The American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was initiated by the thirteen original colonies in Congress against Great Britain over their objection to Parliament's direct taxation and its lack of colonial representation.From their founding in the 1600s, the colonies were largely left to govern themselves. When France left North America in 1763, the British Empire expanded, and the elected part of the colonial legislatures challenged how the new expenses should be paid. The new 1765 Stamp Act and 1767-1768 Townshend Acts provoked colonial opposition and unrest, leading to the 1770 Boston Massacre and 1773 Boston Tea Party. When Parliament answered with punitive measures on Massachusetts, twelve colonies responded with the First Continental Congress to boycott British goods.
Fighting broke out on 19 April 1775 when the British garrison at Boston were sent to destroy a colonial Assembly powder-house and were harassed by local militia at Lexington and Concord. In June the Second Continental Congress appointed George Washington to create a Continental Army and oversee the capture of Boston. When their Olive Branch Petition to King and Parliament was rejected, the Patriots attacked British Quebec but failed. In July 1776, Congress unanimously passed the Declaration of Independence. Hopes of a quick settlement were supported by American sympathizers within Parliament who opposed Tory Prime Minister Lord North's "coercion policy" in the colonies.However the new British commander-in-chief, General Sir William Howe launched a counter-offensive, capturing New York City. Washington retaliated with harassing attacks at Trenton and Princeton. Howe's 1777–1778 Philadelphia campaign captured that city, but the British were defeated at Saratoga in October 1777. At Valley Forge that winter of 1777-1778, Washington built a professional army with the important assistance of soldier-of-fortune General von Steuben.
American victory at Saratoga had dramatic consequences for the war. A few of the European "Enlightened rulers" had been supporting the American's with funds, provisions and arms by transferring aid to American vessels at the Dutch free port on Sint Eustatius in the Leeward Islands. But the American victory at Saratoga captured a British army, so the French feared an early "American settlement" that would strengthen Britain. Saratoga proved the Continental Army was capable of winning independence. The French now saw their opportunity to weaken the rival British and gain a new trading partner militarily dependent on them. The French made two treaties with Congress, the first for trade, and the second to "defensively" protect that trade in the 1778 Treaty of Alliance.In the war for Congressional independence from Britain, the American cause was further helped the next year when Britain gained another enemy: Spain declared war on Britain.
In North America, Spanish Louisiana Governor Bernardo Gálvez routed British forces from Spanish territory. The Spanish and American privateers supplied the 1779 Virginia militia conquest of Western Quebec (later the US Northwest Territory).Gálvez then expelled British forces from Mobile and Pensacola, cutting off British military assistance to American Indian allies in the interior southeast. Howe's replacement, General Sir Henry Clinton, then mounted a 1778 "Southern strategy" from Charleston. After initial success taking Savannah, their losses at King's Mountain and Cowpens led to the British southern army retreat to Yorktown where it was besieged by Franco-American forces. A decisive French naval victory brought the October 1781 surrender of the second British army lost in the American Revolution. Shooting war between Britain and France allied with Spain continued for another two years.
At Yorktown, the British lost their will to contest American independence. The Tory government fell, and Lord North was replaced by Whig Lord Rockingham. George III promised American independence, and Anglo-American talks began. The Preliminary Peace was signed in November, and in December 1782, George III spoke from the British throne for US independence, trade, and peace between the two countries. In April 1783, Congress accepted the British-proposed treaty that met its peace demands including independence, British evacuation, territory to the Mississippi River, its navigation, and Newfoundland fishing rights. On September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed between Great Britain and the United States. The conclusive treaties ratified by both Congress and Parliament were exchanged in Paris the following Spring.
In the three years 1607–1609, English Jamestown, French Quebec and Spanish Santa Fe were established as North American outposts of three European powers in their ongoing conflict and imperial competition.At the edges of each North American sphere of influence, frontier settlements were interspersed in a babble of languages. From the first English settlement in Virginia north were Algonkin, Iroquoian, Siouan, French and English. Southerly were Iroquoian speakers in the Appalachian Mountains, Souian on the Atlantic coast, Muskegan in the southeast to the Mississippi, Spanish at the Gulf, and English on the seaboard. Just west of the Mississippi River were Siouan, French and Spanish.
Early English settlement in Virginia and Massachusetts under Elizabeth I and successor James I pointedly recruited veterans from European religious wars in the Eighty Years' War, such as Virginia's Captain John Smith. These brought “hard war” tactics against every foe, whether native, nation-state or pirate, and they effectively schooled their successors in each British North American colony.
Just a decade before the Revolution, the North American French and Indian War spread to Europe and their imperial territories as the Seven Years’ War.At the 1763 Peace of Paris ending it, France was removed from North America, Spain expanded north and east to the Mississippi River, and the British formally abandoned the Stuart King colonial charters “from sea to sea”, accepting a western boundary of the “middle of the Mississippi River” with free navigation on it “to the open sea”. The Europeans changed their maps and everything on the American continent was disrupted: military alliances, trade networks, and any former economic stability. The coming American Revolutionary War was set amidst this already unsettled world.
From their founding in the 17th century, the colonies were largely allowed to govern themselves; unlike the Spanish Americas, native-born property owners were allowed to participate in colonial government. Although London managed external affairs, the colonists funded militia for defense against New France and their indigenous allies. Once this threat ended with the eviction of France from North America in 1763, disputes arose between Parliament and the colonies as to how these expenses should be paid.With Britain's enlarged North American empire, the earlier Navigation Acts were expanded from mercantile regulation and repurposed for additional revenue.
Parliament sought to expand British American settlement north into Nova Scotia and south into Florida as a hedge against French and Spanish designs respectively. At the Proclamation Line of 1763, British policy was to limit Indian warfare to increase their trade revenue directly to the Crown. But maintaining the frontier peace for interior trade required policing against illicit colonial settlement. And that required British garrisons in the formerly French forts ceded by the Indians. Limiting colonial westward expansion was to be paid for by the Americans themselves by the 1764 Sugar Act and the 1765 Stamp Act.The economic effect was crippling for New England. The next year, Whig Lord Rockingham was appointed to his first Prime Ministership (1765-1766), and repealed the Stamp Act when he paired it with the Declaratory Act. .
When the British royal authorities seized the sloop Liberty in 1768 on suspicion of smuggling, it triggered a riot in Boston. Relations between Parliament and the colonies worsened after Tory Lord North became Prime Minister in January 1770, an office he held until just after the British defeat at Yorktown. He pursued tougher policies, including a threat to charge colonists with treason, although there was no support for this in Parliament; tensions then escalated in March 1770 when British troops fired on rock-throwing civilians in Boston.
After the 1772 Gaspee Affair when a customs vessel was destroyed in Rhode Island, Parliament repealed all taxes other than that on tea in an attempt to resolve the Crisis of 1772. Partly designed to undercut illegal imports, it was also recognized as another attempt to assert their right to tax the colonies, so it did nothing to quiet opposition.Following the Sons of Liberty protest at the Boston Tea Party in December 1773, Parliament passed a series of measures called the Intolerable Acts. While intended to narrowly punish Massachusetts, they were widely viewed as a threat to the liberty for all the colonies. The Radical Whig Patriots gained widespread support both in America and also among the Whig Opposition seated in Parliament.
The elected members in the Royal colonial legislatures, those who represented the smaller landowners in the lower-house assemblies, responded by establishing ad hoc provincial legislatures, variously called Congresses, Conventions and Conferences. They effectively removed Crown control within their respective colonies. Twelve sent representatives to the First Continental Congress to develop a joint American response to the crisis.It passed a compact declaring a trade boycott against Britain.
While the Congress also affirmed that Parliament had no authority over internal American matters, they also acquiesced to trade regulations for the benefit of the empire.Awaiting some measure of reconciliation from Parliament and the King's Tory government, Congress authorized the extralegal committees and conventions of the colonial legislatures to enforce the Congressional boycott. In the event, the boycott was effective, as imports from Britain dropped by 97% in 1775 compared to 1774.
Parliament refused to yield to Congressional proposals. In 1775, it declared Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion and enforced a blockade of the colony.It then passed the Restraining Acts of 1775 aimed at limiting colonial trade to the British West Indies and the British Isles. New England ships were barred from the Newfoundland cod fisheries. These increasing tensions led to a mutual scramble for ordnance between royal governors and the elected assemblies.
British raids on colonial powder magazines pushed the assemblies towards open war. Each assembly was required by law to defend them for the purpose of providing arms and ammunition for frontier defense.Thomas Gage was appointed the British Commander-in-Chief for North America. As military governor of Massachusetts he was ordered to disarm the local militias on April 14, 1775. On April 19, two skirmishes were fought between Massachusetts militia and British regulars. The British sustained scores of casualties on their return to Boston after destroying the military stores at Concord.
Even after fighting began, Congress launched an Olive Branch Petition in another attempt to avert war. George III rejected the offer as insincere because Congress also made contingency plans for muskets and gunpowder.The King answered militia resistance at Bunker Hill with a Proclamation of Rebellion, which further provoked the Patriot faction in Congress. Parliament rejected coercive measures on the colonies by 170 votes. The tentative Whig majority there feared an aggressive policy would drive the Americans towards independence. Tories stiffened their resistance to compromise, and the King himself began micromanaging the war effort. The Irish Parliament pledged to send troops to America, and Irish Catholics were allowed to enlist in the army for the first time.
The initial hostilities in Boston caused a pause in British activity, as they remained in New York City awaiting more troops.That inactive response gave the Patriots a political advantage in the colonial assemblies, and the British lost control over every former colony. The army in the British Isles had been deliberately kept small since 1688 to prevent abuses of power by the King. To prepare for war overseas, Parliament signed treaties of subsidy with small German states for additional troops. Within a year it had sent an army of 32,000 men to America.
At the onset of the war, the Second Continental Congress realized that they would need foreign alliances and intelligence-gathering capability to defeat a world power like Britain. To this end, they formed the Committee of Secret Correspondence which operated from 1775 to 1776 for "the sole purpose of corresponding with our friends in Great Britain and other parts of the world". Through secret correspondence the Committee shared information and forged alliances with persons in France, England and throughout America. It employed secret agents in Europe to gather foreign intelligence, conduct undercover operations, analyze foreign publications, and initiate American propaganda campaigns to gain Patriot support.Members included Thomas Paine, the committee's secretary, and Silas Deane who was instrumental in securing French aid in Paris.
Thomas Paine's pamphlet Common Sense boosted public support for independence throughout the thirteen colonies, and it was widely reprinted.At the rejection of the Olive Branch Petition, Congress appointed the Committee of Five consisting of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston to draft a Declaration of Independence to politically separate the United States from Britain. The document argued for government by consent of the governed on the authority of the people of the thirteen colonies as "one people", along with a long list indicting George III as violating English rights. On July 2, Congress voted for independence, and it published the declaration on July 4 which George Washington read to assembled troops in New York City on July 9.
At this point, the American Revolution passed from its "colonial war" stage as thirteen colonies in Congress contesting the economic rules of empire with the Mother Country, to a second stage, one of civil war. The self-proclaimed states through their delegates assembled in Congress engaged in a military, political, and economic struggle against Great Britain. Politically and militarily, there were in every colony and county, a mix of Patriots (Whigs) and Loyalists (Tories) who now went to war against their neighbors.
As the American Revolutionary War was to unfold in North America, there were two principal campaign theaters within the thirteen states, and a smaller but strategically important one west of the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River and north to the Great Lakes. The full-on military campaigning began in the states north of Maryland, and fighting was most frequent and severest there between 1775 and 1778. Patriots achieved several strategic victories in the South, the British lost their first army at Saratoga, and the French entered the war as a US ally.
After wintering at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania, Washington checked British operations out of New York at the 1778 Battle of Monmouth. He then closed off British initiatives by a series of raids that contained the British army in New York City. The same year, Spanish-supplied Virginia Col. George Rogers Clark joined by Francophone settlers and their Indian allies conquered Western Quebec, the US Northwest Territory. Starting in 1779, the British initiated a southern strategy to begin at Savannah, gather Loyalist support and reoccupy Patriot-controlled territory north to the Chesapeake Bay. Initially the British were successful, and Americans lost an army in their greatest defeat at Charleston in 1780. But then British maneuvering north led to a combined American and French force cornering a second British army at Battle of Yorktown, and their surrender effectively ended the Revolutionary War.
Sir Thomas Gage, the British Commander-in-Chief in America 1763-1775 and sitting Governor of Massachusetts, gathered intelligence of stores of militia ordnance at Concord. He made plans to secure the stores there by way of Lexington, where he aimed to capture John Hancock and Samuel Adams, who he saw as principal provocateurs of the rebellion. The operation was planned as a one-day sortie, to be begun at midnight and to catch the militia by surprise before they could respond. But the patriot intelligence network learned of Gage's intentions before he could act. Organizer Paul Revere quickly informed the countryside and alerted Captain John Parker commanding the Patriot forces in Concord.
In the resultant Battles of Lexington and Concord, British troops started out in the early morning of April 19, 1775 to the two towns. After reaching Lexington, as the British troops faced off against a hastily assembled group of militia members, a shot was fired. This has been referred to as the shot heard round the world. After a brief skirmish in which 8 Americans were killed, the British soldiers started a march to Concord. After the British succeeded in destroying some supplies there, they were confronted by a larger force of American militia and began the march back to Boston. During this march they were attacked by American militiamen from nearby towns, with more than 200 British soldiers killed in the process. Overnight, the local militia converged on and laid siege to Boston.The next month 4500 British reinforcements arrived with generals William Howe, John Burgoyne, and Henry Clinton. On June 17, the British seized the Charlestown Peninsula at the Battle of Bunker Hill. The frontal assault on shallow American entrenchments cost the British over 1000 troops, and many officers fell to American rifle snipers. Surviving British commanders were dismayed at the costly attack which had gained them little, and Gage appealed to London stressing the need for a large army to suppress the revolt. But leading Howe soon replaced Gage as British commander-in-chief for North America.
To lead Patriot forces surrounding Boston, Congressional leader John Adams of Massachusetts nominated Virginia delegate George Washington for commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in June 1775. Washington had previously commanded Virginia militia regiments in British combat commands during the French and Indian War.He proceeded to Boston to assume field command of the ongoing siege on July 3. Howe made no effort to attack in a standoff with Washington, and Washington made no plan to assault the city. Instead, the Americans fortified Dorchester Heights. In early March 1776, Colonel Henry Knox arrived with heavy artillery captured from a raid on Fort Ticonderoga. Under cover of darkness Washington placed his artillery atop Dorchester Heights March 5, threatening Boston and the British ships in the harbor. Howe feared another battle like Bunker Hill, so he evacuated Boston. The British were permitted to withdraw without further casualties on March 17, sailing to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Washington then moved his army south to New York.
Beginning in August 1775, American Privateers had begun to raid villages in Nova Scotia, first at Saint John, then Charlottetown and Yarmouth. They continued in 1776 at Canso and then a land assault on Fort Cumberland.
British officials in Quebec began negotiating with Indian tribes to support them,while the Americans urged them to maintain neutrality. Aware of Native American leanings toward the British and fearing an Anglo-Indian attack from Canada, Congress authorized an invasion of Quebec in April 1775. The second American expedition into the former French territory was defeated at the Battle of Quebec on December 31, and after a loose siege the Americans withdrew in May 6, 1776. An American failed counter-attack on June 8 ended their operations in Quebec. However, British pursuit was blocked by American ships on Lake Champlain until they were cleared on October 11 at the Battle of Valcour Island. The American troops were forced to withdraw to Ticonderoga, ending the campaign. In November 1776, a Massachusetts-sponsored uprising in Nova Scotia was disbursed. The cumulative failures cost the Patriots support in local public opinion, and aggressive anti-Loyalist policies in the New England colonies alienated the Canadians. The Patriots made no further attempts to invade north.
In Virginia, Royal Governor Lord Dunmore had attempted to disarm the Assembly's militia as tensions increased, although no fighting broke out.He issued a proclamation on November 7, 1775, promising freedom for slaves who fled their Patriot masters to fight for the Crown. Dunmore's troops were repulsed at the Battle of Great Bridge, and Dunmore fled to British ships anchored off the nearby port at Norfolk. The Third Virginia Convention refused to disband its militia or accept martial law. Speaker Peyton Randolph in the last Royal Virginia Assembly session did not make a response to Lord Dunmore concerning Parliament's Conciliatory Resolution. Negotiations failed in part because Randolph was also President of the Virginia Conventions, and he deferred to Congress, where he was also President. Dunmore ordered the ship's crews to burn Norfolk on January 1, 1776.
Fighting broke out on November 19 in South Carolina between Loyalist and Patriot militias,and the Loyalists were subsequently driven out of the colony. Loyalists were recruited in North Carolina to reassert colonial rule in the South, but they were decisively defeated and Loyalist sentiment was subdued. A troop of British regulars set out to reconquer South Carolina and launched an attack on Charleston during the Battle of Sullivan's Island, on June 28, 1776, but it failed and left the South in Patriot control until 1780.
Shortages in Patriot gunpowder led Congress to authorize an expedition against the Bahamas colony in the British West Indies to secure additional ordnance there. Glasgow on April 6.On March 3, 1776, the Americans landed and engaged the British at the Battle of Nassau, but the local militia offered no resistance. The expedition confiscated what supplies they could and sailed for home on March 17. The squadron reached New London, Connecticut, on April 8, after a brief skirmish during the Battle of Block Island with the Royal Navy frigate HMS
After regrouping at Halifax, William Howe determined to take the fight to the Americans.He set sail in June 1776 and began landing troops on Staten Island near the entrance to New York Harbor on July 2. The Americans rejected Howe's informal attempt to negotiate peace on July 30. Facing off against the British at New York City, Washington realized that he needed advance information to deal with disciplined British regular troops. On August 12, 1776, Thomas Knowlton was given orders to form an elite group for reconnaissance and secret missions, . Knowlton's Rangers, which included Nathan Hale, became the Army's first intelligence unit.
When Washington split his army to positions on Manhattan Island and across the East River in western Long Island.On August 27 at the Battle of Long Island, Howe outflanked Washington and forced him back to Brooklyn Heights, but he did not attempt to encircle Washington's forces. Through the night of August 28, General Henry Knox bombarded the British. On August 29, an American council of war all agreed to retreat to Manhattan. Washington quickly had his troops assembled and ferried them across the East River to Manhattan on flat-bottomed freight boats without any losses in men or ordnance, leaving General Thomas Mifflin's regiments as a rear guard.
General Howe officially met with a delegation from Congress at the September Staten Island Peace Conference, but it failed to conclude peace as the British delegates did not have authority to recognize independence, only offer pardons.Howe seized control of New York City four days later and unsuccessfully engaged the Americans the following day. On October 18 Howe failed to encircle the Americans at the Battle of Pell's Point, and the Americans withdrew. Howe declined to close with Washington's army on October 28 at the Battle of White Plains, instead attacking a hill that was of no strategic value.
Washington's retreat isolated the remaining forces and the British captured their Fort Washington on November 16. The British victory there amounted to Washington's most disastrous defeat, losing 3,000 prisoners.The remaining American regiments on Long Island fell back four days later. General Henry Clinton wanted to pursue Washington's disorganized army, but he was required to commit 6,000 troops to first capture Newport, Rhode Island in an operation that he had opposed. General Charles Cornwallis pursued Washington, but Howe ordered him to halt, leaving Washington to march away unmolested.
The outlook was bleak for the American cause; the reduced army had dwindled to fewer than 5,000 men and that number would be reduced further when enlistments expired at the end of the year.Popular support wavered, morale ebbed away, and Congress abandoned Philadelphia. Loyalist activity surged in the wake of the American defeat, especially in New York state. Once Washington was driven off Long Island, he realized that he would need more than military might and amateur spies to defeat the British. He committed to professionalize military intelligence and with the aid of Benjamin Tallmadge they launched the Culper spy ring of six men.
In London, news of the victorious Long Island campaign was well received with festivities held in the capital. Public support reached a peak,and the King awarded the Order of the Bath to Howe. Strategic deficiencies among Patriot forces were evident. Washington divided a numerically weaker army in the face of a stronger one, inexperienced staff misread the military situation, and American troops fled in the face of enemy fire. The successes led to predictions that the British could win within a year. In the meantime, the British entered winter quarters in the New York City area anticipating renewed campaigning the following Spring.
On the night of December 25–26, 1776, Washington crossed the ice-choked Delaware River. His approach over frozen trails surprised and overwhelmed Colonel Johann Rall and the Hessian garrison at Trenton, New Jersey, taking 900 prisoners.The decisive victory rescued the American army's flagging morale giving new hope to the Patriot cause, and it dispelled much of the fear of professional Hessian "mercenaries" Cornwallis marched to retake Trenton, but he was repulsed at Assunpink Creek. Washington outmaneuvered Cornwallis in pursuit that night and defeated his rearguard the following day. The two victories contributed to convincing the French that the Americans were worthwhile allies. Washington entered winter quarters at Morristown, New Jersey on January 6, though a prolonged guerrilla conflict continued. Howe made no attempt to attack the Americans over the winter of 1776-1777, much to Washington's amazement.
In December 1776, John Burgoyne returned to London to set strategy with Lord George Germain. Burgoyne's plan was to isolate New England by establishing control of the Great Lakes from New York to Quebec. Efforts could then concentrate on the southern colonies, where it was believed that Loyalist support was widespread and substantial.
The strategy called for two armies to maneuver by different routes to rendezvous at Albany, New York; the maneuver would also clear the Americans from British-allied Iroquois territory.Burgoyne set out along Lake Champlain on June 14, 1777, quickly capturing Ticonderoga on July 5. From there the pace slowed. The Americans blocked roads, destroyed bridges, dammed streams, and stripped the area of food. Meanwhile, Barry St. Ledger's diversionary column along the Mohawk River laid siege to Fort Stanwix. St. Ledger withdrew to Quebec on August 22 after his Indian support abandoned him. On August 16, a Brunswick foraging expedition was soundly defeated at Bennington, and more than 700 troops were captured. The vast majority of Burgoyne's Indian allies then abandoned him in the field, but even without Burgoyne's support from upper state New York, Lord Howe advised the planned campaign on Philadelphia would go forward. Early feints failed to bring Washington to battle in June 1777. Howe then declined to attack towards Philadelphia further, considering another approach, either overland via New Jersey or by sea via the Delaware Bay. Burgoyne's stalled initiative in the interior would be unsupported either way.
Burgoyne continued his advance, attempting to flank the American position at Freeman's Farm on September 19 in the First Battle of Saratoga. The British won, but at the cost of 600 casualties. Burgoyne then dug in, but he suffered a constant hemorrhage of deserters, and critical supplies ran low.The Americans repulsed a British reconnaissance in force against the American lines on October 7, with heavy British losses during the second Battle of Saratoga. Burgoyne then withdrew in the face of American pursuit, but he was surrounded by October 13. With supplies exhausted and no hope of relief, Burgoyne surrendered his army on October 17. The Americans took 6,222 soldiers as prisoners of war.
Howe recommenced the Philadelphia campaign later in the fall with additional supplies, circling south by sea. He outflanked and defeated Washington on September 11, but failed to pursue and destroy the defeated Americans on two occasions; once after the Battle of Brandywine,and again after the Battle of Germantown. The British victory at Willistown left Philadelphia defenseless, and Howe captured the city unopposed on September 26. He then transferred 9,000 men to Germantown north of Philadelphia. Washington launched a surprise attack there but was repulsed on October 4. Once again, Howe did not follow up on his victory. After several days of probing and an inconclusive engagement at White Marsh, Howe did not pursue the vulnerable American rear for their baggage train and supplies. The British commander had not anticipated the American defensive maneuver; he then inexplicably ordered his army to withdraw onto Philadelphia.
On December 19, Washington's army entered winter quarters at Valley Forge. Poor conditions and supply problems there resulted in the deaths of some 2,500 American troops.During Washington's winter encampment at Valley Forge, Baron von Steuben, introduced the latest Prussian methods of drilling and infantry tactics to the entire Continental Army by training "model companies" for each regiment.
While the Americans wintered only twenty miles away, Howe made no effort to attack their camp, which some critics argue could have ended the war.Following the conclusion of the campaign, Howe resigned his commission, to be replaced by Henry Clinton on May 24, 1778. Clinton received orders to abandon Philadelphia and fortify New York following France's entry into the war. On June 18, the British departed Philadelphia, with the reinvigorated Americans in pursuit. The two armies fought at Monmouth Court House on June 28, with the Americans holding the field and thereby greatly boosting Patriot morale and confidence. By July, both armies were back in the same positions they had been two years prior.
Early in the war, it became clear to Congress that help from France was imperative. First, the British had instituted a blockade on the Atlantic seacoast ports against military assistance that could not be challenged. Second, Continental army troop strength was attriting by death, disease and desertion, and the states failed to meet recruitment quotas. Third, the British had a continuing resupply of German auxiliaries to compensate for their losses.
French foreign minister the Comte de Vergennes was strongly anti-British,and he had long sought a pretext for going to war with Britain since their conquest of Canada in 1763. The French public favored war, but Vergennes and King Louis XVI were hesitant, owing to the military and financial risk.
France would not feel compelled to intervene if the colonies were still considering reconciliation with Britain, as France would have nothing to gain in that event.To assure assistance from France, independence had to be declared, which was effected by Congress in July 1776. The Americans who had been covertly supplied by French merchants through neutral Dutch ports since the onset of the war, were now also supplied directly by the French government. These proved invaluable in the American 1777 Saratoga campaign.
The British defeat at Saratoga caused British anxiety over possible foreign intervention. The North ministry sought reconciliation with the colonies by consenting to their original demands, but without independence.However the Americans were now bolstered by their French trade, and would settle for no terms short of complete independence from Britain. For the French, American victory at Saratoga convinced them that supporting the Patriots was worthwhile, but doing so too late would bring additional concerns. King Louis XVI feared that Britain's concessions would be accepted and bring reconciliation with the Colonies. Britain would then be free to strike at French Caribbean possessions. To prevent this, France formally recognized the United States in a trade treaty on February 6, 1778, and followed that with a defensive military alliance guaranteeing that trade and American independence. Spain was wary of recognizing a republic of former European colonies, and also of provoking war with Britain before it was well prepared. It opted to covertly supply the Patriots mainly from Havana in Cuba and New Orleans in Spanish Luisiana.
To encourage French participation in the American struggle for independence, diplomat Silas Deane promised promotions and command positions to any French officer who joined the American war effort. However, many of the French officer-adventurers were completely unfit for command. In one outstanding exception, Congress recognized Lafayette's "great zeal to the cause of liberty" and commissioned him a major General. He was immediately instrumental in reconciling some of Washington's rival officers and he aligned some of the delegates in Philadelphia to support Washington in an otherwise indifferent Congress.
Congress also hoped to persuade Spain into an open alliance, as formally extended in the 1778 French Treaty of Alliance. The American Commissioners met with the Count of Aranda as early as 1776.But Spain was still reluctant to make a formal commitment to American independence due to other Continental balance of power interests, and fear for its American colonies where there had been two recent creole rebellions. However in 1779 Spanish First Minister Floridablanca affirmed his desire to support the Americans so as to weaken Britain's empire.
Since the outbreak of the conflict, Britain had appealed to its former ally, the neutral Dutch Republic, to lend the use of the Scots Brigade for service in America. But pro-American sentiment there forced its elected representatives to deny the request.Consequently, the British attempted to invoke treaties for outright Dutch military support, but the Republic still refused. At the same time, American troops were being supplied with ordnance by Dutch merchants via their West Indies colonies. French supplies bound for America were also transshipped through Dutch ports.
The Dutch Republic traded with France following France's declaration of war on Britain, citing a prior concession by Britain on this issue. But despite standing international agreements, Britain responded by confiscating Dutch shipping, and even firing upon it. The Dutch joined the First League of Armed Neutrality with Austria, Prussia and Russia to enforce their neutral status.But The Republic had further assisted the rebelling Patriot cause. It had also given sanctuary to American privateers and had drafted a treaty of commerce with the Americans. Britain argued that these actions contravened The Republic's neutral stance and Britain declared war on the Dutch as a belligerent in December 1780.
Meanwhile, George III had given up on subduing America while Britain had a European war to fight.He did not welcome war with France, but he believed that Britain had made all necessary steps to avoid it and cited the British victories over France in the Seven Years' War as a reason to remain optimistic in the event of war with France. Britain tried in vain to find a powerful ally to engage France on the European continent. It was isolated among the Great Powers, so French strength was not drawn off into European engagements as in the Seven Years' War. Britain subsequently changed its focus into the Caribbean theater, and diverted major military resources away from America. Despite these developments, George III still determined never to recognize American independence and to make war on the American colonies indefinitely, or until they pleaded to return as his subjects.
Following the British defeat at Saratoga in October 1777 and French entry into the war, Clinton withdrew from Philadelphia to consolidate his forces in New York.French admiral the Comte d'Estaing had been dispatched to America in April 1778 to assist Washington. The Franco-American forces determined that New York's defenses were too formidable for the French fleet, so in August 1778 they launched an attack on Newport at the Battle of Rhode Island under the command of General John Sullivan. The effort failed when the French opted to withdraw to avoid putting their ships at risk, disappointing the Americans. The war then stalemated. Most actions were fought as large skirmishes such as those at Chestnut Neck and Little Egg Harbor. In the summer of 1779, the Americans captured British posts at the Battles of Stony Point and Paulus Hook. Clinton then unsuccessfully attempted to coax Washington into a decisive engagement by making a major raid into Connecticut. In July, a large American naval operation attempted to retake Maine (Massachusetts), but it resulted in a humiliating defeat. The high frequency of Iroquois raids compelled Washington to mount a punitive expedition which destroyed a large number of Iroquois settlements, but the effort did not stop the raids. During the winter of 1779–1780, the Continental Army suffered greater hardships than at Valley Forge. Morale was poor, public support fell away in the long war, the national currency was virtually worthless, the army was plagued with supply problems, desertion was common, and whole regiments mutinied over the conditions in early 1780.
In 1780, Clinton launched an attempt to retake New Jersey. On June 7, 6000 men invaded under Hessian general Wilhelm von Knyphausen, but they met stiff resistance from the local militia at the Battle of Connecticut Farms. The British held the field, but Knyphausen feared a general engagement with Washington's main army and withdrew.A second attempt two weeks later was soundly defeated at Springfield, effectively ending British ambitions in New Jersey. Meanwhile, American general Benedict Arnold turned traitor, joined the British army and attempted to surrender the American West Point fortress. The plot was foiled when British spy-master John André was captured. Arnold fled to British lines in New York where he justified his betrayal by appealing to Loyalist public opinion, but the Patriots strongly condemned him as a coward and turncoat.
The war to the west of the Appalachians was largely confined to skirmishing and raids. In February 1778, an expedition of militia to destroy British military supplies in settlements along the Cuyahoga River was halted by adverse weather.Later in the year, a second campaign was undertaken to seize the Illinois Country from the British. Virginia militia, francophone settlers and Indian allies commanded by Colonel George Rogers Clark captured Kaskaskia on July 4 and then secured Vincennes, although Vincennes was recaptured by Quebec Governor Henry Hamilton. In early 1779, the Americans counter-attacked and retook Vincennes, taking Hamilton prisoner, and securing western British Quebec as the American Northwest Territory in the Treaty of Paris concluding the war.
On May 25, 1780, the British launched an expedition into Kentucky as part of a wider operation to clear rebel resistance from Quebec to the Gulf coast. The Pensacola advance on New Orleans was overcome by Spanish Governor Gálvez offensive on Mobile. The attack on St. Louis was repulsed by Clark. The British initiative under Colonel Henry Bird from Detroit was ended at the rumored approach of Colonel Clark.But the violence among the sidetracked British in the Licking River Valley was extreme, "even for frontier standards". It led to men of English and German settlements to join Clark's militia when the British and their auxiliaries withdrew to the Great Lakes. The Americans responded with a major offensive along the Mad River in August which met with some success, but without ending Indian raids. French-Virginian militia attempted to capture Detroit, but it was dispersed when Miami Indians ambushed the gathered troops on November 5. The war in the west had become a stalemate with the British garrison sitting in Detroit and the Virginians expanding westward settlements north of the Ohio River in the face of British-allied Indian resistance.
The British turned their attention to conquering the South in 1778 after Loyalists in London assured them of a strong Loyalist base there. On December 29, 1778, Lord Cornwallis commanded an expeditionary corps from New York to capture Savannah, and British troops then moved inland to recruit Loyalist support.The initial Loyalist recruitment was promising in early 1779, but then a large Loyalist-only militia was defeated by Patriot militia at Kettle Creek on February 14. That demonstrated Loyalist need for the support of British regulars in major engagements. But the British in turn defeated Patriot militia at Brier Creek on March 3.
In June the British launched an abortive assault on Charleston, South Carolina that was followed by their withdrawal back to Savannah. The operation became notorious for its widespread looting by British troops that enraged both Loyalists and Patriots in the Carolinas. In October, a combined Franco-American siege by Admiral d'Estaing and General Benjamin Lincoln failed to recapture Savannah.
In the following year, the primary British strategy in America hinged on a Loyalist uprising in the south. Cornwallis proceeded into North Carolina, gambling his success on a large Loyalist uprising which never materialized.In May 1780, Henry Clinton captured Charleston inflicting the largest defeat suffered by the American cause in the Revolutionary War, capturing over 5,000 prisoners and effectively destroying the Continental Army in the south. Organized Patriot resistance in the region was failing when the Loyalist militiaman, now commissioned regular British Colonel Banastre Tarleton defeated the withdrawing Americans at Waxhaws on May 29. The surrendering Americans called for "quarter", but were massacred. Thereafter the war crime was known as "Tarlton's quarter" among the growing number of partisan Patriots.
British commander-in-chief Clinton returned to New York, leaving General Lord Cornwallis at Charleston to oversee the southern war effort. Cornwallis ended the Spring policy of paroling Patriot militia who would return home not to fight Royal authority again. The new commander now required an oath of allegiance that entailed a promise to fight former American comrades in arms. Backcountry resistance stiffened. Cornwallis confiscated leading rebel plantations, leading neutral "grandees" to side with Patriots.The initiative was seized by Patriot militias who won July victories at the Fairfield County, Lincolnton, Huck's Defeat, Stanly County, and Lancaster County. These effectively suppressed Loyalist support.
In July, Congress appointed General Horatio Gates with a new command to lead the American effort in the south. By mid-August 16, 1780, he had lost the Battle of Camden, and Cornwallis was poised to invade North Carolina.The British attempted to subjugate the countryside, but Patriot militia continued their attacks. Cornwallis dispatched Major Patrick Ferguson to raise Loyalist forces to cover his left flank as he moved north, but they ranged beyond mutual support. In early October the Tory militias were defeated at the Battle of Kings Mountain, dispersing Loyalist support in the region.
Despite the setbacks, Cornwallis advanced into North Carolina, gambling that he would receive substantial Loyalist support there. Greene evaded combat with the advancing British, instead wearing the them down through a protracted war of attrition.Washington replaced General Gates with General Nathanael Greene at the beginning of December 1780. Greene was unable to confront the British directly, so he dispatched a force under Daniel Morgan to recruit additional troops. Morgan then defeated the renowned British Legion, on January 17, 1781, at Cowpens. Cornwallis subsequently aborted his advance and retreated back into South Carolina.
The British launched a surprise offensive in Virginia in January 1781, with Benedict Arnold invading Richmond, Virginia. It met little resistance. Governor Thomas Jefferson escaped Richmond just ahead of the British forces, and the British burned the city to the ground.Although later accused by his enemies of inaction and cowardice, Jefferson sent an emergency dispatch to nearby Colonel Sampson Mathews to check Arnold's advance.
By March, Greene's army had increased in size enough that he felt confident to face Cornwallis who was now far from his supply base. The two armies engaged near Guilford Courthouse on March 15. Accompanied by lieutenant colonel "Light Horse Harry"and his cavalry, the fighting went back and forth with the first British advance forcing back the Americans. A second clash in a wooded area with close-quarters combat drove Greene from the field, but Cornwallis's army had suffered irreplaceable casualties. The Americans maintained contact with Cornwallis in a war of attrition, while the British retreated to Wilmington for reinforcement. The Patriots were left in control of the abandoned Carolinas and Georgia interior.
General Greene then proceeded to complete the Patriot reclamation of the South. On April 25 the American troops suffered a reversal at Hobkirk's Hill due to poor tactical control, but nonetheless they continued to march 160 miles in 8 days, continually dislodging strategic British posts in the area. They recaptured Fort Watson and Fort Motte on April 15.During the Siege of Augusta on June 6, Brigadier general Andrew Pickens reclaimed possession of the last British outpost beyond Charleston and Savannah.
The last British effort to stop Greene's advance occurred at Eutaw Springs on September 8, but the British casualties were so high that they withdrew to Charleston. By the end of 1781, the Americans had effectively confined the British to the Carolina coasts, undoing any progress they had made in the previous year.Minor skirmishes continued there until the end of the war.
Spanish Louisiana, Luisiana territory ran west of the Mississippi River, but Governor General Gálvez had been allowing covert aid to George Washington by Pittsburgh via New Orleans.In 1777 Oliver Pollock, a successful merchant in Havana and New Orleans, was appointed US "commercial agent". He personally underwrote the American campaign against the British along the upriver Mississippi among the francophone settlements of western Quebec.
In the Virginia militia campaign of 1778, General George Rogers Clark founded Louisville, and cleared British forts in the region.Clark's conquest resulted in the creation of Illinois County, Virginia. It was organized with the consent of French-speaking colonials who had been guaranteed protection of the Catholic Church. Voters at their court house in Kaskaskia, were represented for three years in the Virginia General Assembly until the territory was ceded to the US Congress.
At the Spanish declaration of war with France in 1779, Governor Gálvez raised an army in Spanish Louisiana to initiate offensive operations against British outposts.First, he cleared British garrisons in Baton Rouge, Fort Bute and Natchez, capturing five forts. In this first maneuver Gálvez opened navigation on the Mississippi River north to US settlement in Pittsburg. His Spanish military assistance to Oliver Pollock for transport up the Mississippi River became an alternative supply to Washington's Continental Army, bypassing the British-blockaded Atlantic Coast.
In 1781, Governor Galvez and Pollack campaigned east along the Gulf Coast to secure West Florida including British-held Mobile and Pensacola.The Spanish operations crippled the British supply of armaments to British Indian allies, effectively suspending a military alliance to attack settlers between the Mississippi River and Appalachian Mountains.
In 1781, the British commander-in-chief in America General Clinton garrisoned in New York City. He had failed to construct a coherent strategy for British operations that year, owing to his difficult relationship with his naval counterpart Admiral Marriot Arbuthnot. Arbuthnot in turn had failed to detect the arrival of French naval forces in July.In Charleston, Cornwallis independently developed an aggressive plan for a campaign in Virginia to cut supply to Greene's army in the Carolinas, expecting the Patriot resistance in the South would then collapse. Lord Germain, Cabinet Secretary of State for America in London agreed, but neither official informed Clinton.
Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau discussed their options. Washington pushed for an attack on New York, while Rochambeau preferred a strike in Virginia, where the British were less well-established and thus easier to defeat.Franco-American movements around New York caused Clinton a great deal of anxiety, fearing an attack on the city. His instructions were vague to Cornwallis during this time, rarely forming explicit orders. However, Clinton did instruct Cornwallis to establish a fortified naval base and to transfer troops to the north to defend New York.
Cornwallis maneuvered to Yorktown to establish a fortified a sea-base of supply. But at the same time Lafayette was maneuvering south with a Franco-American army.The British dug in at Yorktown and awaited the Royal Navy. As Lafayette's army closed with Cornwallis, the British made no early attempt to sally out to engage the Americans before siege lines could be dug, despite the repeated urging from subordinate officers. Though Cornwallis expected relief from Admiral Arbuthnot shortly off the Virginia Peninsula to facilitate his withdrawal, the British commander prematurely abandoned his outer defenses. These were promptly occupied by the American besiegers, serving to hasten the British defeat.
The British had dispatched a fleet from New York under Thomas Graves to rendezvous with Cornwallis.As they approached the entry to the Chesapeake Bay on September 5, the French fleet commanded by Admiral de Grasse decisively defeated Graves at the Battle of the Chesapeake, giving the French control of the seas around Yorktown and cutting off Cornwallis from further reinforcements or supplies. Cornwallis then failed in an attempt to break out of the siege by crossing the York River at Gloucester Point when a storm hit. The British, under heavy bombardment with dwindling supplies, determined that their situation was untenable. On October 17, 1781, after twelve hours of negotiations, the terms of surrender were finalized. Yorktown was the last major battle on the American mainland, but Britain fought France and Spain elsewhere for two more years.
In the American Revolutionary War, the national strategy for victory and the commander operational choices for success were different for the two sides. The Congress had to field an army to outlast the will of the British Crown and its Parliament, while maintaining its republican governance among constituent states.
The London government at Westminster had a track record of successfully subduing a rebelling countryside in both Scotland and Ireland by enlisting local landowners to administer county government of the realm, and for the Scots after 1704, admitting Members of Parliament. To win the "American war" in this rebellion, the British Ministry had to defeat the Continental Army early in the war and force the dissolution of Congress, allowing the King's men to take up local colonial administration again.The map on the right shows the principal military operations on both sides over the course of the Revolution, with the British in red and the Americans in blue. The timeline along the bottom notes the course of battle victories, with most British in the first half, and most American in the second half of the war.
The revolt for and against colonial independence between British subjects in thirteen colonies of North America can be seen as three kinds of ongoing and interrelated warfare. First there was an economic war between a European state and its territory settled for its own economic strength and European balance of power. By 1775, British American colonies supplied of raw materials for its ships and one-third its sailors and they purchased British-manufactured goods that maintained its industrial growth. Newly enforced and expanded mercantile regulation restricted previous international Caribbean trade and colonial laissez faire smuggling.
Second there was a political civil war, a British constitutional war. Across 1000 miles of Atlantic coastline, settled as much as 300 miles into the continental frontier, thirteen British colonies self-proclaimed themselves states independent of Parliament and united in a Congress of their delegates to declare their independence as “one people” in a political revolution from monarchy to republic. This initiated a political struggle for British recognition assisted by Whigs in Parliament, a military struggle assisted by state militias and the creation of George Washington's national Continental Army, and an economic struggle for international free-trade to break the European mutually beneficial system of mercantilism. It also began thirteen civil wars in every state, as there were in every colony and county, a mix of Patriots (Whigs) and Loyalists (Tories) who now went to war among their neighbors. These divided variously in each state along both multi-ethnic and multi-religious lines. Every faction and element had veterans from the imperial conflict between Brtiain and France fifteen years before, there were officers and sergeants on every side practiced in the arts of both Indian frontier warfare, and in the European infantry line formations of musketry.
Third, there was an international war, outside the American Revolution removed from it, but also intervening and influencing it. France played a key role in assisting the Americans with money, weapons, soldiers, and naval vessels. French troops fought under US command in the states, and Spanish troops in its territory west of the Mississippi River and on the Gulf of Mexico defeated British forces. In the two years from 1778 to 1780, more countries with competing imperial domains worldwide went to war against Britain for their own reasons,including the Dutch Republic to assert its right to trade with its former colony in New York, and the French and Spanish to regain lost empire and prestige in the Caribbean, India and Gibraltar. Alternatively, nations in the League of Armed Neutrality including Russia, Austria and Prussia, defended the right of their merchant convoys to trade with the rebel Americans, enforced by Russian squadrons in the Mediterranean, North Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea.
Congress had multiple advantages if the rebellion turned into a protracted war. Their prosperous state populations depended on local production for food and supplies rather than on imports from a Mother Country that lay six to twelve weeks away by sail. They were spread across most of the North American Atlantic seaboard stretching 1000 miles. Most farms were remote from the seaports; control of four or five major ports did not give British armies control over the inland areas. Each state had established internal distribution systems.
Each colony had a long-established system of local militia, combat tested in support of British regulars thirteen years before to secure an expanded British Empire. Together they took away French claims in North America west to the Mississippi River. The state legislatures independently funded and controlled their local militias. They would train and provide Continental Line regiments to the regular army, each with their own state officer corps.Motivation was also a major asset. Each colonial capital had its own newspapers and printers. The Patriots had more popular support than the Loyalists. British hoped for the Loyalists to do much of the fighting, but they did much less than expected.
When the war began, Congress lacked a professional army or navy, and each colony maintained only local militias. Militiamen were lightly armed, had little training, and usually without uniforms. Their units served for only a few weeks or months at a time and lacked the training and discipline of soldiers with more experience. Local county militias were reluctant to travel far from home and they were unavailable for extended operations.The new Continental Army suffered significantly from a lack of an effective training program and from largely inexperienced officers and sergeants. The inexperience of its officers was somewhat offset by a few senior officers. Each state legislature appointed officers for both county and state militias and their regimental Continental Line officers, but Washington was permitted to choose and command his own generals, although sometimes he was required to accept Congressional appointments.
However, if properly employed their numbers could help the Continental armies overwhelm smaller British forces, as at Concord, Boston, Bennington, and Saratoga. Both sides used partisan warfare, but the state militias effectively suppressed Loyalist activity when British regulars were not in the area.The Congress established a regular army on June 14, 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.
Washington designed the overall military strategy of the war in cooperation with Congress, established the principle of civilian supremacy in military affairs, personally recruited his senior office corps and kept the states all pointed toward the common goal.For the first three years until after Valley Forge, the Continental Army was largely supplemented by local state militias. At Washington's discretion, the inexperienced officers and untrained troops were employed in a Fabian strategy rather than resorting to frontal assaults against Britain's professional army. The American commander-in-chief spent more than 10 percent of his total military funds on intelligence operations. Some historians maintain that, without the efforts of Washington and the Culper Spy Ring, the British would never have been defeated. Over the course of the entire war, Washington lost more battles than he won, but he maintained a fighting force in the face of British field armies and never surrendered his troops.
The American armies were small by European standards of the era, largely attributable, to limitations such as lack of powder and other logistics.At the beginning of 1776, Washington commanded 20,000 men, with two-thirds enlisted in the Continental Army and the other third in the various state militias. 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 men under arms at one time.
American officers as a whole never equaled their opponents in tactics and maneuver, and they lost most of the pitched battles. The great successes at Boston (1776), Saratoga (1777), and Yorktown (1781) came from trapping the British far from base with much larger numbers of troops.Nevertheless, after 1778, Washington's army was transformed into a more disciplined and effective force, due largely to training by Baron von Steuben. Immediately after the Army emerged from Valley Forge, it proved its ability to match the British troops in action at the Battle of Monmouth, including a black Rhode Island regiment fending off a British bayonet attack then counter-charging for the first time in Washington's army.
Though Congress had responsibility for the war effort and getting supplies to the troops, Washington took it upon himself to pressure the Congress and state legislatures to provide the essentials. There was never nearly enough.Congress evolved in its committee oversight, establishing the Board of War which included members of the military. But the Board of War was also a committee ensnared with its own internal procedures, so Congress created the post of Secretary of War, appointing Major General Benjamin Lincoln in February, 1781. Washington worked closely with Lincoln in coordinating civilian and military authorities and took charge of training and supplying the army.
During the first summer of the war, Washington began outfitting schooners and other small sea-going vessels to prey on ships supplying the British in Boston.Congress established the Continental Navy on October 13, 1775, and appointed Esek Hopkins as the Navy's first commander. The following month, Marines were organized on November 10, 1775. The Continental Navy was a handful of small frigates and sloops throughout the Revolution for the most part.
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.The last was by the frigate USS Alliance commanded by Captain John Barry. On March 10, 1783, the Alliance outgunned HMS Sybil in a 45-minute duel while escorting Spanish gold from Havana to Congress. After Yorktown, all US Navy ships were sold or given away. For the first time in America's history she had no fighting forces on the high seas.
Congress primarily commissioned privateers as a cost savings, and to take advantage of the large proportion of colonial sailors found in the British Empire. Overall, they included 1,700 ships, and these successfully captured 2,283 enemy ships to damage the British effort and to enrich themselves with the proceeds from the sale of cargo and the ship itself.About 55,000 sailors served aboard American privateers during the war.
To begin with, the Americans had no major international allies, as most watched and waited to see developments unfold in British North America. But over time, the Continental Army acquitted itself well in the face of British regulars and their German auxiliaries known to all European great powers. The battles such as the Battle of Bennington, the Battles of Saratoga, and even defeats such as the Battle of Germantown, all proved decisive in gaining the attention and support of powerful European nations such as Bourbon France and Spain, and the Dutch Republic, who moved from covertly supplying the Americans with weapons and supplies to overtly supporting them.
The decisive American victory at Saratoga spurred France to offer the Americans a treaty of trade. The two nations also agreed to a defensive treaty of alliance to protect their trade that also guaranteed American independence from Britain. To engage the United States as a French ally, it was conditioned on Britain initiating a war on France to stop it from trading with the US. Spain and the Dutch Republic were invited to join by both France and the United States in the treaty, but neither made a formal reply.
On June 13, 1778, France declared war on Great Britain, and it invoked the French military alliance with the US. That ensured additional US privateer support for French possessions in the Caribbean.Washington worked closely with the soldiers and navy that France would send to America, primarily through Lafayette on his staff. French assistance made critical contributions required to defeat Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781.
In 1775, the home British Isles held a larger population than British North American settlement. The population of Great Britain and Ireland in 1780 was approximately 12.6 million, while the Thirteen Colonies held a population of some 2.8 million, including some 500,000 slaves. Nevertheless, suppressing a thirteen-colonial rebellion in America across the Atlantic presented the British with major problems beyond those they encountered suppressing the Irish at the close of the 1600s or the 1745 Rising across the Irish Sea. The key difference was distance; it could take up to three months to cross the Atlantic, and orders from London were often outdated by the time that they arrived.
Politically and economically, the British North American colonies had never been formally united prior to the conflict and there was no centralized area of ultimate strategic importance. In the provinces warred over in Europe, the fall of a capital city often signaled the end of a conflict.Yet the American war continued unabated even after the fall of major settlements including Philadelphia where Congress met, New York and Charleston. Britain's ability to project its power overseas lay chiefly in the power of the Royal Navy, allowing her to control major coastal settlements with relative ease and to enforce a strong blockade of colonial ports. Nevertheless the overwhelming majority of the American population was agrarian, not urban. The American economy proved resilient enough to withstand the blockade's effects. The vastness of the American countryside and the limited manpower available to a British occupying army meant that the British could never simultaneously defeat the Americans and occupy captured territory.
Britain had four commanders-in-chief from initial days of the American colonial revolt to the final conclusion of the British-American civil war. They commanded a royal army with a legacy of successful fighting in North America. From 1754 to 1763, the British and their colonially funded militia auxiliaries had successfully expelled the French from the North American continent.
But in 1775, the greatest concern for military security was the producers of wealth for the British Empire. They were to be found in the Caribbean, with Jamaica alone out-producing revenues of all thirteen North American colonies.The British Army garrisoning America for civil order amounted to 8500 men among 2.8 million British subjects and slaves. The British army at home in the British Isles had been deliberately kept small in peacetime to prevent abuses of power by the King. Despite Parliament's limits on them, the successor eighteenth century regiments were not welcome guests among British civilian populations. They were regarded with scorn and contempt by the press and public of the New and Old World alike, derided as enemies of liberty. The idle peacetime Army after 1763 fell into corruption and inefficiency, resulting in many administrative difficulties once campaigning began a decade later.
The first commander of British forces in America following the 1763 Treaty of Paris was long-serving General Lord Thomas Gage. He had been installed in the flush victory days immediately following the end of the French and Indian War in America, tasked with expanding British imperial administration into the French cessions in North America. Following a successful raid on militia stores at Concord, Massachusetts, General Gage found himself bottled up in Boston port. In an effort to break out, his Bunker Hill assault cost high casualties from a frontal assault against the shallow American entrenchments at Bunker Hill, and frontier militia rifle-fire.
General Gage was immediately replaced with General Sir William Howe who then commanded British forces in North America 1775–1778.Both commanders had been light infantry commanders in America during the French and Indian War, but now General Howe had a command advantage, as he received large numbers of reinforcements of both British and German troops, horse and artillery. Lord Howe's tenure continued the London policy of "soft war" under the influence of back-bencher Whigs in Parliament. Tory Prime Minister Lord North was cautious in his selection for command because senior general officers on the British Army rolls refused to serve in America to put down the revolt. Through the American crises of 1775, the British leadership discovered it had overestimated the capabilities of its own troops, while underestimating those of the colonists. Strategic and tactical reassessments began in London and British America. Both British military and civil officials soon acknowledged that their initial responses to the rebellion had allowed the initiative to shift to the Patriots, as British authorities rapidly lost control over every colony.
But Howe subsequently made several strategic errors that cost the British offensive initiative. The general's tardiness in launching the New York campaign awaiting supplies, and his reluctance to allow Cornwallis to vigorously pursue Washington's beaten army, have both been attributed to food shortages.During the winter of 1776–1777, Howe split his army into scattered cantonments. This decision dangerously exposed the individual forces to defeat in detail, but low food supply in New York City warehouses required dispersed regimental foraging parties. Washington took advantage at Trenton and Princeton. Howe's difficulties during the next year's Philadelphia campaign were also magnified by the poor quality and quantity of resupply directly from Britain.
In Howe's initial approach to capture Philadelphia, was by sea via the Chesapeake Bay, so he was unable to assist Burgoyne and no surprise was achieved. That decision so angered Tories on both sides of the Atlantic that Howe was accused in Parliament of treason.Howe may have been dissuaded from direct assaults by the memory of the grievous losses the British suffered at Bunker Hill. But at the surrender of General John Burgoyne and the loss of a British army to the Continental Army at Saratoga, Howe was recalled.
Howe's replacement as British commander-in-chief in 1778 was General Sir Henry Clinton.He would serve for the duration of British campaigning in North America. London changed its war policy with recommendations to ruthlessly pursue victory against the colonists as enemies. General Sir Clinton was professionally regarded in the British Army as one of the best-read experts on campaign tactics and military strategy. But like Howe before him, Clinton's efforts to campaign suffered from chronic supply issues. Clinton was largely inactive in the North throughout 1779, launching few major campaigns. By 1780, the situation had not improved.
To emphasize his disappointment, Clinton had asked London that Admiral Mariot Arbuthnot be recalled.Arbuthnot's relief was meant to be Admiral Sir George Rodney from his Leeward Islands command in late 1780, but Arbuthnot appealed to the admiralty. The replacement was upheld and Rodney took command in New York, but not before Arbuthnot narrowly turned back a French navy attempt in March 1781 to reinforce Lafayette in Virginia at the Battle of Cape Henry.
The following spring in Charleston, General Lord Cornwallis commanded the British southern army in a campaign north into Virginia to force a collapse of Patriot support throughout the South. Although approved by Colonial Secretary Sir George Germain in London, General Clinton in New York was not notified either of adopting the plan or the beginning of the campaign. Clinton delayed sending reinforcements because he believed the bulk of Washington's army was still outside New York City, then at the attempt, Admiral Romney's relief fleet to Yorktown failed.
Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown and the loss of a second British army to the Continental Army effectively ended British attempts to retake America.Clinton was relieved and replaced by Sir Guy Carleton. On taking command of British forces in America, Carleton then successfully managed the British transport of Loyalists to Nova Scotia and British East Florida, then evacuated British troops from American port cities in Savannah, Charleston and New York City.
In 1775 at the onset of the American War of Independence, the British government lacked sufficient popular support to fully officer and man the regular British regiments in the numbers required to subdue the rebellion in colonial America. After seeking military aid from Russia's Catherine the Great, several German princes from Hesse-Cassell and elsewhere in the Holy Roman Empire Germanies were presented with an opportunity to hire out their professional regular army units for service in America.
Britain had long been their best customer and now to put down the American rebellion, George III arranged treaties of subsidy to hire the needed soldiers, affording the German princes large profits.Their cost per soldier was higher than before, but about half the expense per man for Parliament to maintain a Native American warrior. Service in America to put down a British insurrection made the Hessians the focus of national sentiment and public political debate in Britain, France, and for the first time, in the Germanies. In March 1776 the controversial treaties were debated in the British Parliament. The opposition was soon taken up by the Continental Congress.
American newspapers covered the parliamentary debates in detail, printing and reprinting key speeches on the treaties.In October the only German-language newspaper publishing in the colonies, the Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbote reported a British plan to send 10,000 German troops to Boston and New York, with a rumored additional 10,000 Middle-Rhineland Hanoverians to garrison new fortifications at colonial expense. The prospect of foreign occupation led most German-American settlements that had migrated from the Upper Rhine Valley to give up their allegiance to Britain. Generally Americans now believed that Britain fully intended to use hired foreign soldiers against the rebellion, which only served to increase the enlistments into the Continental Army. During this time, rumors that Britain was sending contingent of peace commissioners also circulated throughout the colonies. However, when copies of the treaties between Britain and the German princes became public, advocates for independence felt they had the proof they needed that foreign soldiers would soon be on their way. With Britain shown to be determined to go to war, the idea of reconciliation now seemed naive and hopeless.
Before the actual arrival of the Hessians, Americans had expected and the British had feared that many of the foreign troops would desert.Thinking along the same lines, on August 9, 1776, the American Congress directed Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin to author and print up "handbills" to disperse among the Hessians, promising them large land holdings and civil liberties if they joined the American cause. The British launched a counter-campaign to dissuade the Hessians from desertion by creating negative stereotypes of the Americans, threatening that if they deserted they would likely be hung by angry and resentful colonists for meddling in a war that was not theirs.
First arriving in August on Staten Island as reinforcements, the Hessians would soon participate in the Battle of Long Island.During the course of the war, the German regiments were an essential part of the British war effort, augmenting British commands that were unlikely to subdue the rebellion alone. Hessian recruits replaced German unit losses among the various British divisions. By the end of the war nearly 30,000 Hessians had served in America. From this total 17,000 returned to Germany, while more than 12,000 never returned.
Wealthy Loyalists wielded great influence in Londonand they were successful in convincing the British government that the majority view in the colonies was sympathetic toward the Crown. Consequently, British military planners pinned the success of their strategies on popular uprisings of Loyalists that never materialized. That they continued to deceive themselves on their level of American support as late as 1780, only a year before the close of hostilities. Recruiting adequate numbers of Loyalist militia to support British military plans in America was made difficult by intensive local Patriot opposition nearly everywhere.
Approximately 25,000 Loyalists fought for the British throughout the war.While Loyalists may have numbered about twenty-percent of the entire settlement population, they were concentrated in communities with larger percentages among those living among large plantation owners in Tidewater Virginia and North Carolina, and in South Carolina who produced cash crops in tobacco and indigo comparable to global markets in Caribbean sugar.
From early on, the British were faced with a major dilemma. Any significant level of organized Loyalist activity required a continued presence of British regulars.The available manpower that the British commands had in America was insufficient to protect Loyalist territory while at the same time countering American offensives. The Loyalist militias in the South were vulnerable to strings of defeats by their Patriot militia neighbors. The most critical combat between the two partisan militias was at Kings Mountain. The Patriot victory there irreversibly crippled any further Loyalist militia capability in the South.
During the early war policy administered by General Lord Howe, the need to maintain Loyalist support prevented the British from using the harsh methods of suppressing revolts that they had used in Scotland and Ireland.The Crown's cause suffered when British troops looted and pillaged the locals during an aborted attack on Charleston in 1779, enraging both Patriots and Loyalists. After Congress rejected the Carlisle Commission settlement offer in 1778 and London turning to "hard war" during General Lord Clinton's command, neutral colonists in the Carolinas were often driven into the ranks of the Patriots whenever brutal combat broke out between Tories and Whigs. But Loyalists likewise gained advantaged when Patriots resorted to intimidating suspected Tories by destroying property or tarring and feathering.
One outstanding Loyalist militia unit provided some of the best troops in British service.Their British Legion was a mixed regiment of 250 dragoons and 200 infantry, supported by batteries of flying artillery Under the command of Banastre Tarleton in the South, it gained a fearsome reputation in the colonies for "brutality and needless slaughter". Nevertheless, in May 1779 the Loyalist British Legion was one of five regiments taken into British Army regular service as the American Establishment. After the Battle of Cowpens in January 1781, British Legion survivors amounting to 14 percent of those engaged were consolidated into the British garrison at Charleston.
Women played various roles during the Revolutionary War. They accompanied their husbands when permitted. Martha Washington was known to visit the American camp, for example, and Frederika Charlotte Riedesel documented the Saratoga campaign.
Predominantly women accompanied armies as camp followers, selling goods and performing necessary tasks in hospital and camp. They were a necessary part of 18th century armies, and they numbered in the thousands during the war.
Women also assumed military roles. Women acted as spies on both sides of the Revolutionary War.In some cases women some fought, directly supported combat, or performed military service while dressed as women, such as the legendary or mythical Molly Pitcher. Anna Maria Lane joined her husband in the Army, and she was wearing men's clothes by the time of the Battle of Germantown. The Virginia General Assembly later cited her bravery, Lane "performed extraordinary military services, and received a severe wound at the battle of Germantown", fighting dressed as a man and "with the courage of a soldier".
On April 26, 1777, Sybil Ludington rode to alert militia forces of Putnam County, New York and Danbury, Connecticut, warning of the approach of the British regular forces. She is referred to as the female Paul Revere.Some few others disguised as men. Deborah Sampson fought until her sex was discovered and she was discharged; one, Sally St. Clare died in the war.
African Americans—slave and free—served on both sides during the war, but the majority fought for the Patriots.Although the British in 1775 first began enslaved black recruitment in Virginia, in January 1776 George Washington lifted the ban on black enlistment in the army. He argued to Congress that state recruitment was inadequate, there was no other way to replace Continental Army manpower shortages from disease and desertion.
At least 5,000 black soldiers fought for the Revolutionary cause in combat. Small all-black units were formed in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Another all-black unit for the Patriot cause came from Saint-Domingue with French colonial forces.There were about 9,000 black Patriots serving in various military roles. These included the Continental Army and Navy, state militia units, privateers, teamsters driving wagons, servants to officers, and spies.
The British recruited slaves belonging to Patriot masters and promised freedom to those who served beginning by a proclamation by Virginia Royal Governor, Dunmore's Proclamation. There were about 500,000 slaves held in British North America. To bolster Loyalist militia numbers in the South, the British were the first to promise freedom and grants of land to slaves who fought for them.
Tens of thousands of slaves escaped during the war and joined British lines; others simply moved off in the chaos. For instance, in South Carolina, nearly 25,000 slaves (30% of the enslaved population) fled, migrated or died during the disruption of the war. This greatly disrupted plantation production during and after the war.Throughout the American colonies, about 8,000 to 10,000 slaves gained freedom. Altogether, the British evacuated nearly 20,000 blacks at the end of the war. There was no one British policy or single destination for African Americans. When the British withdrew their forces from Savannah and Charleston, they also evacuated blacks from North America. About 4,000 freed slaves went to Nova Scotia and 1,200 blacks relocated there remained slaves. Another 10,000 enslaved belonging to Loyalists migrated elsewhere, primarily to Jamaica and the Caribbean. Other blacks with camp duties for the British regiments were sold into the West Indies.
Free blacks fighting for American independence received land grants and some very few Congressional pensions in old age. While slaves were in addition promised freedom at the end of the war for their service, some of the men promised freedom were sent back to their masters after the war was over for political convenience.
Most American Indians east of the Mississippi River were affected by the war, and many tribes were divided over the question of how to respond to the conflict. A few tribes were on friendly terms with the other Americans, but most Indians opposed the union of the Colonies as a potential threat to their territory. Approximately 13,000 Indians fought on the British side, with the largest group coming from the Iroquois tribes, who fielded around 1,500 men.
Indians split within languages, nations and tribes;
Neutrality was impossible to maintain in the Revolution
Early in July 1776, Cherokee allies of Britain attacked the western frontier areas of North Carolina. Their defeat resulted in a splintering of the Cherokee settlements and people and was directly responsible for the rise of the Chickamauga Cherokee, bitter enemies of the American settlers who carried on a frontier war for decades following the end of hostilities with Britain.
Creek and Seminole allies of Britain fought against Americans in Georgia and South Carolina. In 1778, a force of 800 Creeks destroyed American settlements along the Broad River in Georgia. Creek warriors also joined Thomas Brown's raids into South Carolina and assisted Britain during the Siege of Savannah.Many Indians were involved in the fighting between Britain and Spain on the Gulf Coast and up the Mississippi River, mostly on the British side. Thousands of Creeks, Chickasaws, and Choctaws fought in major battles such as the Battle of Fort Charlotte, the Battle of Mobile, and the Siege of Pensacola.
The powerful Iroquois Confederacy was shattered as a result of the conflict, whatever side they took; the Seneca, Onondaga, and Cayuga tribes sided with the British. Members of the Mohawks fought on both sides. Many Tuscarora and Oneida sided with the Americans. To answer Loyalist and Indian-ally raids on American settlement, the Continental Army dispatched the Sullivan Expedition on a punitive expedition throughout New York to cripple the Iroquois tribes that had sided with the British. Mohawk leaders Joseph Louis Cook and Joseph Brant sided with the Americans and the British respectively, and this further exacerbated the split.
Farther west, conflicts between settlers and Indians led to lasting distrust.In the Treaty of Paris, Great Britain ceded control of the disputed lands between the Great Lakes and the Ohio River, but the Indian inhabitants were not a part of the peace negotiations. Tribes in the Northwest Territory banded together and allied with the British to resist American settlement; their conflict continued after the Revolutionary War as the Northwest Indian War.
Tory Prime Minister Lord North had been the King's Prime Minister in Parliament since 1770. By the end of 1777 with the loss of the first British army, King George III had determined that in the event that France initiated a separate war with Britain, he would have to redeploy most of the British and German troops in America to threaten French and Spanish Caribbean settlements. In the King's judgment, Britain could not possibly fight on all three fronts without becoming weak everywhere. When the news of the French-US treaties for trade and defense arrived at London, British negotiators proposed a second peace settlement to Congress.
The Carlisle Peace Commission was sent to America for a formal presentation to Congress, which was meeting in York, Pennsylvania until June 1778. Firstly, virtual self-government by a kind of "home-rule" was contemplated. Parliament would recognize Congress, suspend all objectionable acts of Parliament, surrender its right to local colonial taxation, and perhaps allow American representatives to the House of Commons. But secondly, all confiscated property would have to be restored to loyal subjects, English debts honored, and locally enforced martial law accepted. Parliament would regulate trade for the British empire, and Congress would have to withdraw their Declaration of Independence. Parliament's commission was rebuffed by a Congress which knew the British were about to evacuate Philadelphia. Before the Commission returned to London in November 1778, the it recommended a change in British war policy. Sir Henry Clinton, the new British Commander-in-Chief in America was to stop treating rebels as subjects whose loyalty might be regained – now they were to be routinely treated as enemies.Those standing orders would be in effect for three years until Clinton was relieved.
Prior to the surrender of Cornwallis's army at Yorktown, George III still had hoped for victory in the South. He believed a majority of American colonists still supported him there, especially among thousands of black slaves. However, when news of the surrender at Yorktown reached Lord North he exclaimed, “Oh God! It is all over."From the time London learned of the surrender of a second British army, it was only two weeks before the Whig Opposition motion to end offensive war in America which was defeated by only one vote. On February 27, 1782, the Commons carried the motion by 19 votes. At a vote of no confidence against Lord North, the Rockingham Whigs came to power and opened negotiations for peace with the Americans. Rockingham died and was succeeded by the Lord Shelburne. The British troops remaining in America were garrisoned within the three port cities of New York, Charleston, and Savannah. General Clinton was recalled, replaced by Guy Carleton who was ordered to suspend offensive operations and agreed to evacuate New York on 25 November, 1783.. Six weeks more, American General George Washington and British General Sir Guy Carleton entered into an end of hostilities between the belligerents at New York City.
The British surrender at Yorktown on 19 October 1781 “virtually settled” independence for the United States. All who contributed to any prolonging of offensive war in America were declared “enemies to the country [Britain]” by Parliament.George III formally sent for peace Whig Lord Rockingham, who had been a constant advocate in Parliament for the American cause since 1775. Before he agreed to serve, Rockingham required, and the King agreed to acknowledge American independence. Rockingham took office 27 March 1782. Nevertheless, with the departure of the French fleet from American shores to the Caribbean in November 1781, Royal Navy squadrons were able to move in and re-assert a close blockade against any war contraband.
Prime minister Lord Shelburne succeeded Lord Rockingham on 1 July 1782. He sought to separate the US from warring France by strengthening the US in the "American settlement" so in the future it would not depend on France militarily. The French long-term interest was a weak US to ensure its future military alliance against Britain.The British strategy ultimately would prove successful. The US ministers negotiating the British-US peace were John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and for Britain, David Hartley of Parliament and Richard Oswald, Britain's Peace Commissioner.
Negotiating directly with Britain without the Americans, France and Spain floated distinctly different proposals to apportion territory for the United States. The French had the most restrictive plan, with a western boundary for the US at the Appalachian Mountains, matching the British 1763 Proclamation Line. The Spanish allowed for some additional Mississippi River Basin upland just west of the Appalachians for the US. But it also required that the British cede its colony of Georgia to Spain in violation of the Franco-American alliance of 1778.When the American delegation in Paris discovered France was negotiating with Britain unilaterally in early September 1782, the Americans followed suit to negotiate with the British without the French.
The agreement met four Congressional peace demands: independence, territory to the Mississippi, its navigation to the sea, and fishing off Newfoundland.The Anglo-American Preliminary Peace was signed November 30, 1782. Congress endorsed it unanimously by law on April 15, 1783 and proclaimed that peace with independence was achieved in public broadsides. The “conclusive” treaty between them was signed on September 2, 1783 in Paris, effective the next day September 3, when Britain signed its treaty with France. John Adams, who was an early participant drafting the treaty, maintained that its negotiations represented "one of the most important political events that ever happened on the globe". The conclusive treaties ratified respectively by Congress and Parliament were exchanged in Paris the following Spring.
Beginning 1778–9 as a part of what European historians know as the Anglo-French Second Hundred Years' War, France and Spain again declared war on Britain. The British were forced to severely limit the number of troops and warships that they sent to America so they could defend the British homeland and key overseas territories.The immediate strategic focus of the three greatest European colonial powers, Britain, France, and Spain, all shifted to Jamaica. King George abandoned any hope of subduing America militarily while simultaneously contending with two European Great Powers alone.
The small size of Britain's army left it unable to concentrate resources primarily in one colonial theater of war with a Great Power ally tying down France on the "Continent" of Europe. The British had done so before in the 1700s in the Seven Years' War allied with Prussia, but now the French were the "allies" with the Bourbon Spanish, and that left the British at a critical disadvantage.London was compelled to disperse troops from America to Europe and the East Indies. These forces were unable to mutually support one other, exposing them to potential defeat everywhere.
Regardless of the maneuvering in the European colonial war, the British secured a preliminary peace settlement in America November 1782. That was promptly agreed to in Congress April 1783. British military successes worldwide from 1782 to 1784 led to an ability to dictate their Treaty of Versailles (1783) with France, their Treaty of Versailles (1783) with Spain, and their Treaty of Paris (1784) with the Dutch Republic. Following the end of British engagement in worldwide conflicts 1775–1784, the Empire had lost some of her most populous colonies in the short term. But in the long term, the economic effects were negligible. With expanding trade in America with the US, and expanding colonial territory worldwide, she became a global superpower 32 years after the end of her many conflicts throughout the American Revolution and Napoleonic Eras.
After Parliament resolved to end offensive military operations in North America in April 1782 to seek an "American settlement" with Congress, internationally the British still faced three active European belligerents; France, Spain and the Dutch Republic. She was under attack around the world - in European waters, the Caribbean and in the East Indies Indian sub-continent. Britain's strategic reply was to center her offensive war in these areas.
The French and Spanish kings had a royal House of Bourbon Family Pact to pursue their 'War of 1778' against Britain. It was conceived for revenge at the humiliating Treaty of Paris (1783) that ended the Seven Years’ War, and they sought imperial acquisition in trade and territory called out in their secret Aranjuez Compact.France and Spain would fight until Spain gained Gibraltar, at the choke-point passage between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. The resulting three year Siege of Gibraltar syphoned off some of the British regiments that might otherwise have been employed on the American continent.
British Admiral of the Fleet George Rodney's decisive defeat of French Admiral de Grasse in the Caribbean Sea at the Battle of the Saintes in April 1782 ultimately cancelled a Franco-Spanish invasion of Jamaica. The British victory also transferred the strategic initiative to them, allowing them a reasserted dominance at sea, not just in the Caribbean but also across the North Atlantic. This stiffened British resolve in the peace negotiations during the French and Spanish Versailles treaties.
More British victories followed, culminating in September 1782, when they repulsed the anticipated Franco-Spanish assault at Gibraltar - the largest battle the British engaged in during this period.Not only did this strengthen British bargaining power in the peace talks, it also further weakened French and Spanish resolve for the war. France now desperate for peace, sought serious discussions on alternative exit strategies. It urged Spain to give up its claim on Gibraltar to make peace, which the latter reluctantly acquiesced to. Gibraltar's ultimate fate however did not involve any settlements with the United States.
Britain signed preliminary agreements with France and Spain to end their European war in separate treaties, signing an additional conclusive Anglo-French Treaty of Versailles on 20 January 1783 and then the conclusive Anglo-Spanish Treaty of Versailles (1783).These two addressed issues of mutual Great Power concern, such as a European “continental balance of power", reciprocal colonial territory swaps, and trade agreements among their respective worldwide colonial empires.
Washington expressed astonishment that the Americans had won a war against a leading world power, referring to the American victory as "little short of a standing miracle".The conflict between British subjects with the Crown against those with the Congress had lasted over eight years from 1775 to 1783. The last uniformed British troops departed their last east coast port cities in Savannah, Charleston, and New York City, by November 25, 1783. That marked the end of British occupation in the new United States.
On April 9, 1783, Washington issued orders that he had long waited to give, that "all acts of hostility" were to cease immediately. That same day, by arrangement with Washington, General Carleton issued a similar order to British troops. British troops, however, were not to evacuate until a prisoner of war exchange occurred, an effort that involved much negotiation and would take some seven months to effect.
As directed by a Congressional resolution of May 26 1783, all non commissioned officers and enlisted were furloughed "to their homes" until the "definitive treaty of peace", when they would be automatically discharged. The US armies were directly disbanded in the field as of Washington's General Orders on Monday June 2, 1783.Once the conclusive Treaty of Paris was signed with Britain, Washington resigned as commander-in-chief at Congress, leaving for his Army retirement at Mount Vernon.
The expanse of territory that was now the United States was ceded from its colonial Mother country alone. It included millions of sparsely settled acres south of the Great Lakes Line between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. The tentative colonial migration west became a flood during the years of the Revolutionary War. Virginia's Kentucky County counted 150 men in 1775. By 1790 fifteen years later, it numbered over 73,000 and was seeking statehood in the United States.
Britain's extended post-war policy for the US continued to try to establish an Indian buffer state below the Great Lakes as late as 1814 during the War of 1812. The formally acquired western American lands continued to be populated by a dozen or so American Indian tribes that had been British allies for the most part.Though British forts on their lands had been ceded to either the French or the British prior to the creation of the United States, Indians were not referred to in the British cession to the US. While tribes were not consulted by the British for the treaty, in practice the British refused to abandon the forts on territory they formally transferred. Instead they provisioned military allies for continuing frontier raids and sponsored the Northwest Indian War (1785-1795). British sponsorship of local warfare on the United States continued until the Anglo-American Jay Treaty went into effect. At the same time, the Spanish also sponsored war within the US by Indian proxies in its Southwest Territory ceded by France to Britain, then Britain to the Americans.
Of the European powers with American colonies adjacent to the newly created United States, Spain was most threatened by American independence, and it was correspondingly the most hostile to it.Its territory adjacent the US was relatively undefended, so Spanish policy developed a combination of initiatives. Spanish soft power diplomatically challenged the British territorial cession west to the Mississippi and the previous northern boundaries of the Floridas. It imposed a high tariff on American goods, then blocked American settler access to the port of New Orleans. Spanish hard power extended war alliances and arms to Southwestern Indians to resist American settlement. A former Continental Army General, James Wilkinson settled in Kentucky County Virginia in 1784, and there he fostered settler secession from Virginia during the Spanish-allied Chickamauga Cherokee war. Beginning in 1787, he received pay as Spanish Agent 13, and subsequently expanded his efforts to persuade American settlers west of the Appalachians to secede from the United States, first in the Washington administration, and later again in the Jefferson administration.
The total loss of life throughout the conflict is largely unknown. As was typical in wars of the era, diseases such as smallpox claimed more lives than battle. Between 1775 and 1782, a smallpox epidemic broke out throughout North America, killing an estimated 130,000 among all its populations in those revolutionary war years.Historian Joseph Ellis suggests that Washington's decision to have his troops inoculated against the disease was one of his most important decisions.
Between 25,000 and 70,000 American Patriots died during active military service.Of these, approximately 6,800 were killed in battle, while at least 17,000 died from disease. The majority of the latter died while prisoners of war of the British, mostly in the prison ships in New York Harbor. The number of Patriots seriously wounded or disabled by the war has been estimated from 8,500 to 25,000.
The French suffered 2,112 killed in combat in the United States.The Spanish lost a total of 124 killed and 247 wounded in West Florida.
A British report in 1781 puts their total Army deaths at 6,046 in North America (1775–1779).Approximately 7,774 Germans died in British service in addition to 4,888 deserters; of the former, it is estimated 1,800 were killed in combat.