The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also referred to as the American War of Independence and the Revolutionary War in the United States, was an armed conflict between Great Britain and thirteen of its North American colonies that after onset of the war declared independence as the United States of America.
The American Revolution had led to increasing philosophical and political differences between Great Britain and its American colonies. The war represented the culmination of these differences in armed conflict between Patriots who increasingly resisted royal authority. This resistance became particularly widespread in the New England Colonies, especially the Province of Massachusetts Bay. Patriot protests escalated into boycotts, and, on December 16, 1773, Massachusetts members of the patriot group Sons of Liberty destroyed a shipment of tea in Boston Harbor in an event that became known as the Boston Tea Party. The British government retaliated by closing the port of Boston and enacting punitive measures against Massachusetts, including the dissolution of its charter and the prohibition of its traditional, democratic town meetings. Named the Coercive Acts by Parliament, they were known as the Intolerable Acts in America. The Massachusetts colonists responded with the Suffolk Resolves, establishing a shadow government that removed control of the province from the Crown outside of Boston. Twelve colonies formed a Continental Congress to coordinate their resistance, and established committees and conventions that effectively seized power.
British attempts to seize the munitions of Massachusetts colonists in April 1775 led to the first open combat between Crown forces and Massachusetts militia, the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Militia forces proceeded to besiege the British forces in Boston, forcing them to evacuate the city in March 1776. The Continental Congress appointed George Washington to take command of the militia. Later, he was appointed as commander-in-chief of the newly formed Continental Army, as well as coordinating state militia units. Concurrent to the Boston campaign, an American attempt to invade Quebec and raise rebellion against the British Crown decisively failed. On July 2, 1776, Congress formally voted for independence, issuing its Declaration on July 4.
Sir William Howe began his counterattack focused on recapturing New York City. Howe outmaneuvered and defeated Washington, leaving American confidence at a low ebb. Washington was able to capture a Hessian force at Trenton, and drive the British out of New Jersey, restoring American confidence. In 1777, the British sent a new army under John Burgoyne, to move south from Canada and isolate the New England colonies. However, instead of assisting Burgoyne, Howe took his army on a separate campaign against the revolutionary capital of Philadelphia. Burgoyne outran his supplies, was surrounded and surrendered in October 1777.
The British defeat at Saratoga had drastic consequences. France and Spain had been covertly providing the colonists with weapons, ammunition, and other supplies since April 1776, and now France formally entered the war in 1778, signing a military alliance that recognized the independence of the United States. Giving up on the North, the British decided to salvage its former colonies in the South. British forces under Charles Cornwallis seized Georgia and South Carolina, capturing an American army at Charleston, South Carolina. The strategy depended upon an uprising of large numbers of armed Loyalists; but too few came forward. In 1779, Spain joined the war as an ally of France under the Pacte de Famille, intending to capture Gibraltar and British colonies in the Caribbean. Britain declared war on the Dutch Republic in 1780.
In 1781, after suffering two decisive defeats at King's Mountain and Cowpens, Cornwallis retreated to Virginia, intending on evacuation. A decisive French naval victory in September deprived the British of an escape route. A joint Franco-American army led by Count Rochambeau and Washington, laid siege to the British forces at Yorktown. With no sign of relief and the situation untenable, Cornwallis surrendered in October, and some 8,000 soldiers were taken prisoner.
Whigs in Britain had long opposed the pro-war Tory majority in Parliament, however, the defeat at Yorktown gave the Whigs the upper hand. In early 1782, they voted to end all offensive operations in North America, but the war against France and Spain continued, with the British decisively defeating both during the Great Siege of Gibraltar. In addition they inflicted several naval defeats upon the French, the most decisive being the Battle of the Saintes in the Caribbean the same year. On September 3, 1783, the combatants signed the Treaty of Paris, ending the war. Britain agreed to recognize the sovereignty of the United States over the territory bounded roughly by what is now Canada to the north, Florida to the south, and the Mississippi River to the west. While French involvement proved decisive for the cause of American independence, they made only minor territorial gains, and were beset with massive financial debts. Spain acquired Britain's Florida colonies and the island of Minorca, but failed in its primary aim of recovering Gibraltar. The Dutch lost on all counts, and were compelled to cede some territory to the British....LESS