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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Major General Charles Grey (portrait by Joseph Collyer)
In September 1778, as part of British operations in the American Revolutionary War, Major General Charles Grey raided the Massachusetts communities of New Bedford, Fairhaven and Martha's Vineyard. The raid was one of the first in a series between 1778 and 1781 executed by the British against American coastal communities.

On September 5 and 6 Grey raided New Bedford and Fairhaven, only encountering significant resistance in Fairhaven. His troops destroyed storehouses, shipping, and supplies in New Bedford, where they met with light resistance from the local militia, and did less damage at Fairhaven, where militia resistance had time to organize. He then sailed for Martha's Vineyard, which was undefended. Between September 10 and 15 its residents surrendered 10,000 head of sheep and 300 oxen, as well as most of the island's weapons.


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Yorktown80.JPG
Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, by John Trumbull
Credit: Itsmine
In 1820, John Trumbull painted this depiction of Lord Cornwallis surrendering at Yorktown, however, neither George Washington or Lord Cornwallis participated directly

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Lord Cornwallis.jpg
Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquis Cornwallis (31 December 1738 – 5 October 1805) was a British military commander and colonial governor. In the United States, he is best remembered as one of the leading British generals in the American Revolutionary War. Born into an aristocratic family with a history of public service, he first saw military action in the Seven Years' War. He was politically opposed to the American Revolutionary War, but agreed to serve when it became clear that Britain would require a significant military presence in the Thirteen Colonies. First arriving in May 1776, he participated in the Battle of Sullivan's Island, before joining the main army under General William Howe. He played a notable role in the partially-successful New York and New Jersey campaign when George Washington successfully eluded him after the Battle of the Assunpink Creek and inflicted a decisive defeat on troops left at his rear in the Battle of Princeton.

Cornwallis was also involved in the Philadelphia campaign (1777–1778), leading a wing of Howe's army, before he became one of the leading figures of the British "southern strategy" to gain control of the southern colonies. In that role he successfully led troops that gained a measure of control and influence in South Carolina before heading into North Carolina. There, despite successes like his victory at the Battle of Camden, which burnished his reputation, wings of his army were decisively defeated at Kings Mountain and Cowpens. After a Pyrrhic victory at Greensboro, North Carolina, Cornwallis moved his battered army to Wilmington to rest and resupply.

From Wilmington, Cornwallis, in a move that became a subject of contemporary and historical debate, led his army into Virginia, where he joined with other British troops that had been raiding economic and military targets in that colony. Ineffectually opposed by a smaller Continental Army under the Marquis de Lafayette, he was eventually ordered to establish a well-defended port by General Henry Clinton. Poor communications in the British establishment and French naval superiority over the Chesapeake Bay led him to become entrapped at Yorktown without the possibility of reinforcement; he surrendered after three weeks of siege, on October 17, 1781. He was released on parole, and returned to England in December of that year. He and his superior in New York, General Henry Clinton, engaged in a highly public exchange after the 1781 campaign in which each sought to deflect blame for its failure.

Following his North American service, Cornwallis was posted to India in 1786, where, as governor-general and commander in chief, he reformed the British East India Company operations, promulgated civil, criminal, and judicial reforms, and introduced land taxation reforms known as the Permanent Settlement that had long-term ramifications. After guiding British forces to victory in the Third Anglo-Mysore War, he returned to England. In 1798 he was posted to Ireland, where he oversaw the aftermath of the Irish Rebellion, promoted the union of the British and Irish crowns, and argued for Catholic emancipation. In 1805 he was again posted to India, where he died a few months after his arrival.


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Cannon at Washington Crossing Park, Pennsylvania
The 4th Continental Artillery Regiment, also known as Proctor's Continental Artillery Regiment, was an American military unit during the American Revolutionary War. The regiment became part of the Continental Army on 10 June 1777 as Colonel Thomas Proctor's Continental Artillery Regiment. It was made up of eight artillery companies from eastern Pennsylvania. At the time of the regiment's formation, two companies were already in existence, one from as early as October 1775. One company served at Trenton in December 1776 where it performed well in action. In February 1777, Pennsylvania expanded its two-company battalion into an eight-company regiment. After officially joining the Continental Army, the regiment saw much fighting in the Philadelphia campaign in late 1777. Elements of Proctor's Regiment fought at Monmouth in June 1778 and joined the Sullivan Expedition to upstate New York in summer 1779. In January 1781 the regiment was sent south with General Anthony Wayne, where it participated in the Yorktown campaign, culminating in the October 1781 Siege of Yorktown. The regiment was disbanded in November 1783.


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