Revolutionary War in America
Revolutionary War in America (1775–1783), also known as the American Revolution, in which Britain's 13 North American colonies lying along the Atlantic seaboard won their independence. It was a minor war at the time that had immense consequences later—the founding of a new nation, the United States of America.
Differences in life, thought, and interests had developed between England and its small colonies in America throughout the 18th century. Beginning in 1763, after the French had been defeated in the New World, Britain took steps to increase its control over the colonies and to enforce more strictly the Navigation Acts, which had been designed to regulate colonial commerce in Britain's favor. England did this in conformity with the prevailing theory of the time that colonies existed solely for the benefit of the mother country (mercantilism). In addition, the Proclamation of 1763, issued by King George III, limited the expansion of the American colonies to the Appalachian Mountains. In 1764, the British Parliament, led by the king's chief minister George Grenville passed the Sugar Act, which put levies on all molasses and sugar coming into the colonies from Britain. Even more unpopular were the Stamp Act (1765) and the Quartering Act (1765), which sought to raise revenue from the colonies and force the colonists to supply living quarters for British soldiers. Outraged colonists, near rebellion, drew upon liberal ideas from England and the continent to assert the principle of no taxation without representation in the English Parliament. The meeting in 1765 in New York City of delegates from the nine colonies to protest the act (the Stamp Act Congress) was the first united action of the colonies to protest their treatment by Britain. The Stamp Act was indeed repealed, but the Declaratory Act (1766), which gave the king and Parliament full legislative authority over the colonies, and the Towns-hend Acts (1767), which taxed tea and other imports into the colonies, further inflamed colonials, leading to a protest in Boston, Ma. On March 5, 1770, British troops fired on the demonstrators killing five, including the black patriot Crispus Attucks (the Boston Massacre). Duties were dropped, except for tea, but the colonists still fumed. The Tea Act of 1773, designed to help the East India Company financially, aroused patriots like Samuel Adams of Boston. Colonists, disguised as Indians, raided English ships in Boston Harbor and dumped their tea overboard (the Boston Tea Party, 1773). Britain's response to the raid was a series of punitive laws called the Intolerable Acts (1774), which closed Boston Harbor until the colonists reimbursed England for the lost tea. It also restricted the Massachusetts legislature. Colonial resistance was prompt. Committees of correspondence were formed by patriots to exchange information, and these led to the First Continental Congress (September to October 1774) to protest the Intolerable Acts. Another congress was planned for May 1775, but by then war had begun.
Outbreak of the War
In April 1775, colonial volunteer soldiers known as minutemen engaged British troops at Lexington, Ma. The troops were on their way to destroy colonial arms stores at Concord, and the minutemen had been alerted to the the British action by Paul Revere and William Dawes. The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the opening shots in the war. Boston was under siege by the British, and the colonials flocking to its defense formed the Continental Army. The Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, named George Washington as commander-in-chief of the continental forces (June 15, 1775). Two days later the British won a costly victory in Boston (the Battle of Bunker Hill) and took over the city. Washington arrived outside Boston on July 3,1775 and began plans to retake the city. Earlier (May 1775) Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen had captured British posts at Fort Ticonderoga and nearby Crown Point in New York. These victories secured much-needed heavy artillery for the continental forces. The guns were moved by sled to the Boston area, and by Mar. 1776, General William Howe, commander of the British army, realized he could not hold the city. He evacuated Boston on March 17 and sailed for Canada. Washington went to New York.
Declaration of Independence
Prior to open hostilities, colonists had been most concerned that their rights as English citizens were being trampled, but by 1776, the idea of complete independence from Britain was gaining support. Thomas Paine's immensely popular pamphlet Common Sense (published January 1776), urging the patriot cause, was a major contributing factor to the change. In June, Richard Henry Lee introduced a resolution to the Congress calling for independence; on July 2, Congress approved; and on July 4 it adopted the Declaration of Independence, almost exactly as drafted by Thomas Jefferson.
The War of Independence
Much hard fighting remained to make the independence real. Britain committed more troops and a large fleet to the war. By late 1776, Howe had taken New York City and driven Washington and his small, discouraged forces into winter quarters at Valley Forge, Pa. At year's end, Washington, in a stunning Christmas night (Dec. 25, 1776) surprise attack at Trenton and Princeton N.J., achieved two of the most important victories of the war. A down-and-out colonial army turned its fortunes around by dealing the best army in the world two crushing defeats. The tide also turned in the north with Arnold's major victory at Saratoga, N.Y. (Sept. 1777) over British forces under General John Burgoyne, who had advanced down New York State from Canada. The Saratoga victory helped persuade France that it could now openly commit forces to aid the embattled Americans. In 1778, it commenced operations in the West Indies, forcing Britain to spread its forces thin. With stalemate in the north, British forces concentrated on the southern states, winning victories at Savannah (1778) and Charleston (1780). The colonial cause was further damaged in 1780 by the treason of the disaffected Arnold, who had attempted to turn over a military post he commanded at West Point to the British. In 1781, General Charles Cornwallis headed an unsuccessful British campaign to take the Carolinas. He was thwarted by colonials under Nathaniel Greene and Daniel Morgan. Cornwallis turned to Virginia, where in the Spring of 1781 he was preparing to launch a campaign to conquer the south. He was ordered, however, to take up defensive positions along the Virginia coast, and prepare to return north where General Clinton feared a colonial attack on New York City. Cornwallis moved his troops to Yorktown on Chesapeake Bay. In July, Washington learned that a large French fleet, under Admiral François de Grasse, was planning to block Chesapeake Bay and trap Cornwallis's forces at Yorktown. Washington rushed his forces from New York to Yorktown to seal off Cornwallis by land. Cornwallis, besieged by colonials on land and blocked by the French from an escape by sea, surrendered to Washington on October 19, 1781. The war was essentially over.
Treaty of Paris (1782))
Britain opened peace negotiations with the Americans in Paris in April 1782. An agreement was struck in November, and Congress approved it in April 1783. The treaty, which recognized the independence of the United States and established the new nation's borders, was signed on September 3, 1783.