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American War of Independence (1775-1782)

American War of Independence (1775-1782)

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American War of Independence (1775-1782)

Causes of the War1775177617771778177917801781The End of the WarSuggested Reading

Causes of the War

The first of a series of wars of independence that ended European control of both North and South America. The conflict between Britain and her American colonists was triggered by the financial costs of the Anglo-French wars of the previous thirty years, in particular the Seven Years War (1756-63). A principal theatre of conflict had been in North America, where it was felt that the colonials had failed to play their part either financially or in the fighting. In the years immediately after the war, the army in North America consumed 4% of British government spending. This cost, combined with the victories over the French had increased British interest in their colonies. Ironically, those victories had also removed one element tying the Americans to Britain - fear of French strangulation. In 1756, the French held Canada, the Ohio Valley and the Mississippi, isolating the British colonies on the eastern seaboard. By 1763 that threat had been removed.

At the heart of the division between the colonists and Britain was a fundamentally different concept of the purpose of the colonies. To the British, their American lands were there largely to provide raw materials to Britain and be consumers of British manufactured goods. This feeling expressed itself in an increasing control and restriction of American trade and industry that helped to build up resentment, especially in New England, where manufacturing goods for export to the southern colonies was already an important part of the local economy. In contrast, many of the colonists saw themselves as carving a new society from the wilderness, unrestricted by decisions made 3,000 miles away across the Atlantic.

These pressures were tolerable as long as British regulation of the rules was fairly lax. However, in the decade before the colonies rebelled there was a new level of interest in exploiting the American colonies. The first move was an attempt to limit further expansion by the colonies. In 1763 it was decided to draw a border behind the existing colonies, along the line of the Alleghenies. The land to the west was to be left to the Indians, who were to be encouraged to become consumers of British goods. New colonists were to be encouraged to go north to Nova Scotia, where they could produce much needed timber for the navy, or south to Florida. This limit on their expansion caused much discontent amongst the colonies, costing many, including George Washington, a good deal of money.

The next increase in the tension came in 1765 with the Stamp Act and a trade act know as the Sugar Act. It was the Stamp Act that caused the most protest. This was a direct tax, levied on the paper required for legal transactions and on newspapers. It had been proposed in 1764, and the Americans had been given the year to suggest alternative methods of raising the money needed to administer and defend the colonies. Instead, this year was used to organise opposition to the act.

The Stamp Act caused hostility for a variety of reasons. First, the policy of limiting westward expansion that it was intended to help fund was not popular in the colonies. Second, it was the first direct taxation to be imposed on the colonies from London. All previous taxation had been in the form of trade duties. Finally, the act brought to the fore an issue that was bound to eventually emerge - the status of the legislative assemblies that existed in several of the colonies. In Britain they were considered to be subordinate to Westminster on all issues, in the colonies a new theory emerged that the Westminster Parliament had control over imperial issues, but not over colonial taxation. Combined with a boycott of British goods, the riots caused by the Stamp Act caused the fall of the government of Lord Grenville. The new government of Lord Rockingham repealed the Stamp Act in 1766, but at the same time passed a Declaratory Act confirming Parliamentary authority over the colonies.

The next government attempt to raise money was the Revenue Act of 1767. Put forward by Charles Townshend, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, this was a scheme based on indirect taxes on trade, organised across all of the colonies by a board of commissioners. Townshend suggested that the proceeds could fund both the armed forces needed on the borders, and a civil list that could free royal governors from any need to rely on colonial assemblies for funding. The government had reasonable grounds to expect that this new approach would be acceptable - during the controversy over the Stamp Acts the colonists had accepted the validity of indirect taxation - but instead it was to face protest on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Britain the protest came from those merchants whose exports were being taxed and then boycotted. In America the Revenue Act aroused deep suspicion. The talk of a civil list convinced many that the Act was designed to impose absolute authority from Britain. With an expected yield of only £40,000, it was unlikely that any money would be left after the army had been paid for, so these fears were unjustified, but the more radical voices amongst the colonists were able to link the Declaratory Act and the Revenue Act and create a British plot to destroy all colonial liberties. The Revenue Act was commonly held to have overstepped the natural laws that limited the authority of Parliament. From Massachusetts Samuel Adams issued a circular letter calling for common action against the Act. At first this letter appeared to have had little impact, until Lord Hillsborough issued a counter-circular to the colonial governors instructing them to ignore Adams' letter, while the Massachusetts assembly was suspended. The Massachusetts protest now became a focus of discontent, convincing many, including George Washington that the British government was intent on gaining total control of the colonies. A campaign of non-importation was launched, although the smuggling of English goods did not stop.

Non-importation hit the American ports hard, especially Boston, where lawless conditions eventually forced the British to post troops in the city. Meanwhile, a change of government in Britain brought Lord North to power (1770). By 1769 the British government had decided to abolish all but the duties on Tea, and in 1770 Lord North removed all the other duties. Tea was retained in part as a symbol of sovereignty and in part because it raised just over £11,000 each year.

At the same time non-importation collapsed in the colonies as the spread of lawlessness convinced colonial opinion that resistance to the Revenue Act was threatening the stability of society. On 5 March 1770 a Boston mob attacked a company of soldiers guarding the customs house. The soldiers stood firm until one was knocked down by the rioters at which point the soldiers were ordered to fire, killing five of the rioters ('Boston Massacre'). While some radical campaigners saw this as a sign of what they saw as the brutality of British rule, much colonial opinion was repulsed by the actions of the mob. This was especially true in New York, where a radical leader, Alexander McDougall, had used the economic crisis in the port to threaten the authority of the New York Assembly. A conservative reaction set in in New York and at the end of the summer of 1770 New York abandoned non-importation, which soon collapsed across the colonies, leaving only an unwillingness to drink taxed tea.

For the next three years it looked as if the danger of a colonial revolt had been averted. Lord North made little or no effort to interfere in the colonies, while in America inter-colony rivalry revived, as typified by the activities of the Green Mountain boys. However, this image was false. The return to even grudging loyalty only lasted for as long as the British didn't act. Expectations and attitudes on the two sides of the Atlantic were too far apart for any permanent understanding to be established within the Empire.

It was this gulf that gave the issue that finally led to war its potency. The crisis was caused by the financial losses suffered by the British East India Company as it moved from trading concern to political authority. Part of Lord North's plan for restoring the fortunes of the company, seen as vital for reducing the national debt, was a scheme for disposing of the Company's Tea surplus. Previously, East India Company tea had to imported into England, where it paid 1s tax before being exported to American by English middlemen, who paid a further 3d. North gave the Company permission to sell direct to the American colonies, paying only the 3d duty. If implemented this would have halved the cost of tea in the colonies, from 20s. per pound to only 10s.

This new policy worried the radicals in the colonies. The boycott on Tea was the only protest against British rule that was still effective, and there was a great fear amongst radical opinion that this new cheap tea would end that boycott. In New York and Philadelphia, where smuggling was rife, the boycott of taxed tea was secure, but Boston was seen as a weak point. Too well policed for smuggling, the radicals were afraid that if tea was landed in the port, it would be drunk across the colonies, breaking the boycott. Their reaction was to prevent the tea from being landed. On 16 December 1773 a group of Boston radicals, dressed as Indian braves, dumped thousands of pounds worth of tea into the harbour, a protest immortalised as the Boston Tea Party.

The British reaction was critical. A low-key response could have defused the situation, but instead Lord North decided on confrontation. The reaction to events in Boston in 1770 led the government to expect that the other colonies would once again repudiate radical action in Massachusetts. However, the actions taken by Lord North's ministry could not have been more offensive to colonial sensibilities. Early in 1774 a series of acts, called the 'coercive' or 'intolerable' acts in the colonies, were passed in an attempt to restore order in Boston and Massachusetts. The port was closed until the lost tea had been paid for. The governor was given the power to transfer trials to Britain. Boston was made to provide barracks for troops inside the town. Finally, the constitution of the colony was changed. Massachusetts had a two chamber system, with an elected house of representatives who had the power to appoint the upper house, or councillors. This was now changed so that the Crown could appoint the councillors.

Rather than isolating Massachusetts, these acts united the colonies in protest. In particular, British interference with the constitution of one of the colonies was felt to threaten all. At the same time news of the Quebec Act reached the colonies. This was a sensible response to the problem facing in Canada of ruling a largely French population, only recently conquered. It allowed for tolerance of French Catholicism, even giving the Catholic majority a place on the new Canadian council. Canada's borders were also expanded to include the areas of Illinois and Detroit, where there was already a French population. In the thirteen colonies this act caused great hostility. Once again westward expansion had been blocked. Worse, at least as far as New England was concerned, was the tolerant attitude to Catholicism. The colonial response was the first Continental Congress, which met in Philadelphia in September 1774.

When this Congress met it demanded the repeal of all colonial legislation passed since 1763. Until this demand was agreed to, Congress agreed to block all imports and exports to and from Britain other than those crops which the southern states depended on, to refuse to pay any taxes to Britain and to prepare to resist any British troops. However, the Congress did not at this stage want independence. Despite this, conflict was now inevitable. In British eyes Congress was an illegal body, not to be dealt with. Even so, opinion was split on how to respond to American discontent. In November George III was already certain that there would be fighting, but there were still conciliatory voices in Parliament. In America, General Gage, now Governor of Massachusetts as well as commander in chief of the British forces in North America, warned that the discontent was widespread and requested large-scale reinforcements, but back in Britain the scale of the trouble was not yet appreciated. Lord North was not alone in seeing Massachusetts as the heart of the problem, and in April 1775 that idea was reinforced by the first fighting.


The War begins

The first shots of the war were fired in Massachusetts. Here the most rebellious of the colonies was faced by General Thomas Gage, Governor of Massachusetts and commander-in-chief of all British troops in North America. Lord North had considered the colony to be in revolt from February, but failed to appreciate either the scale of the discontent in Massachusetts or that it was also present across the other colonies.

The fighting began with a relatively minor skirmish. On 19 April 1775 Gage despatched a column to seize an arms cache thought to be at the town of Concord, only 16 miles from Boston. Unluckily news of the expedition leaked, and at Lexington the British encountered a small force of American militia. It is not known which side fired the first shots of the war, but the militia withdrew and the British continued to Concord. However, it was the return to Boston that revealed the scale of the revolt and the weakness of the British position. Outnumbered by hostile forces, the British column was being slowly destroyed by sniping until it met up with a relief force at Lexington and was able to return relatively safely to Boston.

News of the fighting spread quickly, and Gage soon found himself besieged in Boston by an irregular but large force, which quickly dug itself in. Meanwhile, Gage was waiting for reinforcements. On 26 May they arrived, led by three major-generals who were to play an important part in the war - William Howe, Henry Clinton and John Burgoyne.

Encouraged by his reinforcements, Gage decided to strengthen his position by capturing key hills that overlooked Boston on its island, and threatened the harbour. The Americans learnt of this plan, and fortified Breed's Hill on the Charlestown peninsular north of the harbour. The resulting battle of Bunker Hill (17 June 1775) was a disaster for the British. Although they did manage to capture the American positions, it was at the cost of half of their force killed or wounded.

Bunker Hill effectively knocked the main British army out of the war for the next year. For nine months it remained in Boston, now commanded by Howe, who failed to appreciate the weakness of the American forces facing him.

Washington and the Continental Army

The dominating figure of the war now entered the scene. On 15 June 1775 George Washington was appointed commander of the new Continental army, created in the same month out of the forces besieging Boston. Washington was to face formidable problems in his task. First amongst them was the persistent belief in the ability of the militia to win the war without a permanent professional army. This belief in the militia system had been one of the problems faced by the British in their attempts to raise taxes in America. His second problem was that troops from the different colonies were often unwilling to serve away from their colony, or in mixed units with men from other colonies. A third problem was that the army was not properly supplied, a problem that remained for most of the war. Fourth, many of his men were serving for short periods of time and several operations, such as the 1775 invasion of Canada, were adversely effected by enlistments ending. Finally, the rebellious attitude that had prompted many to join the army also made them resistant to taking orders from officers they had not selected. Washington was to have frequent problems getting men to accept the principle that the best man should have a post, not simply the one who had served for longest. Washington's most important contribute to the war was the patience with which he turned the forces he found outside Boston into an army that was eventually able to take on regular British troops on the battlefield. The Revolt Spreads

Away from Boston there were very few resources that could be used to maintain Royal authority. Over the summer of 1775 news of the fighting around Boston inflamed revolutionary activity across the colonies. A series of Royal governors were forced to flee to the safety of Royal Navy ships. All across the colonies, sizable militias were formed, leaving the small British garrisons vulnerable. A lack of appreciation of the scale of unrest meant that little or no aid could be expected until the following year, if at all. This allowed the American cause to gain vital momentum.

Invasion of Canada

The only American setback of 1775 came in their invasion of Canada. Their invasion was based on the expectation that the recently conquered French of Quebec would rush to the aid of the invasion. If that had happened, then the weak British garrison of Canada, already used to reinforce Boston, could have been overwhelmed. As it was, the French population was relatively happy under British rule, and the Americans found themselves operating without popular support.

The campaign began slowly, with one advance along Lake Champlain starting in May and continuing until the surrender of St. Johns on 2 November. Another force further north was defeated outside Montreal on 25 September. Finally, a third force of 1050, under Benedict Arnold, was sent through Maine to the St. Lawrence. This force, reduced to 600 on the march, arrived outside Quebec on 9 November. Facing them was a hastily formed force commanded by Major-General Guy Carleton, the British commander in Canada. Most of his regular troops had been captured, so the defence was based on Loyalists, French militia, sailors and marines, with a small core of regulars.

Despite their apparent strength, the American force in front of Quebec, one thousand strong by early December, suffered from one major handicap - their soldiers period of service was due to end on 31 December. Faced with this, the Americans attempted to take the city by assault early on 31 December (battle of Quebec). The failure of this assault ended the best chance the Americans had for victory in Canada.


The British Respond

The British response to the revolt was to be directed by the new Secretary of State for the American colonies, Lord George Germain, who held the post from November 1775 until he was replaced in February 1782. Germain had been disgraced after his role in the battle of Minden (1759). He had spent the intervening years attempting to rebuild his reputation, which may help explain his aggressive stance as Secretary of State. Despite his distance from the fighting, Germain was to control most British strategy during the war.

By the start of 1776 it was clear even in Britain that the colonial revolt was not the work of a small number of malcontents. The British response was to plan what was then the biggest transatlantic expedition ever carried out. Troops sent from Britain were to be sent to three separate theatres of war, there to reinforce the troops already present. The first campaign was to be in Canada, where the American invasion was to be repulsed, followed by a march down to the Hudson. The second was to be sent to reinforce the forces in Boston, to be used to capture New York and perhaps meet up with the army marching down from Canada. Finally, a third force was to be sent to the south, where it was confidently expected that the loyalists would rise against the rebels as soon as a British army arrived. Two of these three expeditions would achieve at least partial success, but the year ended with the British no nearer to ending the revolt.


The main event of 1776 was not to come on the battlefields. On 4 July 1776 the Declaration of Independence was signed. The desire for independence had not been amongst the causes of the war, but at the start of 1776 Tom Paine published Common Sense. This challenged the idea that reconciliation with Britain was possible and instead spoke out strongly for the idea of independence. This work sold over 100,000 copies, and made public a debate that had been happening in private. Over the first half of 1776 the mood shifted towards independence, with several states making it clear that they would support the idea. Finally, on 7 June a motion to declare independence came before Congress. After a series of debates, Congress postponed their final decision until 1 July, but also appointed a committee to draft a declaration in case one was needed. This committee, dominated by Thomas Jefferson, finished the draft on 28 June, just in time for Congress. By this point all the states apart from New York had approved independence although Pennsylvania was also unconvinced. Congress finally approved a slightly modified declaration on 2 July. On 4 July the Declaration of Independence was approved by Congress, although New York did not sign until 15 July.

The Declaration of Independence was a momentous event. It gave a clarity to the American cause that it had previously lacked, and that the British were never to gain. It played a part in convincing foreign powers to help the rebels, overcoming a fear that a reconciliation between Britain and the colonies could cause any intervention to backfire. It also made any hopes of a peaceful settlement much less likely - Independence once declared could not easily be surrendered.

Clearance of Canada

Despite the failure of their assault (see battle of Quebec), and a manpower shortage caused by expiring periods of enlistment, the Americans attempted to maintain their siege of Quebec. Already hampered by their lack of proper siege equipment, the Americans were also short of money, and on 4 March declared anyone who would not take their paper money to be an enemy. What little local support they had enjoyed now evaporated. Their position in Canada was only secure while the ice prevented the British from sending relief forces in. When the ice broke, the American garrison at Montreal departed, while the army besieging Quebec withdrew when a British relief force arrived on 6 May. The Americans withdrew nearly one hundred miles up the St. Lawrence to Sorel at the junction with the Richelieu River. Reinforced, the American force advanced back up the St. Lawrence and attempted a surprise attack on the British camp. The resulting battle of Trois Rivieres (Three Rivers, 8 June 1776) resulted in an heavy American defeat, rapidly followed by the abandonment of the Canadian adventure, not to be repeated until the War of 1812.

Failure In The South

The southern expedition went wrong almost from the beginning. The naval expedition under Sir Peter Parker was meant to leave Cork on 1 December 1775, arriving off Cape Fear in early February, allowing time for a campaign in the south before moving on to New York. It was confidently expected that General Henry Clinton, commanding the land forces already in the area, would find many loyalists ready to join the British. However, the loyalists had been defeated at Widow Moore's Creek on 27 February, two weeks before Clinton arrived (12 March), while the fleet didn't leave Cork until mid February 1776. The first ships reached America on 18 April, but the rest of the fleet trailed in, Cornwallis (commanding the reinforcements) only arriving on 3 May. The British troops were in a poor condition, especially the reinforcements, who had spent three months at sea, and Clinton would have preferred to abandon any plans in the south.

Parker on the other hand was keen for action. There were reports that the defences of Charleston were in poor condition and so it was decided to attack Sullivan's Island, whose fortifications guarded the southern approaches to Charleston Harbour. The British plan was to launch a two pronged attack - Clinton with 2,000 men would wade across shallows linking Sullivan's Island to Long Island, while Parker bombarded the fortifications from the sea. However, on the day of the attack, 28 June, the weather and the seas were not as the British had expected them to be. The water between Long Island and Sullivan's Island was far too deep to wade, while Parker was unable to get his ships as close as he had expected and came under a devastating fire from the American guns. When night fell the British ships were forced to withdraw, having suffered serious damage. With the failure of the attack on Charleston British activity in the south ended for two years.

Attack on New York

The main British army began the year blockaded in Boston. Outside the city Washington had managed to put together a formidable army of over 17,000 men by February. He had also built up his stocks of artillery and powder to the level where he could carry out a proper siege. In Boston the British army had endured months of boredom punctuated by occasional alarms, and discipline in the army was poor. General Gage had now been replaced by General William Howe, who was had been given permission to evacuate Boston if the situation justified it. Howe was convinced that he should leave, but did not have enough ships for a proper evacuation and was waiting for more transports when, on 2 March, the Americans began their artillery bombardment. They then captured the Dorchester Heights, overlooking Boston Harbour. The British position was now untenable, and Howe decided to withdraw in the ships he already had. After destroying the military supplies in the city, Howe and his army departed for Halifax on 17 March. The Americans let him go in peace in return for an agreement not to burn the city before he left.

Halifax was itself a poor location for an army. Supplies were still limited and the weather appalling, but Howe settled down for months while he planned his attack on New York. Now Boston was secure, the Americans were concentrating their forces around New York and building up the defences. Howe decided to wait until Clinton and the army in the south could join him.

Howe finally decided to move in June. The British fleet was sighted on 29 June and the British army landed on Staten Island on 3 July. After Clinton arrived in mid-August Howe had 32,000 men under his command. Washington was faced by a serious problem. He was outnumbered, had limited supplies and no naval support. He had two main islands to defend - Long Island and Manhattan Island. If he split his forced between the two islands, Washington was well aware that they could be split in two and defeated in detail, but he had little or no choice. The Brooklyn Heights on Long Island overlooked New York. If they fell to the British then the city would be fatally exposed. Washington posted troops around Brooklyn village and fortified the hills surrounding the area.

Howe made his move on 22 August. 15,000 men were landed on Long Island. Facing them the Americans were defending the Heights of Guan, a line of hills breached by four passes. Three were strongly held, but the furthest out was only guarded by five men. The British started to move on 26 August and early on the 27th they surprised the five guards and were able to march behind the American positions. The resulting battle of Long Island was a resounding British victory. The Americans were forced back into Brooklyn. Howe did not attack the American positions, recognising that it would have to be evacuated. Sure enough on 29-30 August Washington evacuated his position at Brooklyn.

Howe now decided to try and trap Washington in New York. Congress now made it clear that Washington was not to risk being trapped in the city. He decided to withdraw to Harlem at the north end of Manhattan Island. While the Americans were engaged in this, Howe moved again. On 15 September he landed at Kip's Bay, overwhelming the militia defending the bay, and almost capturing Washington, who had ridden from Harlem on hearing of the British landings. The British had a chance to capture a large part of Washington's army but the forces still in New York managed to slip away along the west side of the army. The next day saw the 'battle' of Harlem Heights, a skirmish brought on by British carelessness and the last American victory for some time. The British were now free to occupy New York, where they were greeted by cheering crowds of loyalists.

Howe now had a chance to inflict a crushing defeat on Washington's demoralised and outnumbered army. The Americans were digging in on the Harlem Heights, but again Howe outflanked them on the water, landing on Throg's Neck on 12 October. Washington was forced to withdraw, this time to White Plains. Once again Howe delayed. Finally on 28 October the British attacked again (battle of White Plains) and again inflicted a defeat on Washington. Again Washington withdrew, this time to North Castle. This time Howe did not follow, turning instead to Fort Washington, which with Fort Lee guarded the Hudson. By this point it was already clear that the Royal Navy was able to get past the forts without serious danger, and Washington considered abandoning the forts before being persuaded by the local commander, Nathanael Greene, and the commander of Fort Washington Robert Magaw that they could hold the fort. This was soon to be proved false. On 16 November Howe launched his attack on the badly planned American lines around the Fort. The American lines collapsed on three sides, and when the retreated troops reached Fort Washington, Magaw quickly decided to surrender. A few days later Fort Lee was also captured by the British.

The American position was now perilous. 2000 militiamen had departed at the end of their period of service. Washington with 3000 men retreated as fast as he could towards Pennsylvania with Cornwallis in pursuit. The British were also tired, and the roads increasingly muddy, but Cornwallis still came close to catching Washington at New Brunswick on 1 December, but was under orders to proceed no further until Howe joined him. Once Howe arrived the chase began again, and again the British came close to catching Washington, but the Americans were able slip across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. For a week Howe searched for boats to cross after the Americans, but with the weather turning cold he decided to send his army into winter quarters on 14 December.

This decision has been criticised ever since, but at the time it made sense. Washington had suffered defeat after defeat and had been forced out of New York and now New Jersey. The weather was now bitterly cold, and it was clear that the winter had settled in. The Hessians left to guard the line of the Delaware still outnumbered Washington's remaining men.

What has made Howe's decision the subject of such debate ever since is the extraordinary decision Washington now made. The Hessian line was spread thinly along the Delaware, and Washington decided to launch a counter attack. The first target was Trenton, to be followed by Princeton and perhaps New Brunswick if possible. With a force of 2,400 men Washington crossed the Delaware late on Christmas day. The next day he attacked the Hessian position. The Battle of Trenton is one of the most famous of the war. The Hessians were never able to form a proper line of battle. Although casualties were relatively light on both sides, over 1,000 Hessians were captured. Washington then withdrew back over the river in the expectation that the Hessians would react to retake their post. However instead they withdrew from all of their positions on the Delaware. Washington was able to cross back into Trenton, where by the start of 1777 he had 5000 men.

Howe responded by sending Cornwallis with 5,500 men on a rapid march to Trenton. He arrived on 2 January to find Washington drawn up in a strong position. Cornwallis decided to wait overnight and attack the next day, but overnight Washington was able to slip away on a newly constructed road towards Princeton, while a small force remained at Trenton to fool Cornwallis.

The next day Washington reached Princeton, where there were two regiments under Colonel Charles Mawhood. The battle of Princeton was a second American victory in just over a week. Mawhood managed to break through the initial American attack but his force was almost destroyed on the road to Trenton. Cornwallis, still at Trenton, decided to withdraw to New Brunswick.

These two victories began to establish Washington's reputation, left looking threadbare after the disasters around New York. In a brief campaign he had prevented the disintegration of his army, thrown the British out of New Jersey and given the entire American cause a boost.


1777 was the last year in which the British were able to concentrate on defeating their rebellious colonials. Instead, American success during the year encouraged the French to intervene on their side, virtually ensuring American success. The year began with much British optimism. During the year, the Americans were forced to react to British actions, without any clear idea of the British plans. The British were determined to force a decisive battle, but when one did happen the Americans were to win.

The British operated two main armies in 1777. One, commanded by General Burgoyne, was to capture Ticonderoga and then march to the Hudson, from where it could split the Colonies in two. The second army, under Howe, had originally been committed to sending forces up the Hudson from New York to aid this advance, but before Burgoyne's force had begun its' march, Howe had already changed his plans to an invasion of Pennsylvania, with the capture of Philadelphia, then the American capital, as its main aim. This only left a token force to clear the Highlands upriver from New York. Lord Germain, commanding the war from London, approved both of these plans, and must take much of the blame for the disaster to follow.

Howe's Campaign

At the start of the year the main action involved Howe's army. He was faced by Washington, whose army in March only numbered 3,000. However, his numbers soon mounted, and he was able to take up a strong defensive position blocking the land route to Philadelphia. Howe missed his chance to try and force a decisive battle, and by April had decided to move his army by sea to Pennsylvania. A brief foray in late June was made in an unsuccessful attempt to lure Washington into battle.

However, Howe's main failing was the slowness of his preparations. The soldiers only embarked between 9-11 July, and didn't sail until 23 July. Faulty intelligence convinced Howe that Washington had already moved towards the Delaware River to block him, so Howe decided to sail to the Chesapeake, a much longer voyage, and didn't make landfall until 25 August (at Elkton, Maryland).While Howe delayed, Washington had been able to sent troops to help face Burgoyne, the first serious consequence of the slow start to the campaign. The second was that Howe was denied the time to take advantage of any victories he gained.

Howe was soon to have the chance to win his victories. Washington now moved to protect Philadelphia, determined to do better than in the previous year before New York. He was certainly in a better position than in 1776, with a more experienced, better equipped army, fighting over country that offered more chances for a successful defence of the rivers between Howe and the city.

Washington first attempted to hold the line of the Brandywine River, but was dislodged by Howe (Battle of Brandywine, 11 September 1777). British tiredness and a lack of cavalry reduced the impact of the defeat, and Washington was again ready to fight five days later (Battle of the Clouds, 16 September 1777), but this time heavy rain intervened. Washington was forced to withdraw to re-supply, leaving a detachment under General Wayne to delay Howe. However, on the night of 20-21 September the British managed to catch Wayne's troops unaware (Paoli Massacre). A final attempt by Washington to hold the Schuylkill River was outflanked, and on 26th September 1777 Howe entered Philadelphia.

Howe was now faced with a new problem. American forts blocked the Delaware, preventing him getting new supplies. Accordingly, he send sizable forces down river to clear the route to the sea. Underestimating the Americans, Howe with the remaining force, now under 9,000 strong, made camp at Germantown, just north of Philadelphia. The camp was not well defended, and Washington decided to attack. The resulting battle of Germantown (4 October 1777) saw Washington attempt an ambitious plan involving four separate columns attacking simultaneously. Although the attack failed, the battle was closely run and demonstrated that Pennsylvania would not be easily overrun. Even the Delaware was not cleared until mid-November.

Howe's campaign thus ended without any decisive advantage to either side. The capture of Philadelphia had little practical value without the destruction of Washington's army - Congress simply moved to another location, and the British found themselves with another position to garrison for little practical benefit. Howe's achievement came a year too late, and was overshadowed by the fate of Burgoyne's army.

Burgoyne's Campaign

It is to that campaign that we will now turn. Burgoyne's campaign (The Saratoga Campaign) suffered from the start from the fractured command structure of the British forces. Having been in London over the winter, he arrived at Quebec on 6 May 1777 to find Carleton, the commander in Canada, unhappy at the loss of troops. His displeasure expressed itself in a lack of Canadian and Indian troops to accompany Burgoyne, a key element in the original plan.

Burgoyne's plan was to march from Canada along the Richelieu River, then Lake Champlain before crossing the twenty mile gap to the Hudson River, from where they would march down-river to meet up with another force marching up from New York. The aim was to isolate New England from the remaining colonies, seen as the key to regaining control outside New England. However, even if Burgoyne's march had succeeded it is hard to see how the troops at his disposal could have achieved this aim. Only a line of forts along the river, well garrisoned and maintained by a fleet on the river could have had the desired effect. Even so, with Howe having achieved his aims, even a moderate success by Burgoyne could have had a significant impact on American morale.

Burgoyne was expecting support from two directions. Least effective during the summer was General Clinton at New York, who refused to move unless reinforced. However, a second expedition did at least leave Canada. A force commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Barry St. Leger reached Oswego on the south side of Lake Ontario on 25 July, intending to march down the Mohawk River to the Hudson. However, at Fort Stanwix, guarding the route to the Mohawk, St. Leger found a force nearly equal in size to his own, where he had been expecting little or no opposition. Despite the defeat of a militia column at the battle of Oriskany (6 August), St. Leger was forced to withdraw in the face of a relief column under Benedict Arnold. Burgoyne was on his own.

Burgoyne's army had assembled at St. Johns on the Richelieu by mid-June. On 1 July they reached Ticonderoga, which Carleton had failed to take in the previous year. The stronghold was overlooked by Mount Defiance, unfortified because the Americans felt it was impossible to get artillery to the top. While Carleton had agreed with them, Burgoyne did not and was able to get his guns into a commanding position. On 5 July the American garrison withdrew from Ticonderoga.

Burgoyne now made the first of a series of unfortunate decisions. Rather than follow Lake George, which led to a wagon trail that crossed a ten mile gape to the Hudson, he continued down Lake Champlain. The result of this was that his army had to cut its' own route through the wilderness. This territory was ideal for the Americans, as proved at the battle of Hubbardton (7 July 1777) where the Americans were able to use the cover of the woods to inflict serious damage on the British before being outflanked and driven off. Nevertheless, Burgoyne was able to cross the wilderness and reached Fort Edward, on the Hudson River.

Burgoyne now made a second mistake. Instead of pressing on, he delayed in an attempt to re-supply. Attempts to open up the route up Lake George and get supplies from Ticonderoga failed, and led to the first serious defeat of the campaign. Hearing of a rebel magazine at the town of Bennington, Burgoyne sent a detachment of Germans to seize it, expecting Loyalist support. While 300 Loyalists did join this force they made little contribution, and on 16 August (battle of Bennington) the British force of 900 was destroyed. Due to his poor relations with Carleton, Burgoyne was also forced to provide garrisons along his route, and was now increasingly short of men.

The forces facing him were steadily increasing. From August the American forces were commanded by General Gates. The defeat of St. Leger's advance down the Mohawk River had released a sizable force under Benedict Arnold and Gates now commanded some 6,000 men. Burgoyne was now faced with a simple choice. Staying put at Fort Edward was not an option, so he could either retire north toward Ticonderoga, or continue his advance. Despite the increasing strength of the American forces in front of him, it was the latter option that Burgoyne made. In perhaps his greatest mistake, on 13 and 14 September 1777 Burgoyne crossed over the Hudson, cutting himself off from Canada, and began his march south.

He was not to get far. Gates had moved his forces north, fortifying Bemis Heights, a wooded area near Saratoga, with a force marginally larger than the British. Burgoyne decided to attack. The first battle of Saratoga, (or Freeman's Farm, 19 September 1777), saw the British advance in the teeth of sniping fire from the American advance guard, eventually forcing the American riflemen from the field, but failing to even reach the positions on Bemis Heights. Burgoyne was forced to withdraw to Saratoga, where he was to remain for the next three weeks while the American forces surrounding him rapidly increased in number.

Even this late, Clinton was still not planning to move. Five days later, on 24 September, reinforcements arrived at New York, and Clinton decided to launch a limited attack on American positions in the New York Highlands, forty miles up the Hudson from New York. At this late date Burgoyne was still able to get messages through to Clinton. A letter written on 28 September informing Clinton of his position arrived within a couple of days, forcing Clinton, against his better judgement, to launch a dash up the Hudson. On 3 October he led 3,000 men in a rapid march up the river, taking a series of forts, culminating in the capture of Fort Constitution, near West Point on 7 October.

The same day saw Burgoyne suffer a second defeat at the battle of Bemis Heights, or Second Saratoga. This developed out of an attempt at reconnaissance in prelude to a full attack and although it was not a major defeat, it ended any hope of a successful advance. Burgoyne now attempted to retreat, but found the route back to Canada blocked. For a week Burgoyne sat and waited for Clinton, before on 14 October beginning surrender negotiations with Gates. The following day Clinton's troops were as near as they came to Albany, the original aim of Burgoyne's march, but got no closer. On 17 October the British army under Burgoyne marched into captivity.

As well as the immediate impact of the surrender and loss of troops, the fate of Burgoyne and his army demonstrated the inaccuracy of the British idea that Washington's army was the only significant American force. Any chance of taking or isolating New England was lost. Even the Highlands, taken by Clinton and an important link between New England and the rest of the colonies, were abandoned soon afterwards.

The most important impact of Saratoga was not in America, but in Europe. In early December news of the surrender reached France, where interest in an American alliance was renewed. On 6 February 1778, France and America signed treaties of alliance and of amity and commerce. The Americans no longer fought alone. Ironically, this alliance with France nipped in the bud a growing peace movement amongst opposition politicians in Britain. News of the defeat had encouraged a belief that victory in America was neither possible nor worthwhile, but once it was clear France was becoming involved this attitude was no longer tenable.


The most important event of 1778 was the entry of France into the war. The French had been providing aid to the Americans since 1776, although at the start of the war there were still mixed feeling in American about forming alliances with Britain's enemies. France was also a source of volunteers, such as Lafayette, while Paris was the base of the American agents in Europe. Negotiations for a full alliance proceeded slowly through 1777, affected by the progress of the war in America. News of the capture of Philadelphia reached France before that of Saratoga, briefly making an alliance look unlikely, but when news of the British defeat reached Paris the French indicated that they were ready to sign an alliance. Benjamin Franklin drafted the treaty, and on 6 February 1778 American and France signed a treaty of friendship and commerce and another of alliance. The treaty of alliance was only to come into effect if Britain and France were at war, giving the French control over when the alliance would come into effect. France agreed to recognise the independence of the United States and provide military assistance. The French agreed not to make peace until American independence was achieved, and both sides agreed not to make peace without the approval of the other. France also agreed to surrender all territorial claims on the continent of North America and thus that all conquests made in North America would be given to the United States (This referred to East and West Florida and to Canada, neither of which was in fact to be conquered by the Americans).

The alliance between America and France was not immediately made public, although it was suspected and feared in Britain. Even without French intervention, the events of 1777 had forced the British to change their plans. The Hudson strategy, with one force marching down the Hudson from Canada to meet another marching up the Hudson from New York, was considered to have been a failure, although in reality it had not been tried - in 1776 the attack from Canada had stalled and in 1777 there was not attack from New York. Meanwhile, the British were hamstrung by an upcoming change of command. Howe had offered to resign on 22 October 1777, and on 4 February was told that his offer had been accepted. General Henry Clinton was to replace him, but he did not reach Philadelphia until 8 May, by which time he had received two sets of orders.

The first set, issued on 8 March, ordered him to suspend major actions in the central and northern colonies and instead adopt a naval strategy, using New York as a base for attacks on the New England coastline. At the same time an expedition to Georgia and the Carolinas was to be planned, the first signs of the southern strategy that was to dominate the rest of the war. However, on 13 March the French acknowledged their American alliance, and although war between Britain and France did not start until 16 June, it was now inevitable and the British plan was changed accordingly.

A second set of instructions was issued on 21 March. The war in the colonies was now to take a back seat. Clinton was to abandon Philadelphia, and return to New York, from where he was to send 5,000 men to attack St. Lucia, another 3,000 to reinforce the Floridas, now of sudden importance, and to detach yet more men to defend Halifax. The British aim was now to go on the offensive in the West Indies, while fighting a purely defensive war in America.

Retreat From Philadelphia

Luckily for the British, Washington also had his problems over the winter of 1777-8. On 21 December 1777 Washington and his 11,000 men had marched to Valley Forge, where they had made camp for the winter. Washington had picked Valley Forge for several convincing reasons. First, it was well positioned to watch the British, eighteen miles to the southeast at Philadelphia. Second, it was an easily defensible location on high ground. Third, it was in a largely unpopulated area and Washington did not want to alienate the population of Pennsylvania by inflicting a wintering army on them. Finally, there was some hope that supplies would be easier to find in Pennsylvania than had been the case in previous winters. However, the location also had its problems. There was little or no food present when the army arrived (the British had already searched the area earlier in the year), the remoteness of the location made it hard for supplies to reach the army, and when the army arrived there were no building for them to use. Across January and February the army faced near starvation, boredom and poor discipline.

This began to change towards the end of February. First, the supply situation was improved by Nathanael Greene, head of the quartermasters department. He despatched foragers into neighbouring states and food finally reached the camp in decent quantities. Second, the discipline problem was relieved by the arrival of Frederick von Steuben, a Prussian volunteer, who reached Valley Forge towards the end of February. Although not the experienced soldier he claimed to be, Steuben turned out to be a highly proficient trainer of soldiers. When Washington and his army emerged from Valley Forge it was a much more proficient force than when it had entered it.

Clinton finally prepared to leave Philadelphia in June. His main problem was the sheer size of his column. As well as 10,000 soldiers there were 1500 wagons and all of the support services that the army required. When fully stretched out on the march this supply train would cover twelve miles. Clinton finally moved out of Philadelphia at 3 in the morning on 18 June. His army crawled towards New York, covering only thirty-five miles in the next six days. Over the same days Washington managed to move his army, of a similar size but relatively unencumbered, fifty-seven miles. Despite this rapid march, there was no consensus in the American camp on what to do once they had caught up with the British. Advice ranged from leaving the British alone through to forcing a general engagement. Washington decided in favour of a limited engagement, and soon had his chance. On 26 June the British reached Monmouth Court House after two days of intense heat. The next day they paused to rest, and Washington decided to attack the British rearguard soon after it again began to march.

Command of the force that would carry out this plan was given to Charles Lee, who had previously made clear his opposition to any such attack. His conduct on the next day was to effectively end his military career. The battle of Monmouth (28 June) developed from the original plan to attack the British rear. This attack went badly wrong, and the Americans were retreating in some chaos when Washington arrived and restored a temporary line, only minutes before Clinton with the main British force arrived on the scene. The battle now continued for the rest of the afternoon, with the British launching a series of poorly coordinated attacks, and the Americans standing up to them surprisingly well. Eventually the British were exhausted and stopped their attacks. Washington then ordered a general attack, but his army was too tired to carry it out. Overnight Clinton left the battlefield and continued his march. The British reached Sandy Point on 1 July from where they were transported by sea to New York. Both sides were able to see Monmouth as a victory. The British had been able to continue their march to New York, while the American regulars had stood up to British attacks, even recovering from an early retreat.

The French Enter The War

At the same time as Clinton's army was being shipped to New York, the first French force arrived in American waters. A French fleet under the Comte d'Estaing had been able to sail from Toulon and make its way to America after the British decided to keep their fleet in home waters to defend against a French invasion. The French fleet was larger than that commanded by Admiral Lord Richard Howe but the British fleet was safe in New York harbour, made safe by a shallow bar across the entrance. Frustrated at New York, Washington and Estaing then decided to attack Newport, Rhode Island, a superb harbour that had been in British hands since December 1776.

The siege of Newport, the first combined Franco-American campaign was not encouraging. Estaing did not get on well with General John Sullivan, the American commander in the area, but they did come up with an attack for a joint attack on 10 August. This was not to be carried out. Sullivan crossed onto Rhode Island early on the ninth, one day early, alienating Estaing. Later in the day Admiral Howe appeared with a reinforced fleet. Estaing decided against risking a landing, and sailed out to face Howe, but the weather prevented any battle and the fleets were scattered by a storm. Sullivan attempted an attack on 14 August, which failed. He then waited for the French to return, but when they did Sullivan was to be disappointed. Estaing was not interested in continuing the siege and sailed away, first for Boston and repairs and then for the West Indies.


In November Clinton finally sent the detachments to St. Lucia and the south that had been ordered in March. The expedition to St. Lucia captured the island but it was the expedition sent to Georgia that was to have the greatest impact on the rest of the war. A force of 3,500 men under Lt. Colonel Archibald Campbell was despatched on 27 November, arriving at the mouth of the Savannah River on 23 December. Richard Howe, the American commander in Georgia, made an attempt to defend Savannah, but he was badly outnumbered and was defeated on 29 December. The fall of Savannah was soon followed by the British conquest of Georgia, and the potential for a campaign into the Carolinas was soon recognised.


By 1779 it was clear that the focus of the war for the British had moved away from America and on to the struggle against France. The main British aim was to reduce the assistance the Americans were able to give to their new allies. As a result the year lacked any major campaigns, although it did show the first signs of the southern strategy that was to emerge in 1780. There was a persistent belief amongst the British that the loyalists were most numerous in the south, and indeed many did appear as the campaigns went on, but the years of British neglect while the war centred on the north had given the Americans time to organise in the south, and the British were to find themselves facing much more opposition than they had expected. The year also saw the Spanish enter the war on the American side, and begin the epic siege of Gibraltar (24 June 1779 to 7 February 1783).

The British planned operations in two main areas in this year. Both has a similar objective - the restoration of civil government in limited areas as a first step to the restoration of British control across the colonies. This was to be attempted in the New York area, where the British already controlled a sizable area and in Georgia, where it was expected that a sizable number of loyalists could be found.

The action around New York was to be largely insignificant. Washington felt his army to be too weak to attempt any major moves without French assistance, which was not forthcoming, while Clinton was waiting for reinforcements who did not arrive until late in the year. However, over the summer the British did make a push into the New York Highlands, where they were able to capture several American positions, including Stony Point, surrendered without a fight. This position was considered to be too strong for anything other than a full siege, but on 15 July Wayne's brigade of light infantry managed to capture Stony Point in a surprise attack. Despite this success, Washington was still unwilling to risk defending fixed positions and it was once again abandoned.

There was more activity in the south. At the end of 1778 the British had captured Savannah, from where they hoped to restore British rule in Georgia. On 3 January the British issued a proclamation calling on the loyalists to rise against the rebels. However, the British were not strong enough to protect those loyalists who did appear. A force of 800 loyalists was defeated at Kettle Creek (14 February), while travelling to Augusta, briefly occupied by the British. Here too the loyalists were to suffer when an American force appeared and the British withdrew to Savannah.

The British had now been reinforced by General Prevost, who had marched up from East Florida and was keen for action, wanting to raid north into the Carolinas to relief the pressure on Georgia. Early campaigning saw a British raid on Beaufort defeated, but Prevost did defeat a North Carolina force at Briar Creek (3 March). Despite this the forces available to the American commander, Benjamin Lincoln, still outnumbered the British, and on 23 April Lincoln crossed the Savannah River and invaded Georgia.

Prevost made a bold reply. On 29 April he marched north into South Carolina. By 9 May he had reached Charleston, where the Governor of South Carolina offered to surrender the city in return for a guarantee that Charleston Harbour and the rest of South Carolina would remain neutral for the rest of the war. Although this offer was refused, it did not escape the attention of Congress, who began to worry about the dedication of the south. Prevost prepared for a siege but before he could launch his attack news reached him that Lincoln was returning from Georgia to relief Charleston. Not wishing to be trapped himself, and having achieved his aim of saving Georgia, Prevost withdrew. Soon the summer heat arrived and the campaigning stopped until cooler weather arrived.

When the fighting in the south did resume it demonstrated the potential vulnerability of the British if the French managed to gain control of the seas. The French fleet under Admiral d'Estaing had spent the summer in the West Indies where the French hoped to make gains at British expense. Earlier in the year d'Estaing had suggested a joint attack on Newfoundland and rejected Washington's plan for an attack on New York or Rhode Island. Now he was again planning to move against Newfoundland, but agreed to stop at Savannah to harass the British on his way north. Accordingly he set off with a fleet of 20 ships of the line and with 5,000 soldiers.

D'Estaing's fleet landed at Tybee Island at the mouth of the Savannah River on 1 September. Originally he had intended to stay for ten days at most, but a storm on 2 September persuaded him to stay longer. News of this landing reached Lincoln on 3 September and he ordered his army to move south. Allied planning was severely limited by the distance between them, but a joint plan was developed. The French would land south of Savannah and prevent the British leaving, while Lincoln would get across the Savannah River by 11 September and march down river to Savannah. The French were also to prevent British reinforcements reaching Savannah from the garrison on Port Royal Island.

The allied forces came together at Savannah on 16 September. D'Estaing summoned the British under Prevost to surrender, and to gain time Prevost asked for a one-day truce to consider their terms. He was able to use this time to improve the defences of Savannah, while on 16 September the garrison had been reinforced. Prevost refused to surrender and the allies made preparation for a siege. However, D'Estaing was unwilling to commit to a long siege, and after a five-day bombardment the allies reluctantly decided to risk an assault.

The attack went in on 9 October, but the British were already aware of the allied plan and were ready for the attack. The Franco-American force suffered 250 killed and 600 wounded, compared to 100 British casualties. D'Estaing now departed, and Lincoln was forced to withdraw into South Carolina where he now prepared for an attack on Charleston.


1780 saw the emphasis of the war continue to shift to the south. While other plans were made for the year, none of them came to anything. On 26 December 1779 7,600 troops under General Clinton had set sail from New York for South Carolina. The British plan for South Carolina was to combine military strength with a policy of conciliation that would allow the Loyalists in the state to take control and help restore British control. Storms delayed the fleet, and it did not arrive at Savannah until 30 January, but the British were still ahead of American reinforcements. The American commander in the area, Benjamin Lincoln, was under great pressure from Congress not to lose Charleston, the first British target, and based much of his policy for the year on the belief that promised reinforcements would soon arrive.

The result of this was that Lincoln allowed himself to become trapped in Charleston. On 11 February the British landed near Charleston, and advanced steadily until on 13 April the siege of Charleston began with a British artillery bombardment. The city was soon cut off, and by late April Lincoln was already aware that the cause was lost, but the townspeople refused to let him surrender, still hoping for relief from Washington. However, on 9 May the British positions had moved close enough to the city for the bombardment to set houses alight, and with the town burning around them the citizens finally gave way. After some negotiations over the terms of their surrender, the American garrison in Charleston surrendered on 12 May 1780. Clinton had captured 2571 members of the Continental Army, as well as 800 militia, who were paroled, as well as much of the Continental Navy, trapped at Charleston when the siege began. The only big city in the southern colonies was now in British hands.

The task that now remained was to gain control over the Carolinas and Virginia. The British plan had been to do this with a combination of reconciliation backed by military victories. Under the suggested terms of peace, the American colonists would be granted the freedom from Parliamentary interference they had desired, in return for remaining within the Empire. On 1 June Clinton and Admiral Arbuthnot issued a proclamation granting a full pardon to all prisoners and rebels who would take an oath of allegiance. While this annoyed many Loyalists, who wanted to see the rebels punished, it could have been the basis for a return to British control in the south, if on 3 June Clinton had not issued another proclamation requiring all those on parole to take an oath that they would actively support British activities. While many in the south were been willing to take a neutral attitude to the war, few were willing to turn on their former comrades in the struggle. This second proclamation was widely regarded as having broken the terms of the original paroles, and many men returned to the fight. Clinton however now left the scene - on 10 June he departed for New York, taking with him 4,000 men as well as most of the army's horses, leaving Cornwallis in charge in the south.

The difficulty of the task facing Cornwallis was soon made clear in the bitter fighting that erupted between loyalists and rebels across South Carolina. Much of this fighting was on a small scale - raids and skirmishes, but even this was significant, as several American commanders who had withdrawn from the war were forced back into it after loyalist raids. Several encounters were sizable enough to be considered battles - loyalists were defeated at Ramsour's Mill (20 June) and Williamson's Plantation (12 July), and held their own at Rocky Mount (1 August). This upsurge in fighting confirmed the British view that the loyalists in the south had only needed British support to encourage them, but Cornwallis seems not to have realised that it also demonstrated the strength of the American cause in South Carolina. Instead, he was to blame many of his problems in South Carolina on support the rebels were receiving from North Carolina, where he was later to blame support from Virginia for his failures. For the moment, British control spread across much of South Carolina. Cornwallis established bases at Ninety-Six, Camden and Cheraw, while many members of the local elites made their peace with the British.

The siege of Charleston had caused much concern in Congress, and in April Johann DeKalb was ordered to take 1,400 Delaware & Maryland Continentals to the relief of Charleston. DeKalb found this force in a poor condition, and his march south had been slow and careful. Once it was clear the city had fallen, DeKalb stopped in North Carolina to allow his troops to rest and prepare them a move south. However, in the aftermath of the fall of Charleston, Congress appointed Horatio Gates to command their southern forces, and on 25 July he found DeKalb's men and took command.

Ignoring the advice of his officers, Gates decided to attack the British post at Camden. The supply situation in North Carolina was poor, and the army would benefit from a victory, so Gates decision to move was not as poor as its' results make it look. As he moved south, Gates was joined by more troops - 2,000 North Carolina militia under Richard Caswell joined him on 7 August and a week later a force of Virginian militia under Edward Stevens arrived. Gates now though he had a force of 7,000 men, and outnumbered the British at Camden at least four to one.

Unknown to Gates, Cornwallis had also noticed the vulnerability of Camden, and had led a force there in person. The British at Camden now had 2043 effective solders, while there were 800 sick in the town. Cornwallis learnt late of Gates' advance, and decided that he would have to fight. At ten in the evening on 15 August, both Gates and Cornwallis ordered their men to march. At this late date, a head count was taken of the American army, and much to Gates' shock his force only contain 3,052 men - 4,000 men would appear to have disappeared. Still unaware of Cornwallis, Gates still decided to move.

At 2.30 in the morning of 16 August, the two armies blundered into each other. The armies formed up and then waited for dawn. The resulting battle of Camden was a disaster for the Americans. The American left collapsed, exposing the rest of the line, which was quickly rolled up. The Americans suffered 800 dead and wounded and 1000 captured. Amongst the dead was DeKalb, who died of his wounds three days after the battle. However, Gates demonstrated a good turn of speed - by nightfall he was 60 miles away from the battlefield, and had reached Hillsboro, 180 miles distant, by 19 August. His military career was effectively over. Most of the survivors of his army followed his example and returned to their homes.

Both sides were worried by aspects of Camden. The Americans were shocked by the relative ease of the British victory and the poor performance of the militia. Cornwallis was worried that no news of Gates' advance had reached him from North Carolina, where he had believed there were many loyalists. However, it is fair to point out that Gates was just as in ignorance of the location of Cornwallis.

Despite his concerns, Cornwallis decided on a quick invasion of North Carolina, with his ultimate aim the American magazines at Hillsboro. His army marched north on 8 September and on 26 September reached Charlotte (North Carolina). Things now started to go wrong. Very few loyalists appeared at Charlotte, while worrying news of partisan activity reached him from South Carolina. The last straw came on 7 October. Guarding Cornwallis' left flank was a force under Patrick Ferguson that had achieved much success against partisans in South Carolina. However, on 7 October his force was surrounded and destroyed at King's Mountain. Cornwallis now decided to retreat to South Carolina. On 14 October he left Charlotte, and his now very ragged army reached Winnsboro on 29 October.

The final act of the war in the south in 1780 was the appointment of yet another new American commander. Having appointed a series of unsuccessful commanders, Congress now turned to Washington, who appointed Nathanael Greene, his quartermaster, to command the southern armies. Greene received news of his appointment on 15 October, and immediately headed south, only stopping at Philadelphia where he begged for supplies from Congress. On 2 December he reached his army, now camped at Charlotte and began the daunting task of restoring an army that had suffered a series of defeats.


At the start of 1781 both the British and the Americans faced a potential crisis. American resources were now very thinly stretched, and their French alliance had provided very little benefit, with the French often more concerned with other areas of conflict, in particular in the Caribbean. January saw mutinies amongst the America troops, and by April even Washington thought the Americans had come to the end of their tether. Rochambeau was of the same opinion. This was crucial. Rochambeau and his troops had remained where they first landed for nearly a year, but now he decided that it was time to move. If a strong French fleet could gain control of the seas for long enough, a joint operation would be mounted in an attempt to inflict a defeat on the British that might save the American cause.

The British too were worried. The French navy had eluded British blockades, and every commander in America knew that a French fleet could appear off the coast and cut them off. Moreover, the successes won in the south in 1780 were already starting to look hollow. British control of South Carolina and Georgia faded away from the coast as small bands of partisans harassed loyalists and any isolated British post. The British commanders were aware that they were no longer the highest priority in London, and reinforcements would be hard to find. The British were also cursed by the poor relationships between the senior commanders. Clinton and Cornwallis were both aware that many in London considered Cornwallis to be the better commander, not without reason, and he had been receiving instructions directly from London. Clinton was also on poor terms with Admiral Arbuthnot. These poor relations were to play a crucial part in the disaster at Yorktown. Clinton was also deeply worried about the prospect of a combined American-French attack on New York, and as a result his army, much larger than the forces involved in the active campaign in the south, sat inactive in New York.

Raids in the South

The year started with both sides having some success in the south. Spain had also entered the war on the American side, and from Louisiana launched an attack on West Florida (now mostly part of Mississippi and Alabama), and in May 1781 captured Pensacola. However, this area was then isolated from the American colonies, and the Spanish intervention there had little impact. British raids in the south were more effective. An expedition commanded by Benedict Arnold had been sent to raid Virginia where he was able to capture Richmond on 5th January, which was largely destroyed, before he withdrew to Portsmouth on the coast, where he established a base from where he was able to harass Virginia to the extent that Washington sent a force under Lafayette to try and defeat him.

Cornwallis in the Carolinas

Arnold will reappear, but we will now turn to Cornwallis, whose army had retired to Winnsboro (South Carolina) on 29 October 1780 after an abortive invasion of North Carolina. At the start of 1781 he was ready to try again. The campaign that was eventually to decide the war began with on a very small scale. Cornwallis left Winnsboro in early January with 1,300 men, having had to leave 5,000 men to secure his rear in South Carolina, while Nathanael Greene, the newly appointed American commander in North Carolina, then had only 800 men with him at Charlotte (North Carolina). Cornwallis was expecting to gain men - 2,000 under General Leslie sent by Clinton, Tarleton's British Legion, and more importantly for any long term hope of success thousands of North Carolina loyalists were expected to rush to join him, an idea that persisted amongst British commanders long after experience should have killed it off. Greene's army meanwhile was in a dreadful state, still shocked after its' defeat at Camden. His main hope of reinforcement was that new militia detachments could be found, and as the campaign in North Carolina continued several contingents were sent to join him.

While Cornwallis began his march north, Greene was attempting to restore the morale of his army. With supplies very short, he decided to split his force. The main army would move east to Cheraw on the Pee Dee River, just inside South Carolina, while a large detachment commanded by Daniel Morgan would head west in part to threaten British positions in the interior of South Carolina, and in part to find supplies. This move left Cornwallis in a difficult position. While the British could operate safely as armies, smaller detachments had proved vulnerable before. However, Morgan could not be left alone without exposing the left flank of Cornwallis' advance to attack. When Tarleton suggested that his British Legion should catch Morgan, Cornwallis agreed. Sending Tarleton west, supported by detachments of regular infantry, Cornwallis himself headed towards his meeting with Leslie.

This plan soon went badly wrong. Tarleton managed to catch Morgan at Hannah's Cowpens on 17 January 1781, but Morgan was ready for him and in the resulting battle Tarleton's unit was destroyed, with nearly 800 taken prisoner. Tarleton himself managed to escape with 40 men, but the days of his successes were largely over. Morgan himself did not linger on the battlefield. The fighting was over by ten in the morning, and Morgan and his men were on the march by noon. News reached Cornwallis on the next day, and he set out in pursuit. However, Morgan was heading north east back towards Greene, but Cornwallis expected him to march south to threaten British posts in South Carolina, and wasted day marched north west to intercept him. News of the battle and of Cornwallis' pursuit reached Greene on 25 January and he immediately realised that Cornwallis would be vulnerable on the chase, having lost much of his cavalry. He immediately set about reassembling his army, and by the end of the first week of February the two armies faced each other across a twenty five mile gap. A pursuit across North Carolina now followed. On 13 February the American forces crossed the River Dan and entered Virginia.

Cornwallis now decided to return south. It was already becoming clear that the Loyalists were not going to rise in massive numbers, while in Virginia Continent Units were being created and the rebels could only get stronger. Rather than risking destruction, Cornwallis instead headed south to Hillsboro (North Carolina). On 20 February he made another attempt to gain Loyalist support, issuing a proclamation asking for Loyalist to join him. This gained him little, but Greene believed reports that the proclamation had been a great success, and believing that North Carolina was about to change allegiance Greene decided to march south again. As he moved, his army gained in strength. 600 militia from Virginia, 400 Continental Infantry and 1693 militia sent for six weeks by Steuben, and 1060 militia from North Carolina joined him. Greene now outnumbered Cornwallis.

Greene crossed back into North Carolina on 23 February. There then followed two weeks of manoeuvre and skirmish, with Cornwallis failing to gain the battle he so desired. Finally, Greene decided he was ready to fight and on 14 March he arrayed his army for battle at Guilford Court House. By now he had close to 4,500 men, compared to Cornwallis with under 2,000. Moreover, Greene had been able to select the site of the battle and plan his deployment. Despite this, the battle of Guilford Court House (15 March 1781) was a British victory. Greene copied Morgan's plan from Cowpens, but placed his three lines too far apart. Cornwallis was thus able to tackle them one by one. Greene was forced to retreat, abandoning his artillery.

Although the battle had been won, in the aftermath it was clear that Cornwallis had suffered most. He had lost a quarter of his men, and his belief in the loyalists of the Carolinas. His plan to pacify North Carolina had clearly failed, and he now decided to march for Wilmington, on the North Carolinian coast. On 7 April he reached the coast with only 1,400 men fit for combat. His problem now was to decide what to try next. In South Carolina Lord Rawdon still had control of much of the countryside, but was now threatened by Greene. However, Cornwallis preferred to move the focus of the war to Virginia where there was still a large British army. He also hoped that Clinton could be persuaded to move his troops to Virginia, allowing a major effort to be made. He thus decided to march north and on 25 April he left Wilmington to march to Petersburg (Virginia), where he arrived on 20 May.

South Carolina

We will briefly return to South Carolina. Greene, with his army reduced by militia desertions and expired terms of service, was still able to gain some easy successes, capturing a series of British strongholds. Only Fort Ninety-Six and Camden held out. In both cases the defences were strong, and at Camden Lord Francis Rawdon was an able commander, with five years of experience in America. When Greene arrived at Camden he found it too strongly fortified to risk an assault, but judged that Rawdon could be persuaded to risk an attack, despite inferior numbers. Greene thus set up camp on Hobkirk's Hill about a mile and a half outside Camden. Greene had judged correctly. On 25 April, the same day Cornwallis left Wilmington, Rawdon launched his attack. Like Guilford Court House, the battle of Hobkirk's Hill (25 April 1781) was to be a British victory, but once again their losses were too high. Rawdon lost 270 wounded and killed from a force of only 800, and despite his victory was forced by mid May to abandon Camden. The same was occur at Fort Ninety-Six, where a force of 550 men was besieged after the messages ordering their retreat failed to reach them. Although Rawdon was able to break the siege, the position still had to be abandoned. Even Rawdon soon had to abandon the area, forced by sickness to hand command over to Lt. Colonel Alexander Stuart in July.

Stuart inherited a much-weakened position. From a strong position at the start of the year, the British in the south now only held Charleston, Savannah and a few remaining minor posts. Greene was determined to attempt to defeat Stuart, who he held to be a much inferior commander to Rawdon. Support for the British was so weakened that Stuart was unaware of the presence of Greene and his army until 8 September, when an American deserter informed him that Greene's army of 2,200 men was about to attack him. The resulting battle of Eutaw Springs was as close as Greene came to a battlefield victory. It was only when his men, on the brink of victory, stopped to loot the British camp that a British counterattack managed to turn the tide of battle. Both sides lost a similar number of men, but the British held the field. Once again, a British victory in battle was a defeat in disguise. Greene had lost all of his battles, but had achieved success in his main aim - North and South Carolina had been cleared of the British.


If a British victory in battle could leave their position weakened, a major defeat would be catastrophic, and it was to that major defeat that Cornwallis was now marching. On 15 May, General William Phillips, an old comrade of Cornwallis and commander of British troops on the Chesapeake, died. He was replaced by Benedict Arnold, much to the annoyance of many British officers, but five days later Cornwallis arrived and took command. He now had a combined command of 6,000 men, but his plans for a campaign in Virginia were only to last until late June, when orders reached him from Clinton. Clinton was worried about the prospect of a combined American and French attack on New York, while he was advised by the navy that they did not have a good winter anchorage near to New York, and so he ordered Cornwallis to fortify a naval base on the Chesapeake, while warning that he may soon need some troops from Cornwallis. During July Cornwallis examined potential sites at Yorktown and Portsmouth. This period was one in which the British commanders were at odds. Cornwallis was not convinced that a base on the Chesapeake had any value unless for a full scale invasion of Virginia, while Clinton did not see the value of such a campaign, and was still concerned about an attack on New York, even though his own forces still outnumbered the combined American and French forces. While warning that the position was not suitable for defence and that he had not enough men to build the defences, on 2 August Cornwallis landed his troops at Yorktown, having decided not to send any to Clinton, and began to fortify his position.

Washington now began the campaign that was to seal his reputation and effectively end the war. He had hoped to launch an attack on New York, and in May Rochambeau had agreed to move his troops from Newport to aid this attack. However, although some activity took place around New York in July, the British position was too strong and little came of the plans. Since June Washington had know that Admiral Grasse was heading for America from Brest in France, but his actual destination, and the effect he would have, was unknown. On 14 August, news arrived that Grasse was sailing for the Chesapeake, with twenty-nine ships and three thousand men. Combined with Washington's own army, and Rochambeau's army and fleet, it would be possible for the allies to gain a decisive advantage in the Chesapeake for long enough to defeat Cornwallis.

The British made an attempt to defeat the French fleet. De Grasse sailed from Saint Domingue with twenty-eight ships on the line on 5 August, reaching the Chesapeake on 30 August. The next day Admiral Graves in command of the combined British fleet sailed from New York. The two fleets came together on 5 September (battle of the Capes). In a two hour battle neither side lost a ship, but both suffered serious damage, and the British were forced from the area, leaving Cornwallis isolated by sea. Clinton had also failed to warn him that Washington may be marching south, still convinced an attack on New York was imminent. Cornwallis thus decided against an attempt to fight his way out. However, Washington had started to move his men south in mid-August, and by the middle of September Washington, Rochambeau, Lafayette and de Grasse were all concentrated against Cornwallis. Cut off by the French fleet, he now found himself surrounded by 16,000 American and French troops. Starting on the evening of 28 September and all day on 29 September the allies moved into position around Cornwallis.

Overnight on 29 September Cornwallis abandoned his outer positions, and moved his force into the inner defences. This move has since been criticised, but Cornwallis had good reasons to make it. His force was massively outnumbered, and the inner defences would be much easier to defend. Clinton had assured him that relief was on the way. Finally, the American and French siege guns did not arrive until 6 October. For the first week of the siege the British guns were able to cause the allies some discomfort, but there were not enough of them. Once the allied guns arrived the situation changed. On 9 October Washington himself fired the first shot of a massive artillery bombardment, which soon reduced the British defenders to a wretched state. After nearly two weeks of constant bombardment and with no sign of relief from Clinton Cornwallis finally gave up. On 17 October Cornwallis offered to surrender, and after two days of negotiation the surrender agreement was signed on 19 October. At two in the afternoon, to the sound of mournful music, the British marched into captivity.

Although the fighting was not entirely over, Yorktown marked the end of any serious British hopes. What followed was a series of withdrawals from the remaining British posts. British troops left Savannah on 11 July 1782, Charleston on 18 December 1782 and finally New York on 25 November 1783. The remaining Loyalists were left with two choices - come to terms with the new conditions in America or leave, with most who did leave going to Canada or the Caribbean. British military efforts turned to resisting the French and Spanish.

The End of the War

When news of the surrender at Yorktown reached London, it struck a final blow to British willingness to fight their rebellious colonials. Substantial British forces still existed in America, while the war against France and Spain continued. However, the war was lost in Parliament. On hearing of the defeat for the first time Lord North declared 'O God! It is all over' and although both George III and Lord Germain wanted to fight on, the mood of the country was against them. A series of votes against the war were held, at first with comfortable government majorities. However, on 22 February 1782 the government survived by only one vote, and finally on 27 February the government was defeated by nineteen votes. The next day Lord North offered to resign, but George III refused to let him. Despite the king's best efforts, Lord North finally resigned on 20 March, pre-empting an attempt to remove him in Parliament. The new government of Lord Rockingham was determined to make peace. Informal talks began in Paris in April. Initially, the American negotiators were meant to consult their French allies, and even follow their advice. The British aim was to retain their colonial territories outside the thirteen colonies, and if possible split the Americans from their French allies.

The same month saw the French fleet defeated at the battle of the Saints (12 April 1782). This secured British naval superiority in the Caribbean and weakened the French position. Meanwhile in England Rockingham was succeeded by Shelburne, who saw a chance to gain some advantage out of the defeat in America. His plan was to give the Americans just about everything they wanted, in return for a trade agreement that would be to the advantage of both sides. The Anglo-American treaty was announced on 30 November 1782. The French were only informed of it by their American allies hours before the public announcement. The treaty acknowledged American independence, and gave them both of their main territorial desires - a western border on the Mississippi, and control of the old North West, an area south of the Great Lakes that Canada also had a good claim to. The Americans were also given fishing rights off Newfoundland and the right to land on the coast to process the catch. The only concession to their French allies was that the treaty was not to come into force until peace had been made between Britain and France. The treaty made possible a friendly relationship between Great Britain and the new United States, but ironically it was unpopular in Britain, where it was seen as a surrender, and Shelburne soon lost power.

In many ways the French were the main losers in the war. Effectively abandoned by their American allies, the French made peace on 20 January 1783. The French had hoped to gain a new client state in America, as well as to make gains in the Caribbean and regain lands lost in India. Instead, France had to be content with Senegal, Tobago and a small area around Pondicherry in India. Peace with Spain was agreed on the same day with Britain keeping Gibraltar while Spain gained East and West Florida. While Anglo-American trade revived after the war, the French were to be disappointed in their hopes of a prosperous relationship with America. Instead the cost of the war helped bankrupt the French government and contributed to the crisis of 1787-9 and to the French Revolution after that. Many of the Frenchmen who had fought for American liberty were to find the struggle for French liberty to be a very uncomfortable experience. By a final irony, the improvements to the navy forced on the British by French aid to the Americans left the Royal Navy in a far better position to defend Britain at the start of the revolutionary wars.

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American Revolution

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American Revolution, also called United States War of Independence or American Revolutionary War, (1775–83), insurrection by which 13 of Great Britain’s North American colonies won political independence and went on to form the United States of America. The war followed more than a decade of growing estrangement between the British crown and a large and influential segment of its North American colonies that was caused by British attempts to assert greater control over colonial affairs after having long adhered to a policy of salutary neglect. Until early in 1778 the conflict was a civil war within the British Empire, but afterward it became an international war as France (in 1778) and Spain (in 1779) joined the colonies against Britain. Meanwhile, the Netherlands, which provided both official recognition of the United States and financial support for it, was engaged in its own war against Britain. From the beginning, sea power was vital in determining the course of the war, lending to British strategy a flexibility that helped compensate for the comparatively small numbers of troops sent to America and ultimately enabling the French to help bring about the final British surrender at Yorktown.

What was the American Revolution?

The American Revolution—also called the U.S. War of Independence—was the insurrection fought between 1775 and 1783 through which 13 of Great Britain’s North American colonies threw off British rule to establish the sovereign United States of America, founded with the Declaration of Independence in 1776. British attempts to assert greater control over colonial affairs after a long period of salutary neglect, including the imposition of unpopular taxes, had contributed to growing estrangement between the crown and a large and influential segment of colonists who ultimately saw armed rebellion as their only recourse.

How did the American Revolution begin?

On the ground, fighting in the American Revolution began with the skirmishes between British regulars and American provincials on April 19, 1775, first at Lexington, where a British force of 700 faced 77 local minutemen, and then at Concord, where an American counterforce of 320 to 400 sent the British scurrying. The British had come to Concord to seize the military stores of the colonists, who had been forewarned of the raid through efficient lines of communication—including the ride of Paul Revere, which is celebrated with poetic license in Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride” (1861).

What were the major causes of the American Revolution?

The American Revolution was principally caused by colonial opposition to British attempts to impose greater control over the colonies and to make them repay the crown for its defense of them during the French and Indian War (1754–63). Britain did this primarily by imposing a series of deeply unpopular laws and taxes, including the Sugar Act (1764), the Stamp Act (1765), and the so-called Intolerable Acts (1774).

Which countries fought on the side of the colonies during the American Revolution?

Until early in 1778, the American Revolution was a civil war within the British Empire, but it became an international war as France (in 1778) and Spain (in 1779) joined the colonies against Britain. The Netherlands, which was engaged in its own war with Britain, provided financial support for the Americans as well as official recognition of their independence. The French navy in particular played a key role in bringing about the British surrender at Yorktown, which effectively ended the war.

How was the American Revolution a civil war?

In the early stages of the rebellion by the American colonists, most of them still saw themselves as English subjects who were being denied their rights as such. “Taxation without representation is tyranny,” James Otis reportedly said in protest of the lack of colonial representation in Parliament. What made the American Revolution look most like a civil war, though, was the reality that about one-third of the colonists, known as loyalists (or Tories), continued to support and fought on the side of the crown.

Fundamental Causes

The British Government followed the policy of mercantilism. According to this policy the colonies existed for the benefit of the mother country. The colonies were expected to furnish raw materials. They had to serve as markets for produced goods. Moreover, the colonies had to ship their goods only in British ships. In these ways the colonies were expected to add more wealth to the home country. The British Government enacted laws to implement this policy of mercantilism.

A series of Navigation Acts were passed by the British Parliament to control the trade of the American colonies. These Acts insisted that all the goods of both exports and imports should be carried in ships owned by England. Custom collectors were appointed in the colonies to implement the Navigation Acts. But, the American colonies considered these Acts as infringement of their rights.

The Molasses Act levied heavy duties on sugar and molasses imported into the American colonies. In addition to this, a series of Trade Acts were also passed to control the trade in the colonies. For example, the Hat Act of 1732 prohibited the import of hats from one colony to the other. The Iron Act 1750 stopped the large-scale production of iron in the colonies. These Acts were opposed by the colonies.

Due to these restrictions, bitterness developed between the home government and the American colonies. They were looking for an opportunity to free themselves from the control of Britain.

Siege of New York - 1781 

The fall of the British army in the Southern Colonies, now meant that all that remained for the Continentals and French was taking strongly defended New York from Sir Henry Clinton. Although the order from London was clear, to keep fighting many, of his fellow commanders pushed for surrender, Clinton however refused to give up his stronghold and quickly mobilised all British and loyalist military forces in defence of a Franco-American attack by General Washington.

Population and Immigration

Large areas of the northern and western parts of the state were undistributed or undeveloped in 1790, and many other sections were thinly populated. The state adopted generous land policies, distributed free "Donation Lands" to Revolutionary veterans, and offered other lands at reasonable prices to actual settlers. Conflicting methods of land distribution and the activities of land companies and of unduly optimistic speculators caused much legal confusion. By 1860, with the possible exception of the northern tier counties, population was scattered throughout the state. There was increased urbanization, although rural life remained strong and agriculture involved large numbers of people. The immigrant tide swelled because of large numbers of Irish fleeing the potato famine of the late 1840s and Germans fleeing the political turbulence of their homeland about the same time. As a result of the Gradual Emancipation Act of 1780, the 3,737 African American slave population of 1790 dropped to 64 by 1840, and by 1850 all Pennsylvania African Americans were free unless they were fugitives from the South. The African American community had 6,500 free people in 1790, rising to 57,000 in 1860. Philadelphia was their population and cultural center.

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, although Lord North refused to grant independence. No positive reply was received from the Americans.

French foreign minister the Comte de Vergennes was strongly anti-British, and he sought a casus belli to go to war with and weaken their perennial foe following the conquest of Canada in 1763. The French had covertly supplied the Americans through neutral Dutch ports since the onset of the war, proving invaluable throughout the Saratoga campaign. The French public favored war, though Vergennes and King Louis XVI were hesitant, owing to the military and financial risk. The American victory at Saratoga convinced the French that supporting the Patriots was worthwhile, but doing so also brought major concerns. The King was concerned that Britain's concessions would be accepted, and that she would then reconcile with the Colonies to strike at French and Spanish possessions in the Caribbean. 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.

Spain was wary of provoking war with Britain before she was ready, so she covertly supplied the Patriots via her colonies in New Spain. Congress hoped to persuade Spain into an open alliance, so the first American Commission met with the Count of Aranda in 1776. 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. However, Spain affirmed its desire to support the Americans the following year, hoping to weaken Britain's empire. In the Spanish-Portuguese War (1776-77), the Portuguese threat was neutralized. On 12 April 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.

Meanwhile, George III had given up on subduing America while Britain had a European war to fight. 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. Britain tried in vain to find a powerful ally to engage France, leaving it isolated, preventing Britain from focusing the majority of her efforts in one theater, and forcing a major diversion of military resources from America. 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. Mahan argues 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.

Since the outbreak of the conflict, Britain had appealed to her ally, the neutral Dutch Republic, to loan 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. 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. French supplies bound for America had also passed through Dutch ports. 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. The Republic had also given sanctuary to American privateers 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.



American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)

American Revolutionary War also known as the American War of Independence, was a global war that began as a conflict between Great Britain and her Thirteen Colonies, which declared independence as the United States of America. View Historic Battle »

Background: In 1651, the Parliament of England sought to regulate trade in America by passing the Navigation Acts, ensuring that trade only enriched Britain. The economic effects were minimal, but they triggered serious political friction.

War breaks out (1775–1776): On April 18, 1775, 700 troops were sent to confiscate militia ordnance stored at Concord. Fighting broke out, forcing the regulars to conduct a fighting withdrawal to Boston. Overnight, the local militia converged on and laid siege to Boston.

Political reactions: After fighting began, Congress launched a final attempt to avert war, which Parliament rejected as insincere.

British counter-offensive (1776–1777): After regrouping at Halifax, William Howe determined to take the fight to the Americans. Howe set sail in June 1776, and began landing troops on Staten Island on July 2.

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 Champlain-George-Hudson route from New York to Quebec, isolating New England.

Foreign Intervention: Spain was wary of provoking war with Britain before she was ready, so she covertly supplied the Patriots via her colonies in New Spain.

International war breaks out (1778–1780): Soon after France declared war, French and British fleets fought an indecisive action off Ushant on 27 July 1778. On 12 April 1779, Spain entered the war, with a primary goal of capturing Gibraltar.

Stalemate in the North (1778–1780): 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.

War in the South (1778–1781): In 1778, despite the defeat at Saratoga, the British turned their attention to reconquering the South. Prominent Loyalists with great influence in London had convinced the British that Loyalist support was high in the South, and that a campaign there would inspire a popular Loyalist uprising.

British defeat in America (1781): Washington still favored an assault on New York, but was essentially overruled when the French opted to send their fleet to their preferred target of Yorktown.

North Ministry collapses: The riots were the most destructive in London's history, damaging the prestige of the government. On 25 November 1781, the situation worsened when news of the surrender at Yorktown arrived in London.

Final years of the war (1781–1783): Within weeks, the British had captured 200 Dutch merchantmen, and 300 more were holed up in foreign ports, though political turmoil within the Republic and peace negotiations by both sides helped keep conflict to a minimum.

Peace of Paris: While peace negotiations were being undertaken, British troops in America were restricted from launching further offensives.

American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)

American Revolutionary War also known as the American War of Independence, was a global war that began as a conflict between Great Britain and her Thirteen Colonies, which declared independence as the United States of America.

The Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar, September 13, 1782, by John Singleton Copley

The Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar, September 13, 1782, by John Singleton Copley
( Click image to enlarge)

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article "American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)", which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.


In the West Indies, on 29–30 April 1781, a Royal Navy squadron under Samuel Hood was narrowly defeated by the French, led by the Comte de Grasse. de Grasse continued seizing British territories Tobago fell on 2 June, Demerara and Essequibo on 22 January 1782, St. Kitts and Nevis on 12 February, despite a British naval victory on 25 January, and Montserrat on 22 February. In 1782, the primary strategic goal of the French and Spanish was the capture of Jamaica, whose sugar exports were more valuable to the British than the Thirteen Colonies combined. On 7 April 1782, de Grasse departed Martinique to rendezvous with Franco-Spanish troops at Saint Domingue, and invade Jamaica from the north. The British under Hood and George Rodney pursued and decisively defeated the French off Dominica between 9–12 April. The Franco-Spanish plan to conquer Jamaica was in ruins, and the balance of naval power in the Caribbean shifted to the Royal Navy.

After the fall of Mobile to Spanish troops under Bernardo de Gálvez, an attempt to capture Pensacola was thwarted due to a hurricane. Emboldened by the disaster, John Campbell, British commander at Pensacola, decided to recapture Mobile. Campbell's expeditionary force of around 700 men was defeated on 7 January 1781. After re-grouping at Havana, Gálvez set out for Pensacola on 13 February. Arriving on 9 March, siege operations did not begin until 24 March, owing to difficulties in bringing the ships into the bay. After a 45-day siege, Gálvez decisively defeated the garrison, securing the conquest of West Florida. In May, Spanish troops captured the Bahamas, although the British bloodlessly recaptured the islands the following year on 18 April.

In Guatemala, Matías de Gálvez led Spanish troops in an effort to dislocate British settlements along the Gulf of Honduras. Gálvez captured Roatán on 16 March 1782, and then quickly took Black River. Following the decisive naval victory at the Saintes, Archibald Campbell, the Royal governor of Jamaica, authorized Edward Despard to re-take Black River, which he did on 22 August. However, with peace talks opening, and Franco-Spanish resources committed to the siege of Gibraltar, no further offensive operations took place.

Few operations were conducted against the Dutch, although several Dutch colonies were captured by the British in 1781. Sint Eustatius, a key supply port for the Patriots, was sacked by British forces under George Rodney on 3 February 1782, plundering the island's wealth.

American Revolutionary War

King George III
King George III of England and Ireland (1738-1820) was the longest reigning monarch before Queen Victoria and Elizabeth II. He was the king of Great Britain when the American Revolutionary War broke out and the colonists gained independence from the British crown.
As the new king, he inherited the ongoing Seven Years War with the French. After the war in 1763, Great Britain faced a huge financial deficit. George Grenville (George III’s Prime Minister) urged the king and Parliament to impose taxes on the American colonies to gain revenue.
By 1764 and 1765, the Sugar Act and Stamp Act were passed by the Parliament with the king’s approval. The Stamp Act was one of the main reasons why the colonists questioned the British Crown and Parliament over the issue of taxation without representation. From Boston, Massachusetts, the battle cry against the imposition of the Stamp Act spread to other colonial cities. The Stamp Act was the imposition of taxes on all printed documents produced and used within the colony. Legal documents, pamphlets, newspapers and even playings cards were included.
Amidst the colonists’ refusal, the Parliament continued to pass taxation laws over the thirteen colonies. Examples are the Townshend Act, Tea Act, and the Intolerable Act. After the series of events in Boston, the American Revolutionary War broke out, led by the Continental Army with General George Washington as the commander. He was appointed by the Second Continental Congress along with the last negotiation piece (the Olive Branch Petition) sent to King George III and the Parliament.
In 1789, George III regained his fame after winning the war with Napoleonic France at the Battle of Waterloo and incorporating Ireland to Great Britain.
George III died at Windsor Castle on January 29, 1820, after almost 60 years as the King of England and Ireland.

On November 10, 1775, George Germain succeeded Lord Dartmouth as Secretary of State for the Colonies and was thereby given something that 15 years earlier would have sounded absurd: control of a British army from which he had been banished as unworthy of serving. The office was invested with extensive new powers to formulate and drive strategy in the war against America, such as authority to coordinate the efforts of the Admiralty, the Board of Ordnance, and the Treasury, which were given even greater strength as Lord North increasingly withdrew from military affairs, which effectively gave Germain sole responsibility within the British government for conducting the conflict.

Once the West Indies were more or less secured against the French, which occupied most British strategic attention between 1778 and 1780, Germain engaged in a new strategy to end the conflict by relying on naval power and suspected loyalist support in the southern colonies. The strategy enjoyed initial success when Clinton captured Charleston, South Carolina, in May 1780. Clinton then returned to New York, leaving the southern campaign in the hands of Charles Cornwallis. He, too, enjoyed initial success by destroying an American army at the Battle of Camden on August 16, 1780. With Clinton in New York, Germain bypassed the commander-in-chief and communicated directly with Cornwallis about an independent campaign to move from the Carolinas into Virginia without the approval of, or even consultation, with Clinton. News of the subsequent surrender at Yorktown reached London on November 25, 1781. North’s ministry fell when Parliament next met Germain resigned on February 9, 1782. All offensive operations were ended in America almost immediately and peace negotiations began soon after.

At this point, it needs remembering that America, in the context of the Revolutionary War, comprised of 13 British colonies on the East Coast. It is those 13 colonies that wanted to be free of the British rule. Therefore, the war took place on the East Coast within those 13 colonies.
The American Patriots on the east coast had challenged the authority of King George III’s government by their Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776. John Wilkes and Edmund Burke had become one of the most outspoken opponents of government policies in the House of Commons.

Provoked by British government’s persistent determination to tax their colonies and to oblige them to accept imported tea from the surplus stocks of the East India Company, the American rebels had first protested by tarring and feathering royal officials then, disguised as Mohawks, by hurling chests of tea in to Boston Harbor. Eventually they demonstrated their determination to resist the British troops by force of arms.

With the victory at the Yorktown, the 13 American colonies on the East coast became independent. The Declaration finally fulfilled the colonists’ motivations for seeking independence.

The rest of what America is today was, in 1776, still owned mostly by Spain with a few Indian natives places here and there. The population there was extremely spars e in 1776.

Actually, Spain considered California inhabitable back then.

It was when the initial 13 colonies expanded inwards that they slowly became part of America. Spain, losing its economic might late in the 18th century, did not see any value in fighting to keep this vast land.

Here is the map of the America with original 13 colonies at the time of independence in 1776.

Dec 16, 1773, a group of Massachusetts colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded three British tea ships moored in Boston Harbor and dump 342 chests of tea into the water.

The period encompassing the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe has often been called “The Age of Kings.’’ Some of the most powerful rulers in history occupied the thrones of various countries during this time: Frederick the Great of Prussia, Maria Theresa of Austria, Peter the Great and Catherine the Great of Russia, and a succession of grand kings named Louis in France, to name but a few. These monarchs governed as virtual dictators, and their influence dominated social and cultural affairs of the time as well as political matters.
This same period could equally be called “The Age of Colonial Settlement.’’ By the early 17th century, the Dutch, the English, and the French had established permanent settlements in North America. (Spain and Portugal had earlier laid claim to much of Central and South America.) The first successful English colony was at Jamestown, in Virginia, where a party led by John Smith arrived in 1607. Thirteen years later the plucky little ship Mayflower made landing in what is now Massachusetts. The settlers endured many hardships as they struggled through their first winters in the New World. At Jamestown the colonists went through a period still known as the “starving time.’’

1775: Arms were gathered in Massachusetts by American colonists. A detachment of British soldiers went to Lexington to seize some of them. From that point on it took a year more for the feelings of the colonists’ leaders to harden into conviction that only complete independence from Great Britain would be necessary.

July 4, 1776: Declaration of Independence

1777: Battle at Saratoga, New York — The Battles of Saratoga (September 19 and October 7, 1777) marked the climax of the Saratoga campaign giving a decisive victory to the Americans over the British in the American Revolutionary War.

1781: Oct 19, 1781, British General Charles Cornwallis formally surrendered to Washington with his 8,000 British soldiers and seamen at Yorktown, Virginia, bringing the American Revolution to a close. This surrender was the worst humiliation yet undergone by British arms and the end of an era of imperial rule. Lord Cornwallis Governor-General of the Presidency of Fort William 12 September 1786 – 28 October 1793

For all the loose ends which would need to be tied up, and a number of boundary disputes that dragged on for decades to come, the appearance of a new state of great potential resources in the western hemisphere was by any standard certainly a revolutionary change. If it was at first seen as something less than this by foreign observers, this was because the weakness of the new nation was at the time more apparent than its potential.

Dec 23 1783, General George Washington resigned as commander in chief of the Continental Army. This was after the Treaty of Paris was signed. This culminated the end of the Revolutionary War. He would return to his estate at Mount Vernon in Virginia.

USA Map after Independence in 1783

Shown above is the Federal Building on Wall Street, New York. On February 4th 1789, he was sworn in here as the first President of the United States. Between 1783 and 1789 Washington lived at Mount Vernon as a private citizen. He worked behind the scene to bind the states into a single federal republic.


It is not definitively known how or when Native Americans first settled the Americas and the present-day United States. The prevailing theory proposes that people from Eurasia followed game across Beringia, a land bridge that connected Siberia to present-day Alaska during the Ice Age, and then spread southward throughout the Americas. This migration may have begun as early as 30,000 years ago [3] and continued through to about 10,000 years ago, when the land bridge became submerged by the rising sea level caused by the melting glaciers. [4] [ full citation needed ] These early inhabitants, called Paleo-Indians, soon diversified into hundreds of culturally distinct nations and tribes.

This pre-Columbian era incorporates all periods in the history of the Americas before the appearance of European influences on the American continents, spanning from the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic period to European colonization during the early modern period. While the term technically refers to the era before Christopher Columbus' voyage in 1492, in practice the term usually includes the history of American indigenous cultures until they were conquered or significantly influenced by Europeans, even if this happened decades or centuries after Columbus's initial landing.

Paleo-Indians Edit

By 10,000 BCE, humans were relatively well-established throughout North America. Originally, Paleo-Indian hunted Ice Age megafauna like mammoths, but as they began to go extinct, people turned instead to bison as a food source. As time went on, foraging for berries and seeds became an important alternative to hunting. Paleo-Indians in central Mexico were the first in the Americas to farm, starting to plant corn, beans, and squash around 8,000 BCE. Eventually, the knowledge began to spread northward. By 3,000 BCE, corn was being grown in the valleys of Arizona and New Mexico, followed by primitive irrigation systems and early villages of the Hohokam. [5] [6]

One of the earlier cultures in the present-day United States was the Clovis culture, who are primarily identified by the use of fluted spear points called the Clovis point. From 9,100 to 8,850 BCE, the culture ranged over much of North America and also appeared in South America. Artifacts from this culture were first excavated in 1932 near Clovis, New Mexico. The Folsom culture was similar, but is marked by the use of the Folsom point.

A later migration identified by linguists, anthropologists, and archeologists occurred around 8,000 BCE. This included Na-Dene-speaking peoples, who reached the Pacific Northwest by 5,000 BCE. [7] From there, they migrated along the Pacific Coast and into the interior and constructed large multi-family dwellings in their villages, which were used only seasonally in the summer to hunt and fish, and in the winter to gather food supplies. [8] Another group, the Oshara Tradition people, who lived from 5,500 BCE to 600 CE, were part of the Archaic Southwest.

Mound builders and pueblos Edit

The Adena began constructing large earthwork mounds around 600 BCE. They are the earliest known people to have been Mound Builders, however, there are mounds in the United States that predate this culture. Watson Brake is an 11-mound complex in Louisiana that dates to 3,500 BCE, and nearby Poverty Point, built by the Poverty Point culture, is an earthwork complex that dates to 1,700 BCE. These mounds likely served a religious purpose.

The Adenans were absorbed into the Hopewell tradition, a powerful people who traded tools and goods across a wide territory. They continued the Adena tradition of mound-building, with remnants of several thousand still in existence across the core of their former territory in southern Ohio. The Hopewell pioneered a trading system called the Hopewell Exchange System, which at its greatest extent ran from the present-day Southeast up to the Canadian side of Lake Ontario. [9] By 500 CE, the Hopewellians had too disappeared, absorbed into the larger Mississippian culture.

The Mississippians were a broad group of tribes. Their most important city was Cahokia, near modern-day St. Louis, Missouri. At its peak in the 12th century, the city had an estimated population of 20,000, larger than the population of London at the time. The entire city was centered around a mound that stood 100 feet (30 m) tall. Cahokia, like many other cities and villages of the time, depended on hunting, foraging, trading, and agriculture, and developed a class system with slaves and human sacrifice that was influenced by societies to the south, like the Mayans. [5]

In the Southwest, the Anasazi began constructing stone and adobe pueblos around 900 BCE. [10] These apartment-like structures were often built into cliff faces, as seen in the Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde. Some grew to be the size of cities, with Pueblo Bonito along the Chaco River in New Mexico once consisting of 800 rooms. [5]

Northwest and northeast Edit

The indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest were likely the most affluent Native Americans. Many distinct cultural and political nations developed there, but they all shared certain beliefs traditions, and practices, such as the centrality of salmon as a resource and spiritual symbol. Permanent villages began to develop in this region as early as 1,000 BCE, and these communities celebrated by the gift-giving feast of the potlatch. These gatherings were usually organized to commemorate special events such as the raising of a Totem pole or the celebration of a new chief.

In present-day upstate New York, the Iroquois formed a confederacy of tribal nations in the mid-15th century, consisting of the Oneida, Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca. Their system of affiliation was a kind of federation, different from the strong, centralized European monarchies. [11] [12] [13] Each tribe had seats in a group of 50 sachem chiefs. It has been suggested that their culture contributed to political thinking during the development of the United States government. The Iroquois were powerful, waging war with many neighboring tribes, and later, Europeans. As their territory expanded, smaller tribes were forced further west, including the Osage, Kaw, Ponca, and Omaha peoples. [13] [14]

Native Hawaiians Edit

Polynesians began to settle in the Hawaiian Islands between the 1st and 10th centuries. Around 1200 CE, Tahitian explorers found and began settling the area as well. This marked the rise of the Hawaiian civilization, which would be largely separated from the rest of the world until the arrival of the British 600 years later. Europeans under the British explorer James Cook arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in 1778, and within five years of contact, European military technology would help Kamehameha I conquer most of the people, and eventually unify the islands for the first time establishing the Hawaiian Kingdom.

Norse exploration Edit

The earliest recorded European mention of America is in a historical treatise by the medieval chronicler Adam of Bremen, circa 1075, where it is referred to as Vinland. [b] It is also extensively referred to in the 13th-century Norse Vinland Sagas, which relate to events which occurred around 1000. Whilst the strongest archaeological evidence of the existence of Norse settlements in America is located in Canada, most notably at L'Anse aux Meadows and dated to circa 1000, there is significant scholarly debate as to whether Norse explorers also made landfall in New England and other east-coast areas. [16] In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge declared that a Norse explorer called Leif Erikson (c.970 – c.1020) was the first European to discover America. [17]

After a period of exploration sponsored by major European nations, the first successful English settlement was established in 1607. Europeans brought horses, cattle, and hogs to the Americas and, in turn, took back maize, turkeys, tomatoes, potatoes, tobacco, beans, and squash to Europe. Many explorers and early settlers died after being exposed to new diseases in the Americas. However, the effects of new Eurasian diseases carried by the colonists, especially smallpox and measles, were much worse for the Native Americans, as they had no immunity to them. They suffered epidemics and died in very large numbers, usually before large-scale European settlement began. Their societies were disrupted and hollowed out by the scale of deaths. [18] [19]

First settlements Edit

Spanish contact Edit

Spanish explorers were the first Europeans to reach the present-day United States, after Christopher Columbus's expeditions (beginning in 1492) established possessions in the Caribbean, including the modern-day U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, and (partly) the U.S. Virgin Islands. Juan Ponce de León landed in Florida in 1513. [20] Spanish expeditions quickly reached the Appalachian Mountains, the Mississippi River, the Grand Canyon, [21] and the Great Plains. [22]

In 1539, Hernando de Soto extensively explored the Southeast, [22] and a year later Francisco Coronado explored from Arizona to central Kansas in search of gold. [22] Escaped horses from Coronado's party spread over the Great Plains, and the Plains Indians mastered horsemanship within a few generations. [5] Small Spanish settlements eventually grew to become important cities, such as San Antonio, Albuquerque, Tucson, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. [23]

Dutch mid-Atlantic Edit

The Dutch West India Company sent explorer Henry Hudson to search for a Northwest Passage to Asia in 1609. New Netherland was established in 1621 by the company to capitalize on the North American fur trade. Growth was slow at first due to mismanagement by the Dutch and Native American conflicts. After the Dutch purchased the island of Manhattan from the Native Americans for a reported price of US$24, the land was named New Amsterdam and became the capital of New Netherland. The town rapidly expanded and in the mid 1600s it became an important trading center and port. Despite being Calvinists and building the Reformed Church in America, the Dutch were tolerant of other religions and cultures and traded with the Iroquois to the north. [24]

The colony served as a barrier to British expansion from New England, and as a result a series of wars were fought. The colony was taken over by Britain in 1664 and its capital was renamed New York City. New Netherland left an enduring legacy on American cultural and political life of religious tolerance and sensible trade in urban areas and rural traditionalism in the countryside (typified by the story of Rip Van Winkle). Notable Americans of Dutch descent include Martin Van Buren, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Frelinghuysens. [24]

Swedish settlement Edit

In the early years of the Swedish Empire, Swedish, Dutch, and German stockholders formed the New Sweden Company to trade furs and tobacco in North America. The company's first expedition was led by Peter Minuit, who had been governor of New Netherland from 1626 to 1631 but left after a dispute with the Dutch government, and landed in Delaware Bay in March 1638. The settlers founded Fort Christina at the site of modern-day Wilmington, Delaware, and made treaties with the indigenous groups for land ownership on both sides of the Delaware River. Over the following seventeen years, 12 more expeditions brought settlers from the Swedish Empire (which also included contemporary Finland, Estonia, and portions of Latvia, Norway, Russia, Poland, and Germany) to New Sweden. The colony established 19 permanent settlements along with many farms, extending into modern-day Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. It was incorporated into New Netherland in 1655 after a Dutch invasion from the neighboring New Netherland colony during the Second Northern War. [25] [26]

French and Spanish conflict Edit

Giovanni da Verrazzano landed in North Carolina in 1524, and was the first European to sail into New York Harbor and Narragansett Bay. A decade later, Jacques Cartier sailed in search of the Northwest Passage, but instead discovered the Saint Lawrence River and laid the foundation for French colonization of the Americas in New France. After the collapse of the first Quebec colony in the 1540s, French Huguenots settled at Fort Caroline near present-day Jacksonville in Florida. In 1565, Spanish forces led by Pedro Menéndez destroyed the settlement and established the first European settlement in what would become the United States — St. Augustine.

After this, the French mostly remained in Quebec and Acadia, but far-reaching trade relationships with Native Americans throughout the Great Lakes and Midwest spread their influence. French colonists in small villages along the Mississippi and Illinois rivers lived in farming communities that served as a grain source for Gulf Coast settlements. The French established plantations in Louisiana along with settling New Orleans, Mobile and Biloxi.

British colonies Edit

The English, drawn in by Francis Drake's raids on Spanish treasure ships leaving the New World, settled the strip of land along the east coast in the 1600s. The first British colony in North America was established at Roanoke by Walter Raleigh in 1585, but failed. It would be twenty years before another attempt. [5]

The early British colonies were established by private groups seeking profit, and were marked by starvation, disease, and Native American attacks. Many immigrants were people seeking religious freedom or escaping political oppression, peasants displaced by the Industrial Revolution, or those simply seeking adventure and opportunity.

In some areas, Native Americans taught colonists how to plant and harvest the native crops. In others, they attacked the settlers. Virgin forests provided an ample supply of building material and firewood. Natural inlets and harbors lined the coast, providing easy ports for essential trade with Europe. Settlements remained close to the coast due to this as well as Native American resistance and the Appalachian Mountains that were found in the interior. [5]

First settlement in Jamestown Edit

The first successful English colony, Jamestown, was established by the Virginia Company in 1607 on the James River in Virginia. The colonists were preoccupied with the search for gold and were ill-equipped for life in the New World. Captain John Smith held the fledgling Jamestown together in the first year, and the colony descended into anarchy and nearly failed when he returned to England two years later. John Rolfe began experimenting with tobacco from the West Indies in 1612, and by 1614 the first shipment arrived in London. It became Virginia's chief source of revenue within a decade.

In 1624, after years of disease and Indian attacks, including the Powhatan attack of 1622, King James I revoked the Virginia Company's charter and made Virginia a royal colony.

New England Edit

New England was initially settled primarily by Puritans fleeing religious persecution. The Pilgrims sailed for Virginia on the Mayflower in 1620, but were knocked off course by a storm and landed at Plymouth, where they agreed to a social contract of rules in the Mayflower Compact. Like Jamestown, Plymouth suffered from disease and starvation, but local Wampanoag Indians taught the colonists how to farm maize.

Plymouth was followed by the Puritans and Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. They maintained a charter for self-government separate from England, and elected founder John Winthrop as the governor for most of its early years. Roger Williams opposed Winthrop's treatment of Native Americans and religious intolerance, and established the colony of Providence Plantations, later Rhode Island, on the basis of freedom of religion. Other colonists established settlements in the Connecticut River Valley, and on the coasts of present-day New Hampshire and Maine. Native American attacks continued, with the most significant occurring in the 1637 Pequot War and the 1675 King Philip's War.

New England became a center of commerce and industry due to the poor, mountainous soil making agriculture difficult. Rivers were harnessed to power grain mills and sawmills, and the numerous harbors facilitated trade. Tight-knit villages developed around these industrial centers, and Boston became one of America's most important ports.

Middle colonies Edit

In the 1660s, the Middle Colonies of New York, New Jersey, and Delaware were established in the former Dutch New Netherland, and were characterized by a large degree of ethnic and religious diversity. At the same time, the Iroquois of New York, strengthened by years of fur trading with Europeans, formed the powerful Iroquois Confederacy.

The last colony in this region was Pennsylvania, established in 1681 by William Penn as a home for religious dissenters, including Quakers, Methodists, and the Amish. [28] The capital of the colony, Philadelphia, became a dominant commercial center in a few short years, with busy docks and brick houses. While Quakers populated the city, German immigrants began to flood into the Pennsylvanian hills and forests, while the Scots-Irish pushed into the far western frontier.

Southern colonies Edit

The extremely rural Southern Colonies contrasted greatly with the north. Outside of Virginia, the first British colony south of New England was Maryland, established as a Catholic haven in 1632. The economy of these two colonies was built entirely on yeoman farmers and planters. The planters established themselves in the Tidewater region of Virginia, establishing massive plantations with slave labor, while the small-scale farmers made their way into political office.

In 1670, the Province of Carolina was established, and Charleston became the region's great trading port. While Virginia's economy was based on tobacco, Carolina was much more diversified, exporting rice, indigo, and lumber as well. In 1712 the colony was split in two, creating North and South Carolina. The Georgia Colony – the last of the Thirteen Colonies – was established by James Oglethorpe in 1732 as a border to Spanish Florida and a reform colony for former prisoners and the poor. [28]

Religion Edit

Religiosity expanded greatly after the First Great Awakening, a religious revival in the 1740s which was led by preachers such as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. American Evangelicals affected by the Awakening added a new emphasis on divine outpourings of the Holy Spirit and conversions that implanted new believers with an intense love for God. Revivals encapsulated those hallmarks and carried the newly created evangelicalism into the early republic, setting the stage for the Second Great Awakening in the late 1790s. [29] In the early stages, evangelicals in the South, such as Methodists and Baptists, preached for religious freedom and abolition of slavery they converted many slaves and recognized some as preachers.

Government Edit

Each of the 13 American colonies had a slightly different governmental structure. Typically, a colony was ruled by a governor appointed from London who controlled the executive administration and relied upon a locally elected legislature to vote on taxes and make laws. By the 18th century, the American colonies were growing very rapidly as a result of low death rates along with ample supplies of land and food. The colonies were richer than most parts of Britain, and attracted a steady flow of immigrants, especially teenagers who arrived as indentured servants. [30]

Servitude and slavery Edit

Over half of all European immigrants to Colonial America arrived as indentured servants. [31] Few could afford the cost of the journey to America, and so this form of unfree labor provided a means to immigrate. Typically, people would sign a contract agreeing to a set term of labor, usually four to seven years, and in return would receive transport to America and a piece of land at the end of their servitude. In some cases, ships' captains received rewards for the delivery of poor migrants, and so extravagant promises and kidnapping were common. The Virginia Company and the Massachusetts Bay Company also used indentured servant labor. [5]

The first African slaves were brought to Virginia [32] in 1619, [33] just twelve years after the founding of Jamestown. Initially regarded as indentured servants who could buy their freedom, the institution of slavery began to harden and the involuntary servitude became lifelong [33] as the demand for labor on tobacco and rice plantations grew in the 1660s. [ citation needed ] Slavery became identified with brown skin color, at the time seen as a "black race", and the children of slave women were born slaves (partus sequitur ventrem). [33] By the 1770s African slaves comprised a fifth of the American population.

The question of independence from Britain did not arise as long as the colonies needed British military support against the French and Spanish powers. Those threats were gone by 1765. However, London continued to regard the American colonies as existing for the benefit of the mother country in a policy known as mercantilism. [30]

Colonial America was defined by a severe labor shortage that used forms of unfree labor, such as slavery and indentured servitude. The British colonies were also marked by a policy of avoiding strict enforcement of parliamentary laws, known as salutary neglect. This permitted the development of an American spirit distinct from that of its European founders. [34]

An upper-class emerged in South Carolina and Virginia, with wealth based on large plantations operated by slave labor. A unique class system operated in upstate New York, where Dutch tenant farmers rented land from very wealthy Dutch proprietors, such as the Van Rensselaer family. The other colonies were more egalitarian, with Pennsylvania being representative. By the mid-18th century Pennsylvania was basically a middle-class colony with limited respect for its small upper-class. A writer in the Pennsylvania Journal in 1756 wrote:

The People of this Province are generally of the middling Sort, and at present pretty much upon a Level. They are chiefly industrious Farmers, Artificers or Men in Trade they enjoy in are fond of Freedom, and the meanest among them thinks he has a right to Civility from the greatest. [35]

Political integration and autonomy Edit

The French and Indian War (1754–1763), part of the larger Seven Years' War, was a watershed event in the political development of the colonies. The influence of the French and Native Americans, the main rivals of the British Crown in the colonies and Canada, was significantly reduced and the territory of the Thirteen Colonies expanded into New France, both in Canada and Louisiana. The war effort also resulted in greater political integration of the colonies, as reflected in the Albany Congress and symbolized by Benjamin Franklin's call for the colonies to "Join, or Die." Franklin was a man of many inventions – one of which was the concept of a United States of America, which emerged after 1765 and would be realized a decade later. [36]

Taxation without representation Edit

Following Britain's acquisition of French territory in North America, King George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763, with the goal of organizing the new North American empire and protecting the Native Americans from colonial expansion into western lands beyond the Appalachian Mountains. In the following years, strains developed in the relations between the colonists and the Crown. The British Parliament passed the Stamp Act of 1765, imposing a tax on the colonies, without going through the colonial legislatures. The issue was drawn: did Parliament have the right to tax Americans who were not represented in it? Crying "No taxation without representation", the colonists refused to pay the taxes as tensions escalated in the late 1760s and early 1770s. [37]

The Boston Tea Party in 1773 was a direct action by activists in the town of Boston to protest against the new tax on tea. Parliament quickly responded the next year with the Intolerable Acts, stripping Massachusetts of its historic right of self-government and putting it under military rule, which sparked outrage and resistance in all thirteen colonies. Patriot leaders from every colony convened the First Continental Congress to coordinate their resistance to the Intolerable Acts. The Congress called for a boycott of British trade, published a list of rights and grievances, and petitioned the king to rectify those grievances. [38] This appeal to the Crown had no effect, though, and so the Second Continental Congress was convened in 1775 to organize the defense of the colonies against the British Army.

Common people became insurgents against the British even though they were unfamiliar with the ideological rationales being offered. They held very strongly a sense of "rights" that they felt the British were deliberately violating – rights that stressed local autonomy, fair dealing, and government by consent. They were highly sensitive to the issue of tyranny, which they saw manifested by the arrival in Boston of the British Army to punish the Bostonians. This heightened their sense of violated rights, leading to rage and demands for revenge, and they had faith that God was on their side. [39]

The American Revolutionary War began at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts in April 1775 when the British tried to seize ammunition supplies and arrest the Patriot leaders. In terms of political values, the Americans were largely united on a concept called Republicanism, which rejected aristocracy and emphasized civic duty and a fear of corruption. For the Founding Fathers, according to one team of historians, "republicanism represented more than a particular form of government. It was a way of life, a core ideology, an uncompromising commitment to liberty, and a total rejection of aristocracy." [40]

The Thirteen Colonies began a rebellion against British rule in 1775 and proclaimed their independence in 1776 as the United States of America. In the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) the Americans captured the British invasion army at Saratoga in 1777, secured the Northeast and encouraged the French to make a military alliance with the United States. France brought in Spain and the Netherlands, thus balancing the military and naval forces on each side as Britain had no allies. [41]

George Washington Edit

General George Washington proved an excellent organizer and administrator who worked successfully with Congress and the state governors, selecting and mentoring his senior officers, supporting and training his troops, and maintaining an idealistic Republican Army. His biggest challenge was logistics because neither Congress nor the states had the funding to provide adequately for the equipment, munitions, clothing, paychecks, or even the food supply of the soldiers.

As a battlefield tactician, Washington often was outmaneuvered by his British counterparts. As a strategist, however, he had a better idea of how to win the war than they did. The British sent four invasion armies. Washington's strategy forced the first army out of Boston in 1776, and was responsible for the surrender of the second and third armies at Saratoga (1777) and Yorktown (1781). He limited the British control to New York City and a few places while keeping Patriot control of the great majority of the population. [42]

Loyalists and Britain Edit

The Loyalists, whom the British counted upon heavily, comprised about 20% of the population but suffered weak organization. As the war ended, the final British army sailed out of New York City in November 1783, taking the Loyalist leadership with them. Washington unexpectedly then, instead of seizing power for himself, retired to his farm in Virginia. [42] Political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset observes, "The United States was the first major colony successfully to revolt against colonial rule. In this sense, it was the first 'new nation'." [43]

Declaration of Independence Edit

On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, declared the independence of the colonies by adopting the resolution from Richard Henry Lee, that stated:

That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved that measures should be immediately taken for procuring the assistance of foreign powers, and a Confederation be formed to bind the colonies more closely together.

On July 4, 1776, they adopted the Declaration of Independence and this date is celebrated as the nation's birthday. Congress shortly thereafter officially changed the nation's name to the "United States of America" from the "United Colonies of America". [44]

The new nation was founded on Enlightenment ideals of liberalism and what Thomas Jefferson called the unalienable rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". It was dedicated strongly to republican principles, which emphasized that people are sovereign (not hereditary kings), demanded civic duty, feared corruption, and rejected any aristocracy. [45]

Confederation and constitution Edit

In the 1780s the national government was able to settle the issue of the western regions of the young United States, which were ceded by the states to Congress and became territories. With the migration of settlers to the Northwest, soon they became states. Nationalists worried that the new nation was too fragile to withstand an international war, or even internal revolts such as the Shays' Rebellion of 1786 in Massachusetts. [46]

Nationalists – most of them war veterans – organized in every state and convinced Congress to call the Philadelphia Convention in 1787. The delegates from every state wrote a new Constitution that created a much more powerful and efficient central government, one with a strong president, and powers of taxation. The new government reflected the prevailing republican ideals of guarantees of individual liberty and of constraining the power of government through a system of separation of powers. [46]

The Congress was given authority to ban the international slave trade after 20 years (which it did in 1807). A compromise gave the South Congressional apportionment out of proportion to its free population by allowing it to include three-fifths of the number of slaves in each state's total population. This provision increased the political power of southern representatives in Congress, especially as slavery was extended into the Deep South through removal of Native Americans and transportation of slaves by an extensive domestic trade.

To assuage the Anti-Federalists who feared a too-powerful national government, the nation adopted the United States Bill of Rights in 1791. Comprising the first ten amendments of the Constitution, it guaranteed individual liberties such as freedom of speech and religious practice, jury trials, and stated that citizens and states had reserved rights (which were not specified). [47]

President George Washington Edit

George Washington – a renowned hero of the American Revolutionary War, commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, and president of the Constitutional Convention – became the first President of the United States under the new Constitution in 1789. The national capital moved from New York to Philadelphia in 1790 and finally settled in Washington DC in 1800.

The major accomplishments of the Washington Administration were creating a strong national government that was recognized without question by all Americans. [48] His government, following the vigorous leadership of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, assumed the debts of the states (the debt holders received federal bonds), created the Bank of the United States to stabilize the financial system, and set up a uniform system of tariffs (taxes on imports) and other taxes to pay off the debt and provide a financial infrastructure. To support his programs Hamilton created a new political party – the first in the world based on voters – the Federalist Party.

Two-party system Edit

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison formed an opposition Republican Party (usually called the Democratic-Republican Party by political scientists). Hamilton and Washington presented the country in 1794 with the Jay Treaty that reestablished good relations with Britain. The Jeffersonians vehemently protested, and the voters aligned behind one party or the other, thus setting up the First Party System. Federalists promoted business, financial and commercial interests and wanted more trade with Britain. Republicans accused the Federalists of plans to establish a monarchy, turn the rich into a ruling class, and making the United States a pawn of the British. [49] The treaty passed, but politics became intensely heated. [50]

Challenges to the federal government Edit

Serious challenges to the new federal government included the Northwest Indian War, the ongoing Cherokee–American wars, and the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion, in which western settlers protested against a federal tax on liquor. Washington called the state militia and personally led an army against the settlers, as the insurgents melted away and the power of the national government was firmly established. [42]

Washington refused to serve more than two terms – setting a precedent – and in his famous farewell address, he extolled the benefits of federal government and importance of ethics and morality while warning against foreign alliances and the formation of political parties. [51]

John Adams, a Federalist, defeated Jefferson in the 1796 election. War loomed with France and the Federalists used the opportunity to try to silence the Republicans with the Alien and Sedition Acts, build up a large army with Hamilton at the head, and prepare for a French invasion. However, the Federalists became divided after Adams sent a successful peace mission to France that ended the Quasi-War of 1798. [49] [52]

Increasing demand for slave labor Edit

During the first two decades after the Revolutionary War, there were dramatic changes in the status of slavery among the states and an increase in the number of freed blacks. Inspired by revolutionary ideals of the equality of men and influenced by their lesser economic reliance on slavery, northern states abolished slavery.

States of the Upper South made manumission easier, resulting in an increase in the proportion of free blacks in the Upper South (as a percentage of the total non-white population) from less than one percent in 1792 to more than 10 percent by 1810. By that date, a total of 13.5 percent of all blacks in the United States were free. [53] After that date, with the demand for slaves on the rise because of the Deep South's expanding cotton cultivation, the number of manumissions declined sharply and an internal U.S. slave trade became an important source of wealth for many planters and traders.

In 1807, Congress severed the U.S.'s involvement with the Atlantic slave trade. [54]

Louisiana and Jeffersonian republicanism Edit

Thomas Jefferson defeated Adams for the presidency in the 1800 election.

Jefferson's major achievement as president was the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, which provided U.S. settlers with vast potential for expansion west of the Mississippi River. [55]

Jefferson, a scientist, supported expeditions to explore and map the new domain, most notably the Lewis and Clark Expedition. [56] Jefferson believed deeply in republicanism and argued it should be based on the independent yeoman farmer and planter he distrusted cities, factories and banks. He also distrusted the federal government and judges, and tried to weaken the judiciary. However he met his match in John Marshall, a Federalist from Virginia. Although the Constitution specified a Supreme Court, its functions were vague until Marshall, the Chief Justice (1801–1835), defined them, especially the power to overturn acts of Congress or states that violated the Constitution, first enunciated in 1803 in Marbury v. Madison. [57]

War of 1812 Edit

Americans were increasingly angry at the British violation of American ships' neutral rights to hurt France, the impressment (seizure) of 10,000 American sailors needed by the Royal Navy to fight Napoleon, and British support for hostile Indians attacking American settlers in the Midwest with the goal of creating a pro-British Indian barrier state to block American expansion westward. They may also have desired to annex all or part of British North America, although this is still heavily debated. [58] [59] [60] [61] [62] Despite strong opposition from the Northeast, especially from Federalists who did not want to disrupt trade with Britain, Congress declared war on June 18, 1812. [63]

The war was frustrating for both sides. Both sides tried to invade the other and were repulsed. The American high command remained incompetent until the last year. The American militia proved ineffective because the soldiers were reluctant to leave home and efforts to invade Canada repeatedly failed. The British blockade ruined American commerce, bankrupted the Treasury, and further angered New Englanders, who smuggled supplies to Britain. The Americans under General William Henry Harrison finally gained naval control of Lake Erie and defeated the Indians under Tecumseh in Canada, [65] while Andrew Jackson ended the Indian threat in the Southeast. The Indian threat to expansion into the Midwest was permanently ended. The British invaded and occupied much of Maine.

The British raided and burned Washington, but were repelled at Baltimore in 1814 – where the "Star Spangled Banner" was written to celebrate the American success. In upstate New York a major British invasion of New York State was turned back at the Battle of Plattsburgh. Finally in early 1815 Andrew Jackson decisively defeated a major British invasion at the Battle of New Orleans, making him the most famous war hero. [66]

With Napoleon (apparently) gone, the causes of the war had evaporated and both sides agreed to a peace that left the prewar boundaries intact. Americans claimed victory on February 18, 1815 as news came almost simultaneously of Jackson's victory of New Orleans and the peace treaty that left the prewar boundaries in place. Americans swelled with pride at success in the "second war of independence" the naysayers of the antiwar Federalist Party were put to shame and the party never recovered. Britain never achieved the war goal of granting the Indians a barrier state to block further American settlement and this allowed settlers to pour into the Midwest without fear of a major threat. [66] The War of 1812 also destroyed America's negative perception of a standing army, which was proved useful in many areas against the British as opposed to ill-equipped and poorly-trained militias in the early months of the war, and War Department officials instead decided to place regular troops as the nation's main defense. [67]

Second Great Awakening Edit

The Second Great Awakening was a Protestant revival movement that affected the entire nation during the early 19th century and led to rapid church growth. The movement began around 1790, gained momentum by 1800, and, after 1820 membership rose rapidly among Baptist and Methodist congregations, whose preachers led the movement. It was past its peak by the 1840s. [68]

It enrolled millions of new members in existing evangelical denominations and led to the formation of new denominations. Many converts believed that the Awakening heralded a new millennial age. The Second Great Awakening stimulated the establishment of many reform movements – including abolitionism and temperance designed to remove the evils of society before the anticipated Second Coming of Jesus Christ. [69]

Era of Good Feelings Edit

As strong opponents of the war, the Federalists held the Hartford Convention in 1814 that hinted at disunion. National euphoria after the victory at New Orleans ruined the prestige of the Federalists and they no longer played a significant role as a political party. [70] President Madison and most Republicans realized they were foolish to let the Bank of the United States close down, for its absence greatly hindered the financing of the war. So, with the assistance of foreign bankers, they chartered the Second Bank of the United States in 1816. [71] [72]

The Republicans also imposed tariffs designed to protect the infant industries that had been created when Britain was blockading the U.S. With the collapse of the Federalists as a party, the adoption of many Federalist principles by the Republicans, and the systematic policy of President James Monroe in his two terms (1817–1825) to downplay partisanship, the nation entered an Era of Good Feelings, with far less partisanship than before (or after), and closed out the First Party System. [71] [72]

The Monroe Doctrine, expressed in 1823, proclaimed the United States' opinion that European powers should no longer colonize or interfere in the Americas. This was a defining moment in the foreign policy of the United States. The Monroe Doctrine was adopted in response to American and British fears over Russian and French expansion into the Western Hemisphere. [73]

In 1832, President Andrew Jackson, 7th President of the United States, ran for a second term under the slogan "Jackson and no bank" and did not renew the charter of the Second Bank of the United States of America, ending the Bank in 1836. [74] Jackson was convinced that central banking was used by the elite to take advantage of the average American, and instead implemented state banks, popularly known as "pet banks". [74]

Indian removal Edit

In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which authorized the president to negotiate treaties that exchanged Native American tribal lands in the eastern states for lands west of the Mississippi River. [75] Its goal was primarily to remove Native Americans, including the Five Civilized Tribes, from the American Southeast they occupied land that settlers wanted. Jacksonian Democrats demanded the forcible removal of native populations who refused to acknowledge state laws to reservations in the West Whigs and religious leaders opposed the move as inhumane. Thousands of deaths resulted from the relocations, as seen in the Cherokee Trail of Tears. [76] The Trail of Tears resulted in approximately 2,000–8,000 of the 16,543 relocated Cherokee perishing along the way. [77] [ full citation needed ] [78] Many of the Seminole Indians in Florida refused to move west they fought the Army for years in the Seminole Wars.

Second party system Edit

After the First Party System of Federalists and Republicans withered away in the 1820s, the stage was set for the emergence of a new party system based on well organized local parties that appealed for the votes of (almost) all adult white men. The former Jeffersonian (Democratic-Republican) party split into factions. They split over the choice of a successor to President James Monroe, and the party faction that supported many of the old Jeffersonian principles, led by Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, became the Democratic Party. As Norton explains the transformation in 1828:

Jacksonians believed the people's will had finally prevailed. Through a lavishly financed coalition of state parties, political leaders, and newspaper editors, a popular movement had elected the president. The Democrats became the nation's first well-organized national party, and tight party organization became the hallmark of nineteenth-century American politics. [79]

Opposing factions led by Henry Clay helped form the Whig Party. The Democratic Party had a small but decisive advantage over the Whigs until the 1850s, when the Whigs fell apart over the issue of slavery.

Behind the platforms issued by state and national parties stood a widely shared political outlook that characterized the Democrats:

The Democrats represented a wide range of views but shared a fundamental commitment to the Jeffersonian concept of an agrarian society. They viewed the central government as the enemy of individual liberty. The 1824 "corrupt bargain" had strengthened their suspicion of Washington politics. … Jacksonians feared the concentration of economic and political power. They believed that government intervention in the economy benefited special-interest groups and created corporate monopolies that favored the rich. They sought to restore the independence of the individual (the "common man," i.e. the artisan and the ordinary farmer) by ending federal support of banks and corporations and restricting the use of paper currency, which they distrusted. Their definition of the proper role of government tended to be negative, and Jackson's political power was largely expressed in negative acts. He exercised the veto more than all previous presidents combined. Jackson and his supporters also opposed reform as a movement. Reformers eager to turn their programs into legislation called for a more active government. But Democrats tended to oppose programs like educational reform and the establishment of a public education system. They believed, for instance, that public schools restricted individual liberty by interfering with parental responsibility and undermined freedom of religion by replacing church schools. Nor did Jackson share reformers' humanitarian concerns. He had no sympathy for American Indians, initiating the removal of the Cherokees along the Trail of Tears. [79] [80]

The great majority of anti-slavery activists, such as Abraham Lincoln and Mr. Walters, rejected Garrison's theology and held that slavery was an unfortunate social evil, not a sin. [81] [82]

Westward expansion and Manifest Destiny Edit

The American colonies and the new nation grew rapidly in population and area, as pioneers pushed the frontier of settlement west. [83] [84] The process finally ended around 1890–1912 as the last major farmlands and ranch lands were settled. Native American tribes in some places resisted militarily, but they were overwhelmed by settlers and the army and after 1830 were relocated to reservations in the west. The highly influential "Frontier Thesis" of Wisconsin historian Frederick Jackson Turner argues that the frontier shaped the national character, with its boldness, violence, innovation, individualism, and democracy. [85]

Recent historians have emphasized the multicultural nature of the frontier. Enormous popular attention in the media focuses on the "Wild West" of the second half of the 19th century. As defined by Hine and Faragher, "frontier history tells the story of the creation and defense of communities, the use of the land, the development of markets, and the formation of states". They explain, "It is a tale of conquest, but also one of survival, persistence, and the merging of peoples and cultures that gave birth and continuing life to America." [85] The first settlers in the west were the Spanish in New Mexico they became U.S. citizens in 1848. The Hispanics in California ("Californios") were overwhelmed by over 100,000 gold rush miners. California grew explosively. San Francisco by 1880 had become the economic hub of the entire Pacific Coast with a diverse population of a quarter million.

From the early 1830s to 1869, the Oregon Trail and its many offshoots were used by over 300,000 settlers. '49ers (in the California Gold Rush), ranchers, farmers, and entrepreneurs and their families headed to California, Oregon, and other points in the far west. Wagon-trains took five or six months on foot after 1869, the trip took 6 days by rail. [86]

Manifest destiny was the belief that American settlers were destined to expand across the continent. This concept was born out of "A sense of mission to redeem the Old World by high example … generated by the potentialities of a new earth for building a new heaven". [87] Manifest Destiny was rejected by modernizers, especially the Whigs like Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln who wanted to build cities and factories – not more farms. [c] Democrats strongly favored expansion, and won the key election of 1844. After a bitter debate in Congress the Republic of Texas was annexed in 1845, leading to war with Mexico, who considered Texas to be a part of Mexico due to the large numbers of Mexican settlers. [89]

The Mexican–American War (1846–1848) broke out with the Whigs opposed to the war, and the Democrats supporting the war. The U.S. army, using regulars and large numbers of volunteers, defeated the Mexican armies, invaded at several points, captured Mexico City and won decisively. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the war in 1848. Many Democrats wanted to annex all of Mexico, but that idea was rejected by southerners who argued that by incorporating millions of Mexican people, mainly of mixed race, would undermine the United States as an exclusively white republic. [88] Instead the U.S. took Texas and the lightly settled northern parts (California and New Mexico). The Hispanic residents were given full citizenship and the Mexican Indians became American Indians. Simultaneously, gold was discovered in California in 1849, attracting over 100,000 men to northern California in a matter of months in the California Gold Rush. A peaceful compromise with Britain gave the U.S. ownership of the Oregon Country, which was renamed the Oregon Territory. [89]

The demand for guano (prized as an agricultural fertilizer) led the United States to pass the Guano Islands Act in 1856, which enabled citizens of the United States to take possession, in the name of the United States, of unclaimed islands containing guano deposits. Under the act the United States annexed nearly 100 islands in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. By 1903, 66 of these islands were recognized as territories of the United States. [90]

Divisions between North and South Edit

The central issue after 1848 was the expansion of slavery, pitting the anti-slavery elements in the North, against the pro-slavery elements that dominated the South. A small number of active Northerners were abolitionists who declared that ownership of slaves was a sin (in terms of Protestant theology) and demanded its immediate abolition. Much larger numbers in the North were against the expansion of slavery, seeking to put it on the path to extinction so that America would be committed to free land (as in low-cost farms owned and cultivated by a family), free labor, and free speech (as opposed to censorship of abolitionist material in the South). Southern white Democrats insisted that slavery was of economic, social, and cultural benefit to all whites (and even to the slaves themselves), and denounced all anti-slavery spokesmen as "abolitionists". [91] Justifications of slavery included economics, history, religion, legality, social good, and even humanitarianism, to further their arguments. Defenders of slavery argued that the sudden end to the slave economy would have had a profound and killing economic impact in the South where reliance on slave labor was the foundation of their economy. They also argued that if all the slaves were freed, there would be widespread unemployment and chaos. [92]

Religious activists split on slavery, with the Methodists and Baptists dividing into northern and southern denominations. In the North, the Methodists, Congregationalists, and Quakers included many abolitionists, especially among women activists. (The Catholic, Episcopal and Lutheran denominations largely ignored the slavery issue.) [93]

Compromise of 1850 and popular sovereignty Edit

The issue of slavery in the new territories was seemingly settled by the Compromise of 1850, brokered by Whig Henry Clay and Democrat Stephen Douglas the Compromise included the admission of California as a free state in exchange for no federal restrictions on slavery placed on Utah or New Mexico. [94] The point of contention was the Fugitive Slave Act, which increased federal enforcement and required even free states to cooperate in turning over fugitive slaves to their owners. Abolitionists pounced on the Act to attack slavery, as in the best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. [95]

The Compromise of 1820 was repealed in 1854 with the Kansas–Nebraska Act, promoted by Senator Douglas in the name of "popular sovereignty" and democracy. It permitted voters to decide on the legality of slavery in each territory, and allowed Douglas to adopt neutrality on the issue of slavery. Anti-slavery forces rose in anger and alarm, forming the new Republican Party. Pro- and anti- contingents rushed to Kansas to vote slavery up or down, resulting in a miniature civil war called Bleeding Kansas. By the late 1850s, the young Republican Party dominated nearly all northern states and thus the electoral college. It insisted that slavery would never be allowed to expand (and thus would slowly die out). [96]

Plantation economy Edit

The Southern slavery-based societies had become wealthy based on their cotton and other agricultural commodity production, and some particularly profited from the internal slave trade. Northern cities such as Boston and New York, and regional industries, were tied economically to slavery by banking, shipping, and manufacturing, including textile mills. By 1860, there were four million slaves in the South, nearly eight times as many as there were nationwide in 1790. The plantations were highly profitable, due to the heavy European demand for raw cotton. Most of the profits were invested in new lands and in purchasing more slaves (largely drawn from the declining tobacco regions).

For 50 of the nation's first 72 years, a slaveholder served as President of the United States and, during that period, only slaveholding presidents were re-elected to second terms. [97] In addition, southern states benefited by their increased apportionment in Congress due to the partial counting of slaves in their populations.

Slave rebellions Edit

Slave rebellions, by Gabriel Prosser (1800), Denmark Vesey (1822), Nat Turner (1831), and most famously by John Brown (1859), caused fear in the white South, which imposed stricter oversight of slaves and reduced the rights of free blacks. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 required the states to cooperate with slave owners when attempting to recover escaped slaves, which outraged Northerners. Formerly, an escaped slave that reached a non-slave state was presumed to have attained sanctuary and freedom under the Missouri Compromise. The Supreme Court's 1857 decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford ruled that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional angry Republicans said this decision threatened to make slavery a national institution.

President Abraham Lincoln and secession Edit

After Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election, seven Southern states seceded from the union and set up a new nation, the Confederate States of America (Confederacy), on February 8, 1861. It attacked Fort Sumter, a U.S. Army fort in South Carolina, thus igniting the war. When Lincoln called for troops to suppress the Confederacy in April 1861, four more states seceded and joined the Confederacy. A few of the (northernmost) "slave states" did not secede and became known as the border states these were Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri.

During the war, the northwestern portion of Virginia seceded from the Confederacy. and became the new Union state of West Virginia. [98] West Virginia is usually associated with the border states.

Civil War Edit

The Civil War began April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces attacked a U.S. military installation at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. In response, Lincoln called on the states to send troops to recapture forts, protect the capital, and "preserve the Union," which in his view still existed intact despite the actions of the seceding states. The two armies had their first major clash at the First Battle of Bull Run, which proved to both sides that the war would be much longer and bloodier than originally anticipated. [99]

In the western theater, the Union was relatively successful, with major battles, such as Perryville and Shiloh along with Union gunboat dominance of navigable rivers producing strategic Union victories and destroying major Confederate operations. [100]

Warfare in the eastern theater began poorly for the Union. U.S. General George B. McClellan failed to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia in his Peninsula Campaign and retreated after attacks from Confederate General Robert E. Lee. [101] Meanwhile, both sides concentrated in 1861–1862 on raising and training new armies. The main action was Union success in controlling the border states, with Confederates largely driven out of border states. The autumn 1862 Confederate retreat at the Battle of Antietam led to and Lincoln's warning he would issue an Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863 if the states did not return. Making slavery a central war goal energized Republicans in the North, as well as their enemies, the anti-war Copperhead Democrats and ended the chance of British and French intervention. Lee's smaller army won battles in late 1862 and Spring 1863, but he pushed too hard and ignored the Union threat in the west. Lee invaded Pennsylvania in search of supplies and to cause war-weariness in the North. In perhaps the turning point of the war, Lee's army was badly beaten at the July 1863 Battle of Gettysburg and barely made it back to Virginia. [102] In July 1863, Union forces under General Ulysses S. Grant gained control of the Mississippi River at the Battle of Vicksburg, thereby splitting the Confederacy. In 1864, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman marched south from Chattanooga to capture Atlanta, a decisive victory that ended war jitters among Republicans in the North hand helped Lincoln win re-election.

On the homefront, industrial expansion in the North expanded dramatically, using its extensive railroad service, and moving industrial workers into munitions factories. Foreign trade increased, with the United States providing both food and cotton to Britain, And Britain sending in manufactured products and thousands of volunteers for the Union Army (plus a few to the Confederates). The British operated blockade runners bringing in food, luxury items and munitions to the Confederacy, bringing out tobacco and cotton. The Union blockade increasingly shut down Confederate ports, and by late 1864 the blockade runners were usually captured before they could make more than a handful of runs.

The last two years of the war were bloody for both sides, with Sherman marching almost unopposed through southern states, burning cities, destroying plantations, ruining railroads and bridges, but avoiding civilian casualties. Sherman demonstrated that the South was unable to resist a Union invasion. Much of the Confederate heartland was destroyed, and could no longer provide desperately needed supplies to its armies. In spring 1864 Grant, launched a war of attrition and pursued Lee to the final, Appomattox Campaign which resulted in Lee surrendering in April 1865.

The American Civil War was the world's earliest industrial war. Railroads, the telegraph, steamships, and mass-produced weapons were employed extensively. The mobilization of civilian factories, mines, shipyards, banks, transportation and food supplies all foreshadowed the impact of industrialization in World War I. It remains the deadliest war in American history, resulting in the deaths of about 750,000 soldiers and an undetermined number of civilian casualties. [d] About ten percent of all Northern males 20–45 years old, and 30 percent of all Southern white males aged 18–40 died. [105] Its legacy includes ending slavery in the United States, restoring the Union, and strengthening the role of the federal government.

According to historian Allan Nevins, the Civil War had a major long-term impact on the United States in terms of developing its leadership potential and moving the entire nation beyond the adolescent stage:

The fighting and its attendant demands upon industry, finance, medicine, and law also helped train a host of leaders who during the next 35 years, to 1900, made their influence powerfully felt on most of the social, economic, and cultural fronts. It broke down barriers of parochialism it ended distrust of large-scale effort it hardened and matured the whole people emotionally. The adolescent land of the 1850s…rose under the blows of battle to adult estate. The nation of the post-Appomattox generation, though sadly hurt (especially in the South) by war losses, and deeply scarred psychologically (especially in the North) by war hatreds and greeds, had at last the power, resolution, and self-trust of manhood. [106]

Emancipation Edit

(People in the image are clickable.)

The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. In a single stroke it changed the legal status, as recognized by the U.S. government, of 3 million slaves in designated areas of the Confederacy from "slave" to "free". It had the practical effect that as soon as a slave escaped the control of the Confederate government, by running away or through advances of federal troops, the slave became legally and actually free. The owners were never compensated. Plantation owners, realizing that emancipation would destroy their economic system, sometimes moved their slaves as far as possible out of reach of the Union army. By June 1865, the Union Army controlled all of the Confederacy and liberated all of the designated slaves. [108] Large numbers moved into camps run by the Freedmen's Bureau, where they were given food, shelter, medical care, and arrangements for their employment were made.

The severe dislocations of war and Reconstruction had a large negative impact on the black population, with a large amount of sickness and death. [109]

Reconstruction Edit

Reconstruction lasted from Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, to the Compromise of 1877. [99] [110] [111]

The major issues faced by Lincoln were the status of the ex-slaves ("Freedmen"), the loyalty and civil rights of ex-rebels, the status of the 11 ex-Confederate states, the powers of the federal government needed to prevent a future civil war, and the question of whether Congress or the President would make the major decisions.

The severe threats of starvation and displacement of the unemployed Freedmen were met by the first major federal relief agency, the Freedmen's Bureau, operated by the Army. [112]

Three "Reconstruction Amendments" were passed to expand civil rights for black Americans: the Thirteenth Amendment outlawed slavery the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed equal rights for all and citizenship for blacks the Fifteenth Amendment prevented race from being used to disenfranchise men.

Radical Reconstruction Edit

Ex-Confederates remained in control of most Southern states for over two years, but changed when the Radical Republicans gained control of Congress in the 1866 elections. President Andrew Johnson, who sought easy terms for reunions with ex-rebels, was virtually powerless in the face of the Radical Republican Congress he was impeached, but the Senate's attempt to remove him from office failed by one vote. Congress enfranchised black men and temporarily stripped many ex-Confederate leaders of the right to hold office. New Republican governments came to power based on a coalition of Freedmen made up of Carpetbaggers (new arrivals from the North), and Scalawags (native white Southerners). They were backed by the U.S. Army. Opponents said they were corrupt and violated the rights of whites. [113]

KKK and the rise of Jim Crow Edit

State by state, they lost power to a conservative-Democratic coalition, which gained control of the entire South by 1877. In response to Radical Reconstruction, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) emerged in 1867 as a white-supremacist organization opposed to black civil rights and Republican rule. President Ulysses Grant's vigorous enforcement of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1870 shut down the Klan, and it disbanded. Paramilitary groups, such as the White League and Red Shirts emerged about 1874 that worked openly to use intimidation and violence to suppress black voting to regain white political power in states across the South during the 1870s. One historian described them as the military arm of the Democratic Party. [113]

Reconstruction ended after the disputed 1876 election. The Compromise of 1877 gave Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes the White House in exchange for removing all remaining federal troops in the South. The federal government withdrew its troops from the South, and Southern Democrats took control of every Southern state. [114] From 1890 to 1908, southern states effectively disfranchised most black voters and many poor whites by making voter registration more difficult through poll taxes, literacy tests, and other arbitrary devices. They passed segregation laws and imposed second-class status on blacks in a system known as Jim Crow that lasted until the Civil Rights Movement. [115]

Frontier and the railroad Edit

The latter half of the nineteenth century was marked by the rapid development and settlement of the far West, first by wagon trains and riverboats and then aided by the completion of the transcontinental railroad. Large numbers of European immigrants (especially from Germany and Scandinavia) took up low-cost or free farms in the Prairie States. Mining for silver and copper opened up the Mountain West.

Indian wars Edit

The United States Army fought frequent small-scale wars with Native Americans as settlers encroached on their traditional lands. Gradually the U.S. purchased the Native American tribal lands and extinguished their claims, forcing most tribes onto subsidized reservations. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census (1894), from 1789 to 1894:

The Indian wars under the government of the United States have been more than 40 in number. They have cost the lives of about 19,000 white men, women and children, including those killed in individual combats, and the lives of about 30,000 Indians. The actual number of killed and wounded Indians must be very much higher than the given… Fifty percent additional would be a safe estimate. [116]

Gilded Age Edit

The "Gilded Age" was a term that Mark Twain used to describe the period of the late 19th century with a dramatic expansion of American wealth and prosperity, underscored by the mass corruption in the government. Reforms of the Age included the Civil Service Act, which mandated a competitive examination for applicants for government jobs. Other important legislation included the Interstate Commerce Act, which ended railroads' discrimination against small shippers, and the Sherman Antitrust Act, which outlawed monopolies in business. Twain believed that this age was corrupted by such elements as land speculators, scandalous politics, and unethical business practices. [117] Since the days of Charles A. Beard and Matthew Josephson, some historians have argued that the United States was effectively plutocratic for at least part of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. [118] [119] [120] [121] [122] As financiers and industrialists such as J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller began to amass vast fortunes, many U.S. observers were concerned that the nation was losing its pioneering egalitarian spirit. [123]

By 1890 American industrial production and per capita income exceeded those of all other world nations. In response to heavy debts and decreasing farm prices, wheat and cotton farmers joined the Populist Party. [124] An unprecedented wave of immigration from Europe served to both provide the labor for American industry and create diverse communities in previously undeveloped areas. From 1880 to 1914, peak years of immigration, more than 22 million people migrated to the United States. [125] Most were unskilled workers who quickly found jobs in mines, mills, and factories. Many immigrants were craftsmen (especially from Britain and Germany) bringing human skills, and others were farmers (especially from Germany and Scandinavia) who purchased inexpensive land on the Prairies from railroads who sent agents to Europe. Poverty, growing inequality and dangerous working conditions, along with socialist and anarchist ideas diffusing from European immigrants, led to the rise of the labor movement, which often included violent strikes. [126] [127]

Unions and strikes Edit

Skilled workers banded together to control their crafts and raise wages by forming labor unions in industrial areas of the Northeast. Before the 1930s few factory workers joined the unions in the labor movement. Samuel Gompers led the American Federation of Labor (1886–1924), coordinating multiple unions. Industrial growth was rapid, led by John D. Rockefeller in oil and Andrew Carnegie in steel both became leaders of philanthropy (Gospel of Wealth), giving away their fortunes to create the modern system of hospitals, universities, libraries, and foundations.

The Panic of 1893 broke out and was a severe nationwide depression impacting farmers, workers, and businessmen who saw prices, wages, and profits fall. [129] Many railroads went bankrupt. The resultant political reaction fell on the Democratic Party, whose leader President Grover Cleveland shouldered much of the blame. Labor unrest involved numerous strikes, most notably the violent Pullman Strike of 1894, which was shut down by federal troops under Cleveland's orders. The Populist Party gained strength among cotton and wheat farmers, as well as coal miners, but was overtaken by the even more popular Free Silver movement, which demanded using silver to enlarge the money supply, leading to inflation that the silverites promised would end the depression. [130]

The financial, railroad, and business communities fought back hard, arguing that only the gold standard would save the economy. In the most intense election in the nation's history, conservative Republican William McKinley defeated silverite William Jennings Bryan, who ran on the Democratic, Populist, and Silver Republican tickets. Bryan swept the South and West, but McKinley ran up landslides among the middle class, industrial workers, cities, and among upscale farmers in the Midwest. [131]

Prosperity returned under McKinley, the gold standard was enacted, and the tariff was raised. By 1900 the U.S. had the strongest economy on the globe. Apart from two short recessions (in 1907 and 1920) the overall economy remained prosperous and growing until 1929. Republicans, citing McKinley's policies, took the credit. [132]

Imperialism Edit

The United States emerged as a world economic and military power after 1890. The main episode was the Spanish–American War, which began when Spain refused American demands to reform its oppressive policies in Cuba. [134] The "splendid little war", as one official called it, involved a series of quick American victories on land and at sea. At the Treaty of Paris peace conference the United States acquired the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam. [135]

Cuba became an independent country, under close American tutelage. Although the war itself was widely popular, the peace terms proved controversial. William Jennings Bryan led his Democratic Party in opposition to control of the Philippines, which he denounced as imperialism unbecoming to American democracy. [135] President William McKinley defended the acquisition and was riding high as the nation had returned to prosperity and felt triumphant in the war. McKinley easily defeated Bryan in a rematch in the 1900 presidential election. [136]

After defeating an insurrection by Filipino nationalists, the United States achieved little in the Philippines except in education, and it did something in the way of public health. It also built roads, bridges, and wells, but infrastructural development lost much of its early vigor with the failure of the railroads. [137] By 1908, however, Americans lost interest in an empire and turned their international attention to the Caribbean, especially the building of the Panama Canal. The canal opened in 1914 and increased trade with Japan and the rest of the Far East. A key innovation was the Open Door Policy, whereby the imperial powers were given equal access to Chinese business, with not one of them allowed to take control of China. [138]

Progressive era Edit

Dissatisfaction on the part of the growing middle class with the corruption and inefficiency of politics as usual, and the failure to deal with increasingly important urban and industrial problems, led to the dynamic Progressive Movement starting in the 1890s. In every major city and state, and at the national level as well, and in education, medicine, and industry, the progressives called for the modernization and reform of decrepit institutions, the elimination of corruption in politics, and the introduction of efficiency as a criterion for change. Leading politicians from both parties, most notably Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Evans Hughes, and Robert La Follette on the Republican side, and William Jennings Bryan and Woodrow Wilson on the Democratic side, took up the cause of progressive reform. Women became especially involved in demands for woman suffrage, prohibition, and better schools their most prominent leader was Jane Addams of Chicago, who created settlement houses. "Muckraking" journalists such as Upton Sinclair, Lincoln Steffens and Jacob Riis exposed corruption in business and government along with rampant inner-city poverty. Progressives implemented antitrust laws and regulated such industries of meat-packing, drugs, and railroads. Four new constitutional amendments – the Sixteenth through Nineteenth – resulted from progressive activism, bringing the federal income tax, direct election of Senators, prohibition, and woman suffrage. [139] The period also saw a major transformation of the banking system with the creation of the Federal Reserve System in 1913 [140] and the arrival of cooperative banking in the US with the founding of the first credit union in 1908. [141] The Progressive Movement lasted through the 1920s the most active period was 1900–1918. [142]

Women's suffrage Edit

The women's suffrage movement began with the June 1848 National Convention of the Liberty Party. Presidential candidate Gerrit Smith argued for and established women's suffrage as a party plank. One month later, his cousin Elizabeth Cady Stanton joined with Lucretia Mott and other women to organize the Seneca Falls Convention, featuring the Declaration of Sentiments demanding equal rights for women, and the right to vote. [e] Many of these activists became politically aware during the abolitionist movement. The women's rights campaign during "first-wave feminism" was led by Stanton, Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony, among many others. Stone and Paulina Wright Davis organized the prominent and influential National Women's Rights Convention in 1850. The movement reorganized after the Civil War, gaining experienced campaigners, many of whom had worked for prohibition in the Women's Christian Temperance Union. By the end of the 19th century a few western states had granted women full voting rights, [144] though women had made significant legal victories, gaining rights in areas such as property and child custody. [145]

Around 1912 the feminist movement began to reawaken, putting an emphasis on its demands for equality and arguing that the corruption of American politics demanded purification by women because men could not do that job. [146] Protests became increasingly common as suffragette Alice Paul led parades through the capital and major cities. Paul split from the large National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), which favored a more moderate approach and supported the Democratic Party and Woodrow Wilson, led by Carrie Chapman Catt, and formed the more militant National Woman's Party. Suffragists were arrested during their "Silent Sentinels" pickets at the White House, the first time such a tactic was used, and were taken as political prisoners. [147]

The old anti-suffragist argument that only men could fight a war, and therefore only men deserve the right to vote, was refuted by the enthusiastic participation of tens of thousands of American women on the home front in World War I. Across the world, grateful nations gave women the right to vote. Furthermore, most of the Western states had already given the women the right to vote in state and national elections, and the representatives from those states, including the first woman Jeannette Rankin of Montana, demonstrated that woman suffrage was a success. The main resistance came from the south, where white leaders were worried about the threat of black women voting. Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment in 1919, and women could vote in 1920. [148]

NAWSA became the League of Women Voters, and the National Woman's Party began lobbying for full equality and the Equal Rights Amendment, which would pass Congress during the second wave of the women's movement in 1972. Politicians responded to the new electorate by emphasizing issues of special interest to women, especially prohibition, child health, and world peace. [149] [150] The main surge of women voting came in 1928, when the big-city machines realized they needed the support of women to elect Al Smith, a Catholic from New York City. Meanwhile, Protestants mobilized women to support Prohibition and vote for Republican Herbert Hoover. [151]

Women suffragists demonstrating for the right to vote in 1913.

Women's suffragists parade in New York City in 1917, carrying placards with signatures of more than a million women. [152]

Women surrounded by posters in English and Yiddish supporting Franklin D. Roosevelt, Herbert H. Lehman, and the American Labor Party teach other women how to vote, 1936.

World War I Edit

As World War I raged in Europe from 1914, President Woodrow Wilson took full control of foreign policy, declaring neutrality but warning Germany that resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare against American ships supplying goods to Allied nations would mean war. Germany decided to take the risk and try to win by cutting off supplies to Britain through the sinking of ships such as the RMS Lusitania the U.S. declared war in April 1917 mainly from the threat of the Zimmermann Telegram. [153] American money, food, and munitions arrived quickly, but troops had to be drafted and trained by summer 1918 American soldiers under General John J. Pershing's American Expeditionary Forces arrived at the rate of 10,000 a day, while Germany was unable to replace its losses. [154] Dissent against the war was suppressed by the Sedition Act of 1918 & Espionage Act of 1917, German language, leftist & pacifist publications were suppressed, and over 2,000 were imprisoned for speaking out against the war, the political prisoners were later released by U.S President Warren G. Harding. [155]

The result was Allied victory in November 1918. President Wilson demanded Germany depose the Kaiser and accept his terms in the famed Fourteen Points speech. Wilson dominated the 1919 Paris Peace Conference but Germany was treated harshly by the Allies in the Treaty of Versailles (1919) as Wilson put all his hopes in the new League of Nations. Wilson refused to compromise with Senate Republicans over the issue of Congressional power to declare war, and the Senate rejected the Treaty and the League. [156]

Roaring twenties Edit

In the 1920s the U.S. grew steadily in stature as an economic and military world power. The United States Senate did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles imposed by its Allies on the defeated Central Powers instead, the United States chose to pursue unilateralism. [157] The aftershock of Russia's October Revolution resulted in real fears of Communism in the United States, leading to a Red Scare and the deportation of aliens considered subversive.

While public health facilities grew rapidly in the Progressive Era, and hospitals and medical schools were modernized, [158] the nation in 1918 lost 675,000 lives to the Spanish flu pandemic. [159]

In 1920, the manufacture, sale, import and export of alcohol were prohibited by the Eighteenth Amendment, Prohibition. The result was that in cities illegal alcohol became a big business, largely controlled by racketeers. The second Ku Klux Klan grew rapidly in 1922–1925, then collapsed. Immigration laws were passed to strictly limit the number of new entries. The 1920s were called the Roaring Twenties due to the great economic prosperity during this period. Jazz became popular among the younger generation, and thus the decade was also called the Jazz Age.

The Great Depression (1929–1939) and the New Deal (1933–1936) were decisive moments in American political, economic, and social history that reshaped the nation. [160]

Great Depression and the New Deal Edit

During the 1920s, the nation enjoyed widespread prosperity, albeit with a weakness in agriculture. A financial bubble was fueled by an inflated stock market, which later led to the Stock Market Crash on October 29, 1929. [161] [ full citation needed ] This, along with many other economic factors, triggered a worldwide depression known as the Great Depression. During this time, the United States experienced deflation as prices fell, unemployment soared from 3% in 1929 to 25% in 1933, farm prices fell by half, and manufacturing output plunged by one-third.

In 1932, Democratic presidential nominee Franklin D. Roosevelt promised "a New Deal for the American people", coining the enduring label for his domestic policies. The result was a series of permanent reform programs including Relief for the unemployed, assistance for the elderly, jobs for young men, social security, unemployment insurance, public housing, bankruptcy insurance, farm subsidies, and regulation of financial securities. State governments added new programs as well and introduced the sales tax to pay for them. Ideologically the revolution established modern liberalism in the United States and kept the Democrats in power in Washington almost continuously for Three decades thanks to the New Deal Coalition of ethnic Whites, Blacks, blue-collar workers, labor unions, and white Southerners. It provided relief to the long-term unemployed through numerous programs, such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and for young men, the Civilian Conservation Corps. Large scale spending projects designed to provide private sector construction jobs and rebuild the infrastructure were under the purview of the Public Works Administration.

The Second New Deal was a turn to the left in 1935–1936, building up labor unions through the Wagner Act. Unions became a powerful element of the merging New Deal Coalition, which won reelection for Roosevelt in 1936, 1940, and 1944 by mobilizing union members, blue-collar workers, relief recipients, big city machines, ethnic, and religious groups (especially Catholics and Jews) and the white South, along with blacks in the North (where they could vote). Roosevelt seriously weakened his second term by a failed effort to pack the Supreme Court, which had been a center of conservative resistance to his programs. Most of the relief programs were dropped after 1938 in the 1940s when the conservatives regained power in Congress through the Conservative Coalition. Of special importance is the Social Security program, begun in 1935. The economy basically recovered by 1936, but had a sharp, short recession in 1937–1938 long-term unemployment, however, remained a problem until it was solved by wartime spending. [162]

In an effort to denounce past U.S. interventionism and subdue any subsequent fears of Latin Americans, Roosevelt announced on March 4, 1933, during his inaugural address, "In the field of World policy, I would dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbor, the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others, the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a World of neighbors." [163] To create a friendly relationship between the United States and Central as well as South American countries, Roosevelt sought to stray from asserting military force in the region. [164] This position was affirmed by Cordell Hull, Roosevelt's Secretary of State at a conference of American states in Montevideo in December 1933.

World War II Edit

In the Depression years, the United States remained focused on domestic concerns while democracy declined across the world and many countries fell under the control of dictators. Imperial Japan asserted dominance in East Asia and in the Pacific. Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy militarized and threatened conquests, while Britain and France attempted appeasement to avert another war in Europe. U.S. legislation in the Neutrality Acts sought to avoid foreign conflicts however, policy clashed with increasing anti-Nazi feelings following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 that started World War II. At first, Roosevelt positioned the U.S. as the "Arsenal of Democracy," pledging full-scale financial and munitions support for the Allies and Lend-Lease agreements – but no military personnel. [165] Japan tried to neutralize America's power in the Pacific by attacking Pearl Harbor in 1941, but instead it catalyzed American support to enter the war. [166]

The main contributions of the U.S. to the Allied war effort comprised money, industrial output, food, petroleum, technological innovation, and (especially 1944–1945), military personnel. Much of the focus the U.S. government was in maximizing the national economic output, causing a dramatic increase in GDP, the export of vast quantities of supplies to the Allies and to American forces overseas, the end of unemployment, and a rise in civilian consumption even as 40% of the GDP went to the war effort. Tens of millions of workers moved from low-productivity occupations to high-efficiency jobs, improving productivity through better technology and management, and students, retired people, housewives, and the unemployed moving into the active labor force. Economic mobilization was managed by the War Production Board and a wartime production boom led to full employment, wiping out this vestige of the Great Depression. Indeed, labor shortages encouraged industry to look for new sources of workers, finding new roles for women and blacks. [160] Most durable goods became unavailable, and meat, clothing, and gasoline were tightly rationed. In industrial areas housing was in short supply as people doubled up and lived in cramped quarters. Prices and wages were controlled, and Americans saved a high portion of their incomes, which led to renewed growth after the war instead of a return to depression. [167] [168] </ref> Americans on the home front tolerated the extra work because of patriotism, increased pay, and the confidence that it was only "for the duration," and life would return to normal as soon as the war was won.

The Allies – the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union and other countries – saw Germany as the main threat and gave the highest priority to Europe. The U.S. dominated the war against Japan and stopped Japanese expansion in the Pacific in 1942. After losing Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, and drawing the Battle of the Coral Sea (May 1942), the American Navy inflicted a decisive blow at Midway (June 1942). American ground forces assisted in the North African Campaign that eventually concluded with the collapse of Mussolini's fascist government in 1943, as Italy switched to the Allied side. A more significant European front was opened on D-Day, June 6, 1944, in which American and Allied forces invaded Nazi-occupied France from Britain.

War fervor also inspired anti-Japanese sentiment, leading to internment of Japanese Americans. [169] Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066 resulted in over 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent being removed from their homes and placed in internment camps. Two-thirds of those interned were American citizens and half of them were children. [170] [171] [172]

Military research and development also increase, leading to the Manhattan Project, a secret effort to harness nuclear fission to produce atomic bombs. [173] The first nuclear device ever detonated was conducted July 16, 1945. [174]

The Allies pushed the Germans out of France but the western front stopped short, leaving Berlin to the Soviets as the Nazi regime formally capitulated in May 1945, ending the war in Europe. [175] In the Pacific, the U.S. implemented an island hopping strategy toward Tokyo. The Philippines was eventually reconquered, after Japan and the United States fought in history's largest naval battle, "The Battle of Leyte Gulf". [176] However, the war wiped out all the development the United States invested in the Philippines as cities and towns were completely destroyed. [177] The United States then established airfields for bombing runs against mainland Japan from the Mariana Islands and achieving hard-fought victories at Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1945. [178] Bloodied at Okinawa, the U.S. prepared to invade Japan's home islands when B-29s dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, forcing the Japan's surrender and ending World War II. [179] The U.S. occupied Japan (and part of Germany), and restructured Japan along American lines. [180]

During the war, Roosevelt coined the term "Four Powers" to refer four major Allies of World War II, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and China, which later became the foundation of the United Nations Security Council. [181] Though the nation lost more than 400,000 military personnel and civilians, [182] the U.S. mostly prospered untouched by the devastation of war that inflicted a heavy toll on Europe and Asia.

Participation in postwar foreign affairs marked the end of predominant American isolationism. The threat of nuclear weapons inspired both optimism and fear. Nuclear weapons were never again used in combat after the war ended, as both sides drew back from the brink and a "long peace" characterized the Cold War years, starting with the Truman Doctrine on May 22, 1947. There were, however, regional wars in Korea and Vietnam. [183]

Cold War Edit

Following World War II, the United States emerged as one of the two dominant superpowers, the USSR being the other. The U.S. Senate on a bipartisan vote approved U.S. participation in the United Nations (UN), which marked a turn away from the traditional isolationism of the U.S. and toward increased international involvement.

The primary American goal of 1945–1948 was to rescue Europe from the devastation of World War II and to contain the expansion of Communism, represented by the Soviet Union. U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War was built around the support of Western Europe and Japan along with the policy of containment, stopping the spread of communism. The U.S. joined the wars in Korea and Vietnam and toppled left-wing governments in the third world to try to stop its spread. [184] The Truman Doctrine of 1947 provided military and economic aid to Greece and Turkey to counteract the threat of Communist expansion in the Balkans. In 1948, the United States replaced piecemeal financial aid programs with a comprehensive Marshall Plan, which pumped money into the economy of Western Europe, and removed trade barriers, while modernizing the managerial practices of businesses and governments. [185]

The Plan's $13 billion budget was in the context of a U.S. GDP of $258 billion in 1948 and was in addition to the $12 billion in American aid given to Europe between the end of the war and the start of the Marshall Plan. Soviet head of state Joseph Stalin prevented his satellite states from participating, and from that point on, Eastern Europe, with inefficient centralized economies, fell further and further behind Western Europe in terms of economic development and prosperity. In 1949, the United States, rejecting the long-standing policy of no military alliances in peacetime, formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, which continues into the 21st century. In response the Soviets formed the Warsaw Pact of communist states, leading to the "Iron Curtain". [185]

In August 1949 the Soviets tested their first nuclear weapon, thereby escalating the risk of warfare. The threat of mutually assured destruction however, prevented both powers from nuclear war, and resulted in proxy wars, especially in Korea and Vietnam, in which the two sides did not directly confront each other. [183]

President Dwight D Eisenhower, elected in a landslide as the first Republican president since 1932, had a lasting impact on American life and politics. [186] He ended the Korean War, and avoided any other major conflict. He cut military spending by reliance on very high technology, such as nuclear weapons carried by long-range bombers and intercontinental missiles. He gave strong support to the NATO alliance and built other alliances along similar lines, but they never were especially effective. After Stalin died in 1953, Eisenhower worked to obtain friendlier relationships with the Soviet Union. At home, he ended McCarthyism, expanded the Social Security program and presided over a decade of bipartisan comity. He promoted civil rights cautiously, and sent in the Army when trouble threatened over racial integration in Little Rock Arkansas. [187] The unexpected leapfrogging of American technology by the Soviets in 1957 with Sputnik, the first Earth satellite, began the Space Race, won in 1969 by the Americans as Apollo 11 landed astronauts on the Moon. The angst about the weaknesses of American education led to large-scale federal support for science education and research. [188] In the decades after World War II, the United States became a global influence in economic, political, military, cultural, and technological affairs.

In 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected President and his administration saw the acceleration of the nation's role in the Space Race, escalation of the American role in the Vietnam War, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the jailing of Martin Luther King Jr. during the Birmingham campaign. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, leaving the nation in profound shock. [189]

Great Society Edit

President Lyndon B. Johnson secured congressional passage of his Great Society programs in the mid-1960s. [190] They included civil rights, the end of legal segregation, Medicare, extension of welfare, federal aid to education at all levels, subsidies for the arts and humanities, environmental activism, and a series of programs designed to wipe out poverty. [191] [192] As later historians explained:

Gradually, liberal intellectuals crafted a new vision for achieving economic and social justice. The liberalism of the early 1960s contained no hint of radicalism, little disposition to revive new deal era crusades against concentrated economic power, and no intention to redistribute wealth or restructure existing institutions. Internationally it was strongly anti-Communist. It aimed to defend the free world, to encourage economic growth at home, and to ensure that the resulting plenty was fairly distributed. Their agenda-much influenced by Keynesian economic theory-envisioned massive public expenditure that would speed economic growth, thus providing the public resources to fund larger welfare, housing, health, and educational programs. [193]

Johnson was rewarded with an electoral landslide in 1964 against conservative Barry Goldwater, which broke the decades-long control of Congress by the Conservative Coalition. However, the Republicans bounced back in 1966 and elected Richard Nixon in 1968. Nixon largely continued the New Deal and Great Society programs he inherited conservative reaction would come with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. [194] Meanwhile, the American people completed a great migration from farms into the cities and experienced a period of sustained economic expansion.

Civil rights movement Edit

Starting in the late 1950s, institutionalized racism across the United States, but especially in the South, was increasingly challenged by the growing Civil Rights Movement. The activism of African-American leaders Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. led to the Montgomery bus boycott, which launched the movement. For years African Americans would struggle with violence against them but would achieve great steps toward equality with Supreme Court decisions, including Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which ended the Jim Crow laws that legalized racial segregation between whites and blacks. [195]

Martin Luther King Jr., who had won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to achieve equality of the races, was assassinated in 1968. Following his death others led the movement, most notably King's widow, Coretta Scott King, who was also active, like her husband, in the Opposition to the Vietnam War, and in the Women's Liberation Movement. There were 164 riots in 128 American cities in the first nine months of 1967. [196] Frustrations with the seemingly slow progress of the integration movement led to the emergence of more radical discourses during the early 1960s, which, in turn, gave rise to the Black Power movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. [197] The decade would ultimately bring about positive strides toward integration, especially in government service, sports, and entertainment. Native Americans turned to the federal courts to fight for their land rights. They held protests highlighting the federal government's failure to honor treaties. One of the most outspoken Native American groups was the American Indian Movement (AIM). In the 1960s, Cesar Chavez began organizing poorly paid Mexican-American farm workers in California. He led a five-year-long strike by grape pickers. Then Chávez formed the nation's first successful union of farm workers. His United Farm Workers of America (UFW) faltered after a few years but after Chavez died in 1993 he became an iconic "folk saint" in the pantheon of Mexican Americans. [198]

Women's liberation Edit

A new consciousness of the inequality of American women began sweeping the nation, starting with the 1963 publication of Betty Friedan's best-seller, The Feminine Mystique, which explained how many housewives felt trapped and unfulfilled, assaulted American culture for its creation of the notion that women could only find fulfillment through their roles as wives, mothers, and keepers of the home, and argued that women were just as able as men to do every type of job. In 1966 Friedan and others established the National Organization for Women (NOW) to act for women as the NAACP did for African Americans. [145] [199]

Protests began, and the new women's liberation movement grew in size and power, gained much media attention, and, by 1968, had replaced the Civil Rights Movement as the U.S's main social revolution. Marches, parades, rallies, boycotts, and pickets brought out thousands, sometimes millions. There were striking gains for women in medicine, law, and business, while only a few were elected to office. The movement was split into factions by political ideology early on, with NOW on the left, the Women's Equity Action League (WEAL) on the right, the National Women's Political Caucus (NWPC) in the center, and more radical groups formed by younger women on the far-left. The proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, passed by Congress in 1972 was defeated by a conservative coalition mobilized by Phyllis Schlafly. They argued that it degraded the position of the housewife and made young women susceptible to the military draft. [200] [201]

However, many federal laws (i.e. those equalizing pay, employment, education, employment opportunities, and credit ending pregnancy discrimination and requiring NASA, the Military Academies, and other organizations to admit women), state laws (i.e., those ending spousal abuse and marital rape), Supreme Court rulings (i.e. ruling that the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applied to women), and state ERAs established women's equal status under the law, and social custom and consciousness began to change, accepting women's equality. The controversial issue of abortion, deemed by the Supreme Court as a fundamental right in Roe v. Wade (1973), is still a point of debate today. [202]

Counterculture and Cold War détente Edit

Amid the Cold War, the United States entered the Vietnam War, whose growing unpopularity fed already existing social movements, including those among women, minorities, and young people. President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society social programs and numerous rulings by the Warren Court added to the wide range of social reform during the 1960s and 1970s. Feminism and the environmental movement became political forces, and progress continued toward civil rights for all Americans. The Counterculture Revolution swept through the nation and much of the western world in the late sixties and early seventies, further dividing Americans in a "culture war" but also bringing forth more liberated social views. [203]

Johnson was succeeded in 1969 by Republican Richard Nixon, who attempted to gradually turn the war over to the South Vietnamese forces. He negotiated the peace treaty in 1973 which secured the release of POWs and led to the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The war had cost the lives of 58,000 American troops. Nixon manipulated the fierce distrust between the Soviet Union and China to the advantage of the United States, achieving détente with both parties. [204]

The Watergate scandal, involving Nixon's cover-up of his operatives' break-in into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex destroyed his political base, sent many aides to prison, and forced Nixon's resignation on August 9, 1974. He was succeeded by Vice President Gerald Ford. The Fall of Saigon ended the Vietnam War and resulted in North and South Vietnam being reunited. Communist victories in neighboring Cambodia and Laos occurred in the same year. [204]

The OPEC oil embargo marked a long-term economic transition since, for the first time, energy prices skyrocketed, and American factories faced serious competition from foreign automobiles, clothing, electronics, and consumer goods. By the late 1970s the economy suffered an energy crisis, slow economic growth, high unemployment, and very high inflation coupled with high interest rates (the term stagflation was coined). Since economists agreed on the wisdom of deregulation, many of the New Deal era regulations were ended, such as in transportation, banking, and telecommunications. [205]

Jimmy Carter, running as someone who was not a part of the Washington political establishment, was elected president in 1976. [206] On the world stage, Carter brokered the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. In 1979, Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took 66 Americans hostage, resulting in the Iran hostage crisis. With the hostage crisis and continuing stagflation, Carter lost the 1980 election to the Republican Ronald Reagan. [207] On January 20, 1981, minutes after Carter's term in office ended, the remaining U.S. captives held at the U.S. embassy in Iran were released, ending the 444-day hostage crisis. [208]

Rise of conservatism and the end of the Cold War Edit

Ronald Reagan produced a major political realignment with his 1980 and 1984 landslide elections. Reagan's economic policies (dubbed "Reaganomics") and the implementation of the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 lowered the top marginal tax rate from 70% to 28% over the course of seven years. [209] Reagan continued to downsize government taxation and regulation. [210] The U.S. experienced a recession in 1982, but the negative indicators reversed, with the inflation rate decreasing from 11% to 2%, the unemployment rate decreasing from 10.8% in December 1982 to 7.5% in November 1984, [211] and the economic growth rate increasing from 4.5% to 7.2%. [212]

Reagan ordered a buildup of the U.S. military, incurring additional budget deficits. Reagan introduced a complicated missile defense system known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) (dubbed "Star Wars" by opponents) in which, theoretically, the U.S. could shoot down missiles with laser systems in space. The Soviets reacted harshly because they thought it violated the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and would upset the balance of power by giving the U.S. a major military advantage. For years Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev argued vehemently against SDI. However, by the late 1980s he decided the system would never work and should not be used to block disarmament deals with the U.S. [213] Historians argue how great an impact the SDI threat had on the Soviets – whether it was enough to force Gorbachev to initiate radical reforms, or whether the deterioration of the Soviet economy alone forced the reforms. There is agreement that the Soviets realized they were well behind the Americans in military technology, that to try to catch up would be very expensive, and that the military expenses were already a very heavy burden slowing down their economy. [214]

The 1983 Invasion of Grenada and 1986 bombing of Libya were popular in the U.S, though his backing of the Contras rebels was mired in the controversy over the Iran–Contra affair. [215]

Reagan met four times with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who ascended to power in 1985, and their summit conferences led to the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Gorbachev tried to save Communism in the Soviet Union first by ending the expensive arms race with America, [216] then by shedding the East European empire in 1989. The Soviet Union collapsed on Christmas Day 1991, ending the U.S–Soviet Cold War.

The United States emerged as the world's sole remaining superpower and continued to intervene in international affairs during the 1990s, including the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq. Following his election in 1992, President Bill Clinton oversaw one of the longest periods of economic expansion and unprecedented gains in securities values, a side effect of the digital revolution and new business opportunities created by the Internet. He also worked with the Republican Congress to pass the first balanced federal budget in 30 years. [217]

In 1998, Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives on charges of lying under oath about (perjury regarding) a sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. He was acquitted by the Senate. The failure of impeachment and the Democratic gains in the 1998 election forced House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican, to resign from Congress. [217]

The Republican Party expanded its base throughout the South after 1968 (excepting 1976), largely due to its strength among socially conservative white Evangelical Protestants and traditionalist Roman Catholics, added to its traditional strength in the business community and suburbs. As white Democrats in the South lost dominance of the Democratic Party in the 1990s, the region took on the two-party apparatus which characterized most of the nation. The Republican Party's central leader by 1980 was Ronald Reagan, whose conservative policies called for reduced government spending and regulation, lower taxes, and a strong anti-Soviet foreign policy. His iconic status in the party persists into the 21st century, as practically all Republican Party leaders acknowledge his stature. Social scientists Theodore Caplow et al. argue, "The Republican party, nationally, moved from right-center toward the center in 1940s and 1950s, then moved right again in the 1970s and 1980s." They add: "The Democratic party, nationally, moved from left-center toward the center in the 1940s and 1950s, then moved further toward the right-center in the 1970s and 1980s." [218]

The close presidential election in 2000 between Governor George W. Bush and Al Gore helped lay the seeds for political polarization to come. The vote in the decisive states of New Mexico and Florida was extremely close and produced a dramatic dispute over the counting of votes. [219] Including 2000, the Democrats outpolled the Republicans in the national vote in every election from 1992 to 2020, except for 2004.

9/11 and the War on Terror Edit

On September 11, 2001 ("9/11"), the United States was struck by a terrorist attack when 19 al-Qaeda hijackers commandeered four airliners to be used in suicide attacks and intentionally crashed two into both twin towers of the World Trade Center and the third into the Pentagon, killing 2,937 victims—206 aboard the three airliners, 2,606 who were in the World Trade Center and on the ground, and 125 who were in the Pentagon. [220] The fourth plane was re-taken by the passengers and crew of the aircraft. While they were not able to land the plane safely, they were able to re-take control of the aircraft and crash it into an empty field in Pennsylvania, killing all 44 people including the four terrorists on board, thereby saving whatever target the terrorists were aiming for. Within two hours, both Twin Towers of the World Trade Center completely collapsed causing massive damage to the surrounding area and blanketing Lower Manhattan in toxic dust clouds. All in all, a total of 2,977 victims perished in the attacks. In response, President George W. Bush on September 20 announced a "War on Terror". On October 7, 2001, the United States and NATO then invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime, which had provided safe haven to al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden. [221]

The federal government established new domestic efforts to prevent future attacks. The USA PATRIOT Act increased the government's power to monitor communications and removed legal restrictions on information sharing between federal law enforcement and intelligence services. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security was created to lead and coordinate federal counter-terrorism activities. [222] Since 2002, the U.S. government's indefinite detention of terrorism suspects captured abroad at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, a prison at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, led to allegations of human rights abuses and violations of international law. [223] [224] [225]

In 2003, from March 19 to May 1, the United States launched an invasion of Iraq, which led to the collapse of the Iraq government and the eventual capture of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, with whom the U.S. had long-standing tense relations. The reasons for the invasion cited by the Bush administration included the spreading of democracy, the elimination of weapons of mass destruction [226] (a key demand of the UN as well, though later investigations found parts of the intelligence reports to be inaccurate), [227] and the liberation of the Iraqi people. Despite some initial successes early in the invasion, the continued Iraq War fueled international protests and gradually saw domestic support decline as many people began to question whether or not the invasion was worth the cost. [228] [229] In 2007, after years of violence by the Iraqi insurgency, President Bush deployed more troops in a strategy dubbed "the surge". While the death toll decreased, the political stability of Iraq remained in doubt. [230]

In 2008, the unpopularity of President Bush and the Iraq war, along with the 2008 financial crisis, led to the election of Barack Obama, the first multiracial [231] president, with African-American ancestry. [232] After his election, Obama reluctantly continued the war effort in Iraq until August 31, 2010, when he declared that combat operations had ended. However, 50,000 American soldiers and military personnel were kept in Iraq to assist Iraqi forces, help protect withdrawing forces, and work on counter-terrorism until December 15, 2011, when the war was declared formally over and the last troops left the country. [233] At the same time, Obama increased American involvement in Afghanistan, starting a surge strategy using an additional 30,000 troops, while proposing to begin withdrawing troops sometime in December 2014. In 2009, on his second day in office, Obama issued an executive order banning the use of torture, [234] [235] a prohibition codified into law in 2016. [235] Obama also ordered the closure of secret CIA-run prisons overseas ("black sites"). [236] [237] Obama sought to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp "as soon as practicable" and over his tenure the population of the detention camp declined from 242 inmates to 45 inmates the Guantanamo Review Task Force cleared many prisoners for release and resettlement abroad. [238] [239] Obama's efforts to close the prison entirely were stymied by Congress, which in 2011 enacted a measure blocking Obama from transferring any Guantanamo detainees to U.S. facilities. [238]

In May 2011, after nearly a decade in hiding, the founder and leader of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, was killed in Pakistan in a raid conducted by U.S. naval special forces acting under President Obama's direct orders. While Al Qaeda was near collapse in Afghanistan, affiliated organizations continued to operate in Yemen and other remote areas as the CIA used drones to hunt down and remove its leadership. [240] [241]

The Boston Marathon bombing was a bombing incident, followed by subsequent related shootings, that occurred when two pressure cooker bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. The bombs exploded near the marathon's finish line, killing 3 people and injuring an estimated 264 others.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant rose to prominence in September 2014. In addition to taking control of much of Western Iraq and Eastern Syria, ISIS also beheaded three journalists, two American and one British. These events lead to a major military offensive by the United States and its allies in the region.

On December 28, 2014, Obama officially ended the combat mission in Afghanistan and promised a withdrawal of all remaining U.S. troops at the end of 2016 with the exception of the embassy guards. [242]

Great Recession Edit

In September 2008, the United States and most of Europe entered the longest post–World War II recession, often called the "Great Recession". [243] [244] Multiple overlapping crises were involved, especially the housing market crisis, a subprime mortgage crisis, soaring oil prices, an automotive industry crisis, rising unemployment, and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The financial crisis threatened the stability of the entire economy in September 2008 when Lehman Brothers failed and other giant banks were in grave danger. [245] Starting in October the federal government lent $245 billion to financial institutions through the Troubled Asset Relief Program [246] which was passed by bipartisan majorities and signed by Bush. [247]

Following his election victory by a wide electoral margin in November 2008, Bush's successor – Barack Obama – signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which was a $787 billion economic stimulus aimed at helping the economy recover from the deepening recession. Obama, like Bush, took steps to rescue the auto industry and prevent future economic meltdowns. These included a bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, putting ownership temporarily in the hands of the government, and the "cash for clunkers" program which temporarily boosted new car sales. [248]

The recession officially ended in June 2009, and the economy slowly began to expand once again. [249] Beginning in December 2007, the unemployment rate steeply rose from around 5% to a peak of 10% before falling as the economy and labor markets experienced a recovery. [250] The economic expansion that followed the Great Recession was the longest in U.S. history [251] [252] strong growth led to the unemployment rate reaching a 50-year low in 2019. [253] Despite the strong economy, increases in the costs of housing, child care, higher education, and out-of-pocket healthcare expenses surpassed increases in wages, a phenomenon some referred to as an affordability crisis. [254] [255] The economic expansion came to an end in early 2020 with a sharp economic contraction largely caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which seriously affected the United States. [251] [252]

Recent events Edit

From 2009 to 2010, the 111th Congress passed major legislation such as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, informally known as Obamacare, the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act [256] and the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act, which were signed into law by President Obama. [257] Following the 2010 midterm elections, which resulted in a Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a Democratic-controlled Senate, [258] Congress presided over a period of elevated gridlock and heated debates over whether or not to raise the debt ceiling, extend tax cuts for citizens making over $250,000 annually, and many other key issues. [259] These ongoing debates led to President Obama signing the Budget Control Act of 2011. Following Obama's 2012 re-election, Congressional gridlock continued as Congressional Republicans' call for the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act along with other various demands, resulted in the first government shutdown since the Clinton administration and almost led to the first default on U.S. debt since the 19th century. As a result of growing public frustration with both parties in Congress since the beginning of the decade, Congressional approval ratings fell to record lows. [260]

Recent events also include the rise of new political movements, such as the conservative Tea Party movement and the liberal Occupy movement. The debate over the issue of rights for the LGBT community, including same-sex marriage, began to shift in favor of same-sex couples. [261] In 2012, President Obama became the first president to openly support same-sex marriage, and the Supreme Court provided for federal recognition of same-sex unions and then nationwide legalized gay marriage.

Political debate has continued over tax reform, immigration reform, income inequality, and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, particularly with regards to global terrorism, the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and an accompanying climate of Islamophobia. [262]

The late 2010s were marked by widespread social upheaval and change in the United States. The #MeToo movement gained popularity, exposing alleged sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace. [263] Multiple prominent celebrities were accused of misconduct or rape. [264] During this period, the Black Lives Matter movement also gained support online, exacerbated by the police killings of multiple black Americans. [265] Multiple mass shootings, including the Pulse Nightclub shooting (2016) and the Las Vegas shooting, which claimed the lives of 61 people, led to increased calls for gun control and reform. Following the Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting in 2018, gun control advocates organized the March for our Lives, where millions of students across the country walked out of school to protest gun violence. [266] [267] The Women's March protest against Trump's presidency in 2017 was one of the largest protests in American history. [268]

In 2016, Republican Donald Trump was elected President, [269] but U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that associates of the Russian government interfered in the election "to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process". This, along with questions about potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, led to investigations by the FBI and Congress. [270] [271]

During Trump's presidency, he espoused an "America First" ideology, placing restrictions on asylum seekers and imposing a widely controversial ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations. Many of his executive orders and other actions were challenged in court. [272] [273] During his presidency he also engaged the United States in a trade war with China, imposing a wide range of tariffs on Chinese products. [274] In 2018, controversy erupted over the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy towards illegal immigrants, which involved the separation of thousands of undocumented children from their parents. After public outcry, Trump rescinded this policy. [275] Trump's term also saw the confirmation of three new justices to the Supreme Court, cementing a conservative majority.

In 2019, a whistleblower complaint alleged that Trump had withheld foreign aid from Ukraine under the demand that they investigate the business dealings of the son of Trump's political opponent. [276] As a result, Trump was impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of congress, becoming the third president to have been impeached, but he was acquitted. [277]

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic having arrived in the United States was first confirmed in January 2020. As of June 2021 [update] , the U.S. has suffered more coronavirus deaths than any other nation with the death toll standing at 600,000, with the U.S. death toll surpassing the number of U.S. deaths in the Korean War and Vietnam War combined. [278] As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, US life expectancy fell by over a year in 2020 and unemployment rates rose to the worst rates since the Great Depression. [279] The May 2020 murder of George Floyd caused mass protests and riots in many major cities over police brutality, with many states calling in the National Guard. [280]

2020 was marked by a rise in domestic terrorist threats and widespread conspiracy theories around mail-in voting and COVID-19. [281] [282] The QAnon conspiracy theory, a fringe far-right political movement among some ardent conservatives, gained publicity and multiple major cities were hit by rioting and brawls between far-left antifascist affiliated groups and far right groups such as the Proud Boys. [283] [284] [285]

Democrat Joe Biden defeated Trump in the 2020 presidential election, the first defeat of an incumbent president since 1992. [286] The election, with an exceptional amount of voting by mail and early voting due to the danger of getting COVID-19 at traditional voting booths, had historically high voter turnout. [287] Trump then repeatedly made false claims of massive voter fraud and election rigging, [288] [289] [290] [291] leading to the 2021 storming of the United States Capitol by supporters of Trump and right-wing militias. [292] That storming led to Trump's impeachment, as the only U.S president to be impeached twice. [293] [294] [295] The Senate later acquitted Trump, but some members of his own Republican party voted for both the impeachment and conviction on charges of inciting insurrection. [296] [297]

The biggest mass vaccination campaign in U.S history kicked off on December 14, 2020, when ICU nurse Sandra Lindsay became the first person in the U.S to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. As of June 2021, 41% of the U.S population has received a dose of the Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

Causes of American War of Independence

The Causes of American War of Independence The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was a conflict that erupted between Great Britain and revolutionaries within thirteen British colonies, who declared their independence as the United States of America in 1776. The war was the culmination of the American Revolution, a colonial struggle against political and economic policies of the British Empire. The war eventually widened far beyond British North America many Native Americans also fought on both sides of the conflict.

Throughout the war, the British were able to use their naval superiority to capture and occupy coastal cities, but control of the countryside (where most of the population lived) largely eluded them. After an American victory at Saratoga in 1777, France, Spain, and the Netherlands entered the war against Great Britain. French involvement proved decisive, with a naval victory in the Chesapeake leading to the surrender of a British army at Yorktown in 1781. The Treaty of Paris in 1783 recognized the independence of the United States.

Colonists were divided over which side to support in the war in some areas, the struggle was a civil war. The Revolutionaries (also known as Americans or Patriots) had the active support of about 40 to 45 percent of the colonial population. About 15 to 20 percent of the population supported the British Crown during the war, and were known as Loyalists (or Tories). Loyalists fielded perhaps 50,000 men during the war years in support of the British Empire. After the war, some 70,000 Loyalists departed the United States, most going to Canada, Great Britain, or to British colonies in the Caribbean.

When the war began, the Americans did not have a regular army (also known as a “standing army”). Each colony had traditionally provided for its own defenses through the use of local militia. Militiamen served for only a few weeks or months at a time, were reluctant to go very far from home, and were thus generally unavailable for extended operations. Militia lacked the training and discipline of regular soldiers, but was occasionally effective against regular troops. American militia was sometimes adept at partisan warfare, and was particularly effective at suppressing Loyalist activity when British regulars were not in the area.

Seeking to coordinate military efforts, the Continental Congress established (on paper) a regular army—the Continental Army—in June 1775, and appointed George Washington as commander-in-chief. The development of the Continental Army was always a work in progress, and Washington reluctantly augmented the regular troops with militia throughout the war. Although as many as 250,000 men may have served as regulars or as militiamen for the Revolutionary cause in the eight years of the war, there were never more than 90,000 total men under arms for the Americans in any given year.

Armies in North America were small by European standards of the era the greatest number of men that Washington personally commanded in the field at any one time was fewer than 17,000. Early in 1775, the British Army consisted of about 36,000 men worldwide, but wartime recruitment steadily increased this number. Additionally, over the course of the war the British hired about 30,000 German mercenaries, popularly known in the colonies as “Hessians” because many of them came from Hesse-Kassel. Germans would make up about one-third of the British troop strength in North America.

By 1779, the number of British and German troops stationed in North America was over 60,000, though these were spread from Canada to Florida. African-Americans, slaves and free blacks, served on both sides during the war. Black soldiers served in northern militias from the outset, but this was forbidden in the South, where slave-owners feared arming slaves. In November 1775, Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia, issued a proclamation promising freedom to runaway slaves who fought for the British Sir Henry Clinton issued a similar edict in New York in 1779.

Tens of thousands of slaves escaped to the British lines, although possibly as few as 1,000 served under arms. Many of the rest served as orderlies, mechanics, laborers, servants, scouts and guides, although more than half died in smallpox epidemics that swept the British forces, and a number were driven out of the British lines when food ran low. Despite Dunmore’s promises, the majority were not given their freedom. Due to manpower shortages, Washington lifted the ban on black enlistment in the Continental Army in January 1776.

All-black units were formed in Rhode Island and Massachusetts many were slaves promised freedom for serving in lieu of their masters. Another all-black unit came from Haiti with French forces. At least 5,000 black soldiers fought for the Revolutionary cause. Most American Indians east of the Mississippi River were affected by the war, with many communities dividing over the question of how to respond to the conflict. Most Native Americans who joined the fight fought against the United States, since native lands were threatened by expanding American settlement.

An estimated 13,000 warriors fought on the British side the largest group, the Iroquois Confederacy, fielded about 1,500 men. War in the north, 1775–1777 Before the war, Boston, Massachusetts had been the scene of much revolutionary activity, leading to the effective abolition of the provincial government of Massachusetts by the British parliament in 1774. Popular resistance to these measures, however, compelled the newly appointed royal officials in Massachusetts to resign or to seek refuge in Boston.

Lieutenant General Thomas Gage, the British Commander-in-Chief, North America, commanded four regiments of British regulars (about 4,000 men) from his headquarters in Boston, but the countryside was in the hands of the Revolutionaries. On the night of April 18, 1775, General Gage sent 900 men to seize munitions stored by the colonial militia at Concord, Massachusetts. Riders alerted the countryside, and when the British troops entered Lexington on the morning of April 19, they found 75 minutemen formed up on the village common.

Shots were exchanged, and the British moved on to Concord, where there was more fighting. By the time the British began the return march to Boston, thousands of militiamen had arrived on the scene, inflicting much damage upon the detachment. With the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the war had begun. The militia then converged on Boston, bottling up the British in the city. About 4,500 more British soldiers arrived by sea, and on June 17, 1775, British forces under General William Howe seized the Charlestown peninsula at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

The Americans fell back, but British losses were so heavy that the attack was not followed up. The siege was not broken, and Gage was soon replaced by Howe as the British commander-in-chief. In July 1775, newly appointed General Washington arrived outside Boston to take charge of the colonial forces and to organize the Continental Army. The standoff continued throughout the fall and winter. In early March 1776, heavy cannons that had been captured at Fort Ticonderoga were placed on Dorchester Heights, overlooking the British positions. Howe’s situation was now untenable, and he British evacuated the city on March 17, 1776, sailing for temporary refuge in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Washington then took most of the Continental Army to fortify New York City. During the long standoff at Boston, the Continental Congress sought a way to seize the initiative elsewhere. Congress had initially invited the French Canadians to join them as the fourteenth colony, but when that failed to happen, an invasion of Canada was authorized. The goal was to remove British rule from the primarily francophone province of Quebec (comprising present-day Quebec and Ontario).

Two expeditions were undertaken. On September 16, 1775, Brigadier General Richard Montgomery marched north from Fort Ticonderoga with about 1,700 militiamen, capturing Montreal on November 13. General Guy Carleton, the governor of Canada, escaped to Quebec City. The second expedition, led by Colonel Benedict Arnold, was a logistical nightmare, with many men succumbing to smallpox. By the time Arnold reached Quebec City in early November, he had but 600 of his original 1,100 men. Montgomery’s force joined Arnold’s, and they attacked Quebec City on December 31, but were soundly defeated by Carleton.

The remaining Americans held on outside Quebec City until the spring of 1776, and then withdrew. Another attempt was made by the Americans to push back towards Quebec, but failed at Trois-Rivieres on June 8, June 1776. Carleton then launched his own invasion, and defeated Arnold at the Battle of Valcour Island in October. Arnold fell back to Fort Ticonderoga, where the invasion of Canada had begun. The invasion of Canada ended as a disaster for the Americans, but Arnold’s efforts in 1776 delayed a full-scale British counteroffensive until the Saratoga campaign of 1777.

Having withdrawn his army from Boston, General Howe now focused on capturing New York City. To defend the city, General Washington divided his 20,000 soldiers between Long Island and Manhattan. (While British troops were assembling on Staten Island for the campaign, Washington had the newly issued Declaration of American Independence read to his men. ) On August 27, 1776, after landing about 22,000 men on Long Island, the British drove the Americans back to Brooklyn Heights. Howe then laid siege to fortifications there, but Washington managed to evacuate his army to Manhattan.

On September 15, Howe landed about 12,000 men on lower Manhattan, quickly taking control of New York City. The Americans withdrew to Harlem Heights, where they skirmished the next day, but held their ground. When Howe moved to encircle Washington’s army in October, the Americans again fell back, and a battle at White Plains was fought on October 28, 1776. Once more Washington retreated, and Howe returned to Manhattan and captured Fort Washington in mid November, taking nearly 3,000 prisoners.

General Lord Cornwallis continued to chase Washington’s army through New Jersey, until the Americans withdrew across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania in early December. With the campaign at an apparent conclusion for the season, the British entered winter quarters. Although Howe had missed several opportunities to crush the diminishing rebel army, he had killed or captured over 5,000 Americans. He controlled much of New York and New Jersey, and was in a good position to resume operations in the spring, with the rebel capital of Philadelphia in striking distance.

The outlook of the Continental Army was bleak. “These are the times that try men’s souls,” wrote Thomas Paine, who was with the army on the retreat. The army had dwindled to fewer than 5,000 men fit for duty, and would be reduced to 1,400 after enlistments expired at the end of the year. Congress had abandoned Philadelphia in despair, although popular resistance to British occupation was growing in the countryside. Washington decided to take the offensive, stealthily crossing the Delaware on Christmas night and capturing nearly 1,000 Hessians at the Battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776.

Cornwallis marched to retake Trenton, but was outmaneuvered by Washington, who successfully attacked the British rearguard at Princeton on January 3, 1777. Washington then entered winter quarters at Morristown, New Jersey, having given a morale boost to the American cause. New Jersey militia continued to harass British and Hessian forces throughout the winter. When the British began to plan operations for 1777, they had two main armies in North America: Carleton’s army in Canada, and Howe’s army in New York.

In London, Lord George Germain approved campaigns for these armies which, because of miscommunication, poor planning, and rivalries between commanders, did not work in conjunction. Although Howe successfully captured Philadelphia, the northern army was lost in a disastrous surrender at Saratoga. Both Carleton and Howe would resign after the 1777 campaign. Saratoga campaign The first of the 1777 campaigns was an expedition from Canada led by General John Burgoyne. The goal was to seize the Lake Champlain and Hudson River corridor, effectively isolating New England from the rest of the American colonies.

Burgoyne’s invasion had two components: he would lead about 10,000 men along Lake Champlain towards Albany, New York, while a second column of about 2,000 men, led by Barry St. Leger, would move down the Mohawk River valley and link up with Burgoyne in Albany. Burgoyne set off in June, and recaptured Fort Ticonderoga in early July. Thereafter, his march was slowed by Americans who destroyed bridges and felled trees in his path. A detachment was sent out to seize supplies, but was decisively defeated by American militia in August, depriving Burgoyne of nearly 1,000 men.

Meanwhile, St. Leger—half of his force American Indians led by Joseph Brant—had laid siege to Fort Stanwix. American militiamen and their Indian allies marched to relieve the siege, but were ambushed and scattered at the Battle of Oriskany on August 6. When a second relief expedition approached, this time led by Benedict Arnold, St. Leger broke off the siege and returned to Canada. Burgoyne’s army was now reduced to about 6,000 men. Despite these setbacks, he determined to push on towards Albany—a fateful decision which would later produce much controversy.

An American army of 8,000 men, commanded by the General Horatio Gates, had entrenched about 10 miles (16 km) south of Saratoga, New York. Burgoyne tried to outflank the Americans, but was checked at the first battle of Saratoga in September. Burgoyne’s situation was desperate, but he now hoped that help from Howe’s army in New York City might be on the way. It was not: Howe had instead sailed away on an expedition to capture Philadelphia. American militiamen flocked to Gates’s army, swelling his force to 11,000 by the beginning of October. After being badly beaten at the second battle of Saratoga, Burgoyne surrendered on October 17.

Saratoga is often regarded as the turning point of the war. Revolutionary confidence and determination, suffering from Howe’s successful occupation of Philadelphia, was renewed. More importantly, the victory encouraged France to enter the war against Great Britain. For the British, the war had now become much more complicated. Philadelphia campaign Meanwhile, having secured New York City in 1776, in 1777 General Howe concentrated on capturing Philadelphia, the seat of the Revolutionary government. He moved slowly, landing 15,000 troops in late August at the northern end of Chesapeake Bay.

Washington positioned his 11,000 men between Howe and Philadelphia, but was driven back at the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777. The Continental Congress once again abandoned Philadelphia, and on September 26, Howe finally outmaneuvered Washington and marched into the city unopposed. Washington unsuccessfully attacked the British encampment in nearby Germantown in early October, and then retreated to watch and wait. Washington and his army encamped at Valley Forge in December 1777, about 20 miles (32 km) from Philadelphia, where they would stay for the next six months.

Over the winter, 2,500 men (out of 10,000) died from disease and exposure. The next spring, however, the army emerged from Valley Forge in good order, thanks in part to a training program supervised by Baron von Steuben. Meanwhile, there was a shakeup in the British command, with General Clinton replacing Howe as commander-in-chief. French entry into the war had changed British strategy, and Clinton abandoned Philadelphia in order to reinforce New York City, now vulnerable to French naval power.

Washington shadowed Clinton on his withdrawal, and forced a battle at Monmouth on June 28, 1778, the last major battle in the north. Clinton’s army escaped to New York City in July, just before a French fleet under Admiral d’Estaing arrived off the American coast. Washington’s army returned to White Plains. Although both armies were back where they had been two years earlier, the nature of the war had now changed. An international war, 1778–1783 In 1778, the colonial rebellion in North America became an international war.

After learning of the American victory at Saratoga, France signed the Treaty of Alliance with the United States on February 6, 1778. Spain entered the war as an ally of France in June 1779, a renewal of the Bourbon Family Compact. Unlike France, Spain refused to recognize the independence of the United States—Spain was not keen on encouraging similar rebellions in the Spanish Empire. The Netherlands also became a combatant in 1780. All three countries had quietly provided financial assistance to the American rebels since the beginning of the war, hoping to dilute Britain’s emerging superpower status.

Widening of the naval war When the war began, the British had overwhelming naval superiority over the American colonists. The Royal Navy had over 100 ships of the line, although this fleet was old and in poor condition, a situation which would be blamed on Lord Sandwich, the First Lord of the Admiralty. During the first three years of the war, the Royal Navy was primarily used to transport troops for land operations and to protect commercial shipping. The American colonists had no ships of the line, and relied extensively on privatizing to harass British shipping.

The Continental Congress authorized the creation of a small Continental Navy on October 13, 1775, which was primarily used for commerce raiding. John Paul Jones became the first well-known American naval hero, capturing the HMS Drake on April 24, 1778, the first victory for any American military vessel in British waters. French entry into the war meant that British naval superiority was now contested. The Franco-American alliance began poorly, however, with failed operations at Rhode Island in 1778 and Savannah, Georgia in 1779.

Part of the problem was that French and American military priorities were not identical: France hoped to capture British possessions in the West Indies before helping to secure American independence. While French financial assistance to the American war effort was already of critical importance, French military aid to the Americans would not show positive results until the arrival in July 1780 of an expeditionary force led by the Comte de Rochambeau. Spain entered the war with the goal of invading England, as well as recapturing Gibraltar and Minorca, which had been lost to the British in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession.

The Franco-Spanish invasion of England never materialized. Gibraltar was besieged for more than three years, but the British garrison there was resupplied after Admiral Sir George Rodney’s victory in the “Moonlight Battle” on 16 January 1780. Further Franco-Spanish efforts to capture Gibraltar were unsuccessful. On February 5, 1782, Spanish and French forces captured Minorca, which Spain retained after the war. West Indies and Gulf Coast The West Indies saw much action, with a number of islands changing hands, especially in the Lesser Antilles.

Ultimately, at the Battle of the Saintes in April 1782, a victory by Rodney’s fleet over the French Admiral de Grasse dashed the hopes of France and Spain to take Jamaica and other colonies from the British. On May 8, 1782, Count Bernardo de Galvez, the Spanish governor of Louisiana, captured the British naval base at New Providence in the Bahamas. Nevertheless, except for the French retention of the small island of Tobago, sovereignty in the West Indies was returned to the status quo ante bellum in the 1783 peace treaty.

On the Gulf Coast, Galvez seized three British Mississippi River outposts in 1779: Manchac, Baton Rouge, and Natchez. Galvez then captured Mobile in 1780 and forced the surrender of the British outpost at Pensacola in 1781. His actions led to Spain acquiring East and West Florida in the peace settlement, as well as controlling the mouth of the Mississippi River after the war—which would prove to be a major source of tension between Spain and the United States in the years to come. (Spanish Florida would ultimately be acquired by the United States in 1819. ) India and the Netherlands

The Franco-British war spilled over into India in 1780, in the form of the Second Anglo-Mysore War. The two chief combatants were Tipu Sultan, ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore and a key French ally, and the British government of Madras. The Anglo-Mysore conflict was bloody but inconclusive, and ended in a draw in 1784. Also in 1780, the British struck against the United Provinces of the Netherlands in order to preempt Dutch involvement in the League of Armed Neutrality, a declaration of several European powers that they would conduct neutral trade during the war.

Great Britain was not willing to allow the Netherlands to openly give aid to the American rebels. Agitation by Dutch radicals and a friendly attitude towards the United States by the Dutch government—both influenced by the American Revolution—also encouraged the British to attack. The Fourth Anglo-Dutch War lasted into 1784 and was disastrous to the Dutch mercantile economy. Southern theater During the first three years of the American Revolutionary War, the primary military encounters were in the north.

After French entry into the war, the British turned their attention to the southern colonies, where they hoped to regain control by recruiting Loyalists. This southern strategy also had the advantage of keeping the Royal Navy closer to the Caribbean, where the British needed to defend their possessions against the French and Spanish. On December 29, 1778, an expeditionary corps from Clinton’s army in New York captured Savannah, Georgia. An attempt by French and American forces to retake Savannah failed on October 9, 1779.

Clinton then besieged Charleston, capturing it on May 12, 1780. With relatively few casualties, Clinton had seized the South’s biggest city and seaport, paving the way for what seemed like certain conquest of the South. The tables were quickly turned on Cornwallis, however. One wing of his army was utterly defeated at the Battle of Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780. Kings Mountain was noteworthy because it was not a battle between British redcoats and colonial troops: it was a battle between Loyalist and Patriot militia.

Tarleton’s troops were subsequently defeated at the Battle of Cowpens on January 17, 1781 by American General Daniel Morgan. General Nathanael Greene, Gates’ replacement, proceeded to wear down the British in a series of battles, each of them tactically a victory for the British, but giving no strategic advantage to the victors. Greene summed up his approach in a motto that would become famous: “We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again. ” Unable to capture or destroy Greene’s army, Cornwallis moved north to Virginia.

In March 1781, General Washington dispatched General Lafayette to defend Virginia. The young Frenchman skirmished with Cornwallis, avoiding a decisive battle while gathering reinforcements. “The boy cannot escape me,” Cornwallis is supposed to have said. However, Cornwallis was unable to trap Lafayette, and so he moved his forces to Yorktown, Virginia in July in order to link up with the British navy. Northern and western theater West of the Appalachian Mountains and along the Canadian border, the American Revolutionary War was an “Indian War. The British and the Continental Congress both courted American Indians as allies (or urged them to remain neutral), and many Native American communities became divided over what path to take. Like the Iroquois Confederacy, tribes such as the Cherokees and the Shawnees split into factions. Some Delawares signed the first American Indian treaty with the United States, but others joined the British. The British had a shortage of regular troops after Burgoyne’s surrender at Saratoga in 1777, and so a greater effort was made to recruit American Indians.

The British supplied their native allies from forts along the Great Lakes, and tribesmen staged raids in New York, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere. As had often been true in previous conflicts, warfare between Europeans and American Indians resulted in each side attacking the other where they were most vulnerable—their homes and villages. Joint Iroquois-Loyalist attacks in the Wyoming Valley and at Cherry Valley in 1778 provoked the scorched earth Sullivan Expedition into western New York during the summer of 1779.

In this border war, every person—man, woman, or child—was a potential casualty. In the Ohio Country and the Illinois Country, the Virginia frontiersman George Rogers Clark attempted to neutralize British influence among the Ohio tribes by capturing the outposts of Kaskaskia and Vincennes in the summer of 1778. When General Henry Hamilton, the British commander at Detroit, retook Vincennes, Clark returned in a surprise march in February 1779 and captured Hamilton himself. However, a decisive victory in the West eluded the United States even as their fortunes had risen in the East.

The low point on the frontier came in 1782 with the Gnadenhutten massacre, when Pennsylvania militiamen—unable to track down enemy warriors—executed nearly 100 Christian Delaware noncombatants, mostly women and children. Later that year, in the last major encounter of the war, a party of Kentuckians was soundly defeated by a superior force of British regulars and Native Americans. References Black, Jeremy. War for America: The Fight for Independence, 1775–1783. St. Martin’s Press (New York) and Sutton Publishing (UK), 1991.

ISBN 0312067135 (1991), ISBN 0312123469 (1994 paperback), ISBN 0750928085 (2001 paperback). Analysis from a noted British military historian. Boatner, Mark Mayo, III. Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. New York: McKay, 1966 revised 1974. ISBN 0811705781. Military topics, references many secondary sources available at that time. Chambers, John Whiteclay II, ed. in chief. The Oxford Companion to American Military History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN 0195071980. Duffy, Christopher.

The Military Experience in the Age of Reason, 1715–1789. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1987. ISBN 0689119933. Ellis, Joseph J. His Excellency: George Washington. New York: Knopf, 2004. ISBN 1400040310. Fenn, Elizabeth Anne. Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775–82. New York: Hill and Wang, 2001. ISBN 0809078201. Greene, Jack P. and J. R. Pole, eds. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell, 1991 reprint 1999. ISBN 1557865477. Collection of essays.

Kaplan, Sidney and Emma Nogrady Kaplan. The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution. Amherst, Massachusetts: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1989. ISBN 0870236636. Mackesy, Piers. The War for America: 1775–1783. London, Reprinted University of Nebraska Press, 1993, ISBN Highly regarded examination of British strategy and leadership. Shy, John. A People Numerous and Armed: Reflections on the Military Struggle for American Independence. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976 (ISBN 0195020138)

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