American Revolutionary War 1775–1783

[ 1775 - 1783 ]

The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) was the rebellion of thirteen of the North American colonies of Great Britain who declared themselves independent in 1776 as the United States of America. France signed an alliance with the new nation in 1778, which escalated the conflict into a world war between Britain and France, Spain, and the Netherlands. Contemporaneously fighting broke out in India between the British East India Company and the French allied Kingdom of Mysore.

The war had its origins in the constitutional resistance of Americans to taxes imposed by the British parliament in the 1760s, which they claimed were "taxation without representation." Patriot protests escalated into boycotts and the destruction of a shipment of tea at the Boston Tea Party. The British government punished Massachusetts by closing the port of Boston and altering the charter to impose Crown control of the government. The Patriots in Massachusetts responded by setting up an alternative shadow government which took control of the province outside of Boston. Twelve other colonies supported Massachusetts, formed a Continental Congress to coordinate their responses, and set up committees and conventions which effectively seized control from the colonial governments. In April 1775 fighting broke out between Massachusetts militia units and British regulars at Lexington and Concord. The Continental Congress appointed General George Washington to take charge of militia units besieging British forces in Boston, who were forced to evacuate in March 1776.

In July 1776, after their last petition for redress to King George was ignored, the Continental Congress declared independence. The British were meanwhile mustering forces to suppress the revolt. A large fleet brought Sir William Howe to New York, where he outmaneuvered and defeated Washington at the Battle of Long Island, and captured New York City and New Jersey. Washington then took advantage of Howe's carelessness to capture a Hessian detachment at Trenton and recapture New Jersey for the Patriots. In 1777 Howe's army launched a campaign against the rebel capital at Philadelphia instead of aiding Burgoyne's separate invasion force coming down from Canada. Howe again won several battles but failed to follow up and destroy the Patriot army. Unsupported by Howe, Burgoyne's outnumbered army was surrounded and forced to surrender after the Battles of Saratoga in October 1777.

France, Spain and the Dutch Republic had been secretly providing money, ammunition and weapons to the revolutionaries starting early in 1776. The American victory at Saratoga persuaded Britain to offer full self governance to the colonies, but it was too late: the Patriots were committed to independence. France declared war in 1778 and now Britain faced an enemy with a larger army. Spain joined France as an ally in 1779, but was not formally allied with the United States. The participation of France, Spain and the Netherlands was decisive as they contributed crucial land and sea power to the war, forcing the British to divert a large portion of their resources away from North America, overstretching British forces significantly. Britain had no major allies and had a worldwide war to fight.

After 1778 the British shifted their attention to the southern colonies, which brought them initial success when they recaptured Georgia and South Carolina for the Crown in 1779 and 1780. In 1781 British forces attempted to subjugate Virginia, but a French naval victory just outside Chesapeake Bay led to a Franco-American siege at Yorktown and the capture of over 7,000 British soldiers. The defeat at Yorktown, as well as increasing Franco-Spanish threats in the Caribbean and Mediterranean, finally turned opinion in the British Parliament against the war. A vote in February 1782 to end hostilities passed by a narrow majority of just 19 votes. Limited fighting continued throughout 1782, while peace negotiations began. In 1783, the Treaty of Paris ended the war and recognized the sovereignty of the United States over the territory bounded roughly by what is now Canada to the north, Florida to the south, and the Mississippi River to the west. A wider international peace was agreed, in which several territories were exchanged. The expensive war drove France into massive debt, which would contribute to the outbreak of the French Revolution.

Belligerents Initiation Date Termination Date
United States of America and Kingdom of Great Britain 1775 1783 View
Kingdom of France and Loyalist (American Revolution) 1775 1783 View
Spain and Germans in the American Revolution 1775 1783 View
Weapon Name Weapon Class Weapon Class Type
Obusier de 6 pouces Gribeauval Vehicle Towed Artillery

Related Conflicts

No Releted Conflicts