and the first naval victory of the war.

Take Advantage of Amazon's Early Black Friday Deals on Tech, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Even though Black Friday is still a few days away, Amazon is offering early deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

Kitchen

Instant Pot/Amazon

- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-115 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker; $90 (save $40) 

- Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Sauteuse 3.5 Quarts; $180 (save $120)

- KitchenAid KSMSFTA Sifter with Scale Attachment; $95 (save $75) 

- Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker; $60 (save $20)

- Cuisinart Bread Maker; $88 (save $97)

- Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker; $139 (save $60)

- Aicook Juicer Machine; $35 (save $15)

- JoyJolt Double Wall Insulated Espresso Mugs - Set of Two; $14 (save $10) 

- Longzon Silicone Stretch Lids - Set of 14; $13 (save $14)

HadinEEon Milk Frother; $37 (save $33)

Home Appliances

Roomba/Amazon

- iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity; $179 (save $101)

- Fairywill Electric Toothbrush with Four Brush Heads; $19 (save $9)

- ASAKUKI 500ml Premium Essential Oil Diffuser; $22 (save $4)

- Facebook Portal Smart Video Calling 10 inch Touch Screen Display with Alexa; $129 (save $50)

- Bissell air320 Smart Air Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters; $280 (save $50)

Oscillating Quiet Cooling Fan Tower; $59 (save $31) 

TaoTronics PTC 1500W Fast Quiet Heating Ceramic Tower; $55 (save $10)

Vitamix 068051 FoodCycler 2 Liter Capacity; $300 (save $100)

AmazonBasics 8-Sheet Home Office Shredder; $33 (save $7)

Ring Video Doorbell; $70 (save $30) 

Video games

Sony

- Marvel's Spider-Man: Game of The Year Edition for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $20)

- Marvel's Avengers; $27 (save $33)

- Minecraft Dungeons Hero Edition for Nintendo Switch; $20 (save $10)

- The Last of Us Part II for PlayStation 4; $30 (save $30)

- LEGO Harry Potter: Collection; $15 (save $15)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

BioShock: The Collection; $20 (save $30)

The Sims 4; $20 (save $20)

God of War for PlayStation 4; $10 (save $10)

Days Gone for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $6)

Luigi's Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

Computers and tablets

Microsoft/Amazon

- Apple MacBook Air 13 inches with 256 GB; $899 (save $100)

- New Apple MacBook Pro 16 inches with 512 GB; $2149 (save $250) 

- Samsung Chromebook 4 Chrome OS 11.6 inches with 32 GB; $210 (save $20) 

- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with 13.5 inch Touch-Screen; $1200 (save $400)

- Lenovo ThinkPad T490 Laptop; $889 (save $111)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet (64GB); $120 (save $70)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet (32 GB); $130 (save $70)

- Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8 inches with 32 GB; $100 (save $50)

Apple iPad Mini (64 GB); $379 (save $20)

- Apple iMac 27 inches with 256 GB; $1649 (save $150)

- Vankyo MatrixPad S2 Tablet; $120 (save $10)

Tech, gadgets, and TVs

Apple/Amazon

- Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS; $179 (save $20) 

- SAMSUNG 75-inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $998 (save $200)

- Apple AirPods Pro; $169 (save $50)

- Nixplay 2K Smart Digital Picture Frame 9.7 Inch Silver; $238 (save $92)

- All-New Amazon Echo Dot with Clock and Alexa (4th Gen); $39 (save $21)

- MACTREM LED Ring Light 6" with Tripod Stand; $16 (save $3)

- Anker Soundcore Upgraded Bluetooth Speaker; $22 (save $8)

- Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote; $28 (save $12)

Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera with EF-M 15-45mm Lens; $549 (save $100)

DR. J Professional HI-04 Mini Projector; $93 (save $37)

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

Watch: In 1948, Idaho Officials Sent 76 Beavers Parachuting Into Idaho’s Wilderness

A young beaver with all four feet firmly on the ground.
A young beaver with all four feet firmly on the ground.
yrjö jyske, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When people started building up the area around Idaho’s Payette Lake after World War II, its original residents began interfering with irrigation and agricultural endeavors. They weren’t exactly staging an organized protest—they were just beavers doing what beavers do.

Nevertheless, officials at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game decided their best bet was to find a new home for the long-toothed locals. The surrounding wilderness provided plenty of options, but transportation was another issue entirely. Traversing the undeveloped, mountainous terrain would require both trucks and pack animals, and experts knew from past relocation efforts that beavers weren’t fond of either.

“Beavers cannot stand the direct heat of the sun unless they are in water,” department employee Elmo W. Heter explained in a 1950 report [PDF]. “Sometimes they refuse to eat. Older individuals often become dangerously belligerent ... Horses and mules become spooky and quarrelsome when loaded with a struggling, malodorous pair of live beavers.”

To keep Payette Lake’s beavers healthy and happy during the journey, their human handlers would need to find another method of travel. As Boise State Public Radio reports, that’s when Heter suggested making use of their leftover WWII parachutes.

Two beavers would sit inside a wooden box attached to a parachute, which could be dropped from an airplane between 500 and 800 feet above their new home in the Chamberlain Basin. The cables that fastened the box to the parachute would keep it shut during the flight, but they’d slacken enough for the beavers to open the box upon landing. After testing the operation with weights, Heter and his colleagues enlisted an older beaver named Geronimo for a few live trials.

“Poor fellow!” Heter wrote. “You may be sure that ‘Geronimo’ had a priority reservation on the first ship into the hinterland, and that three young females went with him.”

Once Geronimo had certified the safety of the mission, the team began migrating the whole beaver population. During the fall of 1948, a total of 76 beavers touched down in their new territory. It wasn’t without tragedy, though; one beaver fell to his death after a cable broke on his box. Overall, however, the venture was deemed much safer (and less expensive) than any trip on foot would have been. And when department officials checked in on the beavers a year later, they had already started improving their ecosystem.

“Beavers had built dams, constructed houses, stored up food, and were well on their way to producing colonies,” Heter wrote. As Idaho Fish and Game’s Steve Liebenthal told Boise State Public Radio, the area is now part of “the largest protected roadless forest” in the continental U.S.

You can watch the Idaho Fish and Game Commission’s full 14-minute documentary about the process below.

[h/t Boise State Public Radio]