With Independence Day upon us, Americans are hosting patriotic parades, parties and fireworks displays across the country to celebrate our nation's founding and thank our veterans for fighting for our freedom.
Why is July 4 Independence Day?
After the Revolutionary War started in April 1775, the Second Continental Congress did not vote on the issue of independence from Great Britain until July 2, 1776. Writing in his journal, John Adams, who would go on to serve as our second president, believed this day would go down as the founding of our new country, according to the National Archives. But as we all know, this isn't the case. So what happened?
Following the unanimous decision to reject British rule, the committee appointed Thomas Jefferson to draft the formal written explanation stating why the Congress voted to declare independence. Two days later, July 4, Congress ratified and issued the Declaration of Independence. In doing so, the Founding Fathers severed America's ties with the British crown and set the course for the formation of the United States.
How the army responded to news of Independence
The signing of the Declaration of Independence had a profound impact on the military at the time. The announcement changed the armed forces from a ragtag band of colonial militias into the unified Continental Army. This also reshaped their purpose, since now they were fighting against British rule and for the ideals that would come to shape our country.
"The Declaration of Independence had a profound impact on the military."
Since news traveled so slowly during the Revolutionary War era, many soldiers had to wait days and weeks to learn the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, according to the National Museum of American History. After the 56 delegates signed that historic document, they dispatched couriers by land and sea to deliver the news to headquarters of all the Continental Army commands. While General George Washington and his troops heard the news in New York City square on July 9, it took until August 5 for word to reach troops stationed in Charleston, South Carolina.
According to the source, after hearing about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, soldiers lined up next to two rows of 13 cannons and fired 13 shots to represent each colony, followed by a fusillade. They repeated the ceremony three times. Following speeches and cheers, the soldiers would then indulge in games or drinks. In some places, such as Charleston, the troops paraded and read the Declaration aloud.
On July 15, 1776, Captain Joseph Bloomfield of the 3rd New Jersey Continental Regiment recorded in his journal the account of hearing our founding document:
"The Declaration of Independency being read, the whole present signifyed their hearty & sincere Approbation by Three Cheers and cheerfully drinking the following Patriotic Toastes, Harmony, virtue, Honor and all Prosperity to the free and independent United States of America, Wise Legislatures, brave & Victorious Armies, both by Sea & Land to the American States."
More than 225 years later, these words still ring as true as ever.
Keep our soldiers in mind this holiday
Independence Day gives us a chance to remember and commemorate the soldiers and patriots who have fought bravely for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Their service since the Revolution continues to protect the values we hold dear today.
Whether it's going to a parade, hosting a celebration or attending a ceremony, remember to thank members of the armed services for fighting for our freedoms.