A staggering war debt influenced many British policies over the next decade. Attempts to raise money by reforming colonial administration, enforcing tax laws, and placing troops in America led directly to conflict with colonists. By the mids, relations between Americans and the British administration had become strained and acrimonious. The first shots of what would become the war for American independence were fired in April For some months before that clash at Lexington and Concord, patriots had been gathering arms and powder and had been training to fight the British if that became necessary.
General Thomas Gage, commander of British forces around Boston, had been cautious; he did not wish to provoke the Americans. In April, however, Gage received orders to arrest several patriot leaders, rumored to be around Lexington.
Gage sent his troops out on the night of April 18, hoping to catch the colonists by surprise and thus to avoid bloodshed. When the British arrived in Lexington, however, colonial militia awaited them. A fire fight soon ensued. Even so, it was not obvious that this clash would lead to war.
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American opinion was split. Some wanted to declare independence immediately; others hoped for a quick reconciliation.
How the rest of the world learns about the American Revolution in school
The majority of Americans remained undecided but watching and waiting. Washington's first task, when he arrived in Boston to take charge of the ragtag militia assembled there, was to create an army in fact. It was a daunting task with no end of problems: recruitment, retention, training and discipline, supply, and payment for soldiers' services were among those problems. Nevertheless, Washington realized that keeping an army in the field was his single most important objective. During the first two years of the Revolutionary War, most of the fighting between the patriots and British took place in the north.
At first, the British generally had their way because of their far superior sea power. This First Continental Congress did not go so far as to demand independence from Britain, but it denounced taxation without representation, as well as the maintenance of the British army in the colonies without their consent.
It issued a declaration of the rights due every citizen, including life, liberty, property, assembly and trial by jury. The Continental Congress voted to meet again in May to consider further action, but by that time violence had already broken out. On the night of April 18, , hundreds of British troops marched from Boston to nearby Concord, Massachusetts in order to seize an arms cache. Paul Revere and other riders sounded the alarm, and colonial militiamen began mobilizing to intercept the Redcoats.
When the Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia, delegates—including new additions Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson —voted to form a Continental Army, with Washington as its commander in chief. The engagement, known as the Battle of Bunker Hill , ended in British victory, but lent encouragement to the revolutionary cause. The British evacuated the city in March , with Howe and his men retreating to Canada to prepare a major invasion of New York.
By June , with the Revolutionary War in full swing, a growing majority of the colonists had come to favor independence from Britain. On July 4 , the Continental Congress voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence , drafted by a five-man committee including Franklin and John Adams but written mainly by Jefferson.
Timeline of the American Revolutionary War
That same month, determined to crush the rebellion, the British government sent a large fleet, along with more than 34, troops to New York. British strategy in involved two main prongs of attack aimed at separating New England where the rebellion enjoyed the most popular support from the other colonies. Washington rebounded to strike Germantown in early October before withdrawing to winter quarters near Valley Forge.
The American victory Saratoga would prove to be a turning point of the American Revolution, as it prompted France which had been secretly aiding the rebels since to enter the war openly on the American side, though it would not formally declare war on Great Britain until June The American Revolution, which had begun as a civil conflict between Britain and its colonies, had become a world war.
The battle effectively ended in a draw, as the Americans held their ground, but Clinton was able to get his army and supplies safely to New York. A joint attack on the British at Newport, Rhode Island , in late July failed, and for the most part the war settled into a stalemate phase in the North. The Americans suffered a number of setbacks from to , including the defection of General Benedict Arnold to the British and the first serious mutinies within the Continental Army.
Supported by a French army commanded by General Jean Baptiste de Rochambeau, Washington moved against Yorktown with a total of around 14, soldiers, while a fleet of 36 French warships offshore prevented British reinforcement or evacuation. Trapped and overpowered, Cornwallis was forced to surrender his entire army on October Though the movement for American independence effectively triumphed at the Battle of Yorktown , contemporary observers did not see that as the decisive victory yet.
British forces remained stationed around Charleston, and the powerful main army still resided in New York. Though neither side would take decisive action over the better part of the next two years, the British removal of their troops from Charleston and Savannah in late finally pointed to the end of the conflict. British and American negotiators in Paris signed preliminary peace terms in Paris late that November, and on September 3, , Great Britain formally recognized the independence of the United States in the Treaty of Paris.
At the same time, Britain signed separate peace treaties with France and Spain which had entered the conflict in , bringing the American Revolution to a close after eight long years. Start your free trial today.
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American Revolution leader John Hancock was a signer of the Declaration of Independence in and a governor of Massachusetts. The colonial Massachusetts native was raised by his uncle, a wealthy Boston merchant. When his uncle died, Hancock inherited his lucrative