How much do you know about early American history?
Test your knowledge of the people, places and events surrounding July 4, 1776, and America's founding.
What act became the first internal tax levied on the colonies by Great Britain?
A. The Molasses Act
B. The Intolerable Acts
C. The Townshend Acts
D. The Stamp Act
D — The Stamp Act
The Stamp Act was passed in early 1765 and was created to help cover the cost of maintaining British troops in the colonies. It affected printed materials ranging from university degrees to wills, newspapers and playing cards.
After being met with protests, boycotts and cries of "taxation without representation" in the colonies, Great Britain repealed the Stamp Act in 1766. However, as the act was repealed, Parliament also issued the Declaratory Act, which said Britain "had, hath, and of right ought to have, full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the colonies and people of America, subjects of the crown of Great Britain, in all cases whatsoever."
How many people were killed at the clash between British soldiers and a crowd of American citizens that became known as the Boston Massacre?
A — 5
The five victims of the March 5, 1770 Boston Massacre were:
- Crispus Attucks, of African American and Native American descent
- Samuel Gray, a rope-maker
- James Caldwell, a 17-year-old sailor
- Samuel Maverick, a 17-year-old wounded in the shooting who died the next day
- Patrick Carr, a leather worker who died two weeks later
17-year-old Christopher Monk should also be considered a sixth victim, bostonmassacre.net argued, because his death 10 years later was likely tied to wounds received that night. The Boston Gazette reported seven days after the attack that it was "apprehended he will die."
Future President of the United States John Adams defended the British soldiers involved in the attack in court. Six of the eight soldiers were acquitted, while the other two were convicted of manslaughter and branded on their thumbs as punishment.
What year did the Boston Tea Party take place?
C — 1773
In 1773, colonists protested against Britain's decision to grant the East India Company a monopoly on the tax-free transport of tea, according to history.state.gov. In the midst of a stalemate between the ships carrying the tea and a British admiral who had been ordered to see that the tea was unloaded, some 50 men marched down to the wharf and threw 340 tea chests into the harbor.
The British government responded with the Coercive (Intolerable) Acts, part of which closed the port of Boston to everything but British ships until the East India Company was compensated for the loss of the tea. The action led to the gathering of the First Continental Congress, which sent a petition to England asking that the Intolerable Acts be repealed.
What delegate to the 1775 Virginia Convention is reported to have given a speech that contained the famous phrase, "Give me liberty or give me death"?
A. James Madison
B. Edmund Randolph
C. George Mason
D. Patrick Henry
D — Patrick Henry
By 1775, the American colonies had been impacted by laws like the Currency Act, the Stamp Act, the Declaratory Act, the Townshend Acts and the Intolerable Acts. During the second Virginia Convention in March 1775, delegate Patrick Henry took to the floor to argue that despite American efforts to reach peaceful agreements with Great Britain, "there is no longer any room for hope."
"They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary," Henry said. "Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.
"Gentlemen may cry, peace, peace — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"
Where was the first shot of the American Revolution fired?
A. Bunker Hill
C — Lexington
On April 19, 1775, British forces were sent to arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock and to seize military stores being kept in Concord, Mass. Minutemen and colonists, warned by Paul Revere, William Dawes and Samuel Prescott, gathered on the Lexington Green to meet the British. A fight broke out between the 700 British troops and the 77 colonists, and it remains unclear to this day who fired what is considered the first shot of the American Revolution.
After the fight at Lexington, the British marched on to Concord, where they were confronted by between 320 and 400 Americans, forced to withdraw, and began their march back to Boston. During the return trip, colonists harassed the British soldiers, firing from behind houses, barns, trees and walls. British reinforcements met their besieged troops in Lexington, bringing the British forces to around 1,700 men. In total, some 73 British soldiers were killed and 174 were wounded, while the Americans lost 49.
The poem "Concord Hymn," by Ralph Waldo Emerson, is inscribed on a monument in Concord and contains the most famous phrase associated with that day:
"Here once the embattled farmers stood / And fired the shot heard round the world."
Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys reportedly demanded the surrender of what fort "in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress"?
A. Fort Montgomery
B. Fort Ticonderoga
C. Fort Stanwix
D. Fort Nonsense
B — Fort Ticonderoga
Connecticut-born Ethan Allen fought in the French and Indian War before settling in Vermont. In response to the outbreak of fighting between the American colonists and the British in 1775, Allen, Benedict Arnold and members of a Vermont militia known as the Green Mountain Boys mounted an attack on Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain. In the early morning of May 10, 1775, the American forces seized the fort and its artillery stores, which were later used to force the British to evacuate Boston after an 11-month siege.
According to theamericanrevolution.org, 168 Americans seized the fort from 78 British soldiers without firing a shot.
In his memoir, Allen wrote that when demanding the surrender of the British at Fort Ticonderoga, he did so "in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress." According to a book of misquotes and fake quotes, however, Allen's memory of his words at the time may have been faulty.
Although the first true battle of the Revolutionary War — fought in June 1775 — is known as the Battle of Bunker Hill, where did it actually take place?
A. Breed's Hill
B. Bemis Heights
C. Copp's Hill
D. King's Mountain
A — Breed's Hill
During the night of June 16, 1775, and into the morning of June 17, more than 1,000 colonists marched to Breed's Hill — bypassing Bunker Hill — and began establishing breastworks overlooking the British in Boston. The British, needing to remove the colonists from the hill, began assembling troops.
As the British marched up Breed's Hill, one of the colonial commanders ordered his men not to fire "until you see the whites of their eyes," according to American folklore.
The Americans abandoned their position when they ran out of ammunition, making the battle a British victory. However, 1,054 British soldiers were killed or wounded, compared to 400 Americans. "The success is too dearly bought," Britain's General William Howe wrote afterward.
The fact that the Battle of Bunker Hill was actually fought on Breed's Hill became just one more confused part of an already confused battle, Tony Horwitz wrote in May's Smithsonian magazine.
On what date was George Washington elected Commander in Chief of the Continental Army?
A. September 5, 1774
B. April 18, 1775
C. May 10, 1776
D. June 15, 1775
D — June 15, 1775
Just hours before American forces began entrenching themselves atop Breed's Hill in June 1775, members of the Continental Congress elected George Washington, a Virginia delegate, as commander-in-chief of the colonial forces that were being and would be raised "in defense of American liberty."
Despite Washington's concerns that his "abilities and military experience may not be equal to the extensive and important trust," he agreed to accept the will of the Congress and "enter upon the momentous duty, and exert every power I posses in (Congress') service and for support of the glorious cause."
"But lest some unlucky event should happen unfavorable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every gentlemen in the room that I, this day, declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with," Washington said.
Why is July 4, 1776 a significant date in American history?
A. It is the day delegates of the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence
B. It is the day the delegates of the Second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence
C. It is the day New York became the final state to adopt the Declaration of Independence
D. It was the day the members of the committee of five presented the Declaration of Independence to the Second Continental Congress.
A — It is the day delegates of the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was drafted between June 11 and June 28, 1776, and was presented to Congress on July 1, according to archives.gov. After a few days of revisions, the document was officially adopted on July 4.
On July 5, copies were dispatched by members of Congress to assemblies, conventions and committees of safety, as well as to the commanders of American troops. John Dunlap, the official printer to the congress, printed an unknown number of copies of the document during the night of July 4. There are 26 known copies of "the Dunlap broadside" in existence today.
The document was signed by the delegates at various times over the next five months.
Who wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence in 1776?
A. Benjamin Franklin
B. Robert Livingston
C. John Adams
D. Thomas Jefferson
D — Thomas Jefferson
As Congress was moving into a three-week recess in June, the delegates appointed a committee of five to draft a statement presenting the colonies' case for independence. The committee was made up of John Adams, Mass.; Roger Sherman, Conn.; Benjamin Franklin, Penn.; Robert Livingston, N.Y. and Thomas Jefferson, Va.
According to Jefferson, the committee "unanimously pressed on myself alone to undertake the draught (draft). I consented; I drew it; but before I reported it to the committee I communicated it separately to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams requesting their corrections . . . I then wrote a fair copy, reported it to the committee, and from them, unaltered to the Congress."
Jefferson was 33 years old at the time. He later became the third president of the United States.
Where was the Declaration of Independence signed?
A. Carpenter's Hall
B. The Old State House
C. Independence Hall
D. Declaration House
C — Independence Hall
Both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were debated and signed inside Independence Hall, located in Philadelphia.
According to the National Park Service, the Pennsylvania legislature loaned the Independence Hall Assembly Room to the Second Continental Congress in 1775. During the weeks and months following the first shots of the war at Lexington and Concord and the battles that followed, Congress selected George Washington as commander-in-chief of the colonial forces, and debated and approved the Declaration of Independence.
What is the first word of the Declaration of Independence?
D — When
The Declaration of Independence was intended to lay out colonial grievances with Great Britain, and began:
"When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another . . . a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."
The document lists Britain's "history of repeated injuries and usurpations," including sending "swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance," imposing taxes without the consent of the taxed, cutting off American trade "with all parts of the world," plundering our seas, ravaging our coasts, burning our towns and destroying the lives of our people.
According to American folklore, this founding father was said to have exclaimed, "There! John Bull can read my name without spectacles and may now double his reward of 500 pounds for my head. That is my defiance," when signing the Declaration of Independence. Who was this man?
A. Benjamin Franklin
B. John Hancock
C. Roger Sherman
D. John Adams
B — John Hancock
The story behind John Hancock's large signature on the Declaration of Independence is embedded in American history and led to his name being adopted as a common term for large, bold writing or a signature.
Different versions of the story have Hancock exclaiming — in various ways — that his signature was large enough for King George to read without trouble. In reality, according to Snopes.com, Hancock's signature was simply larger than the others because he was president of the Continental Congress and first to sign the document.
Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence on August 2, 1776.
"It's worth remembering that signing one's name to the Declaration of Independence was no small thing," Mike Krumboltz wrote at Yahoo in 2011. "Those who signed the document were sure to be hanged for treason should they be caught."
Who was the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence?
A. Elbridge Gerry, Mass.
B. Edward Rutledge, S.C.
C. Roger Sherman, Conn.
D. Thomas Lynch Jr., S.C.
B — Edward Rutledge, S.C.
Edward Rutledge was one of two 26-year-old signers of the Declaration of Independence, with Thomas Lynch Jr. joining him on the young end of the spectrum.
Rutledge was born in 1749, studied law in England and began to practice in South Carolina in 1773. The next year, he was named as one of the state's five delegates to the First Continental Congress.
According to the National Park Service, at the Second Continental Congress, Rutledge led the moderates in securing a delay on a vote for national independence and helped drive South Carolina's negative vote for independence on July 1. However, realizing that the resolution would carry, he persuaded his fellow state delegates to reverse their position and vote in favor of independence.
Rutledge later joined in the defense of the colonies and was taken prisoner by the British in May 1780 along with fellow signers Thomas Heyward Jr. and Arthur Middleton.
Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 1 was in his 70s, 6 were in their 60s, 10 were in their 50s, 20 were in their 40s, 17 were in their 30s and 2 were in their 20s.
Who was the oldest signer of the Declaration of Independence?
A. Benjamin Franklin, Penn.
B. John Adams, Mass.
C. Benjamin Harrison, Va.
D. Dr. Benjamin Rush, Penn.
A — Benjamin Franklin, Penn.
Benjamin Franklin was born in 1706, and became one of the most well-known and celebrated Americans both at home and abroad before, during and after the American Revolution.
At age 12, Franklin began an apprenticeship at his brother's print ship in Boston before running away, moving to London to continue training as a printer, returning to Philadelphia and opening his own printing office. During the following years, Franklin became the publisher of Poor Richard's Almanack and the Pennsylvania Gazette, postmaster of Philadelphia, founder of one of America's first volunteer fire departments and a library, author of The Albany Plan for uniting the colonies, a driving force behind the Articles of Confederation, president of the American Philosophical Society and a member of the Second Continental Congress.
Franklin also helped negotiate the alliance with France during the war, was appointed Minister to France, helped negotiate the treaty of peace with Great Britain, negotiated treaties with Prussia and other European countries, was elected president of the Pennsylvania Society for Promotion the Abolition of Slavery and served as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention which produced the United States Constitution in 1787.
At the July 4, 1776 vote on the Declaration of Independence, Franklin was reported to have said, "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."
Where can Americans see the Declaration of Independence today?
A. The Library of Congress
B. The National Archives
C. The United States Capitol Building
D. The Supreme Court Building
B — The National Archives
The Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., is the permanent home of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights.
The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were housed in many places after their signings, but joined the Bill of Rights at the National Archives in December 1952.
The first American executed for spying for his country — a 21-year-old schoolteacher — was reported to have uttered these words before being hanged by the British: "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." Who was this man?
A. John Andre
B. Hercules Mulligan
C. James Armistead Lafayette
D. Nathan Hale
D — Nathan Hale
Nathan Hale of Connecticut attended Yale College and taught school before joining with the American forces and agreeing to spy on the British on Long Island in 1776.
Hale was captured by the British on September 21, 1776, and was hanged on September 22, becoming the first American executed for spying for his country.
A British orderly book entry dated Sept. 22 contained an entry saying, "A spy fm the enemy (by his own full confession) apprehended last night, was this day executed at 11 o'clock in front of the Artilery (sic) Park."
Asked if he had any confession to make before his death, Hale reportedly responded, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
In 1985, Hale was named as Connecticut's State Hero.
In 1776, when the American army was on the verge of disintegration, this man penned the first of a series of pamphlets entitled, "The Crisis," which contained the following passage:
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value."
A. John Dickinson
B. Thomas Jefferson
C. Thomas Paine
D. Samuel Adams
C — Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine was born in England and moved to American after meeting Benjamin Franklin. After Lexington and Concord, Paine published the pamphlet titled "Common Sense," which argued for American independence from England.
"Anyone sitting on the fence who encountered 'Common Sense' was probably no longer sitting on the fence," author Jack Fruchtman Jr. told the Chicago Tribune in 2011. It was a pamphlet that became a bestseller and changed the world.
While George Washington's forces were languishing during the winter of 1776, Paine began releasing a series of pamphlets known as "The American Crisis." Washington, whose army was on the verge of disintegrating, had the first pamphlet read aloud to his men, who rallied to win the Battle of Trenton soon after.
During Washington's famous crossing of the Delaware River and the Battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776, how many American lives were lost?
A — 2-5
The Battle of Trenton came in the wake of disastrous losses at Long Island, White Plains and Fort Washington and a series of retreats across the northern states.
At this point, Washington wrote to his brother, saying, "I think the game is pretty near up."
In a bold military move, Washington decided to attack the Hessian troops in Trenton, N.J. on Christmas day. Washington and his men began to cross the Delaware River around 11 p.m. on Christmas, and despite being impeded by weather and ice on the river, reached Trenton around 8 a.m. on December 26. During the battle, 22 Germans were killed and more than 900 were captured. No American lives were lost during the battle, although between two and five colonial soldiers died of exposure or illness.
James Monroe, fifth president of the United States, and William Washington, a distant relative of General Washington, were wounded during the fight.
Trenton, combined with a victory soon after at Princeton, provided Washington's demoralized army with a new lease on life.
In 1779, when faced with a British demand for the surrender of his small fleet of ships and his flagship the Bonhomme Richard, this American captain was said to have replied, "I have not yet begun to fight!"
A. John Paul Jones
B. Richard Howe
C. John Barry
D. Esek Hopkins
A — Captain John Paul Jones
Captain John Paul Jones was born in Scotland, and was commissioned a lieutenant in the new Continental Navy after the American Revolution began. Jones distinguished himself in battles all along the Atlantic, from Bermuda to Nova Scotia, before sailing across the ocean and making raids on British shores.
In September 1779, Jones commanded a ship called the Bonhomme Richard, and — along with four smaller ships — engaged in one of the most famous battles in American naval history against the British ships Serapis and Countess of Scarborough. During the battle, Jones was reported to have responded to a British demand for his surrender by saying, "I have not yet begun to fight!"
The battle concluded when the British surrendered to Jones. The Bonhomme Richard was eventually abandoned after the battle and sank.
After helping lead the colonial army during the Battle of Saratoga — an important American victory in the war — what general eventually offered to sell West Point to the British before defecting?
A. General John Burgoyne
B. General Horatio Gates
C. General Benedict Arnold
D. General William Howe
C — General Benedict Arnold
Before switching his allegiance to the British in a move that would make his name synonymous with the word traitor, Benedict Arnold served in the colonial army, earning praise from the soldiers he led, George Washington and colonial leaders like Thomas Jefferson.
Arnold joined Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys in seizing Fort Ticonderoga early in the war. At the first Battle of Saratoga, Major General Horatio Gates and then-Major General Arnold clashed over strategy, raising tensions between them and leading Gates to ultimately deprive Arnold of his command. At the second Battle of Saratoga, Arnold ignored Gates and rallied the American forces against the German troops fighting alongside the British.
Arnold's injury at Saratoga, the credit Gates received after the British surrendered and other grievances combined to push Arnold toward his traitorous decision. After Washington granted Arnold command of West Point, Arnold moved to sell the fort to the British, but the plot was discovered when British Major John Andre was captured with documents related to the plan, and Arnold fled to the British.
Where did the Americans suffer their worst defeat of the war?
A. Long Island
C — Charleston
Americans suffered their worst defeat of the Revolutionary War on May 12, 1780, when Major General Benjamin Lincoln surrendered to British Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton at Charleston, S.C., according to history.com. The surrender followed a more than month-long siege of the city.
According to theamericanrevolution.org, around 5,400 American troops were up against more than 13,500 British troops, and the defeat left no Continental Army in the South.
After the city of Charleston fell in 1780, what military officer organized men to harass the British through guerilla warfare, earning the nickname, "Swamp Fox"?
A. Horatio Gates
B. Francis Marion
C. Nathanael Greene
D. Banastre Tarleton
B — Francis Marion
After the fall of Charleston, Brigadier General Francis Marion and other patriot leaders stepped up campaigns of guerilla warfare in the South against the British.
According to smithsonianmag.com, Marion's escape from Charleston before the British siege occurred because — bored with ongoing toasts at a dinner party — he jumped from a second story window, broke his ankle and left town to recuperate.
After the city's fall, Marion took command of a militia and used guerilla tactics to harass the British. His nickname, the "Swamp Fox," was earned when British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton spent seven hours chasing Marion and his forces across 26 miles of land before the Americans escaped into a swamp.
"As for this damned old fox, the devil himself could not catch him," Tarleton was said to have exclaimed.
In 2006, President George W. Bush recognized Oscar Marion, Francis Marion's personal slave (seen in the painting above), for his "devoted and selfless consecration to the service of our country in the armed forces of the United States."
Mel Gibson's character in "The Patriot" was influenced by Francis Marion, and Disney gave Marion a nod with its 1959 TV series, "The Swamp Fox."
What 1781 battle effectively ended the American Revolution?
A. The Battle of King's Mountain
B. The Battle of Yorktown
C. The Battle of Cowpens
D. The Battle of Germantown
B — Yorktown
In 1781, the seventh year of the American Revolution, Britain's Charles Cornwallis brought his forces to Yorktown in Virginia. General George Washington's forces, French forces under the command of Comte de Rochambeau and a French fleet under the command of Admiral De Grasse put the city under siege, cutting off the possibility of a British retreat or reinforcements.
The siege began on October 9, 1781, and Cornwallis asked for the terms of surrender on the 17th. The official surrender ceremony took place two days later. According to legend, the British musicians played a tune called, "The World Turn'd Upside Down" at the surrender.
"Cornwallis refused to meet formally with Washington, and also refused to come to the ceremony of surrender, claiming illness," theamericanrevolution.org website said. "Instead, Brigadier General Charles O'Hara presented the sword of surrender to Rochambeau. Rochambeau shook his head and pointed to Washington. O'Hara offered it to Washington, but he refused to accept it, and motioned to his second in command, Benjamin Lincoln, who had been humiliated by the British at Charleston, to accept it. The British soldiers marched out and laid down their arms in between the French and American armies, while many civilians watched."
The American victory at Yorktown effectively brought an end to the Revolutionary War.
What treaty officially ended the war between Great Britain and the American colonies and formally recognized the United States as an independent nation?
A. The Treaty of Paris
B. The Treaty of London
C.The Treaty of Hubertusburg
D. The Treaty of Versailles
A — The Treaty of Paris
Prior to the formal peace talks with Great Britain in 1782, Benjamin Franklin rejected informal peace overtures that would provide the states with some autonomy within the British empire, and insisted instead on British recognition of American independence.
Franklin, John Jay and John Adams acted as America's representatives during formal negotiations.
Preliminary articles of peace were signed on November 20, 1782, and the Treaty of Paris, which formally ended the war, was signed on September 3, 1783. The Continental Congress ratified the treaty on January 14, 1784.
Two crucial provisions of the treaty with Britain were British recognition of U.S. independence and the delineation of boundaries that would allow for western expansion in America, ourdocuments.gov said.
The half-finished portrait seen here remains incomplete, according to history.state.gov, because the British negotiators chose not the sit for their half of the portrait.