1. During the British occupation, Redcoats were able to take and hold every city they
wanted (except for Boston) because they had more fire power, trained troops, and supply
ships from Britain.
2. The countryside was a different story, and was very dangerous for the British
3. To complicate matters, not all Americans took sides....1/5 were Loyalists on the side
of the Brits, 2/5 were Patriots, willing to actively support the Revolution, but the other 2/5
insisted on remaining neutral, thus there were bitter disagreements, often even within
4. In general, most fighting Patriots came from New England and Virginia, while the
greatest number of Loyalists were concentrated in New York.
5. In fact, in NY, they provided more troops for the British than for the Patriots.
6. Other Loyalists came from the Carolinas and cities close to the Atlantic coast, often
they were employees of the British government or clergy of the Church of England.
7. Quakers remained neutral. So did the Germans in Pennsylvania.
8. Most Indians sided with the British, believing that if the Patriots won, the Indians would
loose their land, however the war permanently split the League of 6 Iroquois Nations----- the Tuscarora and Oneida siding with the Americans, while the rest supported the Brits.
9. The Continental Congress had offered Indian land to colonial men who enlisted in the
B. Americans at War......
1. Washington’s army needed everything: blankets, shoes, soap, food, even guns,
ammunition, clothes, wagons, horses, and tents.
2. He sought help from the Continental Congress, who attempted to raise funds by issuing
paper money, but because the British continued to use silver and gold to pay for goods, the
Continental paper money became increasingly devalued (“not worth a Continental”)
3. The enlisted men often didn’t want to stay very long, consequently Washington was
frequently forced to rely on very inexperienced troops.
4. Nonetheless, the lure of land after the war convinced many to enlist. Others hoped to
gain social standing and money by serving for a while.
5. Free black men were, however eager to enlist and willing to stay for longer. Though
Washington at first opposed their inclusion, fearing it would threaten the slave system, he
quickly changed his mind when the Governor of Virginia offered freedom to black slaves who enlisted to fight for the Brits.
6. Approx. 5,000 African Americans served in the Continental Army.
7. Women also played a role, some joining their husbands in the army camps because they had no other way to survive (a notable example: Martha Washington). The women did the washing, cooking, sewing, and nursing for the soldiers, and some even joined them on the
battlefield - like Mary Hays, who they named “Molly Pitcher” because she brought water to the men during a battle, and took her husband’s place at the cannon when he had fallen.
8. Women also contributed their pewter for musket balls, and engaged in spying. In the
towns, they forced merchants to set fair prices to help with wartime shortages.
C. New York City 1776........
1. When Abigail Adams watched the Brits sail out of Boston in March of 1776, Washington guessed they would soon show up in New York City, so he quickly relocated his troops to NY.
2. Britain’s General Howe showed up (from Nova Scotia) in July of 1776, with the
largest seaborne army ever launched: 8,000 Hessian Mercenaries (soldiers for hire).
3. All that summer Washington and Howe’s men fought, but Washington had to retreat
into New Jersey and Pennsylvania in order to save his army. Howe had won New York
City, and had chased Washington as he retreated.
4. During the cold winter, Howe ordered the Hessians on to New Jersey, while he and his
men returned to New York, counting on the cold to finish Washington’s men off.
D. New Jersey Victories.........
1. Howe almost got his wish. Many of the men left, and went home, reducing the army
from 20,000 to a few thousand.
2. Then Thomas Paine began to publish rousing patriotic pamphlets, the first being,
The Crisis --(“these are the times that try men’s souls.....”)
3. On Christmas Day 1776, before many of his men’s enlistments ended the following day, Washington took a desperate gamble, rowing across the icy waters of the Delaware River going from the Pennsylvania side, over to the New Jersey side, to wage a surprise attack on the Hessian in Trenton, who were sleeping off their Christmas celebrations.
4. The famous trip is known as “Washington’s Crossing”, and it enabled Washington
to capture or kill over 1,000 Hessian, as well as much needed supplies.
5. One week later, the Patriots won another victory in Princeton, giving the army new
hope, and attracting new recruits.
E. Philadelphia 1777...........
1. The Brits were not overly worried about their losses in New Jersey. The Patriot army
still had only 4,000 men.
2. In the summer of 1777, Howe set out to take Philadelphia. He thought seizing the
American capital, and largest city, it would break the Patriots’ spirit.
3. He easily took the city in September, but the Patriots did not give up, rather they only
moved into the Pennsylvania countryside to a town called York.
F. British Strategy.......
1. Overall, the British strategy was to gain control of the Hudson River Valley, which
would isolate/cut off New England, and divide the American colonies in half.
2. The British plan was to have three British armies meet in Albany, New York: General
John Burgoyne would come south from Canada, Gen. Barry St. Leger would go east from Lake Ontario, down the Mohawk Valley, and General Howe would head north up the Hudson river from New York City.
3. Burgoyne (“Gentleman Johnny”) left with a force including German mercenaries and about 400 Indians. He traveled slowly, throwing big parties between battles, giving the
Patriots time to cut down trees to block his route, as well as burning crops in the countryside, and running off the livestock, so that Burgoyne would have no means of
re-supplying his advancing Redcoats.
4. Burgoyne re-captured Ft. Ticonderoga, and became more confident, but that soon
ended on the 20 mile slog through the swampy New York wilderness--it took him three
weeks to get to the Hudson.
5. Expecting to rendezvous with St Leger and Howe there, instead, Burgoyne got word
Howe wasn’t coming. He was staying to deal with Washington in Pennsylvania.
G. Battles along the Mohawk......
1. General St. Leger was busy in present day Rome, NY the fighting Patriots at Fort Stanwix.
2. St. Leger had about 1,000 Iroquois, led by Mohawk chief, Joseph Brant (a.k.a.
Thayendanegea), a large number of Loyalists, and British and Hessian troops.
3. In the end of August, Benedict Arnold headed north to assist the Patriot troops
at Ft. Stanwix. He sent Indian allies ahead to spread rumors that he was coming with
a huge army. St. Leger retreated so fast, they abandoned tents, canons, and supplies.
*(Much Later, on Sept. 23, 1780, a British spy was captured with a note from Benedict Arnold, who was seeking 20,000 British Pounds in exchange for betraying American defenses at West Point. Arnold fled to England, and returned to fight as a British Brigadier General)*
4. This effectively ruined the British strategy, although bitter fighting continued
throughout the Mohawk Valley for the rest of the war.
H. Saratoga---A Turning Point......
1. By August, Burgoyne was running low on horses and supplies because a raiding
party sent to Vermont had been badly defeated in the Battle of Bennington, but he
headed to Albany anyway.
2. At Freeman’s Farm a powerful Continental force, led by Gen. Horatio Gates (NOT Gage!) waited.
3. In order to continue, Burgoyne would have to get through the earthworks, a earthen wall put up by Thaddeus Kosciuszko (a polish engineer who had come to help the Patriots) as a protection for the Continental Army.
4. Burgoyne decided to wait for more troops to arrive.
5. But, as his now hungry army was fired upon constantly by Patriot forces, he decided
to fight instead.
6. Twice he tried to break through the earthworks and failed. In both battles
at Freeman’s Farm, Benedict Arnold’s courageous attacks were crucial in stopping
Burgoyne. Yet Gates received most of the credit. Arnold’s resentment about this is
part of the reason he “turned-coat”.
7. Burgoyne started to retreat, but was cut off at Saratoga by the Continental Army, and
forced to surrender his 6,000 troops.
I. Help from Abroad.......
1. The Battle of Saratoga was the turning point in the war. Now France realized too that
an American victory was possible, and recognized America’s independence by forging an
and the Ohio River (half the total size of the 13 states).
7. However, Fort Detroit remained in British control.
C. War at Sea..........
1. By 1777, there were over 100 British warships off of the American coast, providing
the Brits total control of the Atlantic trade routes.
2. Since outright defeat of the powerful British navy was impossible, they continued
privateering or commerce raiding.
3. Privateer crews would capture an enemy ship, sell its cargo, and share the prize.
4. The states and Congress commissioned more than 2,000 privateers to prey on
enemy ships with hit and run tactics that were very effective in disrupting British shipping.
5. Scottish-born John Paul Jones was one of the most famous privateers. In 1779
he left a French port, sailing the Bonhomme Richard, named after Ben Franklin’s Almanac character, Poor Richard because his ship was worn and rotting. Jones was in command of a fleet of 3 ships carrying privateers.
6. While patrolling the coast of England in 1779, Jones’ ships approached a convoy of
trading ships guarded by two British warships. Jones attacked.
7. His ship leaking, Jones refused to surrender (“I’ve not yet begun to fight”) and after
three hours, he won. Two days later his ship sunk.
D. Setbacks in the South....
1. In 1778, after 3 years of fighting, the British were no nearer to victory than in 1775.
2. British Generals decided to shift the focus to the South, thinking that the many southern
Loyalists would be a benefit to them.
3. They also thought slaves would join them in large numbers.
4. Because of the promise of freedom, over 50,000 slaves helped the British as guided,
spies, and laborers. Many of them did not ever get that freedom, because, instead, they
were sold by British officers in the West Indies.
5. In November of 1778, British forces captured Savannah, and soon the Brits had
control of Georgia.
6. In 1780, they captured Charleston, SC, decimating the Patriot army in the south when its 5,000 defenders surrendered.
7. For Americans, it was the worst disaster of the war.
8. Washington asked Horatio Gates, the General who had won at Saratoga to form a new
9. At its center, was a group of several hundred led by Baron de Kalb.
10. With several thousand new, untrained recruits, Gates started out for Camden, SC,
and a battle with the Brits, under General Charles Cornwallis.
E. The “Swamp Fox”........
1. On the way to Camden, Gates joined forces with a rag tag band of 20 men led by
Francis Marion (a.k.a. the “Swamp Fox”, for his knowledge of the coastal swamp lands
of S. Carolina).
2. Marion was sent ahead to seize the river crossings behind Camden, cutting off the Brit’s
communications with Charleston.
3. However, in August 1780, at The Battle of Camden, when faced with the veteran British troops, de Kalb’s men fled and the Baron was killed.
4. This was a very demoralizing defeat for the Patriots.
5. British troops left for Charleston with a column of Patriot prisoners.
1. Guerillais Spanish literally for “little war”- it now means a small defensive force of
2. Marion’s guerilla force cut off the British supply lines between Charleston and the
interior of the region.
3. Other Patriots and Loyalists in the region formed guerilla bands, raiding each other,
with all rules of warfare cast aside.
4. At the bloody Battle of King’s Mountain, fought in 1780, on the border between the Carolinas, a patriot group of guerillas slaughtered a British force of over 1,000 men.
G. The Tide Turns in the South.....
1. In 1780, a new General, Nathanel Greene took charge of the southern army. Green was the son of a Quaker preacher, expelled by the Quakers for his willingness to enter the Revolution, he was one of Washington’s best men.
2. Greene began a policy of mercy towards Loyalists, and also won over the Cherokee
Indians to the American side.
3. Under Green, the army avoided full-scale conflicts where Britain could out shoot them.
4. Instead, they forced British forces to expend their energy chasing the Patriots all around
the country-side. When they did fight, they made sure British losses were heavy, before
H. The End of the War......
1. The war entered its 6th year, and opposition to it in Britain grew.
2. Some British leaders began to argue that American independence might not be so bad.
3. Most of the fighting was now in Virginia. Cornwallis had set up a British base at
Yorktown on the Chesapeake Bay, so that his army could get supplies by ship from New York.
4. At the same time, forces commanded by General Jean Rochambeau arrived in
Rhode Island to help American troops. In addition, Washington discovered that a large
French fleet had arrived from the West Indies.
5. The French fleet cut Yorktown off from resupply by sea.
6. Washington and Rochambeau marched south and cut Cornwallis off, and began to
bombard his troops.
On October 19, 1781, Cornwallis surrendered his army of 8,000.
III. INDEPENDENCE WON
A. Why the Americas won.....
1. Better leadership-
- British generals made mistakes in judgment, in part because many got their jobs
as favors, and through connections, rather than because of valid experience and ability.
- British leaders were also overly confident in many instances
- Washington was an excellent, experienced leader
2. Foreign Aid-
-Britain’s rivals, especially France, helped the Patriots with loans and military assistance
which they couldn’t have won without.
3. Knowledge of the land-
- the Americans knew the terrain better than the Brits, esp. inland.
4. Motivation -
- the Patriots had more at stake (homes, property, basic liberties) and thus, fought harder.