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Celebrating the Birth of a Nation: The First 4th of July in 1777

June 28, 20233 min read

Step Back In Time And Take A Peek Into How Americans Celebrated The First Anniversary Of The Day The Continental Congress Declared The Thirteen American Colonies Free And Independent From British Rule In 1776.

Independence Day wasn’t declared a federal holiday until 1941. But Americans celebrated from the very first anniversary of the day the Continental Congress declared the thirteen American colonies free and independent from British rule in 1776. Let’s step back in time and take a peek into what was going on in the nation during that very first anniversary of our founding.

The citizens enjoyed a festive spirit:

On July 4, 1777, people across the fledgling nation rejoiced and celebrated with a mix of patriotic fervor, heartfelt gratitude, and the hope of a bright future. They had parades and family barbecues just like we do today. If artillery was handy, thirteen cannon shots were fired in salute. Each shot represented one of the thirteen colonies and symbolized unity and strength of the newly formed nation.

Communities organized modest gatherings, usually in town squares or public spaces. They had public readings of the Declaration of Independence. Churches prayed for the nation’s prosperity. Prominent local leaders gave speeches to remind citizens of the sacrifices made and the challenges ahead.

Fireworks were a little different then but were still part of the later festivities. There were also bonfires, smaller firecrackers, and sparklers to create an atmosphere of joy. And the occasional gunshot fired into the air by individuals completed the jubilation.

The American Revolutionary War was still raging

While the people celebrated their newfound freedom, the Continental Army was still fighting the British forces. They had a different view of the first Fourth of July in 1777.

Under the command of General George Washington, the army was fully engaged in the critical northern campaign. On July 4, part of the Continental Army at Fort Ticonderoga watched all day as British soldiers climbed to higher ground and pointed cannons at them. (They snuck out safely during the night with no American casualties, but they still lost the fort.)

Elsewhere, continental soldiers celebrated the day as best they could. The day reminded them of their devotion to the cause. They found solace in the fact that their sacrifices were contributing to the birth of a free nation.

Other Noteworthy Events:

While fighting for independence, the Continental Congress pursued diplomatic efforts to gain international recognition and support. Notably, in 1777, the fledgling nation forged an alliance with France, marking a significant turning point in the war and boosting American morale.

Frontiersman, Daniel Boone, wrote of that day in 1777, Kentucky, “On the fourth day of July following, a party of about two hundred Indians attacked Boonsborough, killed one man, and wounded two. They besieged us forty-eight hours; during which time seven of them were killed, and at last, finding themselves not likely to prevail, they raised the siege, and departed.”

As the country sought to establish its identity, state leaders continued to draft and adopt constitutions and lay the groundwork for self-governance. The states were committed to building a democratic society that reflected the principles of liberty, equality, and justice.

Slaves, however, were still slaves. Many bewildered enslaved people listened to their owners talk about freedom and wondered if it applied to them too. Some even fought to secure freedom for their white owners. Unfortunately, their own freedom was not to come for many more years.

The first Fourth of July in 1777 was a momentous occasion for the American people.

Recommended Readings for Kids

My Brother Sam Is Dead (Scholastic Gold)

Not everyone in town wants to be a part of the rebellion. Most are supporters of the British — including Tim and Sam’s father. With the war soon raging, Tim know he’ll have to make a choice — between the Revolutionaries and the Redcoats . . . and between his brother and his father.

Kep Westguard Rebel Spy

Time Traveling Kep arrives in 1777 just days before the crucial Battle of Saratoga, a stunning American victory that turned the war in their favor. He infiltrates the British camp as a rebel spy but if he’s caught, the punishment is hanging. How much will one teenager risk to ensure American Democracy succeeds?

Independence dayfourth of julyamerican coloniesbritish rulesrevolutionary warfestive spiritparades
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J.J. Caroll

Bookstore Curator

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