Daily Life on a Colonial Plantation, 1709-11
"At night some of my troop went with me into town to see the girls and kissed them without proceeding any further." The "secret diary" of William Byrd II provides an unvarnished view of life in the South in the early 18th century.
A London Hanging, 1726
"The bodies and clothes of the dead belong to the executioner." - English jurisprudence in the 18th century.
George Washington's Rules of Good Behavior, 1746
Words to live by: guides to behavior penned by a teenage George Washington that molded and defined the character of the man who would become the "Father of his Country."
Passage To America, 1750
"No one can have an idea of the sufferings which women in confinement have to bear with their innocent children on board these ships." A German immigrant describes the arduous journey to colonial America.
Captured by Indians, 1758
A young girl and her family are captured by the Iroquois on the Pennsylvania frontier
Courtship in New England, 1760
A visiting English minister comments on the curious American ritual of "bundling", in which a board was placed between a young couple as they shared a bed through the night.
Daniel Boone Opens Up the West, 1769-71
"...a number of Indians rushed out of a thick cane-brake upon us, and made us prisoners." Daniel Boone ventures into the Kentucky frontier and becomes a legend.
The Boston Massacre, 1770: The British Perspective
"A general attack was made on the men by a great number of heavy clubs and snowballs being thrown at them, by which all our lives were in imminent danger. . ." Colonialists and Red Coats confront one another.
The Boston Tea Party, 1773
"We then were ordered by our commander to open the hatches and take out all the chests of tea and throw them overboard." The colonials get serious about their tea.
Getting Sick, 1774
"I immediately gave him as hard a blow as I could with my fist over the face." The doctor-patient relationship of the 18th century was quite different than today's. The notes of a young English traveler in America provide some insight.
Battle at Lexington Green, 1775
"Lay down your arms, you damned rebels, or you are all dead men." The "shot heard round the world" that ignited the American Revolution.
Battle at Lexington Green, 1775: The British Perspective.
"Our troops advanced towards them, without any intention of injuring them." The British description of the confrontation that launched the American Revolution.
Ethan Allen Captures Fort Ticonderoga, 1775
". . . the Captain came immediately to the door, with his breeches in his hand, when I ordered him to deliver me the fort instantly." In the early days of the American Revolution, the colonists capture a strategic British stronghold.
Writing the Declaration of Independence, 1776
"I will do as well as I can." Thomas Jefferson drafts the announcement of America's separation from the British Empire.
The Execution of Nathan Hale, 1776
"I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
Washington Crosses the Delaware, 1776
The experience of a Continental soldier as General Washington leads his troops across the ice-swollen Delaware River and into one of the American Revolution's decisive battles.
The Continental Army at Valley Forge, 1777
"I saw....a few militiamen, poorly clad, and for the most part without shoes." A French observer describes the American revolutionaries at Valley Forge.
"I Have Not Yet Begun to Fight!", 1779.
John Paul Jones in an historic naval battle off the coast of England.
Thomas Jefferson's Advice to his Daughter, 1783
"I hoped before this to have received letters from you regularly..." Some things never change. Jefferson tries to parent his eleven-year-old daughter from afar.
The British Surrender at Yorktown, 1781
The surrender that ended the War for Independence. The British band played "The World Turned Upside Down."
Slave Trade: the African Connection, 1788
"Most of the Negroes shipped off from the coast of Africa
are kidnapped." The beginning step of the journey into slavery.
The Inauguration of George Washington, 1789
"Notice that [Washington had been sworn in] was communicated to the crowd by proclamation, who gave three cheers, and repeated it on the President bowing to them." America inaugurates its first president.
Building America, 1789
"A famine ensued, which will never be forgotten by those who . . . were then
afflicted with the cruelest of wants." An eyewitness describes the hardships
endured by residents of America's first western settlement after the Revolution.
The Beginning of the French Revolution, 1789
". . . in that instant a discharge from the Bastille killed four people." The streets of Paris erupt in violence and launch the destruction of the French monarchy.
The Execution of Louis XVI, 1793
"I die innocent of all the crimes laid to my charge..." The King of France looses his head during the French Revolution
the British Navy, 1793
"I am very happy and as comfortable as if I was at home." An example of growing up quickly in the 18th century: an eleven-year-sailor writes his mother to describe his first day in the British Navy.
Yellow Fever Attacks Philadelphia, 1793
"The attendants on the dead stood on the pavement soliciting jobs." Yellow Fever threatens the nation's capital and its founding fathers.
The Death of George Washington, 1799
"I am dying, sir - but am not afraid to die." The "Father of his Country" catches a cold.