Sherman, a lawyer by trade, was the first mayor of New Haven, Connecticut, and also served on the Committee of Five, whom drafted the Declaration of Independence. His biggest contribution was devising the idea of the Great Compromise, or Connecticut Compromise, which established a proportionally represented House of Representatives and the Senate to represent the state (with few differences from the current system). Thomas Jefferson described him as “a man who never said a foolish thing in his life.”
Perhaps a folktale and perhaps a badass, Pitcher—whose likeness is attributed to Mary Ludwig Hays—earned her nickname from carrying water to infantry troops on hot days. “Molly” was a common name for women named Mary during the time; thus: “Molly! Pitcher!” She also baked delicious food, washed clothes and blankets, and cared for sick and injured soldiers. Famously, at the Battle of Monouth in June 1178, Pitcher’s husband collapsed next to his cannon. Incensed, she seized control of the cannon and continued to clean, load, and fire it, her bravery ultimately being rewarded by General George Washington made her a non-commissioned officer, thereafter known as “Sergeant Molly,” a moniker she used for the rest of her life.
Pickens was a dignified diplomat who captained militia-led campaigns against the Cherokee Indians in northern Georgia, which led to the ceding of a significant amount of land between the Savannah and Chattachoochee Rivers. Pickens was mostly pacifist by nature, and his campaigns involved few outright battles, and much negotiation. Accordingly, Native Americans regarded Pickens highly, and nicknamed him “The Wizard Owl.” He was one of the first congressmen in the House of Representatives of South Carolina, where he was also well-liked. Several counties share his namesake as a result of his territorial expansions.
The counterpoint of Pickens, Marion was known as “the old swamp fox,” and served in the Continental Army and the South Carolina militia, a “persistent adversary of the British,” who resisted their occupation of South Carolina even after the Continental Army was driven out. He led brutal campaigns against the Cherokees and the British, and is considered one of the originators of modern guerrilla warfare, due to his unique battle strategies. “Marion’s Men,” as they were known, rarely led frontal assaults, preferring instead to launch sneak attacks, quickly skirmishing and then retreating out of vision. Moreover, his tactics were enhanced by his command of intelligence gathering, which never allowed the British to neutralize him and his men.
Warren was a Massachusetts author who was one of the first women to publish independent works concerning political issues. These papers and plays were often satirical and almost exclusively aimed to undermine royal authority. After gaining financial support from John Adams, her works alarmed readers about British attacks on colonial liberties and helped spread the charge for independence. In 1805, she also published the first history of the Revolution penned by a woman (and she published it under her own name, rather than adopting a mans’). She was also casually a correspondent and adviser to John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Patrick Henry, and John Adams, her literary mentor.
The first well-known American naval officer, Paul Jones is still regarded as one of the finest naval men in history. He was a turncoat; formerly serving as captain of a number of British ships, he ultimately defected to America in 1775. He led a direct attack against England and Ireland, severely undermining morale, and his successful campaigns on the American east coast led to him being one of the signers of the Treaty of Alliance with France, which formally recognized an independent American republic. His escapades were so international that he had his own flag, the “John Paul Jones flag,” which was necessary for when he was previously captured sailing under an “unknown flag.” He’s also known for his famous taunt when a British captain asked whether he was ready to surrender, to which he simply replied: “I have not yet begun to fight!”
Plumb Martin was a soldier who is one of the only non-ranking members of the Continental Army to provide a narrative of his excursions within the 8th Connecticut Regiment. His narrative, titled Private Yankee Doodle, provides an “underground” view of the war, most of which were not the typical revolutionary heroes. It’s one of the best sources for historians, and the intricate details he provided led to him being portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman in Liberty! The American Revolution.
Whipple was an insane naval commander, who headed the privateer Game Cock from 1759-1760. He was so adept at seafaring that he managed to capture 23 French ships in one six-month cruise alone. He was also the first to sink a British ship, the HMS Gaspée, the first to unfurl the Star Spangled Banner in London, and the first to build and successfully sail an ocean-going ship 2000 miles, from Ohio to the West Indies, which opened trade to the Northwest Territory. He didn’t stop winning.
9. Moses Brown
Co-founder of Brown University, Brown was an abolitionist and industrialist, whose leadership in the field funded the construction of many of the first factories during America’s early independent years. His financing of the Slater Mill signified the beginning of the American industrial revolution, because it was the first water-powered spinning mill on the continent. He was the leading opponent of the Rhode Island slave trade, and led propositioning of the 1787 law that banned it. Throughout his life he also helped slaves and free blacks via his own financial and legal assistance.
10. Abigail Adams
Abigail was John Adams’s wife, the first Second Lady of the United States and the second First Lady of the United States. Her influence was prominent throughout many of John’s political moves; the letters she wrote to him while he was involved in the Continental Congresses almost exclusively deal in intellectual discussions on government and politics. Unlike Martha Washington, the first First Lady, Abigail’s political activity was so well-known that her and John’s opponents referred to her as “Mrs. President.” Before making big decisions in the White House, John often “excused himself” and would consult Abigail.
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