The American Revolution

Background to the American Revolution

The American Revolution also called United States War if Independence was an insurrection against Great Britain by 13 North American Colonies which won them political independence after they overthrew the yoke of British rule. British attempts to exert greater control over colonial affairs and mounting taxation imposed on goods imported from Britain grew negative sentiments in the colonies.

Without any form of representation in parliament which existed in Britain led to a strained relationship between the colonies and Great Britain. The colonist demanded that as Englishmen they had the same rights as other British subjects in British homeland and had the right to control and determine how their lives will be conducted. These issues fueled resentment that led to boycotts, violence and ultimately the American Revolution

The Colonist Revolt

After many agitations taxes were repealed on goods except tea. However landing of tea was resisted by all colonies except Massachusetts Governor, who permitted British tea shipped in to remain in Boston Harbor. But they were destroyed in what became known as the ‘Boston Tea Party’.

 Measures taken by Britain to counter the colonies by the use of force led to twelve colonies forming a Continental Congress to coordinate their resistance. The Continental Congress established committee, conventions and the Continental army and after the war they effectively seized power.

 With mounting violence and war approaching, The Congress appointed George Washington to command the Continental Army and went further on July 1776 voted for independence ( with twelve affirmatives and one absentia), issuing its declaration on July 4. On July 9, a statue of the King of England made of lead was pulled down and melted down to make bullets.

War Breaks Out

Skirmishes between British troops and colonial militiamen in Lexington and Concord in April 1775 kicked off the armed struggle that went on to last for 8 years.

 The Americans began the war with significant disadvantages compared to the British. They had no National Government, no armed forces, no financial institutions and many more. They however had some advantages over the British; they were on home soil, had a large prosperous population that depended on local production for food and most supplies rather than imports. The British had to ship in food, military hardware and essential materials across long distances by sea. It could take up to three months to cross the Atlantic Ocean and orders from London were often outdated by the time they arrived.

Despite blockade of the coastal waterways of the colonies by British warships the colonist did not experience hunger crises. This is as earlier stated due to the largely prosperous farming populace. The Americans had little need for import of food items from abroad except for perhaps ammunitions and military assistance.

The War becomes an International Conflict

 The continental army lost so many battles and at a point was at the brink of total collapse but for some late successful battles that convinced the French and later Spain to ally with the Americans.

 The new Continental Army suffered significantly from a lack of an effective training program with trainings often from largely inexperienced officers. However the trainings received through General Friedrich Wilhelm a veteran of the Prussian General Staff during the long, hard winter at Valley Forge changed all that.

 The French had covertly supplied and supported the American from the onset of the war and formally recognized the United States on February 6, 1778, and followed with a military alliance. Spain took quite a while due to fears of engaging the British in warfare and the possibility of a war with Portugal, an ally of Britain. But by 1779 Spain recognized The United States and formally declared war on the United Kingdom. The entrance of France and Spain turned what essential was a civil war into an international conflict.

Despite foreign support for the continental army they stilled faced dire situations. Morale was poor, public support was being eroded by the long war, the national currency was virtually worthless, the army was plagued with supply problems, desertions were common, and whole regiments mutinied over their conditions in early 1780.

After almost 7 years of fighting with America, and the British attempt to fight in multiple wars the British forces began to experience repeated defeats. In addition to fighting with the revolutionist, Britain was also at war with France and Spain simultaneously without major allies backing them thus exposing them to defeat. The British were forced to severely limit the number of troops and warships sent to America in order to defend other key acquired territories and the British mainland.

Britain Surrenders

The British Army trapped and overpowered at Yorktown, Cornwallis was forced to surrender his entire army to the Colonist on October 19, 1781. However the British still stationed its forces in some areas like New York and Charleston but by late 1782, the removal of these forces signaled the end of the conflict.

America Gains Independence

British and American negotiators in Paris signed peace terms and on September 3, 1783, Great Britain formally recognized the independence of the United States in the Treaty of Paris. At the same time, Britain signed separate treaties with France and Spain, bringing the American Revolution to a close after eight long years. 

Salient Points

  • British officers lobbied Indian tribes to support them, while the Americans urged them to stay neutral
  • Due to the small number of army maintained by the British to prevent abuse of power by the king, they had no option than to secure additional troops from German states.
  • General Charles Cornwallis did not himself surrender, rather claiming illness, he sent his deputy, Charles O’Hara.
  •  Roughly 5 % (about 5,000) of the Continental army were black.
  • Britain lost the war due to multiple fights it had going on at the same time.

Do you think America would have been what it is today if they had not revolted against British oppression? What lessons can be drawn from the strength shown by the founding fathers of the United States of America.  Do you think Britain lost because they underestimated the sheer determination of the Americans.

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