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American Revolutionary War

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The American Revolutionary War, known as the Revolutionary War in the United States, and as the American War of Independence in most other countries, was a war fought between the Kingdom of Great Britain and 13 of its North American colonies and their ally, France, from 1775 to 1783, through which the colonies overthrew British rule and established the United States of America.
Military history of Great Britain
Military history of the United States
Conflict American Revolutionary War
Date 1775-1783
Place North America
Result United States of America
American Revolutionary War Battles
Combatants
Kingdom of Great Britain
Hessian mercenaries
13 colonies
French Allies
Strength
unknown 200,000
Casualties
unknown 4435 dead, 6188 wounded

Table of contents
1 The war and the revolution
2 Loyalties
3 Initial success and British response
4 Land operations
5 Bunker Hill
6 Long Island
7 Fort Washington
8 Brandywine
9 Saratoga
10 Campaign in Georgia
11 Charleston
12 Camden
13 Guilford Court House
14 Eutaw Springs
15 Virginia campaign
16 American success brings French aid
17 End of the war
18 Casualties
19 List of battles
20 List of important persons
21 See also
22 External links
23 Bibliography

The war and the revolution

This war is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the American Revolution; however, the American Revolution began much earlier and refers to more than just the war discussed here. This page refers solely to the military campaign conducted during the revolution.

The eventual outcome was recognition of independence for the thirteen colonies, as well as western territories, extending to the Mississippi River.

Loyalties

It should be noted, however, that a large proportion of the population did stay loyal to Britain, or at least remained neutral during the war. Loyalists, known as Tories, included members of the aristocracy who had a lot to lose, as well as recent immigrants who identified more with their birthplace than their new home. Both during and following the war, Tories were forced to flee to Canada or Britain. Many Native Americans also opposed the revolution, believing that they were likely to suffer more at the hands of independent Americans than the British. An estimated 10-15% of colonists were Loyalists, and about one-third of them left the United States. Some 70,000 Loyalists fled, along with 2,000 Native Americans. 50,000 of these Loyalists went to Canada, where they helped form the colonies of New Brunswick and Ontario. Some black Loyalists went to Sierra Leone.

Initial success and British response

This [[political cartoon
by Ben Franklin was originally written for the
French and Indian War, but was later recycled to persuade the denizens of different colonies to join together against the British]]

The revolution started in April of 1775, when British troops quartered in Boston attempted to seize munitions stored by colonial militias at Concord, Massachusetts. Conflict spread, and the outnumbered British garrisons in the 13 colonies were quickly defeated. Fort Ticonderoga fell in May, Montreal in August. By the end of 1775, Britain's holdings in North America had been reduced to the Atlantic Canada and besieged garrisons at Quebec City in Canada and Boston. Boston was evacuated by British troops in March 17, 1776, after cannon from Ticonderoga were mounted on Dorchester Heights, from which the city could be bombarded.

When the Second Continental Congress first met in May, 1775, that the war already underway in Massachusetts was the paramount fact. The First Continental Congress, in 1774, had been little more than a convention and protest meeting, aimed at organizing an economic boycott. The Second Continental Congress, bowing to the reality of the war, determined to form a government, and immediately began organizing to take over the governmental functions formerly performed by the King. The Congress formed a Continental Army, appointing George Washington as its head, and sent him to Boston to take command of the siege against the British.

At outset, in May, 1775, the delegates to Congress were deeply divided regarding goals. Samuel Adams, John Adams, Patrick Henry, and Richard Henry Lee favored independence from Great Britain. Others, who are now called the moderate party, favored seeking a compromise and remaining British subjects. One of the moderates wrote the Olive Branch Petition, which expressed the colonists' loyalty to the King and begged him to call a cease-fire until a nonviolent agreement could be reached.

In November of 1775, the colonists found out that King George III had dismissed the petition and decided to continue fighting. In 1776, the British sent 75,000 troops to North America to quell the rebellion. The colonists met in Philadelphia in June of 1776 and declared independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776 (see United States Declaration of Independence). The colonial army proved no match for the well-armed British troops, and suffered an embarrassing series of defeats in the Battle of Long Island. By the end of 1776, Quebec, New York City, and much of New Jersey were in British hands.

During Christmas week, General George Washington, who had retreated into Pennsylvania, crossed the Delaware River back into New Jersey and rolled up outlying British garrisons at Trenton and Princeton. This established the overall situation that held for the rest of the war×the British controlled the territory they occupied with major forces, primarily New York City and Philadelphia. The colonists controlled everything else.

In 1777, a force of 10,000 troops started down from Quebec to cut the colonies in half. Simultaneously the much larger army in New Jersey moved across the Delaware River and took Philadelphia×the colonial capitol and the largest city in North America. However, after retaking Ticonderoga with little trouble, the Northern army suffered a series of serious defeats at Bennington, Fort Stanwix and in two battles near Saratoga. By October, the 5,700 survivors found themselves surrounded, outnumbered and short of supplies in the wilderness 130 miles (210 km) south of Montreal, with winter approaching.

Land operations

To strike at the rebellion first in the north was natural and inevitable. To King George and his ministry, Massachusetts was the hotbed of disloyalty, the head and front of opposition to their colonial policy, and there coercion should begin. It was also a convenient point for a prompt display of authority, as the town of Boston was the headquarters of General Gage, recently appointed royal governor of Massachusetts and commander of the king's troops in North America. He had with him four regiments of regulars, the initial force with which to overawe the restless and defiant population in his vicinity. While Gage is to be credited with advising his government that not less than 20,000 men would be necessary for the work in hand, he proceeded at once to suppress demonstrations around Boston. His principal expedition brought about the skirmish of the 19th of April 1775 (see Lexington), in which a detachment sent to seize some military stores collected at Concord suffered heavily at Lexington, Concord and other places, at the hands of the surrounding militia. This encounter roused the New England colonies, and in a few days some 16,000 of their townsmen marched in small bands upon Boston to protest against and resist further similar incursions; and in this irregular body we have the nucleus of the colonial forces which carried the war through. A noteworthy incident of the Concord affair, and characteristic of the attitude which the provincials had maintained and continued to maintain for another year, was the official representation to the king by the Massachusetts people that the regulars were the first to fire upon them, and that they returned the fire and fought through the day in strict defence of their rights and homes as Englishmen. They repeated their professions of loyalty to his majesty and the principles of the English Constitution. Conscious, nevertheless, that a struggle impended, they instantly sent word to all the other colonies, whose whig elements sympathetically responded to the alarm. The war had opened.

Bunker Hill

See also: Battle of Bunker Hill :This article should be merged with  Battle of Bunker Hill The home government extended its precautions and preparations. General (Sir) William Howe, who succeeded Gage in the chief command in October, and Generals (Sir) Henry Clinton and John Burgoyne were sent out at once with reinforcements. Cornwallis followed a year later. These four generals were identified with the conduct of the principal operations on the side of the British. The force at Boston was increased to 10,000 men. The American Congress at Philadelphia, acting for all the thirteen colonies, voted general defensive measures, called out troops and appointed George Washington of Virginia commander-in-chief. Before he reached the camp forming around Boston, a second and more important collision took place. On the 17th of June 1775 occurred the battle of Bunker Hill (q.v.), in which, although victorious, the British suffered heavily, losing one-third of their force in storming the hastily constructed lines of the "rebels." The latter's most serious loss was that of General Joseph Warren, one of the prominent leaders of the revolutionary movement in Massachusetts. In moral effect the battle proved anything but a defeat to the Americans, who now drew a cordon of works around Boston, hemming Howe's army in a contracted, and, as it proved, untenable, position. On the 3rd of July Washington took command of the American army at Cambridge and proceeded with what is known as the "siege of Boston," which was marked by no special incident, and closed with the evacuation of the town by the British on the 17th of March 1776, Howe sailing away to Halifax, Nova Scotia. While the main interest centred at this point, the year 1775 was marked by two enterprises elsewhere. Fort Ticonderoga, the key to the passage of Lakes George and Champlain to Canada, was surprised and taken on the 10th of May by a small band under Colonel Ethan Allen, while Colonel Benedict Arnold headed an expedition through the Maine woods to effect the capture of Quebec, where Sir Guy Carleton commanded. Arnold joined General Richard Montgomery, who was already near the city, and the combined force assaulted Quebec on the 31st of December, only to meet with complete defeat. Montgomery was killed and many of his men taken prisoners. Demonstrations against Canada were soon discontinued, Arnold drawing off the remnant of his army in May 1776.

The events of 1775, though favourable to America, were but a prelude to the real struggle to come. For the campaign of 1776 both sides made extensive preparations. To the home government the purely military problem, although assuming larger dimensions and more difficulties, still seemed to admit of a simple solution, namely, to strike hard where the rebellion was most active and capable of the longest resistance. Defeated there, it would quickly dissipate in all quarters. As much more than one-half of the population and resources of the colonists lay north of Chesapeake Bay--New England alone having an estimated population of over 700,000 persons--it was only a question as to what point in this area should be made the future base of operations. Largely upon the representations of Howe, Burgoyne and others, it was determined to shift the field from Boston to New York city, from there to hold the line of the Hudson river in co-operation with a force to move down from Canada under Carleton and Burgoyne, and thus effectually to isolate New England.

Long Island

See also: Battle of Long Island :This article should be merged with  Battle of Long Island Upon this plan the new campaign opened in June 1776. Howe, heavily reinforced from home, sailed on the 10th from Halifax to New York and on the 5th of July encamped on Staten Island. Washington, anticipating this move, had already marched from Boston and fortified the city. His left flank was thrown across the East river beyond the village of Brooklyn, while his front and right on the harbour and North or Hudson river were open to a combined naval and military attack. The position proved untenable. Howe drove Washington out of it, and forced the abandonment of the whole of Manhattan Island by three well-directed movements upon the American left. On the 22nd of August he crossed the Narrows to the Long Island shore with 15,000 troops, increasing the number to 20,000 on the 25th, and on the 27th surprised the Americans, driving them into their Brooklyn works and inflicting a loss of about 1400 men. Among the prisoners were Generals J. Sullivan and W. Alexander, soi-disant earl of Stirling. (See LONG ISLAND.) Howe has been criticized, rightly or wrongly, for failing to make full use of his victory. Washington skilfully evacuated his Brooklyn lines on the night of the 29th, and in a measure relieved the depression which the defeat had produced in his army. On the 15th of September Howe crossed the East river above the city, captured 300 of the militia defending the lines and occupied the city. Washington had withdrawn his main army to the upper part of the island. A skirmish, fought the next day, opposite the west front of the present Columbia University, and known as the affair of Harlem Heights, cost the British a loss of seventy of their light infantry. Delaying until the 12th of October, Howe again moved forward by water into Westchester county, and marching toward White Plains forced another retreat on Washington. In the fight on Chatterton Hill at the Plains, on the 28th of October, an American brigade was defeated.

Fort Washington

Instead of pressing Washington further, Howe then returned to Manhattan Island, and on the 16th of November captured Fort Washington with nearly 3000 prisoners. This was the heaviest blow to the Americans throughout the war in the north. The British then pushed down through New Jersey with designs on Philadelphia. Washington, still retreating with a constantly diminishing force, suddenly turned upon Lieutenant-Colonel Rall's advanced corps of Hessians at Trenton on the 26th of December and captured nearly 1000 prisoners. This brilliant exploit was followed by another on the 3rd of January, when Washington, again crossing the Delaware, outmarched Cornwallis at Trenton, and marching to his rear defeated three British regiments and three companies of light cavalry at Princeton, New Jersey. Marching on to Morristown, Washington encamped there on the flank of the British advance in New Jersey, thus ending the first campaign fought on the new issue of American Independence, which had been declared on the 4th of July 1776.

Brandywine

While these closing successes inspirited the Americans, it was undeniable that the campaign had gone heavily against them. Having raised a permanent force for the war called the Continental Line, they awaited further operations of the enemy. Following up the occupation of New York, Howe proceeded in 1777 to capture Philadelphia. Complete success again crowned his movements. Taking his army by sea from New York to the head of the Chesapeake, he marched up into Pennsylvania, whither Washington had repaired to watch him, and on the 26th of September entered the city. The Americans attempted to check the advance of the British at the river Brandywine, where an action occurred on the 11th, resulting in their defeat (see Battle of Brandywine); and on the 4th of October Washington directed a well-planned attack upon the enemy's camp at Germantown on the outskirts of the city, but failed of success. (See Germantown.)

Howe's victorious progress in Pennsylvania was neutralized by disasters farther north. Burgoyne marched from Canada in June 1777, with a strong expeditionary force, to occupy Albany and put himself in touch with Howe at the other end of the Hudson. Driving the Americans under General Arthur St Clair out of Ticonderoga, and making his way through the deep woods with difficulty, he reached the Hudson at Fort Edward on the 30th of July. General Philip Schuyler, commanding the Americans in that quarter, retreated to Stillwater, 30 m. above Albany, barricading the roads and impeding Burgoyne's progress. Dissatisfaction with his conduct led Congress to replace him in command by General Gates. On the 13th of August Burgoyne despatched a force to Bennington, Vermont, under the German colonel Friedrich Baum, to capture stores and overawe the country. On the 16th Baum was attacked by General John Stark with the militia from the surrounding country, and was overwhelmed. Colonel Breyman, marching to his relief, was also routed. The misfortune cost the British 1000 men.

Saratoga

See also: Battle of Saratoga :This article should be merged with  Battle of Saratoga Equally unfortunate was the fate of an expedition sent under Colonel Barry St Leger to co-operate with Burgoyne by way of the Mohawk Valley. On the 6th of August he was met at Oriskany by General Nicholas Herkimer and forced to retreat. Despite these disasters Burgoyne pushed south to Stillwater, where he was defeated by Gates's improvised army of continentals and militia in two battles on the 19th of September (Freeman's Farm) and the 7th of October (Bemis's Height). On the 17th he was forced to surrender. (See Battle of Saratoga.) This disaster was followed by the alliance between America and France in 1778, and later by the addition of Spain to England's enemies--events of far-reaching importance.

A movement of importance, in 1778-79, was the expedition of George Rogers Clark, under the authority of the state of Virginia, against the British posts in the north-west. With a company of volunteers Clark captured Kaskaskia, the chief post in the Illinois country, on the 4th of July 1778, and later secured the submission of Vincennes, which, however, was recaptured by General Henry Hamilton, the British commander at Detroit. In the spring of 1779 Clark raised another force, and recaptured Vincennes from Hamilton. This expedition did much to free the frontier from Indian raids, gave the Americans a hold upon the north-west, of which their diplomats duly took advantage in the peace negotiations, and later, by giving the states a community of interest in the western lands, greatly promoted the idea of union.

In 1778 Sir Henry Clinton succeeded Howe in the chief command in America. With fewer resources than his predecessor had disposed of, he could accomplish practically nothing in the north. In June 1778 he evacuated Philadelphia, with the intention of concentrating his force at New York. Washington, who had passed the winter at Valley Forge, overtook him at Monmouth, N.J., and in an action on the 28th of June both armies suffered about equal loss. Thereafter (except in the winter of 1779, at Morristown) Washington made West Point on the Hudson the headquarters of his army, but Clinton avowed himself too weak to attack him there. In 1779 he attempted to draw Washington out of the Highlands, with the result that in the manoeuvres he lost the garrison at Stony Point, 700 strong, the position being stormed by Wayne with the American light infantry on the 16th of July. During the summer General John Sullivan marched with a large force against the Indians (all the Iroquois tribes except the Oneidas and part of the Tuscaroras siding with the British during the war) and against the Loyalists of western New York, who had been committing great depredations along the frontier; and on the 29th of August he inflicted a crushing defeat upon them at Newtown, on the site of the present Elmira. In addition several Indian villages and the crops of the Indians were destroyed in the lake region of western New York.

Meanwhile the co-operation of the French became active. In July Count Rochambeau arrived at Newport, Rhode Island. That place had been occupied by the British from 1776 to the close of 1779. An unsuccessful attempt was made to drive them out in 1778 by the Americans assisted by the French admiral d'Estaing and a French corps. The year 1780 is also marked by the treason of General Benedict Arnold (q.v.), and the consequent execution of Major Andre. Minor battles and skirmishes occurred until in August 1781 Washington conceived the project of a combined American-French attack on Cornwallis at Yorktown, Va., the success of which was decisive of the war (see below).

Campaign in Georgia

The inadequate results of the British campaigns against the northern colonies in 1776 and 1777 led the home government to turn its attention to the weaker colonies in the south. Operations in the north were not to cease, but a powerful diversion was now to be undertaken in the south with a view to the complete conquest of that section. Success there would facilitate further movements in the north. An isolated attack on Charleston, South Carolina, had been made by Sir Henry Clinton and Sir Peter Parker as early as June 1776, but this was foiled by the spirited resistance of General William Moultrie; after 1778 the southern attempts, stimulated in part by the activity of the French in the West Indies, were vigorously sustained. On the 29th of December of this year Colonel Archibald Campbell (1739- 1791) with an expeditionary corps of 3500 men from Clinton's army in New York, captured Savannah, Georgia, defeating the American force under General Robert Howe. In the following month he pushed into the interior and occupied Augusta. General Benjamin Lincoln, succeeding Howe, undertook to drive the British out of Georgia, but General Augustine Prevost, who had commanded in Florida, moved up and compelled Lincoln to retire to Charleston. Prevost, making Savannah his headquarters, controlled Georgia. In September 1779 he was besieged by Lincoln in conjunction with a French naval and military force under Admiral d'Estaing, but successfully repelled an assault (October 9), and Lincoln again fell back to Charleston. In this assault Count Casimir Pulaski, on the American side, was mortally wounded.

Charleston

See Siege of Charleston

Camden

See Battle of Camden

Guilford Court House

See Battle of Guilford Court House

Eutaw Springs

See Battle of Eutaw Springs

Virginia campaign

Cornwallis, meantime, pursued his Virginia project. Leaving Wilmington, N.C., on the 25th of April 1781, he reached Petersburg on the 20th of May. There he found British detachments, 2000 strong, composed of troops whom Clinton had sent down separately under Generals Benedict Arnold and William Phillips to establish a base in the Chesapeake, as a diversion in favour of the operations of Cornwallis in the Carolinas. Virginia at the moment presented a clear field to the British, and they overran the state as far north as Fredericksburg and west to Charlottesville. At the latter place Jefferson, governor of the state, barely escaped capture by Tarleton's men. A small American force under Lafayette, whom Wayne reinforced during the summer, partially checked the enemy. At Green Spring, near Jamestown Island, Lafayette boldly attacked his antagonist on the 6th of July, but had to save himself by a hasty retreat. Early in August Cornwallis retired to Yorktown to rest and await developments. There he fortified himself, and remained until the American-French military and naval combination, referred to above, appeared and compelled his surrender. (See Yorktown.)

With this event war operations ceased. Preliminary articles of peace, signed on the 30th of November 1782, were followed by a definitive treaty concluded on the 3rd of September 1783. Charleston, S.C., was evacuated late in 1782; New York on the 25th of November 1783. The reasons of Great Britain's misfortunes and failure may be summarized as follows:--Misconception by the home government of the temper and reserve strength of her colonists, a population mainly of good English blood and instincts; disbelief at the outset in the probability of a protracted struggle covering the immense territory in America; consequent failure to despatch sufficient forces to the field; the safe and Fabian generalship of Washington; and finally, the French alliance and European combinations by which at the close of the conflict England was without a friend or ally on the continent.

American success brings French aid

On October 17th, General John Burgoyne surrendered an entire British Army to the colonials. News of the surrender arrived in Paris hard on the heels of news that colonial troops had caused supposedly invincible British regulars to flee in disarray in the early stages of the Battle of Germantown. Convinced by Benjamin Franklin and the news from North America that the Colonials had a reasonable chance of victory, the French agreed to support the colonists. Later on February 6, 1778 the Treaty of Alliance and the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, along with a separate, secret agreement, were signed by the United States and France signaling official recognition of the new republic. Then on July 10 of the same year, Louis XVI of France declared war on the side of the Americans against the Kingdom of Great Britain.

With the French in the war, the conflict settled into a war of attrition. The Colonials were too weak to dislodge the British from Philadelphia and New York. The British tried various strategies, but were unable to establish permanent control over the countryside and the vast majority of the population. The economy of the colonies slowly disintegrated and the British economy×drained by the costs of a war with France and supporting the large occupation forces in America×also suffered substantially.

French aid is covered in more detail in Naval operations in the American Revolutionary War

End of the war

In 1781, the British strategy changed to focus on the southern colonies. General Cornwallis led a force of 7,000 troops whose mission was to support loyalists in the South. He was opposed by Nathanael Greene who despite losing every battle, was able to demoralize Cornwallis's troops. Running low on supplies, Cornwallis moved his forces to Yorktown, Virginia to await supplies and reinforcements.

Spain had entered the war in 1779, and in May of 1781 Spanish forces took Pensacola and with it control of the small British colony of East Florida. This was the largest battle ever fought in Florida.
image:yorktown80.jpg
Accounts of what happened next are remarkably diverse×possibly due to a desire by some American authors to minimize the French role in the events. All sources agree that French naval forces defeated the British Royal Navy on September 5th at the Battle of the Chesapeake, cutting off Cornwallis's supplies and transport. Washington moved his troops from New York and a combined Colonial-French force, led by Lafayette and Washington, of 16,000 or 17,000 troops was assembled and commenced the Battle of Yorktown on October 6, 1781. Cornwallis's position quickly became untenable. On October 19th, Cornwallis surrendered to Washington; as the substantial British force marched out and turned their weapons over, the British regimental band was instructed to play a popular song of the day entitled "The World Turned Upside Down".

In April 1782, the British House of Commons voted to end the war with the American colonies and the government of war proponent Lord North was ousted. The British removed their troops from Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia in the summer of 1782. On November 30, 1782 preliminary peace articles were signed in Paris and on February 4, 1783 Great Britain formally declared that it would cease hostilities in North America. However the formal end of the war did not occur until the Treaty of Paris was signed on September 3, 1783 and the United States Congress ratified the treaty on January 14, 1784. The last British troops left New York City on November 25, 1783.

Casualties

The United States enlisted a total of about 200,000 soldiers and sailors during the war. Battle casualties were 4435 dead and 6188 wounded. An estimated 20,000 Americans died of non-combat causes.

1200 Hessians were killed in action and 6,354 died from illness or accident.

According to data from the Daughters of the American Revolution, the last surviving U.S. veteran of the conflict, George Fruits, died in 1876 at the age of 114. However, Fruits was never on a pension roll. The last surviving veteran may have been Daniel F. Bakeman (died 1869), who was placed on the pension rolls by an act of Congress and is listed as the last survivor of the conflict by the United States Department of Veterans' Affairs.

List of battles

Major Campaigns of the War Important battles (in chronological order):

List of important persons

See also

External links

Bibliography

Reference works:
  1. Winsor's Narrative and Critical History of America (Boston, 1887).
  2. Prof. C. H. Van Tyne's American Revolution (Harper's "Am. Nation" Series, New York, 1905), chap. xviii., on bibliographical aids and authorities.

American works:
  1. George Bancroft's History of the United States (Boston, 1883-1885) which, in spite of minor errors of fact and judgment, will remain standard
  2. J. Fiske's American Revolution (2 vols., Boston, 1891)
  3. Carrington's Battles of the American Revolution (New York, 1876) is a critical study by a military officer
  4. L. J. Lossing's Pictorial Field Book of the Revolution (2 vols., New York, 1850-1859), not always accurate, but preserves local traditions and details.
  5. Christopher Ward; "The War of the Revolution"; 1952, Macmillan Company, ''(2 volumes)".
  6. Robert Leckie; "George Washington's War: The Saga of the American Revolution"; 1992, Harper Collins, ISBN 0060162899 (Paperback ISBN 006092215X).

English works:

  1. Lord Mahon's History of England, vol. vi.;
  2. Sir George O. Trevelyan's American Revolution (New York and London; vol. i., 1899; 4 vols. published, 1908), a new study of cabinet and parliamentary politics of the period, with review of the military events
  3. Hon. J. W. Fortescue, History of the British Army, vol. iii. (1902);
  4. Stedman's American War (2 vols., 1794)
  5. Col. Tarleton's Southern Campaigns, 1780-1781 (London, 1787);
  6. the pamphlet controversy between Sir Henry Clinton and Lord Cornwallis (1783), see Winsor, vi., p. 516, n.
  7. Burgoyne's State of the Expedition from Canada in 1777 (London, 1780). (H. P. J.*)

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.