The Revolutionary War 1775-1783
By the 1770s, Great Britain ruled a vast empire, with its American colonies producing useful raw materials and profitably consuming British goods. From Britain’s perspective, it was inconceivable that the colonies would wage a successful war for independence; in 1776, they appeared weak and disorganized, no match for the Empire. Yet, although the Revolutionary War did indeed drag on for eight years, in 1783, the thirteen colonies, now the United States, ultimately prevailed against the British. The Revolution succeeded because colonists from diverse economic and social backgrounds united in their opposition to Great Britain. Although thousands of colonists remained loyal to the crown and many others preferred to remain neutral, a sense of community against a common enemy prevailed among Patriots.
Section 1: Learning Objectives
- Explain how Great Britain’s response to the destruction of a British shipment of tea in Boston Harbor in 1773 set the stage for the Revolution
- Describe the beginnings of the American Revolution
- Explain the British and American strategies of 1776 through 1778
- Identify the key battles of the early years of the Revolution
- Outline the British southern strategy and its results
- Describe key American victories and the end of the war
- Identify the main terms of the Treaty of Paris (1783)
- Explain Loyalist and Patriot sentiments
- Identify different groups that participated in the Revolutionary War
Section 2: Textbook Readings
Section 3: Module Supplemental Readings/Videos
Imagination and vision played critical roles in the creative act of forming a self-governing United States of America. The collections of the Library of Congress are unquestionably the worlds best source for documenting that process. This exhibition offers a remarkable opportunity to learn in a fresh new way how the founding documents that emerged from this period were forged out of insight, invention, and creativity, as well as collaboration and much compromise.
French military support was a key to the success of America's war for independence from Britain. Some websites exploring this crucial aspect of the conflict follow:
3. France's crucial role at the siege of Yorktown (History is Fun)
Very well-related by this resource.
Section 4: Glossary of Key Terms
Bunker Hill: fought outside Boston, first major battle of the Revolutionary War that was won by the British, but provided considerable encouragement to the revolutionary cause.
Common Sense: Thomas Paine’s pamphlet urging the colonies to declare independence and establish a republican government. The widely-read pamphlet helped convince colonists to support the Revolution
Declaration of Independence: Formal pronouncement of independence drafted by Thomas Jefferson and approved by Congress. The declaration allowed Americans to appeal for foreign aid.
Hessians: German troops hired by George III to aid in putting down the American Revolution.
Lexington and Concord, Battles of: First battles of the Revolutionary War, fought outside of Boston. The colonial militia successfully defended their stores of munitions, forcing the British to retreat to Boston.
Loyalists: colonists loyal to Great Britain and constituted about one-fifth of the population in the American colonies during the American Revolution.
Olive Branch Petition: Conciliatory measure adopted by the Continental Congress, professing American loyalty and seeking an end to the hostilities. King George rejected the petition and proclaimed the colonies in rebellion.
Saratoga: Decisive colonial victory in upstate New York, which helped secure French support for the Revolutionary cause.
Second Continental Congress: Representative body of delegates from all thirteen colonies. Drafted the Declaration of Independence and managed the colonial war effort.
Treaty of Paris: Peace treaty signed by Britain and the United States ending the Revolutionary War. The British formally recognized American independence and ceded territory east of the Mississippi while the Americans, in turn, promised to restore Loyalist property and repay debts to British creditors.
Valley Forge: Encampment where George Washington=s poorly-equipped army spent a freezing winter. Hundreds of men died and more than a thousand deserted.
Yorktown: Final battle ending with an American victory, which paved the way for an eventual peace.