I’ve been thinking about the strange claim among some circles that the American colonists in 1775 were plucky underdogs who went toe-to-toe with the world’s most powerful empire and defeated it. While it’s true that Britain probably was the world’s foremost power in 1775, it was only so because the Spanish were approaching the tail-end of their own abilities and France was in its post-Seven Years War slump. But even disregarding the fact that revolutionary victory was dependent on the world’s second and third most powerful empires backing the colonists up against the first, it’s really a huge reach to describe the Whigs as underdogs. 

The first reason for this is that the British Army plus German allies totaled 194,000 men at its height during the war, though 42,000 of those were militiamen relegated to Britain. That left 152,000 soldiers to not only defend a global empire against attacks from two other global empires (three if we count the lukewarm Dutch support for the American revolutionaries) but also suppress a rebellion among a population of well over 2,000,000 people (approaching 3,000,000 by 1780). It is estimated that of this total 6.5% of the population were actively involved in the revolutionary struggle against Britain - over 130,000 men. In its most simplistic terms, the revolutionaries in the Thirteen Colonies were able to muster almost as many soldiers as the entirety of the British empire, and that’s before said imperial forces were divided across the globe or kept in Britain to defend against a French invasion. This is also without factoring in the tens of thousands of French and Spanish forces either supplied to assist the revolutionaries directly or deployed separately against other British holdings. 

The upshot of all this is that Crown forces were outnumbered in almost every single battle and skirmish of the revolution. Britain was only able to deploy, at the height of the war, around 70,000 soldiers to North America without overextending itself elsewhere, and even with the support of Loyalists (who were far less active militarily than the revolutionaries) they would still be outnumbered at a ratio of nearly 2:1, even before the inclusion of French and Spanish forces. This disparity really comes out in the sources - British commanders like Cornwallis were continually aware of their parlous state, frequently stranded in hostile territory, surrounded and heavily outnumbered. That sort of situation, repeated as it was so frequently, is not the natural state of a superior fighting force. 

The maths provides the first reason why the Whigs weren’t the underdogs. The second comes from the nature of the fighting men themselves. The British Army in 1775 was no well-oiled machine. The last major conflict it had been involved in had ended 12 years earlier, and the intervening period had seen the government all-but purge the military in a series of huge cost-cutting exercises that reduced it to barely 20,000 men. The only soldiers with experience were a scattering of officers and NCOs. Almost all the regulars had never seen action before 1775. Ironically, the colonists had more military experience due to the intimate nature of the Seven Years War in North America. Many militia officers had served against the French and Indians. It has been estimated that at Lexington and Concord, the militia - the supposed underdogs - had more military expertise than the green regulars sent to face them. Both sides learned to fight as the war progressed, and while the pre-existing structures of the British Army gave it a certain advantage over the more amateur Continentals, man-for-man there was very little separating both sides. The British were certainly not a highly experienced and immaculately drilled fighting force.

tl;dr Britain wasn’t an exceptionally powerful empire and the American colonists were more numerous and experienced than popular history allows. Also France. 

Hercules Mulligan may have took the measurements and information but he sure as hell didn't smuggle it

But you know who did? His slave, Cato.

Cato was a courier and spy, helping gather and pass on vital intelligence to Hamilton, their contact at Washington’s camp. He’d be sent to a shop with tailoring ads to translate into German for the Hessian soldiers where he’d meet with a fellow spy Heym Salomon. He would then return back with translations and information which would be hidden in packages containing clothing.

As Mulligan’s tailor shop catered to high end British officers, many soldiers had seen Cato running errands for him before and didn’t expect a black man to be the one passing intelligence on George Washington. This meant he could cross the Hudson River without seeming too suspicious.

He was even jailed and interrogated after some suspicions did arise about Hercules Mulligan’s activities and the deliveries but didn’t talk. He also was the one who delivered the messages which helped foil a plan to kill George Washington.

Tl;dr – Cato didn’t even get a single mention in Hamilton and because he was a slave he’s been almost brushed out of history. Just know that he was every bit as important as Hercules Mulligan and deserves to be known.

  • alex: one in every four boys are gay. that means someone in our group is gay
  • alex: I hope it's john. John is cu-
  • laf: honey, we're all gay. you know this.
  • hercules: you and john are DATING
The American Revolution Be Like

Great Britain *looming threateningly over a fallen rebelling America*Fools who run their mouths oft wind up dead-

*Door slams open*

Spain: WHAT TIME IS IT?

France and Prussia: SHOW TIME!

SHOW TIME SHOW TIME SHOW TIME SHOW TIME SHOW TIME SHOW TIME

Great Britain: oh shit it’s these guys.

*Submission by my one true fan @kittyreaper

Hancock: Richard Henry Lee, will you serve on the declaration committee?

Lee: Sorry Johnny👎🙅gotta respectfulLEE decline😜😂👌About to go home to refresh the missus👀😉😏💍💦Virginia born Virginia bound💪🌞🌾 certified FFV💯✊ HERE👀A👀LEE👀THERE👀A👀LEE👀 Too hot here in Philly for me🔥😓😫

Adams: Someone stop him

Franklin: No keep going 👏👀💯

The bayonet held especial fear for Americans as it embodied the superior martial professionalism of the British army; American troops were much less accustomed to bayonet fighting.” 

- Holger Hoock, ‘Mangled Bodies: Atrocity in the American Revolutionary War’ in Past and Present: A Journal of Historical Studies, Volume 230, Issue 1, eds. Alexandra Walsham and Matthew Hilton (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 157 - 158.