Past Questions


(i) Mention two causes of the American War of Independence. (2)
(ii) Give two reasons why the Americans defeated the British during the War of Independence. (2)
(iii) Explain the influence of the American Revolution on events in France during the late
eighteenth century. (6)
(iv) Write an account of two of the following:
(a) The “Reign of Terror” during the French Revolution.
(b) The consequences of the French Revolution.
(c) The main events during the 1798 Rebellion.
(d) The results of the 1798 Rebellion in Ireland.      (2×10)


History@Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna.

Published in: on May 27, 2010 at 12:26 am Comments (0)
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Past Questions



The execution of French king Louis XVI (London Times, 25th January, 1793)
About half past nine, the king arrived at the place of execution. Louis mounted the scaffold calmly, the trumpets sounding and drums beating during the whole time. He made a sign of wishing to speak to the multitude, the drums ceased, and Louis spoke these few words. I die innocent; I pardon my enemies. His executioners then laid hold of him and, an instant after, his head was separated from his body.
Since the king’s execution, a general consternation has prevailed throughout Paris; the Sans Culottes are the only persons that rejoice. The honest citizens, safe within their houses, could not suppress their heartfelt grief, and mourned in private with their families the murder of their much loved Sovereign. The Republican tyrants of France have murdered their king without even the shadow of justice, and of course they cannot expect friendship with any civilised part of the world. The vengeance of Europe will now rapidly fall on them.

Wolfe Tone and the French attempt to land at Bantry Bay, December 1796.

Extract from a speech by Wolfe Tone, 1798:
From my earliest youth, I have regarded the connection between Ireland and Great Britain, as the curse of the Irish nation; felt convinced that, whilst it lasted, this country could never be free or happy. I determined to apply all the powers, which my individual efforts could move, in order to separate the two countries. That Ireland was not able, of herself, to throw off the yoke, I knew. I therefore sought for aid, wherever it was to be found. Under the flag of the French Republic, I sought to save and liberate my own country.

A. Source D
(i) ‘The king met his death bravely’
Give one piece of evidence from the newspaper article to support this view. (2)
(ii) According to the article, who were the only persons to rejoice following the king’s
execution? (2)
(iii) Was the writer a supporter or an opponent of the king’s execution?
Give one piece of evidence from the source to explain your answer. (5)
B. Source E and Source F
(i) Why did the fleet sent by the French in 1796, shown in Source E, fail to land? (2)
(ii) In source F, what does Wolfe Tone consider to be the ‘curse of the Irish Nation’? (3)
(iii) Give two reasons why Wolfe Tone sought military help from the French. (4)

C. Write an account of one of the following topics:
(i) Causes of the American War of Independence.
(ii) The Reign of Terror in France, September 1793 to July 1794.
(iii) Reasons for the failure of the 1798 Rebellion in Ireland.           (12)



Source D
A picture of the Boston Massacre 1770 (engraving by Paul Revere).

Source E
A political cartoon from 1789 called “The Third Estate Awakens.”

An extract from the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
“Therefore the National Assembly recognises and proclaims the following rights of man and
of the citizen:
Men are born free and equal in rights.
The purpose of all political associations is the preservation of the natural rights of man. These rights are: liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression. Liberty consists in being able to do whatever does not harm others. No man ought to be uneasy about his opinions, even his religious beliefs, provided that this actions do not interfere with the public order established by law. The free communication of thought and opinion is one of the most precious rights of man: every citizen can therefore talk, write and publish freely.”

A. Study source D which is an engraving by Paul Revere of the Boston Massacre.
(i) Do you think that the artist was a supporter or an opponent of British rule in America?
Give one reason to support your answer. (2)
(ii) Apart from the Boston Massacre, give two reasons why the American colonies
revolted against British rule in 1775. (4)
B. Source E is a political cartoon from France at the time of the French Revolution called “the
Third Estate Awakens.”

Source F is an extract from the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which was
passed by the National Assembly of France, August 26, 1789.
(i) In the cartoon, why do you think the nobleman and the priest look afraid? (2)
(ii) In Source F, what are the “natural rights of man”? (2)
(iii) From the Declaration, identify two freedoms enjoyed by the citizens of France? (2)
(iv) The Declaration was influenced by the ideas of Enlightenment writers. Name one famous Enlightenment writer. (4)

C. (i) Write an account of one of the following:
(a) The impact of the American War of Independence on France.
(b) The influence of the French Revolution on Ireland.
(c) The consequences of the unsuccessful rebellion of 1798, in Ireland.      (14)


History@Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna.


These are some of the short answer questions that have come up over the last few years:

Ordinary Level

  1. Explain one of the following terms from the Age of Revolution: Boston Tea Party; Guillotine; United Irishmen.
  2. In relation to one of the revolutions in America or France or Ireland in the eighteenth century, name a leader of that revolution and an event associated with that revolution.
  3. In relation to one of the revolutions in America or France or Ireland in the eighteenth century, name a leader of that revolution and one of his aims.
  4. Put the following events in the correct order. Please start with the earliest: The French Revolution; The 1798 Rebellion; The American War of Independence.

Higher Level

  1. Give two causes of the American Revolution
  2. What change came about as a result of the Act of Union 1801?
  3. Choose one of the revolutions (America or France or Ireland) and give two causes of that revolution.
  4. Which county was the scene of the most intense rebel activity during the 1798 rising?
  5. What was the Reign of Terror in France in the 1790s?
  6. Name two effects of the American War of Independence on either Ireland or France.
  7. Give two reasons why the Americans revolted against Britain in 1775.
  8. Give two reasons why there was a rebellion in Ireland in 1798.


History@ Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna.

Lord Edward Fitzgerald

This content was created/compiled by Martin Daly.

In Brief:

Lord Edward Fitzgerald was the son of the Duke of Leinster and fought with the British army in America. He later became interested in the ideas of The French Revolution and came to the conclusion that a similar revolution was needed in Ireland. He joined the United Irishmen. He spent 1797 organising a rebellion in Leinster but was betrayed by informers. He was warned to escape but refused and was caught after his hiding place was betrayed. He was shot during his arrest and died of his wounds in prison a few days later.


More information:

  • Edward Fitzgerald, was fifth son of the Duke of Leinster, was born in October 1763 at Carton house, Leixlip. Co Kildare.
  • The family was an important part of the Protestant Ascendancy and Edward was born to a life of luxury and privilege.
  • He was educated in blackrock, Co Dublin.
  • In 1797 he fought in the American War of Independence but was injured and was rescued by a black man called Tony, who remained a servant of Fitzgerald until he died.
  • Edward fell in love with cousin but was rejected her name was Gerorgina Lennox.
  • In 1789 he traveled to Canada where he crossed the entire country only by compass for direction. During the trip he became Huran Indians near Detroit.
  • He returned from Canada he became interested in the ideas of the French Revolution.
  • He travelled to Paris and me met Thomas Paine who wrote book called Common Sense that inspired the American Revolution in 1776.
  • He returned to Ireland and was convinced of the need for change in Ireland, he joined the United Irishmen and called for a Revolution against British rule.
  • Lord Edward Fitzgerald spend 1797 organising a rebellion in Leinster, but his plans were betrayed by a number of informers in the United Irishmen. His family were of important part of the Protestant Ascendancy.
  • He was warned to escape, but he refused.
  • On the 18th of May 1798 he was hiding in Dublin on Thomas Street and the address was given to Authorities by Francis Magan Catholic barrister. Fitzgerald was shot during his arrest and died of his wounds in prison a number of days later.


American War of Independence

Fitzgerald joined the British Army in 1779, he served on the staff of Lord Rawdon in the  American Revolutionary War. He was seriously wounded at the Battle of Eutaw Springs on 8 September 1781, his life being saved by a newly-liberated black slave named Tony Small (‘Faithful Tony’), whom Lord Edward employed to the end of his life.

He was evacuated from Charleston, South Carolina in 1782 when the British forces abandoned the city.

Post-War Military Career

In 1783 FitzGerald returned to Ireland, where his brother, the 2nd Duke of Leinster, had procured his election to the Irish Parliament as a Member for Athy, a seat he held until 1790. He represented then Kildare County from 1790 to 1798. In Parliament he acted with the small Opposition Irish Patriot Party group led by Henry Grattan, but took no prominent part in debate. After spending a short time at Woolwich to complete his military education, he made a tour through Spain in 1787; and then, dejected by unrequited love for his cousin Georgina Lennox (who later married the 3rd Earl Bathurst), he sailed for New Brunswick to join the 54th Regiment with the rank of Major.

Explorer in the “New World”

The romantic temperament of the young Irishman found congenial soil in the wild surroundings of unexplored Canadian forests, and the enthusiasm thus engendered for the “natural” life of savagery may have been already fortified by study of  Rousseau’s writings, for which at a later period Lord Edward expressed his admiration. In February 1789, guided by compass, he traversed the country, practically unknown to white men, from Fredericton, New Brunswick to Quebec, falling in with Indians by the way, with whom he fraternized; and in a subsequent expedition he was formally adopted at Detroit by the Bear tribe of Hurons as one of their chiefs, and made his way down the Mississippi to New Orleans, where he then returned to England.

Marries in France

His connections, together with his transatlantic experiences, predisposed Fitzgerald to sympathize with the doctrines of the French Revolution, which he embraced enthusiastically when he visited Paris in October 1792. He lodged with Thomas Paine and listened to the debates in the Convention. At a convivial gathering on the 18 November he supported a toast to “the speedy abolition of all hereditary titles and feudal distinctions”, and gave proof of his zeal by expressly repudiating his own title, a performance for which he was dismissed from the army

While in Paris, FitzGerald became enamoured of a young girl whom he chanced to see at the theatre,Procuring an introduction he discovered her to be a protégé of Madame de Sillery, Comtesse de Genlis. The girls name was Pamela (1773–1831).On 27 December 1792 FitzGerald and Pamela were married at Tournay, one of the witnesses being Louis Philippe, afterwards King of the French; and in January 1793 the couple reached Dublin.

The couple eventually had a son, named Edward and two daughters, Pamela and Louisa. After her husband’s death in Newgate Gaol, Dublin, Pamela, Lady Edward FitzGerald, was no longer welcome at Boyle Farm, the house of his brother Lord Henry FitzGerald in Thames Ditton. But her daughters found much happiness in the village, living with an aunt. After she died, her mortal remains were buried at St Nicholas Churchyard, Thames Ditton.

Return to Ireland

Ireland was by now seething with dissent which was finding a focus in the increasingly popular and revolutionary Society of the United Irishmen who had been forced underground by the outbreak of war between France and Britain in 1793. Lord Edward FitzGerald, fresh from the gallery of the Convention in Paris, returned to his seat in the Irish Parliament and immediately sprang to their defence but within a week of his return he was ordered into custody and required to apologise at the bar of the House of Commons for violently denouncing in the House a Government proclamation, which Grattan had approved. However, it was not until 1796 that he joined the United Irishmen, who by now had given up as hopeless the path of constitutional reform and whose aim after the recall of Lord FitzWilliam in 1795 was nothing less than the establishment of an independent Irish republic.

Revolutionary activities

In May 1796 Theobald Wolfe Tone was in Paris endeavoring to obtain French assistance for an insurrection in Ireland. In the same month FitzGerald and his friend Arthur O’Connor proceeded to Hamburg, where they opened negotiations with the Directory through Reinhard, French minister to the Hanseatic towns. The Duke of York, meeting Pamela at Devonshire House on her way through London with her husband, had told her that “all was known” about his plans, and advised her to persuade him not to go abroad. Also, in Hamburg Lord Edward met with Johan Anders Jägerhorn (or baron de Spurila, as he called himself), a Finnish Swede who had advocated Finnish autonomy and now acted as an intermediary between Lord Edward and the French.

The proceedings of the conspirators at Hamburg were made known to the government in London by an informer, Samuel Turner. Pamela was entrusted with all her husband’s secrets and took an active part in furthering his designs; and she appears to have fully deserved the confidence placed in her, though there is reason to suppose that at times she counselled prudence. The result of the Hamburg negotiations was General Hoche’s abortive expedition to Bantry Bay in December 1796.

In September 1797 the Government learnt from the informer MacNally that Lord Edward was among those directing the conspiracy of the United Irishmen, which was now quickly maturing. He was specially concerned with the military organisation, in which he held the post of colonel of the Kildare regiment and head of the military committee. He had papers showing that men were ready to rise. They possessed some arms, but the supply was insufficient, and the leaders were hoping for a French invasion to make good the deficiency and to give support to a popular uprising. But French help proving dilatory and uncertain, the rebel leaders in Ireland were divided in opinion as to the expediency of taking the field without waiting for foreign aid. Lord Edward was among the advocates of the bolder course and there is some evidence that he favoured a project for the massacre of the Irish peers while in procession to the House of Lords for the trial of Lord Kingston in May 1798, despite the fact many were his own relations

Net tightens

It was probably abhorrence of such measures that converted Thomas Reynolds from a conspirator to an informer; at all events, by him and several others the authorities were kept posted in what was going on, though lack of evidence produced in court delayed the arrest of the ringleaders. But on the 12 March 1798 Reynolds’s information led to the seizure of a number of conspirators at the house of Oliver Bond. Lord Edward FitzGerald, warned by Reynolds, was not among them.

As a fellow member of the Ascendancy class, the Government were anxious to make an exception for FitzGerald, and also avoid the embarrassing and dangerous consequences of his subversive activities, communicating their willingness to spare him from the normal fate meted out to “traitors”. The Lord Chancellor, Lord Clare, said to a member of his family, “for God’s sake get this young man out of the country; the ports shall be thrown open, and no hindrance whatever offered.”

FitzGerald however refused to desert others who could not escape, and whom he had himself led into danger. On 30 March the government proclamation of martial law authorising the military to act as they saw fit to crush the United Irishmen, led to a campaign of vicious brutality in many parts of the country, and forced the United Irish executive to bring forward plans for the rising, with or without French aid.

Arrest and Death

Arrest of Lord Edward FitzGerald

The capture of Lord Edward FitzGerald, the most dangerous United Irish leader still at liberty, was now the top priority of Dublin Castle and on 9 May a reward of £1,000 was offered for his apprehension. Since the arrests at Bond’s, FitzGerald had been in hiding, but had twice visited his wife in disguise and was himself visited by his stepfather. Meanwhile, the date for the rising was finally fixed for 23 May and Fitzgerald awaited the day hiding in a house in Thomas Street, Dublin.

However, his hiding place was disclosed by a Catholic barrister and informer named Magan and on 18 May Town Major Henry C. Sirr led a military party to the house where Lord Edward was in bed suffering from a fever. Alerted by the commotion, he jumped out of bed and, ignoring the pleas of the arresting officers Major Swan and Captain Ryan to surrender peacefully, FitzGerald stabbed Swan and mortally wounded Ryan with a dagger in a desperate attempt to escape. He was only secured after Sirr shot him in the shoulder and was beaten unconscious by the rifle butts of the soldiers.

Fitzgerald's arrest

He was conveyed to Newgate Prison, Dublin where he was denied proper medical treatment. At the age of 34 he died of his wounds as the rebellion raged outside on the 4 June 1798. He was buried the next day in the cemetery of St Werburgh’s Church, Dublin. An Act of Attainder confiscating his property was passed, but was eventually repealed in 1819.

Shortly after his death, Lord Edward’s sister, Lady Lucy FitzGerald, authored the following statement regarding her brother’s fidelity to Ireland: Irishmen, Countrymen, it is Edward FitzGerald’s sister who addresses you: it is a woman but that woman is his sister: she would therefore die for you as he did. I don’t mean to remind you of what he did for you. ‘Twas no more than his duty. Without ambition he resigned every blessing this world could afford to be of use to you, to his Countrymen whom he loved better than himself, but in this he did no more than his duty; he was a Paddy and no more; he desired no other title than this.


History@Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna.

Published in: on May 19, 2010 at 9:31 pm Comments (1)
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Battle of Yorktown

This content was compiled/created by Eoin O’ Connor.

The Battle of Yorktown

In Brief:

After French forces combined with the Continental army in 1778 to assist them in their War of Independence, the colonists started to get the upper hand on the British. During 1781, 7,000 British troops led by General Cornwallis found themselves surrounded at Yorktown by 9000 American troops and 5000 Frenchmen. Meanwhile the French Navy at Chesapeake Bay stopped them from escaping by sea. The British struggled against the onslaught and by October a section of the Continental Army led by Marquis Lafayette broke through the British lines leaving Cornwallis with no option but to surrender. This marked the beginning of the end of The American War of Independence.


War: American Revolutionary War (also known as American War of Independence.)

Date: 28th September to 19th October 1781

Place: Virginia, United States of America

Combatants: Americans and French against the British

Generals: General Washington commanded the Americans, Lieutenant General de Rochambeau commanded the French and Major General Lord Cornwallis commanded the British.

Size of the armies: 8,800 Americans, 7,800 French and 6,000 British

Uniforms, arms and equipment: The British wore red coats and headgear of bearskin caps, leather caps or tricorne hats depending on whether the troops were grenadiers, light infantry or battalion company men. The German infantry wore blue coats and retained the Prussian style grenadier mitre with brass front plate.

The Americans dressed as best they could. Increasingly as the war progressed regular infantry regiments of the Continental Army wore blue uniform coats but the militia continued in rough clothing.

The French royal regiments of foot wore white coats.

Both sides were armed with muskets and guns. The back country riflemen carried long, small calibre rifles, weapons of considerably greater accuracy than the ordinary musket and which their owners used with proficiency.

British Regiments:

1 troop of 17th Light Dragoons (in Tarleton’s Legion)

Royal Artillery

A composite brigade of Foot Guards (comprising 1st, 2nd and 3rd Foot Guards)

17th Foot later the Royal Leicestershire Regiment and now the Royal Anglian Regiment

23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers

33rd Foot now the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment

43rd later the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and now the Royal Green Jackets

71st Fraser’s Highlanders (disbanded at the end of the war)

76th Foot (disbanded at the end of the war)

80th Foot (disbanded at the end of the war)

Regiment of de Voit (Anspach)

Regiment of de Seybothen (Anspach)

Regiment of Prince Hereditary (Hesse)

Regiment of von Bose (Hesse)

Tarleton’s Legion

Simcoe’s Legion

North Carolina Loyalists

French Regiments:


Lauzun’s Legion

Bourbonnois Regiment of Foot

Royal Deux-Ponts Regiment of Foot

Soissonois Regiment of Foot

Agenois Regiment of Foot

Americans Regiments:

4th Dragoons (Moylan)

Armand’s Horse

Lafayette’s Light Infantry

Muhlenburg’s Brigade

Hazen’s Canadian Regiment

1st New York Regiment

2nd New York Regiment

1st New Jersey Regiment

2nd New Jersey Regiment

Rhode Island Regiment

1st Pennsylvania Regiment

2nd Pennsylvania Regiment

Virginia Regiment

3rd Maryland Regiment

4th Maryland Regiment

3 brigades of Virginia Militia

Sappers and Miners


Losing his grip on the Carolinas, Cornwallis marched his army into Virginia and seized Yorktown and Gloucester, towns on each side of the York River.

With the arrival of the French fleet of Admiral De Grasse, General Washington was able to march south from New York with the joint American and French army to attack Cornwallis.

The Americans and French marched out of Williamsburg and arrived before Yorktown on 28th September 1781, forming a semi-circle around the entrenchments and putting the British under siege. Cornwallis expecting Major General Clinton to sail from New York with a relieving force had decided to remain in Yorktown rather than march south to the Carolinas or attempt to reach New York. His first move was the inexplicable one of abandoning a line of four redoubts that dominated the British positions. The Americans immediately occupied the empty redoubts.

The Americans began formal siege operations on the eastern side of Yorktown on 30th September and on 9th October were sufficiently close to began an artillery bombardment.

On 14th October the Americans and French stormed two redoubts in front of their trenches and the position of the British in Yorktown became untenable.

The British carried out a sortie on the 16th in which several guns in the two redoubts were spiked. On the same day Cornwallis attempted to pass the Guards, the 23rd and the Light Infantry across the York River to Gloucester but was thwarted by a storm.

With no sign of Clinton’s relief and with inadequate supplies of artillery ammunition and food, on 19th October 1781 Cornwallis’ army marched out of Yorktown and surrendered.


6,000 British surrendered to the Americans and French with 10 stands of German and British colours,

240 pieces of artillery, small arms, ammunition and equipment.

The casualties during the siege had been 500 British, 80 Americans and 200 French.


The capitulation of the British to the Americans and French ended the fighting in the war and led to the Peace Treaty that acknowledged the independence of the American states. Clinton’s relieving force arrived in the Chesapeake on 24th October.

Anecdotes and traditions:

• The British bands are reputed to have played “The world turned upside down” as the troops marched out to surrender.

• After the surrender the American and French officers entertained the British officers to dinner, other than Tarleton with whom the Americans refused to eat, due to the atrocities committed by his troops in North and South Carolina.


Yorktown period of the American War of Independence



History@Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna.

Published in: on May 3, 2010 at 1:17 pm Comments (2)
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Background to the French Revolution

France was ruled by a traditional European feudal system where people were divided into classes according to their birth. At the top was the King who was an absolute monarch. This meant that he had complete control over the country and did not have to consult with a parliament and could pass any law he wanted. He even had the power to have people arrested (lettre de Cachet) without trial or even killed. The King ruled over a system called the Ancien Régime.


Background to the Revolution (2)


This was made up of:

The First Estate: This was the Clergy of the Catholic Church. They were very powerful and controlled a lot of land, wealth and power.

The Second Estate: This was the nobles (counts, dukes, barons etc.). They were very wealthy and held many positions in the French government.

The Third Estate: This was the people who were not born into privilege. The vast majority of people in France were in this category. Some were educated professionals (doctors, lawyers etc.)  and successful business people  called the bourgeoisie while most were poor and uneducated labourers. They had very little influence or power.

One big issue was that virtually all the tax was paid by the Third Estate – the ones who could afford it the least. This meant that the third estate continued to struggle while the First and Second Estates remained in their privileged positions.

There were many taxes for the Third Estate to pay including:

Taille: Land tax paid to the state.

Tithe: Tax paid to the church.

Gabelle: A salt tax paid to the state.

Background to the Revolution (3)


Causes of the Revolution

  • The Royal family of Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette lived a lavish lifestyle – living in a massive palace in Versailles with hundreds of servants; and spending their days hunting, gambling and feasting. This caused huge bitterness as the poor people of France struggled to make enough to eat. The people particularly despised Marie Antoinette for her heavy spending on clothes and jewelery. It didn’t help that she was the sister of the king of Austria – a country that was considered an enemy of France.

Marie Antoinette

  • This anger grew after two years of bad harvest between 1787 and 1789. The price of wheat doubled and the most important food for the poor people of France – bread – became scarcer.
  • A new movement called the Enlightenment started to become very popular in France. Writers in the movement like Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rousseau encouraged people to question the world that they lived in. This included the divine right of kings, the king himself and the Ancien Régime; and their role in an unfair and unjust society where the lives of most people was a daily struggle.  Rousseau said: ‘Man is born free, yet everywhere he is in chains.’


  • French soldiers returning from helping the colonists win independence in the American Revolution had been very impressed by the new country that was being born there. The ideas included in the American Bill of Rights where ‘all men are created equal’ had been heavily influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment. The soldiers brought home from America the belief that a better society was possible.

  • The downside of being involved in the American Revolution was that it cost the French so much money that it nearly bankrupted the country. The American War of Independence was only one of several wars that the French had been involved in during the previous decades and by 1789 Louis XVI was out of money.
  • This led to Louis calling together the Estates General (French Parliament) so that he could raise taxes. It was the first time in over a century that it had met. The Estates General had representatives from all three estates. Louis knew however that he would have no problem getting the meeting to agree to him raising taxes on the Third Estate. This was because each estate only received one vote, regardless of how many representatives it had at the meeting. This meant that the First and Second Estate would always be able to outvote the Third Estate. The blatant unfairness of this system caused huge bitterness and eventually led them to break away to form their own meeting called the National Assembly.

Estates General


History@Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna.

Published in: on April 21, 2010 at 8:26 pm Comments (0)
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Thomas Paine

This content was compiled/created by Kelley Delaney.

In Brief:

Thomas Paine was born in England but emigrated to the new world in 1774 just before the revolution. He became famous across the colonies in 1776 when his widely-read pamphlet ‘Common Sense’ argued that America should break free from Britain. This and some of his later writings had the effect of providing great encouragement to the American Revolution. His writings also inspired the later French Revolution.


“These are the times that try men’s souls.” This simple quotation from Founding Father Thomas Paine’s The Crisis not only describes the beginnings of the American Revolution, but also the life of Paine himself. Throughout most of his life, his writings inspired passion, but also brought him great criticism. He communicated the ideas of the Revolution to common farmers as easily as to intellectuals, creating prose that stirred the hearts of the fledgling United States. He had a grand vision for society: he was staunchly anti-slavery, and he was one of the first to advocate a world peace organization and social security for the poor and elderly. But his radical views on religion would destroy his success, and by the end of his life, only a handful of people attended his funeral.

Brief Biography

On January 29, 1737, Thomas Paine was born in Thetford, England. His father, a corseter, had grand visions for his son, but by the age of 12, Thomas had failed out of school. The young Paine began apprenticing for his father, but again, he failed. So, now age 19, Paine went to sea. This adventure didn’t last too long, and by 1768 he found himself as an excise (tax) officer in England. Thomas didn’t exactly excel at the role, getting discharged from his post twice in four years, but as an inkling of what was to come, he published The Case of the Officers of Excise (1772), arguing for a pay raise for officers. In 1774, by happenstance, he met Benjamin Franklin in London, who helped him emigrate to Philadelphia.

Contribution to the American Revolution

His career turned to journalism while in Philadelphia, and suddenly, Thomas Paine became very important. In 1776, he published Common Sense, a strong defense of American Independence from England. He traveled with the Continental Army and wasn’t a success as a soldier, but he produced The Crisis (1776-83), which helped inspire the Army. This pamphlet was so popular that as a percentage of the population, it was read by more people than today watch America’s biggest sporting occasion, the ‘Superbowl.’

But, instead of continuing to help the Revolutionary cause, he returned to Europe and pursued other ventures, including working on a smokeless candle and an iron bridge. In 1791-92, he wrote The Rights of Man in response to criticism of the French Revolution. This work caused Paine to be labeled an outlaw in England for his anti-monarchist views. He would have been arrested, but he fled for France to join the National Convention.

Contribution to the French Revolution

By 1793, he was imprisoned in France for not endorsing the execution of Louis XVI. During his imprisonment, he wrote and distributed the first part of what was to become his most famous work at the time, the anti-church text, The Age of Reason (1794-96). He was freed in 1794 (narrowly escaping execution) thanks to the efforts of James Monroe, then U.S. Minister to France. Paine remained in France until 1802 when he returned to America on an invitation from Thomas Jefferson. Paine discovered that his contributions to the American Revolution had been all but eradicated due to his religious views. Derided by the public and abandoned by his friends, he died on June 8, 1809 at the age of 72 in New York City.

History@Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna, Co. Offaly.

Frederick Von Steuben

This content was created/compiled by Daniel Poland.

In Brief:

Born – September 17, 1730

Died – November 28 1794

Friedrich Wilhelm Augustin Ludolf Gerhard (Frederick William Augustus Henry Ferdinand) von Steuben also referred to as the Baron von Steuben was born September 17, 1730 and died November 28, 1794.He was a Prussian (region of Germany) aristocrat and military officer who served as inspector general and Major general of the Continental Army during the American War of Independence. He is credited with teaching the Continental Army the essentials of military drill and discipline, helping to guide it to victory after the difficulties during the winter at Valley Forge. He wrote the Revolutionary War Drill Manual, the book that became the standard United States drill manual until the War of 1812, and served as General George Washington’s chief of staff in the final years of the war.

Main Points

  • He was born on September 17 1730 in Magdeburg, duchy of Magdeburg, in Germany.
  • Steuben was schooled in Breslau by Jesuits and by the age of 16 he was an officer in the Prussian military.
  • He travelled to Paris in the summer of 1777 and was introduced to Claude Louis who further introduced him to Benjamin Franklin.
  • He was introduced to George Washington by means of a letter from Franklin saying Von Steuben was a ‘Lieutenant General in the King of Prussia’s service.
  • He reached Boston on September 26thof 1777. By February 5th, 1778 he had offered to volunteer without pay but by the 23rd Steuben reported for duty to George Washington at Valley Forge.
  • His training technique was the model company which meant he trained 120 soldiers who then trained other soldiers.
  • He developed camp sanitation.
  • One of his biggest contributions to the American Revolution was training in the use of the Bayonet which was a cooking skewer used as a weapon.
  • They won the battle of Barron Hill on 20th of May 1778 and again at the Battle of Monmouth in June 1778.
  • Washington recommended appointment of Von Steuben as Inspector General on April 30th and Congress approved it on May 5th.
  • After they won the war Steuben resigned from service.
  • He died on November 28th 1794.
  • He is buried at what is now the Steuben memorial state historic site.


General Von Steuben

Early Life

Friedrich von Steuben was born in Magdeburg, Duchy of Magdeburg, in Germany.His father Wilhelm  Augustin  von  Steuben (1699-1783),was a lieutenant of engineers. His mother was Elizabeth von Jagvodin. Steuben accompanied his father to the Russian Empire when Friedrich Wilhelm I, King of Prussia and Elector of Brandenburg, ordered Wilhelm into the service of Czarina Anna. The family returned to Prussia after the accession of Frederick the Great to the throne in 1740.

Steuben was schooled in Breslau by Jesuits and, by the age of 16, was an officer in the Prussian military. During the Seven Years’ War he was a member of an infantry unit but served primarily as a staff officer. By 1761 he had risen to the rank of captain and was serving in the Prussian general headquarters as aid-de-camp of the king. In 1762 he was selected as one of thirteen members of the “special class for the art of war” (Spezialklasse der Kriegskunst). Headmaster of this class was the king himself. The army was greatly reduced in size at the end of the war, and Steuben was one of many Prussian officers suddenly without work. His Prussian military career would later be exaggerated—he was not one of Frederick the Great’s generals—but his experience on a professional general staff, an agency then practically unknown outside of Prussia, would prove to be valuable in his American career.

Steuben traveled to Paris in the summer of 1777. As luck would have it, he had formerly been introduced to the French Minister of War, Claude Louis, Comte de Saint-Germain. The Count, fully realizing the potential of an officer with Prussian general staff training, further introduced him to Benjamin Franklin. Upon the Count’s recommendation, Steuben was introduced to George Washington by means of a letter from Franklin as a “Lieutenant General in the King of Prussia’s service,” an exaggeration of his actual credentials that appears to be based on a mistranslation of his service record. He was advanced travel funds and left Europe from Marseilles.[3]

In America

On September 26, 1777,Von Steuben his Italian greyhound, Azor (which he took with him everywhere), his young aide de camp Louis de Pontiere, his military secretary Pierre Etienne Duponceau, and two other companions, reached Portsmouth, New Hampshire and by December 1, was extravagantly entertained in Boston. Congress was in York, Pennsylvania, after being ousted from Philadelphia by the British advance. By February 5, 1778, Steuben had offered to volunteer without pay (for the time), and by the 23rd, Steuben reported for duty to Washington at Valley Forge. Steuben spoke little English and he often yelled to his translator, “Here! Come swear for me!” Colonel Alexander Hamilton and General Nathanael Greene were of great help in assisting Steuben in drafting a training program for the Army, which found approval with Washington.

Painting of Von Steuben at Valley Forge

Training the Continental Army

Steuben’s training technique was to create a “model company”, a group of 120 chosen men who in turn successively trained other personnel at Regimental and Brigade levels. Steuben’s eclectic personality greatly enhanced his mystique. He trained the soldiers, who at this point were greatly lacking in proper clothing themselves, in full military dress uniform, swearing and yelling at them up and down in German and French. When that was no longer successful, he recruited Captain Benjamin Walker, his French-speaking aide, to curse at them for him in English. Steuben introduced a system of progressive training, beginning with the school of the soldier, with and without arms, and going through the school of the regiment. This corrected the previous policy of simply assigning personnel to regiments. Each company commander was made responsible for the training of new men, but actual instruction was done by selected sergeants, the best obtainable. Another program developed by Steuben was camp sanitation. He established standards of sanitation and camp layouts that would still be standard a century and a half later. There had previously been no set arrangement of tents and huts. Men relieved themselves where they wished and when an animal died, it was stripped of its meat and the rest was left to rot where it lay. Steuben laid out a plan to have rows for command, officers and enlisted men. Kitchens and latrines were on opposite sides of the camp, with latrines on the downhill side. There was the familiar arrangement of company and regimental streets.

One of Steuben’s biggest contribution to the American Revolution was training in the use of the bayonet. Since the Battle of Bunker Hill, Americans had been mainly dependent upon using their ammunition to win battles. Throughout the early course of the war, Americans used the bayonet mostly as a cooking skewer or tool rather than as a fighting instrument. Steuben’s introduction of effective bayonet charges became crucial. In the Battle of Stony Point, American soldiers attacked with unloaded rifles and won the battle solely on Steuben’s bayonet training.

Winter at Valley Forge

The first results of Steuben’s training were in evidence at the Battle of Barren Hill, 20 May 1778 and then again at the Battle of Monmouth in June 1778.  Steuben, by then serving in Washington’s Headquarters, was the first to determine the enemy was heading for Monmouth. Washington recommended appointment of Steuben as Inspector General on April 30; Congress approved it on May 5. During the winter of 1778-1779, Steuben prepared Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, commonly known as the “Blue Book.”[2][3] Its basis was the training plan he had devised at Valley Forge[4].

The Southern Campaign

In 1780 Steuben sat on the court-martial of the British Army officer Major John André, captured and charged with espionage in conjunction with the defection of General Benedict Arnold. He later traveled with Nathanael Greene, the new commander of the Southern campaign. He quartered in Virginia since the American supplies and soldiers would be provided to the army from there. During the spring of 1781, he aided Greene in the campaign in the south, culminating in the delivery of 450 Virginia Continentals to Lafayette in June.

He was forced to take sick leave, rejoining the army for the final campaign at Yorktown, where his role was as commander of one of the three divisions of Washington’s troops. Steuben gave assistance to Washington in demobilizing the army in 1783 as well as aiding in the defense plan of the new nation. He was discharged from the military with honor on March 24, 1783.

Later Years

With the war over, Steuben resigned from service and first settled on Manhattan Island, where he became a prominent figure and elder in the German Reformed Church. However, even with Congress giving him large sums of money, he still managed to become largely indebted. Thus, Congress gave him a pension of $2,500 a year which he had to keep until his death. Steuben eventually settled on a small estate in the vicinity of Utica, New York, on land granted to him for his military service

Steuben’s log cabin residence at Utica[6] He later assisted in the founding of the Society of the Cincinnati and was appointed a Regent for what evolved into the State University of New York. He never married and had no children. He left his estate to General Benjamin Walker and Captain William North, who had served as his aides-de-camp during the war, and with whom he had had an “extraordinarily intense emotional relationship … treating them as surrogate sons. He died on 28th of November 1794. He is buried at what is now the Steuben Memorial State Historic Site.


What Von Steuben brought to the Continental Army



History@Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna, Co. Offaly

Valley Forge

In Brief:

Having taken two major defeats (at White Plains, New York and Brandywine, Philadelphia ) in the American War of Independence, General George Washington decided to regroup his Continental Army forces at a secure remote location at a place called Valley Forge, north of Philadelphia. The army suffering from poor morale and with questions about George Washington‘s ability to lead, arrived hungry and weary to the camp just before Christmas, 1777. They immediately set about building shelter that would protect them form the damp and cold Pennsylvanian winter. However, despite their efforts the harsh conditions combined with the men’s unhealthy state meant the winter a low point in the war.

Undernourished and poorly clothed, living in crowded, damp quarters, the army was ravaged by sickness and disease. Typhoid, jaundice, dysentery, and pneumonia were among the killers that felled as many as 2,000 men that winter.

Despite this, the aim of the camp was to make better trained and organised and this task was improved massively by the arrival from Europe of Baron Frederick Von Steuben. This skilled Prussian drill master  tirelessly drilled the soldiers. He reorganised the Continental Army into a disciplined, focused group – similar in style to the great European armies.

Von Steuben at Valley Forge

On June 19, 1778, six months after its arrival, the army marched away from Valley Forge in pursuit of the British, who were moving toward New York. The ordeal had ended. The war would last for another five years, but for Washington, his men, and the nation to which they sought to give birth, a decisive victory had been won — a victory not of weapons but of will.

George Washington at Valley Forge


The Continental Army at Valley Forge (winter 1777-1778)



History@Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna