A motivating force behind the revolution was the American embrace of a political ideology called “republicanism”, which was dominant in the colonies by 1775. The “country party” in Britain, whose critique of British government emphasized that corruption was to be feared, influenced American politicians. The commitment of most Americans to republican values and to their rights, helped bring about the American Revolution, as Britain was increasingly seen as hopelessly corrupt and hostile to American interests; it seemed to threaten to the established liberties that Americans enjoyed.
The greatest threat to liberty was depicted as corruption. The colonists associated it with luxury and, especially, inherited aristocracy, which they condemned. The beginning to the Revolutionary War was after Washington forced the British out of Boston in spring, 1776; neither the British nor the Loyalists controlled any significant areas. “It is matter of too great notoriety to need any proofs that the arrival of his Majesty’s troops in Boston was extremely obnoxious to its inhabitants. They have ever used all means in their power to weaken the regiments, and to bring them into contempt by promoting and aiding desertions. They returned in force in July 1776, landing in New York and defeating Washington’s Continental Army in August at the Battle of Brooklyn in one of the largest engagements of the war. The British then quickly seized New York City and nearly captured Washington. They made the city their main political and military base of operations in North America, holding it until November 1783. New York City consequently became the destination for Loyalist refugees, and a focal point of Washington’s intelligence network. The first engagement between the British and the Americans happened on the grassy fields of Massachusetts.
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General Thomas Gage ordered his men to take or destroy the American’s supply of arms and ammunition stored in Concord. He also wanted John Hancock and Sam Adams, who were staying in Lexington, arrested. The Boston Committee leader learned of the plans and called for William Dawes and Paul Revere. He told them to ride to Lexington, then Concord and warn the minutemen to be ready. Dawes took one road, successfully dodging British sentries by blending in with some soldiers. Revere galloped down another road and met with a friend. The man was given instructions to hang two lanterns in the steeple of the Old North Church.
Revere then rowed himself to the village of Charlestown, where associates, who had seen the signal, met him with a horse. Revere got to Lexington first and woke the townspeople. Hancock and Adams were taken to a safe hiding place, while Captain Jonas Parker and 130 men stood ready to block the British. The redcoats were unable to locate most of the hidden arms and in the process accidentally set fire to the courthouse. The militiamen, upon seeing the flames, thought that the British were burning down the city and rushed to save their village.
The minutemen and redcoats exchanged fire across the North Bridge for a few minutes, causing several deaths. The British retreated into the city and started back for Boston. The Americans quickly ran and hid along the side of the main road. When the British passed, they were ambushed and attacked. This type of warfare continued until the redcoats reached Boston. In the end only 300 lives were lost on each side. The Americans were able to demonstrate their power and determination to the large Imperial Army. They showed the British that they would not go quietly and that they would receive their independence.
Two major battles of the American Revolutionary War that was fought in Pennsylvania. The battle of Brandywine was fought on September 11, 1777, near Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, southwest of Philadelphia. After a month of strategic maneuvering, Sir William Howe marched his troops toward Philadelphia, the unofficial capital of America. Howe with 18,000 men went to the American post at Brandywine Creek. They launched a full scale attack on 11,000 of George Washington’s men. The Americans were totally unaware that the British would try to cross the creek in separate places.
Washington backtracked to Chester, Pennsylvania. A British pursuit was stopped by a rearguard unit; therefore, Howe could not occupy the abandoned capital until September 26. British deaths totaled to about 600 and American losses were 900 dead and wounded, along with 400 taken prisoner. After Howe’s victory at Brandywine, his army camped at Germantown, Pennsylvania. Washington planned a surprise attack against the redcoats at sunrise. He broke the army into four separate columns for battle. The American soldiers marched to Germantown by two roads, with General Sullivan to the right and General Greene to the left.
Washington, along with General Wayne, joined Sulliven and caused the British to fall back. Some hundred men ran and hid in the Chew house, a large stone building, and returned fire from the second story. Instead of by-passing the building, Colonel Knox believed that they should destroy the house with the redcoats in it. Knox’s fired cannons at the home, which merely bounced back at them. The fog and smoke caused massive confusion for several others of Washington’s columns. All of a sudden two American divisions collided and fired upon each other. More and more mishaps followed, and finally Washington’ men retreated.
In June of 1775 in Charlestown the British were awaken from their sleep. The British were totally unaware of the fact that American troops were positioned on Breed’s Hill and that there were cannons stationed on both Breed’s and Bunker Hill. The Americans had spent all night marching from Cambridge to Charlestown, under the command of Colonel William Prescott. Their order was to capture Bunker and Breed’s Hill and force British redcoats out of Charlestown. A British lookout spotted the Americans and warships started firing toward Breed’s Hill. At noon the British redcoats climbed into boats and landed on Charlestown Neck fully armed.
By this time the Americans were hot, tired, and worst of all severely low on ammunition. Each man only had about 15 bullets that were made from organ pipes. Fortunately, Joseph Warren and 300 volunteers came as reinforcements, but they also had an ammunition shortage. Prescott knew that his army of about 1200 men was no competition for General Howe’s army of 2500. Prescott allowed the British to advance to the top of the hill then reportedly said “Don’t one of you fire until you see the whites of their eyes. ” Confused, the British retreated down the hill. Commander in chief, Thomas Gage, ordered a second charge that likewise failed.
On the third attack, with their ammunition gone, Prescott gave the order to retreat. The British captured both Bunker and Breed’s Hill at a huge loss. Out of 2300 redcoats, 1054 were killed or wounded including Howe’s entire personal staff. The Americans loss was not as great, 440 of the 1200 men were taken hostage, wounded, or killed, including General Warren. Although the Americans lost, they showed that poorly trained volunteers were able to stand up against the British army. After the Battle of Trenton, Britain’s General Cornwallis marched south along the Delaware with his troops.
Their orders were to counterattack Washington’s army and retake Trenton. Washington learned of Cornwallis’s order and devised a plan to outmaneuver them. That night the Americans quietly snuck around the redcoats and headed north. Two soldiers were left behind to keep the campfire burning so the watchmen thought they were in camp. The American’s moved to Princeton and teamed up with reinforcements. Washington’s army spotted a British regiment marching toward Cornwallis and engaged in battle. The surprised redcoats fled throughout the city. Most of the men were taken prisoner while some ran and hid in Princeton University.
The men surrendered after Captain Alexander Hamilton fired into the building. After hearing of the battle, Cornwallis hurried to protect New Brunswick, the main supply camp. Because of this setback, he was unable to take Philadelphia. Fooling Cornwallis again, Washington captured Hackensack and Elizabethtown. All of New Jersey, except for New Brunswick and Amboy, was now under American control. In the spring of 1777 the British strategist Lord George Germain signed a major plan to end the American rebellion. The plans called for Major General John Burgoyne to march from Canada to Albany, New York.
He believed that if Britain controlled Albany and the Hudson River, they could separate New England from the other colonies. The turning point of the war started on October 7. Burgoyne with fewer than 5000 men refused to withdraw and continued looking for American positions. Gates and Arnold fearlessly attacked the British in the Battle of Bemis Heights (Second Battle of Saratoga). Burgoyne retreated to Saratoga where he then surrendered to 20,000 Americans on October 17. On Christmas night of 1776, Washington and his army were huddled together in their camp by the Delaware River. Defeated and tired they had retreated to Pennsylvania.
The army of 6000 men dressed on rags were discouraged and weakened. Across the river in Trenton, slept a small group of Hessians who were stationed to guard New Jersey. General Howe had sent a large percent of soldiers to Newport and New York, sensing the Americans was not strong enough to attack. Since the British were relaxed and unsuspecting, Washington announced that now was the time to attack. His plan was to send three different divisions across the Delaware at different times during the night, then join in an attack on the Hessians. This operation required every man and was a huge risk.
They crossed the river in boats through sleet, hail, and ice. The Americans then charged on the sleeping Hessians and in 1 hour captured 1000 prisoners and took Trenton. Washington’s army finally felt hope and courage for the first time all winter. The news of the victory spread, eliminating any rumors or doubts of Washington’s competency. The Battle of Yorktown was one of the last battles of the American Revolutionary War. The engagement lasted 20 days and ended with British Gen. Charles Cornwallis’s surrender on October 19, 1781. It first started months earlier when Cornwallis made an unauthorized move north to Virginia.
There his army joined with other British troops and planned an attack. The redcoats pushed Marquis de Lafayette’s brigade out of Richmond. However General Sir Henry Clinton stopped the offensive because he criticized Cornwallis’s unofficial decision. Clinton ordered Cornwallis to the Chesapeake Bay with instructions to set up a defensive fort. The British had occupied Yorktown and Gloucester by August. The unsuspecting Cornwallis had been followed to Yorktown by Lafayette and a handful of Americans. Lafayette informed General George Washington, who was camped in West Point, New York, of British operations and location.
On September 28 the 16,000 French and American troops marched into Yorktown. They captured two main redoubts on October 14. The British launched a counterattack but it failed. Realizing that the situation was hopeless, Cornwallis asked for a truce on October 17. Two days later, he signed forms of surrender. Meanwhile, Clinton’s 7,000 reinforcement troops, upon learning of the surrender, turned back to New York. The Battle of Yorktown, also named the Siege of Yorktown, is recognized as one of the most skillful military actions in history.
The British Prime Minister, Lord Frederick North, resigned after Cornwallis’s surrender. The new leaders signed the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783, which officially ended the revolution. During the Revolutionary War the British always had the edge on the Americans. Each side had advantages and disadvantages that help or hurt them. While greatly outmatching the fledgling America in terms of soldiers and weaponry, the social climate was against Britain from the beginning, and morale was the key to winning the revolution. Distance was another deciding factor, as speed of response is a huge tactical advantage in war.
Several minor problems also contributed to the downfall of the British – the American’s knowledge of terrain, the clever propaganda of Thomas Paine, stirring rebel factions across the continent. The Americans had full public support on their side, including immediate access to resources. The British had huge, slow supply lines and a bad reputation, and they had earned few allies by use of restrictive laws and military force in troublesome spots such as Boston. Britain could stand little more economic loss; after fighting against the French to the north, and keeping control of their far flung colonies the loss of America which is art of the essential trade route that ran from Europe to the Caribbean to America , made it a top priority. The loss of the tariffs the British government had placed on these trade routes, as well as the loss of a major sector of the economy would be shattering to the British Empire. On the American side, the revolution must have seemed much more immediate, as the fighting was much closer. While many Americans may have been ambivalent about independence, the mismanagement of the citizens of Boston with the harsh Intolerable Acts, more and more people felt threatened by a government with little perspective of American problems and desires.
While the Americans had fewer starting resources, their access to them was much more immediate than the British supply lines. Where Americans were able to create much of what they needed on location, the British were forced to wait three months for supplies to arrive. American operations were easier to carry out, as even loyalists had little love for the German mercenaries employed by Britain, while a large segment of the population supported the rebels’ efforts. The German mercenaries, fighting for gold rather than freedom were also less fierce fighters, they simply didn’t have the same level of motivation as the Americans.
This combination of lack of concern in Britain, distrust in America, and the horde of location-related problems the British had in the New World grew to an overwhelming point. Further, the revolution had become more than an army it was a concept held in the heart of the general populace. More than the difficulty in getting supplies, more than the lack of motivation of their soldiers, more than the contrary wishes of the British populace, the war was lost because the British tried to kill a concept with force.