Quotations – Revolutionary War

This page contains a collection of American Revolution quotations from revolutionary leaders, contemporary figures and prominent historians, pertaining to the Revolutionary War. These quotations have been gathered and compiled by Alpha History authors. We are adding new quotations to this page in October-December 2015. If you would like to contribute an interesting or useful quotation, please contact Alpha History.

“Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”
Attributed to Captain John Parker at Lexington, 1775

“What a glorious morning for America!”
Samuel Adams, on hearing of the battle at Lexington, 1775

“Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!”
Attributed to William Prescott at the Battle of Bunker Hill, 1775

“Issue the orders, sir, and I will storm hell!”
American soldier Anthony Wayne, to George Washington

“In the name of the great Jehova and the Continental Congress!”
Attributed to Ethan Allen at Fort Ticonderoga, 1775

“Open up you sons of British whores!”
Also attributed to Ethan Allen at Fort Ticonderoga, 1775

“I am satisfied that one active campaign… burning two or three of their towns, will set everything to rights.”
John Pitcairn, British major, 1775

“Is not the glory of the cabinet equal to that of the field? Is not this better than broken limbs, fatigue, shattered health and an eternal want of money? For God’s sake, return to your family – and indeed to yourself Abandon not your sisters, who are wretched about you. Come back and Heaven will protect all your undertakings.”
John Randolph, a Loyalist, to his son Edmund, a revolutionary

“Yonder are the Hessians. They were bought for seven pounds and tenpence a man. Are you worth more? Prove it. Tonight the American flag floats from yonder hill or Molly Stark sleeps a widow!”
John Stark at the Battle of Bennington, 1777

“If you were lost for America, there is nobody who could keep the army and the revolution [going] for six months.”
Marquis de Lafayette to George Washington, 1777

“These are not troops. They are skeletons.”
Baron von Steuben, on arriving at Valley Forge, 1778

“The men were literally naked, some of them of every colour and make… saw officers mounting guard in sort of dressing gown made of an old blanket or bed cover. With regard to military discipline, it was safe to say that no such thing existed… There were no regular formations, the formation of each regiment was as varied as their mode of drill dictated and which consisted only of manual exercise.”
Baron von Steuben, 1778

“I have not yet begun to fight.”
John Paul Jones, American naval captain, 1779

“I was a shoemaker and got my living by my labor. When this rebellion came on, I saw some of my neighbours got into Commission; [they] were no better than mvself. I was very ambitious and did not like to see these men above me. These, sir, are my only motives of my entering into the service; as to the dispute between Great Britain and the Colonies, I know nothing of it.”
Lieutenant Scott of the Continental Army

“There is such an equality among them that the officers have no authority. The privates are all generals, but not soldiers.”
General Montgomery on the Continental army

“I dare say the men would fight very well if properly officered, although they are an exceedingly dirty and nasty people.”
George Washington on his own army

“New Lords, new laws. The strictest government is taking place and great distinction is made between officers and men. Everyone is made to know his place and keep it, or be immediately tied up and receive not one but 30 or 40 lashes.”
A chaplain on discipline in the Continental Army

“With regard to military discipline, I may safely say that no such thing existed in the Continental Army.”
Baron von Steuben, 1778

“The hour is fast approaching on which the honour and success of this army, and the safety of our bleeding country depend. Remember, officers and soldiers, that you are free men, fighting for the blessings of liberty… that slavery will be your portion… if you do not acquit yourselves like men.”
George Washington, 1776

“The Army, as usual, are without pay; and a great part of the soldiery without shirts; and though the patience of them is equally threadbare, the States seem perfectly indifferent to their cries.”
George Washington, 1783

“To cash paid for saddlery, a letter case, maps, glasses, etc etc etc. for the use of my Command: £29, 13 shillings and sixpence… To Mrs Washington’s travelling expenses in coming to and returning from my winter quarters, the money to defray that taken from my private purse: £1064, one shilling.”
George Washington’s expense claims to Congress