Five hundred years after the daring band of Vikings led by Leif Eriksson set foot in North America and established a settlement, landed the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus who introduced America or ‘the New World’ to Europe in 1492. He reported the Europeans about the rich reserves available in America. The greed to make economic profits drove first the Spanish, then Portuguese, the Dutch and French to the continent. The British colonisers were relatively late to arrive in the early1600s. After several unsuccessful attempts to colonise the Americas, they were finally victorious.
The American Revolution (1775 – 83), also known as the Revolutionary War arose from growing rebellion and opposition against the colonisers of Great Britain (or the colonial government that represented the British king) faced from their 13 North American colonies.
Irregular but consistent fights between the British army and the army of the American civilians in Lexington and Concord in the April of 1775 led to armed conflicts and by the summer of the same year, the rebel took shape of a full-scale war for independence. France entered the war later in 1778 to back the American colonists turning what started as a civil war into an international conflict. After continual wars, and the help of the French, the British surrendered in front of the Continental Army force, at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781, though fighting did not formally end until 1783.
Almost a decade before the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775, unease started growing between the colonists and the British colonisers.
The Seven Years’ War (1756-63) between the British and French armies to get control over new territories on American land brought Britain under severe losses, despite being victorious. This led the British authorities in America to introduce new and harsh taxes, like the Stamp Act, the Townshed Acts and the Tea Act, to raise their revenue. This imposition of tax, along with reasons such as lack of representation in the Parliament and equal rights, arose protests among many colonists.
This resistance turned into violence in 1770, when British soldiers open fired a crowd of civilians, killing five men in what was known as the Boston Massacre.
In December 1773, a band of people from Boston, disguised in the attire of a native North American tribe, boarded British ships and dumped 342 boxes of tea into the water during the Boston Tea Party. This outraged the government and they passed a series of measures designed to reassert they power.
In response to there laws, a group of colonial delegates (which included George Washington, who later became the first President of the United States of America, Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry and John Jay) met in Philadelphia in the September of 1774 to discuss about the cruelty and misdeeds of the British. This meeting, called The First Continental Congress, did not initially demand independence, but it opposed other aspects such as taxation. It also issued a document or declaration of the rights due every citizen, including life, property, liberty, assembly and trial. The Continental Congress decided to meet again in 1775, but by that time violence had already started.
On April 18, 1775, hundreds of British troops moved to Concord (a city) to seize (take hold of something forcefully) the arms there. The civilian army along with Paul Revere (a famous patriot) got to know about this beforehand (in advance) and got prepared themselves to fight with the British army. This battle is called the Battle of Lexington and Concord and is marked as the start of the American Revolution.
Demand for Independence
When the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia along with the new members – Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, they decided to form a Continental Army with George Washington as its commander in chief.
The Battle of Bunker Hill, between colonial forces and British, took place on June 17 and ended in the victory of the Britons. Nonetheless, it encouraged many to the revolutionary cause (inspired to fight for independence).
By the June of 1776, the Revolutionary War was in full swing. Now, a majority of the colonists (people who have been colonised) were interested in seeking complete independence from Britain.
With this, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on 4th of July. Seeing this, determined to crush the rebellion, the British government sent 34,000 troops in ships to New York. By September, Washington was forced to move his troops from New York City. Later, Washington’s army was surprised by attack in Trenton, New Hersey, but his troops won.
Saratoga : The turning point
Another wave of attack came with the British strategy of three-part attack in 1777 . General John Burgoyne’s army of 7,500 soldiers moved South from Canada and reached a small village of Saratoga, New York (see map above for reference) . There, the Northern Department of the Continental Army of 8,500 mean, commanded by General Gates, opposed them. On September 19, 1777, Burgoyne divided his army into three columns, each tasked with searching the American defences.
On October 17, 1777, after a week-long negotiation and fights, Burgoyne surrendered his army. The American cause had achieved its strongest victory to date.
During the harsh winters at Valley Forge, troops under Washington benefited from the extensive and rigorous training provided to them by officer Baron Friedrich von Steuben who was sent by the French.
In June 1998, there was an attempt by the British army to withdraw from Philadelphia to New York but they were attacked by Washington’s troops, ending the battle in a draw.
The Americans faced a lot of difficulties from 1779 to 1781. In the South, the British occupied Georgia and captured a part of South Carolina in May 1780. The British further, under Lord Charles Cornwallis then began an offensive (an attacking military campaign) in the region against Gates’ army in mid-August, ending into America’s victory. Nathanael Green replaced gates as the American commander in the South in December.
By mid 1781, Greene’s forces withdrew Cornwallis to Virginia’s Yorktown peninsula and succeed in their motive. Meanwhile, Washington moved against Yorktown with a total of around 14,000 soldiers, backed by the support of French army commanded by General Jean Baptise, while a fleet of 36 French warships offshore prevented the British from escaping. Trapped, Cornwallis was forced to surrender his entire army on October 19. Soon, the British general sent his deputy (a person who is appointed to undertake the duties of a superior in the superior’s absence) -Charles O’Hara, to surrender. O’Hara then approached Jean Baptise to surrender his sword and the deputy of Washington accepted it.
Though the movement of American independence won at the Battle of Yorktown, some observers do not believe this. The British forces remained stationed around Charleston, and their main army still stayed in New York. The British removal of their army from Charleston and Savannah in late 1782 finally pointed towards the end of the conflict. Great Britain formally recognised the independence of the United States in the Treaty of Paris signed in Paris, France on the 3rd of September, 1783, bringing American revolution to an end after eight long years.
1. Who was the first European to set foot in America?
2. What was America called by the first European who reached there?
a. United States of America b. India c. the New World d. the Golden World
3. What is another name for ‘the American Revolution’? When did it take place?
a. The great revolution (1772-81)
b. The Revolution War (1775-83)
c. The War for Freedom (1875-85)
d. The Revolutionary War(1775-83)
4. What was the American army, led by Washington called?
5. What angered the British in the December of 1773?
6. Which of the following were discussed by the The First Continental Congress in 1774?
a. independence b. rights due to every citizen c. war against the British d. taxes
7. Which battle is marked as the starting point of the American Revolution?
8. When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?
9. Why is the Treaty of Paris so important for the Americans?