The New World offered the American Colonists an opportunity to unshackle themselves from the rule of the Old World. In the late 18th century, the British Empire had a chokehold on the 13 colonies, with taxes on everything from tea to stamps. British troops were garrisoned in villager’s homes and many other complaints were filed against the Crown.
A group of lawyers and landowners began a movement to change things. Around 6% of the American colonial population joined up to fight the British in our war for independence. The war for American Independence was built on ideals, developed by philosophers in the New World, that people were granted with the inalienable rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Americans responded to the war on British aggression with a strong group of diverse colonists composed of white patriots, native Americans and freed slaves, hell-bent on fighting for a free nation. Here are some of the battles that shaped the outcome of the American Revolutionary War.
These battles cost the lives of many a Patriot, but the outcome created the most free society in the history of mankind.
#1 Battle of Concord
At Concord, tensions turned to “shots fired”. American colonists, fed up with the unreasonable taxes imposed on them by the British via the Stamp Act of 1765, and irate about the 1770 massacre of Bostonians, lost their cool and turned to the musket for action.
In the northeast colonies, toward the end of the 18th century, civil unrest quickly turned to open warfare when colonists stood up to British rule at the North Bridge in Concord in the spring of 1775. Colonists opened fire at British troops maneuvering into Concord with orders to disarm the local populace. This action, though not a pitched battle, was the first skirmish in the Revolutionary War and was the “shot heard around the world”. The town of Concord went on to celebrate and fight for liberty throughout the 19th century by serving as a anti-slavery hub and a safe, stop-off location for runaway slaves travelling the underground railroad.
#2 Battle of Bunker Hill
Today in Charlestown, MA, stands the 221 foot monument that marks the battle of Bunker Hill, that took place in the hills above Boston on 17 June 1775. The battle was a loss for the colonists but it also proved to be a “Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon” moment for the young Americans. The die had been cast against far superior British forces and it appeared that violent resistance would not be enough to gain independence. Diplomacy would not be the solution. A long, drawn out war would be inevitable.
As the 2000 plus British troops began landing in preparation to take the “high ground” above Boston. A 1000 colonial Minutemen prepared breastworks on Breed Hill in hopes of stopping the aggressor’s advance. After receiving supporting bombardment of the hill from British Navy frigates in the harbor, the Redcoats advanced on the hill defended by the colonists, led by Colonel William Prescott, in long red columns. Colonel Prescott ordered his lightly armed and equipped volunteers, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!” As the British charged, the colonists opened up with their flintlocks, sending a barrage of lead balls toward the professional army, sending them retreating back down the hill. The British troops charged again, and were turned away, then again, a third time. By then, the American Colonel’s men were out of powder and ball. The battle culminated in hand-to-hand combat and the embattled Patriots were forced to retreat, not without inflicting a thousand casualties to the shaken British troops. Three weeks after Bunker Hill, America’s savior, General Geroge Washington would report to Cambridge, Massachusetts to take over command of the Continental Army.
#3 Battle of Trenton
The turning point of the American Revolutionary War was the remarkable Battle of Trenton. Similar to the Navy Battle of Midway (between 4 and 7 June, 1942), Americans were able to deceive and defeat superior forces and turn the tide of war in their favor. General Washington wove together a strategy that incorporated human intelligence and deception that enabled victory over a fine fighting force, the German Hessians (hired soldiers), who were caught sleeping and on their heels.
General George Washington and his men crossed the Delaware: the same river that gave them natural protection earlier that year as the General shaped the battlefield in his favor thus putting off a major conflict with the advancing British Army. They crossed on a snowy Christmas night in 1776, just five months after our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. They caught the 1,200 sleepy and intoxicated Hessians by surprise. Washington’s spies had infiltrated Trenton and had reported back that there were some holes in the security plan (The enemy leadership believed Washigton would not attack on Christmas nor would he be able to cross the river due to foul weather and ice floes). They were wrong. The Continental Army marched 9 miles east to Trenton, NJ where they executed a surprise attack on the Hessians. The Hessians fired back on the Americans but ended up surrendering within the hour. The young American army captured 900 German Hessians along with captured cannons, muskets and powder. General Washington dealt a strategic blow to the Britiish by improving American morale, enlistments and faith of the Contienenal Congress in his abilities on the battlefield.
#4 Battle of Saratoga
The Battle of Saratoga proved to the French government that the young American colonies had the will and the ability to defeat the British and gain independence. This was critical to our success in the second year of the American Revolution. Not only did the French provide crucial funding and supplies to the fledgling American government and Continental Army, they also brought the fight directly to the British on land and on the sea.
In the fall of 1777, in order to quash the rebellion once and for all, the British began moving to take Upstate New York and control the waterway of the Hudson River. A decisive blow that would sever the colonies would certainly discourage potential allies, like the French from joining the rebels. At Freeman’s farm, just outside Saratoga, NY, British General Burgoyne and his 7,200 British infantry, loyal Canadians and German Hessians met Generals Hortio Gates’ and Benedict Arnold’s 9,000 American Infantryman. The battle raged on for hours. The British suffered twice the casualties as the Continental Army and their plan to take Albany had been squashed. As Burgoyne waited for re-supply and reinforcement, the number of American Patriots grew to over 12,000. The British General ended up facing the fact that him and his men had no options, so he surrendered his army to General Gates. The Americans had busted the British plan to divide and conquer and their plans fell apart. The battle solidified the support of France, Spain and the Dutch for the remaining of the war. Eventually the cannonballs from French ships would ensure a victory for the Colonials at the final battle for Yorktown. So next time you’re in Paris, thank a Frenchie.
#5 Battle of Charleston
Historians consider this action is the Southern Colonies as a minor action in the Revolutionary War, however, the denial of a major American port by a small force of brave Patriots had lasting effects on the confidence and support for independence on the people of the South.
General Charles Lee and Colonel William Moultrie, turned their 1,175 men and 26 cannons into a force to be reckoned with as they defended the port city of Charleston, South Carolina. The British commander and his far superior forces of 2,900 men, 262 guns and 20 ships attempted a siege of the port city on June 28th, 1776. The goal was to capture a major port city in the southern colonies from which bases could be established to conduct inland raids and attacks. The siege was foiled by the outnumbered American Patriot force as they fired volleys of cannon fire at the British ships attempting to enter the harbor. Overwhelmed by the cannonfire, the British fleet turned tail and sailed North. The attempt to capture Charleston had failed. Several days later the South Carolina delegation to the Continental Congress votes “yes” for independence.
#6 Battle of Yorktown
The Yorktown campaign signaled the end of the American Revolutionary war with a defeat dealt by the American Continental Army, under General George Washington, over the British army of General Cornwallis.
With American and Frence infantry and Naval forces surrounding the army of Cornwallis in the fall of 1781, he began to negotiate terms of surrender with the superior forces. After several days of negotiations, the terms of surrender were finalized even though General Cornwallis was not present. With thousands of British troops prisoner and the British Army on it’s heals the two nations began deliberations that would end up resolved in the Treaty of Paris. An agreement between King George III and the American Government that officially ended the American Revolution. Many modern day borders were established in this treaty and it recognized the United States as a free and sovereign state. Most beautiful.
All of these things happened. And it was beautiful. A new nation formed based on an idea and then a document that has survived many generations. Continue to seek the truth in history and you will find that many great men and women sacrificed and gave the most so that we can be free in a world where, in many cases, life is cheap. God bless America and her wonderful people.
#7 Battle of Quebec
American commanders, General Richard Montgomery and Colonel Benedict Arnold hoped to deliver a crushing blow to the British by taking the walled city of Quebec. Capturing the British controlled city would send a message to the world that America had the will and capacity to win the war.
After General Montgomery had marched up from Lake Champlian and took the Canadian city of Montreal, he met up with Colonel Arnold and his forces who were waiting at the gates of Quebec for resupply and reinforcements. The Americans demanded that the provincial governor surrender the city, but he refused. So, on New Years Eve, 1775, the American forces marched on the city only to find that the British were well prepared for the assault. The Americans faced intense cannon and musket fire from the British. So much so, they lost their leader, General Montomery to a fatal shot to the head. Colonel Arnold, himself having been wounded called off the attack. The Americans suffered more than 400 casualties while the British losses were minor. The attack had failed and the new American Army was dealt its first major defeat.
#8 Battle of King’s Mountain
During the fall of 1780, Southern American Patriots delivered a blow to those still loyal to the crown - the Tories, also known as Loyalists. The battle turned out to be the largest American on American battle during the war.
The Patriotic Americans used the element of surprise to engage the Loyalist effort to surround and meet up with the Army of General Cornwallis. Patriot militiamen had the upper hand on the retreating Loyalist army and even killed their leader, British Major Patrick Ferguson. General Cornwallis had planned on joining up with the Loyalists in the South and North from South Carolina for the British but the plans and victories of the Patriots dismissed any chances that these areas would fall to the tyrants. The British and their allies were over-extended and could not sustain a war in the American frontier.
#9 Battle of Cowpens
The Battle of Cowpens was the turning point of the war for the Southern Colonies during the Revolutionary War. American forces began taking back territory and towns from the British in the Carolinas.
A small and mobile force of the Southern Continental Army was mobilized on the North and South Carolina border to harass the Army of Lieutenant Colonel Sir Banastre Tarleton, who in turn had been assigned by the British to quell the actions of Brigadier General Daniel Morgan.
Near the Broad River, Morgan’s superior force used the tactic of defense-in-depth tactic to wear down the British Army and eventually overrun it. Tarleton's Army was wiped out and was no longer an effective fighting force in the Carolinas. The battle lead to more poor tactical decisions by the British General Cornwallis until he was finally defeated at the Siege of Yorktown in October of 1781.
#10 Battle of Rhode Island
We failed in our attempt to free Rhode Island from the clutches of the British and demonstrated to the world that our alliance with the French would not bring a speedy end to the war and independence for the United States. The battle in the northern New England saw the largest engagement of forces, 17,000 total men in all. The battle for Newport was intended to liberate a port city that had been held by the British since 1776, but would end up in stalemate. Newport would be held by the Brits for another year.