The Revolutionary War in the South

The British under General Cornwallis had several victories in the South. With the battle at Camden in August of 1780, the British drove the Americans from the field. General Gates, who was leading the American forces, had to flee. His reputation was ruined, and the forces he commanded were demolished and scattered.
With the defeat of Gates’s troops, there was no Continental Army in the south. Still Cornwallis found it hard to hold those states. As soon as he set up Loyalist militias to control an area, out came rebels from the swamps or mountains or from beyond British-held territory. They raided Loyalist strongholds and harassed the British troops. Colonists like the famous Swamp Fox, Francis Marion, proved to be very good at that kind of irregular war (like guerilla warfare). As the British fought, they were drawn away from their supply bases.

Then, in October 1780, Washington ordered General Nathanael Greene to put together a new American army in the South. Greene did so with the help of Daniel Morgan. Even before Greene’s Continentals were in the field. However, some tough American frontiersmen defeated an army of Loyalists at King’s Mountain in South Carolina on October 7, 1780. As a result, Cornwallis pulled back into South Carolina.

In early December, Greene took command in the South. He divided his troops and ordered them to harass Cornwallis. One group under Morgan met the British at a place called Hannah’s Cowpens near the Broad River in western South Carolina on January 16, 1781. Morgan led both militia and regular Continental soldiers. He put the militia in front, had them shoot two rounds, and then pull back. Behind them were the regulars. When the British soldiers chased the retreating militia, they ran right into the Continentals. By the end of the day, the British had lost almost 1,000 men. The Americans had lost only about 70 soldiers.

General Greene himself commanded the next important battle near Guilford Court House in North Carolina on March 14. At the end of the day however, the British held the field. But that victory cost the British another 500 soldiers. Soon Cornwallis realized that he was in trouble because he was running out of troops. He led his army to Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. There he could get new troops and supplies by sea. He set up camp at Yorktown, a small port on a peninsula between the James and York rivers.

General George Washington saw his chance at Yorktown. He could trap Cornwallis on the peninsula. Washington had the help of a fleet of 20 French warships under Admiral de Grasse. They swung into position at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, preventing Clinton from sending help to Cornwallis by sea. American soldiers under the Marquis de Lafayette kept Cornwallis from pulling back up the peninsula. Lafayette was a young Frenchman who first joined the American army early in the war when he was only 19 years old.

Soon Washington arrived. He had 7,000 French soldiers in addition to his Continentals and militia. Washington’s troops outnumbered the British two to one. The Americans kept the British under siege for three weeks. At last, the strength of the mighty British army was broken.

On October 17, 1781, exactly four years after the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga, Cornwallis surrendered. There was an impressive ceremony to mark the event. French and American troops stood beneath their waving flags in lines that stretched a half mile. The French wore splendid uniforms. The Americans, as usual, were in hunting shirts. As the British and German soldiers (Hessians) turned over their guns, the band played a song entitled “The World Turned Upside Down”.

The war was over, but General Washington did not know it. He tried to get De Grasse to help him take Charleston or New York, both of which the British still held. However, when Lord North, the king’s minister heard the news of the British loss at Yorktown, he said, “Oh God! It is all over.” He knew that Parliament would not and could not replace Cornwallis’s army with its 7,241 men, 214 cannons, and 6,658 muskets. The war had already cost enough. So it came to an end.
The Peace of Paris
Negotiations for a treaty to end the war formally took place in Paris. Representing the United States was the old and experienced diplomat, Benjamin Franklin. John Adams was there too.

The Americans found that France was less friendly to their interests than they had expected. As a result, they settled with the British first and told the French about it later. In that way, they saw to it that the Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, was very favorable to the United States.

The treaty recognized the independence of the United States of America. The boundaries of the new country went all the way to the Mississippi River in the West, to the northern boundary of Florida in the South, and to the Great Lakes in the North. Britain agreed to abandon its forts in the west. In return, the Americans agreed that Congress would recommend that the states repay the Loyalists for their losses. They also promised not to interfere with efforts to collect debts owed by the Americans to the British.

Thomas Paine had written, “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” Many former British colonists, now citizens of the United States of America, agreed. The 13 original British colonies had become their own rulers in their own Republic.


The First Years of the War

After the Battle of Bunker Hill, the British found it hard to move from Boston. Then, in March 1776, the Americans did something extraordinary. They forced the British to leave Boston, leading to a new phase of the war.

The British Leave Boston

In May 1775, some American troops under Benedict Arnold of Connecticut and Ethan Allen of Vermont had seized the British Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain in northern New York. They found a good supply of cannon there. Moving the heavy guns was not easy. However, a group of determined colonists under Colonel Henry Knox, a one-time Boston bookseller, managed to drag 59 cannons overland all the way to Boston.

Then in early March 1776, Washington had the guns pulled to Dorchester Heights in Boston. From that high spot, the American troops and their cannons could command Boston and its harbor.

The British had to decide whether to fight the Americans or to evacuate, that is, to leave the city. The British commander, General William Howe, decided it made no sense for the British to stay. They had come to Boston to put down a handful of troublemakers. Now they were at war with all the colonies. New England was not the best place for the British to fight such a war. New York, Howe thought, would be easier to take. Then the British hoped to separate New England from the South, making it harder for the colonists to help each other.

So on March 17, 1776, the last of Howe’s soldiers piled onto ships and set sail for Halifax, Nova Scotia to regroup. The next summer they arrived in New York.
British Strengths and Weaknesses

The British were not worried about fighting the Americans. The British felt that they had so many advantages that victory was certain.

The British had an established army with experienced officers leading trained, professional soldiers. The British also had a strong government that could tax its people to support that army. By August 1776, the British had assembled the strongest force ever seen in North America. General Howe had over 30,000 soldiers under his command. He also had the help of his older brother Richard (Lord Howe). Lord Howe was a British admiral who was nearby with another 13,000 sailors on over 400 ships.

The British also had some weaknesses. England was some 3,000 miles away from North America. Yet their supplies had to come from England. The government in London was not always able to ship supplies on time. The supply ships could be blown off course or American privateers (pirates) could seize them. Once the ships arrived in North America, they were easy for thee the British to sail from one seaport to another. However it was difficult for the British to move their armies and supplies in the rugged lands away from the coast.

The British had other problems as well. Their officers had trouble working with each other. Each wanted to win the war himself, in his own way. None of the officers really understood what they had to do to defeat the Americans. In Europe, an army had only to defeat its enemy’s army to win a war. In America, the British faced a new situation. They not only had to defeat an army but also to defeat the general population – or to win them over to their side. It took a long time for the British to learn that.

American Weaknesses and Advantages

General Washington understood the American weaknesses and advantages very well. He was dismayed at the army he took over at Cambridge. It was full of volunteers who rushed to the camp in the opening days of the war when excitement was high. They had no training, no order, no discipline, and of course, very few supplies.

Washington tried to make the Cambridge soldiers into a respectable army. However, the rules he set up drove some men away. Others left when the war moved farther from their homes and families. Still more would leave when the American army started to lose battles. Soldiers in the army only signed up for a year. At the end of December, most of them went home.
The Creation of an Army: What Washington needed was an army of paid, professional soldiers who would remain in the army until the war was over. Congress finally agreed. In 1776, it allowed the Continental Army to recruit soldiers by promising them a bounty, o cash payment, for signing up, support during the war, and 100 acres of land if they served throughout the duration of the war.

Few of the new Continental soldiers were farmers or artisans. Most were drawn from the poorest people in the colonies. Many from the North were black slaves who were promised freedom in exchange for service in the army. Most soldiers were young – in their teens or twenties. They were not fighting to protect their families and property because they often had neither. They were fighting for the chance to acquire land and get a start in life. During the early years of the war, many Americans were very divided in their support for the Patriots. There were many colonists who thought it was a better idea to remain loyal to the king and be good British subjects. These people were called Loyalists. Since the whole idea of thinking of the colonies as a union was very new to people, they had a hard time grasping the idea of the war for colonial independence.

A Weak Government: Could the Congress keep its promises to the soldiers? It could not itself raise taxes to pay and supply the army. It could only ask the states for funds. The states did not always do what the Congress asked of them. Congress could print money to pay its bills. However, it printed too many Continental dollars, and the money lost value. “Not worth a Continental” became a common expression for something worthless.

American Advantages: The Americans did have some advantages in the war. From the beginning of the war, they received help from the French government. Before the war was over, France would increase its aid.

Wherever the Continental Army fought, it could call on the local militia to help. The local militia were not trained, professional soldiers. They had a tendency to run from the battlefield when the fighting began. However, some commanders found good ways to use them anyway. The militia also knew their area well and could serve as guides or scouts.

Above all, however, the Americans had the advantage of strong leadership. While the British went from one commander to another, General Washington commanded the Americans for the entire war. He could hold the respect of his officers and make men want to fight. Washington knew the Americans did not have to keep winning battles to win the war. They had only to wear down the British army until it could not afford to remain in America any longer. Time was on the Americans’ side. That was perhaps their greatest advantage in the war.


Some Americans opposed independence. They were known as Loyalists. Throughout the war, the British expected a lot more support from such people than they ever actually received. In fact, only about one American in five was a Loyalist.

Some Loyalists felt a special tie to the king because they had served him as judges, councilors, or governors in their colony. Most Loyalists were ordinary people of modest means. Some of them were Loyalists out of ignorance. They lived far from the cities and knew nothing of the events that had made other Americans into revolutionaries. Others became Loyalists because they thought the British were going to win the war and they wanted to avoid being punished as rebels. Still others were Loyalists because they thought the Crown would protect their rights better than the new republican governments. Members of the Church of England living in Puritan New England, for example, tended to be Loyalists.

New Roles and Opportunities

The War for Independence changed the lives of many people besides the Loyalists. Women, left alone when the men of their families went off to war, took on new responsibilities. Many slaves found in the war an opportunity to ear their freedom by fighting for the British or the Americans.


The Fighting Begins

The patriot leaders tried hard to avoid clashes between the royal troops (redcoats as they were called by the colonists) and Bostonians. They were afraid a war would start before the other colonies were ready to support Massachusetts. However, on April 19, 1775, fighting began. During the previous night, General Gage had sent 700 British troops to seize guns and ammunition stored by colonists at Concord, a town about 15 miles west of Boston. On the way, the soldiers were to stop in Lexington and arrest two patriot leaders, Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Patriots in Boston sent the silversmith and engraver Paul Revere and his friend William Dawes to warn the people.
Lexington: By the time the British soldiers finally got to Lexington, Adams and Hancock were gone. Instead, some 70 minutemen were waiting on the village green. They were members of the local militia, or citizen soldiers. They called themselves minutemen because they could be ready to fight with a minute’s warning.

The British commander told the minutemen to go home. Before they could do that, someone – no one knows who – fired a shot. Suddenly the redcoats opened fire, killing 8 colonists and wounding 10. Only one British soldier was wounded. The Battle of Lexington lasted only 15 minutes.

Concord: Revere and Dawes were captured on their way to Concord. Another patriot, Samuel Prescott, carried the warning for them. When the British reached Concord, most of the town’s military supplies had been carted away. The town was quiet. However, on their way out of Concord, the British found the local minutemen waiting at North Bridge. The Battle of Concord lasted five minutes. At its end, two more American patriots were ded. Three British soldiers had also died, and another nine were wounded. The British decided to return to Boston.

The trip to Boston was not easy. Americans shot at the redcoats all along the route – from windows and trees, from behind stone walls, and from both sides of the road. The angry people of Massachusetts killed 70 retreating British soldiers and wounded 165. Another 26 were missing by the day’s end.

An American Army: The fight was on. Three days after the battles of Lexington and Concord, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, which the colonists elected to manage their affairs, held a meeting. It called for an army of 13,000 soldiers from all over New England.

Soon, men began pouring into a camp at Cambridge, across the Charles River from Boston. They were disorganized and poorly supplied. Only the Rhode Islanders had tents. Other soldiers lived in private houses, in makeshift shacks, or at nearby Harvard College. None had uniforms. Instead they wore work or hunting clothes, just as many American soldiers did throughout the war. Soldiers brought guns and swords if they could.

In May of 1776, the Second Continental Congress met. It took charge of the army and appointed as its commander a 43-year-old veteran of the French and Indian War, George Washington. A tall, dignified man, Washington was a wealthy planter from Virginia who was used to having his orders obeyed. He had the job of building a respectable American, or Continental Army.

Washington did not arrive in Cambridge until July 2. By then his troops had fought the British again, this time in a battle more important than those at Lexington and Concord.

Bunker Hill: To protect their hold on Boston, the British decided to take nearby Charlestown. The Americans got there first. On the night of June 16, 1775, they built a redoubt, or dug-out fort, at the top of Breed’s Hill. From there, they could look down on the British in Boston.

The next day General William Howe, a British officer who had helped take Quebec during the French and Indian War in 1760, ordered his men to take the redoubt. Marching in three long lines, they slowly made their way upward.

The Americans at the top of the hill remained quiet. The legend is that their commander, a tough farmer named William Prescott, told them to hold their fire until they could see the whites of the British soldiers’ eyes. Finally Prescott gave the order to shoot. The redcoats fell back.

Howe ordered his soldiers up the hill a second time. Like good soldiers, they obeyed, stepping over the bodies of the dead. Once again the attack failed.

When Howe ordered a third attack, Prescott’s men ran out of ammunition. As the redcoats jumped over the sides of the fort, the colonials swung their muskets ad threw stones at the attackers. Prescott pulled his men back to nearby Bunker Hill (after which the battle is named), and then farther west to Cambridge. Howe did not chase them. He had already lost over a thousand men – 226 killed and 828 wounded. The American losses were also high – 140 dead, 271 wounded and 30 captured.

The British really won the battle, since they took the hill from the Americans. However, a victory won at such a high cost was hardly a victory at all. British officers could hardly believe that inexperienced Americans had held their ground against trained British troops.

3/8/12 The Sparks and the Firebrands Project

The following people were considered “Firebrands”. That means that in the 13 year gap between the end of the French and Indian War, and the beginning of the Revolutionary War, they were significant in changing people’s minds about how they felt about British rule. They did and said things that got people thinking and got them stirred up about revolution against the Crown. They were;

-Patrick Henry
-Samuel Adams
-Benjamin Franklin
-Paul Revere
-John Adams
-Sons of Liberty (a group)
-John Hancock
-Thomas Paine

There were also events that happened that helped “Spark” revolution among people. These were events that were well publicized and made people angry about what the British were doing. Some of these events were;

-The Tea Crisis and the Boston Tea Party
-The Intolerable Acts (Boston Port Act, Massachusetts Government Act, Quartering Act, Justice Act).
-The Boston Massacre

There were some things the colonists did in response to the behavior of the British. These events were very important, and they sent an important message to the American Colonists and to the British – they were serious about not taking any more poor treatment from the British. These things were:

-The First Continental Congress
-The forming of the Minutemen

You will choose ONE of the above people, groups, or events.

If you choose a person or a group:
You will make a poster that tells a little bit of background about the people or group. You will explain clearly specific things they did to stir people up and spark feelings of rebellion against the British. You will need to include at least 2 pictures. This will be a small poster. Pictures and text pieces must be framed and typed. Neat. No copying.

If you choose an event:
You will make a poster that tells a little bit of background about the event – what led up to it? Who was involved? Where did they come together? What was their purpose? What decisions were made? You will need to include at least 2 pictures. This will be a small poster. Pictures and text pieces must be framed and typed. Neat. No copying.

Important Dates for this project:
3/19/12 - Have a rough draft ready (in your own words) of background information for the person or group. You should keep a list of the websites where you got the information and have that ready to show me as well.
3/23/12 - the final poster is DUE! Must include 1. neat title, 2. your typed background info, 3. Your sources (pasted on the back of the poster), 4. 2 pictures, This poster must be NEAT, TYPED, pictures must be FRAMED. Your name in the lower right corner.

Revolutionary War: The Beginning of Conflict

Soon after the French and Indian War, conflict between the 13 colonies and Great Britain began over Britain’s attempts to tax the colonists. The colonists raised the cry “No taxation without representation.” In other words, since the colonies did not have representatives in Parliament, Parliament could not pass laws taxing the colonies. Feelings ran high on both sides.

Britain Needs Money:
The British paid a high price for their victory in the French and Indian War. King George III, who had inherited the throne in 1760, and his chief minister, George Grenville, faced huge debts at the end of the war.

The people who lived in Great Britain were already heavily taxed. Grenville thought it only fair that the colonists share that burden. After all, the colonies had benefited form the war as much or more than people in Britain. Besides, the colonies had become more expensive to maintain. Britain had to keep an army on the frontier. It also had to support its new colonies in Canada and Florida. Clearly the colonists should help pay for those costs.

The Trade Laws:
Some money could be raised through Britain’s trade laws, but not much. They were designed to stop the colonies from trading with other nations, not to raise money for the British treasury. In the past, the colonists had ignored some trade laws. Now the British planned to see that the laws were enforced.

The Molasses Act:
The Molasses Act of 1733 was one of the trade laws the colonists ignored. Molasses is produced when sugar cane is made into sugar. The colonists used it as a sweetener. They also made it into rum, which they either drank or traded elsewhere. In Africa, the colonists traded rum for slaves.

The purpose of the Molasses Act was to encourage the colonists to buy molasses from planters in the British West Indies. The Molasses Act put a duty, or a tax on imported goods, of six pence on each gallon of molasses bought from the non-British West Indies.

The British West Indies, however, did not make enough molasses to fill the colonists’ needs. In addition, the British charged more for molasses than the French. So, for years, the colonists bought French molasses and smuggled it home or bribed customs agents to look the other way.

Grenville ordered the customs agents to be stricter, and he ordered the British navy to help enforce the customs laws. Then he presented some new laws to Parliament.

The Sugar Act:
The first of Grenville’s laws approved by Parliament was the Revenue Act of 1764, also called the Sugar Act. The new law cut in half the duty on molasses from the non-British West Indies. However, unlike the Molasses Act, the Sugar Act was to be strictly enforced.

The Sugar Act also set up new rules for the trials of people accused of smuggling. They could be tried in a new admiralty court in Halifax, Nova Scotia, even if they lived in faraway Georgia. The Sugar Act also said that the accused would be considered guilty until they proved themselves innocent. Under British law the accused is usually considered innocent until proven guilty.

The Stamp Act:
Grenville wrote another bill, called the Stamp Act, to raise even more money. Parliament passed this law in February of 1765. It taxed legal documents such as deeds and wills, newspapers and other printed matter, playing cards, and even dice. Taxable items had to carry stamps that showed that the tax had been paid. People accused of breaking the new law could be tried in vice-admiralty courts, which usually tried only cases that had to do with the high seas. Vice-admiralty courts did not have juries, and so people tried there could not have jury trials.

Grenville did not expect the Stamp Act to cause so much trouble. He was wrong.

The Colonists’ Arguments:
Colonists opposed both the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act. They argued that the Sugar Act was unwise. The duty on foreign molasses would wipe out colonial trade with the non-British West Indies. Without the income that came from that trade, the colonists could not continue to buy as many British products as they had in recent years. British business, the colonists argued, would lose more in profits than the British government would gain in taxes from the Sugar Act.

The colonists did not, however, question Parliament’s right to pass the Sugar Act. Parliament had, after all, regulated colonial trade for over 100 years. Most colonists thought that, on the whole, the trade laws helped the colonies.

Response to the Stamp Act:
The colonists’ arguments against the Stamp Act were entirely different. They said Parliament had no right to pass the Stamp Act because it was not a trade law but a tax law. In Britain, the people had to give their agreement to a new tax through their representatives in Parliament. Since the colonists had no representatives in Parliament, it could not tax them they said.

The colonists also were angered because those accused of violating the Stamp Act were to be tried without juries. To take the right of trial by jury from the colonists was to deny them their rights as British subjects.

Resolutions and Petitions:
A number of colonial assemblies passed resolutions against the Stamp Act. The most famous of the were the Virginia Resolves. They were proposed to the House of Burgesses by Patrick Henry in May of 1765. The brash young son of a Scottish immigrant, Henry argued that only the House of Burgesses had the right to tax Virginians.

The burgesses did not adopt all of Henry’s resolutions, but those they did pass were clear enough. They said the Virginians had all the liberties and privileges that were “at any time held by the people of Great Britain.” They also said that “the distinguishing characteristic” of British freedom was the right of the people to be taxed by representatives they chose.

The Virginia Resolves became a model for resolutions passed by other colonial legislatures. The assemblies also sent petitions or formal written pleas, to Parliament against the Sugar and Stamp Acts.

The Stamp Act Congress:
In October 1765, representatives from nine colonies met at New York. (New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia did not send delegates.) That meeting, the Stamp Act Congress, was the first time the colonies sent representatives to an intercolonial congress since the Albany Congress in 1754. The Stamp Act Congress sent a petition to Parliament that said the colonists had the same rights and liberties as the king’s subjects in England.

The British Answer:
The British responded to the colonists by defending Parliament’s right to tax the colonists. They agreed that Britons could be taxed only with their consent or with that of their representatives in Parliament. However, the British argued that the colonists were represented in Parliament. The colonists did not vote for members of Parliament, they said, but neither did 9/10 of the people in Britain. Yet all British subjects, voters and nonvoters alike, and virtual representation in Parliament, they said. By this, they meant that members of Parliament defended not just the interests of those who elected them but also the interests of all British subjects. Therefore, Parliament could tax the colonists just as it could tax all the people in Britain who could not vote.

The notion of virtual representation did not make much sense to the colonists. In the colonies, the people had direct representation rather than virtual representation. Almost all white male colonists who were heads of families could vote. Women, children, blacks, and Indians could not vote. Representatives elected to colonial assemblies spoke directly for the people who voted for them. The members of the colonial assemblies were also colonists. They knew what taxes the people could pay. The representatives also had to pay any taxes passed by the assembly. The members of Parliament did not know the colonists that well. Nor did they have to pay the taxes that they voted for the colonies. In fact, the more Parliament taxed the Americans, the less the people in Britain had to be taxed.

For those reasons, the colonists denied that they were virtually represented in Parliament. The colonists’ interests were represented only in their own assemblies, they said. Only their assemblies could tax them.