20,000 fired-up militiamen swarmed the Boston area following the first shots at Lexington and Concord. The British redcoats were outnumbered.
Meanwhile, the Second Continental Congress met in May 1775 in Philadelphia to address the worsening situation. As with the first Congress, calmer minds prevailed and there was no vote (yet) for independence. The plan was to stay with the king (with some changes). Leaving no stone unturned, their actions took the direction of both pursuing peace and preparing for war and were to…
Re-send a second list of grievances to the king. Hopes were that he'd have a change of heart and change his ways.
Took measures to raise money for an army and navy.
Appointed George Washington as general of the continental army.
Washington had never been promoted higher than a colonel, but he looked the part and would instill confidence and boost morale.
Washington was of the highest character: patient, courageous, self-disciplined, fair, and religious.
He took no pay but kept an expense account instead of $100,000+
Bunker Hill and Hessian Hirelings
The war's early-going was contradictory. On one hand, the colonists were still pledging loyalty to the king. On the other hand, they were taking up arms against the crown.
The war's pace quickly stepped up.
In May 1775 Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold led the Green Mountain Boys of Vermont in surprise victories over the redcoats at Ft. Ticonderoga and Crown Point.
The importance of this raid lay in the fact that the colonists captured much-needed cannons and gunpowder.
In June 1775 the Americans took Bunker Hill in Boston. The British launched a foolish frontal assault and eventually won a Pyrrhic victory, but the American troops fought well and proved to themselves that they could go toe-to-toe with British regulars.
Still, the Continental Congress sought peace and reconciliation with the king. They sent the "Olive Branch Petition" to London. It pledged loyalty and asked for peace. After Bunker Hill, King George III had decided peace was out.
George III took action by (a) formerly declaring the colonies in rebellion and (b) hiring thousands of German soldiers (called "Hessians" by the Americans) to fight the war.
The Abortive Conquest of Canada
The redcoats burnt Falmouth (Portland), Maine (Oct. 1775).
Meanwhile, the Americans attacked Canada, which proved a mistake because…
The Americans misjudged the French Canadians, thinking the French hated the British and would revolt too.
Gen. Richard Montgomery marched north along the Lake Champlain route toward Quebec, and was met by Benedict Arnold and men, weary from the grueling trip. In the battle (Dec. 1775), Montgomery would be killed, Arnold wounded, and their men scattered.
Arnold and his men had to retreat up the St. Lawrence River. The French-Canadians were in no mood to welcome the Americans.
By 1776, Americans still held onto the desire to stay with England, but events began to occur quickly…
The English burnt Norfolk, VA (Jan. 1776).
The British were forced out of Boston in March (it's still celebrated as "Evacuation Day").
The colonists won two southern battles: (a) Feb. at Moore's Creek Bridge in North Carolina versus 1,500 loyalists and (b) June versus an attacking English fleet at Charleston harbor.
Thomas Paine Preaches Common Sense
The events of early 1776 made Americans reconsider their loyalty to the king.
Then came Thomas Paine's pamphlet Common Sense that urged American independence.
He argued that in the physical world, small bodies never rule the large.
He lacked respect for the king, calling him a "Royal Brute of Great Britain."
Paine wrote plainly and convincingly and said the time had come to break away, it was just common sense.
Common Sense was radical in 2 ways: (a) it called for independence and (b) it called for building a republic, something that'd never been done.
A republic is a government where the people elect representatives to rule for them. Power rests with the people (and their votes).
The ancient Greeks and even the British had a form of a republic yet had differences (Greek cities were small and Britain had a half republic with the king). The American republic would be the largest ever, and therefore the first for a nation.
Paine's idea of a republic were well-liked by Americans.
The prior acts by the king were certainly not popular—casting him off their backs sounded great.
The Americans, New Englanders especially, had long been practicing some form of self-government.
Some Americans were skeptical of turning power over to the people. They felt the people were unable to rule and wanted a "natural aristocracy" to run the government. This group was generally from the wealthier, more conservative classes.
Jefferson’s “Explanation” of Independence
The 2nd Continental Congress decided on independence.
Richard Henry Lee made a motion for independence on June 7, 1776. It passed on July 2, 1776.
A formal statement of America's independence was needed though.
Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence.
The declaration was written in a grand style.
It could be broken down into four parts: (1) a preamble or introduction, (2) a statement of rights, (3) a list of grievances, and (4) a statement of separation.
The "statement of rights" (based on John Locke's "natural rights") might be most important. It included "unalienable rights" (life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness) and "all men are created equal."
The Declaration made things clear: (a) the Americans were no longer loyal to the king but were rebels, (b) it opened the door for foreign help, and (c) the Americans had to win the war else face punishment for treason (death).
Patriots and Loyalists
Americans were not united in the revolution. Generally, there were 4 groups…
Patriots (also called "Whigs") supported the war for independence.
About 16% were Loyalists (also called "Tories") and supported British.
Moderates were in the middle and on the fence. These people might have sympathies with the rebels but still hold hope that America could stay with Britain without war. This group had been the largest, but dwindled as events unfolded and Common Sense came out.
The apathetic (or people that just didn't care) because they felt politics either way had no bearing on their lives. Notably, there were also "profiteers" who sold whatever they could to whomever they could just to make money.
The British could only hold areas where they could maintain a massive military presence (the coastline). The rebels did well on the interior or backwoods of the country. Rebels also harassed the British with guerrilla tactics when the redcoats tried to march into the frontier.
A typical Loyalist (Tory)
Loyalists were usually from conservative families. Families were split by the war however, such as Ben Franklin opposing his illegitimate son William, New Jersey's last royal governor.
Loyalists were usually from richer, aristocratic families, such as in Charleston, SC.
Loyalists were strong in the areas that the Anglican Church was strong (the South). They were weaker in areas that Congregationalism and Presbyterianism was strong (New England).
A typical Patriot
Patriots were generally from the younger generation, such as ringleaders Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry.
Patriots largely lived in areas where the Anglican Church (Church of England) was weak. The Patriots were Congregational, Presbyterian, Baptist, or Methodist.
Patriots, generally, were inland and away from the coast (since the coast and harbors were the links back to England).
Before the Declaration of Independence, harassment of the Loyalists was rather mild—tarring-and-feathering and the like.
After the Declaration, the Americans stepped up their efforts aimed at Loyalists who were considered traitors.
Loyalists were "roughed up," imprisoned, and a few were hanged.
Most Loyalists (about 80,000) got out of town. This meant leaving behind everything they owned. Their lands were quickly confiscated by the Americans and sold to raise money for the war.
An estimated 50,000 Loyalists served the British in the war as soldiers. They also spied and incited the Indians. Despite their contributions to the king's side, the British under-used these Loyalists.
General Washington at Bay
After evacuating Boston, British tuned to New York as their base of operations.
A huge British fleet arrived at New York.
Gen. Washington's 18,000 men were outnumbered and in trouble. Losses followed in the summer of 1776…
Washington and men were pushed off of Long Island (avoiding near-capture when a fog bank rolled in).
He lost in Brooklyn, Harlem Heights, and White Plains before turning southward.
He "set up camp" in Pennsylvania, along the Delaware River, for the winter. Things looked grim.
But, Washington had a couple of more tricks up his sleeve.
On December 26, 1776, he crossed the icy Delaware River and surprised the Hessian soldiers at Trenton.
This was a key battle in that (a) it was America's first victory and (b) it boosted morale.
Now, the Americans could settle in for the winter on a positive note. Though the colonists were not doing great, the British had not won.
Burgoyne’s Blundering Invasion
During the winter, London came up with a second plan to defeat the colonists. It was a more detailed plan. Its focus would be in New England and its goal would be to divide the colonies. The plan had 3 parts…
Col. Barry St. Leger would move from Lake Erie eastward along the Mohawk River.
Gen. Burgoyne descended from Montreal southward on Lake Champlain.
Gen. Howe would drive men northward from New York up the Albany River. They'd all 3 meet at Albany, NY.
On paper, it was a good plan. In reality, it had problems.
Benedict Arnold was the first problem. He and his men had lingered around after their defeat in Quebec. The British tried to take Lake Champlain but Arnold threw together a rag-tag flotilla. His flotilla was wiped out, but he bought critical time by delaying the British attack to the following spring.
The second problem was the terrain. Burgoyne could draw lines on a map easily, but marching thousands of troops through upstate New York was not so easy. His men bogged down and supplies ran low.
The third problem was that St. Leger's detachment lost at Oriskany and was turned back. One third of the plan was out right there.
The final problem was that Gen. Howe had other plans. He decided to scratch the master-plan and do his own thing. He headed south (not north) to engage Gen. Washington in Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, back in Pennsylvania…
Howe beat Washington in battles at Brandywine Creek and at Germantown.
Washington's troops camped for the winter at Valley Forge. Morale was very low with bitter cold, low rations, and high desertion. On the plus side, Prussian drillmaster Baron von Steubenput the troops in shape during that winter. Changing them from rag-tag militia to professional soldiers.
Gen. Howe settled into Philadelphia for the winter with his mistress to enjoy the city-life. Ben Franklin quipped that Howe hadn't captured Philadelphia, but that Philadelphia had captured Howe.
The Battle of Saratoga was perhaps the most critical battle of the war.
Burgoyne's 7,000 troops arrived at the site of the planned battle tired and weary. He was alone, the other 2/3 of the plan didn't arrive.
He had no choice but to surrender on Oct. 17, 1777.
Saratoga was the turning point in the war because (a) it was truly a major victory in military terms, (b) it gave a huge boost to colonial morale, and (c) most importantly, it convinced France that America might actually have a chance to win and to openly aid America.
Revolution in Diplomacy?
A political marriage was ripe—American needed help and France was eager to exact revenge on Britain.
The Continental Congress sent delegates to France. They were guided by a "Model Treaty" that sought "1. No political connection…. 2. No military connection…. 3. Only a commercial connection."
Ben Franklin played the diplomacy game by wearing simple gray clothes and a coonskin cap to supposedly exemplify a raw new America.
After the surprising loss at Saratoga, the ballgame was different.
Paris was in a friendly mood. Ben Franklin played France's fears of the English, hinting America and England might actually get back together.
Franklin got a deal done. In a Franco-American Treaty (1778) (a) France formally joined America in the war and (b) recognized American independence, but (c) also pledged to a military alliance (going against the Model Treaty and something America would come to regret).
This was America's first example of idealistic principles being overruled by practicalities of a situation.
The Colonial War Becomes a Wider War
Like a spider web, the war networked and grew, mostly aligned against England.
In 1778, England and France went to war.
In 1779, Holland and Spain joined the war against England. The French/Spanish navy outnumbered the British.
In 1780, Russia (led by Catherine the Great) formed the "Armed Neutrality" which linked up the neutral nations in a grudge against England. Countries were present from Russia, to South America, the Caribbean, and Asia.
The Americans had managed to keep the war going up to 1778 and now England was against the ropes. The struggle in America was becoming secondary.
Strategy was also changed by France's joining the war.
The British naval blockade was not to be taken for granted. To shorten supply lines, the British evacuated Philadelphia to focus on New York.
The Battle of Monmouth in New Jersey took place as the redcoats left Philly. It was scorching-hot (sunstroke was common), an indecisive battle moved Gen. Washington's to New York as well.
Blow and Counterblow
6,000 French soldiers arrived in Newport, RI under command of Comte de Rochambeau. Though here on friendly terms, there were sometimes scuffles between American and French soldiers. They eventually started getting along.
Morale took a big hit when Benedict Arnold traded sides to the British.
Arnold felt underappreciated in America and sought a higher rank and money from England.
He planned to sell out the stronghold at West Point but the plan was foiled at the last minute. Washington asked, "Whom can we trust now?"
Meanwhile, the British planned to attack the South.
The Brits settled in Savannah, GA & Charleston, SC to prepare for battles.
The war turned ugly here. The Americans fought guerilla style, thrashing at British supply lines. The most famous was Francis Marion (the "Swamp Fox") who'd attack then disappear with his men into the swamps.
Neighbors on opposing sides fought each other as well in ruthless engagements.
Battles ran through the Carolinas. The redcoats won at Camden over Horatio Gates (the American hero at Saratoga). Then the Americans won at King's Mountain and at Cowpens.
American Gen. Nathaneal Greene (the "Fighting Quaker") employed a strategy of delay where he stood, fought, retreated, and kept sucking Gen. Charles Cornwallis deeper into enemy territory. Greene eventually exhausted Cornwallis' troops.
Many believe that Clark's actions helped win land all the way west to the Mississippi River (instead of just to the Appalachian Mtns.).
The fight on water took two forms…
The upstart American navy was laying its own foundation. It never really competed with the British navy, but harassed their shipping lines. John Paul Jones was the most well-known naval leader.
Privateers were essentially legal pirates and made an even larger dent in the British navy. These were privately owned boats/ships that fought for hire. Their motives were patriotism and profit. They would capture British ships and pirate whatever they could take.
Yorktown and the Final Curtain
Just before the decisive victory of the war, America was struggling.
Inflation ran rampant and it was announced that debts would only be partially repaid at the rate of 2.5 cents on the dollar.
Morale sunk and any notion of unity sunk.
Meanwhile, things were pointing to the Chesapeake Bay.
Cornwallis moved his men there to get more supplies via the British navy.
The French navy however, moved in and sealed off the Bay.
Gen. Washington and Rochambeau saw the chance and moved their troops in to seal off the peninsula.
At Yorktown, Cornwallis was trapped and surrendered. This was the final major battle.
Lord North stated "Oh God! It's all over! It's all over!" when he heard the news.
The English had been fighting and taking losses in India, the West Indies, the island of Minorca in the Mediterranean Sea, and the Rock of Gibraltar, and America, of course. They were tired of war.
The Americans sent a peace-seeking delegation to Paris in Ben Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay.
The three were told to not make a separate peace with England but to always consult first with France. John Jay was suspicious of France however.
France wanted America independent, but also weak, ideally cooped up east of the Allegheny Mountains.
Jay secretly contacted London to seek peace. The British quickly worked out a deal behind France's back.
The Treaty of Paris, 1783ended the American Revolution. Its terms were…
England recognized American independence as far as the Mississippi River.
America retained some fishing rights in Newfoundland.
The American Loyalists were to be treated fairly and Congress was to recommend to the states that the land that had been taken from the Loyalists was to be returned. (The lands never did return to the Loyalists though).
A New Nation Legitimized
America did better than might be expected in the outcome of the war.
Even though George Rogers Clark had won victories west of the Appalachians, they were somewhat small victories. Still, Britain was trying to woo America away from France. For this reason, Britain ceded a considerable quantity of land.
Also, it happened that the pro-American Whigs were in control of Parliament at the time of the treaty.
France cautiously gave their approval to the treaty.
Without question, the stars were shining of America.
Makers of America: The Loyalists
The American Loyalists normally came from well-educated, conservative stock. They worried that a clean break from England would cause America to spiral into anarchy or mob-rule.
Many Loyalists were Brits who'd settled in America after the Seven Years' War. They weren't ready to completely toss their home country away.
There were thousands of black Loyalists.
Many signed on with the British army in hopes of gaining freedom.
Some were betrayed by this promise. In one instance, Cornwallis left 4,000 slaves in Virginia. In a worse instance, a shipload of blacks expecting to sail to freedom instead sailed back into slavery.
Other blacks moved to England but they often struggled to fit in and gain acceptance.
The American view of the Loyalists was not flattering.
Loyalists were viewed as traitors to America (just as the Americans were viewed as traitors to the crown).
They were arrested, exiled, their property confiscated, and rights taken away. Some 80,000 Loyalists simply left America.
There were "success stories."
Hugh Gaine, a New York printer, re-established his business and eventually won government printing contracts.
Most Loyalists simply readjusted themselves and survived. They usually became supporters of the Federalist party that wished for a stronger central government. This was their transition from English to American.