Portal:American Revolutionary War

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The American Revolutionary War Portal

Clockwise from top left: Battle of Bunker Hill, Death of Montgomery at Quebec, Battle of Cowpens, "Moonlight Battle"
The American Revolutionary War began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen united former British colonies on the North American continent, and ended in a global war between several European great powers. The war was the culmination of the political American Revolution and intellectual American Enlightenment, whereby the colonists rejected the right of the Parliament of Great Britain to govern them without representation. In 1775, revolutionaries gained control of each of the thirteen colonial governments, set up an alliance called the Second Continental Congress, and formed a Continental Army. Petitions to the king to intervene with the parliament on their behalf resulted in Congress being declared traitors and the states in rebellion the following year. The Americans responded by formally declaring their independence as a new nation, the United States of America, claiming sovereignty and rejecting any allegiance to the British monarchy. In 1777 the Continentals captured a British army, leading to France entering the war on the side of the Americans in early 1778, and evening the military strength with Britain. Spain and the Dutch Republic – French allies – also went to war with Britain over the next two years.

Throughout the war, the British were able to use their naval superiority to capture and occupy coastal cities, but control of the countryside (where 90% of the population lived) largely eluded them due to their relatively small land army. French involvement proved decisive, with a French naval victory in the Chesapeake leading to the surrender of a second British army at Yorktown in 1781. In 1783, the Treaty of Paris ended the war and recognized the sovereignty of the United States over the territory bounded by what is now Canada to the north, Florida to the south, and the Mississippi River to the west.

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A 1975 painting depicting the Battle of Trenton by Charles McBarron
The Battle of Trenton took place on December 26, 1776, after General George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River north of Trenton, New Jersey. The hazardous crossing in adverse weather allowed Washington to lead the main body of the Continental Army against Hessian soldiers garrisoned at Trenton. After a brief struggle, nearly the entire Hessian force was captured, with negligible losses to the Americans. The battle boosted the Continental Army's flagging morale, and inspired re-enlistments.

Despite the battle's small numbers, its effect was enormous throughout the colonies. The revolution itself had been in doubt only a week earlier, and the army seemed on the verge of collapse. However, with this victory, soldiers agreed to stay and new recruits came and joined the ranks.


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Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, MMA-NYC, 1851.jpg
Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851)
Credit: Emanuel Leutze
On the night of December 25–26, 1776, George Washington led a force of 2,400 across the Delaware River which surprised and captured the Hessian force located at Trenton, New Jersey

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Portrait attributed to Andrea Soldi, painted circa 1762–1765
General Sir Henry Clinton KB (16 April 1730 – 23 December 1795) was a British army officer and politician, best known for his service as a general during the American War of Independence, during most of which he was the British Commander-in-Chief in North America. In addition to his military service, due to the influence of the 2nd Duke of Newcastle, he was a Member of Parliament and the Governor of Gibraltar.

He came from a noble family that could trace its lineage to 1066 and had a long history of service to the Crown. The son of George Clinton, an admiral of the fleet, Sir Henry Clinton had two sons who continued the family tradition of high command: General Sir William Henry Clinton (1769–1846), and Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton (1771–1829).


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Philadelphia on display at the National Museum of American History
Philadelphia was a gunboat (referred to in contemporary documents as a gundalow or gondola) of the Continental Navy. Manned by Continental Army soldiers, she was part of a fleet which, under the command of General Benedict Arnold, fought in the Battle of Valcour Island against a larger Royal Navy fleet on Lake Champlain in October 1776. Although many of the American boats in the battle were damaged in the October 11 battle, Philadelphia was one of the few that actually sank that day. In 1935 amateur military marine archaeologist Lorenzo Hagglund located her remains standing upright at the bottom of Lake Champlain, and had her raised. Bequeathed to the Smithsonian Institution in 1961, Philadelphia and associated artifacts are part of the permanent collection of the National Museum of American History, in Washington, D.C. She is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a National Historic Landmark.


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