(See Main Articles: Revolutionary War)
The American War of Independence (1775–1783), also known as the American Revolutionary War, was a war between Great Britain and its Thirteen Colonies which declared independence in July 1776 as a sovereign nation; the United States of America.
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“George Washington and The American Revolution”
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(See main article: American War of Independence: Facts and Summary)
The Americans defended their traditional rights. The French revolutionaries despised French traditions and sought to make everything anew: new governing structures, new provincial boundaries, a new “religion,” a new calendar—and the guillotine awaited those who objected. The British statesman Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism and a man who did understand the issues at stake in both events, considered himself perfectly consistent in his sympathy for the Americans of the 1770s and his condemnation of the French revolutionaries of 1789.
In a certain sense, there was no American Revolution at all. There was, instead, an American War for Independence in which Americans threw off British authority in order to retain their liberties and self-government. In the 1760s, the colonies had, for the most part, been left alone in their internal affairs. Because the colonists had enjoyed the practice of self-government for so long, they believed it was their right under the British constitution. The British constitution was “unwritten”—it was a flexible collection of documents and traditions—but by an American conservative’s reading, the British government had acted unconstitutionally in its restrictive acts and taxation.
(See Main Article: Battle of Trenton: Location, Facts and Summary)
The Battle of Trenton was a small but crucial battle during the American Revolutionary War. It happened on the morning of December 26, 1776, in Trenton, New Jersey.
The Battle of Trenton
- The Americans’ (with 2400 soldiers) march toward Trenton began at 4 AM. As the soldiers marched, many left trails of blood from their bleeding feet.
- About 2 miles (3 km) outside the town, the soldiers were startled by the sudden appearance of 50 armed men, but they were American. This small group had attacked a Hessian outpost earlier. Washington feared the Hessians would have been put on guard, and shouted at their leader, “You sir! You sir, may have ruined all my plans by having them put on their guard.”
- In fact, the 50 men actually helped Washington. The Hessian commander Rall had been warned about a possible American attack, but he thought the first raid was the attack and that there would be no further action that day.
- Washington’s army reached Trenton around 8 AM.
- The Hessians were completely surprised. Most were asleep when the Americans arrived.
- They tried to form lines, but the American cannons were already pouring devastating fire into the Hessians. (Part of the American artillery was commanded by a young captain named Alexander Hamilton). American musket fire also decimated the Hessians. Much hand-to-hand fighting occurred.
- Within an hour, the Hessians surrendered. The Americans had suffered only two deaths (due to exposure, not gunfire) and five wounded. One of the wounded was a young lieutenant named James Monroe.
- 22 Hessians were killed (including Col. Rall), 83 were wounded, and 800-900 surrendered and became prisoners. At least 500 Hessians escaped.
(See Main Article: Battle of Brandywine Creek)
The Battle of Brandywine Creek was fought between the American Continental Army of General George Washington and the British Army of General Sir William Howe. It was an early battle in the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), taking place on September 11, 1777.
Howe Moves His Army
- By the first week of March 1777, Washington became convinced that Howe was going to move his army to Philadelphia.
- But Howe did nothing in March, April, May or early June. He began to move in mid-June. He was hoping to draw Washington out of his fortified position into open battle. Washington did not take the bait.
- In July, Howe’s army began to move, and on July 23, they set to sea. But it was not clear exactly where they were going.
- On July 30, the British fleet was sighted off Delaware Bay. This made it obvious that Howe’s target was Philadelphia.
- On August 25, Howe disembarked a light infantry unit at the mouth of the Elk River, just 30 miles south of Philadelphia. It took Howe a week to offload all of his troops and supplies. Altogether, he has about 15,000 soldiers.
- They moved slowly, reaching the Brandywine River (half the distance to Philadelphia) on September 11. There they met Washington and 10,000 Continental troops. Washington’s army had marched quickly from New Jersey.
Battle of Brandywine Creek: Afterward
- On the way to meet Howe’s army, Washington’s army marched through Philadelphia. There they were joined by the Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette, a 19-year old French nobleman, offered to serve in the army without pay.
- Washington reached Brandywine Creek on September 9 and spread his army out on high ground behind the river, on either side of the main road that crossed the river.
- On the morning of the 11th, a brigade of Hessians attacked right across the river bridge, while two others, under Howe and Cornwallis, moved northward to cross the river at a couple of fords and got behind the Americans. Washington left his right flank unanchored.
- Washington’s lines held a long time but eventually collapsed. Darkness and exhaustion prevented the British from following up.
- Battle of Brandywine Creek death toll: British lost 89 dead and 400 wounded. Americans lost 200 dead, 40 prisoners and 400 wounded (including Lafayette).
- Howe stopped for two days and did very little. Washington fell back to a new position behind the Schuylkill River, attempting to shield Philadelphia from Howe’s army. He received 3100 reinforcements.
- On the 15th, Washington re-crossed the Schuylkill, wanting to attack again, but a thunderstorm prevented an attack.
- Washington sent Alexander Hamilton to Philadelphia to warn the Congress to evacuate the city. They moved to York, PA.
Battle of Saratoga: Turning Point of the Revolutionary War?
(See Main Article: Battle of Saratoga: Turning Point of the Revolutionary War?)
“The Saratoga Campaign: Turning Point of the Revolutionary War”
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The Battle of Saratoga, which occurred on September 19 and October 7, 1777, was the climax of the Saratoga campaign. It gave a decisive victory to the Americans over the British during the American Revolutionary War. The battle also saw great heroics by Benedict Arnold.
John Burgoyne Mini-Bio
- Burgoyne’s father was a captain in the army but had little money.
- Burgoyne joined the army as a teenager and married young into a noble family.
- He gambled heavily and had to sell his commission to pay his debts. He then fled to France to flee the other ones.
- His father in law eventually paid Burgoyne’s debts and got him another commission in the army, just in time for the 7 Years War.
- He commanded a dragoon unit with excellence. By 1760, he was a colonel in charge of a light dragoon regiment.
- He captured Valencia (Spain) and became a hero. He was popular with his men.
- 1761: He became an MP, where he constantly lobbied for a more prestigious command.
- 1775: He was sent to Boston along with Clinton and Cornwallis. From Boston, he constantly wrote letters complaining about Gage, Howe, and Clinton.
- Later that year he was put in charge of a force sent north to drive the Patriots’ northern army out of Canada. There he conflicted with Sir Guy Carlton, the British governor in Canada.
- Burgoyne loved wine, women, song, and the high life. He was nicknamed “Gentleman Johnny.”
Burgoyne’s Plan for the Battle of Saratoga
- Burgoyne went to London and presented a plan to Lord George Germain (British Secretary of State for North America). The plan was as follows:
- One force under the command of Burgoyne would march south from Montreal down the Hudson River Valley. He wanted 8000 British regulars, 2000 Canadian militia, and 1000 Indian scouts.
- A second, smaller, force would invade New York from Niagara (to the west) through the Mohawk Valley and link up with Burgoyne’s force at Albany.
- Howe’s army would march north from NYC and also join with Burgoyne. This would cut New England off from the rest of the colonies. The combined army would turn and crush New England, the heart of the rebellion.
- Once New England was subdued, it was believed, the rest of the colonies would reaffirm their allegiance to Britain.
- Germain approved the plan. Burgoyne returned to Canada, sending a letter to Howe notifying him of his plans via a letter that he wrote on the way.
The British Forces
- Burgoyne assembled 8 regiments and was ready to set off from Fort St. John on June 12. But he was ordered to leave 2 behind, so he only had 3700 regular troops for the Battle of Saratoga.
- He was given 3000 Hessians, 450 Canadians and Loyalists, and about 400 Indians. This gave him a total of about 7500 men…far less than he wanted. But he had many artillery pieces, although it would be very difficult to transport them. Burgoyne also sent a few hundred troops under Lt. Colonel Barry St. Leger (“Sillager”?) to conduct the western part of the campaign.
- On June 20, Burgoyne issued a proclamation to the people of New England that read “I have but to give stretch to the Indian Forces under my direction, and they amount to Thousands, to overtake the harden’d Enemies of Great Britain and America, (I consider them the same) wherever they may lurk. If notwithstanding these endeavours, and sincere inclinations to effect them, the phrenzy of hostility shou’d remain, I trust I shall stand acquitted in the Eyes of God & Men in denouncing and executing the vengeance of the state against the wilful outcasts.”
(See Main Article: Author of the Declaration of Independence)
Who is the author of the Declaration of Independence? Thomas Jefferson is universally believed to be the author, but how much input did others have?
“Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence, and Radical Ideas”
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Many years later, Jefferson told Henry Lee that he wrote the Declaration “not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of . . . it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion.”
Many historians, including Jefferson’s most important biographer, Dumas Malone, believe Benjamin Franklin changed Jefferson’s draft of “we hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable” to “we hold these truths to be self-evident,” a much more powerful expression. Jefferson himself probably borrowed language from George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Resolves, written a month before Jefferson authored the Declaration. Mason had argued, similarly to Jefferson, that “all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights…namely the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and maintaining happiness and safety.” It seems likely that Jefferson simply shortened Mason’s wording. But even that wording was not new. The idea that Englishmen had a right to “life, liberty, and property” went back at least to John Locke and his Two Treatises on Civil Government in 1689, which itself was meant to couch England’s “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 in the rights of English-men, established in 1215 when King John was forced to sign the Magna Charta at Runnymede. These rights were thus common parlance not only in Britain but in America. They were, for instance, part of the Carolina Charter, which Locke may have helped author. Most colonists did not consider themselves to be sole “Americans.” They were British subjects pleading with the king for relief from taxes and laws that violated their “natural” rights as Englishmen. Indeed, Americans were proud to be British. And, why not? Englishmen were the freest and most prosperous people in the world.
Jefferson insisted that the colonists had suffered patiently while the king and Parliament assumed tyrannical rule over the colonies, but only the “present King of Great Britain” deserved the condemnation of the patriot leaders. Jefferson never declared that all kings were unjust, just George III. It is true that Jefferson was not a monarchist, but it is equally true that he thought there were worse things than monarchy. When the French Revolution, of which he was an early proponent, had proven itself to be unmistakably extremist, with the revolutionary government lopping off heads at a rapid pace, Jefferson called for a restoration of the royal family in France. Moreover, contrary to what the historian Joseph Ellis says, Jefferson never suggested that government was an “alien force.” The government, in Jefferson’s words, should protect the “safety and happiness” of the people. Only after a “long train of abuses and usurpations” reduced the people “under absolute Despotism” did the people have the “right” and “duty, to throw off such Government and to provide new Guards for their future security.” They could “alter or abolish” a tyrannical government, but Jefferson did not consider the British system of government per se to be unjust, only the government of King George III. Even conservatives like John Dickinson knew their grievances would not be addressed by a Parliament determined to maintain its sovereignty over the king’s subjects, no matter what the cost. Independence was justified because it was the only way left for the colonists to preserve their inherited rights.
(See Main Article: When Did The Revolutionary War End?)
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“The Revolutionary War Comes to an End“
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The American War of Independence or Revolutionary War started in 1775 and lasted 8 long years until 1783 when it finally came to an end and the North American colonies finally gained their independence. The war started as a rebellion of the thirteen colonies that declared themselves the United States of America against British rule in the colonies. France also got involved and fought on the side of the rebels in 1778, leading to the conflict culminating into a world war involving Britain, France, the Netherlands and Spain. It all ended with the signing of two peace treaties.
The Treaty of Paris
After the British suffered a major defeat at Yorktown, many politicians in Britain started to highly disagree with continuing the war and the Prime Minister, Lord North handed in his resignation in March of 1782. Shortly after, in April, the British Commons voted that the war in America should be ended. In late November, 1782 preliminary peace articles were signed and drafted, but the war only formally came to an end when the Treaty of Paris was signed on September 4, 1783. The last British troops were withdrawn from New York in November, 1783 and the Paris treaty was ratified by the U.S. Congress on January 14, 1784.
The Treaties of Versailles
The Treaties of Versailles, that were signed together with the Treaty of Paris, did not have anything to do with the United States of America, but was mostly about the fight for colonies between European countries France, Britain, Spain and the Netherlands. After lengthy negotiations, the countries decided which colonies they were to give back and to keep and came up with a solution everybody was happy with in the name of peace. The treaties specified exactly what was agreed upon by these European countries.
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