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American Revolutionary War

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American Revolutionary War
Clockwise: Surrender of Lord Cornwallis after the Siege of Yorktown, Battle of Trenton, The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill, Battle of Long Island, Battle of Guilford Court House
Date April 19, 1775 – September 3, 1783[12]
(8 years, 4 months and 15 days)
Ratification effective: May 12, 1784
Location Eastern North America, Caribbean Sea, Indian subcontinent,[13] Central America, Europe,[14] Africa, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Indian Ocean

Peace of Paris

North America:



End of the First British Empire

French war debts contribute to a fiscal crisis that ultimately begat the French Revolution

United States Thirteen Colonies [1]
United States United States [2]
Vermont [3]
Kingdom of France French Empire [4][5]
Spanish Empire Spanish Empire [6]

Dutch Republic Dutch Republic [7]
Mysore [8]

Native Americans[9]

Kingdom of Great Britain British Empire

Native Americans[11]
Commanders and leaders

United States George Washington
Thomas Chittenden
Kingdom of France Louis XVI
Spanish Empire Charles III

Dutch Republic William V

Kingdom of Mysore Hyder Ali

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

Kingdom of Great Britain Lord George Germain

United States:
40,000 (average)[20]
200,000 (total served)[21]
5,000 sailors (peak 1779)[22]
53 frigates and sloops (total served)[22]
55,000 sailors (total served)[23]
1,700 ships[24]

36,000 French (America)
63,000 French and Spanish (Gibraltar)
146 ships-of-the-line (1782)[25]

Native Allies:


Great Britain:
48,000 (America peak)[26]
121,000 (global 1781)[27]
7,500 (Gibraltar)
94 ships-of-the-line (1782)[25]
104 frigates (1781)[28]
37 sloops (1781)[29]
171,000 sailors[30]

Loyalist forces:
25,000 (total served)[31]

German mercenaries:
30,000 (total served)[32]

Native Allies:

Casualties and losses

United States:
6,824 killed in battle
25,000–70,000 dead from all causes[20][34]
Overall casualties up to 50,000[35]

10,000 battle deaths (75% at sea)

5,000 killed


500 killed[36]

Great Britain:
4,000 killed in battle (North America only)
27,000 died of disease (North America)[20][37]
1,243 killed in battle
42,000 deserted
18,500 died of disease (1776–1780)[38]
At least 51,000 dead from all causes

1,800 killed in battle
4,888 deserted

7,774 dead from all causes[20]

The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence,[39] was a global war that began as a conflict between Great Britain and its thirteen American colonies, which declared independence as the United States of America.[N 1]

After 1765 growing political differences over taxation strained the relationship between Britain and its American colonies. Following the Stamp Act, Patriot protests against taxation without representation escalated into boycotts, which culminated in the Boston Tea Party that destroyed a shipment of tea in Boston. Britain punished the Patriots by closing Boston Harbor and passing a series of punitive measures against Massachusetts colony. Massachusetts Patriots responded with the Suffolk Resolves and established a shadow government which wrested control of the countryside from the Crown. Twelve colonies formed a Continental Congress to coordinate their resistance, establishing committees and conventions that effectively seized power.[40]

British attempts to disarm the Massachusetts militia in April 1775 led to open combat at Lexington and Concord. Militia forces then besieged Boston and the Continental Congress created the Continental Army and named George Washington as commander-in-chief. He had charge of regular soldiers, as well as temporary use of state militias. They besieged Boston and the British Army evacuated the city. By spring, 1776, the Patriots controlled almost all of the territory in the 13 colonies – they now became states and refused to negotiate a return to the British Empire. In July 1776 the Congress declared independence as The United States of America. France and other enemies of Britain provided munitions and money, but at this point they did not officially recognize the new nation. In September, 1776, the British launched a major counterattack. They almost captured Washington and his army, and did capture New York City, which became the main British base for the rest of the war. American morale fell but Washington's surprise victories in New Jersey late in 1776 restored confidence. In 1777, the British launched a large-scale invasion from Quebec intending to isolate New England. It moved too slowly, and the main British force in New York City move south to capture Philadelphia, leaving me invasion army trapped in upstate New York. The British surrendered the entire invasion force at Saratoga, New York, in October 1777.

Burgoyne's disaster had drastic consequences; France formally allied with the Americans and entered the war in 1778. Spain later joined as an ally of France but not directly of the United States. In 1780, the Kingdom of Mysore attacked the British in India, and ware erupted with the Netherlands. In America, the British mounted a "Southern strategy" that hinged upon a Loyalist uprising. Too few Loyalists came forward. The British planned an evacuation from Virginia back to New York, but a decisive French naval victory cut off hopes for an escape. The American and French armies had slipped out of New York and besieged the helpless British army, which was forced to surrender at Yorktown.

Whigs in Britain had long opposed the pro-war Tories in Parliament, and the surrender gave the former the upper hand. In early 1782, Parliament voted to end all offensive operations in North America, but the war continued in Europe and India. Britain remained under siege in Gibraltar, but scored a major success against the French navy. On September 3, 1783, the belligerent parties signed the Treaty of Paris, formally ending the war, in which Britain agreed to recognize the sovereignty of the United States. Although French involvement had proved decisive,[41] France made few gains and incurred crippling debts. Spain made some minor territorial gains but failed in its primary aim of recovering Gibraltar. The Dutch were defeated on all counts and were compelled to cede territory to Britain. In India, the war against Mysore and its allies concluded in 1784 without any territorial changes.


Early seeds

In 1651, the English government sought to regulate trade in America by passing the Navigation Acts, ensuring trade only enriched Britain.[42][43] Though the economic effects were minimal,[44][45] the political friction triggered was more serious.[46] These efforts continued in the 1680s,[47] resulting in the abrogation of colonial charters[48] and the establishment of the Dominion of New England in 1686. Seen to be undermining democratic liberty,[49][50] colonists overthrew the Dominion in 1689,[51][52] and no attempts were made by the Crown to restore it.[53][54] Successive governments did not relent; passing acts on the taxation of wool,[55] hats,[56] and molasses.[57] The taxes damaged the local economy, and, as a result, were rarely paid. Smuggling, bribery and intimidation of customs officials became commonplace.[58] Colonial wars were also a contributing factor. King Philip's War, fought without significant Crown assistance, contributed to the development of a unique identity, separate from that of Britain.[59] The return of Louisbourg to France following war in 1748 caused considerable resentment in New England; having expended great effort in subduing the fortress, only to have it returned to their erstwhile enemy.[60]

Taxation disputes

Britain's triumph in the Seven Years' War over France and Spain saw a financial crisis; the national debt had doubled to £130 million, and the annual cost of the establishment in America increased five-fold compared to 1749.[61] Smuggling, hitherto tacitly accepted, blunted revenue. London decided to clamp down on avoidance of customs duties.[62] It passed the Stamp Act in 1765, directly taxing the colonies for the first time. Colonists condemned the tax, arguing their rights as Englishmen meant they could not be taxed by a Parliament they had no elected representatives in.[63] Parliament argued the colonies were "represented virtually", an idea criticised across the Empire.[64] Parliament did repeal the act in 1766, however, it also affirmed its right to pass laws binding on the colonies.[65] From 1767, Parliament began passing legislation to raise revenue for the salaries of civil officials, ensuring their loyalty. Opposition soon became widespread.[66][67]

Enforcing the acts proved difficult; the seizure of the sloop Liberty on suspicions of smuggling triggered a riot. In response, British troops occupied the city. Parliament threatened to extradite locals for trial in England.[68] Tensions rose after the murder of a teen by a customs official in 1770, and later escalated into outrage after British troops fired on a civilian mob.[69] In 1772, colonists boarded and burned a customers schooner.[70] Parliament then repealed all taxes, except the one on tea. It passed the Tea Act in 1773, intending to convince colonists to buy Company tea, on which the Townshend duties were paid, thus implicitly agreeing to Parliamentary supremacy. The landing of the tea was resisted in all colonies. When the governor of Massachusetts refused to send back tea ships in Boston Harbor, the Sons of Liberty destroyed the tea chests.[71]

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.
This iconic 1846 lithograph by Nathaniel Currier was entitled "The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor"; the phrase "Boston Tea Party" had not yet become standard. Contrary to Currier's depiction, few of the men dumping the tea were actually disguised as Indians.[72]

Parliament then passed punitive legislation. It closed Boston Harbor until the tea was paid for, and revoked the colonial charter, appointing the executive council directly. Additionally, the royal governor was granted powers to undermine local democracy.[73][74] Further measures allowed the extradition of officials for trial elsewhere in the Empire, if the governor felt a fair trial could not be secured locally. The act's vague reimbursement policy for travel expenses left few with the ability to testify, and colonists argued it would allow officials to harass colonists with impunity.[75] Further laws allowed the governor to billet troops in private property without permission. Ammerman contests this, stating the act only permitted soldiers to be quartered in unoccupied buildings.[76] The measures were dubbed the "Intolerable Acts". Colonists argued their constitutional and natural rights were being violated, viewing them as a threat to all of America.[77] The acts were widely opposed, driving neutral parties into support of the Patriots and curtailing Loyalist sentiment.[78][79]

Colonial response

Leaders of Suffolk County issued a declaration in 1774, refusing obedience to the Intolerable Acts until they were repealed. An illegal "provincial congress" was established, removing Crown control of the colony outside Boston. Meanwhile, representatives from twelve colonies[80][81] convened a Congress to respond to the crisis. A devolution proposal was narrowly rejected, instead passing a compact declaring a trade boycott against Britain.[82][83] Congress affirmed Parliament had no authority over internal American matters, but they would consent to trade regulations to benefit the empire.[84] Congress authorized the founding of committees and conventions to enforce the boycott. The boycott was effective; imports from Britain dropped by 97% in 1775 compared to 1774.[83]

Parliament refused to yield. In 1775, it declared Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion, and enforced a blockade of the colony.[85][86] It then passed legislation to limit colonial trade to the West Indies and the British Isles. Colonial ship were barred from the Newfoundland fisheries, a measure which pleased Canadiens, but adversely damaged New England's economy. Growing resistance triggered a mutual scramble for ordnance, pushing the colonies to open war.[87] Thomas Gage, the British Commander-in-Chief and military governor of Massachusetts, received orders on April 14, 1775 to disarm the local militias.[88]

Outbreak of open war

Initial hostilities (1775–1776)


The British marching to Concord in April 1775

On the night of April 18, 1775, Gage sent 700 troops under Francis Smith to confiscate ordnance stored by the militia at Concord.[89][90] Paul Revere, among others, rode to the settlements to alert the colonists. Fighting broke out between the regulars and militia, forcing the regulars to conduct a fighting withdrawal to Boston. Overnight, the Massachusetts militia converged on Boston, laying siege to the city.[91] Militia from as far afield as New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut soon arrived.[92] The militias recovered over 180 pieces of artillery in raids on Ticonderoga and Crown Point for use in the siege.[92] On May 25, 4,500 British reinforcements arrived with three senior officers; William Howe, John Burgoyne and Henry Clinton.[93] On June 17, the British seized the Charlestown peninsula from the colonists after a costly assault.[94][95] With over 1,000 casualties and the siege still unbroken, Gage was replaced by Howe as Commander-in-Chief.[96] Many senior officers wrote of their dismay of the attack, which had gained them little.[97] Gage himself wrote to London, expressing his concern that a large army would be needed to suppress the rebellion, stating "the loss we have sustained is greater than we can bear".[98]

On July 3, George Washington took command of the nascent Continental Army, and the siege was reduced to a stalemate. Howe made no effort to attack, much to Washington's surprise.[99] Washington proposed to assault the city, however the plan was unanimously rejected.[100] In early March, 1776, Henry Knox brought some heavy cannon to the lines, captured from Ticonderoga. The guns were placed on Dorchester Heights on March 4, bringing the British fleet in range, making Howe's situation untenable. The British elected to withdraw, threatening to burn the city if their withdrawal was impeded. On March 17, the British forces evacuated Boston unmolested, sailing to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Following the withdrawal, Washington moved the bulk of the army to New York.[101]

Invasion of Quebec

British soldiers and Provincial militiamen repulse the American assault at Sault-au-Matelot, Canada, December 1775

After the outbreak of fighting, British authorities in Quebec began negotiating with local Natives to support them against the colonists.[102] The Americans, meanwhile, lobbied the Indians to remain neutral.[103][104] These negotiations, coupled with fear of a British attack from the north, persuaded Congress to authorize an invasion of Quebec. Quebec, with a largely Francophone population, had only been under British rule for twelve years,[105] and the Americans expected that liberating them from the British would be welcomed.[106][107][108] On September 11, 1775, Benedict Arnold set out from Boston with 1,100 troops to invade Quebec.[109] Richard Montgomery set out from Ticonderoga with 1,700 men on September 28. Greeted as a liberator,[110] he captured Fort St. Jean on November 2, and then took Montréal on November 13. Arnold's expedition was beset by poor weather and difficult roads; 300 men turned back, while a further 200 died in the harsh conditions. Arnold reached Quebec City in early November with only 600 men. Arnold opted to wait for Montgomery before launching any attack.[111]

On New Year's Eve, the Americans attacked the city. The assault floundered; Montgomery was killed, Arnold wounded, and over 400 Americans taken prisoner.[112] Though the Americans held on in a loose siege, the British had decisively defeated the invasion.[113] Suffering from poor conditions and smallpox, the Americans withdrew on May 6.[114][115] On May 22, Guy Carleton, governor of Quebec, sailed to Trois-Rivières with reinforcements. Acting on poor intelligence, the Americans launched a failed attack on June 8, 1776, ending American offensive operations in Quebec.[116] Arnold, meanwhile, had managed to establish a small navy on Lake Champlain to cover the retreat. He had denuded the area of boats, forcing the British to start from scratch.[117] Carleton was finally ready to move on October 7, and attacked Arnold's squadron on October 11, inflicting heavy damage and forcing him to withdraw. The Americans withdrew to Ticonderoga, and Carleton withdrew to Quebec, ending the campaign.

Arnold's efforts in the retreat, however, had successfully delayed a British counter-strike until the following year.[118] The invasion cost the Patriots their support in British public opinion.[119] Support for the Patriots in Quebec had been diluted when they pursued aggressive policies against suspected Loyalists. Nevertheless, two regiments of Canadiens were raised, and they fought with the Americans till the war's end.[120] Despite the defeat, the Patriots continued to view Quebec as an aim for their cause, although no further attempts on the province were made.[121]

Southern colonies

The Battle of Sullivan's Island, by John Blake White, 1826

In early 1775, Lord Dartmouth, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, had advised colonial governors to secure munitions from the colonists, and to prevent the importation of further supplies of powder.[122] To this end, Lord Dunmore, the Royal governor of Virginia attempted to remove a powder magazine from Williamsburg, alarming the colonists, though no fighting broke out.[123] After news of open war reached the south, Dunmore issued a proclamation on November 7, declaring martial law, and promising freedom for slaves who abandoned their Patriot masters to fight for the Crown.[124][125] After Dunmore's troops skirmished with Patriots, he recruited additional troops to suppress the growing resistance.[126] Patriot militia marched on Norfolk, overwhelming a Loyalist force at Great Bridge. Dunmore withdrew his troops to Royal Navy ships anchored off Norfolk. After a series of escalations with the Patriots, Dunmore ordered the ships to destroy the town.[127]

In South Carolina, the population was heavily divided. English residents in the coastal settlements centred on Charleston were strongly in favour of rebellion, while the back-country, primarily German and Scottish in descent, were opposed.[128] On September 15, Patriots seized Fort Johnson, Charleston's main fortification, forcing the Royal governor to flee.[129] Loyalists later seized Patriot munitions in November, resulting in the two sides clashing indecisively on November 19.[130] Patriot support grew rapidly, and the Loyalists were driven out of the area by the end of the year.[131] Intending to reassert colonial authority over the South, the British began organizing an expedition, and began recruiting local support in North Carolina. The gathered Loyalists were decisively defeated by Patriots, subduing Loyalist sentiment.[132] Henry Clinton and Peter Parker, leading the British expedition, decided on Charleston as their base of operations. On June 28, 1776, the British bombarded the Patriot defences for a whole day, inflicting only minimal damage.[133] Clinton called an end to the expedition, leaving the South in Patriot control until 1780.[134][135]

West Indies

Following the outbreak of war, the ordnance Lord Dunmore had seized was transferred to the Bahamas Colony. Montfort Browne, governor of the Bahamas, expressed concern to Thomas Gage that the rebel colonists may attempt to seize the supplies.[136] The desperate shortage of powder compelled Congress to authorise a naval expedition to secure the supplies.[137] Esek Hopkins was given command of the expedition; two frigates and six sloops, carrying 200 marines.[138] Hopkin's squadron set sail from Cape Henlopen on February 17, 1776.[139] On March 3, after a bloodless exchange of fire, the marines successfully landed, and the local militia offered no resistance.[140] Although the majority of the powder had been removed from the island by the British, for the next fortnight, the Americans confiscated all the munitions they could load, and sailed away on March 17.[141][142] After a brief skirmish with the Royal Navy frigate HMS Glasgow on April 6, the squadron reached New London on April 8.[143]

Reaction in Britain

A 1775 printing of the Proclamation of Rebellion

Even after fighting began, Congress launched a final attempt to avert war with Britain. Patriot calls to arms led to accusations of insincerity in London on Congress' part, and Parliament rejected the peace deal by 53 votes.[144] After news of the Battle of Bunker Hill reached London, King George III issued a Proclamation of Rebellion on August 23, 1775. The proclamation led to an emboldening of weak support for the rebellion, especially in the southern colonies, in favor of independence.[145] The King addressed Parliament on October 26 denouncing the Patriots, and a motion in the Commons to oppose coercive measures on the colonies was defeated 278-108.[146]

The initial hostilities proved a sobering lesson for the British military, causing the British to completely rethink their views on colonial military capability.[147][148] The weak British response to the rebellion gave the Patriots the advantage; the British lost control over every colony.[149] Senior figures such as Thomas Gage repeated earlier warnings that pacifying the colonies would require hiring foreign troops, as the British Army had been kept deliberately small since the Glorious Revolution to prevent abuses of power by the King.[150][151] A recruiting drive was launched, and Parliament passed treaties with small German states in exchange for additional troops.[152] After a year, the British were able to ship an army of 32,000 men for campaigning in America; the largest it had ever sent outside of Europe at the time.[153]

Meanwhile, Parliament voted to blockade the colonies. Strategy was overseen by Lord George Germain, Secretary of State for the Colonies from November 1775 to 1782, who reported directly to Prime Minister Lord North. Lord Sandwich held the post of First Lord of the Admiralty, head of the Royal Navy,[154] while Sir Jeffrey Amherst served as Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, the nominal head of the British Army.[155] Despite opposition, the King himself began micromanaging the war effort.[citation needed][156][vague]. Separately, the Irish Parliament pledged its loyalty to Britain, and agreed to withdraw troops to fight in America.[157] Irish Protestants tended to favor the American cause, while the Catholic establishment supported the King.[158] The American Revolution was the first conflict in which Irish Catholics were allowed to enlist in the army.[159]

Declaration of Independence

An 1823 facsimile of the engrossed copy of the United States Declaration of Independence

Political battle

Following the outbreak of war, Tories in Britain still refused to compromise on Parliamentary sovereignty.[160] Whigs argued that the policy would drive the colonists towards secession.[161] Thomas Paine's pamphlet Common Sense had been published in January 1776, which argued for independence and republicanism.[162] The success of the pamphlet boosted public support for independence.[163] Congress then began waging a complex political battle to obtain the proper legal authorisation to declare secession, and commissioned Thomas Jefferson to draft a declaration to this end.[164][165][166] Congress then edited Jefferson's document, improving structure and removing unnecessary wording.[167] On July 1, Congress organized into a Committee of the Whole, resuming debate on independence.[168] Pennsylvania attempted to delay until foreign alliances were secured, and Congress had finalized the Articles of Confederation.[169] After the debate, the committee voted: Pennsylvania and South Carolina voted against, New York abstained, lacking authorisation, and Delaware cast no vote due to conflict among the delegates. The remaining nine voted in favor. On July 2, South Carolina and Pennsylvania reversed their stance and voted in favor. The arrival of a third Delaware delegate broke the deadlock, and Delaware voted in favor. New York, again, abstained, although it voted in favor a week later after gaining authorization.[170] Congress adopted the resolution with twelve affirmatives and one abstention, officially declaring secession from Great Britain.[171] On July 4, the announcement of the act was finalized.[172]


In New York, Washington read the declaration to his men and the citizens of the city on July 9.[173] An invigorated crowd tore down a statue of King George, and melted the lead to make bullets.[174] In Britain, Tories criticized the signatories for not applying the same standards of equality to slaves.[175] The declaration was followed by the Test Laws, requiring all residents to swear allegiance to the state in which they lived.[176] The oath was intended to identify neutral parties, or opponents, to independence. A record of those who took the oath was kept, and certificates issued granting immunity from arrest. Failure to take the oath meant possible imprisonment, denial of civil liberties, banishment, and, in some cases, death.[177] Loyalists were barred from public office, and forced to pay increased taxes. Loyalists with professions, such as those practising medicine or law, were denied the right to do so. They were barred from executing wills, or becoming guardians to orphaned children. If Loyalists were owed money, they had no legal recourse.[178][179] More repressive measures followed; Congress instructed states to pass Confiscation Acts, enabling them to appropriate property belonging to Loyalists to fund the war effort.[180] Loyalists were offered a choice between swearing loyalty to the new republic, or face exile. The alternative was to forfeit the right to protection offered by Congress. Quakers who refused allegiance to either side had their property confiscated. States later passed Citation Acts, preventing Loyalists from collecting any debts they were owed.[181]

British counter-offensive

New York and New Jersey (1776–1777)

Initial movements

American soldiers in combat at the Battle of Long Island, 1776

Following the Siege of Boston, the British withdrew to Halifax, Nova Scotia. George Washington concurred with his advisers that New York was strategically important, and moved his army to fortify the city.[182] After regrouping, William Howe determined to undertake a decisive action against the Americans.[183] In June, 1776, Howe set sail for New York with 9,000 men. Other reinforcements, including German troops from Hesse-Kassel, British troops from the aborted Carolinas expedition, and naval forces under the command of Howe's brother, Richard Howe, were to rendezvous with him at New York.[184] Howe began landing troops on Staten Island on July 2. Due to poor intelligence, Washington split his army of 19,000 men between Long Island, Manhattan, and other positions around the city.[185] Attempts to negotiate a settlement were unsuccessful; Washington stated the Patriots had done no wrong requiring amnesty, and the limited powers granted by the King to the Howe brothers were of little use in resolving the grievances of the Americans.[186]

Capture of New York

On August 27, Howe moved 22,000 troops to Long Island and defeated Washington's army. Had Howe landed on Manhattan, he could have encircled and destroyed Washington's army entirely.[187] The Americans withdrew back to Brooklyn Heights, however, Howe actively restrained his subordinates from landing the final blow, instead opting to besiege the American lines.[188] Washington managed to execute a skillful night-time retreat across the East River on the night of August 29–30, without loss of men or materiel.[189] Following the manoeuvring, a second attempt at negotiating a peaceful settlement fell through.[190][191] On September 15, Howe resumed the campaign. He landed 12,000 troops on lower Manhattan, seizing control of the city. The Americans withdrew to Harlem Heights, where they successfully held their ground against a British advance the following day.[192] Howe again opted to encircle Washington's army, and landed troops in Westchester County on October 18, however, Washington withdrew north. On October 28, the pursuing British fought an indecisive action aganist the Americans. Howe declined to attack Washington's vulnerable army, and instead concentrated efforts on a hill that was of no strategic value.[193][194]

British warships forcing passage of the Hudson River, exchanging fire with Forts Washington and Lee

Howe's manoeuvring nevertheless isolated the remnants of the American troops in upper Manhattan. On November 16, the British captured an American army at Fort Washington, taking 3,000 prisoners and a great deal of munitions, amounting to the worst American defeat to date.[195][196] Four days later, Fort Lee across the Hudson River also fell, compelling Washington to retreat.[197] Howe ordered Henry Clinton to capture Newport, a measure opposed to by Clinton, who felt the 6,000 troops assigned to the task could have been better employed in destroying Washington's army.[198][199][200] The prisoners taken during the campaign were sent to the infamous "prison ships" in New York Harbor, in which more American soldiers and sailors died of disease and neglect than died in every battle of the war combined.[201]


Charles Cornwallis pursued Washington through New Jersey, but Howe ordered him to halt, and Washington escaped into Pennsylvania on December 7.[202][203] Howe refused to pursue across the river. The outlook of the Continental Army was bleak; "These are the times that try men's souls" wrote Thomas Paine in The American Crisis.[204] The army had dwindled to fewer than 5,000 men, and would be reduced further upon the expiration of enlistments at the end of the year.[205] Popular support wavered, morale in the army was ebbing away, and Congress had abandoned Philadelphia, fearing a British attack.[206] Loyalist activity surged in the wake of the American defeat, especially in New York.[179]

News of the fall of the city was received well in Britain; festivities took place in London to commemorate the success, and the war approached peak popularity among the public.[207][208] William Howe was awarded the Order of the Bath by the King. The success of the campaign led to predictions that the British could win the war within a year.[209] The failure to hold New York revealed Washington's strategic deficiencies, namely the division of a numerically weaker army in the face of a stronger one. Washington's staff misread the tactical situation, and shortcomings among the troops became apparent, who fled in disorder upon contact with the enemy.[210] In the meantime, with the campaigning season almost over, the British entered winter quarters. They were in control of most of New York and New Jersey, and, with the rebel capital of Philadelphia in striking distance, they were in a good place to resume campaigning come spring.[211]

Washington's counter-offensive

Beginning in mid-December, Washington decided to launch an offensive to rescue the army's morale. He planned a two-pronged attack against garrisons in Trenton, with a diversion against Bordentown. On December 23, a 2,000-man force under Carl von Donop was drawn away from Washington after skirmishing with local militia. On Christmas night, 1776, Washington's army stealthily crossed the Delaware River. The following morning, they surprised and overwhelmed the Hessian garrison at Trenton, taking some 900 prisoners.[212][213] The decisive success rescued the flagging morale of the army.[214] In response, Cornwallis advanced from New York to retake Trenton. Leaving 1,400 men under Charles Mawhood in Princeton, Cornwallis took 5,000 men and engaged Washington on January 2, but was repulsed three times.[215][216] During the night, Washington outmanoeuvred Cornwallis and defeated his rearguard the following day. The victories proved instrumental in convincing the French to support American independence, and recovering American morale.[217][218][219]

Washington then pushed to attack New Brunswick to capture a British pay chest, however, his subordinates counselled him against this.[219] Washington withdrew his army, and, by January 6, he had arrived at Morristown for winter encampment.[220][219][221] Howe conceded most of New Jersey to Washington, despite the massive numerical advantage he held over him. Provisions for both armies were limited, leading to widespread foraging. The local militia harassed British and Hessian foraging parties near their posts along the Raritan River.[222] While in encampment, Howe made no attempt to attack Washington, much to the latter's amazement.[223]

Isolating New England (1777–1778)

Mohawk leader Joseph Brant led both Native Americans and white Loyalists in battle.

Strategic situation

In December 1776, John Burgoyne returned to London to set strategy with Lord George Germain. Burgoyne's plan was to lead an expedition through the Hudson Valley along Lake Champlain, and rendezvous with Howe's army marching from New York at Albany. Subsequent control of the Champlain-George-Hudson route from New York to Quebec would cut New England off from the rest of the colonies.[224] The British could then concentrate on the middle and southern colonies, where they believed Loyalist support was in abundance.[225] Burgoyne successfully lobbied for command of the Saratoga expedition.[226] Meanwhile, Howe had decided the focus of his efforts would be on capturing Philadelphia, arguing that defeating Washington was a priority.[227] In March 1777, Germain approved Howe's plan, however, it called for more troops than he was willing to provide, consequently leaving him unable to assist Burgoyne.[228] Washington himself was baffled by Howe's choices.[229] Alden argues Howe was influenced by the notion that, upon a decisive success, Burgoyne would receive credit, and not Howe.[230]

Controversy persists over whether Germain approved Burgoyne's plan after reading Howe's, and whether he shared this information with Burgoyne.[224][231][232] Germain did not include explicit orders for Howe to march on Albany, however, a copy Germain sent to Guy Carleton in Quebec explicitly stated that Howe was to mount such an undertaking.[233][234] Another letter from Germain stated Howe should campaign against Philadelphia, while allowing enough time to also march on Albany if needed.[232] Black argues that Germain either left his generals with too much freedom, or without a clear direction.[235] Washington did not have clear picture of British intentions for 1777. Their main concern was Howe's army in New York. Though Burgoyne complained the populace of Montreal knew his intentions, the Americans remained unawares.[236] As a precaution, Philip Schuyler sent a regiment to Fort Stanwix in the Mohawk valley.[237] Four regiments were held at Peekskill for service in either the north or south, 1,500 troops were posted along the Mohawk River, 3,000 troops were posted along the Hudson Highlands, and Schuyler had 4,000 men under his personal command.[238]

Saratoga campaign

Burgoyne's plan had two components; an army of 8,000 men under his command would march along Lake Champlain, while a second column of 2,000 men, led by Barry St. Ledger, would advance along the Mohawk River was a strategic diversion, and then both would rendezvous at Albany.[239] Burgoyne assumed command at St. John's on June 13, 1777, leading around 8,000 British regulars, German mercenaries, Indians and Quebecois militia, augmented by 130 guns.[240] Burgoyne set out on June 14, while St. Ledeger left Lachine on June 23. Burgoyne arrived at Ticonderoga on July 2, garrisoned by 3,000 men under Arthur St. Clair. After a brief skirmish and some manoeuvring, St. Clair abandoned the fort and retreated on July 5, an act which enraged the American public.[241] Schuyler was subsequently replaced by Horatio Gates as commander of the Northern Department.[242][243] Burgoyne sent troops in pursuit; one faced stiff resistance at Hubbardton on July 7, while an advance force was nearly destroyed at Fort Anne the next day. Burgoyne moved on, leaving 400 men to garrison Crown Point, and 900 men at Ticonderoga.[244]

Subsequent progress was painfully slow; the Americans felled trees to block the roads, destroyed bridges and dammed streams, while scorched earth tactics were employed to denude the area of food.[245] Meanwhile, St. Ledger marched on Fort Stanwix, occupied by a large American force, and laid siege on August 2. A militia force marching to relieve the siege were ambushed by St. Ledger's troops on August 6 near Oriskany Creek.[246] The heavy Indian losses, and subsequent looting of their camp by the Americans, damaged their morale, and their relationship with St. Ledger.[247] On August 10, Benedict Arnold left Stillwater to relieve the siege. Through deception, St. Ledger believed Arnold's force was far larger than it actually was. The news compelled the Indians to abandon him, and St. Ledger was forced to lift the siege on August 22, withdrawing to Quebec.[248]

"The Surrender at Saratoga" shows General Daniel Morgan in front of a French de Vallière 4-pounder.

Burgoyne's issues mounted. Howe had informed him he was attacking Philadelphia, and would not be able to assist him.[249] On August 9, Burgoyne sent troops to Bennington to acquire supplies. This detachment was soundly defeated on August 16, and more than 700 troops were captured.[250] As a result, Burgoyne's Indian support abandoned him, and his supplies were dwindling.[251] Despite this, he determined to advance on Albany, and crossed the Hudson between September 13–15.[252] The American army, now led by Horatio Gates, was anchored on the bluffs at Bemis Heights, about 10 miles (16 km) south of Saratoga. On September 19, Burgoyne attempted to flank this position, and clashed with Gates at Freeman's Farm. The British held the field, but at the cost of 600 casualties.

Burgoyne then dug in, awaiting news from New York. His army was suffering a haemorrhage of deserters, and critical supplies were low.[253] On October 3, Henry Clinton did attempt to support Burgoyne, capturing two key forts on October 6, but turned back ten days later.[254] Meanwhile, the American army was growing in size daily,[255] and had swollen to over 15,000 men.[256] On October 7, Burgoyne attempted a reconnaissance in force against the Americans, which was repulsed with heavy losses. Burgoyne withdrew to Saratoga, while Gates pursued. By October 13, Burgoyne was surrounded. With no hope of relief and supplies exhausted, Burgoyne surrendered on October 17. 6,222 soldiers became prisoners of the Americans.[257] The decisive success spurred France to enter the war as an ally of the United States, securing the final elements needed for victory over Britain.[258][259]

Philadelphia campaign

Washington and Lafayette inspect the troops at Valley Forge.

Howe's campaign began in June 1777, in a series of manoeuvres in New Jersey, failing to bring Washington to battle.[260] Howe had several options on how to approach Philadelphia; overland through New Jersey, or by sea via the Delaware Bay, both of which would have kept him in range to aid Burgoyne. Instead, Howe took his army through a time-consuming route through the Chesapeake Bay, leaving him unable to assist Burgoyne. This decision was so difficult to understand that Howe's more hostile critics accused him of treason.[261] Howe landed at the north end of the bay on August 25, landing 15,000 troops. Washington posted 11,000 men between Howe and Philadelphia on the Brandywine River. Howe outflanked and defeated him on September 11, however, Howe did not follow-up on his victory, which French observers noted could have destroyed Washington's army.[262][263] The defeat compelled Congress to flee Philadelphia, relocating to York.

A British victory at the Willistown Township on September 20 left the rebel capital defenseless. On September 26, Howe outmanoeuvred Washington and captured the city unopposed. Leaving around 3,000 troops in the city, Howe moved 9,000 men to Germantown, five miles (8 km) north of the city.[264] Hoping to emulate his success at Trenton, Washington launched a surprise attack on October 4, which was repulsed with heavy losses.[265] Yet again, Howe did not follow-up his victory, leaving the American army intact and able to fight.[266] On October 22, American troops defeated a much larger German force sent to reduce Fort Mercer. After a protracted siege, Fort Mifflin fell on November 16, and an abandoned Fort Mercer fell four days later.[267][268] A stalemate ensued until Howe decided to advance on Washington's defensive position at White Marsh on December 5.[269] After several days of skirmishes, Howe ordered a retreat to Philadelphia, to the astonishment of both sides.[270] Howe ignored the vulnerable American rear, where an attack could have deprived Washington of his baggage and provisions.[271]

On December 19, Washington's army entered winter quarters at Valley Forge. Conditions were poor; disease and malnutrition ravaged the camp and, come spring, 2,500 men had died.[272] Washington faced a conspiracy to undermine his leadership, however, strong support in his favor abated the crisis.[273] Howe, only 20 miles (32 km) away made no effort to exploit the weak American army, where an attack could have overwhelmed them and ended the war.[274][275][276] While encamped, the American army was put through a new training program, supervised by Baron von Steuben, introducing the most modern Prussian methods of drilling.[277] Meanwhile, Howe had tended his resignation, and was replaced by Henry Clinton on May 24, 1778.[278] 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.[279] The two armies fought an indecisive clash at Monmouth Court House on June 28. The Americans held the field, greatly boosting morale and confidence.[280] By July, both armies were back in the same positions they had been two years prior.

Foreign intervention


In 1774, the Comte de Vergennes was appointed the French foreign minister by Louis XVI. Vergennes was strongly anti-British, declaring Britain the natural enemy of France.[281] From the onset of the revolution, France observed the war's progress. Since losing Canada to Britain, France had sought a casus belli to go to war with and weaken their perennial foe.[282] Utilising a shell company, the French court supplied ordnance and money to the revolutionaries through neutral Dutch ports.[281] The supplies were invaluable; some 90% of arms used by the Americans at Saratoga were French, and cannon such as the de Vallière type played a key role.[283][284][285] While the French public favored open war, Vergennes and the King were hesitant, owing to the military and financial risks.[286] The American victory at Saratoga convinced the French of the viability of supporting the Americans.[287]

The victory at Saratoga paradoxically brought major concerns for France. Louis XVI feared that Britain would make large concessions to the colonies to end the war, and then, allied with them, strike at French and Spanish possessions in the West Indies.[288][289] To nullify this, France formally recognized the United States on February 6, 1778, and immediately followed it with a military alliance. Britain then declared war on France on March 17, 1778, forcing a major diversion of military resources from America to defend the British mainland.[290] Without any major European allies, the entry of France into the war deprived Britain of the strategic option of focusing its efforts primarily in one theatre, and left them at a critical disadvantage.[291][292] France's goals were to expel Britain from the Newfoundland fishery, end restrictions on sovereignty over Dunkirk, regain free trade in India, recover Senegal and Dominica, and restore the Treaty of Utrecht provisions pertaining to Anglo-French trade.[293][294]

French troops storming Redoubt 9 during the Siege of Yorktown


From the onset of war, Spain remained wary of provoking war before preparations were finalized, so began covertly supplying the Americans with ordnance and finances via their territories in New Spain.[295][296] In 1776, the Count of Aranda met in representation of Spain with the first American Commission, comprising Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane and Arthur Lee.[297] Congress hoped to persuade Spain to an open alliance. Spain was reluctant to commit so early to openly supporting the Americans, owing to a, as of yet, lack of direct French involvement, the threat of the British navy against the treasure fleets, and the possibility of war with Portugal, a long-standing ally of Britain.[298]

The following year, however, Spain affirmed its desire to support the Americans, hoping to weaken Britain's empire.[299] Vergennes negotiated closely with the Spanish court to remove the impediments preventing their overt support of the Americans.[300] Though Spain had been formally allied with France, it did not enter the war immediately following its neighbor. On 12 April 1779, Spain signed the Treaty of Aranjuez, and went to war against Britain.[301] Spain sought to recover Gibraltar and Minorca, Mobile and Pensacola in Florida, and to expel the British from Central America.[302][303]

British situation

The British defeat at Saratoga caused considerable anxiety in Britain over foreign intervention in the war. The North ministry sought reconciliation with the colonies to avert an international conflict. Parliament repealed the remaining tax on tea, and declared no taxes would be imposed on the colonists without their consent.[304] Furthermore, general pardons would be issued, and no troops would be stationed in the colonies without their consent. Moreover, a large degree of autonomy for the colonies was proposed, though Lord North refused to grant independence.[305] Congress refused to negotiate unless American independence was recognized, or all troops withdrawn. On October 3, 1778, the British issued a proclamation, offering amnesty to any who accepted their proposals within forty days, threatening dire reprisals if rejected. No positive reply was received.[306]

King George III gave up all hope of subduing America while Britain had a European war to fight.[307] The King did not welcome war with France, but believed 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.[308] Britain tried, without success, to find a Continental ally to engage France, leaving it isolated.[309] Despite this, the King determined never to recognize American independence, and to ravage the colonies indefinitely, or until they pleaded to return to the yoke of the Crown.[310] Mahan argues Britain's attempt to fight multiple theatres simultaneously without major allies was fundamentally flawed, citing impossible mutual support, exposing the forces to defeat in detail.[311]

Second phase, 1778–1781

Northern theater after Saratoga, 1778–1781

Portrait of Sir Henry Clinton, British Commander-in Chief in North America 1778–1782

French entry into the war had changed British strategy, and Clinton abandoned Philadelphia to reinforce New York City, now vulnerable to French naval power. Washington shadowed Clinton on his withdrawal through New Jersey and attacked him at Monmouth on June 28, 1778. The battle was tactically inconclusive but Clinton successfully disengaged and continued his retreat to New York.[312] It was the last major battle in the north. Clinton's army went to New York City in July, arriving just before a French fleet under Admiral d'Estaing arrived off the American coast. Washington's army returned to White Plains, New York, north of New York City. Although both armies were back where they had been two years earlier, the nature of the war had now changed as the British had to withdraw troops from North America to counter the French threats elsewhere.[313]

In August 1778 the Americans attempted to capture British-held Newport, Rhode Island with the assistance of France, but the effort failed when the French withdrew their support. The war in the north then bogged down into a stalemate, with neither side capable of attacking the other in any decisive manner. The British instead attempted to wear out American resolve by launching various raiding expeditions such as Tryon's raid against Connecticut in July 1779. In that year the Americans won two morale-enhancing victories by capturing posts at Stony Point and Paulus Hook, although the British quickly retook them. In October 1779 the British voluntarily abandoned Newport and Stony Point in order to consolidate their forces.

During the winter of 1779–80 the American army suffered worse hardships than they had at Valley Forge previously.[314] The Congress was ineffective, the Continental currency worthless, and the supply system was fundamentally broken. Washington was finding it extremely difficult to keep his army together, even without any major fighting against the British. In 1780 actual mutinies broke out in the American camp. The Continental Army's strength dwindled to such an extent that the British decided to mount two probing attacks against New Jersey in June 1780. The New Jersey militia strongly rallied, however, and the British quickly returned to their bases.

Map of Newport with the camp of the troops of Rochambeau and the position of the squadron of Knight Ternay in 1780.

In July 1780 the American cause received a boost when a 5,500 strong French expeditionary force arrived at Newport, Rhode Island. Washington hoped to use this assistance to attack the British at New York and end the war. Events elsewhere, however, would frustrate this. Additional French reinforcements were prevented from arriving by a British blockade of French ports, and the French troops at Newport quickly found themselves blockaded as well. Moreover, the French fleet refused to visit the American coast in 1780, having suffered significant damage in actions in the West Indies.

Benedict Arnold, the American victor of Saratoga, grew increasingly disenchanted with struggle and decided to defect. In September 1780 he attempted to surrender the key American fort at West Point along the Hudson River to the British, but his plot was exposed. He escaped and continued to fight under the British army. He wrote an open letter justifying his actions by claiming he had only fought for a redress of grievances and since Britain had withdrawn those grievances (see above) there was no reason to continue shedding blood, particularly in an alliance with an ancient and tyrannical enemy like France. He led the last British attack in the north, a devastating raid against New London in September 1781.

The British held Staten Island, Manhattan, and Long Island until peace was made in 1783. These areas contained about 2% of the population of the Thirteen Colonies.

Northern and Western frontier

George Rogers Clark's 180 mile (290 km) winter march led to the capture of General Henry Hamilton, Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec

West of the Appalachian Mountains and along the border with Quebec, the American Revolutionary War was an "Indian War". Most Native Americans supported the British. Like the Iroquois Confederacy, tribes such as the Shawnee split into factions, and the Chickamauga split off from the rest of the Cherokee over differences regarding peace with the Americans. The British supplied their native allies with muskets, gunpowder and advice, while Loyalists led raids against civilian settlements, especially in New York, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. Joint Iroquois-Loyalist attacks in the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania and at Cherry Valley in New York in 1778 provoked Washington to send the Sullivan Expedition into western New York during the summer of 1779. There was little fighting as Sullivan systematically destroyed the Indians' winter food supplies, forcing them to flee permanently to British bases in Quebec and the Niagara Falls area.[315]

During the Illinois Campaign of 1778, the Virginia frontiersman George Rogers Clark attempted to neutralize British influence among the Ohio valley tribes by capturing the colonial outposts of Kaskaskia and Cahokia and Vincennes, in the Illinois Country. When General Henry Hamilton, the British commander at Detroit, retook Vincennes, Clark returned in a surprise march in February 1779 and captured Hamilton.[316]

In March 1782, Pennsylvania militiamen killed about a hundred neutral Native Americans in the Gnadenhütten massacre. In the last major encounters of the war, a force of 200 Kentucky militia was defeated at the Battle of Blue Licks in August 1782.

Georgia and the Carolinas, 1778–1781

During the first three years of the American Revolutionary War, the primary military encounters were in the north, although some attempts to organize Loyalists were defeated, a British attempt at Charleston, South Carolina failed, and a variety of efforts to attack British forces in East Florida failed. After French entry into the war, the British turned their attention to the southern colonies, where they hoped to regain control by recruiting large numbers of Loyalists. This southern strategy also had the advantage of keeping the Royal Navy closer to the Caribbean, where the British needed to defend economically important possessions against the French and Spanish.[317]

The British Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton. Painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1782.

On December 29, 1778, an expeditionary corps from Clinton's army in New York captured Savannah, Georgia. An attempt by French and American forces to retake Savannah failed on October 9, 1779. Clinton then besieged Charleston, capturing it and most of the southern Continental Army on May 12, 1780. With relatively few casualties, Clinton had seized the South's biggest city and seaport, providing a base for further conquest.[318]

The remnants of the southern Continental Army began to withdraw to North Carolina but were pursued by Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton, who defeated them at the Waxhaws on May 29, 1780. With these events, organized American military activity in the region collapsed, though the war was carried on by partisans such as Francis Marion. Cornwallis took over British operations, while Horatio Gates arrived to command the American effort. On August 16, 1780, Gates was defeated at the Battle of Camden in South Carolina, setting the stage for Cornwallis to invade North Carolina.[319] Georgia and South Carolina were thus both restored to Britain for the time being.

Cornwallis' efforts to advance into North Carolina were frustrated. A Loyalist wing of his army was utterly defeated at the Battle of Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780, which temporarily aborted his planned advance. He received reinforcements, but his light infantry under Tarleton was decisively defeated by Daniel Morgan at the Battle of Cowpens on January 17, 1781. In spite of this, Cornwallis decided to proceed, gambling that he would receive substantial Loyalist support. General Nathanael Greene, who replaced General Gates, evaded contact with Cornwallis while seeking reinforcements. By March, Greene's army had grown to the point where he felt that he could face Cornwallis directly. In the key Battle of Guilford Court House, Cornwallis drove Greene's much larger army off the battlefield, but in doing so suffered casualties amounting to one-fourth of his army. Compounding this, far fewer Loyalists were joining up than expected because the Patriots put heavy pressure on them and their families, who would become hostages.[320] Cornwallis decided to retreat to coastal Wilmington, North Carolina for resupply and reinforcement, leaving the interior of the Carolinas and Georgia open to Greene. He then proceeded north into Virginia (see below).

American troops in conjunction with Patriot partisans then began the process of reclaiming territory in South Carolina and Georgia. Despite British victories at Hobkirk's Hill and at the Siege of Ninety-Six, by the middle of the year they had been forced to withdraw to the coastal lowlands region of both colonies. The final battle (Battle of Eutaw Springs) in September 1781 was indecisive but by the end of the year the British held only Savannah and Charleston.

Virginia, 1781

Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown by (John Trumbull, 1797)

Cornwallis proceeded from Wilmington north into Virginia, on the grounds that Virginia needed to be subdued in order to hold the southern colonies. Earlier, in January 1781, a small British raiding force under Benedict Arnold had landed there, and began moving through the countryside, destroying supply depots, mills, and other economic targets. In February, General Washington dispatched General Lafayette to counter Arnold, later also sending General Anthony Wayne. Arnold was reinforced with additional troops from New York in March, and his army was joined with that of Cornwallis in May. Lafayette skirmished with Cornwallis, avoiding a large-scale battle while gathering reinforcements.

Cornwallis' Virginia campaign was strongly opposed by his superior, General Clinton, who did not believe such a large and disease-ridden area, with a hostile population, could be pacified with the limited forces available. Clinton instead favored conducting operations further north in the Chesapeake region (Maryland, Delaware, and southern Pennsylvania) where he believed there was a strong Loyalist presence. Upon his arrival at Williamsburg in June, Cornwallis received orders from Clinton to establish a fortified naval base and a request to send several thousand troops to New York to counter a possible Franco-American attack. Following these orders, he fortified Yorktown, and, shadowed by Lafayette, awaited the arrival of the Royal Navy.[321]

The northern, southern, and naval theaters of the war converged in 1781 at Yorktown, Virginia. The French fleet became available for operations, which could either move against Yorktown or New York. Washington still favored attacking New York, but the French decided to send the fleet to their preferred target at Yorktown. Learning of the planned movement of the French fleet in August, Washington began moving his army south to cooperate. The British fleet, not realizing that the French had sent their entire fleet to America, dispatched an inadequate force under Admiral Graves, though the underlying reason for this was a lack of naval resources. Since the entry of France and Spain into the war, the British lacked the necessary ships to match their opponents' every move.[322]

The French (left) and British (right) lines at the Battle of the Chesapeake

In early September, French naval forces defeated the British fleet at the Battle of the Chesapeake, cutting off Cornwallis' escape. Cornwallis, still expecting to receive support, failed to break out while he had the chance. When Washington's army arrived outside Yorktown, Cornwallis prematurely abandoned his outer position, hastening his subsequent defeat. The combined Franco-American force of 18,900 men began besieging Cornwallis in early October. For several days, the French and Americans bombarded the British defenses, and then began taking the outer redoubts. The British attempted to cobble together a relief expedition, but encountered numerous delays. Cornwallis decided his position was becoming untenable and he surrendered his entire army of over 7,000 men on October 19, 1781, the same day that the British fleet at New York sailed for his relief.[323]

Downfall of the North Ministry

News of the surrender at Yorktown arrived in Britain in November 1781. King George III took the news calmly and delivered a defiant address pledging to continue the war; a majority of the House of Commons endorsed it. In the succeeding months news arrived of other reverses, however. The French and Spanish successfully took several West Indian islands and appeared to be on the verge of completely expelling the British there. Minorca also surrendered to a Franco-Spanish force on February 5, 1782, and Gibraltar seemed to be in danger of falling as well. In light of this, Parliament on February 27, 1782, voted to cease all offensive operations in America and seek peace. Threatened with votes of no confidence, on March 20 Lord North resigned and his Tory government was replaced by the Whigs. Ironically, shortly after North resigned the British won the Battle of the Saintes, putting an end to the French threat in the West Indies, and they successfully relieved Gibraltar. Had the North government held out for a few more months they would have been considerably strengthened and could have continued the war in spite of Yorktown.

The new Whig administration accepted American independence as a basis for peace. There were no further major military activities in North America, although the British still had 30,000 garrison troops occupying New York City, Charleston, and Savannah.[324] The war continued elsewhere, including the siege of Gibraltar and naval operations in the East and West Indies, until peace was agreed in September 1783.

Naval war

Combat de la Dominique, April 17, 1780, by Auguste Louis de Rossel de Cercy (1736–1804)

When the war began, the British had overwhelming naval superiority over the American colonists although their fleet was old and in poor condition, a situation that would be blamed on Lord Sandwich, the First Lord of the Admiralty. During the first three years of the war, the Royal Navy was primarily used to transport troops for land operations and to protect commercial shipping. The American colonists had no ships of the line, and relied extensively on privateering to harass British shipping. The privateers caused worry disproportionate to their material success, although those operating out of French channel ports before and after France joined the war caused significant embarrassment to the Royal Navy and inflamed Anglo-French relations. About 55,000 American sailors served aboard the privateers during the war.[325] The American privateers had almost 1,700 ships, and they captured 2,283 enemy ships.[326] The Continental Congress authorized the creation of a small Continental Navy in October 1775, which was primarily used for commerce raiding. 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.[327]

During the second period, the successive interventions of France, Spain, and the Netherlands extended the naval war until it ranged from the West Indies to the Bay of Bengal. This second period lasted from the summer of 1778 to the middle of 1783, and it included operations already been in progress in America or for the protection of commerce, and naval campaigns on a great scale carried out by the fleets of the maritime powers.

Britain vs. France, Spain, Mysore, and Holland 1778–1783


Spain entered the war as a French ally with the goal of recapturing Gibraltar and Minorca, which had been captured by an Anglo-Dutch force in 1704. Gibraltar was besieged for more than three years, but the British garrison stubbornly resisted and was resupplied twice: once after Admiral Rodney's victory over Juan de Lángara in the 1780 "Moonlight Battle", and again by Admiral Richard Howe in 1782. Further Franco-Spanish efforts to capture Gibraltar were unsuccessful. One notable success took place on February 5, 1782, when Spanish and French forces captured Minorca, which Spain retained after the war. Ambitious plans for an invasion of Great Britain in 1779 had to be abandoned.

West Indies and Gulf Coast

There was much action in the West Indies, especially in the Lesser Antilles. Although France lost St. Lucia early in the war, its navy dominated the West Indies, capturing Dominica, Grenada, Saint Vincent, Montserrat, Tobago, St. Kitts and the Turks and Caicos between 1778 and 1782. Dutch possessions in the West Indies and South America were captured by Britain but later recaptured by France and restored to the Dutch Republic. At the Battle of the Saintes in April 1782, a victory by Rodney's fleet over the French Admiral de Grasse frustrated the hopes of France and Spain to take Jamaica and other colonies from the British.[328]

In the Gulf Coast campaign, Count Bernardo de Gálvez, the Spanish governor of Louisiana, quickly removed the British from their outposts on the lower Mississippi River in 1779 in actions at Manchac and Baton Rouge in British West Florida. Gálvez then captured Mobile in 1780 and stormed and captured the British citadel and capital of Pensacola in 1781. On May 8, 1782, Gálvez captured the British naval base at New Providence in the Bahamas; it was ceded by Spain after the Treaty of Paris and simultaneously recovered by British Loyalists in 1783. Gálvez' actions led to the Spanish acquisition of East and West Florida in the peace settlement, denied the British the opportunity of encircling the American forces from the south, and kept open a vital conduit for supplies to the American frontier. The Continental Congress cited Gálvez in 1785 for his aid during the revolution and George Washington took him to his right during the first parade of July 4.[329]

Central America was also subject to conflict between Britain and Spain, as Britain sought to expand its informal trading influence beyond coastal logging and fishing communities in present-day Belize, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Expeditions against San Fernando de Omoa in 1779 and San Juan in 1780 (the latter famously led by a young Horatio Nelson) met with only temporary success before being abandoned due to disease. The Spanish colonial leaders, in turn, could not completely eliminate British influences along the Mosquito Coast. Except for the French acquisition of Tobago, sovereignty in the West Indies was returned to the status quo ante bellum in the peace of 1783.


Suffren meeting with ally Hyder Ali in 1783. J.B. Morret engraving, 1789.

When word reached India in 1778 that France had entered the war, the British East India Company moved quickly to capture French trading outposts there, capturing Pondicherry after two months of siege.[330] The capture of the French-controlled port of Mahé on India's west coast motivated Mysore's ruler, Hyder Ali (who was already upset at other British actions, and benefited from trade through the port), to open the Second Anglo-Mysore War in 1780. Ali, and later his son Tipu Sultan, almost drove the British from southern India but was frustrated by weak French support, and the war ended status quo ante bellum with the 1784 Treaty of Mangalore. French opposition was led in 1782 and 1783 by Admiral the Baillie de Suffren, who recaptured Trincomalee from the British and fought five celebrated, but largely inconclusive, naval engagements against British Admiral Sir Edward Hughes.[331] France's trading posts in India were returned after the war.

Fourth Anglo-Dutch War

The Dutch Republic, nominally neutral, had been trading with the Americans, exchanging Dutch arms and munitions for American colonial wares (in contravention of the British Navigation Acts), primarily through activity based in St. Eustatius, before the French formally entered the war.[332] The British considered this trade to include contraband military supplies and had attempted to stop it, at first diplomatically by appealing to previous treaty obligations, interpretation of whose terms the two nations disagreed on, and then by searching and seizing Dutch merchant ships. The situation escalated when the British seized a Dutch merchant convoy sailing under Dutch naval escort in December 1779, prompting the Dutch to join the League of Armed Neutrality. Britain responded to this decision by declaring war on the Dutch in December 1780, sparking the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War.[333] The war was a military and economic disaster for the Dutch Republic. Paralyzed by internal political divisions, it could not respond effectively to British blockades of its coast and the capture of many of its colonies. In the 1784 peace treaty between the two nations, the Dutch lost the Indian port of Negapatam and were forced to make trade concessions.[334] The Dutch Republic signed a friendship and trade agreement with the United States in 1782, becoming the second country to formally recognize the United States.

Treaty of Paris

Benjamin West's famous painting of the American delegations at the Treaty of Paris. The British delegation refused to pose, and the painting was never completed.

In London, as political support for the war plummeted after Yorktown, British Prime Minister Lord North resigned in March 1782. In April 1782, the Commons voted to end the war in America. Preliminary peace articles were signed in Paris at the end of November 1782; the formal end of the war did not occur until the Treaty of Paris (for the U.S.) and the Treaties of Versailles (for the other Allies) were signed on September 3, 1783. The last British troops left New York City on November 25, 1783, and the United States Congress of the Confederation ratified the Paris treaty on January 14, 1784.[335]

Britain negotiated the Paris peace treaty without consulting her Native American allies and ceded all Native American territory between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River to the United States. Native Americans reluctantly confirmed these land cessions with the United States in a series of treaties, but the fighting would be renewed in conflicts along the frontier in the coming years, the largest being the Northwest Indian War.[336] The British sought to establish a buffer Indian state in the American Midwest, and continued to pursue that goal as late as 1814 in the War of 1812.[337][338]

The United States gained more than it expected, thanks to the award of western territory. The other Allies had mixed-to-poor results. France made some gains over its nemesis, Great Britain, but its material gains were minimal and its financial losses huge. It was already in financial trouble and its borrowing to pay for the war used up all its credit and created the financial disasters that marked the 1780s. Historians link those disasters to the coming of the French Revolution. The Dutch clearly lost on all points. The Spanish had a mixed result; they did not achieve their primary war goal (recovery of Gibraltar), but they did gain territory. However, in the long run, as the case of Florida shows, the new territory was of little or no value.[339]

Analysis of combatants

The population of Great Britain and Ireland in 1780 was approximately 12.6 million[340] while the population of the thirteen colonies for the same year has been estimated at 2.8 million including over 500,000 slaves.[341] Theoretically this gave Britain a 4.5:1 manpower advantage. By comparison the Union's manpower advantage over the Confederacy in the American Civil War was only 2.5:1. In practice, the British army never had more than a slight numerical advantage over the Continental Army due to a number of factors, including the need to maintain significant numbers of troops outside of North America. Conscription outside of naval impressment did not exist in Britain at that time, and the proportion of Americans willing to serve in their own country's defense was believed to be considerably larger than the proportion of Britons willing to serve overseas. One pre-war estimate claimed that the Patriots could mobilize 100,000 men in a matter of months,[342] but substantial loyalist or neutralist sentiment would keep Patriot forces much smaller than their potential.[343][344]

Historians continue to debate whether the odds for American victory were long or short. John E. Ferling says the odds were so long that the American victory was "Almost A Miracle."[345] On the other hand, Joseph Ellis says the odds favored the Americans, and asks whether there ever was any realistic chance for the British to win. He argues that this opportunity came only once, in the summer of 1776 and the British failed that test. Admiral Howe and his brother General Howe, "missed several opportunities to destroy the Continental Army....Chance, luck, and even the vagaries of the weather played crucial roles." Ellis's point is that the strategic and tactical decisions of the Howes were fatally flawed because they underestimated the challenges posed by the Patriots. Ellis concludes that once the Howe brothers failed, the opportunity for a British victory "would never come again."[346]:11 The U.S. Army's official textbook argues that while the British difficulties were great, they were hardly insurmountable. "The British forfeited several chances for military victory in 1776–1777, and again in 1780 they might have won had they been able to throw 10,000 fresh troops into the American war."[347]


1st Maryland Regiment holding the line at the Battle of Guilford

The Americans began the war with significant disadvantages compared to the British. They had no national government, no national army or navy, no financial system, no banks, no established credit, and no functioning government departments, such as a treasury. The Congress tried to handle administrative affairs through legislative committees, which proved inefficient. The state governments were themselves brand new and officials had no administrative experience. In peacetime the colonies relied heavily on ocean travel and shipping, but that was now shut down by the British blockade and the Americans had to rely on slow overland travel.

However, the Americans had multiple advantages that in the long run outweighed the initial disadvantages they faced. The Americans had a large prosperous population that depended not on imports but on local production for food and most supplies, while the British were mostly shipped in from across the ocean. The British faced a vast territory far larger than Britain or France, located at a far distance from home ports. Most of the Americans lived on farms distant from the seaports—the British could capture any port but that did not give them control over the hinterland. They were on their home ground, had a smoothly functioning, well organized system of local and state governments, newspapers and printers, and internal lines of communications. They had a long-established system of local militia, previously used to combat the French and Native Americans, with companies and an officer corps that could form the basis of local militias, and provide a training ground for the national army created by Congress.[348]

Motivation was a major asset. The Patriots wanted to win; over 200,000 fought in the war; 25,000 died. The British expected the Loyalists to do much of the fighting, but they did much less than expected. The British also hired German mercenaries to do much of their fighting.[21]

At the onset of the war, the Americans had no major international allies. Battles such as the Battle of Bennington, the Battles of Saratoga and even defeats such as the Battle of Germantown[349] proved decisive in gaining the attention and support of powerful European nations such as France and Spain, who moved from covertly supplying the Americans with weapons and supplies, to overtly supporting them militarily, moving the war to a global stage.[350]

The new Continental Army suffered significantly from a lack of an effective training regime, and largely inexperienced officers and sergeants. The inexperience of its officers was compensated for in part by its senior officers; officers such as George Washington, Horatio Gates, Charles Lee, Richard Montgomery and Francis Marion all had military experience with the British Army during the French and Indian War. The Americans solved their training dilemma during their stint in Winter Quarters at Valley Forge, where they were relentlessly drilled and trained by General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a veteran of the famed Prussian General Staff. He taught the Continental Army the essentials of military discipline, drills, tactics and strategy, and wrote the Revolutionary War Drill Manual.[351] When the Army emerged from Valley Forge, it proved its ability to equally match the British troops in battle when they fought a successful strategic action at the Battle of Monmouth.[312]

Population density in the American Colonies in 1775

When the war began, the 13 colonies lacked a professional army or navy. Each colony sponsored local militia. Militiamen were lightly armed, had little training, and usually did not have uniforms. Their units served for only a few weeks or months at a time, were reluctant to travel far from home and thus were unavailable for extended operations, and lacked the training and discipline of soldiers with more experience. If properly used, however, their numbers could help the Continental armies overwhelm smaller British forces, as at the battles of Concord, Bennington and Saratoga, and the siege of Boston. Both sides used partisan warfare but the Americans effectively suppressed Loyalist activity when British regulars were not in the area.[352]

Seeking to coordinate military efforts, the Continental 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.

The United States Marine Corps traces its institutional roots to the Continental Marines of the war, formed by a resolution of the Continental Congress on November 10, 1775, a date regarded and celebrated as the birthday of the Marine Corps. At the beginning of 1776, Washington's army had 20,000 men, with two-thirds enlisted in the Continental Army and the other third in the various state militias.[353] At the end of the American Revolution in 1783, both the Continental Navy and Continental Marines were disbanded. 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.

Armies were small by European standards of the era, largely attributable to limitations such as lack of powder and other logistical capabilities on the American side.[354] It was also difficult for Great Britain to transport troops across the Atlantic and they depended on local supplies that the Patriots tried to cut off. By comparison, Duffy notes that Frederick the Great usually commanded from 23,000 to 50,000 in battle.[citation needed] Both figures pale in comparison to the armies that were fielded in the early 19th century, where troop formations approached or exceeded 100,000 men.


Historians[355] have estimated that approximately 40 to 45 percent of the colonists supported the rebellion, while 15 to 20 percent remained loyal to the Crown. The rest attempted to remain neutral and kept a low profile.

At least 25,000 Loyalists fought on the side of the British. Thousands served in the Royal Navy. On land, Loyalist forces fought alongside the British in most battles in North America. Many Loyalists fought in partisan units, especially in the Southern theater.[356]

The British military met with many difficulties in maximizing the use of Loyalist factions. British historian Jeremy Black wrote, "In the American war it was clear to both royal generals and revolutionaries that organized and significant Loyalist activity would require the presence of British forces."[357] In the South, the use of Loyalists presented the British with "major problems of strategic choice" since while it was necessary to widely disperse troops in order to defend Loyalist areas, it was also recognized that there was a need for "the maintenance of large concentrated forces able" to counter major attacks from the American forces.[358] In addition, the British were forced to ensure that their military actions would not "offend Loyalist opinion", eliminating such options as attempting to "live off the country", destroying property for intimidation purposes, or coercing payments from colonists ("laying them under contribution").[359]

Loyalist writings throughout the conflict persistently claimed that they were the majority, and influenced London officials to believe that it would be possible to raise many Loyalist regiments.[360] As late as 1780 the Loyalists were deceiving themselves and top London officials about their supposedly strong base of support.[361]


Britain entered the war with confidence; it had the world's most powerful navy, a well-trained professional army, a sound financial system that could pay the costs, a stable government, and experienced leadership.[362] However they were beset with major challenges. Compared to the Americans, the British had no major allies, and only had troops provided by small German states to bolster the small British Army. At the onset of the war, the British Army was less than 48,000 strong worldwide, and suffered from a lack of effective recruiting. By 1778, the army was pardoning criminals for military service and had extended the age range for service to be from 16 to 50. Although its officer and non-commissioned officer corps were relatively professional and experienced, this professionalism was diluted because wealthy individuals lacking military experience could purchase commissions and promotions. As a consequence, inexperienced officers sometimes found their way into positions of high responsibility.[363]

Distance was also a major problem for the British. Although the Royal Navy was the largest and most experienced in the world at the time, it sometimes took months for troops to reach North America, and orders were often out of date because the military situation on the ground had changed by the time they arrived.[364] Additionally, the British had logistical problems whenever they operated away from the coast; they were vulnerable to guerilla attacks on their supply chains whenever they went far inland. On a logistical note, the flints used in British weapons also put them at a disadvantage on the battlefield. British flints could fire only 6 rounds before requiring re-sharpening, while American flints could fire 60 rounds before resharpening. A common expression ran among the redcoats; which was that "Yankee flint was as good as a glass of grog."[365] Although discipline was harsh in the army, the redcoats had little self-discipline; gambling, looting, promiscuity and heavy drinking were common problems, among all ranks alike. The army suffered from mediocre organisation in terms of logistics, food supplies were often bad and the sparse land of America offered little in the way of finding reliable substitutes.[366]

Map of campaigns in the Revolutionary War

Suppressing a rebellion in America also posed other problems. At the onset of the war, the British had around 8,000 men stationed in North America. However, these were required to cover an area that stretched from northern Canada to Florida, a distance of almost 2,000 miles (3,200 km). As the colonies had not been united before the war, there was no central area of strategic importance. In European conflicts, the capture of a capital city often meant the end of the war; however in America, when the British seized key cities such as New York, Philadelphia or Boston—or Washington, D.C. in the War of 1812 thirty years later—the war continued unabated. Furthermore, despite the fact that at its height, the British fielded some 56,000 men in the colonies exclusive of mercenaries and militia,[367] they lacked sufficient numbers. It was not unusual for the Americans to suffer a string of defeats, only to have the British retreat because they could not occupy the captured land. Despite strong Loyalist support, these troops were often displaced by Patriot militia when British regulars were not in the area, demonstrated at battles such as Kings Mountain. As a result of the manpower shortage and Patriot control of the countryside, where the majority of the American population lived, the British often could not simultaneously defeat the Americans on the field and occupy the captured areas, evidenced by withdrawals from Philadelphia and the Carolinas after great initial success. The manpower shortage became critical when France, Spain and the Netherlands entered the war, as the British were spread across several theatres worldwide, when before they were concentrated only in America.[368]

The British also had to contend with several psychological factors during the conflict. The need to maintain Loyalist allegiance provided setbacks, as the British could not use the harsh methods of suppressing rebellion they had used in Ireland and Scotland. Loyalists often came from the same communities as Patriots and as a result, such methods could not be employed for fear of alienating them. Even despite these limitations, neutral colonists were often driven into the ranks of the Revolutionaries due to the conflict, such as the war in the Carolinas, marked by heavy brutality on both sides.[369] A single American victory could often reverse the impact of a string of British successes, as shown by engagements at Trenton, Bennington, King's Mountain and even defeats such as Germantown,[349] all of which went a long way to galvanizing Patriot support for the war, and of persuading European powers such as France and Spain to support the rebellion.

Early in 1775, the British Army consisted of about 36,000 men worldwide, but wartime recruitment steadily increased this number. Great Britain had a difficult time appointing general officers, however. General Thomas Gage, in command of British forces in North America when the rebellion started, was criticized for being too lenient (perhaps influenced by his American wife). General Jeffrey Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst turned down an appointment as commander in chief due to an unwillingness to take sides in the conflict.[370] Similarly, Admiral Augustus Keppel turned down a command, saying "I cannot draw the sword in such a cause." The Earl of Effingham publicly resigned his commission when his 22nd Regiment of foot was posted to America, and William Howe and John Burgoyne were members of parliament who opposed military solutions to the American rebellion. Howe and Henry Clinton stated that they were unwilling participants in the war and were only following orders.[371] The British Parliament was also far from united in supporting military opposition to the American Patriots. Lord North held the post of Prime Minister with a Tory majority backing him, advocating military suppression of the American rebellion. However, they were constantly and vehemently opposed by a large Whig minority, with politicians such as Charles James Fox and Edmund Burke of the Rockingham Whigs fiercely voicing their derision of pursuing military solutions to the rebellion. The Whigs gained prominence in Parliament as the British suffered strategic defeats at Saratoga and later at Yorktown, resulting in the collapse of Lord North's ministry.

Over the course of the war, Great Britain signed treaties with various German states, which supplied about 30,000 soldiers.[372] Germans made up about one-third of the British troop strength in North America. The Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel contributed more soldiers than any other state, and German soldiers became known as "Hessians" to the Americans. Revolutionary speakers called German soldiers "foreign mercenaries", and they are scorned as such in the Declaration of Independence. By 1779, the number of British and German troops stationed in North America was over 60,000, although these were spread from Canada to Florida.[373] Initially, several German principalities offered military support to Great Britain but these offers were rejected. However, as the war dragged on it became clear that Great Britain would need the extra manpower of the German states and led to Great Britain seeking support from German principalities such as Hesse-Kassel and Ansbach-Bayreuth.[374]

The Secretary of State at War Lord Barrington and the Adjutant-General Edward Harvey were both strongly opposed to outright war on land. In 1766 Barrington had recommended withdrawing the army from the Thirteen Colonies to Canada, Nova Scotia and Florida. At the beginning of the war he urged a naval blockade, which would quickly damage the colonists' trading activities.[375]

African Americans

1780 drawing of American soldiers from the Yorktown campaign shows a black infantryman from the 1st Rhode Island Regiment.

African Americans—slave and free—served on both sides during the war. The British recruited slaves belonging to Patriot masters and promised freedom to those who served by act of Lord Dunmore's Proclamation. Because of manpower shortages, George Washington lifted the ban on black enlistment in the Continental Army in January 1776. Small all-black units were formed in Rhode Island and Massachusetts; many slaves were promised freedom for serving. Some of the men promised freedom were sent back to their masters, after the war was over, out of political convenience. Another all-black unit came from Saint-Domingue with French colonial forces. At least 5,000 black soldiers fought for the Revolutionary cause.[376][377]

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.[378] This greatly disrupted plantation production during and after the war. When they withdrew their forces from Savannah and Charleston, the British also evacuated 10,000 slaves belonging to Loyalists.[379] Altogether, the British evacuated nearly 20,000 blacks at the end of the war. More than 3,000 of them were freedmen and most of these were resettled in Nova Scotia; other blacks were sold in the West Indies.[380][381]

Native Americans

Most Native Americans east of the Mississippi River were affected by the war, and many communities were divided over the question of how to respond to the conflict. Though a few tribes were on friendly terms with the Americans, most Native Americans opposed the United States as a potential threat to their territory. Approximately 13,000 Native Americans fought on the British side, with the largest group coming from the Iroquois tribes, who fielded around 1,500 men.[382] The powerful Iroquois Confederacy was shattered as a result of the conflict; although the Confederacy did not take sides, the Seneca, Onondaga, and Cayuga nations sided with the British. Members of the Mohawk fought on both sides. Many Tuscarora and Oneida sided with the colonists. The Continental Army sent the Sullivan Expedition on raids throughout New York to cripple the Iroquois tribes that had sided with the British. Both during and after the war friction between the Mohawk leaders Joseph Louis Cook and Joseph Brant, who had sided with the Americans and the British respectively, further exacerbated the split.

A watercolor painting depicting a variety of Continental Army soldiers.

Early in July 1776, a major action in the fledgling conflict occurred when the Cherokee allies of Britain attacked the western frontier areas of North Carolina. Their defeat resulted in a splintering of the Cherokee towns and people, and was directly responsible for the rise of the Chickamauga Cherokee, bitter enemies of the Colonials who carried on a frontier war for decades following the end of hostilities with Britain.[383]

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.[384] Many Native Americans 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 or near major battles such as the Battle of Fort Charlotte, the Battle of Mobile, and the Siege of Pensacola.[385]

Race and class

Pybus (2005) estimates that about 20,000 slaves defected to or were captured by the British, of whom about 8,000 died from disease or wounds or were recaptured by the Patriots. The British took along some 12,000 at the end of the war; of these 8000 remained in slavery. Including those who left during the war, a total of about 8000 to 10,000 ex-slaves gained freedom.[386] About 4000 freed slaves went to Nova Scotia along with about 1200 blacks who remained slaves.[387][388]

Baller (2006) examines family dynamics and mobilization for the Revolution in central Massachusetts. He reports that warfare and the farming culture were sometimes incompatible. Militiamen found that living and working on the family farm had not prepared them for wartime marches and the rigors of camp life. Rugged individualism conflicted with military discipline and regimentation. A man's birth order often influenced his military recruitment, as younger sons went to war and older sons took charge of the farm. A person's family responsibilities and the prevalent patriarchy could impede mobilization. Harvesting duties and family emergencies pulled men home regardless of the sergeant's orders. Some relatives might be Loyalists, creating internal strains. On the whole, historians conclude the Revolution's effect on patriarchy and inheritance patterns favored egalitarianism.[389]

McDonnell (2006) shows a grave complication in Virginia's mobilization of troops was the conflicting interests of distinct social classes, which tended to undercut a unified commitment to the Patriot cause. The Assembly balanced the competing demands of elite slave-owning planters, the middling yeomen (some owning a few slaves), and landless indentured servants, among other groups. The Assembly used deferments, taxes, military service substitute, and conscription to resolve the tensions. Unresolved class conflict, however, made these laws less effective. There were violent protests, many cases of evasion, and large-scale desertion, so that Virginia's contributions came at embarrassingly low levels. With the British invasion of the state in 1781, Virginia was mired in class division as its native son, George Washington, made desperate appeals for troops.[390]

Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau at Yorktown, 1781

Costs of the War


Americans and allies

The total loss of life throughout the war is largely unknown. As was typical in the wars of the era, disease claimed far more lives than battle. Between 1775 and 1782 a smallpox epidemic swept across North America, killing 40 people in Boston alone. Historian Joseph Ellis suggests that Washington's decision to have his troops inoculated against the smallpox epidemic was one of his most important decisions.[391]

At least 25,000 American Patriots died during active military service.[34] About 6,800 of these deaths were in battle; the other 17,000 recorded deaths were from disease, including about 8,000–12,000 who died of starvation or disease brought on by deplorable conditions while prisoners of war,[392] most in rotting British prison ships in New York. Another estimate, however, puts the total death toll at around 70,000, which if true would make the conflict proportionately deadlier than the American Civil War.[20] The uncertainty arises from the number of disease deaths, which were believed to be quite numerous, amounting to an estimated 10,000 in 1776 alone.[20] The number of Patriots seriously wounded or disabled by the war has been estimated from 8,500 to 25,000.[393] Proportionate to the population of the colonies, the Revolutionary War was at least the second-deadliest conflict in American history, ranking ahead of World War II and behind only the Civil War.

British and allies

In 1784, a British lieutenant compiled a detailed list of 205 British officers killed in action during the war, including deaths in Europe, the Caribbean, and the East Indies.[394] An extrapolation based on this list puts British Army losses at some 4,000 killed and died of wounds.[20] A table from 1781 puts total British Army deaths at 6,046 in North America (from 1775 to 1779) and 3,326 in the West Indies (from 1778 to 1780).[395] Approximately 1,800 Germans were killed in combat out of a total of 7,774 deaths.[20] British returns in 1783 listed 43,633 rank and file deaths "in the British service".[396]

About 171,000 sailors served in the Royal Navy during the war; about a quarter had been pressed into service. About 1,240 were killed in battle, while 18,500 died from disease (figures from 1776 to 1780 only).[38] The greatest killer was scurvy, a disease that had been shown to be preventable by issuing lemon or lime juice to sailors but was not taken seriously. Scurvy would be eradicated in the Royal Navy in the 1790s by the chairman of the Navy's Sick and Hurt Board, Gilbert Blane. About 42,000 British sailors deserted during the war.[397]


The British spent about £80 million and ended with a national debt of £250 million, which it easily financed at about £9.5 million a year in interest.[398] The French spent 1.3 billion livres (about £56 million). Their total national debt was £187 million, which they could not easily finance; over half the French national revenue went to debt service in the 1780s. The debt crisis became a major factor of the French Revolution as the government could not raise taxes without public approval.[399] The United States spent $37 million at the national level plus $114 million by the states. This was mostly covered by loans from France and the Netherlands, loans from Americans, and issuance of an increasing amount of paper money (which became "not worth a continental"). The U.S. finally solved its debt and currency problems in the 1790s when Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton secured legislation by which the national government assumed all of the state debts, and in addition created a national bank and a funding system based on tariffs and bond issues that paid off the foreign debts.[400]

See also


  1. ^ This article primarily refers to the inhabitants of the thirteen colonies who supported the American Revolution as "Americans", with occasional references to "Patriots" or "Revolutionaries". Colonists who supported the British and opposed the Revolution are referred to as "Loyalists" or "Tories". The geographical area of the thirteen colonies is often referred to simply as "America".


  1. ^ (before 1776)
  2. ^ (after 1776)
  3. ^ (from 1777)
  4. ^ (from 1778)
  5. ^ Though the historical term 'French Empire' more colloquially refers to the empire under Napoleon, the term is used here for brevity's sake to refer to France proper, and the colonial empire that the Kingdom of France ruled
  6. ^ (from 1779)
  7. ^ (1780–83)
  8. ^ (1780–84)
  9. ^ Oneida, Tuscarora, Catawba, Lenape, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Mahican, Mi'kmaq (until 1779), Abenaki, Cheraw, Seminole, Pee Dee, Lumbee, Watauga Association
  10. ^ Hanover supplied troops as per Personal union treaty, not as mercenaries
  11. ^ Onondaga, Mohawk, Cayuga, Seneca, Mi'kmaq (from 1779), Cherokee, Odawa, Muscogee, Susquehannock, Shawnee
  12. ^ A cease-fire in America was proclaimed by Congress on April 11, 1783, pursuant to a cease-fire agreement between Great Britain and France on January 20, 1783. The final peace treaty was signed on September 3, 1783, and ratified on January 14, 1784, in the U.S., with final ratification exchanged in Europe on May 12, 1784. Hostilities in India continued until July 1783.
  13. ^ Jaques, Tony (2007). Dictionary of Battles and Sieges: F-O. p. 720. Retrieved 1 April 2017. 
  14. ^ Jaques (2007), p. 666
  15. ^ Spain failed in its primary war aim of recovering Gibraltar, whilst the French naval defeat at the Saintes, and the Spanish defeat at Cape St Vincent, precluded any major invasions of the British West Indies, as well as any invasion of mainland Britain due to revived British naval dominance
  16. ^ Syrett 2006, p. 105.
  17. ^ Chartrand & Courcelle 2006, p. 86.
  18. ^ Black, Jeremy (1999). Warfare in the Eighteenth Century. London: Cassell. p. 141. ISBN 978-0-304-35245-6. 
  19. ^ Valin p. 58
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h Duncan, Louis C. MEDICAL MEN IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (1931).
  21. ^ a b Michael Lanning (2009). American Revolution 100: The Battles, People, and Events of the American War for Independence, Ranked by Their Significance. Sourcebooks. pp. 195–96. 
  22. ^ a b Jack P. Greene and J. R. Pole. A Companion to the American Revolution (Wiley-Blackwell, 2003), p. 328.
  23. ^ "Privateers or Merchant Mariners help win the Revolutionary War". Retrieved May 25, 2017. 
  24. ^ John Pike (October 18, 1907). "Privateers". Retrieved May 25, 2017. 
  25. ^ a b Jonathan Dull, A Diplomatic History of the American Revolution (Yale University Press, 1985), p. 110.
  26. ^ "Red Coats Facts – British Soldiers in the American Revolution". 
  27. ^ "The British Army 1775—1783" (PDF). orbat. Retrieved 2013-09-23. 
  28. ^ Winfield, Rif, British Warships in the Age of Sail: 1714-1792 (Seaforth Publishing, 2007) ISBN 978-1-84415-700-6
  29. ^ Winfield, Rif, British Warships in the Age of Sail 1714–1792: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates (Seaforth Publishing, 2007)
  30. ^ Mackesy (1964), pp. 6, 176 (British seamen).
  31. ^ Savas and Dameron (2006), p. xli
  32. ^ A. J. Berry, A Time of Terror (2006) p. 252
  33. ^ Greene and Pole (1999), p. 393; Boatner (1974), p. 545.
  34. ^ a b Howard H. Peckham, ed., The Toll of Independence: Engagements and Battle Casualties of the American Revolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974).
  35. ^ American dead and wounded: Shy, pp. 249–50. The lower figure for number of wounded comes from Chambers, p. 849.
  36. ^ "Spanish casualties in The American Revolutionary war.". Necrometrics. 
  37. ^ "Eighteenth Century Death Tolls". Retrieved January 7, 2016. 
  38. ^ a b Parliamentary Register (1781), p. 269.
  39. ^ Modern British writers generally favor "American War of Independence", rather than "American Rebellion" or "War of American Independence". "National Curriculum England". Retrieved April 21, 2016. 
  40. ^ The thirteenth colony was Georgia, which joined in 1775.
  41. ^ Brooks, Richard (editor). Atlas of World Military History. HarperCollins, 2000, p. 101 "Washington's success in keeping the army together deprived the British of victory, but French intervention won the war."
  42. ^ Pestana, Carla Gardina (2004). The English Atlantic in an Age of Revolution: 1640-1661. Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: Harvard University Press. p. 120.
  43. ^ Purvis, Thomas L. (23 April 1997). A dictionary of American history. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 278. ISBN 978-1-57718-099-9. Retrieved 24 May 2017. 
  44. ^ Whaples, Robert (March 1995). "Where Is There Consensus Among American Economic Historians? The Results of a Survey on Forty Propositions". The Journal of Economic History. Cambridge University Press. 55 (1): 140. doi:10.1017/S0022050700040602. JSTOR 2123771 – via JSTOR. (Registration required (help)). 
  45. ^ Thomas, Robert P. (1964). "A Quantitative Approach to the Study of the Effects of British Imperial Policy of Colonial Welfare: Some Preliminary Findings". Journal of Economic History. 25 (4): 615–638. JSTOR 2116133. 
  46. ^ Walton, Gary M. (1971). "The New Economic History and the Burdens of the Navigation Acts". Economic History Review. 24 (4): 533–542. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0289.1971.tb00192.x. 
  47. ^ Curtis P. Nettels, The Roots of American Civilization: A History of American Colonial Life (1938) p. 297.
  48. ^ Lovejoy, David (1987). The Glorious Revolution in America. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 978-0-8195-6177-0. OCLC 14212813. , pp. 148–56, 155-57, 169-70
  49. ^ Lovejoy, pp. 180, 192–93, 197
  50. ^ Barnes, Viola Florence (1960) [1923]. The Dominion of New England: A Study in British Colonial Policy. New York: Frederick Ungar. ISBN 978-0-8044-1065-6. OCLC 395292. , pp. 169–70
  51. ^ Webb, Stephen Saunders (1998). Lord Churchill's Coup: The Anglo-American Empire and the Glorious Revolution Reconsidered. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. ISBN 978-0-8156-0558-4. OCLC 39756272. , pp. 190–91
  52. ^ Lustig, Mary Lou (2002). The Imperial Executive in America: Sir Edmund Andros, 1637–1714. Madison, WI: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. ISBN 978-0-8386-3936-8. OCLC 470360764. , p. 201
  53. ^ Palfrey, John (1864). History of New England: History of New England During the Stuart Dynasty. Boston: Little, Brown. OCLC 1658888. , p. 596
  54. ^ Evans, James Truslow (1922). The Founding of New England. Boston: The Atlantic Monthly Press. OCLC 1068441. , p. 430
  55. ^ John A. Garraty; Mark C. Carnes (2000). "Chapter Three: America in the British Empire". A Short History of the American Nation (8th ed.). Longman. ISBN 0-321-07098-4. 
  56. ^ Max Savelle, Empires to Nations: Expansion in America, 1713-1824, p.93 (1974)
  57. ^ Draper pg. 100. The quote provided by Draper came from Leo Francis Stock’s Proceedings and Debates of the British Parliaments respecting North America (1937) vol. 4. pg. 182
  58. ^ Miller, John C. (1943). Origins of the American Revolution. Boston: Little, Brown and company. , pp. 95-99
  59. ^ Lepore (1998), The Name of War (1999) pp 5-7
  60. ^ Guizot, M. A popular history of France, from the earliest times. Vol IV, University of Michigan, 2005, ISBN 978-1-4255-5724-9, p.166.
  61. ^ Debt & Taxes, John Makim & Norman Ornstein P.54
  62. ^ Spain & the Independence of the United States; An Intrinsic Gift. Thomas E, Chavez P.22
  63. ^ Gladney, Henry M. (2014). No Taxation without Representation: 1768 Petition, Memorial, and Remonstrance (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on May 13, 2015. 
  64. ^ Liberty and Property: Political Ideology in Eighteenth-century Britain - H. T. Dickinson - Google Books. 1977. p. 218. ISBN 9780416729306. Retrieved 2015-01-07. 
  65. ^ Charles Howard McIlwain (1938). The American Revolution: A Constitutional Interpretation. p. 51. 
  66. ^ Paul Boyer; et al. (2014). The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People. Cengage Learning. p. 142. 
  67. ^ Knollenberg, Growth, 48; Thomas, Duties Crisis, 76
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  70. ^ [1] The only other testimony from a colonial is Aaron Biggs (sometimes Briggs) who told a slightly different version of the story, but Governor Wanton took pains to discredit his telling of the events (Bartlett, John Russell. A History of the Destruction of His Britannic Majesty's Schooner Gaspee, In Narragansett Bay, On the 10th of June 1772 (Providence, RI.: A. Crawford Greene, 1861), pp. 84–87). We also have the testimony of several mariners from the crew and officers of the Gaspee. They report a much larger number of attackers and many more boats.
  71. ^ "Boston Tea Party". 
  72. ^ Young, Shoemaker, 183–85.
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  79. ^ Peter Knight (2003). Conspiracy Theories in American History: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 184–85. ISBN 9781576078129. 
  80. ^ Georgia did not attend
  81. ^ Ferling, John. (2003). A Leap in the Dark. Oxford University Press. p. 112.
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  83. ^ a b Kramnick, Isaac (ed); Thomas Paine (1982). Common Sense. Penguin Classics. p. 21.
  84. ^ "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: and as the English colonists are not represented, and from their local and other circumstances, cannot properly be represented in the British parliament, 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, in such manner as has been heretofore used and accustomed: But, from the necessity of the case, and a regard to the mutual interest of both countries, we cheerfully consent to the operation of such acts of the British parliament, as are bonfide, 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, for raising a revenue on the subjects, in America, without their consent." quoted from the Declarations and Resolves of the First Continental Congress October 14, 1774.
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  90. ^ Chidsey, p. 6. This is the total size of Smith's force.
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  102. ^ Smith (1907), vol 1, p. 293
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  149. ^ Scheer, p. 64
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  159. ^ Middlekauff, Glorious Cause, 168; Ferling, Leap in the Dark, 123–24.
  160. ^ Maier, American Scripture, 25
  161. ^ Christie and Labaree, Empire or Independence, 270; Maier, American Scripture, 31–32.
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  163. ^ Maier, American Scripture, 59
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  170. ^ Boyd, Evolution, 19
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  211. ^ Fischer p. 254—Casualty numbers vary slightly with the Hessian forces, usually between 21–23 killed, 80–95 wounded and 890–920 captured (including the wounded), but it is generally agreed that the casualties were in this area.
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  215. ^ Ketchum p. 286
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  217. ^ Schecter, p. 268
  218. ^ a b c McCullough p. 290
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  220. ^ Fischer p. 342
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  351. ^ Black (2001), p. 59. On militia see Boatner (1974), p. 707, and Weigley (1973), ch. 2.
  352. ^ Crocker (2006), p. 51.
  353. ^ Boatner (1974), p. 264 says the largest force Washington commanded was "under 17,000"; Duffy (1987), p. 17, estimates Washington's maximum was "only 13,000 troops".
  354. ^ Greene and Pole (1999), p. 235.
  355. ^ Savas and Dameron (2006), p. xli.
  356. ^ Black (2001), p. 12.
  357. ^ Black (2001), p. 13–14.
  358. ^ Black (2001), p. 14.
  359. ^ Lorenzo Sabine, Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution, Vol. I (1864) p. 48; Sabine adds they were certainly wrong.
  360. ^ William Edward Hartpole Lecky (1891). A History of England: In the Eighteenth Century. p. 139. 
  361. ^ On the top leaders see Andrew Jackson O'Shaughnessy, The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire (Yale University Press, 2013).
  362. ^ Michael Lanning (2009). American Revolution 100: The Battles, People, and Events of the American War for Independence, Ranked by Their Significance. Sourcebooks. pp. 193–96. 
  363. ^ Black (2001), p. 39; Greene and Pole (1999), pp. 298, 306.
  364. ^ Edward E. Curtis, The Organization of the British Army in the American Revolution (Yale U.P. 1926) ch 1 online.
  365. ^ Curtis, The Organization of the British Army in the American Revolution, ch. 4.
  366. ^ Curtis, The Organization of the British Army in the American Revolution, ch. 3.
  367. ^ Higginbotham (1983), pp. 298, 306; Black (2001), pp. 29, 42.
  368. ^ Black (2001), pp. 14–16 (Harsh methods), pp. 35, 38 (slaves and Indians), p. 16 (neutrals into revolutionaries).
  369. ^ Ketchum (1997), p. 76.
  370. ^ Ketchum (1997), p. 77.
  371. ^ Ingrao, Charles. "" Barbarous Strangers": Hessian State and Society during the American Revolution." American Historical Review (1982): 954–976. in JSTOR.
  372. ^ Black (2001), pp. 27–29; Boatner (1974), pp. 424–26.
  373. ^ Morrissey (2004), pp. 20, 21.
  374. ^ The Oxford Illustrated History of the British Army (1994), p. 122–23.
  375. ^ Kaplan and Kaplan (1989), pp. 64–69.
  376. ^ Leslie Alexander (2010). Encyclopedia of African American History. ABC-CLIO. p. 356. 
  377. ^ Peter Kolchin, American Slavery: 1619–1877, New York: Hill and Wang, 1994, p. 73
  378. ^ Kolchin, p.73
  379. ^ William Weir (2004). The Encyclopedia of African American Military History. Prometheus Books. pp. 31–32. 
  380. ^ Cassadra Pybus, "Jefferson's Faulty Math: the Question of Slave Defections in the American Revolution", William and Mary Quarterly (2005) 62#2 pp: 243–264. in JSTOR
  381. ^ Greene and Pole (1999), p. 393; Boatner (1974), p. 545.
  382. ^ John Finger, Tennessee Frontiers: Three Regions in Transition (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 2001), pp. 43–64.
  383. ^ Ward, Harry M. (1999). The war for independence and the transformation of American society. Psychology Press. p. 198. ISBN 978-1-85728-656-4. Retrieved March 25, 2011. 
  384. ^ O'Brien, Greg (April 30, 2008). Pre-removal Choctaw history: exploring new paths. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 123–126. ISBN 978-0-8061-3916-6. Retrieved March 25, 2011. 
  385. ^ Cassandra Pybus, "Jefferson's Faulty Math: the Question of Slave Defections in the American Revolution", William and Mary Quarterly 2005 62#2: 243–264.
  386. ^ John N. Grant, "Black Immigrants into Nova Scotia, 1776–1815." Journal of Negro History (1973): 253–270. in JSTOR
  387. ^ James W. St G. Walker, The Black Loyalists: The Search for a Promised Land in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone, 1783–1870 (1992).
  388. ^ William Baller, "Farm Families and the American Revolution," Journal of Family History (2006) 31(1): 28–44. ISSN 0363-1990. Fulltext: online in EBSCO.
  389. ^ Michael A. McDonnell, "Class War: Class Struggles During the American Revolution in Virginia", William and Mary Quarterly 2006 63(2): 305–344. ISSN 0043-5597 Fulltext: online at History Cooperative.
  390. ^ Ellis (2004), p. 87.
  391. ^ Burrows, Edwin G. (Fall 2008). "Patriots or Terrorists". American Heritage. 58 (5). Archived from the original on March 23, 2013. Retrieved November 29, 2014. 
  392. ^ American dead and wounded: Shy, pp. 249–50. The lower figure for number of wounded comes from Chambers, p. 849.
  393. ^ The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Volume 27 (1903), p. 176.
  394. ^ Parliamentary Register (1781), pp. 263–65.
  395. ^ Annual Register, 1783 (1785), pp. 199–200.
  396. ^ Mackesy (1964), pp. 6, 176 (British seamen).
  397. ^ Robert Tombs and Isabelle Tombs (2006). That Sweet Enemy: The French and the British from the Sun King to the Present. Knopf Doubleday. p. 179. 
  398. ^ Tombs (2007), p. 179.
  399. ^ David Kennedy; et al. (2011). The Brief American Pageant: A History of the Republic, Volume I: To 1877. Cengage Learning. p. 136. 

Further reading

  • Black, Jeremy. War for America: The Fight for Independence, 1775–1783. 2001. Analysis from a noted British military historian.
  • Benn, Carl. Historic Fort York, 1793–1993. Toronto: Dundurn Press Ltd., 1993. ISBN 0-920474-79-9.
  • Boatner, Mark Mayo, III. Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. 1966; revised 1974. ISBN 0-8117-0578-1. Military topics, references many secondary sources.
  • Chambers, John Whiteclay II, ed. in chief. The Oxford Companion to American Military History. Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-19-507198-0.
  • Conway, Stephen. The British Isles and the War of American Independence (2002) DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199254552.001.0001 online
  • Crocker III, H. W. (2006). Don't Tread on Me. New York: Crown Forum. ISBN 978-1-4000-5363-6. 
  • Curtis, Edward E. The Organization of the British Army in the American Revolution (Yale U.P. 1926) online
  • Duffy, Christopher. The Military Experience in the Age of Reason, 1715–1789 Routledge, 1987. ISBN 978-0-7102-1024-1.
  • Edler, Friedrich. The Dutch Republic and The American Revolution. University Press of the Pacific, 1911, reprinted 2001. ISBN 0-89875-269-8.
  • Ellis, Joseph J. His Excellency: George Washington. (2004). ISBN 1-4000-4031-0.
  • David Hackett Fischer. Washington's Crossing. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-19-517034-2.
  • Fletcher, Charles Robert Leslie. An Introductory History of England: The Great European War, Volume 4. E.P. Dutton, 1909. OCLC 12063427.
  • Greene, Jack P. and Pole, J.R., eds. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell, 1991; reprint 1999. ISBN 1-55786-547-7. Collection of essays focused on political and social history.
  • Gilbert, Alan. Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War for Independence. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-226-29307-3.
  • Higginbotham, Don. The War of American Independence: Military Attitudes, Policies, and Practice, 1763–1789. Northeastern University Press, 1983. ISBN 0-930350-44-8. Overview of military topics; online in ACLS History E-book Project.
  • Morrissey, Brendan. Monmouth Courthouse 1778: The Last Great Battle in the North. Osprey Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1-84176-772-7.
  • Jensen, Merrill. The Founding of a Nation: A History of the American Revolution 1763–1776. (2004)
  • Kaplan, Sidney and Emma Nogrady Kaplan. The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution. Amherst, Massachusetts: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1989. ISBN 0-87023-663-6.
  • Ketchum, Richard M. Saratoga: Turning Point of America's Revolutionary War. Henry Holt, 1997. ISBN 0-8050-4681-X.
  • Mackesy, Piers. The War for America: 1775–1783. London, 1964. Reprinted University of Nebraska Press, 1993. ISBN 0-8032-8192-7. Highly regarded examination of British strategy and leadership.
  • McCullough, David. 1776. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.
  • Middleton, Richard, The War of American Independence, 1775–1783. London: Pearson, 2012. ISBN 978-0-582-22942-6
  • Reynolds, Jr., William R. (2012). Andrew Pickens: South Carolina Patriot in the Revolutionary War. Jefferson NC: McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-6694-8. 
  • Riddick, John F. The History of British India: a Chronology. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006. ISBN 978-0-313-32280-8.
  • Savas, Theodore P. and Dameron, J. David. A Guide to the Battles of the American Revolution. New York: Savas Beatie LLC, 2006. ISBN 1-932714-12-X.
  • Schama, Simon. Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves, and the American Revolution, New York, NY: Ecco/HarperCollins, 2006
  • O'Shaughnessy, Andrew Jackson. The Men who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire (Yale UP, 2014).
  • Shy, John. A People Numerous and Armed: Reflections on the Military Struggle for American Independence. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976 (ISBN 0-19-502013-8); revised University of Michigan Press, 1990 (ISBN 0-472-06431-2). Collection of essays.
  • Stephenson, Orlando W. "The Supply of Gunpowder in 1776", American Historical Review, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Jan. 1925), pp. 271–281 in JSTOR.
  • Tombs, Robert and Isabelle. That Sweet Enemy: The French and the British from the Sun King to the Present Random House, 2007. ISBN 978-1-4000-4024-7.
  • Trevelyan, George Otto. George the Third and Charles Fox: the concluding part of The American revolution Longmans, Green, 1912.
  • Watson, J. Steven. The Reign of George III, 1760–1815. 1960. Standard history of British politics.
  • Weigley, Russell F. The American Way of War. Indiana University Press, 1977. ISBN 978-0-253-28029-9.
  • Weintraub, Stanley. Iron Tears: America's Battle for Freedom, Britain's Quagmire: 1775–1783. New York: Free Press, 2005 (a division of Simon & Schuster). ISBN 0-7432-2687-9. An account of the British politics on the conduct of the war.

Reference literature

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.

  • Billias, George Athan. George Washington's Generals and Opponents: Their Exploits and Leadership (1994) scholarly studies of key generals on each side.\
  • Black, Jeremy. "Could the British Have Won the American War of Independence?." Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research. (Fall 1996), Vol. 74 Issue 299, pp 145–154. online video lecture, uses Real Player
  • Conway, Stephen. The War of American Independence 1775–1783. Publisher: E. Arnold, 1995. ISBN 0-340-62520-1. 280 pages.
  • Lowell, Edward J. The Hessians in the Revolution Williamstown, Massachusetts, Corner House Publishers, 1970, Reprint
  • Bancroft, George. History of the United States of America, from the discovery of the American continent. (1854–78), vol. 7–10.
  • Bobrick, Benson. Angel in the Whirlwind: The Triumph of the American Revolution. Penguin, 1998 (paperback reprint).
  • Fremont-Barnes, Gregory, and Ryerson, Richard A., eds. The Encyclopedia of the American Revolutionary War: A Political, Social, and Military History (ABC-CLIO, 2006) 5 volume paper and online editions; 1000 entries by 150 experts, covering all topics
  • Frey, Sylvia R. The British Soldier in America: A Social History of Military Life in the Revolutionary Period (University of Texas Press, 1981).
  • Hibbert, Christopher. Redcoats and Rebels: The American Revolution through British Eyes. New York: Norton, 1990. ISBN 0-393-02895-X.
  • Kwasny, Mark V. Washington's Partisan War, 1775–1783. Kent, Ohio: 1996. ISBN 0-87338-546-2. Militia warfare.
  • Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763–1789. Oxford University Press, 1984; revised 2005. ISBN 0-19-516247-1. online edition
  • Savas, Theodore; J. David Dameron (2006). Guide to the Battles of the American Revolution. Savas Beatie.  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.
  • Simms, Brendan. Three Victories and a Defeat: The Rise and Fall of the First British Empire, 1714–1783 (2008) 802 pp., detailed coverage of diplomacy from London viewpoint
  • Symonds, Craig L. A Battlefield Atlas of the American Revolution (1989), newly drawn maps emphasizing the movement of military units
  • Ward, Christopher. The War of the Revolution. (2 volumes. New York: Macmillan, 1952.) History of land battles in North America.
  • Wood, W. J. Battles of the Revolutionary War, 1775–1781. ISBN 0-306-81329-7 (2003 paperback reprint). Analysis of tactics of a dozen battles, with emphasis on American military leadership.
  • Men-at-Arms series: short (48pp), very well illustrated descriptions:
    • Zlatich, Marko; Copeland, Peter. General Washington's Army (1): 1775–78 (1994)
    • Zlatich, Marko. General Washington's Army (2): 1779–83 (1994)
    • Chartrand, Rene. The French Army in the American War of Independence (1994)
    • May, Robin. The British Army in North America 1775–1783 (1993)
  • The Partisan in War, a treatise on light infantry tactics written by Colonel Andreas Emmerich in 1789.

External links