Teacher's Guide: Rise to Rebellion


Teachers: If you'd like a printable version of this guide, download the PDF attachment at the bottom of this page.

Jeff Shaara’s historical fiction books can be read by students of history and literature not only for its historical merit but also for its exceptional prose. The reader of the Shaara novels will soon realize that although much of the dialog is his own creation, the books are historically accurate. Every event, every character, indeed, every page has been researched extensively and reflects the amount of scholarship Shaara has put into each novel.

Autobiographies, biographies, history textbooks, newspapers and periodicals may seem to do the same thing, but historical fiction adds an element that the others do not. The creation of dialog separates historical fiction from historical non-fiction. Jeff Shaara utilizes primary sources of information: journals, letters, or other reliable printed materials that confirm lines that were actually spoken by the characters, but sometimes, he must look at all of the information available and make an educated guess as to what was said.


More than a powerful portrait of the people and purpose of the revolution, RISE TO REBELLION is a vivid account of history's most pivotal events. The Boston Tea Party, the battles of Concord and Bunker Hill are all recreated with the kind of breathtaking detail only a master like Jeff Shaara can write. His most impressive achievement, RISE TO REBELLION reveals with new immediacy how philosophers became fighters, ideas their ammunition, and how a scattered group of colonies became the United States of America.


This section of the guide divides Rise to Rebellion into chapter-based reading assignments. It also provides brief questions for use in classroom discussion or journal writing.

1.What qualities and experiences does George Washington have that will be useful as the future leader of the Continental Army?
2.What difficulties might Ben Franklin face when he returns to the colonies after being in England for ten years?
3.What part does John Adams seem qualified to play in the upcoming rebellion?

Chapter 1
1.What effect does Jeff Shaara produce by telling the story of the Boston Massacre through the eyes of a British soldier?
2.The Boston Massacre was one of the events used to rally the colonists to rebel against British rule. Why is this ironic?

Chapter 2
1.How does this chapter show John Adams’s unshakable belief in the importance of law as being necessary for a civilized society? Find a quotation that proves this.
2.According to Sam Adams why was the Boston Massacre necessary?
3.In Chapter 2 we are introduced to two men who will be instrumental in the Rise to Rebellion, Sam Adams and John Adams. What do you think each man’s role will be?

Chapters 3-5
1.Gov. Hutchinson was given his position by the King of England, as were all governors at this time. Why could this become a problem for the colonists?
2.What does Franklin realize about English attitudes after his conversations with Dr. Johnson?
3.Why is it so important to Adams that Preston receives a fair trial? How does he hope details of the trials will be handled in England?

Chapters 6-8
1.When Hillsborough refuses to recognize Franklin as a representative of the people of Massachusetts, he is setting a precedent that will have an enormous impact on the colonists. What is it? How is Franklin’s reaction to Hillsborough’s announcement a type of foreshadowing?
2.What economic plan does Gage have that will prevent the colonists from becoming independent of England’s goods? What is your reaction to Gage’s statements in the last paragraph on page 83?
3.How does Franklin’s visit to the back roads of Ireland enlighten him as to the English way of thinking?

Chapters 9-12
1.What event causes John Adams to address the town meeting? Why does he feel it is so important for him to speak at this time? What is the gist of his speech?
2.Franklin and Adams, who up until now seem to be involved in two separate plots, become united in the same plot and one large step is taken in the "rise to rebellion.” How does this happen?
3.How is the reality different from the expectations Gage has of coming back to England? What does this seem to foreshadow for Gage?

Chapters 13-16
1. The plan of the British is to send tea directly to the colonists from the East Indian Tea Company owned by Britain, thus allowing the colonists to purchase tea more cheaply than they can purchase it from the smugglers. Why do the Sons of Liberty view this as unacceptable?

2. Chapters Fifteen and Sixteen detail the events leading up to and including the famous Boston Tea Party and, once again, author Jeff Shaara uses an Englishman’s point of view rather than a colonist’s. What effect is achieved by seeing the Boston Tea Party through the eyes of Captain Hall? Use a quotation from Captain Hall in your answer.

Chapter 17-19
1.How does Franklin see his treatment at the hearing as a “symptom of the great illness that is still spreading between the crown and its colonies”? (178).
2.Gage’s audience with King George results in Gage replacing Hutchinson as governor of Massachusetts, as well as remaining general of the King’s military in the colonies. Why does the king want the military and political leader to be the same person?
3.Why does Jeff Shaara use an unsavory character like Mr. Hayden to reveal the contents of the Boston Port Bill?

Chapters 20, 21
Discuss the differences in the reactions of Adams and Gage to the caravan of colonists bringing food and goods into Boston.

Chapters 22, 23
At this point what do the delegates from the colonies hope to accomplish by meeting together?

Chapters 24-26
1.When the delegates leave Philadelphia, what policies have been agreed upon?
2.Does Franklin’s friend in England, Strahan, correctly read the character and influence of Thomas Paine from what you know of history?
3.The introduction of Lord Chatham, AKA William Pitt, the “Great Commoner,” provides the reader with a different viewpoint from others who hold power in England. How is his thinking different and why does he visit Franklin? What are the results of his speech?

Chapters 27, 28
1.At the end of this chapter, Gen. Gage receives an official dispatch from England that specifically orders him to do what?
2.All Americans today are somewhat familiar with Paul Revere’s ride to Lexington. Does Jeff Shaara adequately describe this famous ride within the scope of the novel? Why or why not?

Chapters 29, 30
1.List the problems Pitcairn faces as he attempts to march his troops to Lexington.
2.The battle of Lexington is the third major event that will eventually contribute to the colonists’ rebellion, and once again, Shaara tells this major historical event through the eyes of Pitcairn, an English major. Do you think Shaara is making a conscious effort to do this, or is it just a coincidence? Have your reasons changed as to why Shaara chooses this type of narration?
3.What proposal does Dr. Warren bring to Gen. Gage and what is Gage’s answer to his proposal?

Chapter 31
1.Are you surprised at the descriptions of George Washington in this section? Why or why not?
2.Do you think John Hancock would have made a good choice for the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army? What about Sam Adams? Why or why not?

Chapter 32, 33
1.The reader almost seems to be a silent witness at the strategy meeting between the four British generals. How does Shaara accomplish this, and what feeling does the reader come away with after this meeting?
2.Discuss your reaction to the battle scenes in Chapter 33. How does Shaara bring this scene to life? Find and list examples of figurative language that Shaara uses.

Chapters 34 -36
1.What are some of the problems General Washington faces as he comes face to face with his new army?
2.Is Ben Franklin actually willing to turn his back on anything and anyone, including his family in order to fight for independence? Find a quotation to support your answer.
3.Did King George treat General Gage fairly or unfairly? Support your answer with reasons why the King should or should not have replaced Gage.

Chapters 37-38
1.What bad news does Franklin deliver to General Washington?
2.What metaphor does Sam Adams use to explain to John Adams the attitudes of the congress?
3.Abigail Adams makes some interesting points to her husband about the future government of the colonies. Discuss two of her points and the validity of them.

Chapters 39, 40
1.What does Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” provide for the American cause that has been lacking until now?
2.Discuss some of the problems Washington faces in this chapter.

Chapter 41
In the section beginning on page 485 and ending at the bottom of page 489, Jeff Shaara distinctly changes his prose style. His sentences are either shorter, or they are broken up more into phrases surrounded by commas. The dialog also consists of much shorter phrases. What effect is Shaara trying to produce in the reader? Is he successful?

Chapter 42
Although Richard Henry Lee’s resolution seems to be favorably received, it is not yet passed. Why not?

Chapters 43, 44
Are the descriptions of Thomas Jefferson and his writing of the Declaration of Independence what you expected? Why or why not?

Chapter 45
The novel ends as Washington observes Howe’s troops entering the waters of New York. The Declaration of Independence has just been read to the crowds and military in New York, and King George’s statue has been destroyed. Is this a satisfactory place for Jeff Shaara to conclude Rise to Rebellion? Why or why not?

1. Although Gage is never again a part of the American Revolution as a general, he
continues to serve as what? Where can you find a portrait on display of Thomas Gage?
3.Who keeps defeating Sam Adams for the governorship of Massachusetts? Is Adams
ever elected?
4.What two surprising facts did you learn about John Dickinson?
5.Do Franklin and Strahan ever meet again after Franklin leaves England? What did Ben Franklin leave his son William in his will? Who preserved and published Ben Franklin’s work?
6.List three things you learned about Thomas Paine from the afterword.
7.What three interesting items did Paul Revere manufacture?
8.How many signatures are on the Declaration of Independence?
Where can one see the original document? What two noteworthy men did NOT sign? Why not?


Order of Events: These events significantly contributed to the colonists’ Rise to Rebellion. Students should be able to thoroughly discuss the causes and effects of these events.

1.Townshend Act
2.Stamp Act
3.Troops sent to Boston — Quartering Act
4.Boston Massacre
5.Gaspee Incident
6.Judges appointed and paid by king
7.Hutchinson Letters sent to Sons of Liberty
8.Tea Tax
9.Boston Tea Party
10.Intolerable/Coercive Acts
Closing the Port of Boston
Troops not tried in America–sent to Britain
Troops can take over homes/ taverns
11.1st Continental Congress
12.Continental Association
13.Suffolk Resolves
14.2nd Continental Congress
15.Gage ordered to arrest Leaders of Sons of Liberty
16.Battle of Lexington — First Blood
17.Battle of Concord
18.Gage sent more troops
19.Fort Ticonderoga captured by Americans
20.Continental Army organized–George Washington selected as General of troops
21.Battle of Breed’s Hill/Bunker Hill
22.Burning of Falmouth by British
23.Rejection of Olive Branch Petition — King’s fall address
24.Burning of Norfolk
25.Declaration of Independence

Lines from Leaders
A good author attempts to give each character his or her own “voice.”
Students should study the quotations below and name the leader who is speaking, the circumstances of which he is speaking, and the importance of his words.
1.“There is still law here. And no matter who is to blame, whether this disaster was born from evil intent or blind foolishness, if the mob gains control, then God help us.”
2.“If this man claims to be innocent, he is entitled under the law and under the judgment of God, to be heard.”
3.“You understand the king’s law, the colonist’s law, even God’s law better than anyone I know. But I’m afraid, dear ******, you don’t understand people…. There is an awful danger when the people become accustomed to tyranny.”
4.“You do not heal radicals. You hang them.”
5.“We don’t need God, Captain. We need one more witness.”
6.“I was too far removed from the people. I had no idea how the act would be received there. I didn’t really understand it myself.”
7.“The very thought that they could stand united, that they could pretend to be one people, strike out at the king’s authority, rid themselves of our influence, is, truly astounding. But the sanity has returned. The power of the empire has prevailed.”
8.“But lest some unlucky event should happen, unfavorable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered, by every gentleman in this room, that I, this day, declare with the utmost sincerity I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.”
9.“No one had designed an acceptable plan for how the Americans would govern themselves.”
10.“Yes, I understand. Nothing will come easy. There will be a cost. But…we have done our work. We are prepared.”


1.The letters of John and Abigail Adams were one of Shaara’s main sources for his book. Have students study some of these letters and write an essay on what they found. A good web site for the letters is http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/aea/letter/. This is a good time to have students write their own letters about an event of local or national significance that has happened within their lifetimes.
2.The Boston Massacre has been one of the most discussed and debated events of the American Revolution. Students can read the original newspaper articles and the court transcripts from this event at the web site http://www.bostonmassacre.net/. Reading these articles should generate numerous activities for the classroom. Students can reenact the trial, discuss propaganda (see Paul Revere’s engraving), and learn about point of view.
3.The burning of the Gaspee was an extremely important event, yet little attention has been given to this in history books. Visit the website http://www.gaspee.org/ to view the archives about this example of a community that rose up against the British. Some possible writing assignments could center on civil disobedience.
4.The sayings of Ben Franklin continue to interest students. The following websites are excellent for classes to visit and learn more about this man and his words.
http://sln.fi.edu/franklin/printer/abc.html http://www.scsc.k12.ar.us/2000backeast/Trip/Members/WarnerL/Default.htm http://www.ushistory.org/franklin/quotable/quote07.htm,
5.Students can read Jefferson’s account of the events leading up to and including the writing of the Declaration of Independence at http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/signers/index.htm.
6.This website also includes a brief biographical sketch of each of the signers, a picture of the house where the document was written, and descriptions of significant events and people.


This guide was written by Chris Boone Cleveland, who received her BS and MA degrees in English Education from Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana. She has taught at the middle school, high school, undergraduate and graduate levels. She currently teaches at Covington High School in Covington, Indiana. She would like to dedicate this teacher’s guide to her 2003 literature class (members of the Covington Class of 2005) who served as her test subjects for Rise to Rebellion, and according to her, “Had a few rebellious moments of their own, yet managed to rise to the occasion and become the hard-working, dedicated students she knew they could be.”