American HistoryENGLISH

AMERICAN WAR OF INDEPENDENCE

John Trumbull’s painting, Declaration of Independence, depicting the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence presenting their work to the Congress. The painting can be found on the back of the U.S. $2 bill. The original hangs in the US Capitol rotunda. Source : A Public Domain kids.middle.co

The American War of Independence or the American Revolution was a war fought between the Great Britain and its 13 American Colonies who rebelled against her rule. The American War of Independence was fought for almost 8 years from 1775 when the 13 Colonies rebelled against the British rule, until 1783 when the Great Britain recognized their independence as the new nation of the United States of America.

After the War, the 13 Colonies succeeded in their fighting and merged together to form an independent nation called the United States of America.

Background

Before the outbreak of the American War of Independence, the country known as the United States of America was a British possession made up of 13 colonies on the eastern seaboard of North America.

The history of the British colonization in North America started around 1606 when King James of England granted a charter to the London Company to set up a colony in North America. With such permission, the London Company established the first British Colony called the Virginia Colony at Jamestown as a capital. Thus, between 1607 up to 1776, the British Government have established and colonized 13 Colonies in the eastern seaboard of North America.

However, around 1760, things started to change regarding the relationship between the 13 American Colonies and their mother country, the Great Britain. The disagreement started after the Great Britain defeated France in French and India which led to the French losing power in the North American continent. But, though victorious, the War left Great Britain exhausted and indebted.

In order to cover most of the expenses of the War, the British Parliament began imposing some forms of taxes upon the 13 American Colonies. Initially, the Parliament passed a Navigation Acts which restricted much of Colonies trading activities to only Great Britain. On their parts, the American merchants considered the Acts as an action which restricted their freedom of trade, and therefore showed their disapproval of it. Again, the British Parliament passed the Stamp Acts which required that every legal documents in any of the 13 Colonies had to be stamped and a sum of money should be paid for that service. The Stamp Acts tax was intended to generate a revenue for the up keeping of the British troops in North America. In response to the Acts, the colonists who were previously angrier with Navigation Acts, come out and protested, shouting a slogan “no taxation without representation” Which means that the colonists would no longer paid a tax unless they were allowed to send their representatives to the British Westminster Parliament in London, or their Assemblies be allowed to make laws for their own affairs.

Agitations over the Stamp Act continued and caused outrages in the whole of the 13 Colonies calling for the repeal of the Acts. In October 1765, representatives of the 9 colonies out of the 13, planned and met in New York where they bound and agreed not buy the British goods any longer till their demands were accepted. The delegates also appealed to King George III to consider their grievances.

On her part, the British Parliament repealed the Stamp Acts, but insisted on legislating for the 13 Colonies. Therefore, the British government was still unsatisfied with what she was generating from the Colonies, hence a new ways were in search since the repeal of the Stamp Acts. In 1767, the Parliament based on the advice of the British Finance Minister Charles Townshend introduced the Townshend Acts which imposed a heavy duties on the American imported goods specifically tea, glass, lead, and pepper.

On the other hand, the colonists became frustrated over the Townshend Acts. Thus, some furious American held a meeting in Boston, the Capital of Massachusetts Colony where they declared a stance that they would no longer buy any British goods on which heavy duties were placed and also urged the other 12 Colonies to do the same. The Boston meeting made the city a center of rebels against the British authority.

In order to maintained and enforced her authority, the British government sent 3500 troops under the command of Major General Thomas Gage to Boston. But, the Boston people gathered and resisted the presence of the troops in their area. The troops on their effort to dispersed the mob fired and killed five people. Thus, the news of the incidence known as the ‘Boston Massacre‘ spread into the other Colonies and caused further resentments from the colonists. Since the Boston Massacre, the colonists and the British troops engaged in several arm confrontations a to the extent that in cities such as New York and Philadelphia the British ships were refused to unload goods any longer by the colonists.

THE FIRST CONTINENTAL CONGRESS

As the relationship between the Colonies and the Great Britain continued to become bitter, a meeting for all the 13 Colonies known as ‘First Continental Congress’ was called and held in Philadelphia in September 1774 in order to discuss the way out.

During the Congress, the representatives or delegates of the 13 Colonies reaffirmed their colonial rights and sent a letter to King George III asking him to guaranteed the rights of the Colonists by preventing any law that would deprived them from that rights.

On the other hand, the appeal of the 13 Colonies was disregarded and thrown away by the King. Also, the British government increased the number of its troops in the Colonies for reenforcement of the law. At last, the British government insisted on its power over the Colonies, while all of the 13 Colonies maintained their stance of no taxation without representation.

Outbreak of the American War of Independence

1775-1776

The American War of Independence begun on 19 April, 1775, after the British Army General Thomas Gage sent about 800 troops to a town of Concord for a seizure of arms in some secret stores, after he got a leak that local militia were being organized for an immediate service around the Boston area in the Massachusetts Colony. On their way, the British troops were stopped by the American local militia men at a town of Lexington in which they engaged in a fighting that caused hundreds casualties from the both side.

SECOND CONTINENTAL CONGRESS

On 10 May, 1775, the representatives of the 13 Colonies reconvened for the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia. During the Second Congress, the delegates expressed their unwillingness to fight a war with their mother country, the Great Britain. They also asserted their loyalty to the British authority as long as King George III and his Parliament consider their grievances.

But, as part of their preparation for possible war, the Congress established two institutions. Firstly, the Congress was made a temporary government for the Colonies with John Hancock from the Colony of Massachusetts as the President. While, Second institution was the Continental Army with General George Washington from the Colony of Virginia as its Commander.

In July 1775, the Continental Congress discussed the issue of going for a full war with Great Britain. During the meeting, members of the Congress were divided into those who advocated the war called the ‘Patriots‘ and those who wanted not to go for a war called the ‘Loyalists‘. But, before going into the conclusion, the Congress wrote and sent a letter to the King calling his attention over the ongoing situation. Unfortunately, rather than considering the contents of the letter sent to him, King George III thrown away the letter and issued a statement that declared the 13 American Colonies as rebels, and therefore the British army were ordered to fight them. Thus, based on the order, the troops was reinforced and increased to 30,000 under the command of General William Howe who substituted General Gage.

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

In response to the King’s Proclamation of Rebellion and the order to crush the rebels, on 4 July, 1776, the Continental Congress of the 13 Colonies declared their independence in a famous declaration called the ‘Declaration of Independence‘. The the statement of the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson of Virginia Colony used the civil liberty ideas of famous political thinkers in backing their decision of the declaration. Also, the declaration stated that the 13 Colonies were no longer fighting Great Britain as its subjects who rebelled, but, a sovereign nation defending herself against the invasion of a foreign nation.

In August 1776, the British forces led by three generals that included General William Howe, General Henry Clinton, and General John Burgoyne organized a large battalion and headed to New York area where the American forces under General George Washington have already taken position. Eventually, the two armies encountered at the Long Island where they fought a battle called the Battle of Long Island. In the battle, the British forces fought decisively and defeated the Americans who retreat out of the New York area to Pennsylvania. Therefore, the British forces returned back for a preparation of chasing the American forces again.

After they retreated from the battle at Long Island, in December 1776, the American forces under the command of George Washington reorganized his soldiers to 3000 and led them across Delaware for a counter attack. The American troops successfully made a surprised attack on the British forces and captured about 1000 Hessian troops who were hired by Great Britain.

George Washington with his army crossing the Delaware in 1776. Source : wikipedia.org

1777-1783

The year 1777 has been a fruitful year to the Americans in their war of independence. Because, in October of the year, the American soldiers led by General Horatio Gates fought and defeated the British troops led by General John Burgoyne in the famous Battle of Saratoga. On the other hand, the Americans victory at Saratoga proved their effectiveness in the war, and therefore made some foreign countries in agreeing to help them.

France and Spain became the countries to agree on supporting the Americans against the British. France recognized the American independence and signed an alliance between them. In July 1778, France started by sending its fleet under the command of Jean Baptiste Hector, Comte d’Esting who arrived off the Delaware on 8 July. The French forces started their work in October 1779, when they made a joint force with the Americans led by Major General Benjamin Lincoln who was sent to command the southern campaign where the British already established a foothold around Georgia area.

As the Great Britain realized that the Americans were now formidable because of the French and Spanish assistance, King George III ordered his army to turn their effort to the south and west of America in order to maintain a foothold in case of losing war in the north. By 1780, the American War of Independence shifted mainly to the south and western territories

In May 1780, British forces led by General Henry Clinton made a successful offensive in the area of South Carolina where they captured Charleston and forced the American soldiers to retreat to the north. Also, in August, the British troops defeated the Americans led by Horatio Gates at Camden in South Carolina.

However, in March 1781, a more prepared and organized American forces under the command of Major General Nathaniel Greene fought decisively but were defeated by the British troops led by General Cornwallis at a famous Battle of Guildford Court House in North Carolina area. Even though, the British defeated the Americans, but they received a huge casualties that forced their retreat to Yorktown for reenforcement.

After the British soldiers reached Yorktown, they waited for a supplies from their fleet that was unfortunately blocked form reaching the Yorktown by the French fleet. While, on the other hand, more than 15,000 American and French forces led by four Generals that included General George Washington, General Anthony Wayne, General Lafayette, and Baron Von Steuben were organized and set for Yorktown. Lastly, the American and French joint forces besieged the only 8000 stranded British troops under General Charles Cornwallis. General Cornwallis tried to escaped with his troops but failed, and by October 1781, he was forced to surrender unwillingly.

With the Americans victory at the Battle of Yorktown, it became obvious that the Americans have nearly overpowered the British. Eventually, Great Britain government under King George III and the Prime Minister Lord North agreed with the Parliament advice on ending the war with the Americans.

Treaty of Paris and the End of the War

American War of Independence came to an end when the Great Britain agreed on signing a conditional peace with the Americans.

On 3 September, 1783, the representatives of America led by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin met with their British counterparts in Paris, France, where they signed a formal treaty known as ‘Treaty of Paris’ which the marked the end of the American War of Independence.

In the Treaty, Great Britain recognized the independence of her 13 Colonies as the new nation called the United States of America. A map was drawn in which all lands from the Appalachian Mountains in the west to the Mississippi River in the east, and from the Great Lakes in the north to Florida in the south were given as a territory of the United States of America.

Ahmad Abdullahi, BA History

My name is Ahmad Abdullahi, I was born on 10th March, 1994 in Garun-Danga Town, Gabasawa L.G., Kano State. I attended FCE Demonstration Primary School from 2002 to 2007, FCE Staff Secondary School from 2007 to 2013, and Northwest University, Kano from 2013 to 2017, where I obtained bachelor degree in History.

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