The American Revolution (1775-83) is also known as the American Revolutionary War and the U.S. War of Independence. The conflict arose from growing tensions between residents of Great Britain's 13 North American colonies and the colonial government, which represented the British crown. Skirmishes between British troops and colonial militiamen in Lexington and Concord in April 1775 kicked off the armed conflict, and by the following summer, the rebels were waging a full-scale war for their independence. France entered the American Revolution on the side of the colonists in 1778, turning what had essentially been a civil war into an international conflict. After French assistance helped the Continental Army force the British surrender at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1779, the Americans had effectively won their independence, though fighting would not formally end until 1783.
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General George Washington's battered forces manage to outsmart British General William Howe's year-end attempt to drive the Americans from the hills in…
The Declaration of Independence announced the intention of the 13 American colonies to separate from Great Britain.
George Washington served two terms as the first U.S. president, from 1789 to 1797.
The U.S. Constitution established America's national government and fundamental laws, and guaranteed certain basic rights to its citizens.
Get to know the leaders of the United States, from George Washington to Barack Obama.
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Now most famous as a traitor to the American cause, General Benedict Arnold began the Revolutionary War as one of its earliest heroes, helping lead rebel forces in the capture of Fort Ticonderoga in May 1775.
- Lead Up to the Revolutionary War
- Declaring Independence (1775-76)
- Saratoga: Revolutionary War Turning Point (1777-78)
Lead Up to the Revolutionary War
For more than a decade before the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775, tensions had been building between colonists and the British authorities. Attempts by the British government to raise revenue by taxing the colonies (notably the Stamp Act of 1765, the Townshend Tariffs of 1767 and the Tea Act of 1773) met with heated protest among many colonists, who resented their lack of representation in Parliament and demanded the same rights as other British subjects. Colonial resistance led to violence in 1770, when British soldiers opened fire on a mob of colonists, killing five men in what was known as the Boston Massacre. After December 1773, when a band of Bostonians dressed as Mohawk Indians boarded British ships and dumped 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor, an outraged Parliament passed a series of measures (known as the Intolerable, or Coercive Acts) designed to reassert imperial authority in Massachusetts.
In response, a group of colonial delegates (including George Washington of Virginia, John and Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, Patrick Henry of Virginia and John Jay of New York) met in Philadelphia in September 1774 to give voice to their grievances against the British crown. This First Continental Congress did not go so far as to demand independence from Britain, but it denounced taxation without representation, as well as the maintenance of the British army in the colonies without their consent, and issued a declaration of the rights due every citizen, including life, liberty, property, assembly and trial by jury. The Continental Congress voted to meet again in May 1775 to consider further action, but by that time violence had already broken out. On April 19, local militiamen clashed with British soldiers in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, marking the first shots fired in the Revolutionary War.
Declaring Independence (1775-76)
When the Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia, delegates--including new additions Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson--voted to form a Continental Army, with Washington as its commander in chief. On June 17, in the Revolution's first major battle, colonial forces inflicted heavy casualties on the British regiment of General William Howe at Breed's Hill in Boston. The engagement (known as the Battle of Bunker Hill) ended in British victory, but lent encouragement to the revolutionary cause. Throughout that fall and winter, Washington's forces struggled to keep the British contained in Boston, but artillery captured at Fort Ticonderoga in New York helped shift the balance of that struggle in late winter. The British evacuated the city in March 1776, with Howe and his men retreating to Canada to prepare a major invasion of New York.
By June 1776, with the Revolutionary War in full swing, a growing majority of the colonists had come to favor independence from Britain. On July 4, the Continental Congress voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence, drafted by a five-man committee including Franklin and John Adams but written mainly by Jefferson. That same month, determined to crush the rebellion, the British government sent a large fleet, along with more than 34,000 troops to New York. In August, Howe's Redcoats routed the Continental Army on Long Island; Washington was forced to evacuate his troops from New York City by September. Pushed across the Delaware River, Washington fought back with a surprise attack in Trenton, New Jersey, on Christmas night and won another victory at Princeton to revive the rebels' flagging hopes before making winter quarters at Morristown.
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