American Revolution | American War of Independence
The American Revolution, also known as the American War of Independence, spanned eight long years of fighting and political negotiations between Britain and her colonies. On October 19, 1781, the Americans, with the help of French troops under the French Count de Rochambeau, won a major battle at Yorktown, Virginia. Cornwallis, leader of the British troops, surrendered 7,000 men. However, the final struggle of the American War of Independence was yet to come.
Two years later, in September, 1783, after much diplomacy, the Treaty of Paris was signed and the former 13 colonies were recognized as an independent nation; the United States of America was born.
Read about the American Revolution from different perspectives, written at different times in history, by different historians. Historical works used as a source for this section, may be accessed online and read in its entirety.
The American Revolution
Summary of The American Revolution and its impact on the Hudson River Valley
One of the causes of the American Revolution can be traced to the end of the French and Indian War, 1755 - 1762; fought in Europe, India and the West Indies. Britain's victory in the French and Indian War, forced the French out of Canada, thereby allowing the British to assume government of the French population. With the additional territory won from France, Britain's enormous national debt was increased. The British victory also released the American colonies from the threat of a French invasion.
In an attempt to relieve Britain of its financial burden, British Parliament decided that the American Colonists would have to help pay for their own defense, despite the fact that a French invasion was no longer a real threat. Toward this end, British Parliament passed the first of several tax laws, including the Stamp Act, which taxed all paper products in the colonies. The Americans declared it was unfair to tax them when they had no representation in Parliament, and protests eventually escalated to open hostilities in 1775, when the British Regulars fired on the Minutemen in Lexington, Massachusetts.
Battles of the American Revolution
The years between saw many battles in the Hudson River Valley that served as a strategic area of defense for the American revolutionaries. The Hudson River, a highway between revolutionary forts and encampments in the Hudson Highlands, was used by the British to sail large numbers of British and German (Hessian) troops to attack the American encampments and forts.
The American Revolutionary battles of Fort Montgomery and Fort Clinton on October 6, 1777 were fought early in this long and difficult conflict. Fort Montgomery and Fort Clinton were built on both shores of the Popolopen Creek, which empties into the Hudson River a few miles above the first chain. In a further attempt to stop the British forces from invading and controlling this important waterway, the revolutionary forces "chained" an area of the Hudson south of West Point and north of Bear Mountain in what is known today as the hamlet of Manitou. The Americans placed the first Chain across the Hudson River in an attempt to further support the Hudson Highlands. Later in the war, a second chain that was never tried, was successfully installed further north, at West Point.
Fort Montgomery and Fort Clinton became the battleground of two fierce battles in the American Revolution. On October 6, 1777, approximately 700 American troops, comprised of 300 Continental soldiers, 100 artillerymen and 300 militiamen defended the "twin" forts against 2100 Loyalist, Hessian, and British regulars led by Sir Henry Clinton.
Although these two battles were won by the British; who then destroyed both forts and broke the first chain across the Hudson River; the battles sufficiently delayed British reinforcements from joining Burgoyne in the upper Hudson Valley. This allowed time for the Americans to gain desperately needed militia reinforcements, culminating in the defeat of the British in Saratoga with the surrender of General Burgoyne.
"To aid Lieutenant General John Burgoyne's British army stalled at Saratoga, Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton sailed from New York with 3,000 British, German, and Loyalist soldiers and a flotilla of warships. On the morning of October 6, 1777, Clinton landed 2,100 of his men on the west side of the Hudson River near Stony Point. This force followed a narrow trail through the mountains, where they ran into a party of 30 men sent from Fort Clinton to detect the British advance. After beating the Americans back, Sir Henry Clinton sent 900 men around Bear Mountain to attack Fort Montgomery. The rest would wait to attack Fort Clinton until the first group had reached Fort Montgomery."
On October 19, 1781, the Americans with the help of French troops under the French Count de Rochambeau, won a major battle at Yorktown, Virginia. Cornwallis, leader of the British troops, surrendered 7,000 men. However, the final struggle of the American War of Independence was yet to come.
Two years later, in September of 1783, after much diplomacy, the Treaty of Paris was signed. Great Britain signed the treaty in which the former 13 colonies were recognized as an independent nation; the United States of America was born.
History of the American Revolution
"By seventeenth and eighteenth century standards, the original thirteen colonies were the most democratic polities in the world. The first Virginia House of Burgesses was elected by all males seventeen years of age and older, only later was the vote restricted to landowners. . . On average the property qualification to vote meant possession of fifty acres of land or property valued at 50 pounds sterling. Probably 50 percent of men in the south and 75% of men in the north could vote."
The following material is sourced from Our Country, Published in 1877 as "A Household History of the United States for All Readers," From the Discovery of America to the Present Time. Volume Two, By Benson J. Lossing, LL.D., (3 vols. New York: Johnson & Bailey, 1894)
"There was now much fluttering among the ministers. Lord North, to the astonishment of everybody, submitted a sort of conciliatory plan that pleased nobody, yet he adroitly carried it through. Other plans, more favorable to the Americans, were offered and rejected. Franklin's "Hints" had been considered by the ministry, and propositions had been made to him which were so much short of justice that he replied, "While Parliament claims the right of altering American constitutions at pleasure, there can be no agreement, for we are rendered unsafe in English privilege." When it was suggested that an agreement was necessary for America, as it would be "so easy for Britain to burn all their seaport towns," the philosopher answered bravely: "My little property consists of houses in those towns; you may make bonfires of them whenever you please: the fear of losing them will never alter my resolution to resist, to the last, the claim of Parliament.
"The British government, by its acts, had now virtually declared war against the English-American colonists as rebels. Abandoning all hope of reconciliation, Franklin returned to America in the spring of 1775, and entered vigorously upon the prosecution of the war that soon afterward broke out.
"In the early part of 1775, the British government had proclaimed Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion. and provided means for suppressing that rebellion by force of arms. The fulmination of wrathful threats against that province was intended for the ears of her sister colonies, as well as for her own. They had interest in common. They were making resistance to oppression in common; and they were resolved to stand united for the common defense. To call Massachusetts a 'rebel,' was to call all the other colonies 'rebels.' So they all felt. Joseph Hawley had said in Massachusetts, when viewing the impending crisis: 'We must fight!' Patrick Henry, in Virginia, answered 'Amen!' with vehemence; and these words from the head and heart of resistance to oppression, were echoed back from all the provinces in the early part of 1775. For ten years the people of those provinces had pleaded, remonstrated, and worked in vain endeavors to obtain justice for themselves and their posterity . . . . At length the united colonies came to the solemn conclusion - 'We must fight,' and prepared for the dire necessity. The war for independence that ensued was not a war of revolution on the part of the Americans. It was a war by the Americans against the arch revolutionist King George and his ministers - a war by the Americans for the defense of their liberties and free institutions which the government of Great Britain sought to destroy."
The following material is sourced from:
Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia, http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2009
"Nonetheless, the Americans had a number of important advantages. They were fighting on their own territory, close to the sources of supply and amid a mostly friendly population. In addition, the Patriots had some resourceful military leaders, who had been tested in the French and Indian War. Finally, later in the war, the rebellious colonies received crucial aid from France and Spain. This assistance offset British superiority in wealth and military power, and made possible a clear-cut American victory. However, few of these American advantages were obvious when the war began.
"Throughout the war, one of the main challenges facing the Americans was maintaining a credible army. Washington’s main Continental Army never had more than 24,000 active-duty troops, although Congress promised to raise a force at least three times that size. In addition, the army was poorly supplied and short on weapons and food. Early in the war General Philip Schuyler of New York complained that his men were “weak in numbers, dispirited, naked, destitute of provisions, without camp equipage, with little ammunition, and not a single piece of cannon.” The situation did not improve during the course of the war. Because of the meager financial support provided by Congress and the American people, the Continental Army almost perished from hunger and cold during the winters of 1777 and 1778. Inadequate pay prompted mutinies in the ranks and in the officer corps as late as 1783. The Continental Army had to struggle to survive during the entire war.
"If inadequate support was one weakness of the Continental Army, its composition was another. The army was a new creation, without tradition or even military experience. Trained militiamen wanted to serve in local units near their farms and families, so raw recruits formed the basis of the Continental forces. Muster rolls for troops commanded by General William Smallwood of Maryland show that they were either poor American-born youths or older foreign-born men, often former indentured servants. Some of these men enlisted out of patriotic fervor; many more signed up to receive a cash bonus and the promise of a future land grant.
"It took time to turn such men into loyal soldiers. Many panicked in the heat of battle. Others deserted, unwilling to accept the discipline of military life. Given this weak army, Washington worried constantly that he would suffer an overwhelming defeat.
"In total, the war lasted for eight years and had four phases, each with a distinct strategy and character. During the first phase, from April 1775 to July 1776, the Patriots’ goal was to turn the revolt into an organized rebellion, while British governors and armed Loyalists tried to suppress the uprising. The second phase of the war began with a major British invasion of New York in July 1776 and ended with the American victory at Saratoga in October 1777. The British strategy was to confront and defeat the Continental Army and to isolate the radical Patriots of New England. Washington’s goal was to protect his weak forces by retreat and, when he held the advantage, to counterattack. During the third phase of the war Britain tried to subdue the South. Beginning in early 1778 it used regular troops to take territory and local Loyalists to hold it. Patriots used guerrilla warfare to weaken British forces, and then used French assistance to win a major victory at Yorktown, Virginia, in October 1781. Then came the final phase of the war when astute Patriot diplomacy won a treaty recognizing the independence of the United States in September 1783."
The Everything American Revolution Book by Daniel P. Murphy, Ph.D. (2008) F+W Publications, Inc., MA.
Our Country, Published in 1877 as "A Household History of the United States for All Readers," From the Discovery of America to the Present Time. Volume Two, By Benson J. Lossing, LL.D., (3 vols. New York: Johnson & Bailey, 1894)
The American Revolution: First Phase, Extracted from: American Military History, Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, DC 1989
The Winning of Independence, 1777-1783, Extracted from: American Military History, Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, DC 1989
Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia, http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2009