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American War of Independence

Causes of the war

• The conflict between Britain and her American colonists was triggered by the
financial costs of the Anglo-French wars of the previous thirty years, in particular the
Seven Years War (1756-63). The army in North America consumed 4% of British
government spending. The British wanted to finance this cost from the Americans.

• The British wanted their American lands to provide raw materials to Britain and being
consumers of British manufactured goods. For this reason they were imposing an
increasing control and restrictions of American trade and industry. The American did
not like that and wanted to be unrestricted by decisions made 3,000 miles across the
Atlantic.

• In 1763 the British decided to limit expansion to the West by the colonists, a decision
that was not liked by the Americans. In 1764 the British issued the Stamp act and the
Sugar act imposing new taxes and duties in order to finance the administration and
the defense of the colonies. The stamp tax was the first direct tax imposed to the
colonies from London.

• The issue of the new tax brought forward the issue of the status of the legislative
assemblies in the colonies. The British considered that they were being subordinate
to Westminster. The Americans did not thing that. Because the colonies lacked
elected representation in the governing British Parliament, many colonists
considered the laws to be illegitimate and a violation of their rights as Englishmen.

• The British tried to impose new taxes and to limit the authorities of local parliaments.
The American thought that the British wanted the full control of the colonies. The
Americans reacted with a campaign of not importing products from Britain. This
campaign created economic and social problems to the colonies. The Americans
were boycotting whatever was taxed by the British including tea.

• On 5th March 1770 a Boston mob attacked a company of soldiers guarding the
custom house. The soldiers killed five of the rioters and the incident was called
thereafter the “Boston Massacre”.

• In 1773 the British government gave permission to export tea to America at a


reduced taxation. The radicals wanted to prevent the tea to be landed and on 16th
December 1773 a group of Bostonians, dressed as Indian braves, dumped
thousands of pounds worth of tea into the harbor, a protest known as the “Boston tea
party”. The British decided on confrontation and imposed new laws in an attempt to
restore order. They also changed the constitution of Massachusetts by appointing
the members of the upper house of representatives.
• The American representatives of all the colonies met at Philadelphia in September
1774 and asked the British the repeal of all colonial legislation passed since 1763.
Until the withdrawal of the legislation they decided to block all imports and exports to
and from Britain, to refuse to pay taxes and to prepare to resist any British troupes.

The War

• The first shots of the war were fired in Lexington Massachusetts on 19 April 1775,
where the British encountered a small American militia. After this incident Cage, the
British General and Governor found itself frightening in Boston with an irregular but
large American force. On 26th of May British reinforcements arrived in Boston.

• Encouraged by his reinforcements, Gage decided to strengthen his position by


capturing key hills that overlooked Boston. The Americans learnt of this plan, and
fortified Breed's Hill on the Charlestown peninsular north of the harbor. The resulting
battle of Bunker Hill (17 June 1775) was a disaster for the British. Although they did
manage to capture the American positions, it was at the cost of half of their force
killed or wounded. Bunker Hill effectively knocked the main British army out of the
war for the next year.

• On 15 June 1775 George Washington was appointed commander of the new


Continental army, created in the same month out of the forces besieging Boston.
Washington's most important contribute to the war was the patience with which he
turned the forces he found outside Boston into an army that was eventually able to
take on regular British troops on the battlefield.

• The British response to the revolt was to be directed by the new Secretary of State
for the American colonies, Lord George Germain, who held the post from November
1775 until he was replaced in February 1782. The British response was to plan what
was then the biggest transatlantic expedition ever carried out. Troops sent from
Britain were to be sent to three separate theatres of war, there to reinforce the troops
already present.

• The main event of 1776 was not to come on the battlefields. On 4 July 1776 the
Declaration of Independence was signed. The Declaration of Independence was a
momentous event. It gave clarity to the American cause that it had previously lacked,
and that the British were never to gain.

• The main battles of the war were:

1776, August 27 Battle of Long Island, New York, British victory


1776, September 16 Battle of Harlem Heights, New York, American victory
1776, October 11 Battle of Valcour Island, New York, Draw
1776, October 28 Battle of White Plains, New York, Draw

1776, November 16 Battle of Fort Washington, New York, British victory

1776, December 26 Battle of Trenton, New Jersey, American victory


1777, January 3 Battle of Princeton, New Jersey, American victory
1777, June 21 - Saratoga Campaign
October 17

1777, July 6 Battle of Ticonderoga, northeastern New York, capture of Fort


Ticonderoga by the British
1777, September 11 Battle of the Brandywine, Brandywine Creek, Pennsylvania,
British victory
1777, September 19 First Battle of Saratoga, also called: First Battle of Freeman's
Farm, New York, American victory
1777, October 4 Battle of Germantown, Pennsylvania, British victory
1777, October 6 Battles of Fort Montgomery and Fort Clinton, west side of the
Hudson River, British attack and victory led by General Henry
Clinton
1777, October 7 Second Battle of Saratoga
also called Second Battle of Freeman's Farm or the Battle of
Bemis Heights, New York, American victory
1778, June 28 Battle of Monmouth, also called Battle of Monmouth Court
House, Monmouth, New Jersey, Draw
1779, July 16 Battle of Stony Point, Stony Point, New York, American victory
1780, April 1-May 12 Siege of Charleston, South Carolina
1780, August 16 Battle of Camden, South Carolina, British victory
1780, October 7 Battle of Kings Mountain, South Carolina, American victory

1781, January 17 Battle of Cowpens, South Carolina, American victory


1781, March 15 Battle of Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina, British victory
1781, September 5 Battle of Virginia Capes, near Chesapeake Bay, naval battle,
American (French) victory

1781, September 8 Battle of Eutaw Springs, South Carolina


1781, September 28 Siege of Yorktown, Virginia, American victory
- October 19

Why the Americans won

• 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 republicanism was inspired by the "country party" in Britain, whose critique of
British government emphasized that corruption was a terrible reality in Britain.
Americans feared the corruption was crossing the Atlantic; the commitment of most
Americans to republican values and to their rights, energized the revolution, as
Britain was increasingly seen as hopelessly corrupt and hostile to American
interests.

• Britain seemed to threaten 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 Founding Fathers were strong advocates of republican values, particularly


Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, George Washington, Thomas Paine, Benjamin
Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton,
which required men to put civic duty ahead of their personal desires. Men had a civic
duty to be prepared and willing to fight for the rights and liberties of their countrymen
and countrywomen.

The Leaders (Founding fathers of USA)

• The Founding Fathers of the United States were the political leaders who

o signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776

o took part in the American Revolution in winning American independence from


Great Britain,

o participated in framing and adopting the United States Constitution in 1787-


1788,

o participated in putting the new government under the Constitution into effect.

• The historians identified the following seven figures as the key founding fathers:
Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Jay,
James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton.

• The leaders of the revolution made the difference and won the British because they
had a cause. They were fighting for liberty and a better way of life. They wanted the
people to decide for their destiny.