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In this article, inhabitants of the thirteen colonies that supported the American Revolution are primarily referred to as "Americans," with occasional references to "Patriots," "Whigs," "Rebels" or "Revolutionaries." Colonists who supported the British in opposing the Revolution are usually referred to as "Loyalists" or "Tories." The geographical area of the thirteen colonies is often referred to simply as "America."


The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also sometimes known as the American War of Independence, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britainmarker and thirteen united former British colonies in North America, and concluded in a global war between several European great powers. The war was the culmination of the political American Revolution, whereby the colonists rejected the legitimacy of the Parliament of Great Britain to govern them without representation, claiming that this violated the Rights of Englishmen. In 1775, revolutionaries gained control of each of the thirteen colonial governments, set up the Second Continental Congress, and formed a Continental Army. Petitions to the king to intervene with the parliament for them resulted in Congress being declared traitors and the states in rebellion the following year. The Americans responded in 1776 by formally declaring their independence as a new nation — the United States of Americamarker — claiming sovereignty and rejecting on the basis of tyranny any allegiance to the British monarchy. Although France had been providing supplies, ammunition and weapons to the rebels beginning in 1776, the Continentals' capture of a British armymarker in 1777 led France to formally enter the war on the side of the United States in early 1778, which evened the military strength with Britain. Spainmarker and the Dutch Republic – French allies – also went to war with Britain over the next two years.

Throughout the war, the British were able to use their naval superiority to capture and occupy coastal cities, but control of the countryside (where 90% of the population lived) largely eluded them because of the relatively small size of their land army. French involvement proved decisive, with a French naval victory in the Chesapeake leading at Yorktown in 1781 to the surrender of a second British army. In 1783, the Treaty of Paris ended the war and recognized the sovereignty of the United States over the territory bounded by what is now Canadamarker to the north, Floridamarker to the south, and the Mississippi River to the west.

Combatants before 1778

American armies and militias

At the outset of the war, the thirteen colonies lacked a professional army and navy. Each colony provided for its own defenses with local militia. Militiamen were lightly armed, slightly trained, and usually did not have uniforms. Their units served for only a few weeks or months at a time, were reluctant to go very far from home, and were thus generally unavailable for extended operations. Militia lacked the training and discipline of soldiers with more experience, but were more numerous and could overwhelm regular troops as at the battles of Concordmarker, Benningtonmarker and Saratoga, and the siege of Bostonmarker. Both sides used partisan warfare but the separatists were particularly effective at suppressing Loyalist activity when British regulars were not in the area.

Seeking to coordinate military efforts, the Continental Congress established (on paper) a regular army in June 1775, and appointed George Washington as commander-in-chief. The development of the Continental Army was always a work in progress, and Washington used both his regulars and state militia throughout the war. The United States Marine Corps traces its institutional roots to the Continental Marines of the war, formed at Tun Tavern in Philadelphiamarker, by a resolution of the Continental Congress on November 10, 1775, a date regarded and celebrated as the birthday of the Marine Corps. At the beginning of 1776, Washington's army had 20,000 men, with two-thirds enlisted in the Continental Army and the other third in the various state militias. At the end of the American Revolution in 1783, both the Continental Navy and Continental Marines were disbanded. About 250,000 men served as regulars or as militiamen for the Revolutionary cause in the eight years of the war, but there were never more than 90,000 total men under arms at one time. Armies were small by European standards of the era, largely attributable to limitations such as lack of powder and other logistical capabilities on the American side. By comparison, Duffy notes that Frederick the Great usually commanded from 23,000 to 50,000 in battle. Both figures pale in comparison to the armies that would be fielded in the early nineteenth century, where troop formations approached or exceeded 100,000 men.

Loyalists

Historians have estimated that approximately 40–45% of the colonists actively supported the rebellion while 15–20% of the population of the thirteen colonies remained loyal to the British Crown. The remaining 35–45% attempted to remain neutral.

At least 25,000 Loyalists fought on the side of the British. Thousands served in the Royal Navy. On land, Loyalist forces fought alongside the British in most battles in North America. Many Loyalists fought in partisan units, especially in the Southern theater.

The British military met with many difficulties in maximizing the use of Loyalist factions. British historian Jeremy Black wrote, “In the American war it was clear to both royal generals and revolutionaries that organized and significant Loyalist activity would require the presence of British forces.” In the South, the use of Loyalists presented the British with “major problems of strategic choice” since while it was necessary to widely disperse troops in order to defend Loyalist areas, it was also recognized that there was a need for “the maintenance of large concentrated forces able” to counter major attacks from the American forces. In addition, the British were forced to ensure that their military actions would not “offend Loyalist opinion”, eliminating such options as attempting to “live off the country’, destroying property for intimidation purposes, or coercing payments from colonists (“laying them under contribution”).

British armies and auxiliaries

Early in 1775, the British Army consisted of about 36,000 men worldwide, but wartime recruitment steadily increased this number. Great Britain had a difficult time appointing general officers, however. General Thomas Gage, in command of British forces in North America when the rebellion started, was criticized for being too lenient (perhaps influenced by his American wife). General Jeffrey Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst turned down an appointment as commander in chief due to an unwillingness to take sides in the conflict. Similarly, Admiral Augustus Keppel turned down a command, saying "I cannot draw the sword in such a cause." William Howe and John Burgoyne were both members of parliament who opposed military solutions to the American rebellion. Howe and Henry Clinton both made statements that they were not willing participants in the war, but were following orders.

Over the course of the war, Great Britain signed treaties with various German states, which supplied about 30,000 soldiers. Germans made up about one-third of the British troop strength in North America. Hesse-Kassel contributed more soldiers than any other state, and German soldiers became known as "Hessians" to the Americans. Revolutionary speakers called German soldiers "foreign mercenaries," and they are scorned as such in the Declaration of Independence. By 1779, the number of British and German troops stationed in North America was over 60,000, although these were spread from Canada to Florida. About 10,000 Loyalist Americans under arms for the British are included in these figures.

African Americans

African Americans—slave and free—served on both sides during the war. The British actively recruited slaves belonging to Patriot masters. Because of manpower shortages, George Washington lifted the ban on black enlistment in the Continental Army in January 1776. Small all-black units were formed in Rhode Islandmarker and Massachusettsmarker; many slaves were promised freedom for serving. Another all-black unit came from Haitimarker with French forces. At least 5,000 black soldiers fought for the Revolutionary cause and more than 20,000 black soldiers fought on the British side.

Native Americans

Most Native Americans east of the Mississippi River were affected by the war, and many communities were divided over the question of how to respond to the conflict. Though a few tribes were on friendly terms with the Americans, most Native Americans opposed the United States as a potential threat to their territory. Approximately 13,000 Native Americans fought on the British side, with the largest group coming from the Iroquois tribes, who fielded around 1,500 men. The powerful Iroquois Confederacy was shattered as a result of the conflict; the Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga, and Cayuga sided with the British, while many Tuscarora and Oneida sided with the colonists. The Continental Army sent the Sullivan Expedition to cripple the Iroquois tribes which had sided with the British. Both during and after the war friction between the Mohawks Joseph Louis Cook and Joseph Brant, who had sided with the Americans and the British respectively, further exacerbated the split.

War in the north, 1775–1780

Massachusetts

Before the war, Bostonmarker had been the scene of much revolutionary activity, leading to the Massachusetts Government Act that ended home rule as a punishment in 1774. Popular resistance to these measures, however, compelled the newly appointed royal officials in Massachusetts to resign or to seek refuge in Boston. Lieutenant General Thomas Gage, the British North American commander-in chief, commanded four regiments of British regulars (about 4,000 men) from his headquarters in Boston, but the countryside was in the hands of the Revolutionaries.


On the night of April 18, 1775, General Gage sent 700 men to seize munitions stored by the colonial militia at Concord, Massachusettsmarker. Riders including Paul Revere alerted the countryside, and when British troops entered Lexingtonmarker on the morning of April 19, they found 77 minutemen formed up on the village green. Shots were exchanged, killing several minutemen. The British moved on to Concord, where a detachment of three companies was engaged and routed at the North Bridge by a force of 500 minutemen. As the British retreated back to Boston, thousands of militiamen attacked them along the roads, inflicting great damage before timely British reinforcements prevented a total disaster. With the Battles of Lexington and Concordmarker, the war had begun.

The militia converged on Boston, bottling up the Britishmarker in the city. About 4,500 more British soldiers arrived by sea, and on June 17, 1775, British forces under General William Howe seized the Charlestown peninsula at the Battle of Bunker Hillmarker. The Americans fell back, but British losses were so heavy that the attack was not followed up. The siege was not broken, and Gage was soon replaced by Howe as the British commander-in-chief.

In July 1775, newly appointed General Washington arrived outside Boston to take charge of the colonial forces and to organize the Continental Army. Realizing his army's desperate shortage of gunpowder, Washington asked for new sources. Arsenals were raided and some manufacturing was attempted; 90% of the supply (2 million pounds) was imported by the end of 1776, mostly from France.

The standoff continued throughout the fall and winter. In early March 1776, heavy cannons that the patriots had captured at Fort Ticonderogamarker were brought to Boston by Colonel Henry Knox, and placed on Dorchester Heightsmarker. Since the artillery now overlooked the British positions, Howe's situation was untenable, and the British fled on March 17, 1776, sailing to their naval base at Halifax, Nova Scotiamarker. Washington then moved most of the Continental Army to fortify New York City.

Quebec

Three weeks after the siege of Boston began, a troop of militia volunteers led by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold captured Fort Ticonderogamarker, a strategically important point on Lake Champlainmarker between New York and the Province of Quebec. After that action they also raided Fort St. John's, not far from Montreal, which alarmed the population and the authorities there. In response, Quebec's governor Guy Carleton began fortifying St. John's, and opened negotiations with the Iroquois and other Native American tribes for their support. These actions, combined with lobbying by both Allen and Arnold and the fear of a British attack from the north, eventually persuaded the Congress to authorize an invasion of Quebec, with the goal of driving the British military from that province. (Quebec was then frequently referred to as Canada, as most of its territory included the former French Province of Canada.)

Two Quebec-bound expeditions were undertaken. On September 28, 1775, Brigadier General Richard Montgomery marched north from Fort Ticonderogamarker with about 1,700 militiamen, besieging and capturing Fort St. Jeanmarker on November 2 and then Montreal on November 13. General Carleton escaped to Quebec Citymarker and began preparing that city for an attack. The second expedition, led by Colonel Arnold, went through the wilderness of what is now northern Maine. It was a logistical nightmare, with 300 men turning back, and another 200 perishing due to the difficult conditions. By the time Arnold reached Quebec City in early November, he had but 600 of his original 1,100 men. Montgomery's force joined Arnold's, and they attacked Quebec Citymarker on December 31, but were defeated by Carleton in a battle that ended with Montgomery dead, Arnold wounded, and over 400 Americans taken prisoner. The remaining Americans held on outside Quebec City until the spring of 1776, suffering from poor camp conditions and smallpox, and then withdrew when a squadron of British ships under Captain Charles Douglas arrived to relieve the siege.

Another attempt was made by the Americans to push back towards Quebec, but they failed at Trois-Rivièresmarker on June 8, 1776. Carleton then launched his own invasion and defeated Arnold at the Battle of Valcour Islandmarker in October. Arnold fell back to Fort Ticonderoga, where the invasion had begun. While the invasion ended as a disaster for the Americans, Arnold's efforts in 1776 delayed a full-scale British counteroffensive until the Saratoga campaign of 1777.

The invasion cost the Americans their base of support in British public opinion, "So that the violent measures towards America are freely adopted and countenanced by a majority of individuals of all ranks, professions, or occupations, in this country." It gained them at best limited support in the population of Quebec, which, while somewhat supportive early in the invasion, became less so later during the occupation, when American policies against suspected Loyalists became harsher, and the army's hard currency ran out. Two small regiments of Canadiens were recruited during the operation, and they were with the army on its retreat back to Ticonderoga.

New York and New Jersey

Having withdrawn his army from Boston, General Howe now focused on capturing New York City. To defend the city, General Washington divided his 20,000 soldiers between Long Islandmarker and Manhattanmarker. While British troops were assembling on Staten Islandmarker for the campaign, Washington had the newly issued Declaration of American Independence read to his men. No longer was there any possibility of compromise. On August 27, 1776, after landing about 22,000 men on Long Island, the British drove the Americans back to Brooklyn Heightsmarker, securing a decisive British victory in the largest battle of the entire Revolution. Howe then laid siege to fortifications there. In a feat considered by many historians to be one of his most impressive actions as Commander in Chief, Washington personally directed the withdrawal of his entire remaining army and all their supplies across the East Rivermarker in one night without discovery by the British or the losss of a single man or any materiel.

On September 15, Howe landed about 12,000 men on lower Manhattan, quickly taking control of New York City. The Americans withdrew to Harlem Heights, where they skirmished the next day but held their ground. When Howe moved to encircle Washington's army in October, the Americans again fell back, and a battle at White Plains was fought on October 28. Again Washington retreated, and Howe returned to Manhattan and captured Fort Washingtonmarker in mid November, taking about 2,000 prisoners (with an additional 1,000 having been captured during the battle for Long Island). Thus began the infamous "prison ships" system the British maintained in New York for the remainder of the war, in which more American soldiers and sailors died of neglect than died in every battle of the entire war, combined.


General Lord Cornwallis continued to chase Washington's army through New Jerseymarker, until the Americans withdrew across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania in early December. With the campaign at an apparent conclusion for the season, the British entered winter quarters. Although Howe had missed several opportunities to crush the diminishing American army, he had killed or captured over 5,000 Americans.

The outlook of the Continental Army was bleak. "These are the times that try men's souls," wrote Thomas Paine, who was with the army on the retreat. The army had dwindled to fewer than 5,000 men fit for duty, and would be reduced to 1,400 after enlistments expired at the end of the year. Congress had abandoned Philadelphia in despair, although popular resistance to British occupation was growing in the countryside.

Washington decided to take the offensive, stealthily crossing the Delaware on Christmas night and capturing nearly 1,000 Hessians at the Battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776. Cornwallis marched to retake Trenton but was outmaneuvered by Washington, who successfully attacked the British rearguard at Princetonmarker on January 3, 1777. Washington then entered winter quarters at Morristown, New Jerseymarker, having given a morale boost to the American cause. New Jersey militia continued to harass British and Hessian forces throughout the winter, forcing the British to retreat to their base in and around New York City.

At every stage the British strategy assumed a large base of Loyalist supporters would rally to the King given some military support. In February 1776 Clinton took 2,000 men and a naval squadron to invade North Carolina, which he called off when he learned the Loyalists had been crushed at the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridgemarker. In June he tried to seize Charleston, South Carolinamarker, the leading port in the South, hoping for a simultaneous rising in South Carolina. It seemed a cheap way of waging the war but it failed as the naval force was defeated by the forts and because no local Loyalists attacked thetown from behind. The loyalists were too poorly organized to be effective, but as late as 1781 senior officials in London, misled by Loyalist exiles, placed their confidence in their rising.

Saratoga and Philadelphia

When the British began to plan operations for 1777, they had two main armies in North America: Carleton's army in Quebec, and Howe's army in New York. In London, Lord George Germain approved campaigns for these armies which, because of miscommunication, poor planning, and rivalries between commanders, did not work in conjunction. Although Howe successfully captured Philadelphia, the northern army was lost in a disastrous surrender at Saratoga. Both Carleton and Howe resigned after the 1777 campaign.

Saratoga campaign

The first of the 1777 campaigns was an expedition from Quebec led by General John Burgoyne. The goal was to seize the Lake Champlainmarker and Hudson River corridor, effectively isolating New Englandmarker from the rest of the American colonies. Burgoyne's invasion had two components: he would lead about 10,000 men along Lake Champlain towards Albany, New Yorkmarker, while a second column of about 2,000 men, led by Barry St. Leger, would move down the Mohawk River Valley and link up with Burgoyne in Albany, New Yorkmarker.


Burgoyne set off in June, and recaptured Fort Ticonderogamarker in early July. Thereafter, his march was slowed by Americans who literally knocked down trees in his path. A detachment was sent out to seize supplies but was decisively defeated in the Battle of Benningtonmarker by American militia in August, depriving Burgoyne of nearly 1,000 men.

Meanwhile, St. Leger—half of his force Native Americans led by Sayenqueraghta—had laid siege to Fort Stanwixmarker. American militiamen and their Native American allies marched to relieve the siege but were ambushed and scattered at the Battle of Oriskanymarker. When a second relief expedition approached, this time led by Benedict Arnold, St. Leger's Indian support abandoned him, forcing him to break off the siege and return to Quebec.

Burgoyne's army had been reduced to about 6,000 men by the loss at Bennington and the need to garrison Ticonderoga, and he was running short on supplies. Despite these setbacks, he determined to push on towards Albany. An American army of 8,000 men, commanded by the General Horatio Gates, had entrenched about 10 miles (16 km) south of Saratoga, New Yorkmarker. Burgoyne tried to outflank the Americans but was checked at the first battle of Saratoga in September. Burgoyne's situation was desperate, but he now hoped that help from Howe's army in New York City might be on the way. It was not: Howe had instead sailed away on his expedition to capture Philadelphia.
American militiamen flocked to Gates' army, swelling his force to 11,000 by the beginning of October. After being badly beaten at the second battle of Saratoga, Burgoyne surrendered on October 17.

Saratoga was the turning point of the war. Revolutionary confidence and determination, suffering from Howe's successful occupation of Philadelphia, was renewed. What is more important, the victory encouraged France to make an open alliance with the Americans, after two years of semi-secret support. For the British, the war had now become much more complicated.

Philadelphia campaign

Having secured New York City in 1776, General Howe concentrated on capturing Philadelphia, the seat of the Revolutionary government, in 1777. He moved slowly, landing 15,000 troops in late August at the northern end of Chesapeake Bay. Washington positioned his 11,000 men between Howe and Philadelphia but was driven back at the Battle of Brandywinemarker on September 11, 1777. The Continental Congress again abandoned Philadelphia, and on September 26, Howe finally outmaneuvered Washington and marched into the city unopposed. Washington unsuccessfully attacked the British encampment in nearby Germantownmarker in early October and then retreated to watch and wait.


After repelling a British attack at White Marsh, Washington and his army encamped at Valley Forgemarker in December 1777, about 20 miles (32 km) from Philadelphia, where they stayed for the next six months. Over the winter, 2,500 men (out of 10,000) died from disease and exposure. The next spring, however, the army emerged from Valley Forge in good order, thanks in part to a training program supervised by Baron von Steuben, who introduced the most modern Prussian methods of organization and tactics.

General Clinton replaced Howe as British commander-in-chief. French entry into the war had changed British strategy, and Clinton abandoned Philadelphia to reinforce New York City, now vulnerable to French naval power. Washington shadowed Clinton on his withdrawal and forced a strategic victory at the battle at Monmouth on June 28, 1778, the last major battle in the north. Clinton's army went to New York City in July, arriving just before a French fleet under Admiral d'Estaing arrived off the American coast. Washington's army returned to White Plains, New Yorkmarker, north of the city. Although both armies were back where they had been two years earlier, the nature of the war had now changed.

An international war, 1778–1783

In 1778, the war over the rebellion in North America became international, spreading not only to Europe but to European colonies in the West Indies and in India. From 1776 France had informally been involved, with French admiral Latouche Tréville having provided supplies, ammunition and guns from France to the United States after Thomas Jefferson had encouraged a French alliance, and guns such as de Valliere type were used, playing an important role in such battles as the Battle of Saratogamarker,. George Washington wrote about the French supplies and guns in a letter to General Heath on 2 May, 1777. After learning of the American victory at Saratoga, France signed the Treaty of Alliance with the United States on February 6, 1778, formalizing the Franco-American alliance negotiated by Benjamin Franklin. Spain entered the war as an ally of France in June 1779, a renewal of the Bourbon Family Compact. Unlike France, Spain initially refused to recognize the independence of the United States, because Spain was not keen on encouraging similar anti-colonial rebellions in the Spanish Empire. Both countries had quietly provided assistance to the Americans since the beginning of the war, hoping to dilute British power. So too had the Dutch Republic, which was formally brought into the war at the end of 1780.

In London King George III gave up hope of subduing America by more armies while Britain had a European war to fight. "It was a joke," he said, "to think of keeping Pennsylvania." There was no hope of recovering New England. But the King was determined "never to acknowledge the independence of the Americans, and to punish their contumacy by the indefinite prolongation of a war which promised to be eternal." His plan was to keep the 30,000 men garrisoned in New York, Rhode Island, Quebec, and Florida; other forces would attack the French and Spanish in the West Indies. To punish the Americans the King planned to destroy their coasting-trade, bombard their ports; sack and burn towns along the coast (as Benedict Arnold did to New London, Connecticut in 1781), and turn loose the Native Americans to attack civilians in frontier settlements. These operations, the King felt, would inspire the Loyalists; would splinter the Congress; and "would keep the rebels harassed, anxious, and poor, until the day when, by a natural and inevitable process, discontent and disappointment were converted into penitence and remorse" and they would beg to return to his authority. The plan meant destruction for the Loyalists and loyal Native Americans, an indefinite prolongation of a costly war, and the risk of disaster as the French and Spanish assembled an armada to invade the British Isles. The British planned to re-subjugate the rebellious colonies after dealing with their European allies.

Widening of the naval war

When the war began, the British had overwhelming naval superiority over the American colonists. The Royal Navy had over 100 ships of the line and many frigates and smaller craft, although this fleet was old and in poor condition, a situation which would be blamed on Lord Sandwich, the First Lord of the Admiralty. During the first three years of the war, the Royal Navy was primarily used to transport troops for land operations and to protect commercial shipping. The American colonists had no ships of the line, and relied extensively on privateering to harass British shipping. The privateers caused worry disproportionate to their material success, although those operating out of French channelmarker ports before and after France joined the war caused significant embarrassment to the Royal Navy and inflamed Anglo-French relations. About 55,000 American sailors served aboard the privateers during the war. The American privateers had almost 1,700 ships, and they captured 2,283 enemy ships. The Continental Congress authorized the creation of a small Continental Navy in October 1775, which was primarily used for commerce raiding. John Paul Jones became the first great American naval hero, capturing HMS Drake on April 24, 1778, the first victory for any American military vessel in British waters.


French formal entry into the war meant that British naval superiority was now contested. The Franco-American alliance began poorly, however, with failed operations at Rhode Island in 1778 and Savannah, Georgiamarker, in 1779. Part of the problem was that France and the United States had different military priorities: France hoped to capture British possessions in the West Indiesmarker before helping to secure American independence. While French financial assistance to the American war effort was already of critical importance, French military aid to the Americans would not show positive results until the arrival in July 1780 of a large force of soldiers led by the Comte de Rochambeau.

Spain entered the war as a French ally with the goal of recapturing Gibraltarmarker and Minorcamarker, which it had lost to the British in 1704. Gibraltar was besiegedmarker for more than three years, but the British garrison stubbornly resisted and was resupplied twice: once after Admiral Rodney's victory over Juan de Lángara in the 1780 "Moonlight Battle", and again after Admiral Richard Howe fought Luis de Córdova y Córdova to a draw in the Battle of Cape Spartel. Further Franco-Spanish efforts to capture Gibraltar were unsuccessful. One notable success took place on February 5, 1782, when Spanish and French forces captured Minorcamarker, which Spain retained after the war. Ambitious plans for an invasion of England had to be abandoned.

West Indies and Gulf Coast

There was much action in the West Indies, with several islands changing hands, especially in the Lesser Antilles. At the Battle of the Saintes in April 1782, a victory by Rodney's fleet over the French Admiral de Grasse frustrated the hopes of France and Spain to take Jamaicamarker and other colonies from the British. On May 8, 1782, Count Bernardo de Gálvez, the Spanish governor of Louisianamarker, captured the British naval base at New Providencemarker in the Bahamasmarker. Nevertheless, except for the French retention of the small island of Tobagomarker, sovereignty in the West Indies was returned to the status quo ante bellum in the 1783 peace treaty.

On the Gulf Coast, Gálvez quickly removed the British from their outposts on the lower Mississippi River in 1779 in actions at Manchac and Baton Rouge in British West Florida. Gálvez then captured Mobile in 1780 and forced the surrender of the British outpost at Pensacolamarker in 1781. His actions led to the Spanish acquisition East and West Florida in the peace settlement.

India and the Netherlands

When word reached Indiamarker in 1778 that France had entered the war, British military forces moved quickly to capture French colonial outposts there, capturing Pondicherrymarker after two months of siege. The capture of the French-controlled port of Mahémarker on India's west coast motivated Mysore's ruler Hyder Ali (who was already upset at other British actions, and benefited from trade through the port) to open the Second Anglo-Mysore War in 1780. Ali, and later his son Tipu Sultan, almost drove the British from southern India but was frustrated by weak French support, and the war ended status quo ante bellum with the 1784 Treaty of Mangalore. French opposition was led in 1782 and 1783 by Admiral the Baillie de Suffren, who recaptured Trincomaleemarker from the British and fought five celebrated, but largely inconclusive, naval engagements against British Admiral Sir Edward Hughes. France's Indian colonies were returned after the war.



The Dutch Republic, nominally neutral, had been trading with the Americans, exchanging Dutch arms and munitions for American colonial wares (in contravention of the British Navigation Acts), primarily through activity based in St. Eustatiusmarker, before the French formally entered the war. The British considered this trade to include contraband military supplies and had attempted to stop it, at first diplomatically by appealing to previous treaty obligations, interpretation of whose terms the two nations disagreed on, and then by searching and seizing Dutch merchant ships. The situation escalated when the British seized a Dutch merchant convoy sailing under Dutch naval escort in December 1779, prompting the Dutch to join the League of Armed Neutrality. Britain responded to this decision by declaring war on the Dutch in December 1780, sparking the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War. The war was a military and economic disaster for the Dutch Republic. Paralyzed by internal political divisions, it was unable to effectively respond to British blockades of its coast and the capture of many of its colonies. In the 1784 peace treaty between the two nations, the Dutch lost the Indian port of Negapatammarker and were forced to make trade concessions. The Dutch Republic signed a friendship and trade agreement with the United States in 1782, and was the second country (after France) to formally recognize the United States.

Southern theater

During the first three years of the American Revolutionary War, the primary military encounters were in the north, although some attempts to organize Loyalists were defeated, a British attempt at Charleston, South Carolinamarker failed, and a variety of efforts to attack British forces in East Florida failed. After French entry into the war, the British turned their attention to the southern colonies, where they hoped to regain control by recruiting Loyalists. This southern strategy also had the advantage of keeping the Royal Navy closer to the Caribbean, where the British needed to defend economically important possessions against the French and Spanish.



On December 29, 1778, an expeditionary corps from Clinton's army in New York captured Savannah, Georgiamarker. An attempt by French and American forces to retake Savannahmarker failed on October 9, 1779. Clinton then besieged Charlestonmarker, capturing it on May 12, 1780. With relatively few casualties, Clinton had seized the South's biggest city and seaport, paving the way for what seemed like certain conquest of the South.

The remnants of the southern Continental Army began to withdraw to North Carolinamarker but were pursued by Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton, who defeated them at the Waxhawsmarker on May 29, 1780. With these events, organized American military activity in the region collapsed, though the war was carried on by partisans such as Francis Marion. Cornwallis took over British operations, while Horatio Gates arrived to command the American effort. On August 16, 1780, Gates was defeated at the Battle of Camdenmarker, setting the stage for Cornwallis to invade North Carolina.

Cornwallis' victories quickly turned, however. One wing of his army was utterly defeated at the Battle of Kings Mountainmarker on October 7, 1780, and Tarleton was decisively defeated by Daniel Morgan at the Battle of Cowpensmarker on January 17, 1781. General Nathanael Greene, who replaced General Gates, proceeded to wear down the British in a series of battles, each of them tactically a victory for the British but giving no strategic advantage to the victors. Greene summed up his approach in a motto that would become famous: "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." By March, Greene's army had grown to the point were he felt that he could face Cornwallis directly. In the key Battle of Guilford Court House, Cornwallis defeated Greene, but at tremendous cost, and without breaking Greene's army. He retreated to Wilmington, North Carolinamarker for resupply and reinforcement, after which he moved north into Virginiamarker, leaving the Carolinas and Georgia open to Greene.

In March 1781, General Washington dispatched General Lafayette to defend Virginia, and in April, a British force under the recently-turned Benedict Arnold landed there. Arnold moved through the Virginia countryside, destroying supply depots, mills, and other economic targets, before joining his army with that of Cornwallis. Lafayette skirmished with Cornwallis, avoiding a decisive battle while gathering reinforcements. Cornwallis was unable to trap Lafayette, and so he moved his forces to Yorktown, Virginiamarker, in July so the Royal Navy could return his army to New York.

Northern and western Frontier



West of the Appalachian Mountainsmarker and along the border with Quebec, the American Revolutionary War was an "Indian War". Most Native Americans supported the British. Like the Iroquois Confederacy, tribes such as the Cherokees and the Shawnees split into factions.

The British supplied their native allies with muskets and gunpowder and advised raids against civilian settlements, especially in New York, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. Joint Iroquois-Loyalist attacks in the Wyoming Valley and at Cherry Valley in 1778 provoked Washington to send the Sullivan Expedition into western New York during the summer of 1779. There was little fighting as Sullivan systematically destroyed the Native American winter food supplies, forcing them to flee permanently to British bases in Quebec and the Niagara Falls area.

In the Ohio Country and the Illinois Country, the Virginia frontiersman George Rogers Clark attempted to neutralize British influence among the Ohio tribes by capturing the outposts of Kaskaskiamarker and Cahokia and Vincennes in the summer of 1778. When General Henry Hamilton, the British commander at Detroitmarker, retook Vincennes, Clark returned in a surprise march in February 1779 and captured Hamilton himself.

In March 1782, Pennsylvania militiamen killed about a hundred neutral Native Americans in the Gnadenhütten massacremarker. In one of the last major encounters of the war, a force of 200 Kentucky militia was defeated at the Battle of Blue Licks in August 1782.

Yorktown and the Surrender of Cornwallis



The northern, southern, and naval theaters of the war converged in 1781 at Yorktown, Virginiamarker. In early September, French naval forces defeated a British fleet at the Battle of the Chesapeake, cutting off Cornwallis' escape. Washington hurriedly moved American and French troops from New York, and a combined Franco-American force of 17,000 men commenced the Siege of Yorktown in early October. For several days, the French and Americans bombarded the British defenses. Cornwallis' position quickly became untenable, and he surrendered his entire army of 7,000 men on October 19, 1781.

With the surrender at Yorktown, King George lost control of Parliament to the peace party, and there were no further major military activities on land. The British had 30,000 garrison troops occupying New York City, Charleston, and Savannah. The war continued at sea between the British and the French fleets in the West Indies.

Treaty of Paris

In London, as political support for the war plummeted after Yorktown, Prime Minister Lord North resigned in March 1782. In April 1782, the Commons voted to end the war in America. Preliminary peace articles were signed in Paris at the end of November, 1782; 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 of the Confederation ratified the treaty on January 14, 1784. The last British troops left New York City on November 25, 1783.

Britain negotiated the Paris peace treaty without consulting her Native American allies and ceded all Native American territory between the Appalachian Mountainsmarker and the Mississippi River to the United States. Full of resentment, Native Americans reluctantly confirmed these land cessions with the United States in a series of treaties, but the fighting would be renewed in conflicts along the frontier in the coming years, the largest being the Northwest Indian War.

Historical assessment

Advantages/disadvantages of the opposing sides

During the war the Americans benefited greatly from international assistance. In addition, Britain had significant military disadvantages. Distance was a major problem: most troops and supplies had to be shipped across the Atlantic Ocean. The British usually had logistical problems whenever they operated away from port cities, while the Americans had local sources of manpower and food and were more familiar with (and accustomed to) the territory. Additionally, ocean travel meant that British communications were always about two months out of date: by the time British generals in America received their orders from London, the military situation had usually changed.

Suppressing a rebellion in America also posed other problems. Since the colonies covered a large area and had not been united before the war, there was no central area of strategic importance. In Europe, the capture of a capital often meant the end of a war; in America, when the British seized cities such as New York and Philadelphia, the war continued unabated. Furthermore, the large size of the colonies meant that the British lacked the manpower to control them by force. Once any area had been occupied, troops had to be kept there or the Revolutionaries would regain control, and these troops were thus unavailable for further offensive operations. The British had sufficient troops to defeat the Americans on the battlefield but not enough to simultaneously occupy the colonies. This manpower shortage became critical after French and Spanish entry into the war, because British troops had to be dispersed in several theaters, where previously they had been concentrated in America.

Map of campaigns in the Revolutionary War
The British also had the difficult task of fighting the war while simultaneously retaining the allegiance of Loyalists. Loyalist support was important, since the goal of the war was to keep the colonies in the British Empire, but this imposed numerous military limitations. Early in the war, the Howe brothers served as peace commissioners while simultaneously conducting the war effort, a dual role which may have limited their effectiveness. Additionally, the British could have recruited more slaves and Native Americans to fight the war, but this would have alienated many Loyalists, even more so than the controversial hiring of German mercenaries. The need to retain Loyalist allegiance also meant that the British were unable to use the harsh methods of suppressing rebellion they employed in Ireland and Scotland. Even with these limitations, many potentially neutral colonists were nonetheless driven into the ranks of the Revolutionaries because of the war. This combination of factors led ultimately to the downfall of British rule in America and the rise of the revolutionaries' own independent nation, the United States of America.

Costs of the war

Casualties

The total loss of life resulting from the American Revolutionary War is unknown. As was typical in the wars of the era, disease claimed more lives than battle. Historian Joseph Ellis suggests that Washington's decision to have his troops inoculated against the smallpox epidemic was one of his most important decisions.

Approximately 25,000 American Revolutionaries died during active military service. About 8,000 of these deaths were in battle; the other 17,000 deaths were from disease, including about 8,000 – 12,000 who died while prisoners of war, most in rotting prison ships in New York. The number of Revolutionaries seriously wounded or disabled by the war has been estimated from 8,500 to 25,000. The total American military casualty figure was therefore as high as 50,000.

About 171,000 sailors served for the British during the war; about 25 to 50 percent of them had been pressed into service. About 1,240 were killed in battle, while 18,500 died from disease. The greatest killer was scurvy, a disease known at the time to be easily preventable by issuing lemon juice to sailors. About 42,000 British sailors deserted during the war.

Approximately 1,200 Germans were killed in action and 6,354 died from illness or accident. About 16,000 of the remaining German troops returned home, but roughly 5,500 remained in the United States after the war for various reasons, many eventually becoming American citizens. No reliable statistics exist for the number of casualties among other groups, including Loyalists, British regulars, Native Americans, French and Spanish troops, and civilians.

Financial costs

The British spent about £80 million and ended with a national debt of £250 million, which it easily financed at about £9.5 million a year in interest. The French spent 1.3 billion livres (about £56 million). Their total national debt was £187 million, which they could not easily finance; over half the French national revenue went to debt service in the 1780s. The debt crisis became a major enabling factor of the French Revolution as the government was unable to raise taxes without public approval. The United States spent $37 million at the national level plus $114 million by the states. This was mostly covered by loans from France and the Netherlands, loans from Americans, and issuance of an increasing amount of paper money (which became "not worth a continental.") The U.S. finally solved its debt and currency problems in the 1790s when Alexander Hamilton spearheaded the establishment of the First Bank of the United Statesmarker.

See also



Notes

To avoid duplication, notes for sections with a link to a "Main article" will be found in the linked article.

  1. British writers generally favor "American War of Independence", "American Rebellion", or "War of American Independence". See Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Bibliography at the Michigan State University for usage in titles.
  2. Black, War for America: The Fight for Independence, 1775–1783, p. 59. On militia see Boatner, p. 707, and Russell F. Weigley, The American Way of War (1973), ch. 2.
  3. Boatner, p. 264 says the largest force Washington commanded was "under 17,000"; Christopher Duffy (The Military Experience in the Age of Reason, 1715–1789), estimates Washington's maximum was "only 13,000 troops".
  4. Calhoon, "Loyalism and neutrality" in Greene and Pole, A Companion to the American Revolution (2000) p.235
  5. Savas and Dameron p. xli
  6. Black p. 12
  7. Black pg. 13–14
  8. Black p. 14
  9. Ketchum, 76
  10. Ketchum, 77
  11. Black, pp. 27–29; Boatner, pp. 424–26.
  12. Weintraub, p. 240; figure for 1780.
  13. Revolutionary all-black units: Kaplan and Kaplan, pp. 64–69.
  14. American Revolution — African Americans In The Revolutionary Period.
  15. James H. Merrell, "Indians and the New Republic" in The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the American Revolution, p. 393; Boatner, p. 545.
  16. Higginbotham, p. 75–77.
  17. Orlando W. Stephenson, "The Supply of Gunpowder in 1776," American Historical Review, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Jan. 1925), pp. 271–281 in JSTOR.
  18. Arthur S. Lefkowitz, " The Long Retreat: The Calamitous American Defense of New Jersey 1776, 1998. Retrieved September 10, 2007.
  19. Rockingham to Burke September 1776, Watson The Reign of George III p. 203.
  20. McCullough
  21. Stiles, Henry Reed. "Letters from the prisons and prison-ships of the revolution." Thomson Gale, December 31, 1969. ISBN 978-1432812225
  22. Dring, Thomas and Greene, Albert. "Recollections of the Jersey Prison Ship" (American Experience Series, No 8). Applewood Books. November 1, 1986. ISBN 978-0918222923
  23. Taylor, George. "Martyrs To The Revolution In The British Prison-Ships In The Wallabout Bay." (originally printed 1855) Kessinger Publishing, LLC. October 2, 2007. ISBN 978-0548592175.
  24. Banks, James Lenox. "Prison ships in the Revolution: New facts in regard to their management." 1903.
  25. Hawkins, Christopher. "The life and adventures of Christopher Hawkins, a prisoner on board the 'Old Jersey' prison ship during the War of the Revolution." Holland Club. 1858.
  26. Andros, Thomas. "The old Jersey captive: Or, A narrative of the captivity of Thomas Andros...on board the old Jersey prison ship at New York, 1781. In a series of letters to a friend." W. Peirce. 1833.
  27. Lang, Patrick J.. "The horrors of the English prison ships, 1776 to 1783, and the barbarous treatment of the American patriots imprisoned on them." Society of the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick, 1939.
  28. Onderdonk. Henry. "Revolutionary Incidents of Suffolk and Kings Counties; With an Account of the Battle of Long Island and the British Prisons and Prison-Ships at New York." Associated Faculty Press, Inc. June, 1970. ISBN 978-0804680752.
  29. West, Charles E.. "Horrors of the prison ships: Dr. West's description of the wallabout floating dungeons, how captive patriots fared." Eagle Book Printing Department, 1895.
  30. Higginbotham, pp. 188–98.
  31. George Athan Billias. George Washington's Generals and Opponents: Their Exploits and Leadership (1994); Higginbotham, pp. 175–188.
  32. Springfield Armory
  33. George Otto Trevelyan, George the Third and Charles Fox: The Concluding Part of the American Revolution. (1912), vol. 1, p. 4.
  34. Trevelyan, George the Third and Charles Fox vol. 1, p. 5.
  35. Privateers or Merchant Mariners help win the Revolutionary War
  36. Privateers
  37. Higginbotham, pp. 331–46.
  38. Riddick, pp. 23–25
  39. Fletcher, pp. 155–158
  40. Edler, pp. 37–38, 42–62; The American trade via St. Eustatius was very substantial. In 1779 more than 12,000 hogsheads of tobacco and 1.5 million ounces of indigo were shipped from the Colonies to the island in exchange for naval supplies and other goods; Edler, p. 62
  41. Edler, pp. 95–173
  42. Edler, pp. 233–246
  43. Edler, pp. 205–232
  44. Number of British troops still in America: Piers Mackesy, The War for America: 1775–1783, p. 435.
  45. Benn, Carl Historic Fort York, 1793-1993 Dundurn Press Ltd. (1993) ISBN 0920474799 (page 17)
  46. Black, p. 39; Don Higginbotham, "The War for Independence, to Saratoga", in The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the American Revolution, p. 298, 306.
  47. Higginbotham, p. 298, 306; Black, p. 29, 42.
  48. Harsh methods: Black, pp. 14–16; slaves and Indians: Black, p. 35, 38. Neutrals into Revolutionaries: Black, p. 16.
  49. Smallpox epidemic: Elizabeth Anne Fenn, Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775–82, p. 275. A great number of these smallpox deaths occurred outside the theater of war—in Mexico or among Native Americans west of the Mississippi River. Washington and inoculation: Ellis, His Excellency: George Washington, p. 87.
  50. American dead and wounded: John Shy, A People Numerous and Armed, pp. 249–50. The lower figure for number of wounded comes from Chambers, p. 849.
  51. British seamen: Mackesy, p. 6, 176.
  52. Robert and Isabelle Tombs, That Sweet Enemy: The French and the British from the Sun King to the Present (2007), p. 179.
  53. Merrill Jensen, The New Nation (1950), p. 379.


References

  • Black, Jeremy. War for America: The Fight for Independence, 1775–1783. 2001. Analysis from a noted British military historian.
  • Boatner, Mark Mayo, III. Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. 1966; revised 1974. ISBN 0-8117-0578-1. Military topics, references many secondary sources.
  • Chambers, John Whiteclay II, ed. in chief. The Oxford Companion to American Military History. Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-19-507198-0.
  • Duffy, Christopher. The Military Experience in the Age of Reason, 1715–1789. 1987. ISBN 0-689-11993-3.
  • Edler, Friedrich. The Dutch Republic and The American Revolution. University Press of the Pacific, 1911, reprinted 2001. ISBN 0-89875-269-8.
  • Ellis, Joseph J. His Excellency: George Washington. (2004). ISBN 1-4000-4031-0.
  • Fenn, Elizabeth Anne. Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775–82. New York: Hill and Wang, 2001. ISBN 0-8090-7820-1.
  • Fletcher, Charles Robert Leslie. An Introductory History of England: The Great European War, Volume 4. E.P. Dutton, 1909. OCLC 12063427.
  • Greene, Jack P. and J.R. Pole, eds. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell, 1991; reprint 1999. ISBN 1-55786-547-7. Collection of essays focused on political and social history.
  • Higginbotham, Don. The War of American Independence: Military Attitudes, Policies, and Practice, 1763–1789. Northeastern University Press, 1983. ISBN 0-930350-44-8. Overview of military topics; online in ACLS History E-book Project.
  • Kaplan, Sidney and Emma Nogrady Kaplan. The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution. Amherst, Massachusetts: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1989. ISBN 0-87023-663-6.
  • Ketchum, Richard M. Saratoga: Turning Point of America's Revolutionary War. Henry Holt, 1997. ISBN 0-8050-4681-X.
  • Mackesy, Piers. The War for America: 1775–1783. London, 1964. Reprinted University of Nebraska Press, 1993. ISBN 0-8032-8192-7. Highly regarded examination of British strategy and leadership.
  • McCullough, David. 1776. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.
  • Savas, Theodore P. and Dameron, J. David. A Guide to the Battles of the American Revolution. New York: Savas Beatie LLC, 2006. ISBN 1-932714-12-X.
  • Riddick, John F. The history of British India: a chronology. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006. ISBN 9780313322808.
  • Shy, John. A People Numerous and Armed: Reflections on the Military Struggle for American Independence. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976 (ISBN 0-19-502013-8); revised University of Michigan Press, 1990 (ISBN 0-472-06431-2). Collection of essays.
  • Watson, J. Steven. The Reign of George III, 1760–1815. 1960. Standard history of British politics.
  • Weintraub, Stanley: Iron Tears; America's Battle for Freedom, Britain's Quagmire: 1775-1783. New York: Free Press, 2005 (a division of Simon and Schuster). ISBN 0-7432-2687-9. An account of the British politics on the conduct of the war.


Further reading

These are some of the standard works about the war in general which are not listed above; books about specific campaigns, battles, units, and individuals can be found in those articles.

  • Bancroft, George. History of the United States of America, from the discovery of the American continent. (1854–78), vol. 7–10.
  • Bobrick, Benson. Angel in the Whirlwind: The Triumph of the American Revolution. Penguin, 1998 (paperback reprint).
  • Fremont-Barnes, Gregory, and Richard A. Ryerson, eds. The Encyclopedia of the American Revolutionary War: A Political, Social, and Military History (ABC-CLIO, 2006) 5 volume paper and online editions; 1000 entries by 150 experts, covering all topics
  • George Athan Billias. George Washington's Generals and Opponents: Their Exploits and Leadership (1994) scholarly studies of key generals on each side
  • Hibbert, Christopher. Redcoats and Rebels: The American Revolution through British Eyes. New York: Norton, 1990. ISBN 0-393-02895-X.
  • Jensen, Merrill. The Founding of a Nation: A History of the American Revolution 1763–1776. (2004)
  • Kwasny, Mark V. Washington's Partisan War, 1775–1783. Kent, Ohio: 1996. ISBN 0-87338-546-2. Militia warfare.
  • Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763–1789. Oxford University Press, 1984; revised 2005. ISBN 0-19-516247-1. online edition
  • Savas, Theodore P., and Dameron, J. David. A Guide to the Battles of the American Revolution. New York, 2006.
  • Symonds, Craig L. A Battlefield Atlas of the American Revolution (1989), newly drawn maps
  • Ward, Christopher. The War of the Revolution. 2 volumes. New York: Macmillan, 1952. History of land battles in North America.
  • Weintraub, Stanley. Iron Tears: America's Battle for Freedom, Britain's Quagmire: 1775–1783. Free Press, 2004. Examination of the British political viewpoint.
  • Wood, W. J. Battles of the Revolutionary War, 1775–1781. ISBN 0-306-81329-7 (2003 paperback reprint). Analysis of tactics of a dozen battles, with emphasis on American military leadership.
  • Men-at-Arms series: short (48pp), very well illustrated descriptions:
    • Marko Zlatich, Peter Copeland. General Washington's Army (1): 1775–78 (1994); Zlatich. General Washington's Army (2): 1779–83 (1994); Rene Chartrand. The French Army in the American War of Independence (1994); Robin May, The British Army in North America 1775–1783 (1993)
  • The Partisan in War, a treatise on light infantry tactics written by Colonel Andreas Emmerich in 1789.


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