American Revolutionary War
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American Revolutionary War

American Revolutionary War
Clockwise: Surrender of Lord Cornwallis after the Siege of Yorktown, Battle of Trenton, The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill, Battle of Long Island, Battle of Guilford Court House
DateApril 19, 1775 – September 3, 1783
(8 years, 4 months and 15 days)
Ratification effective: May 12, 1784
(9 years and 23 days)
Eastern North America, the West Indies, Atlantic Ocean, Western Europe
United States[a]
 Dutch Republic[d]
 Great Britain

Commanders and leaders
George Washington
Horatio Gates
Kingdom of France Louis XVI
Spain Charles III
Dutch Republic William V
full list...
Kingdom of Great Britain George III
Kingdom of Great Britain Lord North

full list...

United States:
Army & Militia:
40,000 (average)[2] 200,000 (total served)[3]
5,000 sailors (peak 1779)[4]
53 frigates and sloops (total served)[4]
State Navies:
106 ships (total served)[5]
55,000 sailors (total served)[6]

63,000 French and Spanish (Gibraltar)[7]

146 ships-of-the-line (1782)[8]

American Indian Allies:


Great Britain:
48,000 (America peak)[9]
121,000 (global 1781)[10]
7,500 (Gibraltar)[11][g]
94 ships-of-the-line (1782)[8]
104 frigates (1781)[12]
37 sloops (1781)[12]
171,000 sailors[13]

25,000 (total served)[14][h]

2,365 (total served)[15][i]

29,875 (total served)[16]

American Indian Allies:

Casualties and losses

United States:
25,000-70,000 total dead[19][20]
6,800 killed in battle
6,100 wounded
17,000 died of disease[21]

7,000 dead
(2,112 in the United States)[22]
19 ships-of-the-line (1,346 guns) lost[23]
30 frigates (988 guns) lost[23]

5,000 dead[24]
(371 dead or wounded in British West Florida)[25]
4,000 died in British prison ships in New York Harbor[26]
8 ships-of-the-line (572 guns) lost[23]
11 frigates (326 guns) lost[23]

500 killed[24]

Total: 37,000-82,500+ soldiers dead

Great Britain:
43,633 total dead[27]
~9,372 killed in battle[28]
27,000 died of disease[2][24]
1,243 killed in battle
18,500 died of disease (1776-1780)[29]
42,000 deserted[13]
20 ships-of-the-line (1,396 guns) lost[23]
70 frigates (1,978 guns) lost[23]
2,200 merchant ships (600 to American privateers) lost[23]
75 privateering ships lost[23]

7,774 total dead
1,800 killed in battle
4,888 deserted[2]

7,000 total dead
1,700 killed in battle
5,300 died of disease (estimated)[30]

Total: 78,200+ soldiers dead

The American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was fought primarily between the Kingdom of Great Britain and its Thirteen Colonies in America, resulting in the overthrow of British rule in the colonies and the establishment of the United States of America.[j]

After 1765, growing political differences concerning mounting taxes without colonial representation in Parliament strained the relationship between Great Britain and its American colonies and fueled the resentment that led to the American Revolution. 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 the 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[k] 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 and a British defeat on April 19, 1775. Militia forces then besieged Boston, forcing a British evacuation in March 1776, and Congress unanimously appointed George Washington to command the Continental Army. Concurrently, the Americans failed decisively in an attempt to invade Quebec and raise insurrection against the British. On July 2, 1776, the Second 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 dramatic 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; by the end of September 1779, Spanish troops had cleared all British forts and settlers located in the entire region along the Mississippi. 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 Washington and Comte de Rochambeau then besieged Cornwallis's army, and he surrendered in October 1781.

Whigs in Britain had long opposed the pro-war Tories in Parliament, and the surrender gave them the upper hand. In early 1782, Parliament voted to end all offensive operations in America (although Britain continued to war against France and Spain in Europe, the Caribbean, and India). On September 3, 1783, the belligerent parties signed the Treaty of Paris in which Great Britain agreed to recognize the sovereignty of the United States and formally end the war.


Taxation and legislation controversy

The growing sentiments behind the revolution had its roots in years of taxes and new laws imposed on the colonists who felt they were not represented in a Parliament which existed over seas and whose members they had never seen. Parliament passed the Stamp Act in 1765 to pay for British military troops stationed in the American colonies after the French and Indian War and to recoup costs of the war itself. The colonists resented being forced to pay for a war in which they had sacrificed many lives. Parliament had previously passed legislation to regulate trade, but the Stamp Act introduced a new principle of a direct internal tax. Americans began to question the extent of Parliament's power in America, and the colonial legislatures argued that they had exclusive right to impose taxes within their own jurisdictions.[31] Colonists condemned the tax because their rights as Englishmen protected them from being taxed by a Parliament in which they had no elected representatives.[32] Parliament argued that the colonies were "represented virtually", an idea that was criticized throughout the British Empire.[33] Parliament did repeal the act in 1766, but it also affirmed its right to pass laws that were binding on the colonies.[34] From 1767, Parliament began passing the Townshend Acts to raise revenue for the salaries of civil officials, imposing taxes on imported goods such as tea, lead, glass, and paper--items required by law to be purchased exclusively from Britain--and this established the precedent that Parliament had the right to tax the colonies. A Board of Customs was also created in Boston to enforce the Acts, while the New York Assembly was suspended--all of which fueled increasing resentment and widespread opposition among the colonists.[35][36]

Two ships in a harbor, one in the distance. On board, men stripped to the waist and wearing feathers in their hair throw crates of tea overboard. A large crowd, mostly men, stands on the dock, waving hats and cheering. A few people wave their hats from windows in a nearby building.
1846 lithograph by Nathaniel Currier entitled "The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor"; the phrase "Boston Tea Party" had not yet become standard. Contrary to Currier's depiction, few of the men dumping the tea were actually disguised as Indians.[37]

Enforcing the acts proved difficult. The British seized the sloop Liberty in 1768 on suspicions of smuggling, and this triggered a riot. In response, British troops occupied Boston, and Parliament threatened to extradite colonists to face trial in England. Tensions rose after the murder of 11 year-old Christopher Seider by a customs official in 1770, and escalated into further outrage after British troops fired on civilians in the Boston Massacre. Many of the colonists suspected that the incident was intentionally provoked and used as a pretext by royal officials to crush the rebellion by force.[38] In 1772, colonists in Rhode Island boarded and burned a customs schooner. Parliament then repealed all taxes except the one on tea, passing the Tea Act in 1773, attempting to force colonists to buy East India Company tea on which the Townshend duties were paid, thus implicitly agreeing to Parliamentary supremacy. The landing of the tea was resisted in all colonies, but Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson permitted British tea ships to remain in Boston Harbor--so the Sons of Liberty destroyed the tea chests in what became known as the "Boston Tea Party".[39]

Parliament then passed punitive legislation. It closed Boston Harbor until the tea was paid for and revoked the Massachusetts Charter, taking upon themselves the right to directly appoint the Massachusetts Governor's Council. Additionally, the royal governor was granted powers to undermine local democracy.[40][41]Further measures allowed the extradition of officials for trial elsewhere in the British Empire if the governor felt that a fair trial could not be secured locally. The act's vague reimbursement policy for travel expenses left few with the ability to testify, and colonists argued that it would allow officials to harass them with impunity. Further laws allowed the governor to billet troops in private homes without the owner's permission.[42][l] The colonists referred to the measures as the "Intolerable Acts", and they argued that their constitutional rights and their natural rights were being violated, viewing the acts as a threat to all of America.[43] The acts were widely opposed, driving neutral parties into support of the Patriots and curtailing Loyalist sentiment[44]

Colonial response

The colonists responded by establishing the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, effectively removing Crown control of the colony outside Boston. Meanwhile, representatives from twelve colonies[m][45] convened the First Continental Congress to respond to the crisis. The Congress narrowly rejected a proposal by Joseph Galloway to create an American parliament to act in concert with the British Parliament; instead, they passed a compact declaring a trade boycott against Britain.[46][47][n]

The Congress also affirmed that Parliament had no authority over internal American matters, but they were willing to consent to trade regulations for the benefit of the empire,[o] and they authorized committees and conventions to enforce the boycott. The boycott was effective, as imports from Britain dropped by 97% in 1775 compared to 1774.[46]

Parliament refused to yield. In 1775, it declared Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion and enforced a blockade of the colony.[48] It then passed the Restraining Acts of 1775 aimed at limiting colonial trade to the British West Indies and the British Isles. Colonial ships were barred from the Newfoundland cod fisheries, a measure which pleased Canadiens but damaged New England's economy. These increasing tensions led to a mutual scramble for ordnance and pushed the colonies toward open war.[49]Thomas Gage was the British Commander-in-Chief and military governor of Massachusetts, and he received orders on April 14, 1775, to disarm the local militias.[50]

Course of the war

War breaks out (1775-1776)

Major campaigns of the American Revolutionary War

On April 18, 1775, 700 British troops were sent to confiscate militia ordnance stored at Concord.[51] Fighting broke out during the Battles of Lexington and Concord, forcing the troops to conduct a fighting withdrawal to Boston. Overnight, the local militia converged on and laid siege to Boston.[52] On May 25, 4,500 British reinforcements arrived with generals William Howe, John Burgoyne, and Henry Clinton.[53] During the Battle of Bunker Hill the British seized the Charlestown Peninsula on June 17 after a costly frontal assault that cost them the lives of many officers,[54][55] leading Howe to replace Gage.[56] Many senior officers were dismayed at the attack, which had gained them little,[57] while Gage wrote to London stressing the need for a large army to suppress the revolt.[58] On July 3, George Washington took command of the Continental Army besieging Boston. Howe made no effort to attack, much to Washington's surprise.[59] A plan was rejected to assault the city,[60] and the Americans instead fortified Dorchester Heights in early March 1776 with heavy artillery captured from a raid on Fort Ticonderoga, brought in by Colonel Henry Knox.[61] Under cover of darkness Washington got his artillery to the top of Dorchester Heights, on March 5, 1776, the sixth anniversary of the Boston Massacre.[62] The heavy guns looking over Boston and its harbor threatened the city and the British ships sitting idle in the harbor. Initially Howe wanted to attack Dorchester Heights but a storm set in, and not wanting to experience another uphill battle like Bunker Hill, he decided to evacuate, where the British were permitted to withdraw without further casualties on March 17, and they sailed to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Washington then moved his army to New York.[63] Starting in August 1775, American Privateers began to raid villages in Nova Scotia, first at Saint John, then Charlottetown and Yarmouth. They continued in 1776 at Canso and then a land assault on Fort Cumberland.

The British marching to Concord

Meanwhile, British officials in Quebec began lobbying Indian tribes to support them,[64] while the Americans urged them to maintain their neutrality.[65][66] In April 1775, Congress feared an Anglo-Indian attack from Canada and authorized an invasion of Quebec. Quebec had a largely Francophone population and had been under British rule for only 12 years,[67][68][p] and the Americans expected that they would welcome being liberated from the British.[67] The Americans attacked Quebec City on December 31 after Benedict Arnold's arduous march but was defeated at the Battle of Quebec.[69][70] After a loose siege, the Americans withdrew on May 6, 1776.[71] A failed counter-attack on June 8 ended American operations in Quebec.[72] However, the British could not conduct an aggressive pursuit because of American ships on Lake Champlain. On October 11, the British defeated the American squadron, forcing them to withdraw to Ticonderoga and ending the campaign. The invasion cost the Patriots their support in British public opinion,[73] while aggressive anti-Loyalist policies diluted Canadian support.[74] The Patriots continued to view Quebec as a strategic aim, though no further attempts to invade were ever made.[75]

British soldiers and Provincial militiamen repulse the American assault at Sault-au-Matelot, Canada, December 1775

In Virginia, Royal governor Lord Dunmore had attempted to disarm the militia as tensions increased, although no fighting broke out.[76]

He issued a proclamation on November 7, 1775, promising freedom for slaves who fled their Patriot masters to fight for the Crown.[77][78] Dunmore's troops were overwhelmed by Patriots at Great Bridge, and Dunmore fled to naval ships anchored off Norfolk. Subsequent negotiations broke down, so Dunmore ordered the ships to destroy the town.[79]

Fighting broke out on November 19 in South Carolina between Loyalist and Patriot militias,[80] and the Loyalists were subsequently driven out of the colony.[81] Loyalists were recruited in North Carolina to reassert colonial rule in the South, but they were decisively defeated and Loyalist sentiment was subdued.[82] A troop of British regulars set out to reconquer South Carolina and launched an attack on Charleston on June 28, 1776,[83] but it failed and effectively left the South in Patriot control until 1780.[84][85]

The shortage of gunpowder had led Congress to authorize an expedition against the Bahamas colony in the British West Indies in order to secure ordnance there.[86] On March 3, 1776, the Americans landed after a bloodless exchange of fire, and the local militia offered no resistance.[87] They confiscated all the supplies that they could load and sailed away on March 17.[88][89] The squadron reached New London, Connecticut, on April 8, after a brief skirmish with the Royal Navy frigate HMS Glasgow on April 6.[90]

Political reactions

After fighting began, Congress launched a final attempt to avert war, which Parliament rejected as insincere as during this time Congress had formed a committee seeking to secure arms and had also borrowed £6,000 to purchase gunpowder.[91] In response to the costly battle at Bunker Hill, King George III then issued a Proclamation of Rebellion on August 23, 1775, which only served to further embolden the Patriots in their determination to become independent.[92] After a speech by the King, Parliament rejected coercive measures on the colonies by 170 votes.[93] British Tories refused to compromise,[94][95] while Whigs argued that current policy would drive the Americans towards independence.[93] Despite opposition, the King himself began micromanaging the war effort.[96] The Irish Parliament pledged to send troops to America,[97] and Irish Catholics were allowed to enlist in the army for the first time.[98]Irish Protestants favored the Americans, while Catholics favored the King.[99]

The initial hostilities in Boston provided a sobering military lesson for the British, causing them to rethink their views on American military capability.[100][101] The weak British response gave the Patriots the advantage, and the British lost control over every former colony.[102] The army had been deliberately kept small in England since 1688 to prevent abuses of power by the King.[103] Parliament secured treaties with small German states for additional troops[16] and sent an army of 32,000 men to America after a year, the largest that it had ever sent outside Europe at the time.[104]

Committee of five (standing at center) from left to right: John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin

Thomas Paine's pamphlet Common Sense had boosted public support for independence throughout the 13 colonies.[105][106] Prompted by the defeats in Canada, Congress was eager to make the break with Britain and appointed the Committee of Five consisting of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston[107] to draft a Declaration of Independence, which would officially sever relations between the colonies and Britain, with Jefferson being chosen by the Committee to write the first draft. In order to justify independence Jefferson's original draft included various items that were severely critical of King George III, many of which would eventually be removed from the final document.[108][109] On July 2, Congress voted in favor of independence, with 12 affirmatives and one abstention,[110] and issued the declaration on July 4.[111] In so doing the signatories were committing acts of treason in the eyes of the British Crown who was encouraged to bring a conviction and a penalty of death to those responsible.[112] George Washington had the Declaration read to assembled troops in New York City on July 9;[113] that evening, a crowd tore down a lead statue of the King which was melted down later to make bullets.[114]

Patriots followed independence with the Test Laws, requiring residents to swear allegiance to the state in which they lived,[115] intending to root out neutrals or opponents to independence. Failure to do so meant possible imprisonment, exile, or even death.[116] American Tories were barred from public office, forbidden from practicing medicine and law, forced to pay increased taxes, or even barred from executing wills or becoming guardians to orphans.[117][118] Congress enabled states to confiscate Loyalist property to fund the war,[119] and some Quakers who remained neutral had their property confiscated. States later prevented Loyalists from collecting any debts that they were owed.[120]

British counter-offensive (1776-1777)

American soldiers in combat at the Battle of Long Island, 1776

After regrouping at Halifax, William Howe determined to take the fight to the Americans.[121] He set sail in June 1776 and began landing troops on Staten Island near the entrance to New York Harbor on July 2. Based on poor military intelligence, Washington split his army to positions on Manhattan Island and across the East River in western Long Island,[122] and the Americans rejected an informal attempt to negotiate peace.[123] Howe outflanked Washington on August 27 at the Battle of Long Island and forced him back to Brooklyn Heights, but he restrained his subordinates from pursuit and did not attempt to encircle Washington's forces.[124]

On the afternoon of August 28, it began to rain and Washington had Henry Knox and his artillery bombard the British through most of the night. On August 29, Washington held a meeting with general Thomas Mifflin and other generals who all agreed to retreat to Manhattan. Washington quickly had his troops assembled and ferried them across the East River to Manhattan on flat-bottom river boats without any losses in men or ordnance. Meanwhile, Mifflin's regiments made up the rear guard, holding the line until the patriot army had completed its withdrawal from Brooklyn.[125][126]

The Staten Island Peace Conference failed to negotiate peace as the British delegates did not have authority to recognize independence.[127][128] Howe seized control of New York City on September 15 and unsuccessfully engaged the Americans the following day.[129] At the Battle of Pell's Point, he attempted to encircle Washington, but the Americans successfully withdrew. Howe declined to attack Washington's army on October 28 at the Battle of White Plains, but concentrated his efforts on a hill that was of no strategic value.[130][131]

British warships forcing passage of the Hudson River

Washington's retreat left his forces isolated, and the British captured Fort Washington on November 16, taking 3,000 prisoners and amounting to what one historian terms "the most disastrous defeat of the entire war".[132] Washington's army fell back four days later.[133]Henry Clinton then captured Newport, Rhode Island, an operation which he opposed, feeling that the 6,000 troops assigned to him could have been better employed in the pursuit of Washington[134][135] The American prisoners were then sent to the infamous prison ships in which more American soldiers and sailors died of disease and neglect than died in every battle of the war combined.[136]Charles Cornwallis pursued Washington, but Howe ordered him to halt and Washington marched away unmolested.[137][138]

The outlook was bleak for the American cause; the army had dwindled to fewer than 5,000 men and would be reduced further when the enlistments expired at the end of the year.[139] Popular support wavered, morale ebbed away, and Congress abandoned Philadelphia.[140] Loyalist activity surged in the wake of the American defeat, especially in New York.[118]

News of the campaign was well received in Britain. Festivities took place in London, public support reached a peak,[141][142] and the King awarded the Order of the Bath to Howe. The successes led to predictions that the British could win within a year.[143] The American defeat revealed what one writer views as Washington's strategic deficiencies, such as dividing a numerically weaker army in the face of a stronger one, his inexperienced staff misreading the situation, and his troops fleeing in disorder when fighting began.[144] In the meantime, the British entered winter quarters and were in a good place to resume campaigning.[145]

On December 25, 1776, Washington stealthily crossed the ice-choked Delaware River at night through rain and sleet, and his poorly outfitted army surprised and overwhelmed the Hessian garrison at Trenton, New Jersey the following morning, taking 900 prisoners.[146][q] The decisive victory rescued the army's flagging morale and gave a new hope to the cause for independence.[148] Cornwallis marched to retake Trenton, but his efforts were repulsed on January 2.[149][150] Washington outmaneuvered Cornwallis that night and defeated his rearguard the following day. The victories proved instrumental in convincing the French and Spanish that the Americans were worthwhile allies, as well as recovering morale in the army.[151][152]<[153] Washington entered winter quarters at Morristown, New Jersey on January 6,[154] though a prolonged guerrilla conflict continued.[155] Howe made no attempt to attack, much to Washington's amazement.[156]

British northern strategy fails (1777-1778)

In December 1776, John Burgoyne returned to London to set strategy with Lord George Germain. Burgoyne's plan was to establish control of the Lake Champlain-Lake George-Hudson River route from New York to Quebec, isolating New England. Efforts could then be concentrated on the southern colonies, where it was believed that Loyalist support was in abundance.[157]

"The Surrender at Saratoga" depicting General John Burgoyne surrendering to General Horatio Gates

Burgoyne's plan was to lead an army along Lake Champlain while a strategic diversion advanced along the Mohawk River, and both would rendezvous at Albany, New York.[158] Burgoyne set out on June 14, 1777, quickly capturing Ticonderoga on July 5. He left behind 1,300 men as a garrison and continued the advance. Progress was slow; the Americans blocked roads, destroyed bridges, dammed streams, and denuded the area of food.[159] Meanwhile, Barry St. Ledger's diversionary column laid siege to Fort Stanwix. St. Ledger withdrew to Quebec on August 22 after his Indian support abandoned him. On August 16, a Brunswick foraging expedition was soundly defeated at Bennington, and more than 700 troops were captured.[160] Meanwhile, the vast majority of Burgoyne's Indian support abandoned him, and Howe informed him that he would launch his campaign on Philadelphia as planned and would be unable to render aid.[161]

Burgoyne continued the advance, and he attempted to flank the American position at Freeman's Farm on September 19 in the First Battle of Saratoga. The British won, but at the cost of 600 casualties. Burgoyne then dug in, but he suffered a constant hemorrhage of deserters, and critical supplies were running low.[162] The Americans repulsed a British reconnaissance in force against the American lines on October 7 with heavy British losses during the second Battle of Saratoga. Burgoyne then withdrew with the Americans in pursuit, but he was surrounded by October 13. He surrendered on October 17 with supplies exhausted and no hope of relief, and the Americans took 6,222 soldiers as prisoners of war.[163] The decisive American victory spurred France to enter the war as an ally of the United States, securing the final elements needed for victory over Britain.[164][165]

Washington and Lafayette inspecting the troops at Valley Forge

Meanwhile, Howe launched his campaign against Washington, though his initial efforts failed to bring him to battle in June 1777.[166] Howe declined to attack Philadelphia overland via New Jersey or by sea via the Delaware Bay, even though both options would have enabled him to assist Burgoyne if necessary. Instead, he took his army on a time-consuming route through the Chesapeake Bay, leaving him completely unable to assist Burgoyne. This decision was so difficult to understand that Howe's critics accused him of treason.[167] Howe outflanked and defeated Washington on September 11, though he failed to follow up on the victory.[168][169] A British victory at Willistown left Philadelphia defenceless, and Howe captured the city unopposed on September 26. He then moved 9,000 men to Germantown north of Philadelphia.[170] Washington launched a surprise attack on Howe's garrison on October 4 which was eventually repulsed[171] but Howe did not follow up on his victory once again.[172]

Howe inexplicably ordered a retreat to Philadelphia after several days of probing American defenses at White Marsh, astonishing both sides.[173] He ignored the vulnerable American rear, where an attack might possibly have deprived Washington of his baggage and supplies.[174]

On December 19, Washington's army entered winter quarters at Valley Forge. Poor conditions and supply problems resulted in the deaths of some 2,500 troops.[175] Howe, only 20 miles (32 km) away, made no effort to attack, which critics observed could have ended the war.[176][177][178]

The Continental Army was put through a new training program, supervised by Baron von Steuben, introducing the most modern Prussian methods of drilling.[179] Meanwhile, Howe resigned and was replaced by Henry Clinton on May 24, 1778.[180] Clinton received orders to abandon Philadelphia and fortify New York following France's entry into the war. On June 18, the British departed Philadelphia, with the reinvigorated Americans in pursuit.[181] The two armies fought at Monmouth Court House on June 28, with the Americans holding the field, greatly boosting morale and confidence.[182] By July, both armies were back in the same positions they had been two years prior.

Foreign intervention

The defeat at Saratoga caused considerable anxiety in Britain over foreign intervention. The North ministry sought reconciliation with the colonies by consenting to their original demands,[183] although Lord North refused to grant independence, while the Americans, bolstered by their French alliance, settled for no terms short of complete independence from Britain.[184]

French troops storming Redoubt 9 during the Siege of Yorktown

French foreign minister the Comte de Vergennes was strongly anti-British,[185] and he sought a pretext for going to war with Britain following the conquest of Canada in 1763.[186] With the loses incurred during the defeat in Canada, and with the treaties made between Britain and the Germans, it became clear to Congress that help from France was imperative. France, however, would not be compelled to intervene if the colonies were still considering reconciliation with Britain, as France would have nothing to gain in that event. To assure assistance from France, independence would have to be declared, which was effected in July 1776.[187] Subsequently, the French began covertly suppling the Americans through neutral Dutch ports since the onset of the war,[185] proving invaluable throughout the Saratoga campaign.[188][189][190] The French public favored war, though Vergennes and King Louis XVI were hesitant, owing to the military and financial risk.[191][192]

The American victory at Saratoga convinced the French that supporting the Patriots was worthwhile,[192] but doing so also brought major concerns. The King was concerned that Britain's concessions would be accepted, and that Britain would then reconcile with the Colonies to strike at French and Spanish possessions in the Caribbean.[193][194] To prevent this, France formally recognized the United States on February 6, 1778, and followed with a military alliance. France aimed to expel Britain from the Newfoundland fishery, end restrictions on Dunkirk sovereignty, regain free trade in India, recover Senegal and Dominica, and restore the Treaty of Utrecht provisions pertaining to Anglo-French trade.[195][196] Spain was wary of provoking war with Britain before being ready and opted to covertly supply the Patriots via its colonies in New Spain.[197][198] Congress hoped to persuade Spain into an open alliance, so the first American Commission met with the Count of Aranda in 1776.[199] Spain was still reluctant to make an early commitment, owing to a lack of direct French involvement, the threat against their treasure fleets, and the possibility of war with Portugal, Spain's neighbor and a close ally of Britain.[200] However, Spain affirmed its desire to support the Americans the following year, hoping to weaken Britain's empire.[201][202] The Portuguese threat was neutralized in the Spanish-Portuguese War (1776-77). On April 12, 1779, Spain signed the Treaty of Aranjuez with France and went to war against Britain. Spain sought to recover Gibraltar and Menorca in Europe, as well as Mobile and Pensacola in Florida, and also to expel the British from Central America.[203]

Meanwhile, George III had given up on subduing America while Britain had a European war to fight.[204] He did not welcome war with France, but he believed that Britain had made all necessary steps to avoid it and cited the British victories over France in the Seven Years' War as a reason to remain optimistic.[205] Britain tried in vain to find a powerful ally to engage France, leaving it isolated,[206] preventing Britain from focusing the majority of her efforts in one theater,[207][208] and forcing a major diversion of military resources from America.[209][210] Despite this, the King determined never to recognize American independence and to ravage the colonies indefinitely, or until they pleaded to return to the yoke of the Crown.[211]Mahan maintains that Britain's attempt to fight in multiple theaters simultaneously without major allies was fundamentally flawed, citing impossible mutual support, exposing the forces to defeat in detail.[212]

Since the outbreak of the conflict, Britain had appealed to her ally, the neutral Dutch Republic, to lend her the use of the Scots Brigade for service in America, but pro-American sentiment among the Dutch public forced them to deny the request.[213] Consequently, the British attempted to invoke several treaties for outright Dutch military support, but the Republic still refused. Moreover, American troops were being supplied with ordnance by Dutch merchants via their West Indies colonies.[214] French supplies bound for America had also passed through Dutch ports.[185] The Republic maintained free trade with France following France's declaration of war on Britain, citing a prior concession by Britain on this issue. Britain responded by confiscating Dutch shipping, and even firing upon it. Consequently, the Republic joined the First League of Armed Neutrality to enforce their neutral status.[215] The Republic had also given sanctuary to American privateers[216] and had drafted a treaty of commerce with the Americans. Britain argued that these actions contravened the Republic's neutral stance and declared war in December 1780.[217]

Stalemate in the North (1778-1780)

"Give 'em Watts, boys!" - American troops repulsing Wilhelm von Knyphausen's attack at Springfield

Clinton withdrew from Philadelphia, consolidating his forces in New York following the British defeat at Saratoga and the entry of France into the war.[210] French admiral the Comte d'Estaing had been dispatched to America in April 1778 to assist Washington, and he arrived shortly after Clinton withdrew into New York. The Franco-American forces felt that New York's defenses were too formidable for the French fleet, and they opted to attack Newport at the Battle of Rhode Island, launched on August 29 under the command of General John Sullivan.[218] The effort, however, failed when the French opted to withdraw, and this displeased the Americans.[219] The war then ground down to a stalemate, with the majority of actions fought as large skirmishes, such as those at Chestnut Neck and Little Egg Harbor. In the summer of 1779, the Americans captured British posts at the Battles of Stony Point and Paulus Hook.[220] In July, Clinton unsuccessfully attempted to coax Washington into a decisive engagement by making a major raid into Connecticut.[221] That month, a large American naval operation attempted to retake Maine, but it resulted in the worst American naval defeat until Pearl Harbor in 1941.[222] The high frequency of Iroquois raids compelled Washington to mount a punitive expedition which destroyed a large number of Iroquois settlements, but the effort ultimately failed to stop the raids.[223][224] During the winter of 1779-80, the Continental Army suffered greater hardships than at Valley Forge.[225] Morale was poor, public support was being eroded by the long war, the national currency was virtually worthless, the army was plagued with supply problems, desertion was common, and whole regiments mutinied over the conditions in early 1780.[226]

In 1780, Clinton launched an attempt to retake New Jersey. On June 7, 6,000 men invaded under Hessian general Wilhelm von Knyphausen, but they met stiff resistance from the local militia at the Battle of Connecticut Farms. The British held the field, but Knyphausen feared a general engagement with Washington's main army and withdrew.[227] Knyphausen and Clinton decided upon a second attempt two weeks later which was soundly defeated at Springfield, effectively ending British ambitions in New Jersey.[228] Meanwhile, American general Benedict Arnold turned traitor and joined the British army, and he conspired to betray the key American fortress of West Point by surrendering it to the enemy. The plot was foiled when British spy master John André was captured, so Arnold fled to British lines in New York. He attempted to justify his betrayal by appealing to Loyalist public opinion, but the Patriots strongly condemned him as a coward and turncoat.[229][230]

The war to the west of the Appalachians was largely confined to skirmishing and raids. An expedition of militia was halted by adverse weather in February 1778 after it set out to destroy British military supplies in settlements along the Cuyahoga River.[231][232] Later in the year, a second campaign was undertaken to seize the Illinois Country from the British. The Americans captured Kaskaskia on July 4 and then secured Vincennes, although Vincennes was recaptured by Henry Hamilton, the British commander at Detroit. In early 1779, the Americans counter-attacked by undertaking an arduous winter march, going days without food, and secured the surrender of the British at Vincennes, taking Hamilton prisoner.[233]

On May 25, 1780, the British launched an expedition into Kentucky as part of a wider operation to clear resistance from Quebec to the Gulf coast. The expedition met with only limited success, though hundreds of settlers were killed or captured.[234][r] The Americans responded with a major offensive along the Mad River in August which met with some success, but it did little to abate the Indian raids on the frontier.[235] French militia attempted to capture Detroit, but it ended in disaster when Miami Indians ambushed and defeated the gathered troops on November 5.[236] The war in the west had become a stalemate; the Americans did not have the manpower to simultaneously defeat the hostile Indian tribes and occupy the land.[237]

War in the South (1778-1781)

British troops besieging Charleston in 1780, by Alonzo Chappel

The British turned their attention to conquering the South in 1778 after Loyalists in London assured them of a strong Loyalist base there. A southern campaign also had the advantage of keeping the Royal Navy closer to the Caribbean, where it would be needed to defend lucrative colonies against the Franco-Spanish fleets.[238] On December 29, 1778, an expeditionary corps from New York captured Savannah, and British troops then moved inland to recruit Loyalist support.[239]

There was a promising initial turnout in early 1779, but then a large Loyalist militia was defeated at Kettle Creek on February 14 and they had to recognize their dependence upon the British. The British, however, defeated Patriot militia at Brier Creek on March 3,[240] and then launched an abortive assault on Charleston, South Carolina. The operation became notorious for its high degree of looting by British troops, enraging both Loyalists and Patriots.[241]

In October, a combined Franco-American siege effort failed to recapture Savannah. In May 1780, Henry Clinton captured Charleston, taking over 5,000 prisoners and effectively destroying the Continental Army in the south. Organized American resistance in the region collapsed when Banastre Tarleton defeated the withdrawing Americans at Waxhaws on May 29.[242]

American and British cavalry clashing at the Battle of Cowpens; from an 1845 painting by William Ranney

Clinton returned to New York, leaving Charles Cornwallis in command in Charleston to oversee the southern war effort. Far fewer Loyalists joined him than expected. In the interim, the war was carried on by Patriot militias who effectively suppressed Loyalists by winning victories in Fairfield County, Lincolnton, Huck's Defeat, Stanly County, and Lancaster County.

The British launched a surprise offensive in Virginia in January 1781, with Benedict Arnold invading Richmond, Virginia, to little resistance. Governor Thomas Jefferson escaped Richmond just ahead of the British forces, and the British burned the city to the ground.[243][244] Jefferson sent an emergency dispatch to Colonel Sampson Mathews whose militia was traveling nearby, to thwart Arnold's efforts.[245] Congress appointed Horatio Gates, victor at Saratoga, to lead the American effort in the south. He suffered a major defeat at Camden on August 16, 1780, setting the stage for Cornwallis to invade North Carolina.[246] The British attempted to subjugate the countryside, and Patriot militia continued to fight against them, so Cornwallis dispatched troops to raise Loyalist forces to cover his left flank as he moved north.[247]

This wing of Cornwallis's army was virtually destroyed on October 7, irreversibly breaking Loyalist support in the Carolinas. Cornwallis subsequently aborted his advance and retreated back into South Carolina.[248] In the interim, Washington replaced General Gates with his trusted subordinate Nathanael Greene.[249]

Greene was unable to confront the British directly, so he dispatched a force under Daniel Morgan to recruit additional troops. Morgan then defeated the renowned British Legion, considered to be the cream of the British army, under Tarleton, on January 17, 1781, at Cowpens. Cornwallis was criticized for having detached a substantial part of his army without adequate support,[250] but he advanced into North Carolina despite the setbacks, gambling that he would receive substantial Loyalist support there. Greene evaded combat with Cornwallis, instead wearing the British down through a protracted war of attrition.[251]

By March, Greene's army had increased in size enough that he felt confident in facing Cornwallis. The two armies engaged at Guilford Courthouse on March 15; Greene was beaten, but Cornwallis's army suffered irreplaceable casualties.[252] Compounding this, far fewer Loyalists were joining than the British had previously expected.[253] Cornwallis's casualties were such that he was compelled to retreat to Wilmington for reinforcement, leaving the Patriots in control of the interior of the Carolinas and Georgia. Greene then proceeded to reclaim the South. On April 25 the American troops suffered a reversal at Hobkirk's Hill when one of Greene's commanders made an unwise attempt to reposition the Maryland regiment, resulting in confusion and terror among his troops. Marching 160 miles in 8 days, they continued to dislodge strategic British posts in the area nonetheless, capturing Fort Watson and Fort Motte on April 15.[254][255][256] Augusta was the last major British outpost in the South outside of Charleston and Savannah, but the Americans under Brigadier general Andrew Pickens reclaimed possession of it during the Siege of Augusta, on June 6]].[257]

A British force clashed with American troops at Eutaw Springs on September 8 in a final effort to stop Greene, but the British casualties were so high that they withdrew to Charleston.[258] Minor skirmishes continued in the Carolinas until the end of the war, and British troops were effectively confined to Charleston and Savannah for the remainder of the conflict.[259]

International war breaks out (1778-1783)

In the late 1700s, the English colonial insurgents in North America became the "centerpiece of an international coalition" to check and then compromise British preeminence in the North Atlantic.[260] Throughout the last half of the 1770s, the insurgency against the British Crown among its North American colonies suffered repeated reverses. The cause of American independence flickered as its major port cities were either occupied or blockaded, its naval forces proved ineffectual, and its armies suffered repeated defeats in pitched battles at the hands of British regulars and allied mercenaries from German principalities.

Initially the Continental Congress persevered with financial contributions from the personal fortunes of the richest colonials to compensate for smaller states refusing to pay their full requisitions, and it kept an army in the field by the leadership of George Washington and a flow of recruits from the largest states, especially Virginia, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Then came assistance from Dutch financiers and French covert military aid. French Enlightenment freebooters and European soldier-adventurers came to the aid of the embattled revolutionary forces. In 1778, the French Crown recognized the United States, and in 1779 the Spanish Crown declared formal war on the United Kingdom.[260]

Britain responded by expanding its colonial war worldwide in 1778 with the Anglo-French War. These additional conflicts around the globe with France and Spain strained Britain's resources for the war in America. The French blockaded the lucrative sugar islands of Barbados and Jamaica, intending to damage British trade.[261] In response the British defeated a French naval force on December 15 and captured St. Lucia.[262] But in 1779, the French had superiority in the Caribbean and began capturing British territories, seizing St. Vincent and Grenada.[263] Britain suffered another major loss at the Battle of Grenada in 1779, the worst loss that the Royal Navy had suffered since 1690.[264] Although France and Spain failed an attempted invasion of the British homeland, a Franco-Spanish fleet intercepted and decisively defeated a large British convoy off the coast of Azores bound for the West Indies.[265] The defeat was catastrophic for Britain, costing her dozens of ships along with their supplies and crews.[266] Spain failed to capture the British naval station during the Great Siege of Gibraltar, while the British blockade of Spain and France proved ineffective.[265]

In America west of the Mississippi River, Spanish Governor General de Gálvez had been allowing covert aid to the American Revolution through New Orleans at the Crown's direction. In 1777 Oliver Pollock, an Irish Pennsylvanian who had earlier became a successful merchant amidst the Spanish Caribbean empire in Havana and then in New Orleans, was appointed US "commercial agent" at New Orleans. There he used his personal wealth to underwrite an American Lower Ohio and Upper Mississippi Valley campaign against the French settlements colonized by the British. Virginia militia General George Rogers Clark's operations in 1778 founded Louisville, cleared British forts in Illinois nearby St. Louis, and captured Vincennes.[267] Clark's conquest resulted in the creation of Illinois County, Virginia comprising both French Illinois and Ohio Country, north to the Great Lakes. It was organized in 1778 with the consent of French colonials guaranteed protection of the Catholic Church. Its court house was established at Kaskaskia, and it had state General Assembly representation for three years until the Commonwealth ceded the land to the US Congress.[268]

At the Spanish declaration of war with France in 1779, Governor Galvez raised an army in Spanish Louisiana to initiate offensive operations against British outposts.[269] Spanish colonial forces cleared British garrisons in Baton Rouge, Fort Bute and Natchez, capturing five forts.[270] In this first maneuver he opened navigation on the Mississippi River north to US settlement in Pittsburg.[271] He then provided Spanish military assistance to Oliver Pollock for transport up the Mississippi River as an alternative supply to Washington's Continental Army, bypassing the British-blockaded Atlantic Coast.[272] In 1781, Governor Galvez and Pollack campaigned east along the Gulf Coast to secure West Florida including British-held Mobile and Pensacola.[273] The Spanish operations crippled the British supply of armaments to southeastern woodland Native American tribes, effectively suspending a military alliance with the Creeks, Choctaw, and Cherokee to attack settlers on US land claims between the Mississippi River and the Appalachian Mountains.[274]

In April 1782 at the Battle of the Saintes, the British parried the planned French-Spanish invasion of Jamaica, and subsequently dominated the Caribbean Sea, and in February 1783 the British lifted the Siege of Gibraltar. The heart for world war was taken out of the French-Spanish allies, notwithstanding a combined Spanish-US fleet captured Bahamas. The British had "abandoned all hope of subduing its American colonies" and they first negotiated the Treaty of Paris (1783) with the US, which was then approved by Congress April 1783.[275] The US settlement with Britain apart from the French allowed the US fishing rights in Newfoundland and the Gulf of Mexico, along with "perpetual access" to the Mississippi River. The Treaty of Versailles (1783) followed in September, settling a British peace with France and Spain.[276]

British defeat in America (1781)

The French (left) and British at the Battle of the Chesapeake

Cornwallis believed that a successful campaign in Virginia would cut supplies to Greene's army in the Carolinas and precipitate a collapse of American resistance in the South. He had written to both Lord Germain and Clinton detailing his intentions to invade.[277][s] Clinton strongly opposed the plan, favoring a campaign farther north in the Chesapeake Bay region. Germain wrote to Cornwallis to approve his plan but neglected to include Clinton in the decision-making, even though Clinton was Cornwallis's superior officer,[279] and Cornwallis then decided to move into Virginia without informing Clinton,[280][t], all the while he was being pursued by Lafayette and his army.[281] However, Clinton, had failed to construct a coherent strategy for British operations in 1781, owing to his difficult relationship with his naval counterpart Admiral Marriot Arbuthnot[u] who had failed to detect the arrival of French forces in July.[282][283][284]

As the Franco-American army approached Cornwallis at Yorktown, he made no attempt to sally out and engage before siege lines could be erected, despite the repeated urging of his subordinate officers.[285] Expecting relief to soon arrive from Clinton, Cornwallis prematurely abandoned all of his outer defences, which were then promptly occupied by the besiegers, serving to hasten the British defeat.[286] These factors contributed to the eventual surrender of Cornwallis's entire army, and the end of major operations in North America.[287] Following the calamitous operations at Newport and Savannah, French planners realized that closer cooperation with the Americans was required to achieve success.[288] The French fleet led by the Comte de Grasse had received discretionary orders from Paris to assist joint efforts in the north if naval support was needed.[289][290] Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau discussed their options. Washington pushed for an attack on New York, while Rochambeau preferred a strike in Virginia, where the British were less well-established and thus easier to defeat.[291] Franco-American movements around New York caused Clinton a great deal of anxiety, fearing an attack on the city. His instructions were vague to Cornwallis during this time, rarely forming explicit orders. However, Clinton did instruct Cornwallis to establish a fortified naval base and to transfer troops to the north to defend New York.[292] Cornwallis dug in at Yorktown and awaited the Royal Navy.[293]

Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown by John Trumbull, 1797
Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau at Yorktown, 1781

Washington still favored an assault on New York, but he acquiesced to the French when they opted to send their fleet to their preferred target of Yorktown. In August, the combined Franco-American army moved south to coordinate with de Grasse in defeating Cornwallis.[294][295] The British lacked sufficient naval resources to effectively counter the French, but they dispatched a fleet under Thomas Graves who arrived from New York, to assist Cornwallis and attempt to gain naval dominance.[296] On September 5, in a battle that lasted only two hours, the French fleet decisively defeated Graves at the Battle of the Chesapeake, giving the French control of the seas around Yorktown and cutting off Cornwallis from reinforcements and relief.[297] Despite the continued urging of his subordinates,[285] Cornwallis made no attempt to break out and engage the Franco-American army before it had established siege works, expecting that reinforcements would arrive from New York, and the Franco-American army laid siege to Yorktown on September 28.[298] Cornwallis continued to think that relief was imminent from Clinton, and he abandoned his outer defenses which were immediately occupied by American troops--serving to hasten his subsequent defeat.[299] The British then failed in an attempt to break out of the siege across the river at Gloucester Point when a storm hit.[300] Cornwallis and his subordinates were under increasing bombardment and facing dwindling supplies; they agreed that their situation was untenable and negotiated a surrender on October 17, 1781,[301] The same day as the surrender, 6,000 troops under Clinton had departed New York, sailing to relieve Yorktown.[302]

Initially Clinton blamed Germain for the defeat at Yorktown who had assured Clinton that adequate reinforcements would arrive from Sir George Rodney's fleet in the West Indies. After Cornwallis' formal account of the surrender, however, Clinton took exception to his claims and the two admirals began blaming each other for the defeat. Cornwallis claimed that he 'had been compelled' to take his position at Yorktown, contrary to his advice to Clinton, that Yorktown had been occupied as a result of Clinton's orders, and because of repeated promises of reinforcements. Clinton took exception to all such claims and subsequently wrote his own account of the matter, again placing much of the blame on the naval support that never arrived, which was promised by Germain. Clinton, however, asked Germain to publish his account of the defeat upon his return to London, but Germain declined. Clinton ultimately took the brunt of the blame for the defeat at Yorktown.[303]

North Ministry collapses

On November 25, 1781, news arrived in London of the surrender at Yorktown. The Whig opposition gained traction in Parliament, and a motion to end the war was proposed on December 12 which was defeated by only one vote. On February 27, 1782, the House voted against further war in America by 19 votes.[304]

Lord Germain was dismissed and a vote of no confidence was passed against North. Under the direction of Prime Minister Charles Watson-Wentworth the Rockingham Whigs came to power and opened negotiations for peace. Rockingham died and was succeeded by the Earl of Shelburne. Despite their defeat, the British still had 30,000 troops garrisoned in New York, Charleston, and Savannah.[305] Henry Clinton was recalled and was replaced by Guy Carleton who was under orders to suspend offensive operations.[306]

Analysis of combatants

United States

1st Maryland Regiment holding the line at the Battle of Guilford

The Americans began the war with significant disadvantages compared to the British. They had no national government, no national army or navy, no financial system, no banks, no established credit, and no functioning government departments. The Congress tried to handle administrative affairs through legislative committees, which proved largely inefficient. The state governments were themselves brand new and officials had little to no administrative experience. In peacetime, the colonies relied heavily on ocean travel and shipping, but that was now shut down by the British blockade, and the Americans had to rely on slow overland travel.

However, the Americans had multiple advantages that outweighed the initial disadvantages which they faced. They had a large prosperous population that depended on local production of food and most supplies rather than on imports, while British supplies were mostly shipped from across the ocean. The British faced a vast territory far larger than Britain or France, located at a far distance from home ports. Most of the Americans lived on farms distant from the seaports; the British could capture any port, but that did not give them control over the inland areas. The patriots were on their home ground, had their own newspapers and printers, and internal lines of communication. They had a long-established system of local militia, previously used to combat the French and Indians, with companies and an officer corps that could form the basis of local militias and provide a training ground for the national army.[307] Motivation was also a major asset. The Patriots had much more popular support than the Loyalists, and more than 200,000 Americans fought in the war; 25,000 died. The British expected the Loyalists to do much of the fighting, but they did much less than expected. The British also hired German auxiliaries to do much of their fighting.[3]

At the onset of the war, the Americans had no major international allies. Battles such as the Battle of Bennington, the Battles of Saratoga, and even defeats such as the Battle of Germantown[308] proved decisive in gaining the attention and support of powerful European nations such as France and Spain, who moved from covertly supplying the Americans with weapons and supplies to overtly supporting them. On June 13, 1778, war between France and Britain was declared, with France forming a military alliance with America, a prospect which King George III feared would make the reclamation of the colonies unlikely.[309] During the Revolution, especially during its later years, the British were drawn into numerous other conflicts about the globe.[310]

The new Continental Army suffered significantly from a lack of an effective training program and from largely inexperienced officers and sergeants. The inexperience of its officers was somewhat offset by a few senior officers. The Americans solved much of their training dilemma during their stint in winter quarters at Valley Forge, where they were relentlessly drilled and trained by General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a veteran of the famed Prussian General Staff. He taught the Continental Army the essentials of military discipline, drills, tactics, and strategy, and he wrote the Revolutionary War Drill Manual.[311] When the Army emerged from Valley Forge, it proved its ability to equally match the British troops in battle when they fought a successful strategic action at the Battle of Monmouth.[312]

Population density in the American Colonies in 1775

When the war began, the Thirteen Colonies lacked a professional army or navy, and each colony sponsored local militia. Militiamen were lightly armed, had little training, and usually did not have uniforms. Their units served for only a few weeks or months at a time, were reluctant to travel far from home, were unavailable for extended operations, and lacked the training and discipline of soldiers with more experience. If properly used, however, their numbers could help the Continental armies overwhelm smaller British forces, as at the battles of Concord, Bennington, and Saratoga and the siege of Boston. Both sides used partisan warfare, but the Americans effectively suppressed Loyalist activity when British regulars were not in the area.[313]

The Continental Congress established a regular army on June 14, 1775, and appointed George Washington as commander-in-chief. The development of the Continental Army was always a work in progress, and Washington used both his regulars and state militia throughout the war. Three branches of the United States Military forces trace their institutional roots to the American Revolutionary War; the Army comes from the Continental Army; the Navy recognizes October 13, 1775, as the date of its official establishment when the Continental Congress created the Continental Navy, appointing Esek Hopkins as the Navy's first commander.[314] The Marine Corps links to the Continental Marines of the war, formed by a resolution of Congress on November 10, 1775.[315]

George Washington's roles

Formal painting of General George Washington, standing in uniform, as commander of the Continental Army
   General Washington
Commander of the Continental Army
by Charles Willson Peale (1776)

Recognizing George Washington's skill and experience as an officer, and his ability to unite the colonies "... better than any other person in the Union", John Adams nominated Washington on June 14, 1775, to be the commander of the Continental Army. Washington was unanimously confirmed by the Continental Congress on June 16,[316][317] and he officially assumed command in the field at Cambridge, Massachusetts, on July 3.[318]

Washington assumed five main roles during the war.[319] First, he designed the overall strategy of the war, in cooperation with Congress, largely employing a Fabian strategy rather than resorting to frontal assaults against Britian's professional army.[320] The goal was always independence. When France entered the war, he worked closely with the soldiers and navy it had sent, which assisted him greatly in defeating Cornwallis during the surrender of Yorktown in 1781.[321]

Second, he provided leadership of troops against the main British forces in 1775-77 and again in 1781. He lost more battles than he won, but never surrendered his army during the war, and he continued to fight the British relentlessly until the war's end.[322]

Third, he was charged with selecting and guiding the generals. In June 1776, Congress made its first attempt at running the war effort with the committee known as "Board of War and Ordnance", succeeded by the Board of War in July 1777, a committee which eventually included members of the military.[318][323] The command structure of the armed forces was a hodgepodge of Congressional appointees (and Congress sometimes made those appointments without Washington's input) with state-appointments filling the lower ranks. The results of his general staff were mixed, as some of his favorites never mastered the art of command, such as John Sullivan. Eventually, he found capable officers such as Nathanael Greene, Daniel Morgan, Henry Knox (chief of artillery), and Alexander Hamilton (chief of staff). The American officers never equaled their opponents in tactics and maneuver, and they lost most of the pitched battles. The great successes at Boston (1776), Saratoga (1777), and Yorktown (1781) came from trapping the British far from base with much larger numbers of troops.[324] Owing to the precarious nature of the committee process, Congress created the post of Secretary of War which replaced the Board of War and appointed Major General Benjamin Lincoln as its first secretary in February, 1781. Washington worked closely with Lincoln in organizing the relationship between civilian and military authorities.[318]

Fourth he took charge of training the army and providing supplies, from food to gunpowder to tents. He recruited regulars and assigned Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a veteran of the Prussian general staff, to better train them in the ways of troop maneuvers in the field, transforming Washington's army into a more disciplined and effective force overall.[311] The war effort and getting supplies to the troops were under the purview of Congress, but Washington pressured the Congress to provide the essentials. There was never nearly enough.[325]

Washington's fifth and most important role in the war effort was the embodiment of armed resistance to the Crown, serving as the representative man of the Revolution. His long-term strategy was to maintain an army in the field at all times, and eventually this strategy worked. His enormous personal and political stature and his political skills kept Congress, the army, the French, the militias, and the states all pointed toward a common goal. Furthermore, he permanently established the principle of civilian supremacy in military affairs by voluntarily resigning his commission and disbanding his army when the war was won, rather than declaring himself monarch. He also helped to overcome the distrust of a standing army by his constant reiteration that well-disciplined professional soldiers counted for twice as much as poorly trained and led militias.[326]

Intelligence and espionage

At the onset of the war, the Second Continental Congress realized that they would need foreign alliances and intelligence-gathering capability to defeat a world power like Britain. To this end, they formed the Committee of Secret Correspondence which operated from 1775-1776 for "the sole purpose of corresponding with our friends in Great Britain and other parts of the world". Through secret correspondence, the Committee forged alliances and shared information with persons in France and England and within America. The Committee employed secret agents in Europe to gather foreign intelligence, conduct undercover operations, analyze foreign publications, and initiate American propaganda campaigns to gain patriot support.[327] Some notable members of the committee included Thomas Paine, the Committee's secretary, and Silas Deane who was sent undercover to France and was instrumental in securing her aid.[328] During this time Benjamin Church, an assumed trusted patriot, was giving the British information on patriot troop strength and positions.[329]

Page from Culper Ring's code book, with names adjacent to their code numbers

The British were driven out of Boston during the Siege of Boston and redeployed in Nova Scotia. Washington correctly assumed that an attack on New York City was imminent and departed Boston on April 4, with his army, and headed for Manhattan, where he began constructing fortifications about the harbor. He realized that he needed advance information to deal with disciplined British regular troops. Subsequently, he promoted Thomas Knowlton to lieutenant colonel on August 12, 1776, with orders to select an elite group of 130 men and 20 officers, which came to be known as Knowlton's Rangers, the Army's first intelligence unit. Their purpose was to conduct reconnaissance and other secret missions that were considered too dangerous for regular troops. Knowlton was killed in action on September 17 at the Battle of Harlem Heights while on a mission observing British troop activity.[330] Among the Rangers was Nathan Hale.[327][331]

On August 27, 1776, the British landed on Long Island with overwhelming force during the Battle of Long Island and forced Washington to retreat across the East River to New York City on Manhattan Island.[v] Washington knew that a British attack on the city was imminent, and he was desperate to learn when and where it would occur. He asked for a volunteer among the Rangers to spy on activity behind enemy lines in Brooklyn, but no one came forward except for the young Nathan Hale, yet ultimately he was only able to provide Washington with nominal intelligence. The British attack occurred on September 15, and Hale was eventually recognized in a tavern by a Loyalist shop keeper. The British captured him and found sketches of British fortifications and troop positions in his pockets, and Howe ordered that he be summarily hanged without trial the next day (September 22).[332]

After Washington was driven out of New York, he realized that he would need more than military might and amateur spies to defeat the British. He enlisted the aid of Benjamin Tallmadge, and together they created the Culper spy ring consisting of six men.[w] Washington promised members of the ring that their identities and activities would never be revealed.[x] While in New York, Washington and his spies often made use of vanishing ink to convey their messages.[335] Among the more notable achievements of the ring was exposing Benedict Arnold's treacherous plans to capture West Point, along with his collaborator John André, Britain's head spymaster,[336][337][y] and intercepting and deciphering coded messages between Cornwallis and Clinton. They provided this last intelligence to Washington during the Siege of Yorktown leading to Cornwallis's surrender.[339][340] By 1781, the amateur shortcomings of British intelligence had been corrected, enabling Clinton and Cornwallis to predict patriot movements and capabilities. However, the improvements came too late to reverse British misfortunes.[341] During the war, Washington spent more than 10 percent of military funds on intelligence operations.[327] Some historians maintain that, without the efforts of Washington and the Culper Spy Ring, the British would never have been defeated.[334][333]

Soldiers and sailors

At the beginning of 1776, Washington commanded 20,000 men, with two-thirds enlisted in the Continental Army and the other third in the various state militias.[342] About 250,000 men served as regulars or as militiamen for the Revolutionary cause in the eight years of the war, but there were never more than 90,000 men under arms at one time.

About 55,000 sailors served aboard American privateers during the war.[6] They used 1,700 ships, and they captured 2,283 enemy ships.[343]John Paul Jones became the first great American naval hero, capturing HMS Drake on April 24, 1778, the first victory for any American military vessel in British waters.[344] For example, in what was known as the Whaleboat War, American privateers mainly from New Jersey, Brooklyn and Connecticut attacked and robbed British merchant ships and raided and robbed coastal communities of Long Island reputed to have Loyalist sympathies.[345][346][347]

Armies were small by European standards of the era, largely attributable, on the American side, to limitations such as lack of powder and other logistical capabilities; and, on the British side, to the difficulty of transporting troops across the Atlantic, as well as the dependence on local supplies, which the Patriots tried to cut off. The largest force Washington commanded was certainly under 17,000,[348] and may have been no more than 13,000 troops, and even the combined American and French forces at the siege of Yorktown amounted to only about 19,000.[349] By comparison, Duffy notes that in an era when European rulers were generally revising their forces downward, in favor of a size that could be most effectively controlled (the very different perspective of mass conscript armies came later, during the French Revolutionary and then the Napoleonic Wars), the largest army that Frederick the Great ever led into battle was 65,000 men (at Prague in 1757), and at other times he commanded between 23,000 and 50,000 men, considering the latter the most effective number.[349]

African Americans

1780 drawing of American soldiers from the Yorktown campaign shows a black infantryman from the 1st Rhode Island Regiment.

African Americans--slave and free--served on both sides during the war. The British recruited slaves belonging to Patriot masters and promised freedom to those who served by act of Lord Dunmore's Proclamation. Because of manpower shortages, George Washington lifted the ban on black enlistment in the Continental Army in January 1776. Small all-black units were formed in Rhode Island and Massachusetts; many slaves were promised freedom for serving. Some of the men promised freedom were sent back to their masters, after the war was over, out of political convenience. Another all-black unit came from Saint-Domingue with French colonial forces. At least 5,000 black soldiers fought for the Revolutionary cause.[350]

Tens of thousands of slaves escaped during the war and joined British lines; others simply moved off in the chaos. For instance, in South Carolina, nearly 25,000 slaves (30% of the enslaved population) fled, migrated or died during the disruption of the war. This greatly disrupted plantation production during and after the war. When they withdrew their forces from Savannah and Charleston, the British also evacuated 10,000 slaves belonging to Loyalists.[351] Altogether, the British evacuated nearly 20,000 blacks at the end of the war. More than 3,000 of them were freedmen and most of these were resettled in Nova Scotia; other blacks were sold in the West Indies.[352][353] About 8,000 to 10,000 slaves gained freedom.[353] About 4,000 freed slaves went to Nova Scotia and 1,200 blacks remained slaves.[354]

American Indians

A watercolor painting depicting a variety of Continental Army soldiers

Most American Indians east of the Mississippi River were affected by the war, and many tribes were divided over the question of how to respond to the conflict. A few tribes were on friendly terms with the other Americans, but most Indians opposed the union of the Colonies as a potential threat to their territory. Approximately 13,000 Indians fought on the British side, with the largest group coming from the Iroquois tribes, who fielded around 1,500 men.[355][356] The powerful Iroquois Confederacy was shattered as a result of the conflict, whatever side they took; the Seneca, Onondaga, and Cayuga tribes sided with the British. Members of the Mohawks fought on both sides. Many Tuscarora and Oneida sided with the Americans. The Continental Army sent the Sullivan Expedition on raids throughout New York to cripple the Iroquois tribes that had sided with the British. Mohawk leaders Joseph Louis Cook and Joseph Brant sided with the Americans and the British respectively, and this further exacerbated the split.[357]

Farther west, conflicts between settlers and Indians led to lasting distrust.[358] In the Treaty of Paris, Great Britain ceded control of the disputed lands between the Great Lakes and the Ohio River, but the Indian inhabitants were not a part of the peace negotiations.[359] Tribes in the Northwest Territory banded together and allied with the British to resist American settlement; their conflict continued after the Revolutionary War as the Northwest Indian War.[360][361]

Early in July 1776, Cherokee allies of Britain attacked the western frontier areas of North Carolina. Their defeat resulted in a splintering of the Cherokee settlements and people and was directly responsible for the rise of the Chickamauga Cherokee, bitter enemies of the American settlers who carried on a frontier war for decades following the end of hostilities with Britain.[362]Creek and Seminole allies of Britain fought against Americans in Georgia and South Carolina. In 1778, a force of 800 Creeks destroyed American settlements along the Broad River in Georgia. Creek warriors also joined Thomas Brown's raids into South Carolina and assisted Britain during the Siege of Savannah.[363] Many Indians were involved in the fighting between Britain and Spain on the Gulf Coast and up the Mississippi River, mostly on the British side. Thousands of Creeks, Chickasaws, and Choctaws fought in major battles such as the Battle of Fort Charlotte, the Battle of Mobile, and the Siege of Pensacola.[364]


Nancy Morgan Hart captures six British soldiers who had entered her home.

In some cases women served in the American Army in the war, some of them disguised as men.[365]Deborah Sampson fought until her sex was discovered and she was discharged, and Sally St. Clare died in the war.[365] Anna Maria Lane joined her husband in the Army, and she was wearing men's clothes by the time of the Battle of Germantown.[365] According to the Virginia General Assembly, Lane "performed extraordinary military services, and received a severe wound at the battle of Germantown", fighting dressed as a man and "with the courage of a soldier".[365] Other women fought or directly supported fighting while dressed as women, such as the legendary or mythical Molly Pitcher.[366] On April 26, 1777, Sybil Ludington rode to alert militia forces of Putnam County, New York and Danbury, Connecticut, warning of the approach of the British regular forces. She is referred to as the female Paul Revere.[367] Other women also accompanied armies as camp followers, selling goods and performing necessary services. They were an official and necessary part of 18th century armies, and they numbered in the thousands during the Revolutionary War.[368] Some women accompanied their husbands when permitted. Martha Washington was known to visit the American camp, for example, and Frederika Charlotte Riedesel documented the Saratoga campaign.[369] Women also acted as spies on both sides of the Revolutionary War.[370]

Great Britain

British redcoats at the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775

The population of Great Britain and Ireland in 1780 was approximately 12.6 million,[371] while the Thirteen Colonies held a population of some 2.8 million, including some 500,000 slaves.[372] Theoretically, Britain had the advantage; however, many factors inhibited the procurement of a large army.

Armed forces


In 1775, the standing British Army, exclusive of militia, comprised 45,123 men worldwide, made up of 38,254 infantry and 6,869 cavalry. Their Army had approximately eighteen regiments of foot, some 8,500 men, stationed in North America.[373][z] Standing armies had played a key role in the purge of the Long Parliament in 1648,[374] the maintenance of a military dictatorship under Oliver Cromwell,[375] and the overthrow of James II,[376] and, as such, the Army had been deliberately kept small in peacetime to prevent abuses of power by the King.[103][377] Despite this, eighteenth century armies were not easy guests, and were regarded with scorn and contempt by the press and public of the New and Old World alike, derided as enemies of liberty.[378]

Press gang at work, British caricature of 1780

Parliament suffered chronic difficulties in obtaining sufficient manpower,[379] and found it impossible to fill the quotas they had set.[380] The Army was a deeply unpopular profession, one contentious issue being pay. A Private infantryman was paid a wage of just 8d. per day,[381] the same pay as for a New Model Army infantryman, 130 years earlier.[382] The rate of pay in the army was insufficient to meet the rising costs of living, turning off potential recruits,[383] as service was nominally for life.[384]

To entice people to enrol, Parliament offered a bounty of £1.10s for every recruit.[385] As the war dragged on, Parliament became desperate for manpower; criminals were offered military service to escape legal penalties, and deserters were pardoned if they re-joined their units.[386] After the defeat at Saratoga, Parliament doubled the bounty to £3,[387] and increased it again the following year, to £3.3s, as well as expanding the age limit from 17-45 to 16-50 years of age.[388]

Impressment, essentially conscription by the "press gang", was a favored recruiting method, though it was unpopular with the public, leading many to enlist in local militias to avoid regular service.[389] Attempts were made to draft such levies, much to the chagrin of the militia commanders.[390] Competition between naval and army press gangs, and even between rival ships or regiments, frequently resulted in brawls between the gangs in order to secure recruits for their unit.[391] Men would maim themselves to avoid the press gangs,[392] while many deserted at the first opportunity.[393] Pressed men were militarily unreliable; regiments with large numbers of such men were deployed to remote garrisons such as Gibraltar or the West Indies, to make it harder to desert.[394]

By 1781, the Army numbered approximately 121,000 men globally,[10] 48,000 of whom were stationed throughout the Americas.[9] Of the 171,000 sailors[13] who served in the Royal Navy throughout the conflict, around a quarter were pressed. This same proportion, approximately 42,000 men, deserted during the conflict.[13] At its height, the Navy had 94 ships-of-the-line,[8] 104 frigates[12] and 37 sloops[12] in service.

Loyalists and Hessians
Hessian soldiers of the Leibregiment

In 1775, Britain unsuccessfully attempted to secure 20,000 mercenaries from Russia,[395] and the use of the Scots Brigade from the Dutch Republic,[396] such was the shortage of manpower. Parliament managed to negotiate treaties with the princes of German states for large sums of money, in exchange for auxiliary troops.[16] In total, 29,875 troops were hired for British service from six German states.[16][aa] King George III, who also ruled Hanover as a Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire, was approached by Parliament to lend the government Hanoverian soldiers for service in the war. Hanover supplied 2,365 men in five battalions; however, the lease agreement permitted them to only be used in Europe.[397] Without any major allies,[206] the manpower shortage became critical when France and Spain entered the war, forcing a major diversion of military resources from the Americas.[209][210] Recruiting adequate numbers of Loyalist militia in America was made difficult by intensive Patriot opposition.[313] To bolster numbers, the British promised freedom and grants of land to slaves who fought for them.[398] Approximately 25,000 Loyalists fought for the British throughout the war,[14] and provided some of the best troops in the British service;[399] the British Legion, a mixed regiment of 250 dragoons and 200 infantry[400][ab] commanded by Banastre Tarleton, gained a fearsome reputation in the colonies, especially in the South.[401][402]


Britain had a difficult time appointing a determined senior military leadership in America. Thomas Gage, Commander-in-Chief of North America at the outbreak of the war, was criticized for being too lenient on the rebellious colonists. Jeffrey Amherst was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in 1778, but he refused a direct command in America because he was unwilling to take sides in the war.[403] Admiral Augustus Keppel similarly opposed a command: "I cannot draw the sword in such a cause". The Earl of Effingham resigned his commission when his regiment was posted to America, while William Howe and John Burgoyne were opposed to military solutions to the crisis. Howe and Henry Clinton both stated that they were unwilling participants and were only following orders.[404]

Officers in British service could purchase commissions to ascend the ranks,[405] and the practice was common in the Army.[406] Values of commissions varied but were usually in line with social and military prestige; for example, regiments such as the Guards commanded the highest prices.[407] The lower ranks often regarded the treatment to high-ranking commissions by wealthier officers as "plums for consumption".[408] Wealthy individuals lacking any formal military education or practical experience often found their way into positions of high responsibility, diluting the effectiveness of a regiment.[409] Royal authority had forbidden the practice since 1711, but it was still permitted for infants to hold commissions. Young boys were taken from their schooling, often orphans of deceased wealthy officers, and placed in positions of responsibility within regiments.[410]

Grenadier of the 40th Regiment of Foot in 1767, armed with a Brown Bess musket

Logistical organization of eighteenth century armies was chaotic at best, and the British Army was no exception. No logistical corps existed in the modern sense; while on campaign in foreign territories such as America, horses, wagons, and drivers were frequently requisitioned from the locals, often by impressment or by hire.[411] No centrally organized medical corps existed. It was common for surgeons to have no formal medical education, and no diploma or entry examination was required. Nurses sometimes were apprentices to surgeons, but many were drafted from the women who followed the army.[412] Army surgeons and doctors were poorly paid and were regarded as social inferiors to other officers.[413]

The heavy personal equipment and wool uniform of the regular infantrymen were wholly unsuitable for combat in America, and the outfit was especially ill-suited to comfort and agile movement.[414] During the Battle of Monmouth in late June 1778, the temperature exceeded 100°F (37.8°C), and heat stroke claimed more lives than actual combat.[415] The standard-issue firearm of the British Army was the Land Pattern Musket. Some officers preferred their troops to fire careful, measured shots (around two per minute), rather than rapid firing. A bayonet made firing difficult, as its cumbersome shape hampered ramming down the charge into the barrel.[416] British troops had a tendency to fire impetuously, resulting in inaccurate fire, a trait for which John Burgoyne criticized them during the Saratoga campaign. Burgoyne instead encouraged bayonet charges to break up enemy formations, which was a preferred tactic in most European armies at the time.[417]

Soldiers of the Black Watch armed with Brown Bess muskets, c. 1790

Every battalion in America had organized its own rifle company by the end of the war, although rifles were not formally issued to the army until the Baker Rifle in 1801.[418] Flintlocks were heavily dependent on the weather; high winds could blow the gunpowder from the flash pan,[419] while heavy rain could soak the paper cartridge, ruining the powder and rendering the musket unable to fire. Furthermore, flints used in British muskets were of notoriously poor quality; they could only be fired around six times before requiring resharpening, while American flints could fire sixty. This led to a common expression among the British: "Yankee flint was as good as a glass of grog".[420]

Provisioning troops and sailors proved to be an immense challenge, as the majority of food stores had to be shipped overseas from Britain.[421] The need to maintain Loyalist support prevented the Army from living off the land.[422] Other factors also impeded this option; the countryside was too sparsely populated and the inhabitants were largely hostile or indifferent, the network of roads and bridges was poorly developed, and the area which the British controlled was so limited that foraging parties were frequently in danger of being ambushed.[423] After France entered the war, the threat of the French navy increased the difficulty of transporting supplies to America. Food supplies were frequently in bad condition. The climate was also against the British in the southern colonies and the Caribbean, where the intense summer heat caused food supplies to sour and spoil.[424]

Life at sea was little better. Sailors and passengers were issued a daily food ration, largely consisting of hardtack and beer.[425] The hardtack was often infested by weevils and was so tough that it earned the nicknames "molar breakers" and "worm castles",[426] and it sometimes had to be broken up with cannon shot. Meat supplies often spoiled on long voyages.[427] The lack of fresh fruit and vegetables gave rise to scurvy, one of the biggest killers at sea.[428]


Discipline was harsh in the armed forces, and the lash was used to punish even trivial offences--and not used sparingly.[429] For instance, two redcoats received 1,000 lashes each for robbery during the Saratoga campaign,[430] while another received 800 lashes for striking a superior officer.[431] Flogging was a common punishment in the Royal Navy and came to be associated with the stereotypical hardiness of sailors.[432]

Despite the harsh discipline, a distinct lack of self-discipline pervaded all ranks of the British forces. Soldiers had an intense passion for gambling, reaching such excesses that troops would often wager their own uniforms.[433] Many drank heavily, and this was not exclusive to the lower ranks; William Howe was said to have seen many "crapulous mornings" while campaigning in New York. John Burgoyne drank heavily on a nightly basis towards the end of the Saratoga campaign. The two generals were also reported to have found solace with the wives of subordinate officers to ease the stressful burdens of command.[434] During the Philadelphia campaign, British officers deeply offended local Quakers by entertaining their mistresses in the houses where they had been quartered.[435] Some reports indicated that British troops were generally scrupulous in their treatment of non-combatants.[436] This is in contrast to diaries of Hessian soldiers, who recorded their disapproval of British conduct towards the colonists, such as the destruction of property and the execution of prisoners.[437]

The presence of Hessian soldiers caused considerable anxiety among the colonists, both Patriot and Loyalist, who viewed them as brutal mercenaries.[438] British soldiers were often contemptuous in their treatment of Hessian troops, despite orders from General Howe that "the English should treat the Germans as brothers". The order only began to have any real effect when the Hessians learned to speak a minimal degree of English, which was seen as a prerequisite for the British troops to accord them any respect.[439]

During peacetime, the Army's idleness led to it being riddled with corruption and inefficiency, resulting in many administrative difficulties once campaigning began.[440]

Strategic deficiencies

The British leadership soon discovered it had overestimated the capabilities of its own troops, while underestimating those of the colonists, causing a sudden re-think in British planning.[100][101] The ineffective initial response of British military and civil officials to the onset of the rebellion had allowed the advantage to shift to the colonists, as British authorities rapidly lost control over every colony.[102] A microcosm of these shortcomings were evident at the Battle of Bunker Hill. It took ten hours for the British leadership to respond following the sighting of the Americans on the Charlestown Peninsula, giving the colonists ample time to reinforce their defenses.[441] Rather than opt for a simple flanking attack that would have rapidly succeeded with minimal loss,[442] the British decided on repeated frontal attacks with heavy casualties, until the patriots ran out of ammunition, gunpowder being in short supply. The results were telling; the British suffered 1,054 casualties of a force of around 3,000 after repeated frontal assaults.[443] The British leadership had nevertheless remained excessively optimistic, believing that just two regiments could suppress the rebellion in Massachusetts.[444][445]

Debate persists over whether a British defeat was a guaranteed outcome. Ferling argues that the odds were so long, the defeat of Britain was nothing short of a miracle.[446]Ellis, however, considers that the odds always favored the Americans, and questions whether a British victory by any margin was realistic. Ellis argues that the British squandered their only opportunities for a decisive success in 1777, and that the strategic decisions undertaken by William Howe underestimated the challenges posed by the Americans. Ellis concludes that, once Howe failed, the opportunity for a British victory "would never come again".[447] Conversely, the United States Army's official textbook argues that, had Britain been able to commit 10,000 fresh troops to the war in 1780, a British victory was within the realms of possibility.[448]

William Howe
A 1777 mezzotint of Sir William Howe, British Commander-in-Chief from 1775-1778

Throughout the New York and Philadelphia campaigns, Howe made several strategic errors which cost the British opportunities for a complete victory. After securing control of New York, Howe dispatched Henry Clinton to capture Newport, a measure which Clinton was opposed to, on the grounds the troops assigned to his command could have been put to better use in pursuing Washington's retreating army.[449][135] Despite the bleak outlook for the revolutionary cause[450] and the surge of Loyalist activity in the wake of Washington's defeats,[118] Howe made no attempt to mount an attack upon Washington while the Americans settled down into winter quarters, much to their surprise.[156]

During planning for the Saratoga campaign, Howe was left with the choice of committing his army to support Burgoyne, or capture Philadelphia, the revolutionary capital. Howe decided upon the latter, determining that Washington was of a greater threat. When Howe launched his campaign, he took his army upon a time-consuming route through the Chesapeake Bay, rather than the more sensible choices of overland through New Jersey, or by sea through the Delaware Bay. The move left him unable to assist Burgoyne even if it was required of him. The decision so angered Parliament, that Howe was accused by Tories on both sides of the Atlantic of treason.[167]

During the Philadelphia campaign, Howe failed to pursue and destroy the defeated Americans on two occasions; once after the Battle of Brandywine,[168][169] and again after the Battle of Germantown. At the Battle of White Marsh, Howe failed to even attempt to exploit the vulnerable American rear,[174] and then inexplicably ordered a retreat to Philadelphia after only minor skirmishes, astonishing both sides.[173] While the Americans wintered only twenty miles away, Howe made no effort to attack their camp, which critics argue could have ended the war.[176][177][178] Following the conclusion of the campaign, Howe resigned his commission, and was replaced by Henry Clinton on May 24, 1778.[180]

Contrary to Howe's more hostile critics, however, there were strategic factors at play which impeded aggressive action. Howe may have been dissuaded from pursuing aggressive maneuvers by the memory of the grievous losses the British suffered at Bunker Hill.[451][452] During the major campaigns in New York and Philadelphia, Howe often wrote of the scarcity of adequate provisions, which hampered his ability to mount effective campaigns.[453] Howe's tardiness in launching the New York campaign, and his reluctance to allow Cornwallis to vigorously pursue Washington's beaten army, have both been attributed to the paucity of available food supplies.[454][455]

During the winter of 1776-1777, Howe split his army into scattered cantonments. This decision dangerously exposed the individual forces to defeat in detail, as the distance between them was such that they could not mutually support each other. This strategic failure allowed the Americans to achieve victory at the Battle of Trenton, and the concurrent Battle of Princeton.[456] While a major strategic error to divide an army in such a manner, the quantity of available food supplies in New York was so low that Howe had been compelled to take such a decision. The garrisons were widely spaced so their respective foraging parties would not interfere with each other's efforts.[457] Howe's difficulties during the Philadelphia campaign were also greatly exacerbated by the poor quality and quantity of available provisions.[458]

Clinton and Cornwallis
General Charles Cornwallis led British forces in the southern campaign.

In 1780, the primary British strategy hinged upon a Loyalist uprising in the south, for which Charles Cornwallis was chiefly responsible. After an encouraging success at Camden, Cornwallis was poised to invade North Carolina. However, any significant Loyalist support had been effectively destroyed at the Battle of Kings Mountain, and the British Legion, the cream of his army, had been decisively defeated at the Battle of Cowpens. Following both defeats, Cornwallis was fiercely criticized for detaching a significant portion of his army without adequate mutual support.[250] Despite the defeats, Cornwallis chose to proceed into North Carolina, gambling his success upon a large Loyalist uprising which never materialized.[459] As a result, subsequent engagements cost Cornwallis valuable troops he could not replace, as at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse,[252] and the Americans steadily wore his army down in an exhaustive war of attrition. Cornwallis had thus left the Carolinas ripe for reconquest. The Americans had largely achieved this aim by the end of 1781, effectively confining the British to the coast, and undoing all the progress they had made in the previous year.[258][259]

Like Howe before him, Clinton's efforts to campaign suffered from chronic supply issues. In 1778, Clinton wrote to Germain complaining of the lack of supplies, even after the arrival of a convoy from Ireland.[460] That winter, the supply issue had deteriorated so badly, that Clinton expressed considerable anxiety over how the troops were going to be properly fed.[461] Clinton was largely inactive in the North throughout 1779, launching few major campaigns. This inactivity was partially due to the shortage of food.[462] By 1780, the situation had not improved. Clinton wrote a frustrated correspondence to Germain, voicing concern that a "fatal consequence will ensue" if matters did not improve. By October that year, Clinton again wrote to Germain, angered that the troops in New York had not received "an ounce" of that year's allotted stores from Britain.[463]

Campaign issues

Suppressing a rebellion in America presented the British with major problems. The key issue was distance; it could take up to three months to cross the Atlantic, and orders from London were often outdated by the time that they arrived.[464][465] The colonies had never been formally united prior to the conflict and there was no centralized area of ultimate strategic importance. Traditionally, the fall of a capital city often signaled the end of a conflict,[466] yet the war continued unabated even after the fall of major settlements such as New York, Philadelphia (which was the Patriot capital), and Charleston.[467] Britain's ability to project its power overseas lay chiefly in the power of the Royal Navy, allowing her to control major coastal settlements with relative ease and to enforce a strong blockade of colonial ports. However, the overwhelming majority of the American population was agrarian, not urban, and the American economy proved resilient enough to withstand the blockade's effects.[468]

Black Loyalist soldiers fighting alongside British regulars in the 1781 Battle of Jersey, from The Death of Major Peirson

The need to maintain Loyalist support prevented the British from using the harsh methods of suppressing revolts that they had used in Scotland and Ireland.[469] For example, British troops looted and pillaged the locals during an aborted attack on Charleston in 1779, enraging both Patriots and Loyalists.[241] Neutral colonists were often driven into the ranks of the Patriots when brutal combat broke out between Tories and Whigs in the Carolinas in the later stages of the war.[470] Conversely, Loyalists were often emboldened when Patriots resorted to intimidating suspected Tories, such as destroying property or tarring and feathering.[471][472] The vastness of the American countryside and the limited manpower available meant that the British could never simultaneously defeat the Americans and occupy captured territory. One British statesman described the attempt as "like trying to conquer a map".[473]

Wealthy Loyalists wielded great influence in London[474] and were successful in convincing the British that the majority view in the colonies was sympathetic toward the Crown. Consequently, British planners pinned the success of their strategies on popular uprisings of Loyalists. Historians have estimated that Loyalists made up only 15- to 20-percent of the population (vs. 40- to 45-percent Patriots)[475] and that they continued to deceive themselves on their level of support as late as 1780.[476] The British discovered that any significant level of organized Loyalist activity would require the continued presence of British regulars,[477] which presented them with a major dilemma. The manpower that the British had available was insufficient to protect Loyalist territory while countering American advances.[478] The vulnerability of Loyalist militias was repeatedly demonstrated in the South, where they suffered strings of defeats to their Patriot neighbors. The most crucial juncture of this was at Kings Mountain, and the victory of the Patriot partisans irreversibly crippled Loyalist military capability in the South.[248]

Upon the entry of France and Spain into the conflict, the British were forced to severely limit the number of troops and warships that they sent to America in order to defend other key territories and the British mainland.[209][210] As a result, King George abandoned any hope of subduing America militarily while he had a European war to contend with.[479] The small size of Britain's army left them unable to concentrate their resources primarily in one theater as they had done in the Seven Years' War, leaving them at a critical disadvantage.[207] The British were compelled to disperse troops from America to Europe and the East Indies, and these forces were unable to assist one other as a result, precariously exposing them to defeat.[212] The immediate strategic focus of the French, Spanish, and British shifted to Jamaica,[480]

Following the end of the war, Britain had lost some of her most populous colonies. However, the economic effects of the loss were negligible in the long-term, and she became a global superpower 32 years after the end of the conflict.[481]


After the surrender at Yorktown Washington expressed astonishment that the Americans had won a war against a leading world power, referring to the American victory as "little short of a standing miracle".[482] On April 9, 1783, Washington issued orders that he had long waited to give, that "all acts of hostility" were to cease immediately. That same day, by arrangement with Washington, General Carleton issued a similar order to British troops. British troops, however, were not to disband until a prisoner of war exchange occurred, an effort that involved much negotiation and would take some seven months to effect.[483]

Treaty of Paris

Treaty of Paris, by Benjamin West (1783), depicts the American delegation to the 1783 Treaty of Paris.

On September 3, 1783, the final, "definitive" British-US Treaty of Paris was signed, just before the out-maneuvered French and Spanish ended the Anglo-French War of 1778 in their respective treaties with Great Britain at Versailles Palace.[ac] The US ministers were John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, David Hartley of Parliament and Richard Oswald, Britain's Peace Commissioner.[484] Adams, who was a leading participant in the drafting of the treaty, maintained that its negotiations represented "one of the most important political events that ever happened on the globe".[485]

Following the British army defeat at Yorktown in October 1781, English public will for continuing a war to suppress the Thirteen Colony rebellion evaporated. Three months later on February 2, the House of Commons voted against further offensive war against the US. Six weeks further at New York City, American General George Washington and British General Sir Guy Carleton entered into an end of hostilities between UK and US.[486] On March 5, 1782 Parliament passed a bill authorizing the government to make peace with the US.[487]

Parliament began peace negotiations in Paris, and a British-US-French-Spanish armistice was negotiated and honored in North America among all sides, thus ending conflict related to the American War for Independence.[306]

Washington enters New York in triumph at British evacuation.

To diplomatically maneuver an early end to the American Revolutionary War, Lord Shelburne accepted American independence and demands for US territory west to the Mississippi River in hopes of separating the US from France. He could then commit the British garrisons at New York and Charleston to attack French and Spanish West Indies. To speed the US negotiators, Britain offered Newfoundland fishing rights to the US, denying France exclusive rights, and France and Spain would now sign after the Americans.[488] Preliminary peace articles to end the American Revolutionary War were signed in Paris between UK and US on November 30, 1782. The US Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris on April 13, 1783, securing independence from Britain in that treaty between the two belligerents as separate and equal nations.[489] Congress then proclaimed an end to all hostilities that same day.[490]

Throughout the negotiations, Britain never consulted her American Indian allies, forcing them to reluctantly accept the treaty. The following year Britain underwrote allied Indian attacks on territory it ceded to the US west of the Appalachians. The largest sustained war of this period was the Northwest Indian War 1785-1795.[491] Britain's extended war policy on the US continued trying to create an Indian buffer state below the Great Lakes as late as 1814 during the War of 1812.[492] However, the last British troops departed New York City, two days behind the agreed schedule, on November 25, 1783, marking the end of British occupation in the new United States.[493]

USS Alliance

The US armies were disbanded as of Washington's General Orders of Monday June 2, 1783 in accordance with Congressional resolution of May 26. All noncommissioned officers and enlisted were furloughed "to their homes" until the "definitive treaty of peace", when they would be automatically discharged.[494] Once the treaty was signed Washington resigned as commander-in-chief and planned to retire to Mount Vernon.[484] After Yorktown, all US Navy ships were sold or given away.[495] The last to be decommissioned was the frigate USS Alliance that fought the last skirmish of the war on March 10,1783. Under command of Captain John Barry, the Alliance outgunned HMS Sybil in a 45-minute duel while escorting Spanish gold from Havana to Congress.[496]

Treaties of Versailles

Following the British-American armistice and peace ending the American War of Independence with Britain, Parliament and Crown separately negotiated European treaties with Spain, France, and the Dutch Republic addressing a Continental "balance of power" and their respective worldwide colonial empires.[497]

Battle of the Saintes HMS Barfleur broadside at Fr. flagship Ville de Paris, l: HMS Formidable v. Frenchman.

On concluding the American Revolutionary War by granting US independence, Britain was freed from the Thirteen Colonies blockade requirements. British naval superiority was concentrated in the Caribbean, where the French suffered a decisive defeat at the Battle of the Saintes in April 1782, as well as other reverses. That assured British naval superiority among Caribbean French and Spanish colonies during the course of negotiations among the Europeans.[498]

Meanwhile, preliminaries relative to European warfare and imperial contests among Britain, Spain, France, and the Netherlands continued until September 1783.[499][ad] During these weeks of negotiation, the British decisively repulsed the Spanish attack on Gibraltar, giving additional weight to the British proposals.[501] The British successes on land and sea spurred the populace into a vengeful mood against the French. Preliminary offers by Britain to cede Gibraltar to Spain were withdrawn, and the British counter-offer for Mediterranean Minorca was accepted. The French became reluctant to release naval assets from European waters and the Spanish abandoned their preparations for a joint French relief fleet to the Caribbean.[502]

The French leveraged their redistribution of forces in European waters to gain British colonial trade-offs, traded away Dutch colonial assets in India and Africa in their control, and abandoned their Spanish treaty obligations for Gibraltar. The general armistice among European powers to end their continental and colonial conflicts was signed January 20, 1783, and the definitive treaty of September 3 among them at the Versailles Palace "merely confirmed the terms reached eight months earlier" to conclude the Anglo-French War.[503]

Casualties and losses

The total loss of life throughout the conflict is largely unknown. As was typical in wars of the era, diseases such as smallpox claimed more lives than battle. Between 1775 and 1782, a smallpox epidemic broke out throughout North America, killing 40 people in Boston alone. Historian Joseph Ellis suggests that Washington's decision to have his troops inoculated against the disease was one of his most important decisions.[504]

Between 25,000 and 70,000 American Patriots died during active military service.[20] Of these, approximately 6,800 were killed in battle, while at least 17,000 died from disease. The majority of the latter died while prisoners of war of the British, mostly in the prison ships in New York Harbor.[21] If the upper limit of 70,000 is accepted as the total net loss for the Patriots, it would make the conflict proportionally deadlier than the American Civil War.[505] Uncertainty arises from the difficulties in accurately calculating the number of those who succumbed to disease, as it is estimated at least 10,000 died in 1776 alone.[2] The number of Patriots seriously wounded or disabled by the war has been estimated from 8,500 to 25,000.[506] The French suffered approximately 7,000 total dead throughout the conflict; of those, 2,112 were killed in combat in the American theaters of war.[22] In West Florida, the Spanish lost a total of just 124 killed and 247 wounded, while the Dutch suffered around 500 total killed, owing to the minor scale of their conflict with Britain.[24]

British returns in 1783 listed 43,633 rank and file deaths across the British Armed Forces.[27] A table from 1781 puts total British Army deaths at 9,372 soldiers killed in battle across the Americas; 6,046 in North America (1775-1779), and 3,326 in the West Indies (1778-1780).[28] In 1784, a British lieutenant compiled a detailed list of 205 British officers killed in action during the war, encompassing Europe, the Caribbean and the East Indies.[507] Extrapolations based upon this list puts British Army losses in the area of at least 4,000 killed or died of wounds.[2] Approximately 7,774 Germans died in British service in addition to 4,888 deserters; of the former, it is estimated 1,800 were killed in combat.[2]

Around 171,000 sailors served in the Royal Navy during the war; approximately a quarter of whom had been pressed into service. Around 1,240 were killed in battle, while an estimated 18,500 died from disease (1776-1780).[29] The greatest killer at sea was scurvy, a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency.[428] It was not until 1795 that scurvy was eradicated from the Royal Navy after the Admiralty declared lemon juice and sugar were to be issued among the standard daily rations of sailors.[508] Around 42,000 sailors deserted during the war.[13] The impact on merchant shipping was substantial; an estimated 3,386 merchant ships were seized by enemy forces during the war;[509] of those, 2,283 were taken by American privateers alone.[343]

Financial debts

Congress had immense difficulties financing its war effort.[510] As the circulation of hard currency declined, the Americans had to rely on loans from France, Spain, and the Netherlands, saddling the young nation with crippling debts. Congress attempted to remedy this by printing vast amounts of paper money and bills of credit to raise revenue, but the effect was disastrous: inflation skyrocketed and the paper money became virtually worthless. The inflation spawned a popular phrase that anything of little value was "not worth a continental".[511]

At the start of the war, the economy was flourishing in the colonies in spite of the British blockade. By 1779, however, the economy had almost collapsed.[512] By 1791, the United States had accumulated a national debt of approximately $75.5 million.[513] The nation finally solved its debt and currency problems in the 1790s when Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton secured legislation by which the national government assumed all of the state debts and created a national bank and a funding system based on tariffs and bond issues that paid off the foreign debts.[514]

Britain spent around £80 million and ended with a national debt of £250 million (£27.1 billion in today's money), generating a yearly interest of £9.5 million annually. The debts piled upon that which it had already accumulated from the Seven Years' War.[515] Wartime taxation upon the British populace averaged approximately four shillings in every pound, or 20 percent.[516]

The French spent approximately 1.3 billion livres aiding the Americans, equivalent to 100 million pounds sterling (13.33 livres to the pound).[517] Britain had a very efficient taxation system,[518] but the French tax system was grossly inefficient and led to a financial crisis in 1786.[519] The debts contributed to a worsening fiscal crisis that culminated in the French Revolution at the end of the century.[520] On the eve of the French Revolution, the national debt had risen to 12 billion livres.[517]

See also


  1. ^ The war was initially fought by the Thirteen Colonies that united during the war to form the United States of America.
  2. ^ France in the American Revolutionary War, from 1778
  3. ^ Spain in the American Revolutionary War, from 1779
  4. ^ Fourth Anglo-Dutch War, 1780-84
  5. ^ (until 1779)
  6. ^ (from 1779)
  7. ^ "Of 7,500 men in the Gibraltar garrison in September (including 400 in hospital), some 3,430 were always on duty".[11]
  8. ^ Contains a detailed listing of American, French, British, German, and Loyalist regiments; indicates when they were raised, the main battles, and what happened to them. Also includes the main warships on both sides, And all the important battles.
  9. ^ The strength of a Hanoverian battalion is listed as 473 men.[15]
  10. ^ This article primarily refers to the inhabitants of the thirteen colonies who supported the American Revolution as "Americans", with occasional references to "Patriots" or "Revolutionaries". Colonists who supported the British and opposed the Revolution are referred to as "Loyalists" or "Tories". The geographical area of the thirteen colonies is often referred to simply as "America".
  11. ^ The colony of Georgia joined the Continental Congress later.
  12. ^ Ammerman points out that the act only permitted soldiers to be quartered in unoccupied buildings--although they were still private property. (Ammerman, In the Common Cause, 10)[42]
  13. ^ Georgia did not attend.
  14. ^ "The plan was considered very attractive to most of the members, as it proposed a popularly elected Grand Council which would represent the interests of the colonies as a whole, and would be a continental equivalent to the English Parliament. After a sincere debate, it was rejected by a six to five vote on October 22, 1774. It may have been the arrival of the Suffolk County (Boston) resolutions that killed it."[47]
  15. ^ "Resolved, 4. That the foundation of English liberty, and of all free government, is a right in the people to participate in their legislative council: and as the English colonists are not represented, and from their local and other circumstances, cannot properly be represented in the British parliament, they are entitled to a free and exclusive power of legislation in their several provincial legislatures, where their right of representation can alone be preserved, in all cases of taxation and internal polity, subject only to the negative of their sovereign, in such manner as has been heretofore used and accustomed: But, from the necessity of the case, and a regard to the mutual interest of both countries, we cheerfully consent to the operation of such acts of the British parliament, as are bonafide, restrained to the regulation of our external commerce, for the purpose of securing the commercial advantages of the whole empire to the mother country, and the commercial benefits of its respective members; excluding every idea of taxation internal or external, for raising a revenue on the subjects, in America, without their consent." quoted from the Declarations and Resolves of the First Continental Congress October 14, 1774.
  16. ^ Quebec was officially ceded in 1763
  17. ^ Casualty numbers vary slightly with the Hessian forces, usually between 21-23 killed, 80-95 wounded, and 890-920 captured (including the wounded).[147]
  18. ^ Grenier maintains that "The slaughter the Indians and rangers perpetrated was unprecedented.[234]
  19. ^ Cornwallis wrote this pamphlet shortly after the war in explanation of his actions.[278]
  20. ^ This lack of notification was one of Clinton's main arguments in his own defense in the controversy that followed the surrender at Yorktown.[280]
  21. ^ Clinton had also asked London that Arbuthnot be recalled.[282]
  22. ^ The city only occupied the southern tip of Manhattan in 1776.
  23. ^ Tallmadge's cover name became John Bolton, and he was the architech of the spy ring.[333]
  24. ^ Four of their names were revealed in the 1920s through the research of archivist Morton Pennypacker. The ring leader's identity, however, has yet to be discovered.[334] Other members of the ring included Robert Townsend and Caleb Brewster.[333]
  25. ^ Arnold managed to escape, while André was captured and hanged on October 2.[338]
  26. ^ Figures include the 41st regiment of invalids, but not the 20 independent companies on garrison duty. Troops in India were under the control of the East India Company, and did not become part of the British Army until 1858.[373]
  27. ^ Hessians sent to America:
    Brunswick (5,723)
    Hesse-Kassel (16,992)
    Hesse-Hannau (2,422)
    Ansbach-Bayreuth (2,353)
    Waldeck-Pyrmont (1,225)
    Anhalt-Zerbst (1,160).
    Total: 29,875
    Of these more than 18,000 sailed to America in 1776.[16]
  28. ^ "British Legion Infantry strength at Cowpens was between 200 and 271 enlisted men". However, this statement is referenced to a note on pp. 175-76, which says, "The British Legion infantry at Cowpens is usually considered to have had about 200-250 men, but returns for the 25 December 1780 muster show only 175. Totals obtained by Cornwallis, dated 15 January, show that the whole legion had 451 men, but approximately 250 were dragoons". There would therefore appear to be no evidence for putting the total strength of the five British Legion Light Infantry companies at more than 200.[400]
  29. ^ Note:Previously, French and Spanish ministers had insisted, and Britain had acceded, to continue their imperial war until concluding a European power peace prior to any of them recognizing US independence. Also, the secret 1779 French-Spanish treaty to secure naval superiority over Britain in European and Mediterranean waters for the duration of the Anglo-French War was predicated on the French continued warfare against Britain until after Gibraltar had fallen to Spanish possession.
  30. ^ Note:After the British initiated a war on the Netherlands to sweep its merchant marine from the Atlantic Ocean to retaliate for trading with the US, the Dutch joined the League of Armed Neutrality among Russia, Denmark, and Sweden to protect their shipping trade in the future against British seizure between Europe and the Thirteen Colonies.[500]


Year dates enclosed in [brackets] denote year of original printing
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Lemaître, Georges Édouard (2005). Beaumarchais. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 9781417985364.

Further reading

These are some of the standard works about the war in general that are not listed above; books about specific campaigns, battles, units, and individuals can be found in those articles.

  • Billias, George Athan. George Washington's Generals and Opponents: Their Exploits and Leadership (1994) scholarly studies of key generals on each side.
  • Black, Jeremy. "Could the British Have Won the American War of Independence?." Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research. (Fall 1996), Vol. 74 Issue 299, pp 145-154. online video lecture, uses Real Player
  • Conway, Stephen. The War of American Independence 1775-1783. Publisher: E. Arnold, 1995. ISBN 0340625201. 280 pp.
  • Lowell, Edward J. The Hessians in the Revolution Williamstown, Massachusetts, Corner House Publishers, 1970, Reprint
  • Bancroft, George. History of the United States of America, from the discovery of the American continent. (1854-78), vol. 7-10.
  • Bobrick, Benson. Angel in the Whirlwind: The Triumph of the American Revolution. Penguin, 1998 (paperback reprint)
  • Fremont-Barnes, Gregory, and Ryerson, Richard A., eds. The Encyclopedia of the American Revolutionary War: A Political, Social, and Military History (ABC-CLIO, 2006) 5 volume paper and online editions; 1000 entries by 150 experts, covering all topics
  • Frey, Sylvia R. The British Soldier in America: A Social History of Military Life in the Revolutionary Period (University of Texas Press, 1981).
  • Hibbert, Christopher. Redcoats and Rebels: The American Revolution through British Eyes. New York: Norton, 1990. ISBN 039302895X.
  • Kwasny, Mark V. Washington's Partisan War, 1775-1783. Kent, Ohio: 1996. ISBN 0873385462. Militia warfare.
  • Neimeyer, Charles Patrick. America Goes to War: A Social History of the Continental Army (1995) complete text online
  • Simms, Brendan. Three Victories and a Defeat: The Rise and Fall of the First British Empire, 1714-1783 (2008) 802 pp. detailed coverage of diplomacy from London viewpoint
  • Symonds, Craig L. A Battlefield Atlas of the American Revolution (1989), newly drawn maps emphasizing the movement of military units
  • Wood, W. J. Battles of the Revolutionary War, 1775-1781. ISBN 0306813297 (2003 paperback reprint). Analysis of tactics of a dozen battles, with emphasis on American military leadership.
  • Men-at-Arms series: short (48pp), very well illustrated descriptions:
    • Zlatich, Marko; Copeland, Peter. General Washington's Army (1): 1775-78 (1994)
    • Zlatich, Marko. General Washington's Army (2): 1779-83 (1994)
    • Chartrand, Rene. The French Army in the American War of Independence (1994)
    • May, Robin. The British Army in North America 1775-1783 (1993)
  • The Partisan in War, a treatise on light infantry tactics written by Colonel Andreas Emmerich in 1789.
  • Vibart, H. M (1881). The military history of the Madras engineers and pioneers, from 1743 up to the present time. 1.

Wilks, Mark. "Historical Sketches of the South of India, in an Attempt to Trace the History of Mysoor" (PDF). Retrieved 2017.

External links


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