Featured Primary Sources

The War for Independence

Nothing can enrich and enliven our understanding of the nation’s past, or dispel apathy about it, more powerfully than primary sources. The primary sources below open up a variety of viewpoints and have been chosen by master teachers specifically for use in the classroom. Affiliate School members can print a packet that includes an image of the document, photograph, or other resource, a transcript where applicable, text to place the document in historical context, and document-based questions. Additionally, you may want to search the Gilder Lehrman Collection itself for other resources to enrich your lessons.

Timothy Pickering Jr. to Timothy Pickering Sr., February 23, 1778. (GLC)

A patriot’s letter to his loyalist father, 1778

Creator: Timothy Pickering Jr. Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Alexander Hamilton to François, Marquis de Barbé-Marbois, October 12, 1780 (GLC)

Alexander Hamilton’s “gloomy” view of the American Revolution, 1780

Creator: Alexander Hamilton Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Isaac Merrill to John Currier, April 19, 1775 (GLC00303)

Calling out the militia after Lexington and Concord, 1775

Creator: Isaac Merrill Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Declaration of Independence, Charleston, South Carolina, August 2, 1776. (Gilde

Declaration of Independence, 1776

Creator: Continental Congress Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Henry Knox to George Washington, December 17, 1775 (GLC02437.00222)

Dragging cannon from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston, 1775

Creator: Henry Knox Curriculum Subjects: Geography Grade Levels:
George Washington to the New Hampshire legislature, December 29, 1777. (GLC)

George Washington from Valley Forge on the urgent need for men and supplies, 1777

Creator: George Washington Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Henry Knox to Lucy Knox, July 8, 1776. (GLC02437.00363)

Henry Knox on the British invasion of New York, 1776

Creator: Henry Knox Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Henry Knox, Order of march to Trenton, December 26, 1776 (Gilder Lehrman Collect

Henry Knox’s Order of March to Trenton, 1776

Creator: Henry Knox Curriculum Subjects: Geography, Government and Civics, World History Grade Levels: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Samuel Mostyn to Thomas Pennant, June 7, 1778. (GLC09023)

Loyalists and the British evacuation of Philadelphia, 1778

Creator: Samuel Mostyn Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Lucy Knox to Henry Knox, May 1777. (GLC05895)

Lucy Knox on the home front during the Revolutionary War, 1777

Creator: Lucy Knox Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:

Martha Washington on life after the Revolution, 1784

Creator: Martha Washington Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Map of Yorktown, Virginia, October 1781 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Surrender of the British General Cornwallis to the Americans, October 19, 1781

Creator: Lord Cornwallis Curriculum Subjects: World History Grade Levels: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
The Articles of Confederation, 1777 (GLC04759)

The Articles of Confederation, 1777

Creator: Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Benjamin Duvivier, George Washington before Boston, medal, ca. 1790 (GLC03221)

The British evacuation of Boston, 1776

Creator: Benjamin Duvivier Curriculum Subjects: Art, Government and Civics Grade Levels: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Primary Sources from Other Sub-Eras

John Adams to Richard Henry Lee, November 15, 1775 (GLC03864)

A plan for a new government, 1775

Creator: John Adams Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Archibald Hinshelwood to Joshua Mauger, August 19, 1765. (GLC03902.61)

A report on reaction to the Stamp Act, 1765

Creator: Archibald Hinshelwood Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics, World History Grade Levels:
Paul Revere, “The Bloody Massacre in King-Street, March 5, 1770.” Boston, 1770.

Paul Revere’s engraving of the Boston Massacre, 1770

Creator: Paul Revere Curriculum Subjects: Art, World History Grade Levels: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
The Stamp Act, pamphlet, published in London, 1765. (GLC03562.11)

The Stamp Act, 1765

Creator: George III Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels: