The American Revolution would not have happened without a copious supply of beer and rum; even Paul Revere stopped for a few draughts at his friend Isaac Hall’s tavern on his famous ride to Lexington. The defiance, which led to the revolution, began with anger against a series of British taxes levied on the new colony, including the 1733 tax on imported molasses used to make rum. Americans, already robust drinkers, resented the levy.
Meeting in the basement of the Green Dragon Tavern in the 1770s, the Sons of Liberty schemed against their British rulers. When the Crown taxed tea, a group of the Sons boarded three British tea ships to secure the tea so that it could not be unloaded, therefore enacting a British law that required the return of unloaded cargo after 20 days if not delivered. Under the influence of alcohol, these colonists suddenly had a better idea—unloading the tea themselves by throwing it overboard. “Last night 3 cargos of Bohea tea were emptied into the sea,” the American revolutionary and later U.S. President John Adams wrote in his diary the next day. “This destruction of the tea is so bold, so daring, so firm, intrepid and inflexible, and it must have so important consequences and so lasting, that I can’t but consider it as an epocha in history.”
Ethan Allen, one of the great Revolutionary War heroes, was a proud Vermont drunk with a storied capacity for alcohol. Fueled by his usual cocktail of rum and hard cider, Allen broke into Fort Ticonderoga in the early morning hours of May 10, 1775, with a small force of loyal Green Mountain Boys, a local revolutionary militia. This ragtag force boldly (and drunkenly) marched up to the quarters of Captain William Delaplace of His Majesty’s 26th, the fort’s commandant. Delaplace had not even managed to get his pants on before Allen burst into his bedroom, and the masterful takeover of the fort proved to be a turning point for the Colonial Army. It demonstrated that the British could be outsmarted, even if they had greater numbers and more ammunition. The Ticonderoga cannons were later carried south, mounted on Dorchester Heights, and used to drive the British out of Boston.
Throughout American history, American armies were likewise fueled by liquid courage. Washington himself said he would never send men into battle unless they were moderately drunk.