American Revolutionary War: We begin during the Seven Years’ War, a pivotal moment in human history for the fate of European powers and their colonial empires.
In North America, where the war is known as the French and Indian War, French and British colonies – along with their respective Native American allies – confront each other.
After Britain’s victory, France is forced to cede most of its North American colonies.
Despite being the victor, Great Britain finds itself over-indebted by the war effort and intends to take advantage of its many colonies to bail out its coffers through the imposition of new taxes.
In a few years, a series of taxes and laws – unfavorable to the 13 British colonies – would be imposed.
In order to calm tensions with the Native Americans, the king of Great Britain George III creates for them a reserve beyond the Appalachian mountains, forbidding colonists from settling there.
Then, new taxes are imposed on the colonies aimed at imports, along with stamp duties on all paper documents in the colonies.
Many settlers oppose this move, arguing that they could not be taxed by a parliament in London in which they are not represented.
Tensions rise as Britain maintains its military presence in the colonies.
A new law even forces colonies to provide, if necessary, housing and food to its soldiers.
On March 5, 1770, in the streets of Boston, skirmishes take place between a British patrol and the public.
The soldiers open fire, killing 5.
As the import of tea is taxed, settlers turn mainly to smuggled tea from the Dutch Republic.
As a result, the British East India Company, already in financial difficulty, struggles to sell its tea stocks.
It then obtains a boost from the British Parliament, authorizing it to sell its tea duty-free in America.
But colonists oppose this measure and block the company’s ships at the ports.
On December 16, 1773, in the Boston harbor, several dozen men, some of them disguised as native Americans, climb aboard three of the company’s ships and throw tea stocks into the sea.
In reaction, Great Britain imposes punitive measures against the colonies.
The port of Boston is closed and the British reinforce their control over local governments and courts.
To counter these measures, on September 5, 1774, representatives of 12 out of the 13 colonies meet in Philadelphia to form the First Continental Congress.
They decide, among others things, to boycott British imports.
The Congress also decides to meet again in May 1775 to reassess the situation and invitations are sent out to other British North American colonies.
Independent militias begin to organize.
The British learn that one of them is storing weapons in Concord, Massachusetts.
About 700 British soldiers leave Boston to disarm them.
But the information had already leaked and the independence fighters — also called insurgents or the Patriots — prepare
On the morning of April 19th, the first shots are fired in Lexington, marking the beginning of the American Revolutionary War.
The British army, in clear numerical superiority, continues its march until Concord.
But this time, they face hundreds of armed men who force them to retreat.
Under fire even as they retreat, British troops finally reach Boston and come under siege.
The news spreads within the colonies, motivating new forces to join the Patriots.
On May 10th, as an independent militia seizes Fort Ticonderoga, the Second Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia, this time bringing together representatives of all 13 colonies.
They decide to unite their independence forces into a Continental Army, headed by General George Washington.
On June 17th, north of Boston, British troops launch a counterattack.
In spite of heavy losses, they win and repel the insurgents.
From Philadelphia, Congress makes a final offer of peace to King George III, but it is ignored.
In the north, a Patriot army enters the Province of Quebec with the objective of convincing the French-speaking population to join them.
After the capture of Montreal, a second army joins them to secure the capture of Québec. But both fail, putting an end to the expedition.
In the south, too, war spreads, with more and more confrontations taking place.
The number of victims is increasing, eliminating the possibility of reconciliation.
Within the colonies, the idea of a total rupture from Great Britain gains traction.
At the gates of Boston, the Patriots import artillery from Fort Ticonderoga and succeed in driving the British out of the city.
They leave for Halifax, after which Great Britain decides to join forces at the gates of New York to quell the rebellion with an army of 32,000 men, including 9,000 German mercenaries called the Hessians.
In Philadelphia, on July 4, 1776, Congress adopts the United States Declaration of Independence which was mainly drafted by Thomas Jefferson.
The text stipulates, among other things, that all men are created equal, and that they have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
In New York, British forces land on Long Island and begin an offensive.
George Washington’s outnumbered continental army is quickly overwhelmed and is forced to retreat.
Over 3 months, the Patriots are driven out and retreat beyond the Delaware River.
George Washington is in serious trouble: numerous defeats, heavy losses, lack of means, and now the arrival of a harsh winter brings down the morale of his troops, a good part of whom are reaching the end of their contract and are about to leave.
At this time, philosopher Thomas Paine publishes the text called “The American Crisis” which revives patriotic sentiment and motivates Washington’s troops as reinforcements arrive.
On the freezing night of December 25, Washington attempts a coup de force and crosses the Delaware with 2,400 men.
At first light, he surprises the Hessians stationed in Trenton.
The offensive is a success: the troops return with 900 prisoners and their weapons.
Three days later, the Continental Army settles in Trenton, while British reinforcements from New York arrive in Princeton.
The British are then defeated and flee to New Brunswick.
The Continental Army, whose morale has risen, takes up winter quarters in Morristown.
In the spring of 1777, the British relaunch an offensive with the objective of isolating New England, the Northeastern region.
To do so, an army leaves from the north, a second smaller one from Lake Ontario, and the third, under the command of General Howe, has to leave New York to join them at Albany.
But due to a lack of communication, the latter changes its plan and now targets Philadelphia, the de facto capital of the separatists.
His army lands south of the city.
In the north, after the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, an outpost of the British army is defeated by a militia and loses 1,000 men.
Weakened, the British also lose their Native American allies who decide to return north.
In the west, the Second British Army fails to capture Fort Stanwix and turns back.
Meanwhile, the Patriot Army regroups.
Near Philadelphia, the battle between Howe and Washington turns to the advantage of the British, opening up to them the gates of the city.
In the north, the armies clash. After two battles, the entire British army is forced to surrender.
As Congress flees to York, Pennsylvania, the total defeat of the British at Saratoga makes France realize that Patriot victory is possible.
It is an opportunity for France to weaken its historical enemy and avenge its defeat in the Seven Years’ War.
France allies with the Patriots and the war becomes international.
Great Britain is forced to reduce troop numbers in North America to try and protect its other colonies around the world.
The Continental army, which faces a harsh winter in a makeshift camp, is trained in warfare techniques by the Prussian Friedrich von Steuben.
40km away, the British army stationed in Philadelphia fears a maritime blockade by the French fleet.
The 15,000 soldiers then abandon the city to reach New York via land.
The French fleet arrives and tries to coordinate with the Patriots to seize Newport, but fails.
The British, for its part, change plans and now target the south.
They first seize Savannah.
In the far west, in the remote lands where there are few soldiers, a Patriot militia takes control of the region.
Finally, North of New York, the Iroquois, allied with the British, launch raids against the insurgents.
In response, a Patriot military expedition, charged with demoralizing the Native Americans, begins an offensive. 40 or so villages would be razed to the ground, chasing away the residents.
The Spanish empire, which lost Florida in the Seven Years War, sees this as an opportunity to recover its territory.
But Spain, which is already well established in America, does not want to recognize the independence of the colonies.
Spain then declares war on Great Britain in the name of its alliance with France.
In the West Indies, French and British fleets — both now strengthened — clash.
The battle turns to the favour of the French.
Taking advantage of their new naval domination, the French try to cooperate with the Patriots to impose a blockade on Savannah, but fail.
Further north, after a six-week siege, the British capture Charleston and take more than 5,000 insurgent prisoners.
An army under Charles Cornwallis then goes to face off against the Patriots’ army near Camden and defeats them.
This complicates the situation for the Patriots.
They now decide only to target isolated British troops, avoiding confrontation with Cornwallis’ great army.
Although the Dutch Republic is neutral, merchants in Amsterdam take advantage of the war to sell arms and ammunition to the insurgents, mainly from St. Eustatius.
Irritated, Great Britain declares war on the Dutch and seizes the island.
In North Carolina, Cornwallis’ army pursues the Patriots and finally confronts them.
Despite being smaller in number, the British win —but also sustain heavy losses.
The Patriots flee south, while Cornwallis heads for the coast to seek reinforcements and allow his army to regain strength.
He then decides to head for Virginia.
But further north, a French army – that arrived in Newport a year earlier -leaves to join George Washington’s troops to together fight against Cornwallis’ army stationed in Yorktown.
Meanwhile, a powerful French fleet enters the Chesapeake Bay to prevent any supply routes via the sea.
A British fleet tries to end the blockade but is defeated.
Finally, French-American armies join forces with the army of the French Lafayette and together lay siege to Yorktown.
Cornwallis and his army are overwhelmed and have to surrender.
This victory proves decisive.
The British still control New York, Savannah, and Charleston, but secretly begin peace negotiations.
On September 3, 1783, during the Treaty of Paris, Great Britain officially recognizes the independence of the United States of America and cedes territories up to the Mississippi River.
On the same day, Great Britain also signs peace with France and Spain, while peace with the Dutch would be signed the
following year, with the victory of the British.
The United States of America becomes the first European colony to gain independence, while about 50,000 settlers who remained loyal to Great Britain flee to other British colonies, mainly in the north.
A new constitution is created with a strict separation of powers between the legislative represented by Congress, the judicial represented by the Supreme Court, and the executive headed by the President of the United States.
George Washington is the first to serve this office.
A new capital emerges from the land and is named Washington DC.
In just over 150 years, the new nation would become the world’s leading economic and military power.
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