U.S. History/British troops


When Patrick Henry gave his famous speech, give me liberty or give me death, how many British troops were in the United States at that time?

Hi Dave,

There was no United States when Henry gave his speech in March of 1775.  The Colonies were still more than a year away from declaring independence.

After the French and Indian War ended in the previous decade.  The British left an occupying army in North America.  But almost all of these soldiers were situated in Canada, which is where the war had taken place and whose French speaking population was considered most likely to rebel.  There were also a number of troops stationed along the frontier to maintain relations with the Native Americans and to be prepared for any hostilities from them.  There were virtually no substantial numbers of British soldiers stationed in the 13 colonies outside of the frontier.

After the Boston protests following the Stamp Act in the late 1760's, British officials sent Gen. Thomas Gage to occupy Boston, first with less than 2000 and later with about 4000 soldiers.  These troops were moved primarily from Canada and the frontier and reduced the numbers in that area.  There had been small troop presences in Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey, all of which had been moved to Boston to deal with the tensions there by 1775.  This occupation on Boston was underway when Henry gave his speech.  It constituted the only significant troop presence in the 13 colonies.  There were virtually no troops in Virginia at the time.

A couple of months after his speech, the British troop presence in Boston more than doubled to around 9000.

- Mike  

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Michael Troy


I can answer just about any question on early American History. My specialties are the American Revolution through the Civil War/Reconstruction. I also have greater expertise in matters relating to military, political or legal history.


I have lectured at George Washington University regarding the Civil War, as well as several elementary school Civil War demonstrations. I was also a member of a Civil War reenactment group for about 10 years.


J.D. University of Michigan B.A. George Washington University

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Truman Scholar

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