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The Revolutionary War
The American Revolution was the colonies attempt to free themselves from the clutches of Great Britain and to become a separate nation. Throughout the struggles of the Revolutionary War, the colonies kept pace with Britain, managing to keep the superpower at bay through battle after battle. This war raged of for a total of seven years, and many important events during these years led to the creation of the United States of America. From the late 1770’s to the early 1780’s, General George Washington lead our country into battle with Great Britain, and his strategic genius and the Yankee drive for victory was one of the main reasons for our success. After the battle of Lexington and Concord, through many struggles and hardships, the Colonies managed to end the Revolutionary War with the Battle of Yorktown.
Conflicts leading to the revolutionary war started at the end of the 7-year war or as the American’s knew it as, the French and Indian war. Because the British did not wish for any more conflicts with the natives, King George the third restricted westward movement of the colonists, by issuing the Proclamation of 1763. This proclamation was very unpopular among a majority of the colonists, and they believed that it was their decision on whether or not they moved westward. However, many colonists were constantly disobeying these orders and traveling westward anyway (Stewart 15)
While ignoring the desires of the colonies, King George became weary that France might try to return to North America. As a result, he sent 10,000 British troops to America to serve as a warning and for colonial protection. It is this reason that King George and the Prime Minister, George Grenville, believed the colonies should have to pay for the military force, since they would be receiving a bulk of the protection. (Stewart 15) To raise this money for the military funding, Britain enacted the Stamp Act. On March 22, 1765, the Stamp Act was imposed by the British government onto the colonies. The new tax required the colonists to pay a tariff on every piece of printed paper they used. For example, legal documents, licenses, newspapers, other publications were all taxed. Even though the Stamp Act was a relatively small set of taxes, the colonists were angry at Britain for taking advantage of them. What this means is that Britain was using the Stamp Act to raise revenue off of the colonies instead of using the tax to regulate commerce (Revolutionary War History.com 1) Violent protests of the Stamp Act occurred, and many underground organizations such as the Liberty Boys and the Sons of Liberty were created. Because of the boycotts and protests that the act started, King George and Prime Minister Grenville realized that they would not be able to enforce the stamp act (Stewart 18).
Many other taxes were put into place, such as the Townshend Act, and The Sugar Act. These acts caused discontent within the colonies and made the Colonists strive to abolish them. Boycotting began immediately after most of the taxation laws were passed. Soon, many Americans were proudly living without British goods whatsoever. (Stewart 18-20)
The Townshend Acts, being one of the most notable, put taxes on common items. However, because of Colonist refusal to pay taxes or buy certain products, many British tax collectors were getting nervous. Customs officials started to ask Britain for troops in hopes of intimidating the colonists into paying the tax. In 1770 Britain sent British Soldiers (Referred to by the colonists as “Redcoats”) to keep the colonies under control, and stop rebellions. After months of grueling tension between the two sides, this led to a small British militia to open fire on a protesting group of colonists, killing five men. This event came to be known as the Boston Massacre (Stewart 18)
The last of these acts, The Tea Act, caused an important event to occur between the colonists and Britain. This Act in particular put a heavy tax on all tea related items. During this time, tea was a very common and well like drink in the colonies. So, when this law was passed many were outraged. In the December of 1773, a band of Bostonians dressed as Mohawk Indians boarded British ships and threw exactly 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor. Completely outraged, the British Parliament passed a series of laws known as the Intolerable Acts. These acts were designed to reassert imperial authority in Massachusetts. The more the colonists did, the more Britain did in response, and vice versa. Around this time, the formal rise of the phrase “No Taxation Without Representation” came to light, and became the slogan of many colonists. (Revolutionary War History.com 1-2)
In September 1774, utterly baffled and upset by British actions, a group of colonial delegates met in Philadelphia to “voice to their grievances” against the British government. The people who met included George Washington, John Adams and Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, and John Jay. This was the First Continental Congress. (Revolutionary War History.com 4). These delegates met in 1774 in reaction to the Coercive Acts, a series of measures imposed by the British government on the colonies in response to their resistance to new taxes. Even though this was an important gathering, Congress didn’t go far to demand independence. However, through this assembly, they addressed the general feelings and desires of the colonies by denouncing “Taxation Without Representation”. The Congress met to consider options, including an economic boycott of British trade. In the end, they petitioned King George III to pay a form of compensation for those grievances. The Congress also called for another Continental Congress in case that their petition was unsuccessful in preventing the Intolerable Acts. Their please had no effect, and so the Second Continental Congress met the following year to talk about defense of the colonies at the beginning of the American Revolutionary War. The delegates also urged each colony to set up and train its own militia. (History: The Revolutionary War)
Through the signing of the Declaration, Britain took action through the form of The Battles of Lexington and Concord. Before this battle had started, King George III stated that “We must either master them or totally leave them to themselves and treat them as aliens.” Everything was on the table for these two countries and anyone could tell that the war was about to begin. Britain knew the colonies had some noticeable weaknesses, which gave the Britain militia much confidence. For one, they had a lack of supplies, lack of manpower, and lack of battle experience. However, it was through pure determination and willpower that the colonies were able to face Britain. (Johnson 30). Through a past raid of Salem, Lieutenant General Thomas Gage of Britain learned that Patriots were stockpiling a considerable amount of military stores at Concord and Worcester. This led to an attack on Concord, since it was closer, being just over 18 miles from Boston, and because the road to get there made it hard for the colonists to plan an ambush attack. On April 18th, Gage issued orders for the march, assigning Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith to lead (Johnson 30). It is stated that “Smiths orders were simple, march into Concord, destroy the patriots’ military stores (especially their cannon) and return to Boston” (Johnson 30). The true battle started on April 19th, 1775. The start of this battle was said to have signaled the start of the American Revolution.
The British’s justification for risking war was to sustain its authority in North America. They thought that Massachusetts was leading other colonies into rebellion. So, they Hoped to force Massachusetts back into subservience, and to cut off the Revolution before it even manages to start. To do this, they would have to capture two significant leaders of the rebellions: Samuel Adams and John Hancock; who of which resided in Lexington (Gruber 1). A total of 700 troops under Colonel Francis Smith of the Britain army embarked late in the evening of April 18th. (Gruber 1). In anticipation of a battle between the two British and Colonial forces, Paul Revere went by boat to Charlestown. He warned the locals about a British militia traveling towards Lexington, then rode to Lexington in an attempt to warn them of their oncoming assault. (Gruber 1). William Dawes and Paul Revere both were sent off to signal about the British, each with a lamp. The two men met in Lexington, where the informed the men of Captain John Parker’s minutemen company that the British were approaching them. After warning Lexington, both men set off for Concord, but were cut off by British Patrol. Revere was captured, while Dawes made an escape. Eventually, Revere was let free by the British patrol, after. (Battles of the American Revolution 30).
British troops marched west through Cambridge. They reached Lexington and encountered about 70 militiamen under captain John Parker’s control. The Britain militia ordered them to put down their weapons in hopes of a peaceful resolution. As the colonist army was in the process of lowering their weapons, an unknown person fired off a single shot. This shot, later called “The Shot Heard Round the World,” sparked a whole slew of gunfire from both sides to break out. In the end, the British had won the small skirmish, killing eight and wounding ten militiamen. Britain may have outnumbered the colonist militia, but they were not in the best position. About a mile from Concord, fighting began again, with the colonists firing from behind walls or trees or from houses into the line of soldiers moving along the road. Just when the British soldiers thought they might possibly be overwhelmed by the colonist forces, Lord Percy arrived from Boston with a “relief force” of 1,000 men. (Gruber 2). There were 1,700 British soldiers and 3,800 colonists who took part in the fighting. However, for that large number of people, there were only 378 reported casualties. The British lost 73 men, and 191 were wounded, while 22 were captured. The colonists lost 49, there were 39 wounded, and 4 were captured. (Gruber 2)
The Battles of Lexington and Concord battle were a huge part of the revolutionary war. These battles in particular proved to the British that the American army was not just a band of unorganized rebels, but an army that deserved respect. At this time Revolutionary war was currently in full swing. Along with the Battles of Lexington and Concord, The Battle of Bunker Hill happened soon after, on the date of June 17th, 1775. This battle however ended up being a British victory.
During the battle on Breed’s Hill, the second continental congress was organized to take place. The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that started meeting in the spring of 1775 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The second convention was more productive than the first, making important strategic decisions. During this congress it was agreed that a Continental army would be created to formally take on the British. However, the new continental army would need a good commander in chief. After much debate, congress finally chose George Washington, a 43-year-old Virginian, who was previously a colonel in the Virginia militia (Revolutionary War 8). The Second Continental Congress also passed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Virginia’s leader Thomas Jefferson wrote the text of the Declaration, and it was signed by 56 other congressmen. This Declaration was a formal notice to Britain stating that the colonies would not be serving under British rule any longer. The Reason why the declaration was a huge factor of the war was because it gave a new sense of pride and satisfaction for their cause. The Patriots were now fighting for their freedom as a nation, not just from freedom from taxes (Revolutionary War 9-10)
With this desire for victory, the American forces were beginning to corner the British more and more. Through fear of a devastating American bombardment, General Howe evacuated Boston by sea on March 17, 1776. Many, including Washington, thought he took this exit because he planned to attack New York City by land and sea in a major effort to capture it. . Even though they realized they were at a steep disadvantage, Washington and his troops longed to strike a blow at the enemy. The opportunity came on Christmas Eve 1776, on the opposite shore of the Delaware River. Across the river, a group of British soldiers, led by Johann Rall, were celebrating. Even though this was somewhat underhanded, news of this small victory over opposing forces reached local colonist settlements, and raised the spirits of American Colonists (Revolutionary War 9).
After recent discord swept through the colonies in the form of various battles and engagements with Britain, on November 15, 1777, the 13 colonies took a step that brought them much closer to unity as a nation by adopting the Articles of Confederation. The Articles had been drafted by a committee lead by John Dickinson of Pennsylvania. And their aim was to give congress the necessary powers for winning the war. However, the articles did not go into effect until 1781, after all the colonies had ratified them (Revolutionary War 12).
During the time the Articles of Confederation were being ratified, a dangerous battle for the rebels was occurring. In the Battle of Valley Forge, Washington’s troops suffered in one of the coldest winters many years. Disease also spread through the camp, and colonial army was forced to endure hardships such as starvation, scurvy, frostbite, various diseases, and lice. Washington’s army, which at this point barely had the manpower to even be called an army, needed supplies, and fast. Even with this need, there were still issues preventing these supplies from arriving. During the bitter winter that they were in, the colonists that were healthy enough to work started to busy themselves by building cabins and housing for the freezing soldiers. After their harsh time in Valley Forge, many of the surviving colonists took pride that they had made it through these various challenges. Soon enough word of the French forces siding with the Americans made it to Valley Forge. This whole situation hardened the core of the Yankee resistance and made many eager to join into the battle (Stewart 63-65).
A few months before Valley Forge, the Battles of Saratoga transpired. These Battles were a large turning point in the American Revolution. (Johnson 21) On September 19th, British General John Burgoyne achieved a victory over American forces at fort Ticonderoga. After capturing this fort, the British army led by General John Burgoyne slowly voyaged south, giving the Americans time to regroup under Horatio Gates. (Battles of the American Revolution 77). To support him, General George Washington sent Benedict Arnold, his best infantry commander; Colonel Daniel Morgan and his crack regiment of Virginia riflemen; and two brigades of Continentals from the Hudson Highlands. This American militia was more than capable to handling any British attack with all of this support. Even though his troop strength had been weakened, from their recent engagement with the troops at Ticonderoga, Burgoyne again attacked the Americans at Bemis Heights on October 7th. This time they were defeated and was forced to retreat. Arnold led an attack that captured key areas for the British, forcing them to retreat even further, into Saratoga (Stewart 62). 10 days after this encounter, British General John Burgoyne and his militia were surrounded, and were forced to admit defeat at the hands of the colonial army. This American victory is what encouraged the French to side with the Colonies.
Benedict Arnold may have been a key factor in the sudden victory of the Battle of Saratoga, but Arnold eventually ended up betraying the American forces. Arnold’s treachery began in 1780, when he was given command of West Point. Deals began when Arnold contacted Sir Henry Clinton, head of the British forces. Clinton proposed that Arnold hand West Point and its men. On September 21 of that year, Arnold met with Major John Andre and made his traitorous pact of handing over West Point to the British in return for the promise of a large sum of money and a high position in the British army. What made Arnold decide to take this deal was the resentment he felt over not being promoted faster in the American government. However, the conspiracy was uncovered and Andre was captured and executed. Arnold fled to the enemy side and went on to lead British troops in Virginia and Connecticut. He later moved to England, even though he never received all of what he’d been promised by the British. He died in London on June 14, 1801 (Revolutionary War History.com 3).
After Arnold’s Treacherous actions came the final battle of the Revolution. General Cornwallis of the British Army was progressively losing his authority in the Carolinas. The seven years of fighting in America with the intervention of Spain and France in the war caused Britain’s misfortune. All of these events left the British weak, vulnerable, and somewhat divided in the colonies. Cornwallis marched his army into Virginia and seized Yorktown and Gloucester, towns on each side of the York River. Washington was able to march south from New York with the American and French armies to attack Cornwallis. Expecting Major-General Clinton to sail from New York with a British relieving force, Cornwallis decided to remain in Yorktown, rather than march south to the Carolinas, or attempt to reach New York (Stewart 101). The Americans and French arrived on 28th September 1781, forming a strategic semi-circle around the British entrenchments and putting the British troops under siege. Cornwallis made the unexpected move of abandoning a line of four settlements that dominated the British positions. The Americans immediately occupied the empty settlements. Washington began formal siege operations on the eastern side of Yorktown on 30th September, and were prepared for a full-scale attack on 9 October 1781. American Continental troops capture British guns at the Battle of Yorktown 28th September to 19th October 1781 in the American Revolutionary War. “On 14th October 1781, the Americans and French stormed two redoubts in front of their trenches and Cornwallis’s position in Yorktown became untenable” (Battle of Yorktown 8). The British carried out an attack on the 16th October, in which several guns in the two settlements (mentioned as redoubts in the quote from above) held by the Americans were spiked. With inadequate supplies of artillery ammunition and food, on 19th October 1781, Cornwallis’s army marched depressingly out of Yorktown and surrendered to George Washington. At this point in the battle, the Revolutionary had basically come to a close. The surrender by Cornwallis, and the capture of both him and his army, persuaded the British government to negotiate and try to put an end to the conflict. Soon, there would be an end to the battles, and the colonies would have their complete freedom. (Battle of Yorktown 6-9)
After the Battle of Yorktown, Britain surrendered and peace talks began in Paris in April, 1782. A final draft of a treaty between the new United States of America and Britain was verified and signed in Paris on September 3, 1783. This treaty “extended the western boundary of the United States from the Allegheny Mountains to the Mississippi River, the northern boundary to the Great Lakes, and the southern boundary to the 31st parallel” (Revolutionary War 18-19). With their new land and government, American needed a leader that could be trusted. There was an overwhelming majority of people who strongly believed that the only one suited for the job was George Washington, because he was a former leader of the Continental Army and chairman of the Continental Congress. (Revolutionary War 19)
From the late 1770’s to the early 1780’s, General George Washington lead our country into battle with Great Britain, and his strategic genius was one of the main reasons for our victory. After the battle of Lexington and Concord, through many struggles and hardships, the Colonies managed to end the Revolutionary War with The Battle of Yorktown. From starting with a small militia and a small number of supporters, to Declaring their Independence from Britain, and defeating them, the former colonists had their ups and their downs. However, the Colonies managed to come out on top, defeating Great Britain, and claiming their long-awaited freedom. Would the Revolution have turned out the same if the Americans had lost these battles?
- “Battle of Yorktown.” Edited by British Battles Editors, British Battles, www.britishbattles.com/war-of-the-revolution-1775-to-1783/battle-of-yorktown/.
- Editors, History.com. “Revolutionary War.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 29 Oct. 2009, www.history.com/topics/american-revolution/american-revolution-history.
- Gruber, Ira D. “Lexington and Concord, Battles of.” Scholastic GO!, go.scholastic.com/content/schgo/L/article/024/530/0245300-00.html. Accessed 14 Jan. 2019.
- Johnson, Curt. Battles of the American Revolution. Bonanza Books, 1984.
- “Revolutionary War.” Scholastic GO!, go.scholastic.com/content/schgo/D/article/a20/252/a2025200-h.html. Accessed 14 Jan. 2019.
- Stewart, Gail B. The Revolutionary War. Lucent Books, 1991.
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