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The American Revolution
The American Revolution
Divided Colonists
• The growing tension between the American Colonies and Great Britain
divided the colonists into two key factions.
• Americans who backed the British
were known as Loyalists or Tories.
• Those colonists who opposed
British rule were known as
Patriots or Whigs.
• Although both sides of the struggle were well represented in the American
Colonies, historians have estimated that about 40 to 45 percent of all
colonists supported the rebellion, while only 15 to 20 percent remained loyal
to the British Crown.
The American Revolution
American Forces
• When the American Revolution began, the American Colonies lacked a
professional Army or Navy.
• Each of the 13 Colonies had
their own local Militia, but
were reluctant to send them
outside the borders of their
own colony.
• Colonial Militiamen were lightly
armed, had very little training, and usually did not have uniforms.
The American Revolution
American Forces
• Seeking to improve their military efforts, the Continental Congress
established a regular army on June 14, 1775 and appointed George
Washington as Commander-in-Chief.
• At the beginning of 1776, the
Colonial Military consisted of
about 20,000 men, with 2/3
enlisted in the Continental
Army and the other 1/3 in the
various State Militias.
• About 250,000 men actually served in the colonial forces during the
eight years of the revolution, but there were never more than 90,000
serving at any one time..
The American Revolution
British Forces
• Early in 1775, the British Army consisted of about 36,000 worldwide.
• Although the Redcoats were the most
recognizable forces during the war,
about 25,000 Loyalists served with the
British forces during the war.
• Most Loyalists troops fought alongside
the British in the same units, while
others fought in Partisan Units similar to the Patriot Militia.
• However, the British dependency on local Loyalist forces was often
influenced by the availability of supplies and regular British troops to
support them.
The American Revolution
British Forces
• Over the course of the revolution, Great Britain signed treaties with
various German States, which supplied the British Army with about
30,000 soldiers.
• These German troops, known as
Hessians, eventually made up
about 1/3 of the total British
forces in North America.
• By 1779, the number of British and
German troops stationed in North
America was over 60,000 men.
The American Revolution
Native Americans
• During the American Revolution, most Native Americans fought on the
side of the British in an effort to prevent Colonial expansion into their
tribal lands.
• The largest groups of Native Americans
included the Iroquois tribes in the
Northern Colonies and the Creeks and
Seminoles in the South.
African Americans
• In addition, both the British and Americans recruited African slaves
and freedmen into their colonial forces.
• Many slaves were eventually promised freedom by both sides if they
successfully completed at least one year of service during the war.
The American Revolution in the North
Battle of Lexington and Concord (19 April 1775)
• At the beginning of the war, the British Commanderin-Chief in North America was Lieutenant General
Thomas Gates.
• Determined to seize the colonial munitions in
Massachusetts, he sent 700 British troops to the town of Concord.
• Riders like Paul Revere alerted the countryside,
which allowed 77 minutemen to greet the
British as the arrived in the town of Lexington.
• Shots were exchanged between the British
troops and colonists, killing several militiamen.
The American Revolution in the North
Battle of Lexington and Concord
• The British moved on to the town of
Concord, where a force of 500
colonial minutemen waited for them.
• At North Bridge, three companies of
British troops were engaged and routed by the militia.
• As the British retreated back
toward Boston, thousands of
minutemen attacked them from
behind rocks and trees, inflicting
great damage on the Redcoats.
The American Revolution in the North
Battle of Bunker Hill (17 Jun 1775)
• As the Colonial Militia converged on Boston, 4,500 more British
soldiers arrived by sea.
• Eventually, the British forces under
Major General William Howe attacked
the Americans at Breed’s and Bunker
Hill .
• Although the Americans fell
back, they managed to repel
three British attacks, causing
heavy British losses.
The American Revolution in the North
Battle for Long Island (27 Aug 1776)
• Having withdrawn his army from
Boston, British General William Howe
focused on capturing New York City.
• To defend the city, General George
Washington concentrated 20,000
colonial troops on Long Island and
• After landing about 20,000 troops
on Long Island, the British drove
back the Americans to Brooklyn
Heights and laid siege to the city.
The American Revolution in the North
Washington’s River Crossings (Aug & Dec 1776)
• Washington personally directed the withdrawal of his entire army and
their supplies across the East River in one
night without being discovered by the British.
• By November 1776, the Continental
Army had dwindled to fewer than
5,000 men fit for duty.
• Thomas Paine, who was with the
retreating army wrote, “These are
the times that try men’s souls.”
• Realizing the situation was bleak, Washington decided to take the
offensive by secretly crossing the Delaware River on Christmas night.
The American Revolution in the North
Battle of Trenton (26 Dec 1776)
• After successfully crossing the
Delaware, Washington’s troops
marched on the town of Trenton.
• Arriving at 8 am, the Americans
caught the defending Hessian
troops by surprise.
• Although the Hessians put up a
strong defense, the Americans
managed to captured almost 900
enemy troops with only 7 American
casualties, boosting American morale.
The American Revolution in the North
Britsh Plans to Divide the Continental Forces (1777)
• When the British began planning operations for 1777, they had two
main armies in North America:
 Maj. Gen. Guy Carleton’s
army in Quebec.
 Maj. Gen. William Howe’s
army in New York
• The British Government in
London approved two primary
 Carleton’s Saratoga Campaign.
 Howe’s Philadelphia Campaign.
The American Revolution in the North
Battle of Saratoga (19 Sep & 7 Oct 1777)
• The British sent a force of about 7,000 soldiers from Quebec toward
New York under Brigadier General John Burgoyne.
• American General Horatio Gates
had a force of about 8,000 men
entrenched just south of Saratoga.
• Unfortunately, Burgoyne’s attempt
to outflank the American’s failed.
• In addition, Burgoyne expected to be
re-enforced by General Howe from New York, which never occurred.
• The defeat of Burgoyne’s British forces proved to the French that the
American’s were worthy allies and was the turning point of the war.
The American Revolution in the North
Battle of Brandywine (11 Sept 1777)
• Having secured New York City, General Howe landed 15,000 troops
near Chesapeake Bay and marched toward the city of Philadelphia.
• General Washington positioned his
11,000 men between the advancing
British and Philadelphia.
• Unfortunately, the colonial forces
were outflanked by British and
Hessian troops and forced to
• As a result of Washington’s failure to stop the British advance, the
Continental Congress abandoned Philadelphia by September 26th.
The American Revolution in the North
Valley Forge (Dec 1777 – Apr 1778)
• Washington’s army established a winter
encampment at Valley Forge in Dec 1777.
• For six months, the undernourished and
poorly clothed soldiers lived in crowded,
damp, quarters, ravished by sickness and
• However, while in Valley Forge,
the Continental Army received
extensive military training
supervised by Baron Friedrich
von Steuben of Prussia.
The American Revolution
The American Allies
• Since 1776, France had been informally
involved in the American Revolution by
providing supplies, ammunition, and guns.
• However, after learning of the American victory at Saratoga, France
signed a treaty of alliance with the United States on 6 Feb 1778,
formalizing the Franco-American alliance negotiated by Benjamin Franklin.
• In addition, Spain had also secretly supplied patriot forces in the mid-west
and eventually allowed American Ships the use of the port of Havana, Cuba.
• Likewise, many weapons and barrels of gunpowder were secretly shipped
from the Dutch Republic to American ports during the length of the war.
The American Revolution in the South
Savannah and Charleston (Dec 1778 – May 1780)
• On 29 Dec 1778, a British expeditionary
force from New York landed in Georgia
and captured the port city of Savannah.
• On 9 Oct 1779, a combined force of
American and French troops were
defeated trying to retake Savannah.
• Finally, on 12 May 1780, British forces
besieged Charleston, South Carolina,
capturing the city and most of the
southern Continental Army in the process.
The American Revolution in the South
Battle of Camden (16 Aug 1780)
• By May 1780, Lord Cornwallis was the British commander of operations
in the south, while General Horatio Gates arrived to command the
American forces.
• Unfortunately, General Gates
attempted to meet the British
forces face to face on the
open battlefield.
• As a result, the American Militia broke
ranks and fled from the battlefield,
followed closely by General Gates.
The American Revolution
Battle of King’s Mountain (7 Oct 1780)
• In Sept 1780, British Major Patrick Ferguson arrived
in America to organize the Loyalist militia in the
Carolinas .
• A challenge issued by Ferguson against
the patriot militia in the Carolinas
caused backcountry frontiersmen to
rally against the British.
• These militiamen from Virginia, North
Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and
Georgia were organized into a force
known as the “Overmountain Men.”
The American Revolution
Battle of King’s Mountain (7 Oct 1780)
• Receiving intelligence that a force of
militia was approaching, Ferguson
tried to reach the safety of the
British camp of Lord Cornwallis .
• Instead, Ferguson’s loyalists were
surprised and surrounded by the
“Overmountain Men” along the border
between North and South Carolina.
• As a result, Ferguson was killed and
most of his soldiers were either
killed or captured.
The American Revolution
Battle of Cowpens (17 Jan 1781)
• Brig. Gen. Daniel Morgan took command of the
American forces in South Carolina in December 1780.
• Using his knowledge of British
tactics and the American Militia’s
lack of discipline, he was able to
draw the British forces into battle.
• This result of the battle was a
decisive American Victory.
The American Revolution
Battle of Guilford Courthouse (15 Mar 1781)
• Gen. Nathaniel Greene, who had replaced
Gen. Gates, was ready to meet the British
forces under Lord Cornwallis by Mar 1781.
• Although the battle lasted only ninety
minutes and the British technically
defeated the American forces, the British
lost over a quarter of their own men.
• Greene had chosen to withdraw from
the battlefield to prevent a repeat of
the American loss at Camden, while
Cornwallis declined to chase the
Americans into the Carolina backcountry.
The American Revolution
Battle of Yorktown (28 Sep – 19 Oct 1781)
• The Northern and Southern campaigns
converged at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781.
• Cornwallis had been ordered to occupy
a fortified position that could be easily
resupplied from the sea.
• Expecting the arrival of the French fleet from the West Indies,
Washington moved a combined Franco-American force of about 19,000
men toward Yorktown .
• After several days of siege, Cornwallis
decided it was time to surrender,
bringing an end to the war.