The American Revolution as a Civil War

Did you know the American Revolution was really more like a civil war? About 1/3 of the American population were rebels (we now call them patriots), about 1/3 were loyalists (those who supported the king) and about 1/3 were undecided, uncommitted or Quakers. Families were sometimes split as to which side they supported. Sometimes families went from one side to the other, depending on which way the winds were blowing in their location. It may have been more expedient, or life-saving, or economical, to switch allegiance from time to time.

People with land in particular had to watch their step when they expressed their sympathies. Their lands could be subject to confiscation if they chose to support the wrong side. For example, on Long Island in New York most of the population were rebel sympathizers but swore an oath of allegiance to the King in 1778. It was that, or flee to Connecticut and give up their property on Long Island. Long Island was occupied by the British army for most of the war, so the population–in order to survive–had to support the rebels subversively. There are stories of women hanging out different colored sheets on their clotheslines to signal something to the rebels across the Long Island Sound in Connecticut without the British army knowing what was happening.

More on Loyalists in the American Revolution next time. This week’s BlogTalkRadio show is on American Loyalists with Paul Bunnell at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, May 18.

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