How well do you know U.S. history and Fourth of July trivia? Take our quiz

How much do you know - really know - about the United States' fight for independence?

Aaron Fogleman, a distinguished research professor in the history department at Northern Illinois University since 2002, put together this quiz so you can test your knowledge. He teaches courses on early American and Atlantic history and writes books and articles about immigration, revolution, religion, gender and political culture. He and his family live in Batavia.

1. When the Founding Fathers decided on the official language of the new nation, English defeated German by one vote.

True or false?

2. American patriot troops successfully repulsed the British assault in the Battle of Bunker Hill.

True or false?

3. On what day in 1776 did the Continental Congress vote for independence?

a. July 2

b. July 4

c. July 8

d. July 16

4. Which of the following armies participated in the Yorktown Campaign of 1781? (There may be more than one answer.)

a. British

b. French

c. American

d. German states

e. Spanish

This circa 1780 Illman Brothers engraving of "The surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown A.D. 1781" depicts the surrender of the British forces after the Battle of Yorktown. Major General O'Hara, substituting for General Cornwallis, is shown handing his sword to the Comte de Rochambeau, who is standing next to General Washington. Courtesy of Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division

5. In its entire history Britain has only lost four entire armies in battle. Name the campaigns and dates.


6. Which imperial or national power claimed control of Illinois country when the United States declared independence?

a. Britain

b. France

c. United States

d. Spain

7. Who was the first U.S. ambassador to France?

a. Thomas Jefferson

b. Benjamin Franklin

c. John Adams

d. John Dickinson

8. The United States was the first region in the colonial Americas to win independence. What was second and third?


9. The United States Constitution, written in 1787, is the oldest written national constitution in the world still in effect today. Which country has the second oldest and when was it written?


10. How many executive mansions has the United States had?


11. In what state did women first get the right to vote?

a. Massachusetts

b. New Jersey

c. Wyoming

d. Virginia

12. Who was the first president of the United States, created in July of 1776?

a. George Washington

b. John Adams

c. Thomas Jefferson

d. John Hancock

13. Where was George Washington, and what was he doing on July 4, 1776?


14. In which country's armed forces did most enslaved Black Americans fight and achieve their freedom in the Revolutionary War?

a. British

b. American

c. French

d. German

15. How long did it take for news of the Declaration of Independence to spread, and which parts of the new country were the last to hear?


Questions 16-22 - How did people on both sides of the conflict react to the news of the Declaration?


16. Gen. William Howe, British Commander in North America:

a. Swore to catch and hang George Washington

b. Expressed frustration that he could not deliver his peace proposal in time

c. Canceled his plan to capture New York City

d. Wanted to give up and go home

A 1782 engraving of General William Howe, British Commander in North America. Courtesy of Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division

17. King George III:

a. Waited for a British military victory before publicly acknowledging the event

b. Summoned Parliament to finance a greater war effort

c. Fired the ministers who had advised him to move with caution

d. Went to a Handel concert

18. London newspapers:

a. Lampooned Benjamin Franklin

b. Called for the resignation of Parliamentary and Crown officials

c. Questioned the wisdom of continuing the conflict with the American colonies

d. Claimed the American rebels had produced a declaration of war

19. Abigail Adams:

a. Offered husband John in Philadelphia heartfelt approval and encouragement

b. Admonished John to "remember the ladies" in all of their dealings

c. Worried for John's life if the British caught him

d. Told John to never let Congress institute a draft, for the sake of their son, John Quincy

20. Elizabeth Drinker, a pacifist Quaker and Loyalist living in Philadelphia:

a. Prayed for peace

b. Swore to support the king

c. Respectfully criticized Congress for its actions

d. Failed to mention the event in her diary

21. Mercy Otis Warren, of Plymouth, Massachusetts:

a. Refused to comment, believing this was beyond the parameters of a woman

b. Sent secret papers from Philadelphia to Abigail Adams and worried about spies

c. Worried about her sons fighting in the Continental Army

d. Celebrated quietly, in fear of nearby Loyalists

A bronze statue of the Revolutionary War poet and playwright Mercy Otis Warren stands outside Barnstable County Courthouse, Massachusetts. Courtesy of Kenneth C. Zirke

22. German Moravians in Winston-Salem, North Carolina:

a. Prayed for peace

b. Resolved not to fight unless they had to

c. Celebrated the news joyously

d. Accepted the news with resignation, yet supported the new government

23. What shocking news from the West stunned the nation on the 4th of July 1876?


24. Who wrote the musical "1776?"


25. Who conducted the Boston Pops at the Bicentennial concert on the 4th of July 1976, and what famous masterpiece did they play?


26. Did New Englanders play baseball on the 4th of July in 1776?


27. Whom did the Chicago White Stockings play in baseball on July 4, 1876, and what was the result?


28. Whom did the White Sox play on July 4, 1976, and what was the result?



1. False. The myth about this vote later became a powerful one in both the United States and Germany.

2. False. Rebel troops inflicted heavy losses on the British, before retreating.

3. a. The critical vote took place on July 2. Congress approved the Declaration of Independence produced by the committee Thomas Jefferson chaired on the Fourth of July, and the Declaration was first read publicly on July 8. July 16 is my birthday.

4. a, b, c and d

5. Saratoga, New York (1777); Yorktown, Virginia (1781); Kut, Iraq (1916); Singapore (1942)

6. a. Britain

7. b. Benjamin Franklin

An 1780 engraving of Benjamin Franklin, envoy from the American Congress to the French Court. Courtesy of Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division

8. Haiti was second in 1804, and Paraguay was third in 1811.

9. Norway, in 1814.

10. Four: Two in New York (Franklin House at 3 Cherry St. and the Alexander Macomb House), one in Philadelphia (the Robert Morris mansion at 190 High St., now 524-30 Market St.), and the White House.

11. b. On July 2, 1776, the framers of the first state constitution of New Jersey deliberately included women when addressing voting rights, but legislators changed their mind in 1807 and rescinded this provision.

12. d. John Hancock was president of Continental Congress when independence was declared and the United States created.

13. Washington was at his Continental Army Headquarters in Richmond Hill, the Abraham Mortier House on Varick & Vandam Streets in Manhattan, New York City. Among other things he was writing letters, including two to John Hancock, describing the difficult military situation. By July 9 he heard the news and ordered Continental troops to march to the parade ground in lower Manhattan to hear a new declaration approved by Congress.

14. a. By a large number, more formerly enslaved people achieved their individual freedom by fighting for the British army than any other.

15. Abigail Adams in Boston heard by a letter from John received on July 13. German Moravian settlers in and around Winston-Salem, North Carolina heard on Aug. 6. Savannah, Georgia received the Declaration on Aug. 8; it was read publicly on Aug. 10.

16. b. On July 4, Howe was on board the HMS Eagle off the coast of New England, trying to reach New York harbor to deliver a declaration for restoring peace via a general pardon to all rebels who declared allegiance to the king, but he did not arrive until July 12 - too late.

17. a. After hearing that British troops had driven out General Washington and captured New York City, the king's first public response to the Declaration of Independence came when speaking to Parliament. He stated that "for daring and desperate is the spirit of those leaders, whose object has always been dominion and power, that they have now openly renounced all allegiance to the crown, and all political connection with this country."

18. d. On Aug. 10, the London Gazette broke the news, excerpting a letter from Gen. Howe stating that "I am informed that the Continental Congress have declared the United Colonies free and independent States." On the same day the London Evening-Post advised "that the Congress resolved upon independence the 4th of July; and have declared war against Great Britain in form." On August 14 the London Advertiser noted that copies of the "Declarations of War by the Provincials are now in Town and are said to be couched in the strongest terms."

19. a. John wrote Abigail on July 3 that "Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men." In Boston, Abigail received his letter on July 13 and replied the next day, writing that she was "greatly heightened by the prospect of the future happiness and glory of our Country ... May the foundation of our new constitution, be justice, Truth and Righteousness. Like the wise Man's house may it be founded upon those Rocks and then neither storms or tempests will overthrow it."

20. d. Drinker did not see fit to record anything in her lengthy diary about the Declaration of Independence.

21. b. Warren wrote from Plymouth to her friend Abigail Adams on July 3, complaining that a lame hand hindered her writing as she sent secret papers from Philadelphia. She also worried about a Loyalist conspiracy in the Continental Army and the spread of small pox.

22. d. The man who kept this religious group's community diary recorded on July 5 that the flax was pulled and they had begun to cut oats. On Aug. 6, a militia captain posted a copy of the Declaration of Independence on their tavern in Salem, after which they sighed in their hearts, but removed the King's name from their liturgy.

23. Dakota Sioux warriors had annihilated General George Armstrong Custer's troops at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

24. The music and lyrics for the 1969 Broadway play and 1972 film were by Sherman Edwards, Peter Hunt was the director and the book was by Peter Stone.

25. Arthur Fielder conducted Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.

26. According to historian David Hackett Fischer, modern American baseball existed in 18th-century New England, so if they were not playing on the 4th of July, they should have been - and they should have been wearing red socks.

27. They lost to the Hartford Dark Blues 3-0.

28. They lost to the Texas Rangers 3-2.

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