On the 4th of July, some take the time to read and then contemplate the Declaration of Independence, and it is well that we do. What we should also review are the years that followed. Here, for example, is a Timeline: War of Independence provided by Dr. Quintard Taylor, Jr.

What do we learn by reading such a history? After all, it happened over two centuries ago. None today remember it. We have only writings, drawings, paintings and various odd artifacts from that period. What we know is only a mixture of legend with a few verifiable facts. What do we know? We know the freedom that is our heritage. We know that today we own our liberty because a few good men and women took care to protect both their own liberty and the liberty of their families, friends and neighbors.

At the time of the American Revolutionary War, America was small. The population of the Thirteen American Colonies was only around 2.4 million people, but the colonists were prosperous. So King George III decided to tax them. Unfortunately, King George had no interest in allowing the colonists any voice in the matter. Instead, King George pressured the colonists to accept taxes without representation. Thus, war began in April of 1775.

What began in 1775 was a rebellion started by a comparatively purposeless and angry rabble, and the Americans of that era were an orderly and moral people. To justify their rebellion and fighting against British soldiers, the Americans formally listed their grievances and declared their independence in July of 1776. The battles then continued until the British Parliament voted to end the war in April of 1782. With the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which was signed by Great Britain and the Americans in September of 1783, the war formally ended.

What did the war cost in blood and treasure? Few of us living today can comprehend what it cost. Here was a bloody war Americans fought on their own soil against what was then the most powerful military force in the world.  Nevertheless, with the odds against them, the colonists took up arms.

The total loss of life throughout the war is largely unknown. As was typical in the wars of the era, disease claimed far more lives than battle. Between 1775 and 1782 a smallpox epidemic swept across North America, killing more than 130,000 people. Historian Joseph Ellis suggests that Washington’s decision to have his troops inoculated against the smallpox epidemic was one of his most important decisions.

More than 25,000 American Revolutionaries died during active military service. About 8,000 of these deaths were in battle; the other 17,000 recorded deaths were from disease, including about 8,000–12,000 who died of starvation or disease brought on by deplorable conditions while prisoners of war, most in rotting British prison ships in New York. This tally of deaths from disease is undoubtedly too low, however; 2,500 Americans died while encamped at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777–78 alone. The number of Revolutionaries seriously wounded or disabled by the war has been estimated from 8,500 to 25,000. The total American military casualty figure was therefore as high as 50,000. (from here)

Where war is fought, it brings chaos and ruin. Where the sword slays, disease and famine follow. So in truth, we don’t know what that war cost. All we know for certain is that we now have our freedom because others paid the price with their lives and fortunes.

John 15:13 King James Version (KJV)

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.


  1. Thanks. Where did 2.4 million come from? I have read that it was 3 million. The UK was 10 million at the time. I was surprised to read it was so small.

    Let’s say 8,500 Americans die from combat. If the population was 3 m then today (we are over 300 million) if you multiply by 100, then the Revolution would be like 850,000 combat deaths today. That would be staggering. Awful.

    Having shared that – the most costly war per capita population was the King Phillip’s War in New England. Check the numbers.


    1. That stat comes from here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirteen_Colonies
      Given the number of people that number excluded, your estimate of three million is not too far off. In any event, the 1775 population number could only be an educated guess.

      I find it strange, but I don’t recall learning about King Phillip’s war in school, but that may be just because I was not educated in New England. On the other hand, I wonder what they teach in New England these days about that conflict. Here is where I first learned about it. https://citizentom.com/2007/11/21/mayflower-by-nathaniel-philbrick/


    2. BTW – Because of the small pox epidemic that occurred at the same time (which probably resulted from the conditions created by the war), the American Revolution easily rivals the Civil War for the havoc it created. In fact, the American Revolution was a civil war. Because of the war, many of the Loyalists (those who chose to side resolutely with the United Kingdom) escaped to Canada.


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