Battles of the Revolutionary War Lexington-Concord, Bunker Hill, Trenton, Saratoga, Yorktown
Cause and Effects • Setting the StageAfter Sam Adams and the Sons of Liberty tossed 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor during the Boston Tea Party in 1773, King George III had Parliament pass the Coercive Acts to punish the people of Massachusetts for their resistance. • These harsh laws: • Closed Boston Harbor until the tea was paid for. No food or supplies could arrive. • Forbid town meetings, these were important forms of self government that the colonists felt was their right, • Made people shelter soldiers in their homes, • Any British Officer accused of crimes would have their trials in other colonies or in Britain instead of in Massachusetts.
British troops in the town of Boston were using their warships to keep Boston harbor closed. • This cut off trade, crippled the economy, and put colonists out of work. • British soldiers and colonists often fought in the streets and in the taverns. • People became public or secret supporters of one side or the other. • Tensions came to a head on April 18, 1775, when British General Thomas Gage, appointed royal governor of Massachusetts, sent 700 British soldiers to Lexington and Concord to confiscate weapons and ammunition being gathered by the colonists.
Lexington - Concord • Some of the colonists, warned that the British were coming, were waiting in Lexington when the British arrived the next morning. To this day no one knows for sure who fired first, but a shot rang out. The British soldiers fired a volley into the colonial militia, killing eight men and wounding 10. • The British then moved on to Concord where minutemen drove back three British infantry units guarding Concord’s North Bridge. On their retreat back to Boston they were peppered by patriot snipers. By the time the redcoats reached Boston, they had suffered 273 casualties compared with fewer than 100 for the patriots.
Engravings (pictures) in local newspapers incorrectly reported that the British, after attacking Lexington and Concord, raided and pillaged (robbed) property all the way back to Boston. That news enraged patriots throughout the colonies. Within 48 hours, militiamen from Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts gathered in and around Cambridge, Massachusetts across the Charles River from Boston. The many differences that had separated the various colonies, including different religions, systems of government, and lifestyles, were forgotten for a greater cause.
Slowly the different colonial armies placed themselves under Massachusetts’ command and became a New England army. By mid-June 1775, approximately 7,600 troops were camped in and around Cambridge, Mass. • While the patriots were mobilizing, British General Gage tried to decide how best to deploy his 5,000 British regulars. He realized that whichever side could take control of the high ground around Boston would have the advantage in a battle. The British army set forth a plan to occupy the hills around Boston by late June. • Fortunately for the patriots their leaders learned of the British plan and resolved that the colonial army should beat the British to the high ground by fortifying the hills of Charlestown.
Battle of Bunker Hill • American troops are dug in along the high ground of Breed's Hill (the actual location) and are attacked by a frontal assault of over 2000 British soldiers who storm up the hill. The Americans are ordered not to fire until they can see "the whites of their eyes." As the British get within 15 paces, the Americans let loose a deadly volley of rifle fire and halt the British advance. The British then regroup and attack 30 minutes later with the same result. A third attack, however, succeeds as the Americans run out of ammunition and are left only with bayonets and stones to defend themselves. The British succeed in taking the hill, but at a loss of half their force, over a thousand casualties, with the Americans losing about 400, including important colonial leader, General Joseph Warren.
Last try for peace • July 5, 1775 - The Continental Congress adopts the Olive Branch Petition whichexpresses hope for a reconciliation with Britain, appealing directly to the King for help in achieving this. In August, King George III refuses even to look at the petition and instead issues a proclamation declaring the Americans to be in a state of open rebellion.
Battle of Trenton • The Battle of Trenton began on Christmas Day, December 1776, when General Washington's army was in a pitiful condition, and growing weaker. Troops were deserting, it was bitter cold and they lacked food, shoes and blankets. • It was under these conditions that Washington made his famous crossing of the Delaware river. He had heard from a scout that the Hessians, (German mercenaries) were spending the evening relaxing and enjoying food and wine. Washington decided to cross at night and surprise them in the morning. So while the Hessians were enjoying their wine and song, the Continental Army was preparing to attack. The army silently advanced to the Delaware River. They crossed the icy Delaware eight miles north of Trenton and nine hours later 2400 men gathered around Washington to hear the order for the assault on Trenton.
The famous crossing:Washington and his army cross the Delaware River at night to attack the Hessian mercenaries at Trenton.
The Hessians were sleeping at 8:00 a.m. when the Americans entered the City. Minutes later, Washington's army attacked - killing five Hessian officers, one non commissioned officer, and sixteen privates. There were 918 prisoners taken to Newtown, Pennsylvania. Of the American losses, two soldiers supposedly froze to death, one or two American privates were wounded, and three officers were wounded, (including future president Lt. James Monroe).
Battle of Saratoga • The first major American victory of the Revolutionary War as Gen. Horatio Gates and Gen. Benedict Arnold defeat Gen. Burgoyne, inflicting 600 British casualties. American losses are only 150. • October 17, 1777 - After long negotiations, Gen. Burgoyne officially surrendered his 5700 man army on October 17. He was sent back to England in disgrace, and was never given another command. • In Paris the victory is celebrated as if it had been a French victory. Ben Franklin is received by the French Royal Court. France then recognizes the independence of America and enters the war on the side of the patriots. • Money and supplies flowed to the American cause, providing Washington's Continental Army with the support necessary to continue its fight against Great Britain.
Victory at Saratoga !! Britain's loss at Saratoga proved disastrous, in that it signaled to the European powers that the rebels were capable of defeating the English on their own. More than any other single event, it would prove decisive in determining the eventual outcome of the War.
The End is near !!- Yorktown • August 1, 1781 - After chasing American Gen. Greene's army without success, British Gen. Cornwallis and his 10,000 tired soldiers seek rest at the port of Yorktown, Virginia. • August 14, 1781 - Gen. Washington abruptly changes plans and abandons the attack on New York in favor of Yorktown after receiving a letter indicating a 29-ship French fleet with 3000 soldiers is now heading for the Chesapeake Bay near Cornwallis. Gen. Washington and Gen. Rochambeau rush their best troops south to Virginia to destroy the British position in Yorktown.
August 30, 1781- The French fleet arrives off Yorktown, Virginia. De Grasse then lands troops near Yorktown, linking with Lafayette's American troops to cut Cornwallis off from any retreat by land. • September 5-8, 1781-Off Yorktown, a major naval battle between the French fleet and the outnumbered British fleet results in a victory for the French. The British fleet retreats to New York for reinforcements, leaving the French fleet in control of the Chesapeake. The French fleet establishes a blockade, cutting Cornwallis off from any retreat by sea. French naval reinforcements then arrive from Newport.
September 28, 1781- Gen. Washington, with 17,000 men, begins the siege of Yorktown. French cannons bombard Gen. Cornwallis and his 9000 men day and night while the Allied lines slowly advance and encircle them. British supplies run dangerously low. • October 17, 1781 - As Yorktown is about to be taken, the British send out a flag of truce and surrender. • October 19, 1781- As their band plays the tune, "The world turned upside down," the British army marches out in formation and surrenders. Hopes for a British victory in the war against America are gone. In the English Parliament, there will soon be calls to bring this long costly war to an end. • October 24, 1781– Ships with 7000 British reinforcements arrive but turn back on hearing of the surrender at Yorktown.