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Saratoga: Revolutionary War Turning Point (1777-78)
British strategy in 1777 involved two main prongs of attack, aimed at separating New England (where the rebellion enjoyed the most popular support) from the other colonies. To that end, General John Burgoyne's army aimed to march south from Canada toward a planned meeting with Howe's forces on the Hudson River. Burgoyne's men dealt a devastating loss to the Americans in July by retaking Fort Ticonderoga, while Howe decided to move his troops southward from New York to confront Washington's army near the Chesapeake Bay. The British defeated the Americans at Brandywine Creek, Pennsylvania, on September 11 and entered Philadelphia on September 25. Washington rebounded to strike Germantown in early October before withdrawing to winter quarters near Valley Forge.
Howe's move had left Burgoyne's army exposed near Saratoga, New York, and the British suffered the consequences of this on September 19, when an American force under General Horatio Gates defeated them at Freeman's Farm (known as the first Battle of Saratoga). After suffering another defeat on October 7 at Bemis Heights (the Second Battle of Saratoga), Burgoyne surrendered his remaining forces on October 17. The American victory Saratoga would prove to be a turning point of the American Revolution, as it prompted France (which had been secretly aiding the rebels since 1776) to enter the war openly on the American side, though it would not formally declare war on Great Britain until June 1778. The American Revolution, which had begun as a civil conflict between Britain and its colonies, had become a world war.
Stalemate in the North, Battle in the South (1778-81)
During the long, hard winter at Valley Forge, Washington's troops benefited from the training and discipline of the Prussian military officer Baron Friedrich von Steuben (sent by the French) and the leadership of the French aristocrat Marquis de Lafayette. On June 28, 1778, as British forces under Sir Henry Clinton (who had replaced Howe as supreme commander) attempted to withdraw from Philadelphia to New York, Washington's army attacked them near Monmouth, New Jersey. The battle effectively ended in a draw, as the Americans held their ground, but Clinton was able to get his army and supplies safely to New York. On July 8, a French fleet commanded by the Comte d'Estaing arrived off the Atlantic coast, ready to do battle with the British. A joint attack on the British at Newport, Rhode Island, in late July failed, and for the most part the war settled into a stalemate phase in the North.
The Americans suffered a number of setbacks from 1779 to 1781, including the defection of General Benedict Arnold to the British and the first serious mutinies within the Continental Army. In the South, the British occupied Georgia by early 1779 and captured Charleston, South Carolina in May 1780. British forces under Lord Charles Cornwallis then began an offensive in the region, crushing Gates' American troops at Camden in mid-August, though the Americans scored a victory over Loyalist forces at King's Mountain in early October. Nathanael Green replaced Gates as the American commander in the South that December. Under Green's command, General Daniel Morgan scored a victory against a British force led by Colonel Banastre Tarleton at Cowpens, South Carolina, on January 17, 1781.
Revolutionary War Draws to a Close (1781-83)
By the fall of 1781, Greene's American forces had managed to force Cornwallis and his men to withdraw to Virginia's Yorktown peninsula, near where the York River empties into Chesapeake Bay. Supported by a French army commanded by General Jean Baptiste de Rochambeau, Washington moved against Yorktown with a total of around 14,000 soldiers, while a fleet of 36 French warships offshore prevented British reinforcement or evacuation. Trapped and overpowered, Cornwallis was forced to surrender his entire army on October 19. Claiming illness, the British general sent his deputy, Charles O'Hara, to surrender; after O'Hara approached Rochambeau to surrender his sword (the Frenchman deferred to Washington), Washington gave the nod to his own deputy, Benjamin Lincoln, who accepted it.
Though the movement for American independence effectively triumphed at Yorktown, contemporary observers did not see that as the decisive victory yet. British forces remained stationed around Charleston, and the powerful main army still resided in New York. Though neither side would take decisive action over the better part of the next two years, the British removal of their troops from Charleston and Savannah in late 1782 finally pointed to the end of the conflict. British and American negotiators in Paris signed preliminary peace terms in Paris late that November, 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 peace treaties with France and Spain (which had entered the conflict in 1779), bringing the American Revolution to a close after eight long years.
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