American Revolution > Revolutionary War
On July 4, 1776, the 13 American colonies declared their independence
from British rule, with the signing of the
Declaration of Independence.
However, the British retaliated against this action, and by August 1776,
General William Howe arrived on Long Island, New York, with 30,000 troops
— about twice as many men as George Washington had — in an
effort to take New York City. On August 27, his British troops
defeated the Continental Army at Brooklyn Heights, and Washington's men
were forced to retreat across the East River to Manhattan, giving up the
seaport to the British. As the British pursued Washington, he led
his diminishing troops across the Delaware River and into Pennsylvania.
The Battle of Long Island demoralized the Americans and resulted in the British capturing New York City. Washington, needing to revive his army's morale, decided to launch a surprise attack. He and his troops crossed the Delaware River on Christmas night, December 25, 1776, surprising the Hessian soldiers stationed in Trenton, New Jersey. Washington's troops won the Battle of Trenton and the subsequent Battle of Princeton, and did serious damage to British forces.
In July, 1777, a young French officer, the Marquis de Lafayette, met with George Washington, and the two men developed a lifelong friendship. Lafayette volunteered to help the American cause, and served as an officer under Washington until the end of the war. He brought both his military expertise and monetary help to the colonists at a time when it was much needed.
In the meantime, British general John Burgoyne was fighting up North, in the areas of Fort Ticonderoga, Fort Edward, and Saratoga, New York against General Horatio Gates and Benedict Arnold. Severe loss of soldiers forced Burgoyne to surrender in October of 1777. Thus, the British failed to split New England from the rest of the colonies.
Washington's ragged and malnourished army spent the winter of 1777-1778 in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia was in the hands of the British after the Battle of Brandywine Creek and Germantown. But, through the help of Baron Von Steuben, Washington's men were trained to be an effective fighting force. By June, 1778, they were pursuing the British who had left Philadelphia for New York.
In the south, British general Charles Cornwallis stationed 5,000 troops in the Carolinas with the hopes of forcing Loyalist sentiment. British forces launched attacks on Savannah, Georgia, Augusta, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina, besting American troops and forcing them to surrender. When American troops in the south became disorganized, the state militias and partisans took over. Francis Marion, known as the "Swamp Fox," led a group of men using guerilla tactics against the British.
American successes at the Battle of Saratoga encouraged France to enter the war on the side of the American colonists. American diplomat Benjamin Franklin negotiated an alliance with France in 1778, which helped reduce Britain's military and naval superiority over the Americans. In 1779, American naval Captain John Paul Jones, sailing the Bonhomme Richard from a French port, engaged and defeated the British warship Serapis. Later, in 1781, a French fleet commanded by Admiral de Grasse arrived in Chesapeake Bay; with their help, George Washington and French General Rochambeau coordinated a land and sea operation that signified the beginning of the end of the Revolutionary War.
The French fleet blockaded Yorktown while Washington's army took up siege positions on land, thereby trapping the British against the York River. On October 17, 1781, British General Lord Cornwallis surrendered. While King George III wished to continue fighting, the British Parliament would no longer support a war in America. Although minor naval skirmishes continued as late as March, 1783, there were no further land battles after Yorktown. Peace was eventually established in 1783 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.
The 13 United States of America were formally recognized as independent.
George Washington Statue
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The American Revolutionary War
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Continental Army Color Guard
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During the American Revolution