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American Revolutionary War

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American Revolutionary War
Revolutionary War (collage).jpg
Left, Continental infantry at Redoubt 10, Yorktown; Washington rallying the broken center at Monmouth; USS Bonhomme Richard captured HMS Serapis
DateApril 19, 1775 – September 3, 1783
(8 years, 4 months and 15 days)[d]
Eastern North America, North Atlantic Ocean, the West Indies
Great Britain cedes the US east of the Mississippi R.; south of the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence R. to Spanish Florida

United States



Dutch Republic
Spain Bourbon Spain


 Great Britain

Commanders and leaders

Peyton Randolph
John Hancock
Benjamin Franklin

George Washington
Horatio Gates
Nathanael Greene
Henry Knox
John Sullivan
Benedict Arnold[e]
George Rogers Clark Flag.svg George Rogers Clark
Bernardo de Gálvez
full list...

Kingdom of Great Britain King George III
Kingdom of Great Britain Lord North
Kingdom of Great Britain Lord Shelburne

Kingdom of Great Britain Lord George Germain
Thomas Gage
William Howe
Henry Clinton
John Burgoyne
Charles Cornwallis
Benedict Arnold[f]
Henry Hamilton
Banastre Tarleton

full list...

United States:
 Army & Militia:
  40,000 (average)[8]
  200,000 (total)[9]
 French Army: Total unknown
  53 frigates & sloops[10][g]
 State Navies:
  106 ships (total)[13]
 French Navy: task-force
  fleets, escorts[14]

 American Indians:

Great Britain:
  48,000 peak American
 German troops:
  29,875 (total)[18][i]  Loyalist troops:
  25,000 (total)[20][j]
  task-force fleets,
  blockading squadrons[k]

 American Indians
Casualties and losses

United States:
  6,800 dead in battle
  6,100 wounded
  17,000 disease dead[26]
25–70,000 war dead[27]
130,000 small-pox dead[28]
  2,112 dead total[29][l]

Netherlands overseas: Fourth Anglo-Dutch War.[n]

Great Britain:
 5,500 battle-deaths[39][o]
  7,774 total dead
  1,800 dead in battle
  4,888 deserted[41]
  7,000 total dead
  1,700 dead in battle
  5,300 dead of disease[42]

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.[p] 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.[q]

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.[r] 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.[s] In the war for Congressional independence from Britain,[58] the American cause was further helped the next year when Britain gained another enemy: Spain declared war on Britain.[t]

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).[60] 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.[u]

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.

Background and political developments

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.[63] 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.[64]

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.[65][y]

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.[67] 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.[68]

Taxation and legislation
Two ships in a harbor, one in the distance. On board, men stripped to the waist and wearing feathers in their hair throw crates of tea overboard. A large crowd, mostly men, stands on the dock, waving hats and cheering. A few people wave their hats from windows in a nearby building
19th c. print of the 1774 Boston Tea Party

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.[69] With Britain's enlarged North American empire, the earlier Navigation Acts were expanded from mercantile regulation and repurposed for additional revenue.[70]

In the foreground, five leering men of the Sons of Liberty are holding down a Loyalist Commissioner of Customs agent, one holding a club. The agent is tarred and feathered, and they are pouring scalding hot tea down his throat. In the middle ground is the Boston Liberty Tree with a noose hanging from it. In the background, is a merchant ship with protestors throwing tea overboard into the habor.
Loyalist customs official tarred and feathered by Sons of Liberty.

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.[71] 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.[72].[z]

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.[75][aa]

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.[76] 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.[77]

Colonial response

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.[78] [ab] It passed a compact declaring a trade boycott against Britain.[79][ac]

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.[ae] 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.[81]

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.[82] 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.[83]

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.[84] 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.[85]

Political reactions

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.[86] The King answered militia resistance at Bunker Hill with a Proclamation of Rebellion, which further provoked the Patriot faction in Congress.[87] 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.[88] Tories stiffened their resistance to compromise,[89] and the King himself began micromanaging the war effort.[90] The Irish Parliament pledged to send troops to America, and Irish Catholics were allowed to enlist in the army for the first time.[91][af]

The initial hostilities in Boston caused a pause in British activity, as they remained in New York City awaiting more troops.[93] That inactive response gave the Patriots a political advantage in the colonial assemblies, and the British lost control over every former colony.[94] The army in the British Isles had been deliberately kept small since 1688 to prevent abuses of power by the King.[95] To prepare for war overseas, Parliament signed treaties of subsidy with small German states for additional troops.[96] Within a year it had sent an army of 32,000 men to America.[97][ag]

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.[98] Members included Thomas Paine, the committee's secretary, and Silas Deane who was instrumental in securing French aid in Paris.[99][ah]

Thomas Paine's pamphlet Common Sense boosted public support for independence throughout the thirteen colonies, and it was widely reprinted.[101] 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[102] 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.[103] On July 2, Congress voted for independence, and it published the declaration on July 4[104] which George Washington read to assembled troops in New York City on July 9.[105][ai]

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.[107][aj]

War in America

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.[110]

Early engagements

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.[111]

A birds-eye view of a long column of British soldiers marching by regiment along a road just outside of Boston
The British marching to 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.[112] The next month 4500 British reinforcements arrived with generals William Howe, John Burgoyne, and Henry Clinton.[113] 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,[114] and many officers fell to American rifle snipers.[115] Surviving British commanders were dismayed at the costly attack which had gained them little,[116] and Gage appealed to London stressing the need for a large army to suppress the revolt.[117] But leading Howe soon replaced Gage as British commander-in-chief for North America.[118]

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.[119] He proceeded to Boston to assume field command of the ongoing siege on July 3.[120] Howe made no effort to attack in a standoff with Washington,[121] and Washington made no plan to assault the city.[122] Instead, the Americans fortified Dorchester Heights. In early March 1776, Colonel Henry Knox arrived with heavy artillery captured from a raid on Fort Ticonderoga.[123] Under cover of darkness Washington placed his artillery atop Dorchester Heights March 5,[124] 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.[125]

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.

Snow-covered street fighting of British and Tory Provincials repulsing an American assault
British regulars and Canadian militia repulse American attack on Quebec

British officials in Quebec began negotiating with Indian tribes to support them,[126] while the Americans urged them to maintain neutrality.[127] 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.[128][ak] The second American expedition into the former French territory was defeated at the Battle of Quebec on December 31,[129] and after a loose siege the Americans withdrew in May 6, 1776.[130] An American failed counter-attack on June 8 ended their operations in Quebec.[131] 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.[132] The cumulative failures cost the Patriots support in local public opinion,[133] and aggressive anti-Loyalist policies in the New England colonies alienated the Canadians.[134] The Patriots made no further attempts to invade north.[135]

In Virginia, Royal Governor Lord Dunmore had attempted to disarm the Assembly's militia as tensions increased, although no fighting broke out.[136] He issued a proclamation on November 7, 1775, promising freedom for slaves who fled their Patriot masters to fight for the Crown.[137] 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.[138]

Continental Sergeant Jasper of the 2nd South Carolina Regiment, on a parapet raising the fort's South Carolina Revolutionary flag with its white crescent moon.
Sgt. Jasper raising the fort's flag,
Battle of Sullivan's Island, June 1776

Fighting broke out on November 19 in South Carolina between Loyalist and Patriot militias,[139] and the Loyalists were subsequently driven out of the colony.[140] Loyalists were recruited in North Carolina to reassert colonial rule in the South, but they were decisively defeated and Loyalist sentiment was subdued.[141] 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,[142] but it failed and left the South in Patriot control until 1780.[143]

Shortages in Patriot gunpowder led Congress to authorize an expedition against the Bahamas colony in the British West Indies to secure additional ordnance there.[144] On March 3, 1776, the Americans landed and engaged the British at the Battle of Nassau, but the local militia offered no resistance.[145] The expedition confiscated what supplies they could and sailed for home on March 17.[146] 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 Glasgow on April 6.[147]

British New York counter-offensive

After regrouping at Halifax, William Howe determined to take the fight to the Americans.[148] 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.[149] 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.[150][al]

Continental infantry firing a volley kneeling behind a stone wall, their captain standing with a sword; their flag has a dark green field with a canton of thirteen alternating red and white stripes.
Americans at Long Island, 1776

When Washington split his army to positions on Manhattan Island and across the East River in western Long Island.[153] 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.[154] 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.[155]

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.[156] Howe seized control of New York City four days later and unsuccessfully engaged the Americans the following day.[157] 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.[158]

Sailing ships on the Hudson River from afar, the scene emphases the two tall bluffs overlooking either side of the Hudson Narrows.
British forced Hudson River narrows

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.[159] The remaining American regiments on Long Island fell back four days later.[160] 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.[161][am] General Charles Cornwallis pursued Washington, but Howe ordered him to halt, leaving Washington to march away unmolested.[163]

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.[164] Popular support wavered, morale ebbed away, and Congress abandoned Philadelphia.[165] Loyalist activity surged in the wake of the American defeat, especially in New York state.[166] 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.[an]

In London, news of the victorious Long Island campaign was well received with festivities held in the capital. Public support reached a peak,[168] and the King awarded the Order of the Bath to Howe.[169] 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.[170] In the meantime, the British entered winter quarters in the New York City area anticipating renewed campaigning the following Spring.[171]

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.[172][ao] The decisive victory rescued the American army's flagging morale giving new hope to the Patriot cause,[174] and it dispelled much of the fear of professional Hessian "mercenaries"[175] Cornwallis marched to retake Trenton, but he was repulsed at Assunpink Creek.[176] 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.[177] Washington entered winter quarters at Morristown, New Jersey on January 6,[178] though a prolonged guerrilla conflict continued.[179] Howe made no attempt to attack the Americans over the winter of 1776-1777, much to Washington's amazement.[180]

British northern strategy fails

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.[181]

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.[182] 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.[183] 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.[184] 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.[185] Early feints failed to bring Washington to battle in June 1777.[186] 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.[187] 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.[188]

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,[189] and again after the Battle of Germantown.[190] 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.[191] Washington launched a surprise attack there but was repulsed on October 4.[192] Once again, Howe did not follow up on his victory.[193] 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.[194] The British commander had not anticipated the American defensive maneuver; he then inexplicably ordered his army to withdraw onto Philadelphia.[195]

From the left armed with muskets, a standing rank of six US infantry, a kneeling rank of six infantry, then standing facing them from the right are General von Steuben instructing them with his arm outstretched, and two officers behind him.
General von Steuben training
"Model Infantry" at Valley Forge

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.[196] 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.[197]

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.[198] Following the conclusion of the campaign, Howe resigned his commission, to be replaced by Henry Clinton on May 24, 1778.[199] 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.[200] 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.[201] By July, both armies were back in the same positions they had been two years prior.

Foreign intervention

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.[202]

French foreign minister the Comte de Vergennes was strongly anti-British,[203] and he had long sought a pretext for going to war with Britain since their conquest of Canada in 1763.[204] The French public favored war, but Vergennes and King Louis XVI were hesitant, owing to the military and financial risk.[205]

An East Indiaman freight sailboat at sea; it has three masts and a bowsprit, with all its sails set
Louis XVI gifted the US a former merchant for US Capt. Jones, renamed USS Bonhomme Richard

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.[206] To assure assistance from France, independence had to be declared, which was effected by Congress in July 1776.[207] 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.[208] These proved invaluable in the American 1777 Saratoga campaign.[209]

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.[210] However the Americans were now bolstered by their French trade, and would settle for no terms short of complete independence from Britain.[211] For the French, American victory at Saratoga convinced them that supporting the Patriots was worthwhile,[212] 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.[213] 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.[214][ap] 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.[216]

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.[217]

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.[218] 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.[219] However in 1779 Spanish First Minister Floridablanca affirmed his desire to support the Americans so as to weaken Britain's empire.[220][aq]

From the left, in the background three sailing warships at sea, one clearly flying a British naval ensign; in the center-right foreground, three sailing warships, two of them firing broadsides with gun smoke starting to cover them up. There was no US flag on the American ship, so the British said John Paul Jones was a pirate.
Capture of the HMS Serapis. The Dutch let Jones into port as a "French capture" to aid the US

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.[222] 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.[223] French supplies bound for America were also transshipped through Dutch ports.[224]

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.[225] But The Republic had further assisted the rebelling Patriot cause. It had also given sanctuary to American privateers[226] 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.[227]

Meanwhile, George III had given up on subduing America while Britain had a European war to fight.[228] 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.[229] 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.[230] Britain subsequently changed its focus into the Caribbean theater,[231] and diverted major military resources away from America.[232] 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.[233][ar]

Stalemate in the North

From the left, a coastal town set in the background of a harbor; in the foreground center-right in the approach to the harbor and curving into the right background, a line of French warships, one firing a broadside at the town.
French Adm. d'Estaing's joint expedition with US Gen. Sullivan at Newport RI

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.[235] 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.[236] The effort failed when the French opted to withdraw to avoid putting their ships at risk, disappointing the Americans.[237] 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.[238] Clinton then unsuccessfully attempted to coax Washington into a decisive engagement by making a major raid into Connecticut.[239] In July, a large American naval operation attempted to retake Maine (Massachusetts), but it resulted in a humiliating defeat.[240] 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.[241] During the winter of 1779–1780, the Continental Army suffered greater hardships than at Valley Forge.[242] 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.[243]

A close up of Continental infantry fighting in a street; a company on line firing to the left off the painting; in the center the officer; right foreground a drummer boy and behind him a soldier reloading a musket.
Continentals repulsing British attack at Springfield – "Give 'em Watts, boys!"

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.[244] A second attempt two weeks later was soundly defeated at Springfield, effectively ending British ambitions in New Jersey.[245] 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.[246]

At left center, Virginia militia Colonel George Rogers Clark with buckskinned uniformed militia lined up behind him; at right center, red-coated British Quebec Governor Hamilton surrendering with ranks of white-uniformed Tory militia behind receding into the background; a drummer boy in the foreground; a line of British Indian allies lined up on the right receding into the background.
Quebec Gov. Hamilton surrenders to Col. Clark at Vincennes, 1779

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.[247] 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.[248]

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.[as] 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.[249] The Americans responded with a major offensive along the Mad River in August which met with some success, but without ending Indian raids.[250] French-Virginian militia attempted to capture Detroit, but it was dispersed when Miami Indians ambushed the gathered troops on November 5.[251] 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.[252]

War in the South

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.[253] 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.[254]

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.[255]

A birds-eye view over the British lines of artillery besieging the port of Charleston in the center-background, and landing some shots at the docks.
British Siege of Charleston in 1780

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.[256] 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.[257]

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.[258] 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.[259]

A close-up of a cavalry melee on large horses with sabers and pistols drawn; Three redcoats center-right are engaging two Patriots in blue along with an African-American in a brown linen shirt and white pants, with his pistol drawn and leveled at a redcoat.
American and British cavalry clash
Battle of Cowpens, 1781

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.[260] 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.[261] In early October the Tory militias were defeated at the Battle of Kings Mountain, dispersing Loyalist support in the region.[262]

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.[263] Washington replaced General Gates with General Nathanael Greene at the beginning of December 1780.[264] 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.[265]

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.[266] 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.[267]

Left foreground, curving into the center, double line of Continental infantry, braced with their muskets and bayonets held at the ready; in the left background, US cavalry is charging towards lines of British infantry in the right background; immediately behind the US infantry is the occasional sergeant in formation; behind the line are two mounted US officers under a winter tree.
   1st Maryland Regiment
Battle of Guilford

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"[at] 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.[269] The Americans maintained contact with Cornwallis in a war of attrition,[270] while the British retreated to Wilmington for reinforcement. The Patriots were left in control of the abandoned Carolinas and Georgia interior.[271]

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.[272] During the Siege of Augusta on June 6, Brigadier general Andrew Pickens reclaimed possession of the last British outpost beyond Charleston and Savannah.[273]

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.[274] Minor skirmishes continued there until the end of the war.[275]

Mississippi River theater

Conquerors of the British Mississippi Basin

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.[276] 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.[277]

In the Virginia militia campaign of 1778, General George Rogers Clark founded Louisville, and cleared British forts in the region.[278] 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.[279]

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.[280] First, he cleared British garrisons in Baton Rouge, Fort Bute and Natchez, capturing five forts.[281] In this first maneuver Gálvez opened navigation on the Mississippi River north to US settlement in Pittsburg.[282] 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.[283]

In 1781, Governor Galvez and Pollack campaigned east along the Gulf Coast to secure West Florida including British-held Mobile and Pensacola.[284] 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.[285][au]

British defeat in America

Two lines of warships at sea sailing with full sails downwind away from the viewer and firing broadsides at one another; in the center foreground receding into the left background, six of the French fleet; in the right foreground receding to the center four of the British fleet.
French fleet (left) engages the British
Battle of the Chesapeake, 1781

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.[286] 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.[287]

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.[288] 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.[289]

Center foreground a British officer on the left standing surrenders to a mounted Continental officer; far left foreground receding into the center background, a British line of infantry then mounted cavalry, with a large white flag of surrender; far right foreground receding into the center background, a Continental line of infantry, then mounted cavalry, with a large US flag of the Army.
Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown

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.[290][av] The British dug in at Yorktown and awaited the Royal Navy.[294] 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.[295] 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.[296]

The British had dispatched a fleet from New York under Thomas Graves to rendezvous with Cornwallis.[297] 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.[298] Cornwallis then failed in an attempt to break out of the siege by crossing the York River at Gloucester Point when a storm hit.[299] The British, under heavy bombardment with dwindling supplies, determined that their situation was untenable.[300][aw] On October 17, 1781, after twelve hours of negotiations, the terms of surrender were finalized.[301] Yorktown was the last major battle on the American mainland, but Britain fought France and Spain elsewhere for two more years.[302][ax]

Strategy and commanders

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.[304]

West Point Military Academy MAP of America east of the Mississippi River. Campaigns noted in New England; in the Middle colonies with three British (red sailing ship) naval victories; in the South with two British naval victories, and in Virginia with one French (blue sailing ship) naval victory. A Timeline bar graph below shows almost all British (red bar) victories on the left in the first half of the war, and almost all US (blue bar) victories on the right in the second half of the war.
American Revolution, campaigns

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.[305] 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.[306]

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.[307]

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.[308]

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,[309] 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.[310] 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.[311]

American strategy

MAP of North America east of the Mississippi River outlining state borders in 1782 after state cessions of the Northwest Territory to Congress. Superimposed are three colors showing density of settled population, settlers per square mile (SPSM) in 1776: coastal Boston to Baltimore is green for over 40 SPSM; then next a thin area in tan for 15-40 SPSM for New England, then that settlement sweeps out for one hundred miles west into the frontier of southern Pennsylvania, Virginia and northeast North Carolina - and then the 15-40 SPSM tan color reappears in a 50-mile half-circle around Charleston, SC; the sparsest settlement is colored light purple for the far frontier with 2-15 SPSM for modern Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, perhaps a 20-mile buffer east of the Allegheny Mountains in New York and Pennsylvania, then reaching farther west another 100 miles into the Appalachian Mountains for Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
American population density, 1775

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.[312]

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.[313] 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.[314]

Continental Army

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.[315] 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.[316] 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.[317][ay]

Formal painting of General George Washington, standing in uniform, as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army
General Washington
commanding the Continental Army

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.[320] 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.[az]

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.[323] 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.[324] The American commander-in-chief spent more than 10 percent of his total military funds on intelligence operations.[325] Some historians maintain that, without the efforts of Washington and the Culper Spy Ring, the British would never have been defeated.[326] 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.[327]

two lines of men in Continental uniforms, seven standing infantrymen in the foreground and five mounted cavalry in the middle-ground. Seven have mostly blue coats, three coats are mostly brown, one is tanned buckskin, and one is white linen.
Image of various
Continental Army uniforms

The American armies were small by European standards of the era, largely attributable, to limitations such as lack of powder and other logistics.[ba][bb] 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.[331]

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.[332] Nevertheless, after 1778, Washington's army was transformed into a more disciplined and effective force, due largely to training by Baron von Steuben.[333] 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.[334]

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.[335] Congress evolved in its committee oversight, establishing the Board of War which included members of the military.[336] 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[337] and took charge of training and supplying the army.[338]

Continental Navy

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.[339] Congress established the Continental Navy on October 13, 1775, and appointed Esek Hopkins as the Navy's first commander.[340] The following month, Marines were organized on November 10, 1775.[341] 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.[342] 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.[343] 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.[344]

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.[345][bc] About 55,000 sailors served aboard American privateers during the war.[347]


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.[348]

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.[349]

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.[bd] 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.[352][be]

British strategy

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,[354] while the Thirteen Colonies held a population of some 2.8 million, including some 500,000 slaves.[355] 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.[356]

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.[357] Yet the American war continued unabated even after the fall of major settlements including Philadelphia where Congress met, New York and Charleston.[358] 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.[359] 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.[360][bg]

British Army

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.[365]

Portrait of the British commander-in-chief, Sir Thomas Gage in dress uniform.
Sir Thomas Gage, British Commander, 1763-1775

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.[366] The British Army garrisoning America for civil order amounted to 8500 men among 2.8 million British subjects and slaves.[367][bh] The British army at home in the British Isles had been deliberately kept small in peacetime to prevent abuses of power by the King.[369][bi] 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.[371] The idle peacetime Army after 1763 fell into corruption and inefficiency, resulting in many administrative difficulties once campaigning began a decade later.[372]

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.[373][bj]

Portrait of the British commander-in-chief, Sir William Howe in dress uniform.
Sir William Howe, British Commander, 1775–1778

General Gage was immediately replaced with General Sir William Howe who then commanded British forces in North America 1775–1778.[378] 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.[379] 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.[380] 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.[381] 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.[382]

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.[383] During the winter of 1776–1777, Howe split his army into scattered cantonments. This decision dangerously exposed the individual forces to defeat in detail,[384] but low food supply in New York City warehouses required dispersed regimental foraging parties.[385] Washington took advantage at Trenton and Princeton.[386] Howe's difficulties during the next year's Philadelphia campaign were also magnified by the poor quality and quantity of resupply directly from Britain.[387]

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.[388] Howe may have been dissuaded from direct assaults by the memory of the grievous losses the British suffered at Bunker Hill.[389] But at the surrender of General John Burgoyne and the loss of a British army to the Continental Army at Saratoga, Howe was recalled.[390]

Portrait of the British commander-in-chief, Sir Henry Clinton in dress uniform.
Sir Henry Clinton, British Commander, 1778–1782

Howe's replacement as British commander-in-chief in 1778 was General Sir Henry Clinton.[391][bk] 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.[393] General Sir Clinton was professionally regarded in the British Army as one of the best-read experts on campaign tactics and military strategy.[394] But like Howe before him, Clinton's efforts to campaign suffered from chronic supply issues.[395] Clinton was largely inactive in the North throughout 1779, launching few major campaigns.[396] By 1780, the situation had not improved.[bl]

To emphasize his disappointment, Clinton had asked London that Admiral Mariot Arbuthnot be recalled.[398] 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.[399][bm]

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.[401]

Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown and the loss of a second British army to the Continental Army effectively ended British attempts to retake America.[402] Clinton was relieved and replaced by Sir Guy Carleton.[403] 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.[404][bn]


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.[411][bo]

An American Loyalist leads three Hessian hussar horsemen on patrol through the woods.
A Loyalist leads three Hessian hussars on night patrol

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.[414] Their cost per soldier was higher than before, but about half the expense per man for Parliament to maintain a Native American warrior.[415][411] Service in America to put down a British insurrection made the Hessians[bp] the focus of national sentiment and public political debate in Britain, France, and for the first time, in the Germanies.[bq] In March 1776 the controversial treaties were debated in the British Parliament.[br] The opposition was soon taken up by the Continental Congress.[418][bs]

American newspapers covered the parliamentary debates in detail, printing and reprinting key speeches on the treaties.[420] 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.[421][422] 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.[423][bt] During this time, rumors that Britain was sending contingent of peace commissioners also circulated throughout the colonies.[420] However, when copies of the treaties between Britain and the German princes became public,[bu] advocates for independence felt they had the proof they needed that foreign soldiers would soon be on their way.[425] With Britain shown to be determined to go to war, the idea of reconciliation now seemed naive and hopeless.[bv]

Before the actual arrival of the Hessians, Americans had expected and the British had feared that many of the foreign troops would desert.[bw] 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.[428] The British launched a counter-campaign to dissuade the Hessians from desertion by creating negative stereotypes of the Americans,[429] threatening that if they deserted they would likely be hung by angry and resentful colonists for meddling in a war that was not theirs.[428][bx]

First arriving in August on Staten Island as reinforcements, the Hessians would soon participate in the Battle of Long Island.[431] 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.[432] 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.[433][by]

Revolution as civil war


Wealthy Loyalists wielded great influence in London[435] and 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.[436] Recruiting adequate numbers of Loyalist militia to support British military plans in America was made difficult by intensive local Patriot opposition nearly everywhere.[437][bz]

Approximately 25,000 Loyalists fought for the British throughout the war.[438] While Loyalists may have numbered about twenty-percent of the entire settlement population,[439][ca] 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.[441]

British troops assaulting down a city street behind two regimental colors, a freed black Tory in militia uniform among them; in the center, soldiers in British red coats are advancing into an American street barricade in the background; on the right turning away from the battle, resident women and children are running away.
Black Loyalist militia fight alongside British regulars, Battle of Jersey 1781.

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.[442] The available manpower that the British commands had in America was insufficient to protect Loyalist territory while at the same time countering American offensives.[443] 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.[444]

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.[445] 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.[446] 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.[447] But Loyalists likewise gained advantaged when Patriots resorted to intimidating suspected Tories by destroying property or tarring and feathering.[448]

One outstanding Loyalist militia unit provided some of the best troops in British service.[449] Their British Legion was a mixed regiment of 250 dragoons and 200 infantry, supported by batteries of flying artillery[450][cb] Under the command of Banastre Tarleton in the South, it gained a fearsome reputation in the colonies for "brutality and needless slaughter".[451] Nevertheless, in May 1779 the Loyalist British Legion was one of five regiments taken into British Army regular service as the American Establishment.[452] 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.[453]


Scene of Nancy Morgan Hart on the left with musket raised and child hiding behind her skirts, and behind; on the right two British soldiers are lying on the floor, and three are raising their hands defensively in alarm.
Nancy Morgan Hart captured six British infantry while defending her home.

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.[454]

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.[455]

Women also assumed military roles. Women acted as spies on both sides of the Revolutionary War.[456] 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.[457] 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".[458]

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.[459] 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. [458]

African Americans

African Americans—slave and free—served on both sides during the war, but the majority fought for the Patriots.[460] 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.

A scene of four uniformed soldiers of the Continental 1st Rhode Island Regiment. On the left, a black and a white soldier formally at “Attention” with Brown Bess muskets; on the right, a downcast white soldier walking back into formation with an officer barking at him holding a cat-o-nine tails for flogging.
Continental 1st Rhode Island Regt.
black & white infantry, (r.) officer & whip

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.[461] 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.[462]

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.[463]

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.[464] 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.[465] 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.[466] Another 10,000 enslaved belonging to Loyalists migrated elsewhere, primarily to Jamaica and the Caribbean.[467] Other blacks with camp duties for the British regiments were sold into the West Indies.[468]

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.[469]

American Indians

See also Cayuga, Cherokee, Cherokee War of 1776, Cherokee–American wars, Chocktaw, Iroquois, Lenape, Mohawk, Oneida, Onodaga, Seneca.

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.[470]

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.[471]

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.[472] 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.[473]

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.[474]

Farther west, conflicts between settlers and Indians led to lasting distrust.[475] 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.[476] 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.[477]

Global war and diplomacy

North Ministry collapses
Three-quarter portrait of King George III in his parliamentary robes, a blue suit with a leopard cape.
King George III, 1785
in his parliamentary robes

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.[478]

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.[479] Those standing orders would be in effect for three years until Clinton was relieved.[480]

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."[481][cc] 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.[483] 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.[484] 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..[485] 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.[486][cd]

Treaty of Paris
See Treaty of Paris (1783) for the Anglo-American peace, formally in effect at the conclusive peace with Anglo-French peace.

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.[489] 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.[490] Rockingham took office 27 March 1782.[491][ce] 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.[492]

Portrait of the four principle US ministers in Paris; left to right, John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens, and their secretary on the far right.
American mission (l-r) Jay, Adams, Franklin, Laurens; Wm T. Franklin, secretary in red[cf]

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.[493] The British strategy ultimately would prove successful.[494] 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.[495]

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.[496] 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.[497][cg]

The agreement met four Congressional peace demands: independence, territory to the Mississippi, its navigation to the sea, and fishing off Newfoundland.[498][ch] 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.[502]

British America and Empire

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.[503] The immediate strategic focus of the three greatest European colonial powers, Britain, France, and Spain, all shifted to Jamaica.[504] King George abandoned any hope of subduing America militarily while simultaneously contending with two European Great Powers alone.[505][ci]

Battle of Cuddalore, off India - a French victory but diplomacy did not add territory[506]

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.[507] 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.[508]

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.[509]

Peace of Paris
:See Peace of Paris (1783) for how the Anglo-American Preliminary Peace November 1782 was incorporated into the Anglo-French 1783 Treaty of Versailles, the Anglo-Spanish 1783 Treaty of Versailles, and the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of Paris (1784).
Two lines of sail warships sailing away from the viewer, firing broadsides at one another; in the center middle ground receding to the right background are the British in orderly line of battle; in the left-center middle ground receding into the left background are the French in orderly line of battle; but in the center to center-left middle ground is a melee of mixed flagged ships all firing and in moving in several directions.
Battle of the Saintes. British victory reasserted its control in the Caribbean; saved Jamaica from Bourbon invasion

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.[510]

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.[511] 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.[512]

On the right foreground, British artillery positioned high in Fortress Gibraltar, direct plunging fire down onto covered barges with Bourbon Alliance cannon approaching a landing. The British used heated iron shot to catch them afire; the barges did not have water-soaked hides that might have saved them.
Negotiations for France & Spain awaited a 'Final Assault' on Gibraltar

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.[513][cj]

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.[516] Not only did this strengthen British bargaining power in the peace talks, it also further weakened French and Spanish resolve for the war.[517] 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.[518] Gibraltar's ultimate fate however did not involve any settlements with the United States.[519][ck]

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).[522][cl] 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.[523][cm]


A New York City street scene with a mounted George Washington riding at the head of a parade.
Washington enters New York City at British evacuation, November 1783[cn]

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".[526] 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.[527]

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.[528]

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.[529] 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.[530]


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.[531]

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.[532] Though British forts on their lands had been ceded to either the French or the British prior to the creation of the United States,[533] 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.[534][co] 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.[536]

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.[cp] 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.[537] 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.[538]

Casualties and losses
A cemetery; grave stones in the foreground in staggered, irregular rows; behind them grass covered mounds of dead; an American flag in the background along a tree line.
Revolution headstones for Saratoga, mass graves

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.[539][cq] Historian Joseph Ellis suggests that Washington's decision to have his troops inoculated against the disease was one of his most important decisions.[540]

Between 25,000 and 70,000 American Patriots died during active military service.[541] 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.[542][cr] The number of Patriots seriously wounded or disabled by the war has been estimated from 8,500 to 25,000.[545]

The French suffered 2,112 killed in combat in the United States.[546][cs] The Spanish lost a total of 124 killed and 247 wounded in West Florida.[548][ct]

A British report in 1781 puts their total Army deaths at 6,046 in North America (1775–1779).[550][cu] 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.[555][cv]

See also

Topics of the Revolution

Social history of the Revolution

Others in the American Revolution

Lists of Revolutionary military

"Thirteen Colony" economy

Legacy & related

Bibliographies on Wikipedia


  1. ^ (until 1779)
  2. ^ German regiments of infantry, cavalry and artillery of principalities in the Holy Roman Empire were hired by George III by Treaties of Subsidy. Beginning in 1775 they served in America to put down the colonial rebellion there; the last units evacuated in 1782.[3] Contemporaries, commentators and historians have referred to the Hessians as both mercenaries and auxiliaries, terms that are sometimes used interchangeably.[4]
  3. ^ (from 1779)
  4. ^ Peace process: March 1782-Parliament recommends George III make peace. December 1782-George III Speech from the Throne for US independence. April 1783-Congress accepts British proposal that meets its four demands. September 1783-conclusive treaty of peace by Britain and US. May 1784-Diplomats in Paris exchange the subsequent ratifications by Parliament and Congress.[6]
  5. ^ Arnold served on the American side from 1775–1779; after defecting, he served on the British side from 1780–1783.
  6. ^ 1780–1783
  7. ^ 5,000 sailors (peak),[11] manning privateers, an additional 55,000 total sailors[12]
  8. ^ British 121,000 (global 1781)[16] "Of 7,500 men in the Gibraltar garrison in September (including 400 in hospital), some 3,430 were always on duty".[17]
  9. ^ The strength of a Hanoverian battalion who where serfs of the British George III, were shipped to Gibraltar is listed as 473 men.[19]
  10. ^ Contains a detailed listing of American, French, British, German, and Loyalist regiments; indicates when they were raised, the main battles, and what happened to them. Also includes the main warships on both sides, And all the important battles.
  11. ^ Royal Navy 94, ships-of-the-line global[21] 104 frigates global,[22] 37 sloops global,[23] 171,000 sailors,[24]
  12. ^ 7,000 dead total world wide[30]
  13. ^ 7,000 dead total world wide including 2,112 in North America[32]
  14. ^ Britain declared war on the Netherlands to end its trade and military aid to its rebelling Thirteen Colonies in North America. Peace came with the Treaty of Paris (1784). The Dutch war with Britain cost 500 dead worldwide.[38]
  15. ^ Clodfelter reports that the total deaths among the British and their allies numbered 15,000 killed in battle or died of wounds. These included estimates of 3000 Germans, 3000 Loyalists & Canadians, 3000 lost at sea, and 500 American Indians killed in battle or died of wounds.[40]
  16. ^ The scope of the American Revolutionary War is dated 1775–1783 between the independence US Congress and the First Empire of Great Britain; it was fought over over British North American colonial independence. Engagements took place in North America, the Caribbean Sea, and in the North Atlantic with its North Sea, Irish Sea, and English Channel. Formally, the "American War" was from the Declaration of Independence by Congress addressed to Britain, to the September 1783 Anglo-American Treaty of Paris to end the American Revolutionary War. Though signed on 2 September, "at the pleasure" of King George, it did not take effect until the day after, at the signing of the Anglo-French Treaty of Versailles at the palace of Louis XVI; the Anglo-Spanish Treaty of Versailles followed the French. The Congress was not a signatory to either of these last two.[55]
  17. ^ The colony of Georgia joined the Continental Congress later. Of interest, the Vermont Republic was independently established 1777-1791 before its admission to the US. Their Green Mountain Boys won an early engagement in May 1775 at Ticonderoga, and Ethan Allen later served as a general in the Continental Army.
  18. ^ Like the American Patriots who followed them in philosophy and politics, British Whigs believed that the Crown had assumed too much power since the Hanover ascension to the British throne in August 1714. The colonists who became Patriot leaders were very influenced by the Whig history that defended the 1689 Glorious Revolution at the ascension of Protestant King William and Queen Mary, along with their British Bill of Rights with local jury trial and other English rights. Several important Whigs sought reforms to free Parliament from George III's influence. The King formed majorities in Commons by granting offices, making bribes, and perpetuating rotten boroughs. Important Whig Opposition in Parliament during the struggle for American independence included: John Sawbridge for reform 1771-95, John Wilkes in 1776 who was hailed in the colonial American press as a hero of English rights, Duke of Richmond in 1780 for annual parliaments, universal suffrage and equal electoral districts. William Pitt the Younger proposed a Committee in Commons to study reform in 1782, but it was defeated 161 to 141. When "Honest Billy" Pitt proposed a specific plan in May 1783, the bill failed, but British historian Sir Adolphus Ward observed, "Pitt's popularity was greatly increased by his action in this matter." Pitt was elected Prime Minister two months after the Peace of Paris 1783 that December.[56]
  19. ^ In the 1778 Franco-American "Treaty of Alliance", the Introduction states that the defensive military treaty is conditioned on Britain initiating offensive war against France or otherwise directly "hindering her commerce and navigation" with America. In Article 1, it commits Congress, should Britain initiate war against French-US trade, to "join against their common enemy", Britain. Art. 2 dedicates the purpose of the treaty: "The essential and direct end of the present defensive alliance is to maintain effectually the liberty, sovereignty, and independence absolute and unlimited of the said United States, as well in matters of government as of commerce."[57]
  20. ^ The forty-five year-old Bourbon Family Pact between French and Spanish royalty was activated by their Aranjuez Convention. They began a war for global imperial expansion against Britain, including a Spanish Gibraltar and a French Jamaica, "if convenient". The Bourbons were cobelligerents with Congress against Britain from April 1779 to August 1781 at Yorktown, when Congress entered into a truce with British armies, and Parliament confirmed it by suspending British offensive actions in America by law in April 1782.[59]
  21. ^ The Third Bourbon Family Pact was extended at the secret Aranjuez Compact made without the knowledge or consent of Congress. It obligated France to fight after American Independence to recover Gibraltar for Spain from the British, regardless of American independence.[61] As Cuban-American historian Frank de Varona put it, when Spain declared war on Britain, "Spain was an ally of France, but not of America".[62]
  22. ^ The map shows three major language groups for Native Americans in North America within the territorial claims of the Thirteen Colonies, and the major tribal boundaries. Color-coded pink is the Algonquin language in New England, in the Chesapeake Bay region, in the Mississippi River Basin south of western Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, and on the northern Florida peninsula. Color-coded purple is the Iroquoian language south of eastern Lake Ontario and Lake Erie; the southern Appalachians, and northeast modern North Carolina. Color-coded red is the Muskogean language in the southeast, 19th century American Deep South.
  23. ^ The map shows the 1763 Treaty of Paris claims in North America by the British and Spanish. The British claim east of the Mississippi River, including the Floridas ceded by Spain in hatched-pink, and the previous French North America color-coded in pink, along the St. Lawrence River, west through the Great Lakes, and southerly east along the east bank of the Mississippi River. Spanish claims added French cessions from French Louisiana east to the Mississippi River.
  24. ^ The map shows the 1777 boundaries for three distinctive regions. (1) To the north is British Quebec, the French 1763 cession in green, north of the St. Lawrence River, east to the Atlantic Ocean, west to the Great Lakes, then south along the Mississippi River to its confluence with the Ohio River, encompassing the American Old Northwest. (2) To the south are the Floridas, the Spanish 1763 cessions of East Florida in green (Mobile and Pensacola) and West Florida in light yellow (the Florida peninsula south of the St. John's River and east of the Apalachicola River). (3) The Atlantic seaboard colonies number ten in a way unfamiliar to the modern eye. Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland are all limited west by the 1763 Royal Proclamation. Pennsylvania had an Indian treaty west nearly to its modern border. Delaware was the same three counties ceded from Pennsylvania. New York went westerly only the Lake Erie midpoint where the Seneca River empties into it. The Massachusetts (and its Maine), New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island are all labelled "New England", Nova Scotia includes the island and modern New Brunswick.
  25. ^ Many of these same “soldiers of fortune” were also intimately acquainted with the un-Christian nation-like religious tolerance in the 1500s Ottoman Empire of Suleiman the Magnificent, permitting open practice of Christianity and Judaism for a nominal tax. Accounts of Suleyaman’s policy were translated into English by Richard Knolles and published in 1606. As with other rulers, the emperor of the Turks honored his own inherited religion, “and yet detesteth hee not the staunge religions of others; but to the contrarie permitteth every man to live according to his conscience.” Merchants in Ottoman port cities ran their own courts governing trade with co-religionists. Ruled from Constantinople (now Istanbul), it was then the largest empire in Europe. Virginia’s Captain John Smith had been held capture there and escaped.[66]
  26. ^ When the Lord Rockingham administration abolished the Stamp Act, it also reduced the tax on foreign molasses to one-penny a gallon in an explicit policy to help the New England economy to recover and expand.[73] At first, most of the frontier garrison expense was to be paid by the Sugar Act, which also renewed provisions of the old 1733 Molasses Act.[74] Eighty-five percent of New England's rum exports worldwide was manufactured from French molasses, prohibited to the French to protect their domestic Brandy industry.
  27. ^ Boston lawyer John Adams defended the Boston Massacre soldiers. The officer present was acquitted as not proven to have issued a commanded to fire, five enlisted soldiers were acquitted, and two were convicted of manslaughter for discharging their muskets directly into the crowd.
  28. ^ Georgia did not attend.
  29. ^ An alternative plan called for an imperial legislature made up both of Parliament and of a new North American "Grand Council" that would be equivalent to Parliament. It was rejected in Congress by a six to five vote on October 22, 1774. Some of its earlier support may have been chilled at the arrival of the Massachusetts Suffolk County Resolves petitioning for economic boycott, no British tax payments, and calling up local militias by the rump colonial legislatures comprised only of the elected representatives.[80]
  30. ^ George Washington standing to receive the appointment, John Adams in a blue coat, two figures removed to the right of him
  31. ^ "Resolved, 4. That the foundation of English liberty, and of all free government, is a right in the people to participate in their legislative council: … they are entitled to a free and exclusive power of legislation in their several provincial legislatures, where their right of representation can alone be preserved, in all cases of taxation and internal polity, subject only to the negative of their sovereign, …: But, … we cheerfully consent to the operation of such acts of the British parliament, as are bonafide, restrained to the regulation of our external commerce, for the purpose of securing the commercial advantages of the whole empire to the mother country, and the commercial benefits of its respective members; excluding every idea of taxation internal or external, [without the consent of American subjects]." quoted from the Declarations and Resolves of the First Continental Congress October 14, 1774.
  32. ^ Irish Protestants who had been among the families immigrating to the colonies favored the Americans, while Catholics who were generally disenfranchised there favored the King.[92]
  33. ^ That number was the largest army it had ever sent outside Europe at the time.
  34. ^ During this time Benjamin Church, an assumed trusted patriot, was giving the British information on patriot troop strength and positions.[100]
  35. ^ Later that evening a mob tore down a lead statue of the King, which was later melted down into musket balls.[106]
  36. ^ "Patriots" were those who supported independence from Britain in their states and a new national union in Congress. Loyalists remained faithful to British imperial rule. "Loyalists" were usually minorities in each population, the appointed colonial officials, licensed merchants, Anglican churchmen, and the politically traditional. They were concentrated around port cities, on the New England Iroquois frontier and in the South near Cherokee settlement.[108] Tories saw any subjects of the King who pretended to remove their ruler for whatever reasons as committing treason, and George III was encouraged to convict those responsible with the death penalty.[109]
  37. ^ Quebec had a largely Francophone population and had been under British rule for only 12 years. It was officially ceded in 1763 from France to Britain.
  38. ^ Washington knew that a British attack on the city was imminent. To learn when and where it would occur he asked for a volunteer among the Rangers to spy on activity behind enemy lines in Brooklyn. Young Nathan Hale stepped forward, but he was able to provide Washington with little intelligence at that time.[151] On September 21 Hale was discovered in New York with maps and sketches of British fortifications and troop positions in his pockets. Howe ordered that he be summarily hung without trial the next day as a spy.[152]
  39. ^ The American prisoners were subsequently sent to the infamous prison ships where more American soldiers and sailors died of disease and neglect than died in every battle of the war combined.[162]
  40. ^ Tallmadge's cover name became John Bolton, and he was the architech of the spy ring.[167]
  41. ^ Casualty numbers vary slightly with the Hessian forces, usually between 21 and 23 killed, 80–95 wounded, and 890–920 captured (including the wounded).[173]
  42. ^ In a subsequent treaty France secretly made with Spain struck at Aranjuez, France aimed to expel Britain and deny the Americans from the Newfoundland fishery, end restrictions on Dunkirk sovereignty, regain free trade in India, recover Senegal and Dominica, and restore the Treaty of Utrecht provisions pertaining to Anglo-French trade.[215]
  43. ^ On April 12, 1779, Spain signed the secret Treaty of Aranjuez with France and went to war against Britain. Spain made war on Britain to recover Gibraltar and Menorca in Europe, as well as Mobile and Pensacola in Florida. Spain also had an imperial interest in expelling the British from Central America, both militarily and commercially.[221]
  44. ^ Mahan maintains that Britain's attempt to fight in multiple theaters simultaneously without major allies was fundamentally flawed, citing impossible mutual support, exposing the forces to defeat in detail.[234]
  45. ^ Bird's expedition numbered 150 British soldiers, several hundred Loyalists, and 700 Shawnee, Wyandot and Ottawa auxiliaries. The force skirted into the eastern regions of Patriot-conquered western Quebec that had been annexed as Illinois County, Virginia. His target was Virginia militia stationed at Lexington. As they approached downriver on the Ohio River, rumor among the Indians spread that the feared Colonel Clark had discovered their approach. Bird’s Indians and Loyalists abandoned their mission 90 miles upriver to loot settlements at the Licking River. At the surrender of Ruddles Station, safe passage to families was promised, but 200 were massacred. Grenier maintains that "The slaughter the Indians and rangers perpetrated was unprecedented".
  46. ^ Light Horse Harry was the father of Robert E. Lee.[268]
  47. ^ Governor Bernardo de Gálvez is only one of eight men made honorary US citizens for his service in the American Cause. see Bridget Bowman (29 December 2014). "Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid's Very Good Year". Roll Call. The Economist Group. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  48. ^ They had been sent south to Virginia in August to coordinate with de Grasse in defeating Cornwallis.[291] Following two previous failed joint operations at Newport and Savannah by French (at sea) and Americans (on land), French planners realized that closer cooperation with the Americans was required to achieve success.[292] The French fleet led by the Comte de Grasse had received discretionary orders from Paris to assist joint efforts in the north if naval support was needed.[293]
  49. ^ A white flag was raised and a British officer emerged from the earthworks, along with a drummer boy. An American officer came forward to meet them, and after a brief discussion, the British officer was blindfolded and escorted to Washington's headquarters about a mile away. Upon arrival the British officer presented Washington with a letter from Cornwallis confirming the surrender. After consulting with his staff, Washington gave his written response and arranged for a meeting with Cornwallis the next morning.
  50. ^ After the defeat at Yorktown Clinton attempted to lay blame on Germain who had assured him that adequate reinforcements would arrive. Clinton also took exception to Cornwallis' account of the campaign, prompting him to write his own version of the defeat. Clinton, however, ultimately took the brunt of the blame for the defeat.[303]
  51. ^ Eventually, the Continental Army found capable officers such as Nathanael Greene, Daniel Morgan, Henry Knox (chief of artillery), and Alexander Hamilton (chief of staff).[318] One of Washington's most successful recruits to general officer was Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a veteran of the Prussian general staff who wrote the Revolutionary War Drill Manual. Over the winter of 1777–78 at Valley Forge, von Steuben was instrumental in training the Continental Army in the essentials of infantry field maneuvers with military discipline, drills, tactics, and strategy.[319]
  52. ^ Three branches of the United States Military forces trace their institutional roots to the American Revolutionary War; the Army comes from the Continental Army; the Navy recognizes October 13, 1775, as the date of its official establishment when the Continental Congress created the Continental Navy, appointing Esek Hopkins as the Navy's first commander.[321] The Marine Corps links to the Continental Marines of the war, formed by a resolution of Congress on November 10, 1775.[322]
  53. ^ The largest force Washington commanded was certainly under 17,000,[328] and may have been no more than 13,000 troops, and even the combined American and French forces at the siege of Yorktown amounted to only about 19,000.[329]
  54. ^ On the British side, their armies were relatively smaller due to the difficulty of transporting troops across the Atlantic. They were also limited by their dependence on local supplies, which the Patriots tried to cut off. By comparison, Duffy notes that in an era when European rulers were generally revising their forces downward, in favor of a size that could be most effectively controlled (the very different perspective of mass conscript armies came later, during the French Revolutionary and then the Napoleonic Wars), the largest army that Frederick the Great ever led into battle was 65,000 men (at Prague in 1757), and at other times he commanded between 23,000 and 50,000 men, considering the latter the most effective number.[330]
  55. ^ In what was known as the Whaleboat War, American privateers mainly from New Jersey, Brooklyn and Connecticut attacked and robbed British merchant ships and raided and robbed coastal communities of Long Island reputed to have Loyalist sympathies.[346]
  56. ^ King George III feared that the war's prospects would make it unlikely he could reclaim the North American colonies.[350] During the later years of the Revolution, the British were drawn into numerous other conflicts about the globe.[351]
  57. ^ The final elements for US victory over Britain and US independence was assured by direct military intervention from France, as well as ongoing French supply and commercial trade over the final three years of the war.[353]
  58. ^ The Indian treaties mapped are from 1778; the subsequent 1770 Treaty of Lochaber surrendered additional Cherokee lands in southwestern West Virginia.
  59. ^ Debate persists over whether a British defeat in America was a guaranteed outcome. One British statesman described the attempt as "like trying to conquer a map".[361] Ferling argues that long odds made the defeat of Britain nothing short of a miracle.[362] Ellis, however, considers that the odds always favored the Americans. He holds that the British squandered their only opportunities for a decisive success in 1777 because William Howe's strategic decisions relied on local Tory militias while underestimating Patriot capabilities. Ellis concludes that once Howe failed, the opportunity for a British victory "would never come again".[363] The US military history published by the US Army speculates that an additional British commitment of 10,000 fresh troops in 1780 would have placed British victory within the realm of possibility.[364]
  60. ^ The entire standing British Army, exclusive of British Isles militia, comprised 45,123 men worldwide. The total numbers included 38,254 infantry and 6,869 cavalry. There were approximately eighteen regiments of foot, and an additional 20 independent companies on garrison duty. The 41st regiment was made up of invalids. Troops in India were under detached to the East India Company, and did not become part of the British Army until 1858.[368]
  61. ^ Standing armies had played a key role in the purge of the Long Parliament in 1648, and the enforced Puritan rule of Oliver Cromwell.[370]
  62. ^ Initially British leadership had been excessively optimistic, believing that just two regiments could suppress the rebellion in Massachusetts.[374] Their assessment proved mistaken at the Battle of Bunker Hill. It took ten hours for the British leadership to respond following the sighting of the Americans on the Charlestown Peninsula, giving the colonists ample time to reinforce their defenses.[375] Rather than opt for a simple flanking attack that would have rapidly succeeded with minimal loss,[376] the British decided on repeated frontal attacks with heavy casualties, until the patriots ran out of ammunition, gunpowder being in short supply. The results were telling; the British suffered 1,054 casualties of a force of around 3,000 after repeated frontal assaults.[377]
  63. ^ General Carleton, a Member of Parliament, had repelled the American assault on Quebec in 1775, but he had been passed over for advancement by General Burgoyne because of his reputation for over-caution.[392]
  64. ^ Clinton wrote a frustrated correspondence to Germain, voicing concern that a "fatal consequence will ensue" if matters did not improve.[397]
  65. ^ The naval standoff at Cape Henry was at considerable cost to Arbuthot's professional reputation. He had disrupted the chain of command during war, the he was subsequently embarrassed by the admiralty supporting his successor. And he tactically mishandled his fleet in line, misjudging the wind and causing three of his eight ships to be put out of action during battle. It was only the prevailing wind that allowed his limping withdrawal towards the mouth of the Chesapeake, which was coincidentally his tactical goal. Arbuthnot was given no further command at sea thereafter.[400]
  66. ^ By the end of hostilities in America at the close of 1781, the British Army numbered approximately 121,000 men globally,[405] 48,000 of whom were stationed throughout the Americas.[406] Of the 171,000 sailors who served in the Royal Navy throughout the conflict, around a quarter were pressed. This same proportion, approximately 42,000 men, deserted during the conflict.[407] At its height, the Navy had 94 ships-of-the-line,[408] 104 frigates[409] and 37 sloops in service.[410]
  67. ^ Hesse-Cassell was often regarded as "the Mercenary State".[412] For 100s of years it been hiring out professional soldiers to the highest bidder, sometimes to countries that were at war with one another.[413]
  68. ^ All the foreign troops, including the Hanoverians, Brunswickers, etc, from the various German states were commonly called Hessians.[416]
  69. ^ Germans overall were complacent about ideas of independence and, with the exception of King Frederick II of Prussia, had taken little issue when the Hessians were once employed by the British in 1725 and 1755.[417] Frederick II, Frederick the Great, did not allow the transfer of hired soldiers slated to fight in the American war to cross his territory.[418]
  70. ^ In late 1775 and early 1776 the American public was becoming increasingly aware of the parliamentary discussions over the use of foreign troops. In the fall of 1775, a growing faction in Parliament was openly challenging Lord North's increasingly aggressive policies regarding the Americans and the deployment of foreign soldiers to subdue the rebellion in the colonies.[419]
  71. ^ The Continental Congress, who appointed Thomas Jefferson to author a Declaration of Independence, censured George III for his employment of foreign mercenaries, among other things.[418]
  72. ^ Newspaper reaction to the news of Hessian troop deployment in the service of George III to put down the American revolt can be found in the German language newspaper: Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbote, October 3, 1775.
  73. ^ Copies were smuggled in from Britain by George Merchant, an American Patriot. A private in Morgan's Company of Riflemen of Virginia, Merchant had been captured by the British in Quebec the previous year then taken to London, where British Whigs successfully pressed for his release.[424]
  74. ^ Though they functioned as auxiliaries, the Hessians overall had a long-standing reputation as professional mercenary soldiers, known for their rapaciousness.[426][427]
  75. ^ James Lutrell, a member of Parliament, feared that there "were already 150,000 Germans in America ... desertions would be the likely outcome." Sir Henry Clinton instead had hoped to employ Russian soldiers with the idea that they knew only one language and would not be inclined to desert in a country with very few Russians.
  76. ^ British soldiers were themselves often contemptuous in their treatment of Hessian troops, despite orders from General Howe that "the English should treat the Germans as brothers".[430]
  77. ^ The total cost to Britain amounted to more than seven million pounds sterling at that time.[411] This figure does not reflect the payment of an old British debt from the Seven Years War that Hesse-Cassel also demanded, apart from their treaties of subsidies.[434]
  78. ^ On militia see Boatner 1974, p. 707;
    Weigley 1973, ch. 2
  79. ^ Unlike John Adams' later recollection attributing the American population as one-third Patriot, one-third neutral, and on-third Loyalist, recent scholarship indicates that nationally, Patriots were perhaps forty-percent, neutrals were variable up to forty-percent depending on local circumstances, and Loyalists were calculated to be fifteen to twenty-percent.[440]
  80. ^ "British Legion Infantry strength at Cowpens was between 200 and 271 enlisted men". However, this statement is referenced to a note on pp. 175–76, which says, "The British Legion infantry at Cowpens is usually considered to have had about 200–250 men, but returns for the 25 December 1780 muster show only 175. Totals obtained by Cornwallis, dated 15 January, show that the whole legion had 451 men, but approximately 250 were dragoons". There would therefore appear to be no evidence for putting the total strength of the five British Legion Light Infantry companies at more than 200.[450]
  81. ^ While Lord North rebutted the Whig resolution in Commons to end offensive operations in America, he could postpone the inevitable onlyseveral weeks. The mood of the British nation had changed since the 1770s. Member of Parliament Edward Gibbon had believed the King's cause in America to be just, and the British and German soldiers there fought bravely. But after Yorktown, he concluded, "It is better to be humbled than ruined." There was no point in spending more money on Britain's most expensive war, with no hope of success. Whig William Pitt argued that war on American colonists had brought nothing but ineffective victories or severe defeats. He condemned effort to retain the Americans as a "most accursed, wicked, barbarous, cruel, unjust and diabolical war."[479] Lord North resigned. George III never forgave him.[482]
  82. ^ On March 5, 1782, Both Commons and Lords of Parliament authorized the government to make a US peace with independence.[487] Parliament began its negotiations in Paris, and a British-US-French-Spanish armistice was negotiated there, subsequently honored in North America among all sides, thus ending worldwide conflict related to the American War for Independence.[488]
  83. ^ As an indication of how the political climate of London had changed, as Rockingham put together his cabinet to form a government in Parliament, the formerly exiled John Wilkes, the radical Whig for American independence, wider British workingman suffrage, and a darling of the Patriot weeklies, returned to his seat in the House of Commons.
  84. ^ the Treaty of Paris oil
  85. ^ British historian Robert Harvey has said that Shelburne met American demands for territory west to the Mississippi River in order "to cheat the Spaniards".
  86. ^ Meanwhile, by mid 1782 the British blockade of the American coast had tightened to the point that the Continental economy was suffering - coastal merchant ships were being taken at large rates by the Royal Navy.[499] This led to rising inflation made worse by the fact that France was unable to provide anymore loans. As a result, congress financier Robert Morris was unable to pay soldiers of the Continental Army.[500] To speed the US negotiators, Britain offered Newfoundland fishing rights to the US, denying France exclusive rights; France and Spain would now sign their treaties after the Anglo-American fait accompli.[501]
  87. ^ Historians classify Europe's "Great Powers" of the late 1700s "western" and "eastern". The western powers of France, Spain and Britain are set off against the eastern powers of Austria, Russia and Prussia. The three eastern powers all offered to mediate the western Great Power conflicts of the 1770s. Russia began as the mediator among the three Western powers until it showed favoritism to Britain, at which time the Austrians took over the role.
  88. ^ Britain then objected to American claims on the Newfoundland fisheries and Canada. Britain flatly refused American demands to cede land north of the old border with Canada.[514] The American negotiators led by John Jay became more amenable to limiting their territorial reach to that currently occupied by the Continental Army, and the British made concessions for American fishing rights and shoreline preservation of the catch along the Newfoundland Banks.[515] From this position, Britain's negotiating priority pivoted for better trade relations with an independent America, and for the disruption of Britain's European belligerents and their empires.
  89. ^ Negotiations over Gibraltar were not submitted to US ministers in Paris, neither by British, Spanish nor French governments. U.S. independence was recognized by treaty with France February 6, 1778,[519] by preliminary agreement with Britain in November 1782[520] and George III announcement December 5, 1782, and by treaty with Spain in March 1783.[521] None of them returned to the negotiation table with Benjamin Franklin or John Jay on how to dispose of Gibraltar.
  90. ^ Previously, French and Spanish ministers had insisted to continue their imperial war against Britain until concluding a comprehensive European peace prior to recognizing US independence. Also, the secret 1779 French-Spanish treaty first secured the Bourbon kings naval superiority over Britain in European and Mediterranean waters, but the price for Spanish commitment was continued French warfare against Britain until after Gibraltar had fallen to Spanish possession.
  91. ^ Preliminary peace articles to end the American Revolutionary War were signed in Paris between UK and US on November 30, 1782. The US Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris on April 13, 1783, securing independence from Britain in that treaty between the two belligerents as separate and equal nations.[524] Congress then proclaimed an end to all hostilities that same day.[525]
  92. ^ St. Paul's Chapel is shown on the left. However, the parade route in 1783 did not pass by it, but went from Bull's Head Tavern on Bowery near Bayard, then continuing down Chatham, Pearl, Wall, and ending at Cape's Tavern on Broadway.
  93. ^ For the thirteen years prior to the Anglo-American commercial Jay Treaty of 1796 under President John Adams, the British maintained five forts in New York state: two forts at northern Lake Champlain, and three beginning at Fort Niagara stretching east along Lake Ontario. In the Northwest Territory, they garrisoned Fort Detroit and Fort Michilimackinac.[535]
  94. ^ There had been native-born Spanish (hidalgo) uprisings in several American colonies during the American revolution, contesting mercantilist reforms of Carlos III that had removed privileges inherited from the Conquistadors among encomiendas, and they also challenged Jesuit dominance in the Catholic Church there. American ship captains were known to have smuggled banned copies of the Declaration of Independence into Spanish Caribbean ports, provoking Spanish colonial discontent.
  95. ^ In addition to as many as 30% deaths in port cities, and especially high rates among the closely confined prisoner-of-war ships, scholars have reported large numbers lost among the Mexican population, and large percentage losses among the American Indian along trade routes, Atlantic to Pacific, Eskimo to Aztec.
  96. ^ If the upper limit of 70,000 is accepted as the total net loss for the Patriots, it would make the conflict proportionally deadlier than the American Civil War.[543] Uncertainty arises from the difficulties in accurately calculating the number of those who succumbed to disease, as it is estimated at least 10,000 died in 1776 alone.[544]
  97. ^ Elsewhere around the world, the French lost another approximately 5,000 total dead in conflicts 1778-1784.[547]
  98. ^ During the same time period in the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War, the Dutch suffered around 500 total killed, owing to the minor scale of their conflict with Britain.[549]
  99. ^ British returns in 1783 listed 43,633 rank and file deaths across the British Armed Forces.[551] In the first three years of the Anglo-French War (1778), British list 9,372 soldiers killed in battle across the Americas; and 3,326 in the West Indies (1778–1780).[552] In 1784, a British lieutenant compiled a detailed list of 205 British officers killed in action during British conflicts outside of North America, encompassing Europe, the Caribbean and the East Indies.[553] Extrapolations based upon this list puts British Army losses in the area of at least 4,000 killed or died of wounds outside of its North American engagements.[554]
  100. ^ Around 171,000 sailors served in the Royal Navy during British conflicts worldwide 1775–1784; approximately a quarter of whom had been pressed into service. Around 1,240 were killed in battle, while an estimated 18,500 died from disease (1776–1780).[556] The greatest killer at sea was scurvy, a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency.[557] It was not until 1795 that scurvy was eradicated from the Royal Navy after the Admiralty declared lemon juice and sugar were to be issued among the standard daily grog rations of sailors.[558] Around 42,000 sailors deserted worldwide during the era.[559] The impact on merchant shipping was substantial; 2,283 were taken by American privateers.[560] Worldwide 1775-1784, an estimated 3,386 British merchant ships were seized by enemy forces during the war among Americans, French, Spanish, and Dutch.[561]


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  • Abrams, Creighton W. "The Yorktown Campaign, October 1781". National Museum, United States Army, Army Historical Foundation. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  • Adams, Charles Francis (1911). Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society: Campaign of 1777. 44. Massachusetts Historical Society.
  • —— (1963) [1895–1896]. Jameson, J. Franklin (ed.). The American historical review. New York, N.Y. : Kraus Reprints.
  • —— (1969). A History of the American Revolution. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-306-80366-6.
  • Alden, John R. (1976). American Revolution, Seventeen Seventy Five to Seventeen Eighty-Three. Harpercollins. ISBN 978-0061330117.
  • —— (2010). Encyclopedia of African American History. ABC-CLIO. p. 356. ISBN 978-1-85109-774-6.
  • Allison, David K; Ferreiro, Larrie D., eds. (2018). The American Revolution: A World War. Smithsonian Institution. ISBN 9781588346599.
  • Ammerman, David (1974). In the Common Cause: American Response to the Coercive Acts of 1774. New York: Norton. ISBN 9780813905259.
  • Armour, Alexander W. (October 1941). "Revolutionary War Discharges". William and Mary Quarterly. Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. 21 (4): 344–360. JSTOR 1920145.
  • Archuleta, Roy A. (2006). Where We Come from. p. 69. ISBN 9781424304721.
  • Atwood, Rodney (2002). The Hessians: Mercenaries from Hessen-Kassel in the American Revolution. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521526371.
  • Axelrod, Alan (2009). The Real History of the American Revolution: A New Look at the Past. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. ISBN 978-1-4027-6816-3.

  • Yaniz, Jose I. (2009). "The Role of Spain in the American Revolution: An Unavoidable Mistake" (PDF). Marine Corps University. Spain declared war on Great Britain in June 1779 as an ally of France but not of America … The Bourbon Family Compact obligated Spain with commitments to France; and the Spanish Crown answered the call. Madrid thus took an unavoidable political strategic mistake.

Websites without authors, alphabetically by publisher

Further reading

These are some of the standard works about the war in general that are not listed above; books about specific campaigns, battles, units, and individuals can be found in those articles.

Primary sources

In addition to this selection, many primary sources are available at the Princeton University Law School [Avalon Project and at the Library of Congress Digital Collections (previously LOC webpage, American Memory). Original editions for titles related to the American Revolutionary War can be found open sourced online at Internet Archive and Hathi Trust Digital Library.

  • Congress of the United States, Continental (1776). "Declaration of Independence". National Archives, Washington DC. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Emmerich, Adreas. The Partisan in War, a treatise on light infantry tactics written by Colonel Andreas Emmerich in 1789.

External links

Bibliographies online