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An illustration of Peter Harris

How We Became America

The Untold History

Not everything worth knowing exists inside the cover of our history textbooks. This new short video series is here to fill in the gaps and bring new stories to life.

The Latest Videos

Our new group of 10 videos in the How We Became America series relate to people and things from the American Revolution. Watch the latest videos below and find a full list of videos in this series here.

Who Was Crispus Attucks?

The first person to die in the American Revolution, Crispus Attucks became a symbol of resistance against British rule. Why did he put himself into the line of fire? (Runtime 2:12)

Pieces of Eight

Learn the story behind pieces of eight, the Spanish coins that we most associate with pirates, and how they were used in America up to the 19th century. (Runtime 1:41)

Peter Francisco: The Virginia Giant

Learn about Peter Francisco, the Hercules of the American Revolution, and the tall tales that cemented his reputation. (Runtime 2:16)

Alexander Hamilton: The Forgotten Founder

While the faces of his contemporaries are carved into the fabric of US history, it took a Broadway musical to remind the world of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton’s genius. (Runtime 2:53)

The Significance of the Quill Pen

It gave birth to Magna Carta. Created the Declaration of Independence. And helped to promote literacy in North America. This is the story of the mighty quill pen. (Runtime 1:48)

Who Was Peggy Shippen: The "It Girl" Spy

Spies: Their names became a by word for betrayal. They were tortured. Hanged. And their bodies strung up in public. Why did Philadelphia "It girl" Peggy Shippen risk her life to spy for the British during the Revolutionary War? (Runtime 2:21)

Floating Hospital Ships

Floating hospitals have been around for millenia. Learn about the history of hospital ships and how they have helped save lives throughout the ages. (Runtime 1:46)

Peter Harris: The Catawba Who Fought For Independence

The American Revolution was a war that involved many different people – and forced Native Americans to choose sides. This is the story of Continental Army hero, Peter Harris. (Runtime 2:12)

The Horn Work

It struck fear into the hearts of the British – rising 30-feet high and stretching three blocks long. The most intimidating object in U.S. history – the Horn Work. (Runtime 2:11)

The Case Shot

The case shot was a devastating battlefield innovation, but a lot could go wrong. In this video we explore the case shot, as well as other cannon that fired projectiles and the key role they played in the American revolutionary war. (Runtime 2:26)

Topics & Related Resources

Want to dive deeper into what makes the United States of America the country we know today? Check out the resources to learn more about the objects used and the people the lived during the American Revolution. 

"10 Crucial Days" Video Still
"Language of the Revolution" Still
"Articles of Confederation" Video Still
"Common Sense" Video Still

About This Project

The first 15 videos in the How We Became America: The Untold History series was originated by the American Battlefield Trust in partnership with the Driving Force Institute for Public Engagement (DFI). We plan to continue creating videos as a part of that partnership and add material that we alone produce. The new series of 10 American Revolution videos – released to coincide with the beginning the 2021-2022 school year – is an example of the latter. In 2022, we plan to continue our partnership with DFI with a series of Civil War content.

How We Became America: The Untold History is associated with DFI’s larger Untold initiative, which is produced and distributed by Makematic and the University of Southern California’s Center for Engagement-Driven Global Education (EDGE). How We Became America is filled with eye-catching animation based on iconic period images, plus a slightly irreverent attitude designed to show that history is dynamic.”

Our goal with the videos is to complement existing civics-related articlesprimary sources, and videos. Video is a compelling way for people to learn and made even more important in the age of distance learning. It’s an extremely portable format that works at home, in a classroom, on TV, and on a mobile phone.