The American Revolution
British (England) King George III (ruler)
American Patriots - George Washington
1.-Largest Navy in the world.
1. - Had the advantage of fighting on their own land.
When the American Revolution began the Americans were not very well prepared for war with the largest and most successful army in the world (British Army). They would, however, do the best they could to prepare for war. Thousand of soldiers joined local militia companies which were units made up of citizen-soldiers. These men knew how to fire and clean their weapons but were not very well disciplined and tended to be less devoted to the cause. To fix this, the new commander in chief of all colonial troops, Gen. George Washington, formed the Continental Army, which would be a better trained unit with uniforms, and knowledge of military drill. Washington had to find men to lead them, supplies, and modern weapons, all of which was in short supply in 1776 when the war began.
In the summer of 1776, the British decided to invade the port city that provided the colonies with most of its goods it would need to fight a war, New York. In August 1776, the British, under General William Howe, attacked Washington's positions on Long Island. For two days the British pushed Washington's Continental Army further and further down Long Island. Luckily for Washington, he had several New England boatsmen that knew how to get large numbers of men across water, which they did, saving his 9,500 soldiers from capture by the British. By Christmas, all of New York City was in British hands, and things looked dire for the new American army. Men who didn't have proper equipment were deserting in large numbers, if something did not happen fast, there would be no American army. Then, in the winter of 1776 and 1777, Thomas Paine, an England born journalist, published an article called, The American Crisis, which was written in a way to get the Americans fired up and give them hope. Paine's article was like a viral Tweet, everyone read it, it put new energy into the rebellion.
Washington believed that a major victory would really help gain recruits and supplies for his men, so he planned a bold move to attack a nearby Hessian camp on Christmas night, 1776. Washington took his ragged 2,400 tired soldiers across the cold damp Delaware River into New Jersey. Once on the other side they marched through the night arriving at Trenton just as the sun began to shine over the horizon. Under any other circumstances than these, the Americans would have been very nervous about attacking Hessians, but because they had stayed up Christmas night celebrating, they were all sleeping in and Washington's Army caught them completely by surprise. Washington only lost two men killed and four wounded, while the Hessians, all 900 of them, surrendered. A few days later, Washington's men again attacked the British, this time at Princeton where he won another victory. The victories at Trenton and Princeton saved the American cause of Independence.
In 1777, the British launched an offensive from Canada into northern New York. British General John Burgoyne planned to attack American Continental Army general, Horatio Gates at Saratoga, New York. Gates managed to surround Burgoyne's army at Saratoga and began to lay siege to the British (siege is when an army surrounds another army and attempts to starve them into surrender). For three weeks the British were trapped in Saratoga. Burgoyne, unable to break out of the siege, surrendered to Gates. It became one of the largest victories of the American Revolution for the Americans. The battle of Saratoga had an even more important consequence than just an American victory, it became a strategic turning point because it convinced the French who had been undecided on whether to help the Americans in the Revolution, to begin openly supporting the Americans. The French had lost the last four wars with Britain so they were eager to get revenge and join the Americans. Benjamin Franklin, the American ambassador to France, convinced them to create an alliance with America, this was the beginning of the American colonial alliance with France. Many historians believe that without this alliance, American victory would not have been possible.
After the victory at Saratoga and the official alliance between the French and the Americans, the British Parliament tried to end the war by granting the Americans all of the demands they had sought in the Declaration of Independence, but the Continental Congress refused to negotiate until Britain recognized American independence and withdrew all British forces. King George III refused.
George Washington & Valley Forge, 1777-1778
For George Washington's Continental Army several hundred miles south of Saratoga, the winter of 1777 was beginning to be one of suffering. The Army was camped outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at Valley Forge. 12,000 soldiers under Washington endured hunger and cold like they had never experienced before. They lived in 900 make shift log cabins and mud huts that offered little protection from the cold wind. By February 1778, over 1,000 soldiers had deserted (left the army without permission), and another 7,000 were too sick hold a musket. Washington pled with Congress to send supplies and he sent his troops out into the countryside to find any supplies they could. In an effort to give his soldiers something to do to take their minds off of the suffering and to make them better soldiers, he used a well known professional soldier that had fought in many wars to begin training his men on how to be tough and disciplined fighters. Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, was a Prussian professional soldier that volunteered without rank or pay to train Washington's men. Knowing only curse words in English, he used an interpreter to show the men how to fight, properly take care of their weapons, and move in formation. Steuben would make them into professional soldiers.
Steuben wasn't the only foreigner that would help the Americans. Another was, nineteen year old French orphan named Gilbert du Motier Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette was a self made wealthy man that gave $200,000 a year to Washington's army, outfitted ships for fighting the British, and recruited other rich Frenchmen to help with the war effort. Lafayette soon became Washington's most trusted aid and ally. Lafayette became so popular in America that today there are forty cities, seven counties, and a private college named after him.
War on the Frontier
In the Ohio country, the old battle ground of the French and Indian war from twenty years before, the war was chiefly led by George Rogers Clark, who led his men, along with several French traders that had been living in the area, down the Ohio attacking British forts manned by British soldiers. Clark had two enemies to fight, the British, and their Indian allies who the British had promised all of the land in the Ohio River valley to, should they fight alongside the British. Clark, a veteran Indian fighter, believed that the best way to keep the Indians out of the war was to be more barbaric than they were. At one fort, Clark took five Indian prisoners and butchered them in front a British fort so that the British soldiers could see what would happen to them if they did not surrender, which they did. Clark also had help from another soon to be famous American, Daniel Boone.
The War Moves South
The Battle of King's Mountain
Experiencing frustation with setbacks and defeats in the North, the British Army under Generals Henry Clinton and Charles Cornwallis, moved their armies the South to see if their luck would be different there. Since the Southern colonies were so far away from the main theater of the rebellion (Boston), there was a larger number of loyalists (also known as tories) in the South. Cornwallis believed that if he could enlist them in the British Army, he would have enough to take all of the Southern colonies out of the war. What Cornwallis had not counted on was that his chief cavalry officer, Sir Banastre Tarleton, would be so mean and cruel to the local population in South Carolina, that many who had been loyalists actually joined the patriot cause. On October 7, 1780, the patriot army and that of the British and loyalists battled on a ridge that ran along the North and South Carolina border called King's Mountain. For an hour the two sides fought savagely, the patriots were able to defeat the loyalists (they captured several hundred loyalists and later hanged nine of them). The battle of King's Mountain seemed more like a civil war than a war against the British. There were 74 sets of brothers that fought on opposite sides during the battle and twenty-nine sets of fathers and sons that fought against one another. The defeat at King's Mountain forced Cornwallis to withdraw his British army south. After that very few loyalists joined the British army. Seeing the uselessness of continuing the fight in the South, Cornwallis took his army north to link with another large British army near Yorktown, Virginia.
Yorktown and Peace
Yorktown is situated on a peninsula in the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. There Cornwallis had most of the British forces in the colonies camped behind large fortifications. Washington moved his army to surround Cornwallis and learned that the French had slipped a large force of ships and soldiers through the British naval blockade and planned to land near Yorktown. The French dropped off thousands of troops and then turned around and went after the British navy. With his navy engaged fighting the French, Cornwallis had no way of getting supplies to his men inside of the fortifications at Yorktown. After two days of fighting, the British troops at Yorktown surrendered to Washington. The surrender of British forces at Yorktown led to the signing of the Treaty of Paris of 1783 which ended the war and meant that the Americans were now independent from Britain. The Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolution and granted American independence was signed in 1783. It also meant that America now owned the land from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River.