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Becoming Free and Independent States: Virginia in the Revolutionary Era

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  • Report of a Meeting Containing the Resolution Adopted, May 30, 1774, Colonial Papers, Folder 50, Item Number 17, Record Group 1, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., LVA
    1774 Resolution
  • Notices pertaining to the Yorktown Tea Party, November 24, 1774, Purdie and Dixon, Virginia Gazette, page 2, Special Collections, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., LVA
    Yorktown Tea Party
  • Attributed to Philip Dawe. A Society of Patriotic Ladies, at Edenton in North Carolina. Mezzotint. London, March 25, 1775. British Cartoon Prints Collection. Prints and Photographs Division. LC-USZC4-4617, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, Washington, D.C., LOC
    Society of Patriotic Ladies
  • By his Excellency the Right Honourable John Earl of Dunmore. . . A Proclamation. Williamsburg, 1775, Ephemera Collection, Portfolio 178, Folder 13b, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., LOC
    Dunmore's Proclamation to Virginia
  • Political Cartoon for the year 1775. May 1, 1775. British Cartoon Prints Collection. LC-USZC4-5292, Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., LOC
    Cartoon Criticizing the King
  • Continental Congress to George Washington, June 19, 1775, Commission as Commander in Chief. George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741–1799: Series 8b, Manuscript Division. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., LOC
    Washington Commission
  • By His Excellency the Right Honourable John Earl of Dunmore . . . A proclamation. [Declaring martial law and to cause the same to be . . .] Williamsburg, 1775, Printed Ephemera Collection, Portfolio 178, Folder 18, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., LOC
    Dunmore's Proclamation
  • William Woodford to the President of the Virginia Revolutionary Convention, December 9, 1775, Revolutionary Government, Papers of the Fourth Convention, Record Group 2, Accession 30003, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., LVA
    Great Bridge Letter
  • The State Blacksmiths Forging fetters for the Americans, Published according to an Act of Parliament 1st March 1776. Illustration in John Clark. An Impartial and Authentic Narrative of the Battle Fought on the 17th of June, 1775. London: Printed for the Author and Sold by J. Millan, 1775. Rare Book Collection. LC-USZ62-45532, Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, Library of Congress, Washington, DC., LOC
    Cartoon Showing Blacksmiths Forging Fetters
  • Virginia House of Burgesses, Journal, May 6, 1776, Bound manuscript, Colonial Government, 
House of Burgesses, Record Group 1, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., LVA
    Finis Document
  • Virginia, Convention, General Correspondence, Minutes, and Journals, 1774–1776, Accession 30003, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., LVA
    5th Va. Convention Motion for Independence
  • Patrick Henry's election as governor was recorded on this page from the fifth Virginia Revolutionary Convention journal for June 29, 1776., LVA
    5th Va. Convention Elected Henry
  • Broadside 1818. U5 Vault, Special Collections, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., LVA
    Declaration of Independence
  • Virginia General Assembly,
    Act for Raising Army Volunteers
  • Parole of Charles Cornwallis, earl Cornwallis, 28 October 1781, Special Collections, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., LVA
    Cornwallis Parole
  • Legislative Petitions, Prince William Co., n.d. [Received  June 7, 1781], Record Group 78, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., LVA
    Billy Petition
  • Richard Clough Anderson–Allen Latham Collection, 1771–1887, Box 11, Folder 1, Accession 23634d. Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., LVA
    Land Office Warrant
  • Legislative Petition for James, Slave Belonging to William Armistead, November 30, 1786, Box 179, Folder 10, Library of Virginia, Richmond,Virginia., LVA
    James Lafayette Petition
  • Letter, William H. Cabell to Speaker of the House of Delegates. January 28, 1808. Manuscript. RG 3, Governor's Office, Executive Letter Books, William H. Cabell, July 8, 1807–March 9, 1808. Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., LVA
    Anna Maria Lane Pension
  • His most gracious majesty King George the Third / painted by Sr. Wm. Beechey R.A.; engraved by Benjamin Smith. London: Published by J. & J. Boydell at the Shakespeare Gallery, Pall Mall & at 90 Cheapside, c1804 Decr. 1., LC-USZ62-51. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., LOC
    George III Portrait
  • Fletcher, Anne, Richard Henry Lee (1732–1794). Oil painting on canvas, 30 x 25 in., Original by Charles Willson Peale. Virginia State Artwork Collection, Acquired 1927., LVA
    Richard Henry Lee Portrait
  •  John A. Elder, Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826). Oil painting on canvas, 30 x 25 in. Original by Gilbert Stuart. Virginia State Artwork Collection: acquired 1887., LVA
    Thomas Jefferson Portrait
  • George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741–1799: Series 4. General Correspondence. 1697–1799, Fairfax County, Virginia, Citizens, July 18, 1774, Resolutions and Abstract, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress., LOC
    Fairfax Resolves
  • Mitchell, John. A Map of the British and French Dominions in North America with the Roads, Distances, Limits, and Extent of the Settlements, 1755. Archives Research Services Map Collection, G3300 1755 .M52 Voorhees Collection. Library of Virginia., LVA
    1755 John Mitchell Map
  • Carte de la Partie de La Virginie ou l'armée combinée de France & des États-Unis de l'Amérique a fait prisonniere l'Armée Anglaise commandée par Lord Cornwallis le 19 Octbre. 1781. Avec le plan de l'attaque d'York-town & de Glocester. Paris: Esnauts et Rapilly, ca. 1782. Geography and Map Division. Library of Congress., LOC
    Map of Yorktown
  • Lami, Eugene-Louis. <em>Storming of a British Redoubt by American Troops at Yorktown </em>, oil on canvas, 1840. Library of Virginia Fine Arts Collection: acquired 1878., LVA
    Storming a Redoubt at Yorktown
  • Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (1757–1834), Marble Bust by Jean-Antoine Houdon, 1786. State Artwork Collection, Library of Virginia., LVA
    Marquis de Lafayette Bust
  • Pratt, Matthew, Mary Willing Byrd (Mrs. William Byrd III) Oil painting on canvas, Original. Virginia State Artwork Collection: acquired 1920, Library of Virginia., LVA
    Mary Willing Byrd Portrait
  • (Undated manuscript copy in the handwriting of Isham Talbot) T. J. Bell. Loyalty Oath, Personal Papers Collection, Accession 21461, Library of Virginia., LVA
    Oath of Allegiance
  • 1 June 1775, column 3, Virginia Gazette, John Pinkney, publisher, Boxed Newspapers, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., LVA
    Peyton Randolph Returned to Williamsburg
  • George Bagby Matthews, Patrick Henry, oil painting on canvas, 30 x 50 in. Original by Thomas Sully, Virginia State Artwork Collection: acquired about 1884, Library of Virginia., LVA
    Patrick Henry Portrait
  • Glorious news. Boston. Friday 11 o'clock, 16th May 1766 This instant arrived here the Brig. . . with important news, Boston, 1766, Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfolio 36, Folder 14a, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., LVA
    Stamp Act Broadside
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Becoming Free and Independent States:
Virginia in the Revolutionary Era

Some historians have argued that the American Revolution, beyond being just a military action or a political break was an ideology that infused the nation and influenced all parts of life for the early citizens of the United States. The ideas of revolution were formed as the British citizens in the thirteen colonies that become the United States became more and more disillusioned with King George III and the actions of Parliament. The concept of natural rights, equality among men, and government for and by the people motivated the colonies to break with Great Britain and later guided them as they created their new nation and the Constitution that would govern it. In the thirteen colonies, no group of people was more influential in generating the ideas of revolution than the Virginia Founding Fathers and Revolutionaries.

Disagreement and Disillusion

Fueled by legislation from across the Atlantic Ocean, Great Britain's North American colonies slowly aligned their sentiments and agreed on revolution. Virginians were well aware of events in England and in the other colonies and took steps to support their fellow American colonists, as well as to voice their own objections.

The Revolution Begins

On April 19, 1775, the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. By the fall of that year, fighting also broke out in Virginia. Virginia's soil and citizens proved critical to fighting and eventually defeating the British.

Fighting the Revolution—Virginians in the Battle

Whether they picked up a weapon or watched from the sidelines, every person in the Commonwealth was affected by the fighting of the Revolutionary War. The conflict caused many ordinary Virginians to make difficult and risky choices.

For Educators

"Declaration of Independence; the Unanimous Declaration of Our Classroom"

Virginia Standards of Learning: VS.1 (d, e), VS.5 (a), USI.1 (a, b), USI.6 (a, b, c), VUS.1 (a), VUS.4 (b), GOVT.2(a)
National History Standards: 1A and 1B

Download the lesson plan: Pdf (255 KB) Word (143 KB) Power Point (3 MB)

"Freedom is Worth Fighting For—Billy and James"

Virginia Standards of Learning: VS.1 (d, e), VS.5 (b)
National History Standards: 2C (7–12)
Standards in Historical Thinking - Historical Analysis and Interpretation

Download the lesson plan: Pdf (88 KB) Word (137 KB) Power Point (9 MB)

"Women & the American Revolution—Anna Maria Lane and Mary Willing Byrd"

Virginia Standards of Learning: USI.5 (c), VS.5 (b), VUS.4 (c)
National History Standards: Standard 2C (7–12)
Standards in Historical Thinking - Historical Analysis and Interpretation

Download the lesson plan: Pdf (109 KB) Word (132 KB) Power Point (2 MB)

"Piecing Together the Events at the Battle of Yorktown"

Virginia Standards of Learning: VS.5(c) VUS.4 d (d)
National History Standards: Era 3: Standard 1C (Grades 7–12)

Download the lesson plan: Pdf (2 MB) Word (170 KB) Power Point (35 MB)

People Featured in This Unit:

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  • Billy (fl. 1770s–1780s)
  • Mary Willing Byrd (1740–1814)
  • Charles Cornwallis, second earl Cornwallis (1738–1805)
  • George III (1738–1820)
  • Patrick Henry (1736–1799)
  • Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)
  • James Lafayette (ca. 1760–1830)
  • Marquis de Lafayette (1757–1834)
  • Anna Maria Lane (fl. 1776–1807)
  • Richard Henry Lee (1733–1794)
  • John Murray, fourth earl of Dunmore (ca. 1730–1809)
  • Peyton Randolph (ca. 1722–1775)
  • George Washington (1732–1799)
  • William Woodford (1734–1780)
  • Edmund Pendleton (1721–1803)
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