Causes of Revolt
Path to Revolution
Pre -1778 Combatants
A World War
Northern and Western Theater
Yorktown and Surrender
Treaty of Paris
Results of War
Many historians in the United States refer to the American Revolution as the American War for Independence.
The war was also sometimes referred to as the Revolutionary War but most people called it the American Revolution to distinguish it from other revolutions in the world.
The Surrender of General Burgoyne by John Trumbull (1756–1843) by United States Architect of the Capitol
Other names for the American Revolution include “The Great Rebellion”, “The War for Independence”, “The Colonial Uprising” and the “Great American Rebellion”.
The thirteen colonies that fought against Britain during the American Revolution can be divided into three geographical categories: The New England Colonies, The Middle Colonies and the Southern Colonies.
The Thirteen Colonies during American Revolution by Jon Platek cc3.0
The New England Colonies were made up of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island (and Providence Plantations) and Connecticut.
New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware made up the Middle Colonies.
The provinces of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia fought against the British as part of the Southern Colonies.
These thirteen colonies were established by the British between 1607 and 1733.
In 1776, after a series of collaborations beginning with the Stamp Act Congress of 1765, the thirteen colonies declared independence from Great Britain and formed a new sovereign state – the United States of America.
One of the major causes of the war was the colonies’ lack of representation in the British parliament.
Heavy taxation as brought about by the Stamp Act of 1765, the Townshend Tariffs of 1767 and the Tea Act of 1773 intensified the colonists’ resolve to rebel against the British crown.
Join or Die by Benjamin Franklin
Resistance to the British led to bloody violence in 1770, when five men were killed by British Soldiers. This event is now known as the Boston Massacre.
Bostonians sought revenge by boarding British ships and dumping 342 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor while disguised as Mohawks, in what was known as the Boston Tea Party.
The Brutal Boston Tea Party by Nathaniel Currier
The First Continental Congress was formed in September 1774 in Philadelphia. It did not go as far as demanding independence from Great Britain.
The First Continental Congress in Philadelphia (1774 ) by Tompkins Harrison Matteson (1848)
George Washington, John Adams, Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry and John Jay were some of the most prominent colonists who took part in the formation of the First Continental Congress.
The first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired on April 19, 1774 in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. This event was a clash between local militiamen and British soldiers.
The Second Continental Congress convened in May of 1775 in Philadelphia, and plans to form a regular army were laid out.
The Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia (1775) by Edward Savage
Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were among the new delegates of the Second Continental Congress.
When the war broke out, the thirteen colonies had no regular army or navy. The earliest combatants of the war were local militias – lightly armed citizens who had no formal military training and uniforms.
The United States established a Continental Army (on paper) on June 14, 1775, to be headed by George Washington as the commander-in-chief.
George Washington at the Battle of Trento by Edward Lamson Henry
Colonists who supported the British during the war were called Loyalists. There were about 25,000 of them during the war.
Those who fought for the cause of independence were called Patriots.
The British army only had 36,000 men worldwide before the war broke out. As a result, Britain had to ask other European allies for military help.
Through various treaties, Britain hired around 30,000 soldiers from Germany.
German soldiers who fought in the war were called “Hessians” by American revolutionaries.
Apocryphal Image of Hessian Hussars in America by C. Ziegler
German soldiers made up a third of the British-allied soldiers in North America.
Around 5000 soldiers fought for the Americans when the broke out.
There were also some African Americans who sided with the British during the war. Most of them were recruited from American masters and were promised freedom after the war.
The Role of African Americans in War
Around 13,000 Native Americans fought for the British crown during the war.
The largest group of natives who fought in the war came from the Iroquois tribe. There were around 1500 of them.
Other native tribes who sided with the British were the Seneca, Onondaga and Cayuga.
The Tuscarora and Oneida tribes fought for the United States of America during the war.
On February 6, 1778, France signed the Treaty of Alliance with the United States, which formally established the Franco-American alliance in the war.
Franco-American Alliance – Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown by John Trumbull
The Franco-American alliance negotiation was headed by Benjamin Franklin.
In June of 1779, Spain officially entered the war in favor of the Americans.
The Dutch Republic also became part of what had become a Worldwide conflict in December of 1780 when Britain declared war on them.
Although the Dutch Republic initially declared neutrality during the American Revolutionary war, the republic had been secretly trading arms and munitions with the Americans even before the French entered the war.
Britain declared war on the Dutch in December of 1780, starting the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War.
A peace treaty between the Netherlands and Britain was signed in 1784. As a result of the war, the Dutch lost the Indian Port of Negapatam to the British.
British in Action – The Anglo-Dutch War by Pieter Cornelisz. van Soest
The Netherlands was the second country to recognize the United States of America as an independent nation.
When the war broke out, the Royal Navy had more than 100 large (ship of the line) ships and several frigates.
On the other hand, the American colonists had no ships of the line at all. The Continental Army relied on corsairs or privateers to harass British shipping.
During the war, American privateers had almost 1700 ships. More than 2283 British ships were captured by privateers during the war.
American Crivateers Capturing British Ships by V. Zveg
The Continental Navy was created in October 1775.
The first American naval hero was John Paul Jones.
The Continental Navy’s First Seaman – John Paul Jones
by George Bagby Matthews (1857-1943)
Jones’ capture of HMS Drake on April 24, 1778 marked the first naval victory of American ships over British waters.
The first submarine attack took place in 1776 in New York Harbor. Its inventor, David Bushnell, called the submarine “Turtle”.
The Caribbean theater of the American Revolutionary War was a series of naval and land engagements fought between Great Britain and France.
The Battle of the Saints (1782) during Caribbean Wars by PhilFree
This part of the war started in 1778 and ended in 1782.
British forces who fought in the India War were under the command of the British East India Company.
The first military action taken by the British after France entered the American War of Independence was the siege of Pondicherry, a French colonial outpost in India.
Siege of Pondicherry in 1748 by Sergeant Louis Marceau
Pondicherry was the capital of French India. It was also the largest colony of France in the region.
The British laid siege to the outpost in August 1778. The French forces stationed there surrendered after ten weeks.
The Southern theater of the American Revolution was the center of operations during the second half of the war.
One of the most spectacular battles in the South was the Second Battle of Savannah, where a combined force of American and French soldiers failed to retake the British-defended Savannah.
Siege of Savannah, American Revolutionary War by A. I. Keller
The Siege of Savannah began on September 16, 1779 and ended on October 18, 1779.
The Siege of Savannah was one of the bloodiest battles in the war. The combined French and American forces suffered around 1000 to 1200 casualties.
On the other hand, the British sustained forty dead, sixty-three wounded and fifty-two missing soldiers.
One of the worst defeats in US military history was the Battle of Camden.
The Very Brutal – Battle of Camden by Alonzo Chappel
The American Continental Army, led by General Horatio Gates, suffered around 2000 casualties at the Battle of Camden.
General Charles Cornwallis assumed leadership command of the British forces during the later part of the war.
The Western theater of the war was fought in the region west of the Appalachian Mountains.
The region which later became known as the Northwest Territory of the United States included the states of Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri.
The Western theater of the war was primarily fought between British forces based in Detroit, with their Native American allies, and American colonists to the south and east of the Ohio River.
1782 became known as the “Bloody Year” among American settlers west of the Appalachian Mountains. It marked the tragic defeat of an American offensive led by Colonel William Crawford.
The Siege and Relief of Gibraltar (1782) by John Singleton Copley
Colonel Crawford and some of his men were captured, tortured and burned at stake after their defeat in a battle fought deep into Native American territory.
Several forts were erected to protect American settlements from Native American and British raids. Two of these were Holidays Cove Fort (constructed in 1774) and Fort Laurens (constructed in 1778).
According to historian David Curtis Scaggs, the war in the Northwest ended in a “stalemate”.
The Northern, Southern and naval theaters of the war converged at Yorktown, Virginia as the war drew to a close in 1781.
The British forces, which were now on the defensive, were under the command of General Lord Charles Cornwallis.
The Portrait of General Lord Charles Cornwallis by Joshua Reynolds
More than 18,900 French and American soldiers besieged Cornwallis’ positions.
On October 19, 1781, Cornwallis surrendered his entire army of 8000 men.
The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, October 19, 1781 by John Trumbull
One of the most noted battles during this period was the Battle of the Chesapeake on September 5, 1781.
The Scene of Battle of the Chesapeake by US Navy Naval History and Heritage Command
The Battle of the Chesapeake, which was also known as the Battle of the Virginia Capes, was fought between British and French fleets.
The defeat of the British fleet during the Battle of the Chesapeake cut off Lord Cornwallis’ hope for reinforcements; thereby effectively securing American Independence.
The American Revolution ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.
Signing the Preliminary Treaty of Paris by John D. Morris & Co
The treaty was signed on September 3, 1783.
The Continental Congress accepted and approved the treaty on January 14, 1784.
On April 9, 1784, King George III accepted and signed the treaty.
The King of Great Britain and Ireland – Kind George III
John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and John Jay represented the United States of America during the negotiations.
On the other hand, King George III (and the whole empire) was represented by David Hartley, a member of the British Parliament.
Although the British Army had already surrendered at the Battle of Yorktown, it still took two and a half years for King George III to ratify the treaty.
Spain received Florida as part of the Treaty of Paris.
The British gave all of its territories to the US – between the Atlantic Ocean and Mississippi River; from Canada to the north and Florida to the south.
After their victory on the war, the 13 states went forward, establishing a democratic government which gave birth to the US Constitution.
Although France gained some territories after the war, the entire nation suffered from huge financial losses, creating the economic disasters of 1780s.
Many historians believed that the French Revolution came as a direct result of those financial disasters.
The Dutch gained nothing after the war while the Spaniards failed to regain control of Gibraltar, its primary objective during the war.
French Troops Entering Rome in 1798 by Hippolyte Lecomte
After the war, the region west of the Appalachian Mountains was opened for settling. The British used to reserve this area for the “Indian Nations”.
More than 3000 black men became freedmen after the war. Most of them settled In Nova Scotia while other black men remained as slaves and were sold in the West Indies.
More than 25,000 Americans revolutionaries perished while in active military service.
Around 8000 of these deaths were in battle while 17,000 were from disease.
Starvation and other diseases also took around 8000 to 12,000 prisoners of war.
Around 8500 to 25,000 revolutionaries were wounded or disabled by the war.
A total of 171,000 British Sailors served during the war.
Around 1240 British soldiers were killed in battle.
Because of poor living conditions, more than 18,500 British soldiers died from disease.
Around 1200 Germans died in the battle fields of the American Revolution.
An estimated total of 6354 German mercenaries died from disease or accidents.
Around forty to forty-five percent of the colonists supported the rebellion.
Fifteen to twenty percent of the colonists fought for the British crown while the rest remained neutral to the cause.
More than 20,000 black soldiers were abandoned by the British at the end of the war.
Scurvy, a type of disease caused by vitamin C deficiency, was one of the greatest killers during the war.
Around 4000 British soldiers ran away or deserted during the war.
Benjamin West’s painting of the Treaty of Paris negotiations showed the finished portrait of the Americans on the left and the unfinished portrait of the British on the right. The latter was due to the fact that the British delegates refused to pose.
The Delegations of the Treaty of Paris by Benjamin West
At the start of the war, military leaders of the Continental Army wore distinguishing cockades (pink, yellow, red and green) in their hats. Each color indicated the rank of the commander. Later in the war, the cockades were changed to black and white (the Union Cockade) to mark the French-American Alliance.
There were more about 2.5 million colonists during the war period.
A number of women fought in actual combat in the Continental Army. One of the most prominent was Mary Ludwig Hays (“Molly Pitcher”) who replaced her wounded husband at his cannon during the Battle of Monmouth in 1778.
The Heroine of Monmouth – Mary Ludwig Hays (Molly Pitcher) by Currier & Ives
Arguably the best general in the Continental Army was Benedict Arnold. He was instrumental in the American victory in the Battle of Saratoga. Ironically, Arnold sided with the British in 1780 because he was against the French-American alliance.
The Best General in the Continental Army – Benedict Arnold by Thomas Hart
The Surrender of General Burgoyne by John Trumbull (1756–1843) by United States Architect of the Capitol
The Thirteen Colonies during American Revolution by Jon Platek cc3.0
Join or Die by Benjamin Franklin (copyright free)
The Brutal Boston Tea Party by Nathaniel Currier (copyright free)
The First Continental Congress in Philadelphia (1774 ) by Tompkins Harrison Matteson (1848) (copyright free)
The Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia (1775) by Edward Savage (copyright free)
George Washington at the Battle of Trento by Edward Lamson Henry PD-Art
Apocryphal Image of Hessian Hussars in Americaby C. Ziegler PD-Art
The Role of African Americans in War by anonymous (copyright free)
Franco-American Alliance – Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown by John Trumbull PD-Art
British in Action – The Anglo-Dutch War by Pieter Cornelisz. van Soest PD-Art
American Crivateers Capturing British Ships by V. Zveg (copyright free)
The Continental Navy’s First Seaman – John Paul Jones by George Bagby Matthews (1857-1943) PD-Art
The Battle of the Saints (1782) during Caribbean Wars by PhilFree PD-Art
Siege of Pondicherry in 1748 by Sergeant Louis Marceau (copyright free)
Siege of Savannah, American Revolutionary War by A. I. Keller (copyright free)
The Very Brutal – Battle of Camden by Alonzo Chappel (copyright free)
The Siege and Relief of Gibraltar (1782) by John Singleton Copley (copyright free)
The Portrait of General Lord Charles Cornwallis by Joshua Reynolds PD-Art
The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, October 19, 1781 by John Trumbull PD-Art
The Sceene of Battle of the Chesapeake by US Navy Naval History and Heritage Command (copyright free)
Signing the Preliminary Treaty of Paris by John D. Morris & Co (copyright free)
The King of Great Britain and Ireland – Kind George III by National Portrait Gallery, London PD-Art
French Troops Entering in Rome in 1798 by Hippolyte Lecomte (Copyright free)
The Delegations of the Treaty of Paris by Benjamin West (Copyright free)
The Heroine of Monmouth – Mary Ludwig Hays (Molly Pitcher) by Currier & Ives PD-US
The Best General in the Continental Army – Benedict Arnold by Thomas Hart (copyright free)