The American Revolution was an event in the second half of the 18th century which saw the successful revolt of the Thirteen British colonies in North America against the British Empire. The population of the colonies was itself divided into Patriots, who supported the revolution; and the Loyalists, who wanted British rule to continue. The revolution began with protests against tax imposed by Britain as the revolutionaries believed that they were being taxed by a British Parliament to which they elected no representatives. The Boston Massacre in 1770 and the Boston Tea Party in 1773 were key events leading to the American Revolutionary War. The first shots were fired during the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. The following year, the Continental Congress passed the Declaration of Independence which, among other things, stated that the colonies regarded themselves as thirteen independent sovereign states, no longer under British rule. The Siege of Yorktown from September 28 to October 19, 1781 was the last major battle of the Revolutionary War as it forced the British to negotiate an end to the conflict. The Peace of Paris in 1783 brought the war to an end with the United States being recognized as an independent nation. Here are the 10 most important events of the American Revolution.

 

#1 The Stamp Act of 1765

Date: March 22, 1765

British colonies in America Map
Map of the 13 British colonies in America

The Seven Years’ War was a conflict between a Britain led coalition and a French led coalition which was fought between 1756 and 1763. In America, the French and Indian War happened around the same time pitting the British colonies in America against New France, area colonized by France in America. Though the British won both these wars, it came at a huge cost. Britain tried to extract the cost of its standing army in America as well as lessen its financial burden by taxing its Thirteen Colonies in America. In March 1765, the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act of 1765. This was the first time that Britain had imposed direct taxes on the colonies. The Act required that many printed documents including legal documents, magazines, newspapers and even playing cards, had to be produced on stamped paper made in London, carrying an embossed revenue stamp. The colonists protested to the taxes, not because they were high, but due to the fact that they were being taxed by a British Parliament to which they elected no representatives. This grievance of “no taxation without representation” was one of the focal points of dissent between the colonists and the Britishers. Due to widespread protest by the colonists, the Stamp Act was repealed on March 18, 1766 by King George III. However, the seeds of conflict which would lead to the Revolution had been sown.

 

#2 Boston Massacre

Date: March 5, 1770

Portrayal of Boston Massacre
A sensationalized famous portrayal of Boston Massacre by Paul Revere

On June 10, 1768, in Boston, Massachusetts, British custom officials seized HMS Liberty, a sailing boat, for alleged smuggling. This resulted in a riot due to which the custom officials were forced to flee. This, in turn, led to the 14th and 29th regiments of the British army being stationed at Boston to support crown-appointed officials. The presence of these troops further increased the already rising tensions in Boston. On March 5, 1770, after an altercation with an apprentice of a wig-maker, a British Private Hugh White was surrounded by Bostonians. Seven British soldiers with bayonets then moved through the crowd to rescue White. They became surrounded by a crowd of around 200 Bostonians, who threw snowballs, oyster shells and debris at them; and dared them to shoot. In the confusion, the British soldiers fired at the crowd even though they weren’t ordered to do so. This resulted in 11 people being hit; three died on the spot while two were mortally wounded. This event became known as the Boston Massacre. Six of the eight soldiers were acquitted while the other two were given reduced sentences. The Boston Massacre is regarded as one of the most important causes of the American Revolution as it decisively turned colonial sentiment against King George III and British Parliamentary authority.

 

#3 Boston Tea Party

Date: December 16, 1773

Depiction of Boston Tea Party
Boston Tea Party – Iconic 1846 lithograph by Nathaniel Currier

On May 10, 1773, the Tea Act was enforced by the British Parliament to aid the financially struggling British East India Company. The Act allowed the Company to sell tea in American colonies without paying taxes except the import duty under the Townshend Acts. More than 80% of the tea consumed in America at the time was smuggled Dutch tea and the Act thus adversely affected American merchants who imported tea from the Dutch. The colonists held demonstrations against the Act and mobilized opposition to delivery of the tea. Ships carrying East India Company tea were sent to Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Charleston. Apart from Boston, the protesters in the other three colonies prevented the tea from being landed. However, Thomas Hutchinson, the Royal Governor in Boston, refused to give in to the pressure. On December 16, 1773, a group of men led by Samuel Adams, some disguised as Native Americans, boarded the East India Company ships and dumped all 342 chests of tea, worth £10,000, into into the Boston Harbor. The event became known as the Boston Tea Party and it was a major incident leading to the American Revolutionary War.

 

#4 The Intolerable Acts

Date: 1774

The Intolerable Acts cartoon
Cartoon depiction British officials forcing tea (representing the Intolerable Acts) down the throat of a female (representing American colonies)

In response to the Boston Tea Party, the British government enforced four Acts to punish the Massachusetts colonists, known as the Intolerable Acts. The first was Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston until the colonists paid for the destroyed tea. The second was the Massachusetts Government Act, which altered the Massachusetts charter bringing it under the control of the British government and forbade town meetings without approval. The third was the Administration of Justice Act, which allowed royal officials to be tried back in Great Britain. The last and the most controversial Act was the Quartering Act which applied to all colonies. It allowed a governor to house soldiers in unoccupied houses and buildings in towns. In response to the Intolerable Acts, 56 delegates from 12 of the 13 colonies met from September 5 to October 26, 1774 at Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The First Continental Congress was thus formed. After much debate, it decided that the colonies would boycott all British goods beginning on December 1, 1774. The First Continental Congress also sent a petition to King George III outlining the grievances of the colonies to the King and asking for repeal of the Intolerable Acts. However, this petition was ignored and, instead, King George III issued a Proclamation of Rebellion which stated that the colonies were “in rebellion” and the members of Congress were traitors.

 

#5 Battles of Lexington and Concord

Location: Middlesex County, Massachusetts

Date: April 19, 1775

North Bridge confrontation
A depiction of the confrontation at the North Bridge

The Battles of Lexington and Concord remain highly significant historic events for being the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War. A British force under Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith was sent to seize the weapons held by the Patriots at Concord, some 15 miles from Boston. However, as the Patriots were aware of the British plan, they had moved the supplies out of town. First shots were fired at a brief skirmish at Lexington, en route to Concord. Then, a British company of around 100 men became engaged in battle with around 400 American patriots at Concord’s North Bridge. The outnumbered British soldiers withdrew to rejoin the main force. After seizing a few remaining weapons, on their march back to Boston, the British were fired upon continuously from hidden positions by Americans. Smith’s men were finally rescued by reinforcements. During the course of the battles, the British suffered 273 casualties to America’s 95; and thus it is considered a success for the Americans. The Battles of Lexington and Concord were followed by the Siege of Boston which, after 11 months, forced the British to abandon Boston and sail to Nova Scotia.

 

#6 United States Declaration of Independence

Date: July 4, 1776

United States Declaration of Independence
United States Declaration of Independence

As war broke out, the Patriots overthrew the existing governments in the 13 colonies, closed courts and drove away the British officials. New constitutions were drawn up in each state to supersede royal charters; and it was declared that they were states, not colonies. By June 1776, nine Provincial Congresses were ready for independence and the other four soon followed. On July 4, 1776, at a meeting at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence. Drafted largely by Thomas Jefferson, it explained why the Thirteen Colonies at war with Britain regarded themselves as thirteen independent sovereign states, no longer under British rule. The United States Declaration of Independence is regarded as one of the most important documents in history. Particularly its second sentence has been called “one of the best-known sentences in the English language” and it is often quoted with regards to human rights. The Declaration of Independence inspired many similar documents in other countries; most prominently the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789).

 

#7 Battle of Trenton

Location: Trenton, New Jersey

Date: December 26, 1776

Washington Crossing the Delaware painting
Washington Crossing the Delaware – Famous painting by Emanuel Leutze

Prior to this battle, the British had handed the Americans a number of defeats forcing them to retreat through New Jersey and into Pennsylvania. The morale of the Continental Army was very low and many men had deserted. At such a juncture, George Washington, Commander-In-Chief of the Continental Army, laid out a bold plan to attack the enemy forces stationed at Trenton in New Jersey. The American forces first made the famous crossing of the Delaware River, which was accomplished “with almost infinite difficulty”. They then swiftly defeated the German missionaries at Trenton within an hour inflicting 100 casualties. The Americans only lost 2 men while 5 were wounded. More importantly, around 900 soldiers were captured along with provisions; and arms and ammunition. The American force then moved across the Delaware back into Pennsylvania with the captured soldiers and supplies. The dramatic American victory at Trenton significantly boosted the morale of the Continental Army; inspired rebels in the colonies; and led to new recruits joining the forces. Thus, though it was a small battle, the Battle of Trenton is regarded as a pivotal battle of the revolution.

 

#8 Battles of Saratoga

Location: Stillwater, Saratoga County, New York

Date: September 19 & October 7, 1777

Surrender of General Burgoyne by John Trumbull
Surrender of General Burgoyne – At the center John Burgoyne (in red) and Horatio Gates (in blue)

The region of New England was proving troublesome for the British and General John Burgoyne devised a strategy to isolate it from middle and southern colonies. His unit was to advance from Canada down the Hudson Valley to Albany; while William Howe, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in America, was to march up the Hudson Valley from New Jersey. However, though Howe was able to capture Philadelphia, he could not support Burgoyne. This British strategy culminated at the Battles of Saratoga. The first battle of Saratoga, known as Battle of Freeman’s Farm, was a minor success for Burgoyne as he occupied Freeman’s Farm. However, while Burgoyne’s army suffered nearly 600 casualties, American losses were about half of that. In the second battle of Saratoga, known as Battle of Bemis Heights, the American army convincingly defeated the British forces. The British suffered 500 casualties compared to 200 suffered by the Americans. Burgoyne was soon surrounded at Saratoga and, on October 17, he surrendered his entire army, numbering 5,800. The comprehensive victory gave France the confidence that America could win the war and this resulted in the formal Franco-American alliance in 1778. Due to this, the Battles of Saratoga are considered the turning point of the American Revolutionary War.

 

#9 Siege of Yorktown

Location: Yorktown, Virginia

Date: September 28 – October 19, 1781

Surrender of Lord Cornwallis by John Trumbull
Surrender of Lord Cornwallis – Painting by John Trumbull, depicting the British surrendering to French (left) and American (right) troops.

On July 6, 1781, the American army and their French allies met near New York City. On August 19, 3000 American soldiers under George Washington and 4000 French soldiers under French General Comte de Rochambeau marched from Newport, Rhode Island, to Yorktown, Virginia. During this much celebrated march, Washington send out fake dispatches to make the British Commander-in-Chief, Henry Clinton, believe that his army was going to attack New York. This convinced Clinton that Lord Cornwallis in Yorktown was not in any danger. On September 28, Washington completed encircled Yorktown beginning the siege against a contingent of 9,000 British troops. After non-stop bombardment from Franco-American forces, no hope of reinforcements and inadequate supplies of artillery ammunition and food, Cornwallis showed the white flag on October 17. The siege lasted for 20 days. Franco-American casualties were 88 killed and 301 wounded. The British lost 156 men while 326 were wounded and 70 missing. More importantly, Cornwallis had to surrender his entire remaining force of more than 7,000. The Siege of Yorktown was the last major battle of the American Revolutionary War. It forced the British to negotiate an end to the conflict.

 

#10 Treaty of Paris

Date: September 3, 1783

1783 Treaty of Paris
Signature Page of the 1783 Treaty of Paris

Around six months after the Siege of Yorktown, in April 1782, peace negotiations between the conflicting parties began in Paris. The American Revolutionary War was officially brought to an end with a set of treaties known as the Peace of Paris, which were signed in 1783 and 1784. Of these, the most important was the Treaty of Paris, which was signed on September 3, 1783 by the representatives of King George III of Great Britain and representatives of the United States of America. The article 1 of this treaty acknowledged the existence of United States’ as free, sovereign and independent states. Among other things, the Treaty of Paris set the boundaries between the British Empire in North America and the United States of America. Historians consider that the Treaty of Paris to be very generous to the United States in terms of greatly enlarged boundaries. The reason for this might be that Britain wanted to have close economic ties with the newly formed nation. The Peace of Paris also resulted in France gaining two small colonies, Tobago in the West Indies and Senegal in West Africa; Spain regained control of Menorca and Florida; while the Dutch didn’t gain anything of significant value.

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