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The American Revolution: Background and Initial Military


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Title: The American Revolution: Background and Initial Military

The American Revolution Background and Initial
Military Campaigns
  • Teaching American History
  • Wenatchee, WA

Overview of the American Revolution
  • Was the American Revolution the single most
    important event in American History?
  • The American Revolution is the single most
    important event in American history. Not only did
    it create the United States, but it defined most
    of the persistent values and aspirations of the
    American people. The noblest ideals of Americans
    the commitments to freedom, equality,
    constitutionalism, and the well being of
    ordinary people came out of the Revolutionary
    era. The Revolution gave Americans the
    consciousness that they were a people with a
    special destiny to lead the world toward
  • Gordon Wood, The Great Republic A History of the
    American People, 229.

Overview of the American Revolution (continued)
  • Objects of the most stupendous magnitude,
    measures in which the lives and liberties of
    millions, born and unborn are most essentially
    interested, are now before us. We are in the
    midst of revolution, the most complete,
    unexpected, and remarkable of any in the history
    of the world.
  • Adams view was typical and he and many of his
    contemporaries believed that the fate of the
    Revolution would profoundly alter the course of
    history. They also believed that posterity would
    judge them based upon their actions today.
  • John Adams, quoted in David McCullough, John
    Adams, (New York Touchstone Books, 2001), 127.

Overview of the American Revolution (continued)
  • Continued for Eight Years. Longest American
    conflict prior to Vietnam. No one, incidentally,
    went into the war believing that it would last so
    long. The British thought that they would be
    greeted as liberators and that they would have
    significant loyalist support.
  • About 25,000 Americans were killed or 1 of the
    population. As a percentage of the total
    population more Americans were killed in the
    American Revolution than in any other war but the
    Civil War.
  • Battles were eventually fought across entire
    United States. Americans from different states
    encountered each other for the first time. They
    often held intense regional prejudices. By no
    means did the Revolution eradicate these
    loyalties, but it was essential to the formation
    of an American Identity, a sense of national
    unity or continental consciousness that had not
    previously existed. In Congress during the
    Revolution, a group of nationalists formed who
    saw the difficulties that regional loyalties and
    the absence of a true central government with
    the power to raise revenue and regulate commerce
    created for the troops and the war effort.
    These nationalists later almost uniformly
    supported the Constitution of 1787. 1776 is thus
    inseparably linked to 1787.
  • The American Revolution became part of the Battle
    for Global Supremacy between Britain and France.
    The American Revolution was initially a civil
    war, then a war between two nations, but once
    France entered on the side of the Americans, the
    American Revolution became an important part of
    the battle between France and Great Britain for
    global supremacy that lasted some two centuries.

What caused the Revolution? Three Schools of
  • The Progressive Historians Carl Becker,
    Charles Beard, Vernon Parrington, Arthur
    Schlesinger Sr., and others believed that ideas
    were projected rationalizations of underlying
    interests. When the colonists set forth arguments
    about principles of liberty, they were really
    simply trying to protect their property. Their
    arguments about the extent of the authority of
    Parliament thus, according to the Progressives,
    constantly changed. The Progressives also argued
    that the Revolution against Great Britain was
    attended by a second social revolution at home.
    The conflict over home rule, Carl Becker argued,
    was also a conflict over who should rule at home.
     Elites used the Revolution to try to maintain
    their hegemony, but they were challenged by poor
    farmers and debtors who saw the Revolution as a
    chance to create a more democratic republic.
  • Neo-Whig Interpretation - Neo-Whigs believe that
    ideas are motivations for actions. They hold a
    straightforward and old fashioned
    interpretation of the American Revolution as a
    crisis based upon constitutional issues of the
    nature and extent of the authority of Parliament.
  • Historians of the republican school believe that
    ideas act more indirectly by shaping our
    construction of reality. The American
    Revolutionaries viewed the events and policies of
    the 1760s and 1770s through a prism created by a
    Country Party ideology that was extremely
    suspicious of power and believed that it
    inevitably threatened liberty. Saturated in
    these ideas, the colonists could not help but see
    the policies and events of the 1770s as a threat
    to their liberties.

Central Thesis of this Lecture
  • Broad Thesis The British responded to the end
    of the French and Indian War with renewed
    attention to the colonies, new taxes, new
    regulatory measures, and a new administrative
    system. These measures seemed much needed,
    rational, and entirely justifiable to the
    British. They seemed unnecessary, irrational,
    draconian, and unjustifiable to the colonists.
    Furthermore, the British administrative structure
    was not designed to consider sympathetically
    colonial needs and the colonial perspective.

Causes of the American Revolution (The End of
Salutary Neglect)
  • Beginning in 1763 with the end of the French and
    Indian War, the period of salutary neglect was
    over and the British begin to impose themselves
    into the colonies to an unprecedented degree.
    This imposition created resistance that was
    unexpected by the British. But the colonists had
    already developed their own views and policies,
    especially about trade, taxation, and western
    settlement. The British were to learn the
    difficulty of reimposing authority after
    relationships have been established.
  • The regulatory efforts of the British are often
    described primarily in terms of new taxation
    policies that were imposed to pay for the costs
    of the French and Indian War. This is, in part,
    true. As of January 5, 1763, the British
    national debt 122,603,336 pounds with an annual
    interest of 4,409,797 pounds. (Middlekauff, The
    Glorious Cause, 61). Something had to be done to
    pay this debt and the colonies seemed to both
    King and Parliament to be particularly prosperous
    and thus able to bear the burden. Nevertheless,
    the series of regulations that Parliament and the
    King imposed on the colonists after the end of
    the French and Indian war were by no means
    entirely economic. They were part of a systematic
    reform of the British imperial system that was
    undertaken by Parliament and the Crown.
    Furthermore, they were designed to address a
    number of profound and far reaching changes and
    challenges that the British empire faced in its
    North American colonies.

Causes of the American Revolution Changes and
Challenges (Population Growth and Movement).
  • The number of English colonists in British North
    America increased remarkably during the 18th
    century - from about 1 million in 1750 to 2
    million in 1770. (Slaves constituted
    approximately another 500,000 people.) This
    increase in population caused pressure for land
    in the American colonies, which had until this
    point been basically confined to the eastern
    seaboard. The end of the French and Indian War
    led to the exodus of France from North America
    and opened up the possibility of settlement of
    the vast trans-Appalachian area. Many land hungry
    colonists wanted to settle in this area but
    migration of colonists to the interior led to
    profound conflict with Native Americans who still
    numbered some 150,000 at mid - century.

Migration Patterns, Anti-authoritarian attitudes,
and Indian Conflict
  • This was a predominately rural society and any
    structure of authority had to take that fact into
    account. Philadelphia was the largest city with
    approximately 30,000 people living in it Boston
    had 15,000 to 20,000 or so and New York about
    15,000. Migrations took place into the interior
    and led many Americans to be placed outside the
    authority of the British imperial structure and
    eventually unwilling to abide by that authority
    or much of any authority. Even more importantly,
    migration into the interior in search of land led
    colonists into conflict with Indians and, in
    turn, with British authorities who were far more
    likely than colonists to be sympathetic to Indian
    demands and to view them as equal British

Economic Expansion
  • Trade between the colonies and GB exploded during
    the mid 18th century. North American colonists
    were responsible for absorbing roughly a quarter
    of Britains exports and the value of colonial
    exports to GB and imports from them rose rapidly.
    This consumer revolution empowered ordinary
    Americans and thus also broke down patterns of
    deference within the colonies and created general
    contempt for authority. Furthermore, as the debt
    of the colonial gentry increased, they become
    beholden to and resentful of British creditors.

  • The British Ministry Takes Action

Imposition of a Standing Army
  • In early 1763, the British government made a
    decision to introduce a standing army into the
    colonies. This decision was controversial in the
    colonies because of the widespread, traditional
    belief that standing armies posed a profound
    threat to liberty. This army was twice the size
    of the British army that had been in the colonies
    prior to the French and Indian War and was very
    expensive to maintain. Revenue raised from Tea
    and Stamp Acts never came close to paying for its
    expense. Parliament and the King believed, quite
    plausibly, that a standing army was the only way
    to help insure peace between the colonists and
    the Native Americans. Trade with Native Americans
    was an essential source of revenue and goods for
    the colonists and yet exploitation was great and
    caused conflict. Troops were also necessary to
    keep colonists from stealing Indian land, thus
    sparking violence and war. Finally, the Spanish
    were in the Floridas and French Catholics (recent
    conquered enemies) were in Canada. The ministry
    believed troops stationed on American soil, to
    defend British subjects in America, should be
    paid for at least in part - by British subjects
    in America.

Western Lands Policy Response to Migration by
Land Hungry Colonists
  • On October 7, 1763, the Greenville ministry
    issued a proclamation that closed the West
    between the Appalachian mountains and the
    Mississippi River to white occupation. This
    proclamation turned the vast trans- Appalachian
    region land so desired by the land-hungry
    colonists - into an Indian reservation.

  • Economic Regulations and Taxation Policies

Economic Regulations and Taxation Policies
  • April 1764 Sugar and Currency Acts Sugar Act
    was a comprehensive regulatory and taxation
    measure (see below). The Currency Act forbade
    colonies from issuing paper money as legal
    tender. This made paying back debts extremely
    difficult in the colonies where specie was
  • April 1765 Stamp Act tax on all printed
    material newspapers, legal documents, licenses,
    and even dice and playing cards.
  • May, 1765 Quartering Act forced colonists to
    pay to house troops in the colonies and allowed
    that they be quartered in private residences in
    the colonies.
  • March 1766 Parliament repealed the Stamp Act,
    but then passed the Declaratory Act reasserting
    the sovereign authority of Parliament to pass
    laws in all cases whatsoever for the colonies.
  • June, 1767 Townsend Acts imposed duties on
    glass, lead, paints, paper, and tea.
  • April, 1770 Townsend Duties were repealed
    except for the duty on tea.
  • 1773 Tea Act passed. Gave the East India
    Company a monopoly on tea.
  • 1774 Coercive or Intolerable Acts and Boston
    Port Act Imposed troops in North America as a
    response to the Boston Tea party and closed
    Boston Harbor.
  • 1774 Quebec Act - Granted toleration of
    Catholicism to Quebecs French inhabitants and
    allowed them to live under French civil law.
    Also, transferred land regulation and control of
    Indian trade to the province of Quebec.

Sugar Act of 1764 (As a Navigation Act)
  • The Sugar Act was, in part, a navigation act
    designed to curb smuggling and corruption.
    American shippers were required to post bonds,
    list what was aboard their ships, and obtain
    certificates of clearance before they could set
    sail and conduct trade. The list of products
    that had to be shipped directly to Great Britain
    was expanded to include not only tobacco and
    sugar, but also hides, iron, and timber. Lumber
    was one of the most valuable items in colonial
    trade. The Sugar Act also gave customs officials
    greater authority. The Navy was granted greater
    inspection powers over colonial vessels,
    including the greater use of writs of
    assistance or warrants to engage in searches.
    Vice-admiralty courts were broadened to address
    customs violations. Heretofore, smuggling
    charges and shipping violations had been heard in
    colonial courts of record. These trials were
    heard before juries of colonists who were not
    unsympathetic to smuggling. With the passage of
    the Sugar Act, these trials were not heard in
    Vice -admiralty courts which did not use jury
    trials but rather judges who were appointed by
    the Crown. These judges took the crime seriously
    and imposed stiff penalties.

Sugar Act (as a Taxation Act)
  • Sugar Act was also, in part, a taxation act. It
    imposed duties on foreign cloth, sugar, indigo,
    coffee, and wine. Most famously, it reduced the
    tax on foreign molasses from six pence to three
    pence on the assumption that this reduction (when
    combined with stricter enforcement) would
    discourage smuggling, lead the colonists to pay
    the tax, and thus raise more revenue. Previously,
    colonists had simply refused to pay the six pence
    tax and had bought their molasses from the West
    Indies (not from British producers). Avoidance of
    any tax had made it possible for them to produce
    cheap rum and then trade that rum for other
    goods. The imposition of this reduced tax made it
    difficult for colonists to manufacture rum that
    was competitive on the market and thus deprived
    them of essential sources of revenue and goods.

Stamp Act of 1765
  • Taxed legal documents, almanacs, newspapers, and
    virtually all paper used in the colonies. Taxed
    even playing cards and dice.
  • Had to be paid in British sterling, not colonial
    paper money. This created difficulty for the
    colonists because specie was very rare in the
  • Although stamp taxes were used in Britain and
    colonial assemblies had imposed them in the
    1750s, Parliament had never before imposed such a
    tax directly on the colonies. The Sugar Act was
    viewed as onerous the Stamp Act was viewed as an
    absolute abomination.
  • These taxes were imposed on some of the segments
    of society most able and willing to resist,
    including lawyers and sailors.

Declaratory Act (1766)
  • The repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766 leads to the
    passage of the Declaratory Act to reassert the
    sovereign authority of Parliament to pass laws
    in all cases whatsoever for the colonies. This
    act had a precedent in history where it had been
    used, in the eyes of the colonists, to subjugate
    the Irish.

Quebec Act (1774)
  • The culminating act of regulation by the ministry
    took place after the 1st Continental Congress had
    met and conflict was already beginning to brew.
    In 1763, British victory in the Seven Years War
    had led to the cession of Canada to Britain by
    France. But the former French citizens of the
    area that would become Canada were Catholic (not
    Anglican) and were used to a French legal system.
    Former enemies of the British, the Frenchmen and
    women of the Canadian territory were not
    particularly loyal to the British and were
    unsatisfied with a supporting a religious
    establishment contrary to their faith and being
    governed under a foreign code of law. Passed in
    1774, the Quebec Act was meant to appease French
    Canadians and engender greater loyalty among
    them to the Crown. It granted toleration of
    Catholicism and reestablished French civil law.
    This act also transferred land regulation and
    control of Indian trade to the province of
    Quebec. Many colonists resented toleration to
    Catholics and opposed any regulations that
    interfered with their ability to freely settled
    the transAppalachian region and to continue to
    exploit Indians.

The British Perspective How Dare They
  • Pay for the cost of administration of the
    colonies, including protecting the colonists from
    Native Americans.
  • Pay off the war debt The French and Indian War
    had been fought for and, in part, in the American
  • Theory of Mercantilism Mercantilism suggested
    that there is a fixed amount of wealth in the
    world. For wealth to increase in one place, it
    must decrease elsewhere. Wealth thus results from
    exploiting colonies, primarily for their mineral
    resources but also as an outlet for exports. (At
    the eve of the Revolution, the British North
    American colonies accounted for 25 of the
    imports of British goods.) Mercantilism also
    conceives of state power in terms of the economic
    relationship of an imperial center to its
    colonial peripheries. Colonies are
    dependencies they are inferior to the mother
    country and exist to increase its wealth and
    power. Regulations of trade passed in the 17th
    century had been unapologetically designed to
    benefit British merchants.
  • Colonists were better off than Englishmen. Had
    they become prosperous on the backs of the
    English in England.? How could a people this well
    off rebel?
  • Virtual Representation Response to no
    taxation without representation. Representation
    is not linked to geography or even elections.
    9-10ths of Englishmen in England do not elect
    members of Parliament. Every member of Parliament
    represents the entire British empire and is
    concerned only with the good of all.
  • Administrative structure involved the
    subordination of colonies the King appointed
    royal governors who reported to and was
    sympathetic to the King Parliament made up laws
    for the colonies that were then administered by
    the Board of Trade some independence was given
    to colonial assemblies, but the Privy Council
    reviewed statutes passed by colonial assemblies
    and the King retained a veto over all colonial
    laws. This is the way that it was, should be, and
    always had been.
  • Most broadly, the British viewed the colonies as
    dependencies or even children. The language used
    to talk about the colonies is maternal and
    paternal. The colonists reaction to regulation
    and taxation was considered selfish, immature,
    uncivilized, and the height of ingratitude. How
    Dare They

The British Perspective (continued)
  • Colonial policy was made by a number of different
    persons and administrative bodies. The King and
    Parliament were of course central makers of
    colonial policy as was the Privy Council, the
    Secretary of State for the Southern Department,
    and the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade was
    the most consistently important of these bodies
    as the Privy Council and the Secretary of State
    for the Southern Department had other
    responsibilities and interests. In 1768, the
    office of the Secretary for Colonial Affairs was
    created to supervise the colonies. This complex
    and cumbersome system of administration led to
    administrative inefficiency, ineptitude,
    misunderstanding, and unpopular policies. The
    British could not understand the colonists wants
    and needs and the colonists found it difficult to
    influence policies and to locate responsibility
    for them.

The Colonial Perspective
  • Accustomed to self-rule
  • No taxation without representation It is
    inseparably essential to the freedom of a people,
    and the undoubted rights of Englishmen that no
    taxes should be imposed upon them, but with their
    own consent, given personally, or by their
    representatives. - Stamp Act Congress.
  • The power to tax is a power to destroy.
  • Colonists initially differentiated between
    external taxes such as those imposed by the
    Sugar Act that flowed from the power of
    Parliament to regulate commerce (and were,
    according to the colonists, justifiable) on the
    one hand and internal or direct taxes such as
    those imposed by the Stamp Act that, they argued,
    violated the right of colonists for
    self-government. Eventually, the colonists denied
    altogether the right of Parliament to tax them.
  • Inevitability of Independence Can an island be
    expected to govern a continent? Thomas Paine,
    Common Sense

The Colonial Perspective (continued)
Republicanism and Corruption
  • As Bernard Bailyn has established, the American
    Revolutionaries were heavily influenced by the
    radical social and political thought of the
    English Civil War as it had been set forth by a
    group of 17th and even more 18th century coffee
    house radicals and opposition politicians. The
    political thought of these radicals, Bailyn
    argued, included the beliefs that republics are
    fragile and easily degenerate into tyrannies and
    that power (understood as the dominion of some
    men over others was aggressive, ever expanding,
    and inherently antagonistic to liberty. It also
    included the beliefs that virtue (defined as
    the voluntary subordination of self-interest to
    the public good) is necessary to the preservation
    of republics and conversely that corruption
    (the pursuit by citizens and rulers of private
    gain at public expense) must be avoided. With
    their thought conditioned and limited by this
    Whig variation of classical republicanism, many
    colonists could not help but look upon the series
    of events that took place during the 1760s and
    1770s as evidence that a conspiracy had been
    launched against their liberties and that the
    English Constitution and government had been
    unbalanced and corrupted. The continuing efforts
    of the Episcopal church to erect an establishment
    in the colonies, the increasingly rigorous
    measures passed by Parliament including the Stamp
    Act, Sugar Act, Townsend Duties, and eventually
    the Tea Act and Boston Port Act, the flooding of
    Parliament and the colonies with placemen whose
    wages and thus loyalties were tied to the King,
    the opposition of the British government to the
    efforts of the colonies to secure an independent
    judiciary - none of these events alone signaled
    the nefarious designs of the Parliament and the
    King. Together, however, they were undeniable
    evidence that the mixed government had become
    unbalanced and "corruption" had overtaken the
    English government.

The Extent of Parliaments Authority in the
  • As colonists and the British government struggled
    to understand each other, a central question
    emerged, What was the proper extent of
    Parliaments authority in the colonies? This
    question had never really been thought about
    extensively before the 1760s and 1770s. When
    taxes were imposed, colonists initially argued
    that they were excessive, harmful to the colonial
    economy, and would create economic hardship. As
    the conflict evolved, however, colonists
    developed the distinction between internal or
    revenue raising taxes (which were unauthorized)
    and external or regulatory taxes which were
    designed to regulate shipping and were
    acceptable. Eventually, colonists insisted that
    only their own directly elected legislatures had
    the right to tax them. British authorities were
    genuinely puzzled and then infuriated by the
    assertion that Parliament did not have the
    authority to tax the colonies. The more this
    claim was made, the more the British insisted on
    rejecting it outright.

  • The Colonists Response

Protests, Petitions, and Collective Action
  • The colonists began to respond with organized
    inter-colonial protests in 1764. In 1764, eight
    colonies issued formal petitions claiming that
    the Sugar Act was harming the economy. Colonists
    began to organize protest associations,
    non-importation agreements (boycotts), to have
    town meetings, and to write numerous pamphlets
    and newspaper editorials. The political sphere is
    greatly enlarged beyond Gentlemen who normally
    rule to include ordinary Americans who
    participate in politics for the first time. Women
    form an important part of the resistance to the
    British by participating in boycotts and by
    making their familys clothes and other goods.

American Response to British measures
  • The Stamp Act Congress - In October, 1767
    thirty seven delegates from nine colonies met in
    New York and drew up a set for formal
    declarations denying the right of the Parliament
    to tax them.

Mob Violence
  • Another response to unpopular British regulatory
    and taxation measures was Mob Violence. Mob
    Violence was conducted in Boston , Newport, Rhode
    Island, and Charleston, South Carolina in protest
    of the Stamp Act. The Sons of Liberty was
    formed to carry out a number of activities. Royal
    officials were burned in effigy British
    officials were intimated into conducting business
    without stamps non-importation agreements were
    organized and those who refused to abide them
    were censured or intimated.

British Responses to American Resistance and
Violence (The Boston Massacre)
  • In 1768, two British regiments were dispatched to
    Boston to quell American resistance and violence.
    By 1769, there were nearly 4,000 British troops
    in this seaport city of 15,000 people. On March
    5, 1770, eight British soldiers fired into a
    crowd that was harassing them and killed five

Paul Reveres (Peter Pelhams) Engraving of the
Boston Massacre (Whats Wrong with this Picture?)
Whats wrong with this picture? (continued)
  • The Boston Massacre happened at night, not
    during the day.
  • The British did not fire volleys from their ranks
    into a crowd. The event is more accurately
    described as a skirmish among a small number of
  • The first person shot Crispus Attucks is
    depicted as white.

Burning of the Revenue Cutter, Gaspee (1772)
  • The Gaspee was a cutter sent to the colonies in
    March, 1772 to enforce the Stamp Act and prevent
    smuggling. Under the leadership of Lt. William
    Dudingston, it harassed colonial ships, often
    delaying even ships that had passed inspection.
    On June 9, 1772, it gave chase to a packet sloop
    named Hannah that was going from Newport to
    Providence. Captain Lindsey of the Hannah
    deliberately led the Gaspee into shallow waters
    where it ran aground on a sandbar. When Lindsey
    reported this to townspeople, a plan was launched
    to destroy the Gaspee. Eight longboats were rowed
    out to the vessel and Dudingston and his crew
    were captured. The ship was then set afire on
    June 10th, 1772. Although relatively neglected by
    historians and not a part of American folklore,
    this act was an important part of the prelude to
    the Revolution. It showed the colonists
    audacity, organization, and determination to
    resist taxation and excessive regulation. It also
    showed their unity and ability to engage in
    coordinated action.

Boston Tea Party
  • In 1773, Parliament passed an act giving the East
    India Company the exclusive privilege of selling
    tea in America. This act also gave the East India
    Company the right to sell to colonial merchants
    that they chose. Merchants not chosen by the East
    India Company were outraged and the act
    highlighted to the colonists their antipathy to
    the existing tax on tea. Colonists in several
    ports refused to let ships with tea unload their
    cargo. The family of Massachusetts Governor
    Thomas Hutchinson was one of the merchants given
    favored status by the East India Company and when
    colonials tried to prevent a ship from unloading
    its tea in Boston Hutchinson refused to let the
    ship sail until it had unloaded its tea. This
    provoked one of the great acts of political
    theater in American history,..

The Boston Tea Party (December, 1773)
Boston Tea Party
  • Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty were of
    course instrumental in orchestrating the Boston
    Tea Party. The event itself took place on
    Thursday, December 16, 1773. It was purposefully
    limited to the destruction of tea. A padlock
    broken during the event was replaced. The rebels
    meant to show at once that they were not going to
    pay the tea tax and that they were rebels, not
    rabble. Eventually, over 90,000 lbs or 45 tons of
    tea in 340 chests worth about 10,000 pounds was
    thrown into Boston Harbor. This was accomplished
    in about three hours. So much tea was dumped into
    the harbor that it continued to wash up on the
    shores for several weeks.

Replacement of Royal Authority with Informal
  • By the end of 1774, in many of the colonies
    local associations were controlling and
    regulating various aspects of American life.
    Committees manipulated voters, directed
    appointments, organized the militia, managed
    trade, intervened between creditors and debtors,
    levied taxes, issued licenses, and supervised or
    closed the courts. Royal governors stood by in
    helpless amazement as new informal governments
    gradually grew up around them. These new
    governments ranged from town and county
    committees and the newly created provincial
    congresses to a general congress of the colonies
    the First Continental Congress, which convened
    in Philadelphia in September 1774. Wood, The
    American Revolution A History, 48.

Loyalists (Patriots?)
  • Scholars estimate that approximately one third to
    40 of the colonists were loyalists, one third or
    so were for the independence, and one third
    undecided or indifferent. There were clear
    regional variations with loyalists more
    concentrated in New York and the Southern
    colonies. Local committees intimated loyalists,
    sometimes confiscated their property, tarred and
    feathered those who spoke against the Revolution,
    and made them swear oaths of allegiance. Many
    loyalists went back to Britain, but more went to

British Respond Four Acts that Become Known as
the Coercive Acts (to Parliament) and the
Intolerable Acts (to the colonists).
  • Closed the Boston Port until the Tea was paid
  • Reorganized the government of Massachusetts and
    altered the charter of the government. Royal
    governors were given expanded power to appoint
    judges and sheriffs and new power to appoint
    members of the upper house or Council.
  • Governor was given the power to take over private
    buildings for the quartering of troops.
  • Royal officials charged with capital offenses
    were tried in England.

  • Making 13 Clocks Tick as One

Ist Continental Congress (Philadelphia in
September 1774)
  • 55 delegates (including John and Samuel Adams,
    John Hancock, Patrick Henry, and Richard Henry
    Lee) from 12 colonies (Georgia was the exception)
    met in Philadelphia to discuss what to do. Most
    of the delegates were not yet ready for
    Independence. Pennsylvanian Joseph Galloway
    proposed a grand colonial council made up of
    delegates from each colony. Acts passed by either
    the council or Parliament would be subject to the
    approval of the other body. Incidentally, this
    body was more analogous to the United Nations
    than Congress today. The Continental Congress
    represented the United States in Congress

2nd Continental Congress
  • May, 1775 When the 2nd Continental Congress
    meets, matters are far more serious. Lexington
    and Concord have taken place in the previous
    month. Delegates pass the Olive Branch petition
    that pledged loyalty to the King and ask him to
    break with the ministers who were plotting
    against the colonists. As they deny the right of
    Parliament to legislate in the colonies, the
    colonists increasingly come to identify the King
    as their spokesmen in the mother country. Even as
    they issued the Olive Branch Petition, the 2nd
    Continental Congress also issued Declaration of
    the Causes and Necessities of Taking Up Arms.

2nd Continental Congress (continued)
  • After the battles of Lexington, Concord, and
    Bunker Hill, the 2nd Continental Congress
    appointed George Washington as Commander of the
    Continental Army. John Hancock and Charles Lee
    are the other possibilities, but John Adams
    nominates Washington and is supported by Samuel
    Adams. The delegates also appointed fourteen
    other generals and authorized the invasion of
    Canada. Note Congress authorized the invasion of
    Canada before it declared independence.

  • George Washington
  • Takes Command

Washington takes control of the Continental Army
  • Summer of 1775
  • Washingtons prior service Regimental colonel
    for the Virginia colony, but denied a commission
    in the British army. British historians like to
    say that had Washington been given a commission
    in the British Army that he might have fought to
    quell the rebellion. Fought in the French and
    Indian War. Served with Braddock and then under
    General John Forbes. Washington had never moved
    large numbers of troops or conducted a siege on a
    fortified position. He had been retired from the
    military for fifteen years.
  • Washington was supported by John Adams because he
    realized that it would help bring in some
    Southerners who were suspicious of the fanaticism
    of Massachusetts delegates. Having Washington as
    commander helped to strengthen the union.
  • Washington attended Congress in uniform.
  • Though hardly unknown, Washington was not yet an
    American hero in 1776. But by 1779, Americans are
    celebrating Washingtons Birthday.
  • Washington is often derided as not being an
    intellectual on par with Hamilton, Madison, or
    Jefferson, but he learned quickly, was
    extraordinarily disciplined and mastered areas of
    knowledge as he needed, and was in a number of
    ways quite progressive. One of his first
    decisions as commander of the Continental Army
    was to have his troops inoculated for small pox.
    Joseph Ellis suggests that this was one of his
    most important decisions.

Washington (weaknesses)
  • Must strive to control his temper and
    aggressiveness. Several times, especially in the
    war at Boston, he wants to attack the British
    when prudent consuls overrule him. He is also
    considered wooden or unemotional by some who
    deal with him. Not considered a great military
    strategist by many military historians.

Washington (strengths)
  • Commanded tremendous respect. Earned as a result
    of his dress, conduct, physical prowess
    (including height, strength, grace, and
    appearance), and even more self-command,
    determination, and character. The flip side to
    this is that he is sometimes characterized as
    wooden. He was tall and always impeccably
    dressed. He was also extremely strong and one of
    the best horsemen of his day. He loved fox
    hunting and did so for hours. He also loved to
    dance and did so with great ease and impression.

Washingtons Physical Strength (Story of Charles
Wilson Peale)
  • One afternoon, several young gentlemen, visitors
    at Mount Vernon, and myself engaged in pitching
    the bar, one of the athletic sports common in
    those times, when suddenly the Colonel appeared
    among us. He requested to be shown the pegs that
    marked the bounds of our effort then, smiling,
    and without putting off his coat, held out his
    hand for the missile. No sooner did the heavy
    iron bar feel the grasp of his mighty hand than
    it lost the power of gravitation, and whizzed
    through the air, striking the ground far, very
    far, beyond our utmost limits. We were indeed
    amazed, as we stood around all stripped to the
    buff, with shirt sleeves rolled up, and having
    thought ourselves very clever fellows, while the
    Colonel, on retiring, pleasantly observed, When
    you beat my pitch, young gentlemen, Ill try
    again. Quoted in Garry Wills, Cincinnatus
    George Washington and the Enlightenment (Garden
    City, NY Doubleday Co., 984), xxii.

Washingtons Character (Washington as Cato)
  • Washington loved the theater and his favorite
    play was Joseph Addisons Cato which he had
    performed for his soldiers at Valley Forge. This
    was a very popular play among Revolutionary
    leaders and probably the source of Nathan Hales
    dying words, I regret that I have but one life
    to live for my country The play contains the
    lines what pity it is/ That we can die but once
    to serve our country. It is also probably the
    source of Patrick Henrys famous declaration
    Give me liberty or give me death. In 1775,
    Patrick Henry said "I know not what course others
    may take but as for me, give me liberty or give
    me death! In Act 2, Scene 4, Cato says It is
    not now a time to talk of aught. But chains or
    conquest, liberty or death.
  • In Addisons play, Cato the Younger, is a Roman
    Senator who refuses to submit to the tyranny of
    Julius Caesar and is exiled to Utica where he and
    his allies await an invasion from Roman soldiers.
    Cato exemplifies sound judgment, morality,
    dignity, and cunning in dealing with a group of
    traitors who surround him. He is eventually a
    martyr for liberty. There is little doubt that
    Washington modeled himself on Cato, indeed lived
    the play, and punctuated his correspondence with
    lines from it. His favorite line was 'Tis not in
    mortals to command success, But we'll do more,
    Sempronius, we'll deserve it.

Washingtons Character (His Excellency, George
  • Early in the war, the British tried to treat
    American soldiers and commanders as riotous
    British citizens, not equal combatants from a
    recognized nation who were guaranteed the rights
    of war. In 1776, General Howe tried such a tactic
    with Washington by sending him a letter under
    flag of truce entitled George Washington Esq.
    Washington refused to read or sign it. After
    seeking advice from his fellow officers, he
    decided that he would receive correspondence only
    under the title His Excellency, George
    Washington. This is how he came to be called by
    that title.

Washingtons Hold on His Men
  • Washington inspired to such a degree that he
    rarely had to command, but he could raise fear in
    the hearts of men and he did not accept being
    treated familiarly by many. One story, perhaps
    apocryphal but certainly illuminating of all
    involved, is told of an offer that Alexander
    Hamilton extended to Gouvernor Morris. Hamilton
    told Morris that he would buy him dinner if
    Morris would slap Washington on the back and say
    My dear General, I am glad to see you looking so
    well. Morris slapped Washington on the back and
    won the bet, but he later said that the stare
    that Washington gave him made it the worst day of
    his life and he would not do it again for a
    thousand dinners.

Washingtons Generals
  • Nathaniel Greene- Rhode Islander who proved
    himself in battle and to George Washington and
    became one of Washingtons chief advisers. In
    1780, Greene took over command of the Southern
    Department and was remarkably successful in the
    counterinsurgency against British successes in
    the South.
  • Benedict Arnold Led parts of the Canadian
    campaign at the beginning of the war. Made a
    miraculous and famous journey to Quebec up the
    Kennebec to capture Fort Ticonderoga. Later,
    Arnold was wounded at the Battle for Quebec.
    Given command of Philadelphia in 1778, but then
    court-martialed in 1779 because of corruption in
    his army. Acquitted of most charges, he was given
    command of the military fort at West Point in
    1780. Involved in the traitorous plot to turn
    West Point over to the British army for twenty
    thousand pounds and a military commission. Fought
    for the British in Virginia in the southern
    campaign and died as an infamous traitor in
  • Horatio Gates Washingtons rival. Attempted to
    have him replaced with himself. Conway Cabal.
    Becomes the Hero of Saratoga but the goat of
  • Charles Lee Washingtons unoffical second in
    command and another rival. Had expected to be
    named the commander in chief of the American
    cause, but wanted compensation for English
    property that he owed. Also, very coarse, sloppy,
    and untutored. Extremely critical of Washington
    and directly disobeyed him at Monmouth an
    action for which he was court-martialed, though
    later reinstated.
  • Henry Knox rotund, jocular, but immensely
    successful commander who came to Washingtons
    attention early in the war and became his friend.
    Captured cannons at Fort Ticonderoga and then
    dragged them 300 miles across streams and up
    mountains to Boston in one of the most heroic
    feats of the war. The positioning of these
    cannons on Dorchester Heights persuaded the
    British to leave Boston. Fought along Washington
    in most of the most important early battles of
    the war, including New York and New Jersey
    campaigns. Was in charge of Washingtons crossing
    of the Delaware.
  • Israel Putnam Colorful folk hero of the
    American Revolution. Instrumental in planning and
    battle at Bunker Hill. Retreated at Long Island.

Washingtons Army
  • The ordinary troops in Washingtons army were
    mostly farmers and craftsmen. They knew hard work
    and were extremely resourceful. They also proved
    to be much braver than the British, who hold them
    in contempt, expected. One problem that the
    American army faced even in its leadership
    was extreme regional prejudices. Northern and
    southern leaders and rank and file often do not
    get along and explain their differences in terms
    of regional alignments.

British Advantages
  • British Population was 11 million. There were
    about 2 million free colonists and another
    500,000 slaves.
  • The British navy was the largest in the world and
    nearly half of its ships were committed to the
    American Revolution.
  • The British army was a well-trained, professional
    force of nearly 50,000 in 1778 with an additional
    30,000 German mercenaries. Americans field about
    5,000 Continental troops who are aided by
    thousands in local militias.
  • Many British generals have experience in the
    colonies during the French and Indian wars.

British Generals
  • Thomas Gage Commander in Chief of British
    forces in North America from 1763 to 1775. In
    May, 1774, Gage was appointed Governor of
    Massachusetts to replace Thomas Hutchinson
    following the Boston Tea Party and was charged
    with enforcing the Coercive Acts and bringing
    order to Boston.
  • Sir William Howe Howe replaced Gage as
    Commander in Chief of British forces in North
    America in 1775. Howe was a hero in the French
    and Indian War, especially in the Quebec
    Campaign. He was from an aristocratic and very
    well known family in England. He was immensely
    brave indeed undaunted in battle. At Bunker
    Hill, he led the charges of his troops into
    intense fire. Known for his patience as well as
    his bravery, Howe was perhaps too patient. He is
    often criticized for not pursuing Washington more
  • Lord Richard Howe William Howes brother.
    Commander of the British Navy in the colonies
    until he resigned in 1778. Appointed to the peace
    commission in 1776 to try to gain terms to a
    truce, but this effort failed.

British Generals (continued)
  • General John Burgoyne Gentleman Johnny
    Burgoyne. Ambitious, on the make, general. Famous
    for his gambling, his affairs, and his skills as
    a playwright. A dandy and a womanizer, Burgoyne
    rescued British forces in Quebec in 1776, but was
    commander who surrendered at Saratoga.
  • Sir Henry Clinton One of the three British
    general sent to give Thomas Gage help in Boston
    in 1776. Clinton commanded troops at Bunker Hill,
    Fort Sullivan, Charleston South Carolina, and New
    York early in the war. Then led the southern
    campaign for the British in 1777 and 1778.
    Replaced Howe In May 1778 as Commander in Chief
    of British forces in North America.
  • Banastre Tarleton became known as the General
    who would not take prisoners after Loyalists
    under his command massacred prisoners after the
    Battle of Waxhaw Creek in 1780.
  • Major General James Grant Declared that
    Americans "could not fight. Grant was famous for
    saying that he would "undertake to march from one
    end of the continent to the other with five
    thousand men." Grant wanted to burn Boston and
    all of the major cities of the East coast. He did
    not believe in any leniency
  • Lord Cornwallis Appointed Major General at the
    start of the war. Commanded troops at the Battle
    of Long Island and pursued Washingtons troops
    into New Jersey. Responsible for British victory
    at Brandywine and for the capture of
    Philadelphia, but abandoned Burgoyne at Saratoga
    to capture Philadelphia. Cornwallis troops
    defeated the Americans at the Battle of Camden.
    Surrendered to American forces at Yorktown.

British Disadvantages
  • Overconfident British Generals and ordinary
    soldiers do not expect a fight from the
    Americans. They believe that the Americans are no
    match for them. In the initial stages of the
    Revolution, the British often blew bugles as if
    engaged in a fox hunt while fighting the
  • 3000 mile supply line. Had to fight 3000 miles
    from home against a people defending their
    homeland. Supply and communication difficulties
    were vast. 3 mile per hour society. Communication
    across the Ocean took a minimum of three weeks.
  • Ordinary British soldiers find conditions in
    America the heat of summer and the cold of
    winter unbearable.
  • There was no single place no capital - to
    capture in America that meant victory for the
  • The Americans knew that they needed primarily to
    prolong the war to win it. Washingtons conscious
    strategy was not to engage the British in a
    massive battle that might end the rebellion, but
    to drag things out.
  • The British at least initially also conducted war
    with a goal of reconciliation and making peace.
    They sometimes interrupted battle with offers of
    peace and often did not plunder ports and homes
    out of the hope of reconciliation. This changed
    early in the war, but this initial tactic
    hindered the ability of the British to win a
    quick victory.

  • Fighting Begins

The Beginnings of the Military Campaign (The
Shot Heard Round the World)
  • April, 1775 Opening Shots in Lexington and
    Concord by the Minute Men. With the passage of
    the Coercive Acts, General Thomas Gage,
    commander in chief of the British army in
    America, was made governor of Massachusetts. Gage
    was given orders to capture American rebels and
    to restore order in the colony. On April 18th and
    19th, Gages army made a raid to capture rebel
    arms and ammunition stored in Concord and
    possibly to capture John Hancock and Samuel
    Adams. Paul Revere and William Dawes road ahead
    of Gages advancing army warning Hancock and
    Adams that they were to flee and rousing local
    minutemen. Shots were fired at Lexington and
    Concord, but most of the fighting took place as
    the British retreated into Boston. Eventually,
    273 British soldiers and 95 American
    revolutionaries were killed.

The American Campaign in Canada (1775-1776)
  • As New England militiamen gathered in Boston and
    began to dig in to trap the British there,
    Congress directed Washington to launch an
    invasion of Canada. Such an invasion, they
    believed, would protect their northern flank
    against a southern invasion by British troops in
    Canada. They also hoped that it would bring the
    former French who lived in the Canadian territory
    into the American Revolution on the American
    side. In the fall of 1774, the Continental
    Congress had invited the oppressed inhabitants
    of the province of Quebec to send delegates to
    the assembly. The Americans believed that these
    former French people were their natural allies
    and thus made a bid for their support. Again,
    Canada had been ceded to Great Britain in 1763
    with the end of the French and Indian War and the
    Quebec Act of 1774 had reconciled many French
    Canadians to British rule. Still, many were as
    angered by the policies of taxation and
    regulation of the 1760s and 1770s imposed by the
    British as the Americans were. In short, the
    Americans have two goals in the invasion of
    Canada to prevent an invasion from the North and
    to bring French Canadians in on the side of the

Americans Capture Fort Ticonderoga
  • In May, 1775, (three weeks after Lexington and
    Concord), Americans led by Benedict Arnold and
    Ethan Allen seized Fort Ticonderoga. This gave
    Americans a foothold on the St. Lawrence Seaway
    and made the invasion of Canada possible.

The Canadian Campaign (American Defeat at Quebec)
  • In the fall of 1775, a combined invasion of
    General Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold
    attempted to take Canada. Montgomery takes
    Montreal on November 12th and then moves to
    Quebec city to met Arnold. Meanwhile, Arnold has
    one of the most arduous treks in American
    military history as he and his troops move up the
    Kennebec river and arrive in Quebec too exhausted
    to fight and minus 300 of the 1000 men who began
    the journey. Carleton and his British and
    Canadian forces choose to hole up in the city and
    wait for reinforcements. Unlike the Americans,
    they have adequate provisions and can be
    resupplied by water. On December 31st 1775, the
    combined American forces attempt a desperate
    attack on the city. Montgomery is killed and
    Arnold wounded. Eventually, the Americans under
    Arnolds command are surrounded and surrender.
    Americans lose between sixty and one hundred men
    with 426 taken prisoner. Americans try a second
    offensive against Quebec, but it is also
    unsuccessful and the British commander Guy
    Carleton eventually launches his own
    counteroffensive against Arnold and defeats him
    at the Battle of Valcour. After 1776, the
    Americans do not return to try and take Canada,
    but the offensive probably has its intended
    effect of preventing the British from launching
    war against the northern flank of the American
    army. The American defeat means that Canada will
    not be annexed to the United States.

  • Death of General Richard Montgomery at Quebec
    (John Trumbull Painting)

Siege of Boston
  • After the battles of Lexington and Concord, the
    British were driven back into Boston. Some six to
    eight thousand New England militiamen then
    surrounded the city to prevent the four thousand
    or so British troops from escaping. Still, the
    British controlled Boston Harbor because there
    was no American fleet to challenge them. They
    used this naval superiority to supply their
    troops and then bring in reinforcements. On May
    25th, 1775, 4500 additional British troops and
    Generals William Howe, John Burgoyne, and Henry
    Clinton arrived in Boston.

Battle of Bunker Hill
  • June 17, 1775 Fortified by their
    reinforcements, the British sought to break free
    from Boston by taking an American fortification
    at Breeds Hill in Charlestown, just outside of
    Boston. Led by Howe, the British made three
    frontal assaults on entrenchments that had been
    dug at Breeds Hill. The third of these was
    successful and the British held Breed and Bunker
    Hill after the battle. Still, the British
    suffered substantial loses. About 1054 British
    troops died at Bunker Hill and 440 Americans.
    This was the bloodiest battle of the whole war
    for the British and it proved to the British that
    the Americans would not flee when faced with
    British professionals. Thomas Gage said, it was
    a dear bought victory, another such would have
    ruined us."

Joseph Warrens Death at Bunker Hill
Battle of Bunker and Breeds Hill
Fortification of Dorchester Heights
  • Following the Battle of Bunker Hill, American and
    British troops dug in at Boston. Washington
    arrived on July 3, 1775 and a waiting game became
    that lasted over nine months. Each side realized
    that Dorchester Heights, overlooking Boston
    harbor, was vital to control Boston, but neither
    side moved immediately to take it. On the night
    of March 4, 1776, (the eve of the sixth
    anniversary of the Boston Massacre), General
    Artemas Wards troops engaged in a daring and
    remarkable night maneuver and moved the artillery
    captured from Fort Ticonderago and several
    thousand troops into position at Dorchester
    Heights. British General William Howe was
    reported as saying, "The rebels have done more in
    one night than my whole army would have done in a
    month." These cannons fortified the Americans
    hold on Boston and also threatened the British
    fleet in Boston Harbor. Howe initially planned to
    attack Dorchester Heights, but bad weather and
    good judgment led him to back down. Instead,
    realizing that the British were vulnerable, Howe
    contacted Washington and promised not to burn and
    destroy Boston if his troops were allowed to
    evacuate Boston. The British then evacuated to
    Halifax, Nova Scotia and planned the invasion of
    New York.