The Revolutionary War and the American Revolution saw the creation of the United States when thirteen colonies joined together to fight for and win their independence from the British Empire.
Treaty of ParisFebruary 10, 1763
The Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Year's War (or French and Indian War) between Great Britain and France. The war left Great Britain in debt and looking to the Colonies for relief. This was the start of conflicts with the Colonies.
Proclamation of 1763October 23, 1763
Following the French and Indian War, Great Britain imposed the Proclamation of 1763 that created a boundary between the Colonists and the Native Americans. The colonists saw this as a betrayal since they believed the land would be theirs with victory.
The Sugar ActApril 5, 1764
The first British attempt to raise funds from the colonies was through the American Revenue Act, which became known as the Sugar Act. The Act imposed tariffs and stricter trade regulations on sugar and molasses, which also impacted the rum trade.
The Stamp ActMarch 22, 1765
The British government imposed the Stamp Act to raise more funds for their depleted coffers. The Stamp Act was a tax on legal documents and printed materials, including newspapers and pamphlets. The colonists railed against the cost and the fact violators would be prosecuted by Admiralty Courts and not by jury trials. This was the first united colonial opposition to Parliament and it was vehement and violent.
Patrick Henry elected to House of BurgessesMay 1765
Patrick Henry is elected to the House of Burgesses where he was a vocal opponent to British laws and taxes.
Sons of LibertySummer 1765
Opposition to the Stamp Act was sustained and organized. Riots and violent actions, such has hanging the Commissioner of Stamps in effigy, were planned by a new group called "The Sons of Liberty," created by Samuel Adams and John Hancock. News of the group's endeavors spread throughout the colonies because of two members: Benjamin Edes, a printer, and John Gil who ran the Boston Gazette.
Stamp Act CongressOctober 19, 1765
Nine out of the 13 colonies sent representatives to the Stamp Act Congress to formally protest the tariffs. The main cry of opposition from the colonists was, "No taxation without representation." This issue was one of the major causes of the war. Britain repealed The Stamp Act in February 1766.
The Declaratory ActsMarch 1766
Britain retaliated for the opposition with The Declaratory Acts, which were a show of power that asserted Britain's right to impose binding laws and levies upon the colonies.
Townshend Revenue ActsJune 29, 1767
The Townshend Revenue Acts imposed duties on goods imported into the colonies, including paint, glass, lead, paper and tea. There were two reasons for the taxes: first, to raise additional funds, and two, to show that Great Britain had the right to impose taxes upon the Colonies. This was a show of might by Parliament following the opposition to the Sugar Act. The King signed the bill into law on July 2, 1767 and the colonists responded by boycotting all goods. The Townshend Acts were repealed on April 12, 1770.
British Troops Arrive in BostonOctober 1, 1768
British warships enter Boston Harbor and deposit two regiments of English troops to keep order.
Boston MassacreMarch 5, 1770
Five Colonists are killed by British soldiers, spurring protests.
Samuel Adams Organizes Committee of CorrespondenceNovember 1772
Samuel Adams, the most famous member of the Sons of Liberty, organizes a Committee of Correspondence among leaders in the colonies. This created a network of colonists who were instrumental in organizing the 13 colonies into a unified group that shared information and opinions. It was the first time the colonies unified.
The Tea Act PassedMay 10, 1773
The Tea Act allowed the British East India Company to monopolize the tea market in the colonies. It resulted in protest and inspired the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773. The Tea Act also spurred a boycott of tea in the colonies. Coffee became the patriotic beverage for Americans. Anyone seen drinking tea was pegged as a Loyalist and treated accordingly.
The Intolerable Acts or Coercive Acts1774
The British responded to the Boston Tea Party with a series of strict laws that became known as the Intolerable Acts. These included the Boston Port Act that closed Boston Harbor until restitution was made for the lost tea; the Massachusetts Government Act that overturned the colony's charter of 1691 and instituted military government in the colony; the Administration of Justice Act that protected British officials from being tried for capital offenses in the Colonies; The Quartering Act that gave British officials the right to occupy any empty building in the Colonies; and lastly the Quebec Act that gave all the territory and fur trade between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to the province of Quebec.
Powder AlarmSeptember 1, 1774
The Powder Alarm is significant because it showed the British how advanced the colonial militia system was and how quickly they could mobilize. While this was not a battle and no shots were fired, this incident changed the British perspective of colonial resistance. This alarm also was a catalyst for creating the Minutemen.
The First Continental CongressSeptember 5, 1774
Delegates from 12 of the 13 colonies (all but Georgia) met in Philadelphia to organize colonial resistance to Parliament's Intolerable Acts. The Congress encouraged free debate and equality of all delegates.
The Articles of Association EnactedOctober 20, 1774
Fifty-three delegates of the First Continental Congress signed the Articles of Association that threatened boycott of imported and exported goods from Britain and its other colonies should the Intolerable Acts not be repealed by December 1, 1774. The document also included a Declaration of Rights for the colonies, which included a ban of the slave trade, a severing of all economic ties with Britain, and a desire to expand and improve agriculture and industry within the colonies. The British response to this document was too late and had little effect in stopping the road to revolution.
Patrick Henry Delivers Famous SpeechMarch 23, 1775
Patrick Henry delivers his famous speech urging Virginia to form militias and defend itself against the British. It stands as one of the most famous calls to arms in American history. His final line, "Give me liberty or give me death," became a rallying cry on the path to war.
Rage Militaire: Eve of RevolutionApril 18, 1775
The night before Revolution, militias were mobilized and ready. War was inevitable. Paul Revere makes his famous ride and warns locals to take up arms to meet the coming threat.
Lexington and ConcordApril 19, 1775
The British planned a surprise march into Concord to capture stores of ammunition, but were met with militia in the first battle of the American Revolution. Fighting broke out in both Lexington and Concord. The first shots were fired and news of bloodshed spread throughout the colonies. It was the famous, "shot heard around the world." Seventy-three British soldiers were killed and 200 more were injured. The Americans lost 49 soldiers with 39 injured. It was an American victory that forced the British back to Boston as thousands of volunteers rushed to Cambridge, Massachusetts to defend the homeland. Britain was shocked by the defeat.
Siege of BostonApril 19, 1775
Following Lexington and Concord, the British retreated to Boston. The Patriots responded by laying a siege upon the city.
Capture of Fort TiconderogaMay 10, 1775
Fort Ticonderoga, which was situated roughly in the middle of the colonies from North to South, was considered critical to success. On May 10, Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold captured the fort without firing a single shot. It was one of the first offensive acts by the colonists. The cannons the Americans captured were invaluable in ending the siege of Boston.
Battle of Buzzard BayMay 14, 1775
Buzzard Bay, situated off the coast of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, was the site of one of the first naval battles of the war. Captain Nathaniel Pope and Captain Daniels Egery led a small force of men in capturing two British sloops and their crews.
The Continental Army EstablishedJune 14, 1775
Recognizing war was inevitable, the Second Continental Congress established the Continental Army. It was a ragtag army made of barely trained, underfed volunteers in homespun clothing. They were unequipped and undisciplined, often complaining about conditions and fighting amongst themselves.
George Washington Named Commander in ChiefJune 15, 1775
The Second Continental Congress appoints George Washington Commander in Chief. His experiences under General Braddock during the Seven Year's War gave him valuable insights into the weaknesses of the British military that helped him devise a war strategy. It also helped that Washington was dedicated to the Rebel cause and embraced Patrick Henry's rally of "liberty or death." Without Washington leading the Continental Army, success was unlikely.
Battle of MacchiasJune 11-12, 1775
The Americans won this small naval battle off the coast of Maine, but paid for the victory with British bombardment on the town of Falmouth (Portland), losing 11 ships to fire.
Battle of Bunker HillJune 17, 1775
Bunker Hill was one of the first battles of the Revolution and definitively showed the British that rebellion would be fierce with no easy resolution. The Patriots captured Bunker Hill as part of the siege of Boston, intending to trap the British. They lost the battle when they ran out of ammunition by the third assault. It was a British victory, but a costly one. The British lost over 1,000 men.
Washington Assumes Command of the Continental ArmyJuly 3, 1775
British Shocked by WarSummer 1775
When news of Lexington and Concord reached England, most wrote it off as propaganda, but the news did not abate. Fort Ticonderoga fell. The wounded British soldiers from the Battle of Bunker Hill arrived in Plymouth. The British government had expected a quick end to the rebellion and had made no plans for war. They spent the summer developing a strategy. Some advisors warned war would not end well for Britain; they were overruled.
Americans Attack CanadaFall 1775
The Americans wrongly thought attacking Canada would result in easy victory. The Canadian Campaign turned into one of the largest American setbacks in the war.
Siege of Fort St. JohnSeptember 17, 1775 - November 3, 1775
The first major battle in the Canadian Campaign. The siege was an American victory and encouraged an advance into Canada.
Battle of Montreal (Longue-Pointe)September 24-25, 1775
This second engagement in the Canadian Campaign was critical to capturing the country. During the siege of Fort St. John, Richard Montgomery sent Colonel Ethan Allen and Major John Brown to recruit Canadians to fight the British at Montreal, but British General Guy Carleton's spies warned him of the plan. The Quebec militia maneuvered around Allen, cutting him off from escape, and capturing him.
Continental Navy CreatedOctober 13, 1775
Adding naval forces was a hotly debated idea, despite John Adams advocating the need for a navy. But when word came that two British ships were headed to Canada loaded with arms, the Continental Congress authorized two armed ships to intercept them. Around this same time, Congress received reports that Washington had enlisted three coastal schooners into his forces. Since America already had naval ships in action, Congress officially authorized the Continental Navy into service.
Continental Marines CreatedNovember 10, 1775
The Second Continental Congress created the Continental Marines to serve as landing forces with the Continental Navy.
Battle of QuebecDecember 31, 1775 - January 1, 1776
General Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold boldly tried to capture Quebec and were defeated. It was the first true defeat of the American Revolution.
Siege of Boston EndsMarch 17, 1776
The British held Boston for several months before Washington took command of the Continental Army. After General Thomas captured Dorchester Heights, Washington ordered the artillery taken from Fort Ticonderoga be placed there and aimed at the city. The British awoke to the sight of cannons facing them. General Howe, on the advice of his naval commander, chose to leave the harbor, withdrawing from Boston entirely on March 17.
Battle of Moore's Creek BridgeFebruary 27, 1776
This battle marked the first significant victory for the Americans in the Revolution and resulted in heavy losses for the Scottish Loyalist forces. It boosted American morale by ending British authority in North Carolina.
Battle of NassauMarch 3-4, 1776
The Battle of Fort Nassau in the Bahamas was among the first naval battles for the Continental Navy and the first amphibious raid by the Continental Marines in American history. The Patriots knew the British stored large amounts of gunpowder at the Fort, specifically gunpowder they needed to launch an opposition in the war. They left with the gunpowder, cannons and other military supplies. It was a victory for the first Marine Commander Captain Samuel Nicholas.
Thomas Paine Publishes "Common Sense"January 19, 1776
Thomas Paine's famous document made a strong case severing ties with Britain. The pamphlet convinced many colonists that independence was the right path. It also deeply affected how America was formed.
Congress Authorizes New State GovernmentsMay 10, 1776
The Continental Congress authorized each of the 13 colonies to form new state governments, effectively severing ties with Britain by seizing control of local municipalities.
Siege of CharlestonJune 1776
A small American force, led by Major General Charles Lee, defended Charleston, the largest seaport in the South. This minor action was instrumental in keeping the British from taking this major seaport, forcing them to focus on the northern colonies instead.
Call for Articles of ConfederationJune 12, 1776
The Continental Congress appoints a committee to draft the Articles of Confederation to create a working government structure for the United States.
Jefferson Presents Draft of Declaration of IndependenceJune 18, 1776
Thomas Jefferson presents his draft of the Declaration of Independence to the Continental Congress. The Declaration listed the colonies' grievances against the British Parliament and asserted America's independence from the crown. It was the official separation of America and Great Britain. On the same day, American forces prevail over a British attempt to seize Fort Sullivan (Fort Moultrie) in Charleston, South Carolina.
Battle of Sullivan's IslandJune 28, 1776
This was the first time Americans successfully defended against a land and sea invasion. Fort Sullivan was only half-built so the British expected to capture it easily. They did not count on Colonel William Moultrie who was charged with defense of Charleston. Moultrie used the typography of the land and waterways to win the battle. The Fort was later renamed in his honor.
British Armada Arrives in New YorkJuly 2, 1776
British forces sail fifty ships carrying thousands of British and Hessian troops through the tidal strait separating Staten Island from Long Island intent on driving Washington from New York. By July 9, the British finished landing its largest expeditionary force on American soil. The size of that force would not be exceeded until World War I.
Declaration of IndependenceJuly 4, 1776
The Continental Congress officially adopts and signs the Declaration of Independence. Twelve of the thirteen colonies voted for adoption, with New York abstaining. The Declaration severed all ties with Britain and asserted the colonies were free and independent states.
Battle of Long Island (Brooklyn Heights)August 27, 1776
Losing this battle was instrumental in Britain gaining control over the most important port in the Northern colonies. This started the British campaign to push the Continental Army from New York, which the British would hold the rest of the war. This was the first major defeat for the Patriots since declaring independence.
Battle of Kip's BaySeptember 15, 1776
British General Howe attacked before Washington's forces could withdraw from Long Island. The Continental Army was easily overwhelmed and fell into chaos. Washington was dismayed at how the militia crumbled and ran. It was another step toward British gaining control over New York.
Battle of Harlem HeightsSeptember 16, 1776
Washington established a new defensive line at Harlem Heights to challenge General Howe's forces. Though the Continental Army was initially pushed backward, Washington ordered a flanking maneuver that forced a British retreat. It marked Washington's first victory on the battlefield in the Revolutionary War.
Great Fire of New YorkSeptember 21, 1776
Fire broke out on the west side of New York City and burned twenty-five percent of the city to the ground. It was rumored the fire was set by rebel American forces trying to disrupt British operations in the city.
Battle of Valcour BayOctober 11, 1776
As the British built up a fleet of ships in Montreal, Benedict Arnold was busy building his own fleet in Vermont. Arnold knew a naval battle was inevitable after the loss in Canada. On October 11, Sir Guy Carleton's twenty gunboats and more than two hundred transports met Arnold's three schooners, two sloops, three galleys and eight gondolas outfitted with just seventy guns. The battle lasted seven hours before the British retreated for the night. Arnold, knowing he had to defend Ticonderoga, used the temporary reprieve to sneak past the British line. His fleet was not caught until the next day, when he sent half his fleet to the Fort while he stayed to fight. In the end, Arnold burned his ship, littered with the dead, and retreated to Ticonderoga. Carleton retreated to Canada, which was considered a grave mistake by the British.
Battle of White PlainsOctober 28, 1776
The British out-maneuvered George Washington and forced him to withdraw from Manhattan. His attempt to hold White Plains, New York also failed. A British attack collapsed Washington's line, forcing withdrawal and leaving Fort Washington at risk.
Battle of Fort WashingtonNovember 16, 1776
After pushing Washington's army from New York, General Howe turned his attention to the last Continental defense–Fort Washington. British and Hessian forces launched a vicious attack at dawn. It was a fight between 13,000 British forces and 3,000 American defenders. Though Washington arrived to inspect the Fort's defenses early in the battle, his generals convinced him to leave 30 minutes before it was surrounded. Washington's army retreated to New Jersey.
Evacuation of Fort LeeNovember 20, 1776
Following the fall of Fort Washington, George Washington called for an evacuation of Fort Lee, which was situated across the Hudson River in New Jersey. Before supplies and provisions could be removed from the Fort, the British arrived on the heights overlooking the fortification. Washington called for immediate evacuation, abandoning dozens of cannons, hundreds of tents and vast stores of flour.
Battle of TrentonDecember 26, 1776
Following severe losses in New York, Washington faced shrinking supplies, low morale and expiring enlistments. He desperately needed a victory to keep his forces intact. His solution was to attempt a nighttime crossing of the Delaware River the day after Christmas to attack the Hessian garrison in Trenton. After the crossing, the army marched ten miles to Trenton before Washington divided his forces into three units: one to attack, one to prevent retreat on the far side of town, and one to create a diversion. The army surprised and surrounded the Hessians who surrendered, leaving the Continental Army with much-needed supplies and 900 prisoners. It was a critical victory for the Americans.
Washington Appeals to TroopsDecember 31, 1776
With the end of the year just a day away and Congress ignoring Washington's plea for desperately needed food and supplies, the general took matters into his own hands. He asked his wealthy friends to provide food and supplies, which they did. Then he appealed directly to the troops, entreating them to stay despite expiring enlistments, praising their efforts and extolling the cause of liberty. Nearly all who were fit for duty remained at his side.
Battle of Second TrentonJanuary 2, 1777
Unsatisfied with his victory, Washington was determined to cross the Delaware a second time to establish a winter camp in New Jersey so he could recruit troops. Lord Cornwallis was tasked with regaining the territory for the British. They fought at the only bridge near Washington's troops on Assunpink Creek. American forces forced the British back three times. Cornwallis arrived with his troops that evening, planning more attacks the next day. Washington, however, was not about to stick around to face such uneven odds. He left a small group of men to defend the bridge while he snuck his main force out of the area to attack Princeton.
Battle of PrincetonJanuary 3, 1777
Washington's force engaged the British in Princeton following their long march from Trenton the night before. They were met with fierce fighting and the Patriots began to falter until Washington arrived and personally led the troops into battle. Only 40 Patriots perished while the British lost 275. Washington had prevailed and the British left New Jersey to him.
The Forage WarJanuary 1777 - March 1777
With victories from Trenton and Princeton, Washington turned his attention to his army's lack of resources. During what is known as The Forage War, Washington's troops launched small raids against the British aimed at gathering supplies for humans and horses.
British Recapture Fort TiconderogaJuly 6, 1777
The Americans long thought Sugar Loaf Mountain was too high to climb, so they focused their defenses of Fort Ticonderoga elsewhere. But the British, under the command of General Burgoyne, did climb the mountain and with artillery they aimed at the Fort. The Americans had no option but to withdraw, but as they did Burgoyne attacked their ships and captured their supplies. The Americans who were attempting to escape on foot also met British resistance. They battled and the American land forces won. The American rear guard was also attacked and held their ground, but not without severe losses to the guard and its commander Colonel Ebenezer Francis.
Massacre of Jane McCreaJuly 27, 1777
Jane was engaged to a militia member serving at Fort Ticonderoga. On her way to visit him, she stopped at old Fort Edward to stay with a Loyalist friend. Native Americans, who were serving with General Burgoyne's army, attacked the village, killing a settler and massacring a family. They captured Jane McCrea and Sara McNeil, only to kill Jane and take her scalp to Burgoyne. The British general wanted to execute them for the act, but was told he would lose all Native American support if he did. The British did nothing and Jane's death strengthened opposition to the British and was used to recruit soldiers to the American cause.
Battle of OrinskyAugust 6, 1777
Colonel St. Leger led his troops, including 1,000 Native Americans, into the Mohawk Valley with plans to overtake Fort Stanwich. St. Leger, believing the fort was dilapidated and barely protected, was surprised when he was met by 500 Americans commanded by Colonel Peter Gansevoort, aided by an additional 200 Massachusetts volunteers. When St. Leger learned another 800 American reinforcements were close by, he sent a force of Native Americans to ambush the relief soldiers. The two groups met in a ravine near Orinsky where they fought to a standstill, each side losing approximately 150 soldiers. But since the reinforcements could not assist the Fort, St. Leger demanded its surrender. When the Americans did not accept his terms, he threatened to massacre every living person in the valley. They refused again, but managed to send two soldiers to get help. Benedict Arnold answered the call, making his way there with 800 soldiers, but he sent false reports ahead that his forces numbered 3,000. That number was enough to convince the British and Native American forces to withdraw to Canada.
Battle of BenningtonAugust 16, 1777
General Burgoyne sent Hessian troops, led by Colonel Fredrich Baum, to Bennington to capture cattle and supplies. They did not expect opposition, but Baum was met by nearly 2,000 American militiamen, led by John Stark of New Hampshire. It was a fierce battle the Americans won, handing Burgoyne his first major defeat. Burgoyne lost one quarter of his forces (207 dead/700 captured) that day and gained no supplies. The Americans lost 20.
Battle of BrandywineSeptember 11, 1777
In August 1777, Washington's adversary, General William Howe took to the sea. After three weeks of forcing Washington to guess where he would land, Howe arrived at Head of Elk poised to attack the American capital in Philadelphia. Washington quickly moved his force of 16,000 to Brandywine Creek to meet the threat, but Howe simply moved his troops north of Washington's line. Washington adjusted his line to meet the advance, but was unable to stop it. The American forces retreated in defeat. This marked the first battle in the British campaign to capture Philadelphia, which they did two weeks later.
Battle of SaratogaSeptember 13, 1777
When Burgoyne crossed the Hudson pressing toward Albany, his forces had shrunk to 6,500 troops. He was met by American General Gates and his force of 7,000. They stood between Burgoyne and Albany. A battle ensued, but Burgoyne was low on supplies and losing forces he could not afford so he retreated to Saratoga.
Battle of the CloudsSeptember 16, 1777
Though defeated at Brandywine, Washington's troops continued to protect Philadelphia from General Howe's approach. The two armies battled on September 16 until a severe thunderstorm with torrential downpours ruined ammunition and roads. The weather forced the armies to stop fighting.
First Battle of Saratoga (Freeman's Farm)September 19, 1777
General John Burgoyne led 7,500 men out of Canada toward Albany. On the outskirts of Saratoga, his forces met the Americans led by General Horatio Gates. The American force was 8,500 strong and included 500 sharpshooters led by Colonel Daniel Morgan and Benedict Arnold, a proven combat officer. On September 19, Burgoyne divided his troops to test the American defenses. Morgan's light infantry met the main column on John Freeman's farm. The battle was fierce. Burgoyne hoped for reinforcements from Howe, but Howe had chosen to deviate from the British plan and take Philadelphia instead. Burgoyne would receive no reinforcements while the American forces swelled to 13,000 strong. It was an American victory.
Battle of GermantownOctober 4, 1777
After losing Philadelphia, Washington wanted to defeat General Howe. In October, he devised a crafty plan to attack Germantown, where 9,000 of Howe's troops were encamped. Washington divided his troops into four groups so he could attack the town from all sides. Unfortunately, a heavy fog and miscommunication led to bad execution of the plan. Two of Washington's four groups never made it to the battlefield. Though initially successful in the attack, Washington's troops eventually retreated handing Howe another victory. Americans lost 1,200 soldiers compared to the British 500 losses in this failed attempt.
Second Battle of Saratoga (Bernis Heights)October 7, 1777
Burgoyne led 1,500 men and 10 artillery pieces on a reconnaissance mission to see if retreat was possible. The Americans, hearing the British were on the move, attacked and forced them back. The British erected a defensive redoubt, manned by 200 Hessians. Benedict Arnold led an assault on the redoubt and captured it. The next morning, Burgoyne tried to escape north but could not. His forces dug in, but were surrounded. On October 17, Burgoyne surrendered, giving the Americans their largest victory yet and convinced France to join the war. At this point, one-quarter of all British troops had been captured by the Americans.
Battle of White MarshDecember 6-8, 1777
British General William Howe attacked Washington's force, positioned 16 miles outside Philadelphia, hoping to defeat him before he retired to winter quarters. They fought and Howe attempted a flanking maneuver, but failed. Washington retreated to his fortification and Howe returned to Philadelphia. Washington eventually moved his army to Valley Forge for the winter unimpeded.
Winter at Valley ForgeDecember 1777 - June 19, 1778
The Continental Army settled into winter quarters in Valley Forge, twenty miles north of Philadelphia, which was now held by the British. Valley Forge was a natural fortress but in harsh conditions. The lack of proper clothing for Washington's forces was a huge issue. Approximately one-third did not have shoes and there were not enough coats, blankets or food. Disease was rampant. Washington repeatedly pleaded with Congress to send supplies while also fighting to stay in command.
Battle of MonmouthJune 28, 1778
When General Sir Henry Clinton replaced General Howe, he decided to withdraw British forces from Philadelphia to secure New York City. In an attempt to stop this, Washington decided to attack, assigning General Charles Lee to engage the rear guard. Clinton called in reinforcements and soon Lee was outmanned 3:1 and sounded a general retreat. Washington, who was seven miles away, rode to the battlefield in disgust. He relieved Lee of command and reorganized the American troops into a new defensive line to attack the British. It was an extremely hot day and by nightfall both armies were exhausted. Washington planned to continue fighting in the morning, but found the British had fled in the night. The battle was considered a draw with nearly equal losses (British 500 to American 300), although the British did reach New York City and held it throughout the war.
Treaty of AmityJanuary 7, 1778
On January 7, the French Royal Council officially recognized the United States of America and voted unanimously in favor of a treat of amity and commerce with America. This marked a turning point in the war. France supplied much-needed troops, supplies, military and naval support.
Wyoming MassacreJuly 3, 1778
The British Rangers under the command of Captain John Butler led a group of nearly 1,000 Tories and Iroquois against the settlers of the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania. Colonel Zebulon Butler, who commanded more than 386 Yankee militiamen, was charged with protecting the community at Forty Fort. There were no relief troops available. The Americans decided to attack. The battle lasted half an hour before the massacre began. In the end, 360 Americans lost their lives that day with 277 of them scalped. The Wyoming Massacre has been called the "surpassing horror of the American Revolution."
Rhode Island CampaignAugust 1778
This was a small and failed American campaign that stalled momentum from the Saratoga campaign and showed the French alliance would not bring a quick resolution of the war. The north would stay at stalemate throughout the rest of the war.
Americans Capture Stony PointJuly 15, 1779
With the war at a near stalemate, General Clinton began launching attacks on American port cities and towns, focusing attention on the Hudson River. He hoped to lure Washington from his stronghold in West Point. The British took Forts Lafayette and Stony Point, but Washington devised a plan to retake Stony Point. He sent Brigadier General Anthony Wayne of Pennsylvania to attack at midnight with light infantry. Luckily strong winds kept the British fleet from the point. After a brief skirmish, the British surrendered the fort, which Americans held until July 19th when a large British presence came upriver. The British held it until October 22, 1779 when they chose to withdraw to New York City.
Bonhomme Richard vs. SerapisSeptember 23, 1779
The most famous naval battle of the war was between the Bonhomme Richard commanded by John Paul Jones and the HMS Serapis. Paul, a Scottish-born American, sailed the Bonhomme around the British Isles and engaged the Serapis and Countess of Scarborough, which were escorting the British fleet. The Bonhomme was badly damaged when the Captain of the Serapis asked if Jones had struck his colors, indicating naval surrender. Jones famously replied, "I have not yet begun to fight." Three hours later it was the Serapis and Countess of Scarborough who surrendered. The Americans commandeered the Serapis. The Bonhomme Richard sank the next day.
Siege of Charleston1779 - 1780
At a stalemate in the north, the British began a southern strategy. They started with a siege of Charleston. The British believed the South had more Loyalists and would be an easier battlefield. On February 11, 1779, the British arrived at Simmons Island, 20 miles south of Charleston. One month later, they arrived at Charleston. General Lincoln decided to stay in the city to defend it. The British surrounded the city on land and on March 20th brought a fleet into the harbor opposite the city. They began a bombardment of the city resulting in huge losses. On April 21st, Lincoln sent draft terms of surrender to Clinton, demanding American forces be allowed to withdraw. Clinton refused and increased the bombardment. Lincoln was forced to surrender unconditionally. Americans had lost 225 men (the British lost 265) and 5,700 American soldiers and 1,000 sailors were held captive by the British, marking the largest American loss of the war.
Battle of CamdenJuly 27, 1780
General Horatio Gates met General Cornwallis on the battlefield in Camden. The Americans were outmatched, especially since Cornwallis had known of Gates' advance and had sent for reinforcements. Gates could not easily retreat so he decided to fight. Almost immediately the American defensive line broke down, quickly turning to a badly executed retreat. The Americans lost 650 soldiers that day in another British victory in South Carolina.
Arnold a Traitor/Andre HangedOctober 2-3, 1779
General Benedict Arnold, angry at his circumstances after Saratoga and in debt, conspired with the British to turn over his command at West Point in return for a post as a General in the British Army and money. The Americans learned of his betrayal when they captured his British contact, Major Andre escaping through American-held territory. Andre was hanged as a spy on October 2, 1780. Benedict Arnold's name became synonymous with "traitor" for his actions.
Battle of Kings MountainOctober 8, 1780
Patriot irregulars, under the command of Colonel William Campbell, defeated Loyalist forces, under the command of Major Patrick Ferguson. This was a much-needed victory in South Carolina for American forces. It boosted morale and showed the British they were overextended. The Tories lost 157 soldiers and suffered 163 wounded and 698 captured. Campbell's forces lost just 28 with 60 wounded.
Battle of CowpensJanuary 17, 1781
The Battle of Cowpens turned the tide in the southern war. Washington had named General Greene as the new commander of the Southern armies. Greene began by splitting his force, sending General Morgan to western South Carolina to engage British forces. Cornwallis responded by sending Colonel Tarleton with orders to destroy Morgan. Morgan responded by deploying his men in three lines with the admonition not to fire, "until you see the white of their eyes." The British lines collapsed against the three waves of Continental forces. It was a total victory for American forces. The British lost 110 men and had 800 taken captive. The Americans lost 12 with 61 wounded.
Battle of Guilford CourthouseMay 15, 1781
This was the largest battle of the war's Southern campaign. Major General Nathanael Greene, commanding an army of 4,500 American militia and Continentals, was defeated by a British force of approximately 1,900 British soldiers and Hessians commanded by General Cornwallis. After two-and-a-half hours, Cornwallis forced Greene's retreat but not without huge losses. Cornwallis had lost a quarter of his army in the battle. Weakened by his losses, Cornwallis moved his forces to Virginia, setting up the final battle of the war.
Battle of Hobkirk's HillApril 25, 1781
General Greene was waiting for reinforcements so he could attack the British at Camden. While he waited, he encamped at Hobkirk's Hill. British commander, Lord Rowden, decided to launch a surprise attack the the American forces at the Hill. Heavy fighting broke out but the Americans were able to push the British forces back. Greene then decided to go on attack. Though initially successful, he lost several key leaders of his army and was forced into retreat. This was another British victory, but again at high cost. The British lost 250 soldiers during the battle due to death or injury.
Battle of Eutaw SpringsSeptember 7, 1781
General Greene met British forces of 2,000 men at Eutaw Springs, fifty miles north of Charleston. It would be his last battle in the war. General Alexander Stewart, who had replaced General Rowdan, placed his forces in a line to meet the American forces. Greene placed his militia in the first row with Continental soldiers behind. The Americans did well early, but could not defend against the fourteenth regiment led by Major Marjoribanks. Again the British won, but at a high loss (866 men). The British retreated to Charleston, their Southern strategy a failure.
Articles of Confederation RatifiedMarch 1, 1781
After 16 months of debate, the Articles of Confederation were ratified by the Continental Congress and sent to the states for ratification on November 15, 1777. Maryland, who was fighting a land dispute with Virginia, did not sign until March 1, 1781, thus ratifying the Articles of Confederation that would serve as an outline for the United States government. The Articles asserted the states, while individual and sovereign, were united. The Articles of Confederation lasted for eight years until they were replaced by the current United States Constitution in 1789.
Battle of ChesapeakeSeptember 5, 1781
This important naval battle is also known as the Battle of the Virginia Capes. It was a strategic French victory that would prevent the British from reinforcing or evacuating General Cornwallis from Yorktown in October that year. When General Clinton heard a large French fleet was on route to the Chesapeake, he sent a British fleet, led by Rear Admiral Thomas Graves, to meet the French. They were too slow and when they arrived at the Bay, the French, led by Admiral De Grasse, were already there. The two fleets battled for two hours before Graves and the British fleet retreated, turning back toward New York. The French held the Chesapeake Bay.
Siege of YorktownSeptember 14, 1781 - October 19, 1781
Suffering great losses in their southern campaign, General Cornwallis had retreated to the city of Yorktown. The French fleet cut off escape through the Chesapeake Bay and Washington, coordinating his strategy with the Marquis de Lafayette, rushed his forces southward to cut Cornwallis off by land. French General Rochambeau and General Washington decided to impose a classic siege. By October 9th, the first siege trench was completed and cannons put in place. On October 14th an American force, led by Alexander Hamilton, captured an outpost with the French capturing another. Cornwallis attempted to get his troops out of Yorktown, but failed. Americans started heavy bombardments of the city forcing Cornwallis to raise the white flag of surrender. Formal surrender took place on October 19, 1781 at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. America had won the war.
Badge of Military Merit (Purple Heart) CreatedAugust 7, 1782
General George Washington establishes the Badge of Military Merit, which is now known as the Purple Heart to honor "any singularly meritorious Action" in battle. Three badges were awarded to Revolutionary War heroes, all volunteers from Connecticut: Sergeant Elijah Churchill, William Brown, and Sergeant Daniel Bissell, Jr.
Preliminary Articles of PeaceNovember 30, 1782
British and American representatives signed the preliminary Articles of Peace in late January 1793, though word did not reach the United States until March of that year.
Treaty of ParisSeptember 3, 1783
The Revolutionary War was officially concluded with the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Great Britain recognized the independence of the United States and officially turned over lands, including the 13 original colonies and the territory between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. The Treaty also brokered a peace between Great Britain and France. The British, however, did not honor this agreement by holding on to forts in the Midwest until the end of the War of 1812.
British Evacuate New York CityNovember 25, 1783
Washington Bids Farewell to Officers in New York CityDecember 4, 1783
Washington Resigns as Commander in Chief in AnnapolisDecember 23, 1783
Constitution RatifiedSeptember 17, 1787
The Constitution of the United States of America is signed by 38 of 41 delegates at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Nine of the 13 states ratified the document. The Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation and still stands today.
Washington Elected PresidentJanuary 7, 1789
George Washington is elected America's first president. He served two terms before returning home to Mount Vernon.