The American Revolutionary War began in 1775 and ended in 1783. Originally, the war was fought by the British on one side and the Americans on the other side, but developed into a war between the Great Britain on one side and United States, France, Spain and Netherlands on the other side. In 1783, the United States of America and the British government signed a treaty to cease fighting, and this marked the official separation of United States from the British rule; the treaty officially recognized the existence of United States as a sovereign state. From the onset, this paper examines the events that led to the war, progression of the war, participants and the main outcomes of the war.
The American Revolutionary War, which was fought in 1775-1783, started as a war between the Great Britain and its colonies, but later sprang into a full-blown war between Britain on one end and the United States, Netherlands, Spain and France on the other end. Conflicts, between the Great Britain and the thirteen colonies of United States, were the main cause of the revolution. Americans felt ill-treated by Great Britain and felt that they deserved the rights granted to Englishmen. On the other hand, the British felt that the colonies had to follow the rules as designed by the British parliament. This led the colonies to agitate for freedom, as embodied by the call “no representation without tax”. To a great extent, the events that led to the revolution built overtime; and there is a huge list of events that led to the revolution.
Events Leading to the War
For instance, in 1754-1763, Britain and France went to war which the French lost badly; however, the war made Britain to be greatly indebted. Britain had to look for an alternative means of raising revenues to cater for the huge costs of the war and only colonies could come to the rescue. In an attempt to raise sufficient revenues to pay the debts, Britain started to charge its colonies heavy taxes. The punitive taxes elicited angry reaction from the colonists, who remained steadfast in their call for independence. Some of the new taxes passed to the colonies were brought about by the Sugar Act (1764) and the Stamp Act (1765). The British felt that the colonies had to contribute more to protect the territories as part of the British Empire. As a consequence, this led to the imposing of direct taxes, which the Americans protested vehemently.
Americans felt that the British Parliament could not pass laws to levy taxes on them, while they were not represented in the British government. This led to the famous call: “no tax without representation.” Although the colonists had a good argument, the British government was not willing to listen to their humble cry. The resistance (to the new taxes levied on the people) came to a climax during the Boston Tea Party; the Bostonians dumped huge loads of tea into the sea protesting laws which had raised the tax levied on tea. During this period, the colonists viewed attempts to tax them without representation as a violation of their rights and by extension viewed the laws as illegitimate.
With time, the colonists grew impatient and rejected the authority of the British Parliament to govern them from overseas. By 1774, most of the colonies had established their own Provincial Congress to govern themselves, although they still recognized the British Crown. By 1775, all the thirteen colonies were under the control of the revolutionaries, who set up the Second Continental Congress as well as the Continental Army. The British read malice in the move and responded by sending troops to re-establish direct rule. Immediately, the colonies mobilized their militias, and this led to a confrontation between the two armies in 1775. Later, the colonies expelled royal officials working with the British government and took control of their operations.
The British responded to this new development by passing the “Intolerable Acts” to assert its authority over the colonies. The Intolerable Acts, which consisted of four Acts, strengthened the resolve of the colonists in their quest to oust the British from their soil. The first Act was the Massachusetts Government Act, which restricted town meetings within the Massachusetts State. The British government believed that the meetings were organized to mobilize people opposed to their rule. The next Act was the Administration Justice Act, which stipulated that all the British soldiers accused of any wrongdoing would be arraigned in Britain, and not in the colonies as expected. The colonists felt that the British soldiers should not be given fair treatment, and should be made to face the law like the other citizens. However, the British government felt that their soldiers would not get a fair trial in a foreign land, hence the need to arraign them in British courts to ensure fair trial.
The third Act was the Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston indefinitely until all the British were compensated for the tea lost during the Boston Tea Party. The British government had incurred huge losses following the Boston Tea Party, since they could not collect taxes for the tea destroyed. Lastly, the fourth Act was the Quartering Act of 1774, which gave the royal governors the permission to house British troops in the homes of citizens, even without the permission of the owner(s). This move elicited strong opposition from the colonists who felt that people have rights, which should not be violated by the government.
Progression of the War
Another interesting development leading to the war was Lexington and Concord battles. In April 1775, the British soldiers were ordered to Lexington to seize control of the colonial gunpowder stores. During the same period, the troops were also ordered to arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock. At Lexington, fighting ensued and this led to the death of eight Americans. At Concord, an open conflict ensued, and this led to the death of 70 British troops; the heavy number of casualties forced the British troops to retreat. The British troops had been sent to Concord to destroy military supplies that had reportedly been stored there. However, the colonists had received information about the search in advance, and managed to hide some of the supplies to safety. The colonists had also received details of the British plans on the night before the attack, and this information was useful in countering the British troops.
The local militias organized by the colonists outnumbered the British troops, who had to retreat to avoid losing more soldiers and as the British troops retreated towards Boston, more casualties were inflicted. The troops were rescued by reinforcements sent from Lexington.
While George Washington became the commander of the continental army, the British sent troops to cover the coastline. Finally, Congress declared the independence of United States in 1776, claiming that the leadership of George III of Great Britain was autocratic; all the states unanimously sanctioned the United States Declaration of Independence. During the initial stages of the revolution war, the British were able to capture the coastlines (due to their naval superiority), but lost control of the countryside (due to the small number of their army). For example, the British lost control of the Boston, but took control of New York, and later captured Philadelphia.
The ideological movement behind the American Revolution was known as American Enlightenment and it was a crucial precursor to the revolution. The people behind the movement believed in the concepts of republicanism and liberalism. As more colonists began to appreciate these concepts, the movement provided the intellectual environment necessary for providing a new social and political identity. Another event which partly contributed to the American Revolution was the 1763 proclamation.
The Proclamation of 1763 prohibited settlement beyond the Appalachian Mountains. Although the British were not interested in hurting the people, the colonists saw it from another angle and felt offended by the move. Later, in 1778, as the British Army lost to the American Army at Saratoga, the French entered into the war as United States allies. Later, Spain and Netherlands joined the war as allies of France. The entry of French troops in the war was decisive because three years later (in 1981), a combined American-French Army captured Yorktown. The British Army surrendered at Yorktown, and this gave way for the Treaty of Paris in 1783.
The Battle of Yorkshire in 1781 gave the Americans a decisive victory. American troops led by General George Washington, in cooperation with French forces led by General Rochambeau inflicted heavy casualties to the British Army, who had no option other than giving up. The British lost 309 soldiers in the battle, and more than 8,000 soldiers were captured; this development gave way to negotiations, which resulted into the Treaty of Paris in 1783.
The treaty not only confirmed separation of the United States from the British Empire, but also recognized the country as an independent- sovereign state. The new territory of United States stretched from Mississippi River in the west, Florida to the south and Canada to the north.
In summary, the American Revolutionary War was a war fought by opposition forces of the same nation, but in a foreign soil. Nevertheless, the Americans would not have won the war without assistance from the French troops. However, the British were at a military disadvantage due to logistical challenges. First of all, distance was a major stumbling block for the British because they had to rely on supplies shipped from across the Atlantic Ocean. Secondly, while the British troops operated from the port cities, the colonists easily controlled the countryside since they had local sources of manpower and were more familiar with the territory than the British troops. Moreover, by the time the British generals in America received their orders, usually, the situation had already changed hence the communication would be out of date.
Also, the huge size of the colonies meant that the British lacked enough troops to keep each colony under control by force. After capturing an area, the British needed troops to control the area from revolutionaries, but the troops would not be available. Although the British troops could defeat the Americans on the battlefield, the troops were not sufficient to occupy all the colonies simultaneously. The shortage of manpower was decisive when France and Spain joined the war because the British troops had to cover so many areas, and they had to be dispersed to protect several territories. Apart from these challenges, the British had a hard time maintaining the allegiance of their loyalists.
The British required support of the loyalists, since the main objective of the war was to maintain the colonies under the British Empire; however, this posed some serious limitations to the British military. The British could not also recruit salves and Native Americans to fight the war since this move would have alienated the loyalists. The need to retain the loyalists also meant that the British could not use abrasive means to counter the rebellion. Nonetheless, moderate colonists became revolutionaries as the war progressed, and the combination of all these factors eventually led to the downfall of British. With entry of France, Netherlands and Spain into the war, the fall of the British rule in America became imminent, and it was only a matter of time before United States of America became an independent nation.
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