Independence Day is one of the most beloved holidays in the United States. Each Fourth of July, fireworks burst with endless colors that illuminate the summer night sky in cities and towns all over America.
While most of us learned all about the history behind Independence Day in elementary school — everything from the Boston Tea Party to the origins of the crack in the Liberty Bell — there are some parts of the story that might surprise you.
In the mid-18th century, the United States of America did not exist as we know it today. In those years, settlers traveled to America from England and other parts of Europe in search of a new life. For a time, the American colonies were a subset of the British empire but, after a while, economic, political and social differences emerged, all of which created a tenuous relationship between the colonies and the British monarchy.
The colonists, for instance, viewed some of the laws imposed by the English Parliament as unjust; after attempts to change those laws proved unsuccessful, the negotiations broke down and the situation became untenable. So, on July 4, 1776, the members of the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and approved the final draft of the Declaration of Independence.
It was the beginning of the Revolutionary War.
It is easy to find information about the war’s most important battles, as well as about the main players in the fight. However, information on the scope and influence of international participants in the conflict is not as well known.
Larrie D. Ferreiro, in his book “Brothers in Arms,” tells us that “the American nation was born as the centerpiece of an international coalition (of countries) that, together, worked to defeat a common adversary.” Ferreiro also says that “without the extensive military and financial support of the French and Spanish, the American cause would never have been successful. France and Spain provided close to the equivalent of $30 billion, as well as 90 percent of all weapons used by Americans.”
An illustrative example of this aid was the Spanish support of the American Revolution, mainly carried out by Bernardo de Gálvez, governor of Louisiana. De Galvez is a hero unknown to many despite that fact that he, among other feats, marched along the Mississippi River with an army formed in large part by Hispanics, free African-Americans, Chactans, Canadians and several American volunteers, to expel the British from the militarily significant position of Baton Rouge.
On Dec. 16, 2014, President Barack Obama signed a joint resolution of Congress granting honorary citizenship of the United States to Bernardo de Gálvez, 229 years after the end of the American War of Independence.
If you want to know more about this, we recommend reading these books, which you can read for free at any of the 17 Libraries of the Yakima Valley:
• “The American Revolution: A World War,” edited by David K. Allison and Larrie D. Ferreiro.
• “Spain and the Independence of the United States: An Intrinsic Gift” by Thomas E. Chavez.
• “Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It” by Larrie D. Ferreiro.
• Francisco Garcia-Ortiz is public library services director for Yakima Valley Libraries. Learn more at www.yvl.org.