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American Revolutionary War

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Prelude to revolution

War breaks out

Strategy and commanders

Revolution as civil war

Britain's "American war" and peace


Commemorations of the Revolutionary War
See also
Further reading
Primary sources
External links

American Revolutionary War

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This article is about military actions primarily. For origins and aftermath, see American Revolution.
American Revolutionary War
Part of the Atlantic Revolutions, American Revolution
American Revolutionary HarMon.jpg
Clockwise from top left: 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
Date April 19, 1775 – September 3, 1783[10]
(8 years, 4 months and 15 days)
Ratification effective: May 12, 1784
Eastern North America, North Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean
U.S. and Allied victory
changes Great Britain cedes control of all territories east of the Mississippi River and south of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River to the United States

United States
Thirteen Colonies (Until 1776)
Vermont Republic
Kingdom of France

Kingdom of Spain
Dutch Republic

CONGRESSOWN.jpg Br. Canadien, Cong. rgts.[a]
Pavillon royal de France.svg Br. Canadien mil., Fr. led[b]
Native Americans[5]
Great Britain
Treaty belligerents

Hesse[d]/Duchy of Brunswick[e] German mercenaries/auxiliaries[8][f]

Native Americans[5]
Commanders and leaders
Peyton Randolph
John Hancock
Benjamin Franklin
George Washington
Horatio Gates
Nathanael Greene
Henry Knox
John Sullivan
Benedict Arnold Turncoat[h]
George Rogers Clark
Bernardo de Gálvez
full list...
George III
Kingdom of Great Britain Lord North
Kingdom of Great Britain Lord Shelburne
Kingdom of Great Britain Lord George Germain
Thomas Gage
William Howe
Henry Clinton
John Burgoyne
Charles Cornwallis
Benedict Arnold[i]
Henry Hamilton
Banastre Tarleton
full list...
United States:
Army & militia:
40,000 (average)[12][j]
53 frigates & sloops[14][k]
Marines: 2,131 (peak)[16]
State navies:
106 ships (total)[17]
Army: 10,800[l]
Navy: 2 fleets;[m] escorts[23]
Army: 12,000[n]
Navy: 1 fleet;[o] escorts
Native Americans: unknown
Great Britain:
48,000, most in North America [p]
Task-force fleets & blockading squadrons[q]
Loyalist troops:
25,000 (total)[30][r]
German troops:
29,875 (total)[31]
Native Americans:
Casualties and losses
United States:
6,800 dead in battle
6,100 wounded
17,000 disease dead[33]
25–70,000 war dead[34]
130,000 smallpox dead[35]
2,112 dead – East Coast[36][s]
371 dead – W. Florida[38]
4,000 dead – prisoners[39]
Native Americans: unknown
Great Britain:
8,500 dead in battle[40][t]
7,774 total dead
1,800 dead in battle
4,888 deserted[12]
7,000 total dead
1,700 dead in battle
5,300 dead of disease[41]
Native Americans
500 total dead[35]
Revolutionary War
Campaigns and theaters
The American Revolutionary War (April 19, 1775 – September 3, 1783), also known as the Revolutionary War or American War of Independence, was the military conflict of the American Revolution in which American patriot forces under George Washington's command defeated the British, establishing and securing the independence of the United States. Fighting began on April 19, 1775, at the Battles of Lexington and Concord. The war was formalized and intensified following passage of the Lee Resolution on July 2, 1776, which asserted that the Thirteen Colonies were "free and independent states", and the Declaration of Independence, drafted by the Committee of Five and written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, two days later, on July 4, 1776, by the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

In the war, American patriot forces were supported by the Kingdom of France and, to a lesser extent, the Kingdom of Spain and the Dutch Republic. The British were supported by Hessian soldiers from present-day Germany. The conflict was fought in North America, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Established by Royal charter in the 17th and 18th centuries, the American colonies were largely autonomous in domestic affairs and commercially prosperous, trading with Britain and its Caribbean colonies, as well as other European powers via their Caribbean entrepôts. After British victory over the French in the Seven Years' War in 1763, tensions between the motherland and her 13 colonies arose over trade, policy in the Northwest Territory, and taxation measures, including the Stamp Act and Townshend Acts. Colonial opposition led to the Boston Massacre in 1770 which largely fostered the idea of independence from Britain. While the earlier taxation measures were repealed, Parliament adopted the Tea Act in 1773, a measure that led to the Boston Tea Party on December 16. In response, Parliament imposed the so-called Intolerable Acts in mid-1774, closing the Boston Harbor, revoking Massachusetts' charter, and placing the colony under control of the British government.

The measures stirred unrest throughout the colonies, 12 of which sent delegates to Philadelphia in early September 1774 to organize a protest as the First Continental Congress. In an appeal to Britain's George III seeking peace, the Congress drafted a Petition to the King but also threatened a boycott of British goods known as the Continental Association if the Intolerable Acts were not withdrawn. Despite attempts to achieve a peaceful solution, fighting began, after the Westminster Massacre in March, with the Battle of Lexington on April 19, 1775, and in June Congress authorized the creation of a Continental Army with George Washington as commander-in-chief. Although the "coercion policy" advocated by the North ministry was opposed by a faction within Parliament, both sides increasingly viewed conflict as inevitable. The Olive Branch Petition sent by Congress to George III in July 1775 was rejected, and in August Parliament declared the colonies in a state of rebellion.

Following the loss of Boston in March 1776, Sir William Howe, the new British commander-in-chief, launched the New York and New Jersey campaign. He captured New York City in November, before Washington won small but significant victories at Trenton and Princeton, which restored Patriot confidence. In summer 1777, Howe succeeded in taking Philadelphia, but in October a separate force under John Burgoyne was forced to surrender at Saratoga. This victory was crucial in convincing powers like France and Spain that an independent United States was a viable entity. The Continental Army then went into winter quarters in Valley Forge, where General von Steuben drilled it into an organized fighting unit.

France provided the U.S. informal economic and military support from the beginning of the rebellion, and after Saratoga the two countries signed a commercial agreement and a Treaty of Alliance in February 1778. In return for a guarantee of independence, Congress joined France in its global war with Britain and agreed to defend the French West Indies. Spain also allied with France against Britain in the Treaty of Aranjuez (1779), though it did not formally ally with the Americans. Nevertheless, access to ports in Spanish Louisiana allowed the Patriots to import arms and supplies, while the Spanish Gulf Coast campaign deprived the Royal Navy of key bases in the south.

This undermined the 1778 strategy devised by Howe's replacement, Sir Henry Clinton, which took the war into the Southern United States. Despite some initial success, by September 1781 Cornwallis was besieged by a Franco-American force in Yorktown. After an attempt to resupply the garrison failed, Cornwallis surrendered in October. Although the British wars with France and Spain continued for another two years, Britain's forces in America were generally confined to several harbors and western forts, while fighting in North America largely ceased. In April 1782, the North ministry was replaced by a new British government which accepted American independence and began negotiating the Treaty of Paris. With the treaty's ratification on September 3, 1783, Britain accepted American independence, and the war officially ended. The Treaties of Versailles resolved separate conflicts with France and Spain.[42]

Prelude to revolution
Main article: American Revolution
Further information: American Enlightenment, Colonial History of the United States, and Thirteen Colonies
MAP of the 1763 Treaty of Paris claims in North America by the British and Spanish. The British claim east of the Mississippi River, including the Floridas ceded by Spain, and the previous French North America along the St. Lawrence River, west through the Great Lakes, and southerly along the east bank of the Mississippi River. Spanish claims added French cessions from French Louisiana east to the Mississippi River.
Proclamation Line of 1763 (Green line) plus territorial cessions up to 1774
The French and Indian War, part of the wider global conflict known as the Seven Years' War, ended with the 1763 Peace of Paris, which expelled France from its possessions in New France.[43] Acquisition of territories in Atlantic Canada and West Florida, inhabited largely by French or Spanish-speaking Catholics, led the British authorities to consolidate their hold by populating them with English-speaking settlers. Preventing conflict between settlers and Native American tribes west of the Appalachian Mountains would also avoid the cost of an expensive military occupation.[44]

The Proclamation Line of 1763 was designed to achieve these aims by refocusing colonial expansion north into Nova Scotia and south into Florida, with the Mississippi River as the dividing line between British and Spanish possessions in the Americas. Settlement beyond the 1763 limits was tightly restricted, while claims by individual colonies west of this line were rescinded, most significantly Virginia and Massachusetts who argued their boundaries extended from the Atlantic to the Pacific.[44]

Ultimately the vast exchange of territory destabilized existing alliances and trade networks between settlers and Native Americans in the west, while it proved impossible to prevent encroachment beyond the Proclamation Line.[45] With the exception of Virginia and others "deprived" of their rights in the western lands, the colonial legislatures generally agreed on the principle of boundaries but disagreed on where to set them, while many settlers resented the restrictions. Since enforcement required permanent garrisons along the frontier, it led to increasingly bitter disputes over who should pay for them.[46]

Taxation and legislation
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
The 1773 Boston Tea Party
in a sympathetic 19th-century print.
Although directly administered by the Crown, acting through a local Governor, the colonies were largely governed by native-born property owners. While external affairs were managed by London, colonial militia were funded locally but with the ending of the French threat in 1763, the legislatures expected less taxation, not more. At the same time, the huge debt incurred by the Seven Years' War and demands from British taxpayers for cuts in government expenditure meant Parliament expected the colonies to fund their own defense.[46]

The 1763 to 1765 Grenville ministry instructed the Royal Navy to stop the trade of smuggled goods and enforce customs duties levied in American ports.[46] The most important was the 1733 Molasses Act; routinely ignored prior to 1763, it had a significant economic impact since 85% of New England rum exports were manufactured from imported molasses. These measures were followed by the Sugar Act and Stamp Act, which imposed additional taxes on the colonies to pay for defending the western frontier.[47] In July 1765, the Whigs formed the First Rockingham ministry, which repealed the Stamp Act and reduced tax on foreign molasses to help the New England economy, but re-asserted Parliamentary authority in the Declaratory Act.[48]

In the foreground, five leering men of the Sons of Liberty are holding down a Loyalist Commissioner of Customs agent, one holding a club. The agent is tarred and feathered, and they are pouring scalding hot tea down his throat. In the middle ground is the Boston Liberty Tree with a noose hanging from it. In the background, is a merchant ship with protestors throwing tea overboard into the harbor.
A Loyalist customs official
tarred and feathered
by the Sons of Liberty
However, this did little to end the discontent; in 1768, a riot started in Boston when the authorities seized the sloop Liberty on suspicion of smuggling.[49] Tensions escalated further in March 1770 when British troops fired on rock-throwing civilians, killing five in what became known as the Boston Massacre.[50] The Massacre coincided with the partial repeal of the Townshend Acts by the Tory-based North Ministry, which came to power in January 1770 and remained in office until 1781. North insisted on retaining duty on tea to enshrine Parliament's right to tax the colonies; the amount was minor, but ignored the fact it was that very principle Americans found objectionable.[51]

Tensions escalated following the destruction of a customs vessel in the June 1772 Gaspee Affair, then came to a head in 1773. A banking crisis led to the near-collapse of the East India Company, which dominated the British economy; to support it, Parliament passed the Tea Act, giving it a trading monopoly in the Thirteen Colonies. Since most American tea was smuggled by the Dutch, the Act was opposed by those who managed the illegal trade, while being seen as yet another attempt to impose the principle of taxation by Parliament.[52] In December 1773, a group called the Sons of Liberty disguised as Mohawk natives dumped 342 crates of tea into Boston Harbor, an event later known as the Boston Tea Party. Parliament responded by passing the so-called Intolerable Acts, aimed specifically at Massachusetts, although many colonists and members of the Whig opposition considered them a threat to liberty in general. This led to increased sympathy for the Patriot cause locally, as well as in Parliament and the London press.[53]

Break with the British Crown
Over the course of the 18th century, the elected lower houses in the colonial legislatures gradually wrested power from their Royal Governors.[54] Dominated by smaller landowners and merchants, these Assemblies now established ad hoc provincial legislatures, variously called Congresses, Conventions, and Conferences, effectively replacing Royal control. With the exception of Georgia, twelve colonies sent representatives to the First Continental Congress to agree on a unified response to the crisis.[55] Many of the delegates feared that an all-out boycott would result in war and sent a Petition to the King calling for the repeal of the Intolerable Acts.[56] However, after some debate, on September 17, 1774, Congress endorsed the Massachusetts Suffolk Resolves and on October 20 passed the Continental Association; based on a draft prepared by the First Virginia Convention in August, this instituted economic sanctions against Britain.[57]

Colonial response
Scene from the Second Virginia Convention, Patrick Henry giving his speech, "Give me liberty or give me death!"
Patrick Henry, 2nd Virginia Convention
"Give me liberty or give me death!"
was reported throughout the colonies

Scene from the First Continental Congress, George Washington appointed as Commander-in-Chief for the new Continental Army besieging Boston.
July 1775, Independence Hall, Philadelphia
George Washington (standing, center)
made Commander-in-Chief in Congress

While denying its authority over internal American affairs, a faction led by James Duane and future Loyalist Joseph Galloway insisted Congress recognize Parliament's right to regulate colonial trade.[57][u] Expecting concessions by the North administration, Congress authorized the extralegal committees and conventions of the colonial legislatures to enforce the boycott; this succeeded in reducing British imports by 97% from 1774 to 1775.[58] However, on February 9 Parliament declared Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion and instituted a blockade of the colony.[59] In July, the Restraining Acts limited colonial trade with the British West Indies and Britain and barred New England ships from the Newfoundland cod fisheries. The increase in tension led to a scramble for control of militia stores, which each Assembly was legally obliged to maintain for defense.[60] On April 19, a British attempt to secure the Concord arsenal culminated in the Battles of Lexington and Concord which began the war.[61]

MAP of the British North American colonies in 1777. (1) To the north is British Quebec, the French 1763 cession in green, north of the St. Lawrence River, east to the Atlantic, west to the Great Lakes, then south along the Mississippi River to its confluence with the Ohio River. (2) To the south are the Floridas, the Spanish 1763 cessions of East Florida in green (Mobile and Pensacola) and West Florida in light yellow (the Florida peninsula south of the St. John's River and east of the Apalachicola River). (3) The Atlantic seaboard colonies number ten in a way unfamiliar to the modern eye. Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland are all limited west by the 1763 Royal Proclamation. Pennsylvania had a treaty west nearly to its modern border. Delaware was the same three counties ceded from Pennsylvania. New York was west only the Lake Erie midpoint where the Seneca River empties into it. The Massachusetts (and its Maine), New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island are all labelled "New England", Nova Scotia includes the island and modern New Brunswick.
British North America, 1777
post-1763 concessions to Britain
from France (green) and Spain (yellow)
Political reactions
Main articles: Olive Branch Petition and United States Declaration of Independence
After the Patriot victory at Concord, moderates in Congress led by John Dickinson drafted the Olive Branch Petition, offering to accept royal authority in return for George III mediating in the dispute.[62] However, since the petition was immediately followed by the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms, Colonial Secretary Lord Dartmouth viewed the offer as insincere; he refused to present the petition to the king, which was therefore rejected in early September.[63] Although constitutionally correct, since George could not oppose his own government, it disappointed those Americans who hoped he would mediate in the dispute, while the hostility of his language annoyed even Loyalist members of Congress.[62] Combined with the Proclamation of Rebellion, issued on August 23 in response to the Battle at Bunker Hill, it ended hopes of a peaceful settlement.[64]

Backed by the Whigs, Parliament initially rejected the imposition of coercive measures by 170 votes, fearing an aggressive policy would simply drive the Americans towards independence.[65] However, by the end of 1774 the collapse of British authority meant both Lord North and George III were convinced war was inevitable.[66] After Boston, Gage halted operations and awaited reinforcements; the Irish Parliament approved the recruitment of new regiments, while allowing Catholics to enlist for the first time.[67] Britain also signed a series of treaties with German states to supply additional troops.[68] Within a year it had an army of over 32,000 men in America, the largest ever sent outside Europe at the time.[69]

The artist's recreation of the Declaration signing with portraits of the entire Second Congress, as though all members were present. The Committee of Five are standing centered together presenting a parchment on the table.
The Committee of Five for the Declaration
presenting l–r: Adams (chair), Sherman,
Livingston, Jefferson (principal author), Franklin
The employment of German soldiers against people viewed as British citizens was opposed by many in Parliament, as well as the colonial assemblies; combined with the lack of activity by Gage, opposition to the use of foreign troops allowed the Patriots to take control of the legislatures.[70] Support for independence was boosted by Thomas Paine's pamphlet Common Sense, which argued for American self-government and was widely reprinted.[71] To draft the Declaration of Independence, Congress appointed the Committee of Five, consisting of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston.[72] Identifying inhabitants of the Thirteen Colonies as "one people", it simultaneously dissolved political links with Britain, while including a long list of alleged violations of "English rights" committed by George III.[73]

On July 2, Congress voted for independence and published the declaration on July 4,[74] which Washington read to his troops in New York City on July 9.[75] At this point, the Revolution ceased to be an internal dispute over trade and tax policies and became a civil war, since each state represented in Congress was engaged in a struggle with Britain, but also split between Patriots and Loyalists.[76] Patriots generally supported independence from Britain and a new national union in Congress, while Loyalists remained faithful to British rule. Estimates of numbers vary, one suggestion being the population as a whole was split evenly between committed Patriots, committed Loyalists and those who were indifferent.[77] Others calculate the split as 40% Patriot, 40% neutral, 20% Loyalist, but with considerable regional variations.[78]

At the onset of the war, Congress realized defeating Britain required foreign alliances and intelligence-gathering. The Committee of Secret Correspondence was formed for "the sole purpose of corresponding with our friends in Great Britain and other parts of the world". From 1775 to 1776, the committee shared information and built alliances through secret correspondence, as well as employing secret agents in Europe to gather intelligence, conduct undercover operations, analyze foreign publications and initiate Patriot propaganda campaigns.[79] Paine served as secretary, while Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane, sent to France to recruit military engineers,[80] were instrumental in securing French aid in Paris.[81]

War breaks out
The war consisted of two principal campaign theaters within the thirteen states, and a smaller but strategically important one in the west of the Appalachian Mountains. Fighting began in the Northern Theater and was at its most severe from 1775 to 1778. The Patriots achieved several strategic victories in the South and after defeating a British army at Saratoga in October 1777, the French formally entered the war as an American ally.[82]

During 1778, Washington prevented the British army breaking out of New York City, while militia under George Rogers Clark supported by Francophone settlers and their Indian allies conquered Western Quebec, which became the Northwest Territory. With the war in the north stalemated, in 1779 the British initiated their southern strategy, which aimed to mobilise Loyalist support in the region and reoccupy Patriot-controlled territory north to Chesapeake Bay. The campaign was initially successful, with the British capture of Charleston being a major setback for southern Patriots; however, a Franco-American force surrounded a British army at Yorktown and their surrender in October 1781 effectively ended fighting in North America.[77]

Early engagements
A birds-eye view of a long column of British soldiers marching by regiment along a road just outside of Boston
British troops leave Boston, prior to the Battle of Lexington and Concord, April 19, 1775
On April 14, 1775, Sir Thomas Gage, Commander-in-Chief, North America since 1763 and also Governor of Massachusetts from 1774, received orders to take action against the Patriots. He decided to destroy militia ordnance stored at Concord, Massachusetts, and capture John Hancock and Samuel Adams, who were considered the principal instigators of the rebellion. The operation was to begin around midnight on April 19, in the hope of completing it before the Patriots could respond.[83][84] However, Paul Revere learned of the plan and notified Captain Parker, commander of the Concord militia, who prepared to resist the attempted seizure.[85] The first action of the war, commonly referred to as the shot heard round the world, was a brief skirmish at Lexington, followed by the full-scale Battles of Lexington and Concord. British troops suffered around 300 casualties before withdrawing to Boston, which was then besieged by the militia.[86]

In May, 4,500 British reinforcements arrived under Generals William Howe, John Burgoyne, and Sir Henry Clinton.[87] On June 17, they seized the Charlestown Peninsula at the Battle of Bunker Hill, a frontal assault in which they suffered over 1,000 casualties.[88] Dismayed at the costly attack which had gained them little,[89] Gage appealed to London for a larger army to suppress the revolt,[90] but instead was replaced as commander by Howe.[88]

On June 14, 1775, Congress took control of Patriot forces outside Boston, and Congressional leader John Adams nominated George Washington as commander-in-chief of the new Continental Army.[91] Washington previously commanded Virginia militia regiments in the French and Indian War,[92] and on June 16, John Hancock officially proclaimed him "General and Commander in Chief of the army of the United Colonies."[93] He assumed command on July 3, preferring to fortify Dorchester Heights outside Boston rather than assaulting it.[94] In early March 1776, Colonel Henry Knox arrived with heavy artillery acquired in the Capture of Fort Ticonderoga.[95] Under cover of darkness, on March 5, Washington placed these on Dorchester Heights,[96] from where they could fire on the town and British ships in Boston Harbor. Fearing another Bunker Hill, Howe evacuated the city on March 17 without further loss and sailed to Halifax, Nova Scotia, while Washington moved south to New York City.[97]

Snow-covered street fighting of British and Tory Provincials repulsing an American assault
British regulars and Provincial militia repulse an American attack on Quebec, December 1775
Beginning in August 1775, American privateers raided towns in Nova Scotia, including Saint John, Charlottetown, and Yarmouth. In 1776, John Paul Jones and Jonathan Eddy attacked Canso and Fort Cumberland respectively. British officials in Quebec began negotiating with the Iroquois for their support,[98] while US envoys urged them to remain neutral.[99] Aware of Native American leanings toward the British and fearing an Anglo-Indian attack from Canada, Congress authorized a second invasion in April 1775.[100] After defeat at the Battle of Quebec on December 31,[101] the Americans maintained a loose blockade of the city until they retreated on May 6, 1776.[102] A second defeat at Trois-Rivières on June 8 ended operations in Quebec.[103]

British pursuit was initially blocked by American naval vessels on Lake Champlain until victory at Valcour Island on October 11 forced the Americans to withdraw to Fort Ticonderoga, while in December an uprising in Nova Scotia sponsored by Massachusetts was defeated at Fort Cumberland.[104] These failures impacted public support for the Patriot cause,[105] and aggressive anti-Loyalist policies in the New England colonies alienated the Canadians.[106]

In Virginia, an attempt by Governor Lord Dunmore to seize militia stores on April 20, 1775, led to an increase in tension, although conflict was avoided for the time being.[107] This changed after the publication of Dunmore's Proclamation on November 7, 1775, promising freedom to any slaves who fled their Patriot masters and agreed to fight for the Crown.[108] British forces were defeated at Great Bridge on December 9 and took refuge on British ships anchored near the port of Norfolk. When the Third Virginia Convention refused to disband its militia or accept martial law, Dunmore ordered the Burning of Norfolk on January 1, 1776.[109]

Continental Sergeant Jasper of the 2nd South Carolina Regiment, on a parapet raising the fort's South Carolina Revolutionary flag with its white crescent moon.
Sgt. Jasper raising the fort's flag,
Battle of Sullivan's Island, June 1776
The siege of Savage's Old Fields began on November 19 in South Carolina between Loyalist and Patriot militias,[110] and the Loyalists were subsequently driven out of the colony in the Snow Campaign.[111] Loyalists were recruited in North Carolina to reassert British rule in the South, but they were decisively defeated in the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge.[112] A British expedition sent to reconquer South Carolina launched an attack on Charleston in the Battle of Sullivan's Island on June 28, 1776,[113] but it failed and left the South under Patriot control until 1780.[114]

A shortage of gunpowder led Congress to authorize a naval expedition against The Bahamas to secure ordnance stored there.[115] On March 3, 1776, an American squadron under the command of Esek Hopkins landed at the east end of Nassau and encountered minimal resistance at Fort Montagu. Hopkins' troops then marched on Fort Nassau. Hopkins had promised governor Montfort Browne and the civilian inhabitants of the area that their lives and property would not be in any danger if they offered no resistance, to which they complied. Hopkins captured large stores of powder and other munitions that was so great he had to impress an extra ship in the harbor to transport the supplies back home, when he departed on March 17.[116] A month later, after a brief skirmish with HMS Glasgow, they returned to New London, Connecticut, the base for American naval operations during the Revolution.[117]

British New York counter-offensive
Main article: New York and New Jersey campaign
After regrouping at Halifax, Nova Scotia, William Howe was determined to take the fight to the Americans.[118] He sailed for New York in June 1776 and began landing troops on Staten Island near the entrance to New York Harbor on July 2. The Americans rejected Howe's informal attempt to negotiate peace on July 30;[119] Washington knew that an attack on the city was imminent and realized that he needed advance information to deal with disciplined British regular troops. On August 12, 1776, Patriot Thomas Knowlton was given orders to form an elite group for reconnaissance and secret missions. Knowlton's Rangers, which included Nathan Hale, became the Army's first intelligence unit.[120][v] When Washington was driven off Long Island he soon realized that he would need more than military might and amateur spies to defeat the British. He was committed to professionalizing military intelligence, and with the aid of Benjamin Tallmadge, they launched the six-man Culper spy ring.[123][w] The efforts of Washington and the Culper Spy Ring substantially increased effective allocation and deployment of Continental regiments in the field.[123] Over the course of the war Washington spent more than 10 percent of his total military funds on intelligence operations.[124]

Continental infantry firing a volley kneeling behind a stone wall, their captain standing with a sword; their flag has a dark green field with a canton of thirteen alternating red and white stripes.
An American company on line, Battle of Long Island, August 1776
Washington split his army into positions on Manhattan Island and across the East River in western Long Island.[125] On August 27 at the Battle of Long Island, Howe outflanked Washington and forced him back to Brooklyn Heights, but he did not attempt to encircle Washington's forces.[126] Through the night of August 28, General Henry Knox bombarded the British. Knowing they were up against overwhelming odds, Washington ordered the assembly of a war council on August 29; all agreed to retreat to Manhattan. Washington quickly had his troops assembled and ferried them across the East River to Manhattan on flat-bottomed freight boats without any losses in men or ordnance, leaving General Thomas Mifflin's regiments as a rearguard.[127]

General Howe officially met with a delegation from Congress at the September Staten Island Peace Conference, but it failed to conclude peace as the British delegates only had the authority to offer pardons and could not recognize independence.[128] On September 15, Howe seized control of New York City when the British landed at Kip's Bay and unsuccessfully engaged the Americans at the Battle of Harlem Heights the following day.[129] On October 18, Howe failed to encircle the Americans at the Battle of Pell's Point, and the Americans withdrew. Howe declined to close with Washington's army on October 28 at the Battle of White Plains, and instead attacked a hill that was of no strategic value.[130]

Sailing ships on the Hudson River from afar, the scene emphases the two tall bluffs overlooking either side of the Hudson Narrows.
British forced Hudson River narrows to isolate Fort Washington, November 1776
Washington's retreat isolated his remaining forces and the British captured Fort Washington on November 16. The British victory there amounted to Washington's most disastrous defeat with the loss of 3,000 prisoners.[131] The remaining American regiments on Long Island fell back four days later.[132] General Henry Clinton wanted to pursue Washington's disorganized army, but he was first required to commit 6,000 troops to capture Newport, Rhode Island to secure the Loyalist port.[133][x] General Charles Cornwallis pursued Washington, but Howe ordered him to halt, leaving Washington unmolested.[135]

The outlook was bleak for the American cause: the reduced army had dwindled to fewer than 5,000 men and would be reduced further when enlistments expired at the end of the year.[136] Popular support wavered, morale declined, and Congress abandoned Philadelphia and moved to Baltimore.[137] Loyalist activity surged in the wake of the American defeat, especially in New York state.[138]

In London, news of the victorious Long Island campaign was well received with festivities held in the capital. Public support reached a peak,[139] and King George III awarded the Order of the Bath to Howe.[140] Strategic deficiencies among Patriot forces were evident: Washington divided a numerically weaker army in the face of a stronger one, his inexperienced staff misread the military situation, and American troops fled in the face of enemy fire. The successes led to predictions that the British could win within a year.[141] In the meantime, the British established winter quarters in the New York City area and anticipated renewed campaigning the following spring.[142]

Patriot resurgence
Washington standing up in a freight boat crossing a windy river filled with winter chunks of ice.
The iconic 1851 painting Washington Crossing the Delaware, depicting Washington's crossing of the Delaware River
Two weeks after Congress withdrew to Maryland, on the night of December 25–26, 1776, Washington crossed the Delaware River, leading a column of Continental Army troops from today's Bucks County, Pennsylvania, located about 30 miles upriver from Philadelphia, to today's Mercer County, New Jersey, in a logistically challenging and dangerous operation.

Meanwhile, the Hessians were involved with numerous clashes with small bands of patriots and were often aroused by false alarms at night in the weeks before the actual Battle of Trenton. By Christmas they were tired and weary, while a heavy snow storm led their commander, Colonel Johann Rall, to assume no attack of any consequence would occur.[143] At daybreak on the 26th, the American patriots surprised and overwhelmed Rall and his troops, who lost over 20 killed including Rall,[144] while 900 prisoners, German cannons and much supply were captured.[145]

The Battle of Trenton restored the American army's morale, reinvigorated the Patriot cause,[146] and dispelled their fear of the what they regarded as Hessian "mercenaries".[147] A British attempt to retake Trenton was repulsed at Assunpink Creek on January 2;[148] during the night, Washington outmaneuvered Cornwallis, then defeated his rearguard in the Battle of Princeton the following day. The two victories helped convince the French that the Americans were worthy military allies.[149]

After his success at Princeton, Washington entered winter quarters at Morristown, New Jersey, where he remained until May[150] and received Congressional direction to inoculate all patriot troops against smallpox.[151][y] With the exception of a minor skirmishing between the two armies which continued until March,[153] Howe made no attempt to attack the Americans.[154]

British northern strategy fails
Main articles: Saratoga campaign and Philadelphia campaign

Saratoga Campaign maneuver
and (inset) the Battles of Saratoga Sep–Oct 1777

In September 1777, fearing a British Army attack on the revolutionary capital of Philadelphia, American patriots moved the Liberty Bell to this Allentown, Pennsylvania church, where the Liberty Bell was successfully hidden under the church's floor boards until the June 1778 British departure from Philadelphia. Today, inside the Zion United Church of Christ in Allentown, the Liberty Bell Museum commemorates the Liberty Bell's successful nine month hiding there.
In an American army camp, of two British red-coated officers with white pants on the left, British General Burgoyne offers his sword in surrender to the American General Gates in a blue coat and buff pants to the right-center, flanked to the right by US Colonel Morgan dressed all in white.
Surrender of General Burgoyne at the Battles of Saratoga by John Trumbull, 1821
British General John Burgoyne (l.)
to Gen. Horatio Gates, October 1777
The 1776 campaign demonstrated regaining New England would be a prolonged affair, which led to a change in British strategy. This involved isolating the north from the rest of the country by taking control of the Hudson River, allowing them to focus on the south where Loyalist support was believed to be substantial.[155] In December 1776, Howe wrote to the Colonial Secretary Lord Germain, proposing a limited offensive against Philadelphia, while a second force moved down the Hudson from Canada.[156] Germain received this on February 23, 1777, followed a few days later by a memorandum from Burgoyne, then in London on leave.[157]

Burgoyne supplied several alternatives, all of which gave him responsibility for the offensive, with Howe remaining on the defensive. The option selected required him to lead the main force south from Montreal down the Hudson Valley, while a detachment under Barry St. Leger moved east from Lake Ontario. The two would meet at Albany, leaving Howe to decide whether to join them.[157] Reasonable in principle, this did not account for the logistical difficulties involved and Burgoyne erroneously assumed Howe would remain on the defensive; Germain's failure to make this clear meant he opted to attack Philadelphia instead.[158]

Burgoyne set out on June 14, 1777, with a mixed force of British regulars, professional German soldiers and Canadian militia, and captured Fort Ticonderoga on July 5. As General Horatio Gates retreated, his troops blocked roads, destroyed bridges, dammed streams, and stripped the area of food.[159] This slowed Burgoyne's progress and forced him to send out large foraging expeditions; on one of these, more than 700 British troops were captured at the Battle of Bennington on August 16.[160] St Leger moved east and besieged Fort Stanwix; despite defeating an American relief force at the Battle of Oriskany on August 6, he was abandoned by his Indian allies and withdrew to Quebec on August 22.[161] Now isolated and outnumbered by Gates, Burgoyne continued onto Albany rather than retreating to Fort Ticonderoga, reaching Saratoga on September 13. He asked Clinton for support while constructing defenses around the town.[162]

Morale among his troops rapidly declined, and an unsuccessful attempt to break past Gates at the Battle of Freeman Farms on September 19 resulted in 600 British casualties.[163] When Clinton advised he could not reach them, Burgoyne's subordinates advised retreat; a reconnaissance in force on October 7 was repulsed by Gates at the Battle of Bemis Heights, forcing them back into Saratoga with heavy losses. By October 11, all hope of escape had vanished; persistent rain reduced the camp to a "squalid hell" of mud and starving cattle, supplies were dangerously low and many of the wounded in agony.[164] Burgoyne capitulated on October 17; around 6,222 soldiers, including German forces commanded by General Friedrich Adolf Riedesel, surrendered their arms before being taken to Boston, where they were to be transported to England.[165]

After securing additional supplies, Howe made another attempt on Philadelphia by landing his troops in Chesapeake Bay on August 24.[166] He now compounded failure to support Burgoyne by missing repeated opportunities to destroy his opponent, defeating Washington at the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, then allowing him to withdraw in good order.[167] After dispersing an American detachment at Paoli on September 20, Cornwallis occupied Philadelphia on September 26, with the main force of 9,000 under Howe based just to the north at Germantown.[168] Washington attacked them on October 4, but was repulsed.[169]

From the left armed with muskets, a standing rank of six US infantry, a kneeling rank of six infantry, then standing facing them from the right are General von Steuben instructing them with his arm outstretched, and two officers behind him.
Gen. von Steuben
training "Model Infantry" at
Valley Forge December 1777
To prevent Howe's forces in Philadelphia being resupplied by sea, the Patriots erected Fort Mifflin and nearby Fort Mercer on the east and west banks of the Delaware respectively, and placed obstacles in the river south of the city. This was supported by a small flotilla of Continental Navy ships on the Delaware, supplemented by the Pennsylvania State Navy, commanded by John Hazelwood. An attempt by the Royal Navy to take the forts in the October 20 to 22 Battle of Red Bank failed;[170][171] a second attack captured Fort Mifflin on November 16, while Fort Mercer was abandoned two days later when Cornwallis breached the walls.[172] His supply lines secured, Howe tried to tempt Washington into giving battle, but after inconclusive skirmishing at the Battle of White Marsh from December 5 to 8, he withdrew to Philadelphia for the winter.[173]

On December 19, the Americans followed suit and entered winter quarters at Valley Forge; while Washington's domestic opponents contrasted his lack of battlefield success with Gates' victory at Saratoga,[174] foreign observers such as Frederick the Great were equally impressed with Germantown, which demonstrated resilience and determination.[175] Over the winter, poor conditions, supply problems and low morale resulted in 2,000 deaths, with another 3,000 unfit for duty due to lack of shoes.[176] However, Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben took the opportunity to introduce Prussian Army drill and infantry tactics to the entire Continental Army; he did this by training "model companies" in each regiment, who then instructed their home units.[177] Despite Valley Forge being only twenty miles away, Howe made no effort to attack their camp, an action some critics argue could have ended the war.[178]

Foreign intervention
Main articles: France in the American Revolutionary War, Spain in the American Revolutionary War, and Carlisle Peace Commission
portrait of French Foreign Minister Vergennes
Charles, comte de Vergennes
French Foreign Minister negotiated
Franco-American treaties Feb 1778
Like his predecessors, French foreign minister Vergennes considered the 1763 Peace a national humiliation and viewed the war as an opportunity to weaken Britain. He initially avoided open conflict, but allowed American ships to take on cargoes in French ports, a technical violation of neutrality.[179] Although public opinion favored the American cause, Finance Minister Turgot argued they did not need French help to gain independence, and war was too expensive. Instead, Vergennes persuaded Louis XVI to secretly fund a government front company to purchase munitions for the Patriots, carried in neutral Dutch ships and imported through Sint Eustatius in the Caribbean.[180]

Many Americans opposed a French alliance, fearing to "exchange one tyranny for another", but this changed after a series of military setbacks in early 1776. As France had nothing to gain from the colonies reconciling with Britain, Congress had three choices; making peace on British terms, continuing the struggle on their own, or proclaiming independence, guaranteed by France. Although the Declaration of Independence in July 1776 had wide public support, Adams was among those reluctant to pay the price of an alliance with France, and over 20% of Congressmen voted against it.[181] Congress agreed to the treaty with reluctance and as the war moved in their favor increasingly lost interest in it.[182]

Silas Deane was sent to Paris to begin negotiations with Vergennes, whose key objectives were replacing Britain as the United States' primary commercial and military partner while securing the French West Indies from American expansion.[183] These islands were extremely valuable; in 1772, the value of sugar and coffee produced by Saint-Domingue on its own exceeded that of all American exports combined.[184] Talks progressed slowly until October 1777, when British defeat at Saratoga and their apparent willingness to negotiate peace convinced Vergennes only a permanent alliance could prevent the "disaster" of Anglo-American rapprochement. Assurances of formal French support allowed Congress to reject the Carlisle Peace Commission and insist on nothing short of complete independence.[185]

On February 6, 1778, France and the United States signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce regulating trade between the two countries, followed by a defensive military alliance against Britain, the Treaty of Alliance. In return for French guarantees of American independence, Congress undertook to defend their interests in the West Indies, while both sides agreed not to make a separate peace; conflict over these provisions would lead to the 1798 to 1800 Quasi-War.[182] Charles III of Spain was invited to join on the same terms but refused, largely due to concerns over the impact of the Revolution on Spanish colonies in the Americas. Spain had complained on multiple occasions about encroachment by American settlers into Louisiana, a problem that could only get worse once the United States replaced Britain.[186]

Although Spain ultimately made important contributions to American success, in the Treaty of Aranjuez (1779), Charles agreed only to support France's war with Britain outside America, in return for help in recovering Gibraltar, Menorca and Spanish Florida.[187] The terms were confidential since several conflicted with American aims; for example, the French claimed exclusive control of the Newfoundland cod fisheries, a non-negotiable for colonies like Massachusetts.[188] One less well-known impact of this agreement was the abiding American distrust of 'foreign entanglements'; the US would not sign another treaty with France until their NATO agreement of 1949.[182] This was because the US had agreed not to make peace without France, while Aranjuez committed France to keep fighting until Spain recovered Gibraltar, effectively making it a condition of US independence without the knowledge of Congress.[189]

From the left, in the background three sailing warships at sea, one clearly flying a British naval ensign; in the center-right foreground, three sailing warships, two of them firing broadsides with gun smoke starting to cover them up. There was no US flag on the American ship, so the British said John Paul Jones was a pirate.
Battle of Flamborough Head; US warships in European waters had access to Dutch, French, and Spanish ports
To encourage French participation in the struggle for independence, the US representative in Paris, Silas Deane promised promotion and command positions to any French officer who joined the Continental Army. Such as Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, whom Congress via Dean appointed a major General,[190][191] on July 31, 1777.[192]

When the war started, Britain tried to borrow the Dutch-based Scots Brigade for service in America, but pro-Patriot sentiment led the States General to refuse.[193] Although the Republic was no longer a major power, prior to 1774 they still dominated the European carrying trade, and Dutch merchants made large profits shipping French-supplied munitions to the Patriots. This ended when Britain declared war in December 1780, a conflict that proved disastrous to the Dutch economy.[194] The Dutch were also excluded from the First League of Armed Neutrality, formed by Russia, Sweden and Denmark in March 1780 to protect neutral shipping from being stopped and searched for contraband by Britain and France.[195]

The British government failed to take into account the strength of the American merchant marine and support from European countries, which allowed the colonies to import munitions and continue trading with relative impunity. While well aware of this, the North administration delayed placing the Royal Navy on a war footing for cost reasons; this prevented the institution of an effective blockade and restricted them to ineffectual diplomatic protests.[196] Traditional British policy was to employ European land-based allies to divert the opposition, a role filled by Prussia in the Seven Years' War; in 1778, they were diplomatically isolated and faced war on multiple fronts.[197]

Meanwhile, George III had given up on subduing America while Britain had a European war to fight.[198] He did not welcome war with France, but he believed the British victories over France in the Seven Years' War as a reason to believe in ultimate victory over France.[199] Britain could not find a powerful ally among the Great Powers to engage France on the European continent.[200] Britain subsequently changed its focus into the Caribbean theater,[201] and diverted major military resources away from America.[202]

Vergennes's colleague stated, "For her honour, France had to seize this opportunity to rise from her degradation ... If she neglected it, if fear overcame duty, she would add debasement to humiliation, and become an object of contempt to her own century and to all future peoples".[203]

Stalemate in the North
Main articles: Northern theater of the American Revolutionary War after Saratoga and Western theater of the American Revolutionary War
From the left, a coastal town set in the background of a harbor; in the foreground center-right in the approach to the harbor and curving into the right background, a line of French warships, one firing a broadside at the town.
French Adm. d'Estaing's joint expedition with US Gen. Sullivan at Newport, Rhode Island Aug 1778
At the end of 1777, Howe resigned and was replaced by Sir Henry Clinton on May 24, 1778; with French entry into the war, he was ordered to consolidate his forces in New York.[202] On June 18, the British departed Philadelphia with the reinvigorated Americans in pursuit; the Battle of Monmouth on June 28 was inconclusive but boosted Patriot morale. Washington had rallied Charles Lee's broken regiments, the Continentals repulsed British bayonet charges, the British rear guard lost perhaps 50 per-cent more casualties, and the Americans held the field at the end of the day. That midnight, the newly installed Clinton continued his retreat to New York.[204]

A French naval force under Admiral Charles Henri Hector d'Estaing was sent to assist Washington; deciding New York was too formidable a target, in August they launched a combined attack on Newport, with General John Sullivan commanding land forces.[205] The resulting Battle of Rhode Island was indecisive; badly damaged by a storm, the French withdrew to avoid putting their ships at risk.[206] Further activity was limited to British raids on Chestnut Neck and Little Egg Harbor in October.[207]

In July 1779, the Americans captured British positions at Stony Point and Paulus Hook.[208] Clinton unsuccessfully tried to tempt Washington into a decisive engagement by sending General William Tryon to raid Connecticut.[209] In July, a large American naval operation, the Penobscot Expedition, attempted to retake Maine, then part of Massachusetts, but was defeated.[210] Persistent Iroquois raids along the border with Quebec led to the punitive Sullivan Expedition in April 1779, destroying many settlements but failing to stop them.[211]

During the winter of 1779–1780, the Continental Army suffered greater hardships than at Valley Forge.[212] Morale was poor, public support fell away in the long war, the Continental dollar was virtually worthless, the army was plagued with supply problems, desertion was common, and mutinies occurred in the Pennsylvania Line and New Jersey Line regiments over the conditions in early 1780.[213]

A close up of Continental infantry fighting in a street; a company on line firing to the left off the painting; in the center the officer; right foreground a drummer boy and behind him a soldier reloading a musket.
Continentals repulsing British
June 1780 at Springfield
"Give 'em Watts, boys!"
In June 1780, Clinton sent 6,000 men under Wilhelm von Knyphausen to retake New Jersey, but they were halted by local militia at the Battle of Connecticut Farms; although the Americans withdrew, Knyphausen felt he was not strong enough to engage Washington's main force and retreated.[214] A second attempt two weeks later ended in a British defeat at the Battle of Springfield, effectively ending their ambitions in New Jersey.[215] In July, Washington appointed Benedict Arnold commander of West Point; his attempt to betray the fort to the British failed due to incompetent planning, and the plot was revealed when his British contact John André was captured and later executed.[216] Arnold escaped to New York and switched sides, an action justified in a pamphlet addressed "To the Inhabitants of America"; the Patriots condemned his betrayal, while he found himself almost as unpopular with the British.[217]

War in the South
Main article: Southern theater of the American Revolutionary War
A birds-eye view over the British lines of artillery besieging the port of Charleston in the center-background, and landing some shots at the docks.
British siege of Charleston,
worst US defeat of the war, May 1780
The "Southern Strategy" was developed by Lord Germain, based on input from London-based Loyalists like Joseph Galloway. They argued it made no sense to fight the Patriots in the north where they were strongest, while the New England economy was reliant on trade with Britain, regardless of who governed it. On the other hand, duties on tobacco made the South far more profitable for Britain, while local support meant securing it required small numbers of regular troops. Victory would leave a truncated United States facing British possessions in the south, Canada to the north, and Ohio on their western border; with the Atlantic seaboard controlled by the Royal Navy, Congress would be forced to agree to terms. However, assumptions about the level of Loyalist support proved wildly optimistic.[218]

Germain accordingly ordered Augustine Prévost, the British commander in East Florida, to advance into Georgia in December 1778. Lieutenant-Colonel Archibald Campbell, an experienced officer taken prisoner earlier in the war before being exchanged for Ethan Allen, captured Savannah on December 29, 1778. He recruited a Loyalist militia of nearly 1,100, many of whom allegedly joined only after Campbell threatened to confiscate their property.[219] Poor motivation and training made them unreliable troops, as demonstrated in their defeat by Patriot militia at the Battle of Kettle Creek on February 14, 1779, although this was offset by British victory at Brier Creek on March 3.[220]

In June 1779, Prévost launched an abortive assault on Charleston, before retreating to Savannah, an operation notorious for widespread looting by British troops that enraged both Loyalists and Patriots. In October, a joint French and American operation under Admiral d'Estaing and General Benjamin Lincoln failed to recapture Savannah.[221] Prévost was replaced by Lord Cornwallis, who assumed responsibility for Germain's strategy; he soon realized estimates of Loyalist support were considerably over-stated, and he needed far larger numbers of regular forces.[222]

A close-up of a cavalry melee on large horses with sabers and pistols drawn; Three redcoats center-right are engaging two Patriots in blue along with an African-American in a brown linen shirt and white pants, with his pistol drawn and leveled at a redcoat.
American and British cavalry clash
US routs British Legion
Battle of Cowpens, January 1781
Reinforced by Clinton, Cornwallis' troops captured Charleston in May 1780, inflicting the most serious Patriot defeat of the war; over 5,000 prisoners were taken and the Continental Army in the south effectively destroyed. On May 29, Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarleton's mainly Loyalist force routed a Continental Army force nearly three times its size under the command of Colonel Abraham Buford at the Battle of Waxhaws. The battle is controversial for allegations of a massacre, which were later used as a recruiting tool by the Patriots.[223]

Clinton returned to New York, leaving Cornwallis to oversee the south; despite their success, the two men left barely on speaking terms, with dire consequences for the future conduct of the war.[224] The Southern strategy depended on local support, but this was undermined by a series of coercive measures. Previously, captured Patriots were sent home after swearing not to take up arms against the king; they were now required to fight their former comrades, while the confiscation of Patriot-owned plantations led formerly neutral "grandees" to side with them.[225] Skirmishes at Williamson's Plantation, Cedar Springs, Rocky Mount, and Hanging Rock signaled widespread resistance to the new oaths throughout South Carolina.[226]

In July 1780, Congress appointed General Horatio Gates commander in the south; he was defeated at the Battle of Camden on August 16, leaving Cornwallis free to enter North Carolina.[227] Despite battlefield success, the British could not control the countryside and Patriot attacks continued; before moving north, Cornwallis sent Loyalist militia under Major Patrick Ferguson to cover his left flank, leaving their forces too far apart to provide mutual support.[228] In early October, Ferguson was defeated at the Battle of Kings Mountain, dispersing organized Loyalist resistance in the region.[229] Despite this, Cornwallis continued into North Carolina hoping for Loyalist support, while Washington replaced Gates with General Nathanael Greene in December 1780.[230]

Left foreground, curving into the center, double line of Continental infantry, braced with their muskets and bayonets held at the ready; in the left background, US cavalry is charging towards lines of British infantry in the right background; immediately behind the US infantry is the occasional sergeant in formation; behind the line are two mounted US officers under a winter tree.
1st Maryland Regiment in line
Guilford Court House, March 1781
Greene divided his army, leading his main force southeast pursued by Cornwallis; a detachment was sent southwest under Daniel Morgan, who defeated Tarleton's British Legion at Cowpens on January 17, 1781, nearly eliminating it as a fighting force.[231] The Patriots now held the initiative in the south, with the exception of a raid on Richmond led by Benedict Arnold in January 1781.[232] Greene led Cornwallis on a series of countermarches around North Carolina; by early March, the British were exhausted and short of supplies and Greene felt strong enough to fight the Battle of Guilford Court House on March 15. Although victorious, Cornwallis suffered heavy casualties and retreated to Wilmington, North Carolina seeking supplies and reinforcements.[233]

The Patriots now controlled most of the Carolinas and Georgia outside the coastal areas; after a minor reversal at the Battle of Hobkirk's Hill, they recaptured Fort Watson and Fort Motte on April 15.[234] On June 6, Brigadier General Andrew Pickens captured Augusta, leaving the British in Georgia confined to Charleston and Savannah.[235] The assumption Loyalists would do most of the fighting left the British short of troops and battlefield victories came at the cost of losses they could not replace. Despite halting Greene's advance at the Battle of Eutaw Springs on September 8, Cornwallis withdrew to Charleston with little to show for his campaign.[236]

Western campaign
Main article: Western theater of the American Revolutionary War
From the beginning of the war, Bernardo de Gálvez, the Governor of Spanish Louisiana, allowed the Americans to import supplies and munitions into New Orleans, then ship them to Pittsburgh.[237] This provided an alternative transportation route for the Continental Army, bypassing the British blockade of the Atlantic Coast.[238]

The trade was organized by Oliver Pollock, a successful merchant in Havana and New Orleans who was appointed US "commercial agent".[239] It also helped support the American campaign in the west; in the 1778 Illinois campaign, militia under General George Rogers Clark.

In February 1778, an expedition of militia to destroy British military supplies in settlements along the Cuyahoga River was halted by adverse weather.[240] Later in the year, a second campaign was undertaken to seize the Illinois Country from the British. Virginia militia, Canadien settlers, and Indian allies commanded by Colonel George Rogers Clark captured Kaskaskia on July 4 then secured Vincennes, though Vincennes was recaptured by Quebec Governor Henry Hamilton. In early 1779, the Virginians counter-attacked in the siege of Fort Vincennes and took Hamilton prisoner. Clark secured western British Quebec as the American Northwest Territory in the Treaty of Paris concluding the war.[241]

At left center, Virginia militia Colonel George Rogers Clark with buckskinned uniformed militia lined up behind him; at right center, red-coated British Quebec Governor Hamilton surrendering with ranks of white-uniformed Tory militia behind receding into the background; a drummer boy in the foreground; a line of British Indian allies lined up on the right receding into the background.
Quebec Gov. Hamilton surrenders to Col. Clark at Vincennes, July 1779
Virginia incorporates its Illinois County
When Spain joined France's war against Britain in 1779, their treaty specifically excluded Spanish military action in North America. Later that year, however, Gálvez initiated offensive operations against British outposts.[242] First, he cleared British garrisons in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Fort Bute, and Natchez, Mississippi, and captured five forts.[243] In doing so, Gálvez opened navigation on the Mississippi River north to the American settlement in Pittsburg.[244]

On May 25, 1780, British Colonel Henry Bird invaded Kentucky as part of a wider operation to clear American resistance from Quebec to the Gulf coast. Their Pensacola advance on New Orleans was overcome by Spanish Governor Gálvez's offensive on Mobile. Simultaneous British attacks were repulsed on St. Louis by the Spanish Lieutenant Governor de Leyba, and on the Virginia county courthouse at Cahokia by Lieutenant Colonel Clark. The British initiative under Bird from Detroit was ended at the rumored approach of Clark.[z] The scale of violence in the Licking River Valley, was extreme "even for frontier standards." It led to men of English and German settlements to join Clark's militia when the British and their hired German soldiers withdrew to the Great Lakes.[245] The Americans responded with a major offensive along the Mad River in August which met with some success in the Battle of Piqua but did not end Indian raids.[246]

French soldier Augustin de La Balme led a Canadian militia in an attempt to capture Detroit, but they dispersed when Miami natives led by Little Turtle attacked the encamped settlers on November 5.[247][aa] The war in the w
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