America was ruled by the British

The War of Independence

-> about the course of the war

War of Independence, North American, also American Revolution (1776-1783), war between the 13 British colonies on the east coast of North America and the mother country Great Britain, at the end of which a new, independent state, the United States of America, was founded.

The reasons
The Seven Years' War in Europe (1756-1763) and the simultaneous British-French colonial war in North America had led to the withdrawal of the French from North America and the assumption of rule by Great Britain; Great Britain had become the political and economic supremacy in the western hemisphere and on the world's oceans. Since 1760, Great Britain has been ruled by King George III, who, as the crisis between Great Britain and its American colonies intensified, proved unable to ensure political stability and clear objectives.

The stamp file
During the Seven Years' War the British had to realize that the Americans were disregarding the Navigational Act; in addition, the colonial assemblies refused to provide troops and equipment. After the war ended, Britain was heavily in debt and had an expensive obligation to administer the newly gained territories in North America. The British therefore wanted to strictly enforce the navigation act and to collect a contribution to the defense costs of the kingdom from the colonists, who were hardly burdened with taxes. The British Parliament therefore passed the Stamp Act in March 1765 to increase tax revenue in the colonies. The tax revenue was intended to cover the cost of deploying the 10,000 British soldiers who were to serve on the western border of the colonies.

The stamp act was rejected almost unanimously by the colonies because they saw it as a violation of their rights. They insisted on a federal system and a separation of powers between the colonies and Great Britain. From the beginning, the assemblies in the colonies were modeled on parliament and had independently regulated internal affairs such as tax collection, the formation of an army and control of the judiciary, and the motherland was primarily responsible for matters such as declarations of peace and war, foreign policy, trade, Postal system and questions that concerned the Indians, responsible. The colonists believed that the Stamp Act contradicted the Constitution, which did not allow British citizens to be taxed without parliamentary representation. The Act undermined the independence of the assemblies in the colonies and appeared as a step towards restricting the freedom of the colonies.

There was a wave of protest against the stamp file. In the months before the law came into effect in November 1765, riots broke out in North American port cities, organized by the secret society of the Sons of Liberty. In a resolution, the assemblies declared the stamp act to be illegal and called on the British Parliament to withdraw the law. A simultaneous boycott of British goods brought trade between Britain and America to a virtual standstill. In October 1765, representatives from nine of the 13 colonies met for the Stamp Act Congress and addressed a letter of appeal to Parliament and the King in Great Britain. When the British Parliament finally withdrew the stamp file in March 1766, this was done on the basis of a petition from the economically damaged British merchants; the colonies' constitutional objections to taxation had played no role in this.

The Townshend Laws
With the withdrawal of the stamp file, Great Britain's financial problems remained unsolved. In 1767, at the insistence of Finance Minister Charles Townshend, Parliament passed the Townshend Acts, which imposed taxes on certain imports from Great Britain in the colonies.

Protests broke out again. The Massachusetts legislature sent a circular to the remaining colonies condemning the Townshend laws and calling for united resistance. The British representatives threatened the Massachusetts General Court with dissolution if it did not withdraw the circular; the court rejected this request by 92 votes to 17 and was dissolved. The other colonial parliaments, defiant and indignant at this British interference in the legislature of the colonies, signed the circular.

Tensions between the colonies and the motherland erupted on June 21, 1768 when British customs officials confiscated the schooner from a Boston trader. The Bostonians took to the streets by the thousands, driving the customs officers out of town; Great Britain then sent about 4,000 soldiers to Boston to protect its officials.

The hostilities between the Bostonians and the British troops reached a temporary climax in March 1770 in the Boston massacre: British troops fired into the crowd for no reason and killed five Bostonians. The anger of the colonists against the colonial power grew.

Giving in to the trade boycott of the colonies, the British Parliament under Prime Minister Lord Frederick North finally withdrew the Townshend laws in 1770 - with the exception of the tea tax, which was intended to uphold and represent the right of the motherland to tax the colonies. In 1773 the British Parliament passed the Tea Act, which lowered taxes on tea imported into the colonies to the point where tea could officially be offered in America below the price of smuggled goods. But the colonists refused to buy English tea and saw the Tea Act as another violation of their constitutional right not to be taxed without parliamentary representation. In Philadelphia and New York, the colonists refused to dismantle British tea ships; in Boston, at the so-called Boston Tea Party, some citizens boarded the British ships and threw tea into the water.

The Coercive Acts
In return, the British Parliament passed a series of coercive acts in 1774, which the colonists regarded as intolerable acts. To enforce the Coercive Acts overseas, Parliament appointed the British Army Commander in North America, Thomas Gage, Governor of Massachusetts. The colonists saw in the Coercive Acts another attempt to deny them their rights as British citizens, to dissolve their assemblies and to unite the military and civil power in the colonies under British suzerainty.

The First Continental Congress
The Coercive Acts united the colonies in their opposition to the British government. The Virginia Assembly convened a meeting of representatives from the 13 colonies and Canada to discuss joint action against Great Britain. This First Continental Congress took place in Philadelphia in September 1774.

The congress was not about independence from Great Britain, but about defining the rights of the colonies and delimiting them from the British Parliament and adopting tactical measures against the Coercive Acts. In October, delegates announced the Declaration of Rights and Grievances, which denied the UK Parliament the right to collect taxes and legislate; the British Parliament should only be allowed to control trade. Congress also passed the Continental Association calling on all colonies to cease trading with Great Britain until the Coercive Acts are withdrawn. Then the Congress adjourned to May 1775; by this time the war between Great Britain and the colonies had already started.

Lexington and Concord
The first armed conflict of the North American War of Independence took place in Massachusetts; here, in Boston, there were about 3,500 British soldiers stationed. The colonies maintained militias that could quickly be reorganized into a volunteer army; Ammunition and weapons were administered by Committees of Safety, which were subordinate to the colonial assemblies. On April 18, 1775, Gage sent 800 soldiers from Boston to Concord, 29 kilometers away, to confiscate the ammunition stored there. Early in the morning of April 19, British troops and a unit of the militia engaged in a skirmish near Lexington; the British marched on in the direction of Concord, but there, despite reinforcements, had to surrender to the militia and retreat to Boston. The militias then gathered around Boston and besieged the city from April 20, 1775 until the British withdrew on March 17, 1776.

The Second Continental Congress and the Siege of Boston
The Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia on May 10, 1775, and had to deal with the fact that the colonies of New England had taken up arms against the king's troops. The delegates turned Congress into the central government of the "United Colonies of America", recruited the militias that had participated in the siege of Boston as their own "Continental Army" and unanimously elected George Washington as Commander-in-Chief on June 15. Most Americans, however, did not yet think of war, but hoped for a reconciliation with Great Britain; so Congress passed the Olive Branch Petition, in which Americans show their loyalty to King George III. affirmed.

In the meantime Gage had increased his troops to 8,000 men and was occupying the heights to the north and south of Boston. The colonists with their 1,200-strong militia had been informed of this plan in good time and took countermeasures. In the following Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17th, the colonists suffered a defeat after initial successes against the vastly superior British Army.

News of the Battle of Bunker Hill and the Olive Branch petition reached London at the same time. George III refused to accept the petition and on 23 August declared the New England riots a rebellion against the motherland. When the magnitude of the British casualties in the Battle of Bunker Hill - some 1,000 dead and wounded - became known, the British government realized that the conflict between the colonies and the motherland had taken on the dimensions of war. Gage was replaced by William Howe.

On July 2, 1775, Washington took command of the 13,000 to 17,000 men in the Continental Army. In the winter of 1775/76 59 heavy artillery pieces could be brought to Boston, and at the beginning of March 1776 Washington took up position on the heights in the south of Boston with its new artillery position. Howe recognized both the need to storm that position if he was to keep Boston and the futility of such an enterprise; on March 17th he sailed with 12,000 men for Halifax, Nova Scotia.


The British invasion of the north

Washington was under no illusion that Howe's departure from Boston would end the attempt to subdue the colonies. He foresaw that New York, with its large harbor and direct access to the inland via the Hudson, would be the most likely option for a British invasion.

While the Continental Congress in Philadelphia was discussing a declaration of independence, George Washington was preparing for the British invasion in New York. On June 29, 1776, a British fleet under Admiral Richard Howe reached New Jersey. On board was the largest and most expensive force that Great Britain had ever sent to the cononies, a total of 32,000 men, among them
8,000 German mercenaries, including from Hessen-Kassel, Braunschweig and Hessen-Hanau. Washington had fewer than 20,000 men at its disposal.

In the meantime, especially since Thomas Paine's publication Common Sense in January 1776, acceptance of independence from Great Britain grew among Americans. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress passed the Declaration of Independence, according to which the colonies "are free and independent states and should be legal". The Americans no longer saw themselves as insurgent British, but as citizens of a sovereign state that fended off an attack by a foreign power.

On August 22, 1776, the British troops went ashore near New York. As a result, the American troops were pushed back and suffered defeat in the Battle of Long Island. After further, undecided skirmishes, Washington had to retreat southwest through New Jersey to Pennsylvania. Convinced that the Americans were completely defeated and that the Continental Congress would seek peace, Howe refrained from pursuing Washington.

Howe had correctly assessed the weakness of the American army by the end of 1776. It consisted of fewer than 3,000 poorly equipped and hungry soldiers. Total defeat and the end of the young state seemed to have come. But on Christmas Eve Washington was able to overcome about 1,200 Hessian soldiers in a surprise attack near Trenton and on January 3 at the Battle of Princeton put three British regiments to flight. The British withdrew to New York and left control of New Jersey to the strengthened American army.

With their campaign of 1777, the British wanted to drive a wedge between New England and the southern colonies and crush the rebellion by the end of the year. However, their plan was too complex to be implemented successfully in view of the poor means of communication. After some initial successes, the British troops under John Burgoyne, who had advanced south from Canada, suffered a defeat at Saratoga and surrendered to the Continental Army on October 17th.

Howe advanced in the meantime on Philadelphia without Washington could stop him and marched into Philadelphia on September 26; the Continental Congress fled first to York, Pennsylvania, and then to Baltimore. On October 4, Washington attacked Howe near Germantown, was repulsed after hard fighting and withdrew with about 11,000 men to Valley Forge in the winter quarters. A little later he was joined by the Prussian officer Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben and provided him with valuable help in training the Continental Army into a powerful army.

The alliance with France

The year 1777 is considered to be the turning point in the War of Independence. France, defeated by Great Britain in 1763, had secretly given the colonies support in the form of money and arms since the beginning of the revolution. The American victory at Saratoga and Washington's fighting at Germantown convinced the French that the Americans had a good chance of winning the war. In February 1778, France recognized the independence of the colonies and signed a trade treaty and alliance with the new state. In April 1778 a French fleet sailed to America under Graf d'Estaing. Sir Henry Clinton, who had succeeded William Howe as commander of British forces in Philadelphia, evacuated the city in the face of the threat and marched north. Washington pursued him, attacked him on June 28 at Monmouth Courthouse without success and was forced to withdraw.

The French fleet reached North America at the beginning of July, but could not do anything against the British fleet for the time being and withdrew to the West Indies at the beginning of November.

The turn

In 1779, neither the American Army nor the British Armed Forces were able to conduct large-scale military operations, but the Americans had an advantage. Washington had succeeded in preventing the British from retaking the northern states until it had assembled a well-trained continental army to support the militias. In early 1779, the Americans received further assistance in their struggle against the British: Spain had joined France and Britain was faced with the prospect of a European war. As a result, the British withdrew more and more sea and land forces from America.

British operations in the south

In view of the surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga, France's entry into the war and increasing parliamentary opposition, the British government changed its strategy: it was now planning the gradual recapture of the southern states, followed by an advance northwards. They built on the southern loyalists, who it was hoped would rise to drive the rebels out and who would later take over civilian government.The British adopted this strategy on dubious advice from exiles; However, they had greatly exaggerated in terms of the number and assertiveness of the loyalists. On December 29, 1778, a 3,500-strong British unit from New York took Savannah and then took control of other places in Georgia. By the summer of 1799, the Americans had some minor successes against British fortresses in the west and north.

In the south, the situation developed to the disadvantage of the Americans: on October 9, 1779, the American armed forces joined forces with the French under d'Estaing in an assault on Savannah and were repulsed by the British. D’Estaing sailed back to France after this operation. The Americans were then encircled by a superior British force in Charleston and surrendered in May 1780.

In South Carolina on August 16, the British routed American units near Camden; in return, the Americans were able to overpower British troops on October 7 at Kings Mountain and on January 17, 1781 at Cowpens. In North Carolina, the fighting initially brought no decision; but eventually the Americans managed to take control of the entire Carolina hinterland.

The way to peace

Washington had waited two years for a decision in the war. A secret service under the direction of Benjamin Franklin, one of the American representatives in Paris, kept him informed of the situation in Great Britain and France. Franklin's reports led Washington to believe that Britain would soon be speaking out against continuing the war. Another British military failure, as in Saratoga, would force the king and his ministers to make peace and recognize America's independence. A victory over the British could only be achieved in association with France, especially with the French Navy. Franklin was able to persuade the French government to intervene again in North America; and the French Navy was well equipped and prepared for war. In March 1781, 29 French warships set course for North America.

In mid-August Washington decided to attack the British under Cornwallis at Yorktown. The French fleet reached the Cape of Chesapeake at Yorktown on August 30th, drove out the British fleet and arrested Cornwallis' army. The Virginia militia and some 16,000 American and French soldiers besieged Yorktown under Washington's command. Cornwallis made several attempts to break the opponent's lines; on October 19, 1781 he had to surrender.

The peace of Paris

Yorktown marked the end of the war in North America; the Peace of Paris was not signed until almost two years later, on September 3, 1783. In this treaty, Great Britain recognized the independence of its former North American colonies, the United States of America.

Washington, to which the American victory was primarily due, was bid farewell to its officers in New York on December 4, 1783; on December 23, he returned his command to Congress and withdrew into private life for the time being