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EDITORIAL: A Fourth of July history class

EDITORIAL: A Fourth of July history class

If polls are to be believed, then it appears most Americans were daydreaming during history class. One study found that more than a third of Americans did not know the century in which the American Revolution took place. An academic council has called that “a dangerous sign of civic disempowerment.”

To that point, today being the Fourth of July, here's a brief refresher on the holiday: 

• On July 4, 1776, the 13 colonies claimed their independence from England, an event which eventually led to the formation of the United States.

• The Declaration of Independence set off the Revolutionary War. Some 217,000 troops from the colonies engaged in the conflict, and 4,435 were killed.

• The combined population of the colonies at the time was around 2.5 million, much less than the population of Connecticut today.

• Although most of the fighting during the war took place elsewhere, with Connecticut serving largely as an arsenal for the rebel forces, there were coastal raids by the British here. A 1779 attack on New Haven left 27 dead and 19 wounded. King George III’s forces then raided Fairfield and Norwalk.

• Connecticut’s Roger Sherman served on the so-called Committee of Five which drafted the all-important document. Thomas Jefferson once called him “a man who never said a foolish thing in his life." Sherman was later elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. He also served as the mayor of New Haven.

• Wallingford’s Lyman Hall also signed the Declaration — but for Georgia, not Connecticut.

• In 1781, the French general Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, compte de Rochambeau, led 6,000 troops through Southington on their way from Rhode Island to Yorktown, Virginia, to aid George Washington and his soldiers in that critical battle.

• There were 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence in all, ranging in age from 26 (Edward Rutledge) to 70 (Benjamin Franklin).

• Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826 — 50 years, to the day, after the Declaration was published.

• Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library (closed today) is displaying a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence through July 11 and holding a public reading Friday at 4 p.m. to mark the 243rd anniversary of the nation's founding. The document is one of only 26 known copies from the first printing of the Declaration.

OK, class dismissed.

Let’s all enjoy the holiday, but let’s not forget what it’s about.