Portal:American Revolutionary War

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The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was a global war that began as a conflict between Great Britain and its Thirteen Colonies which declared independence as the United States of America.

After 1765, growing philosophical and political differences strained the relationship between Great Britain and its colonies. Patriot protests against taxation without representation followed the Stamp Act and escalated into boycotts, which culminated in 1773 with the Sons of Liberty destroying a shipment of tea in Boston Harbor. Britain responded by closing Boston Harbor and passing a series of punitive measures against Massachusetts Bay Colony. Massachusetts colonists responded with the Suffolk Resolves, and they established a shadow government which wrested control of the countryside from the Crown. Twelve colonies formed a Continental Congress to coordinate their resistance, establishing committees and conventions that effectively seized power.

British attempts to disarm the Massachusetts militia in Concord led to open combat on April 19, 1775. Militia forces then besieged Boston, forcing a British evacuation in March 1776, and Congress appointed George Washington to command the Continental Army. Concurrently, an American attempt to invade Quebec and raise rebellion against the British failed decisively. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted for independence, issuing its declaration on July 4. Sir William Howe launched a British counter-offensive, capturing New York City and leaving American morale at a low ebb. However, victories at Trenton and Princeton restored American confidence; in 1777, the British launched an invasion from Quebec under John Burgoyne, intending to isolate the New England Colonies. Instead of assisting this effort, Howe took his army on a separate campaign against Philadelphia, and Burgoyne was decisively defeated at Saratoga in October 1777.

Burgoyne's defeat had drastic consequences. France formally allied with the Americans and entered the war in 1778, and Spain joined the war the following year as an ally of France but not as an ally of the United States; in 1780, the Kingdom of Mysore attacked the British in India, and tensions between Great Britain and the Netherlands erupted into open war. In North America, the British mounted a "Southern strategy" led by Charles Cornwallis which hinged upon a Loyalist uprising, but too few came forward. Cornwallis suffered reversals at King's Mountain and Cowpens, he retreated to Yorktown, Virginia, intending an evacuation, but a decisive French naval victory deprived him of an escape. A Franco-American army led by the Comte de Rochambeau and Washington then besieged Cornwallis' army and, with no sign of relief, he surrendered in October 1781.

Selected event

A 1975 painting depicting the Battle of Trenton by Charles McBarron
The Battle of Trenton took place on December 26, 1776, after General George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River north of Trenton, New Jersey. The hazardous crossing in adverse weather allowed Washington to lead the main body of the Continental Army against Hessian soldiers garrisoned at Trenton, after a brief struggle, nearly the entire Hessian force was captured, with negligible losses to the Americans. The battle boosted the Continental Army's flagging morale, and inspired re-enlistments.

Despite the battle's small numbers, its effect was enormous throughout the colonies, the revolution itself had been in doubt only a week earlier, and the army seemed on the verge of collapse. However, with this victory, soldiers agreed to stay and new recruits came and joined the ranks.

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Holman, Cape St Vincent.jpg
The moonlight Battle off Cape St. Vincent
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The moonlight Battle off Cape St Vincent, 16 January 1780 by Francis Holman, painted in 1780 shows the Santo Domingo exploding, with Rodney's flagship

Selected biography

Lord Cornwallis.jpg
Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquis Cornwallis (31 December 1738 – 5 October 1805) was a British military commander and colonial governor. In the United States, he is best remembered as one of the leading British generals in the American Revolutionary War. Born into an aristocratic family with a history of public service, he first saw military action in the Seven Years' War. He was politically opposed to the American Revolutionary War, but agreed to serve when it became clear that Britain would require a significant military presence in the Thirteen Colonies. First arriving in May 1776, he participated in the Battle of Sullivan's Island, before joining the main army under General William Howe. He played a notable role in the partially-successful New York and New Jersey campaign when George Washington successfully eluded him after the Battle of the Assunpink Creek and inflicted a decisive defeat on troops left at his rear in the Battle of Princeton.

Cornwallis was also involved in the Philadelphia campaign (1777–1778), leading a wing of Howe's army, before he became one of the leading figures of the British "southern strategy" to gain control of the southern colonies. In that role he successfully led troops that gained a measure of control and influence in South Carolina before heading into North Carolina. There, despite successes like his victory at the Battle of Camden, which burnished his reputation, wings of his army were decisively defeated at Kings Mountain and Cowpens. After a Pyrrhic victory at Greensboro, North Carolina, Cornwallis moved his battered army to Wilmington to rest and resupply.

From Wilmington, Cornwallis, in a move that became a subject of contemporary and historical debate, led his army into Virginia, where he joined with other British troops that had been raiding economic and military targets in that colony. Ineffectually opposed by a smaller Continental Army under the Marquis de Lafayette, he was eventually ordered to establish a well-defended port by General Henry Clinton. Poor communications in the British establishment and French naval superiority over the Chesapeake Bay led him to become entrapped at Yorktown without the possibility of reinforcement; he surrendered after three weeks of siege, on October 17, 1781. He was released on parole, and returned to England in December of that year. He and his superior in New York, General Henry Clinton, engaged in a highly public exchange after the 1781 campaign in which each sought to deflect blame for its failure.

Following his North American service, Cornwallis was posted to India in 1786, where, as governor-general and commander in chief, he reformed the British East India Company operations, promulgated civil, criminal, and judicial reforms, and introduced land taxation reforms known as the Permanent Settlement that had long-term ramifications. After guiding British forces to victory in the Third Anglo-Mysore War, he returned to England. In 1798 he was posted to Ireland, where he oversaw the aftermath of the Irish Rebellion, promoted the union of the British and Irish crowns, and argued for Catholic emancipation. In 1805 he was again posted to India, where he died a few months after his arrival.

Selected ships and units

Concorde engages the French ship Engageante in 1794
HMS Concorde was a 32-gun fifth-rate frigate of the Royal Navy. She had previously served in the French Navy under the name Concorde. Built in France in 1777, she entered service with the French early in the American War of Independence, and was soon in action, capturing HMS Minerva in the West Indies. In 1781 she carried vital dispatches between France, North America and the Caribbean that made the Yorktown campaign a success. She remained in French service almost until the end of the war, but was captured by HMS Magnificent in 1783. Not immediately brought into service due to the draw-down in the navy after the end of the war, she underwent repairs and returned to active service under the White Ensign with the outbreak of war with France in 1793, she saw service throughout the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars before being broken up in 1811.

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