Unformatted text preview: Revolutionary America
Revolutionary 1 The First Continental Congress Opposition to the Intolerable Acts
drove the colonies together.
On 5 September 1774, delegates
from 12 of the 13 colonies met in
Philadelphia for the First
The Congress quickly fell into
disagreement between advocates
of the Suffolk Resolves and the
more radical Galloway Plan.
The Congress eventually settled
on the Suffolk Resolves which
contented itself to a listing of
colonial grievances with England.
It was no matter as King George
III never read the resultant
document. 2 Early Fighting: the Battles of
Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill
Lexington, On 15 April 1775, British General
Thomas Gage detached a unit of
British soldiers to destroy the colonial
weapon stores at Concord, MA.
The move was not unexpected. When
the British troops landed on 18 April,
Paul Revere made his famous ride to
alert the militias.
Upon encountering stout colonial
resistance at Concord, the British
withdrew to Boston.
Along the retreat, the real battle was
fought as the British soldiers were
subjected to nearly constant sniper fire
and ambushes. The British lost nearly
20% of the original force and had to be
rescued by reinforcements. 3 This was the start of the
After Lexington and Concord, the
British occupied Boston.
In June, the colonists set up
positions on Bunker Hill,
overlooking the city. British
General Howe had no choice but
to dislodge the Americans.
Rather than laying siege to the
Americans and starving them out,
Howe, to better demonstrate
British power, favored a direct
frontal assault into the fortified
Though eventually successful,
Howe's tactics cost the British
1054 killed or wounded from a
force of 2400--40% casualties.
4 Asserting Independence: Blows
Must The Second Continental Congress opened
on 10 May 1775 following the fighting at
Lexington and Concord.
Unlike the First Continental Congress, all
thirteen colonies sent a delegation.
The proceedings quickly split between a
more conservative faction led by John
Dickinson and a more radical faction led by
John Adams and Samuel Adams.
The early Congress was marked by two
documents; “The Olive Branch Petition,”
supported by Dickinson, sought
reconciliation with Great Britain, and the
strident “Declaration of Causes and
Necessities of Taking Up Arms,” which
asserted the American willingness to fight 5
for independence. Parliament refused to consider the "Olive Branch
Petition" because it would not negotiate with a colony in
The Congress also appointed George Washington
commander of American forces, which was encouraged
by his wearing a military uniform everyday, and
dispatched Benjamin Franklin to solicit French support in
the war with England.
George III responded to the Continental Congress on 23
August by declaring the American colonies in open
On 18 November he wrote, "blows must decide whether
they are to be subject to this country or independent."
On 31 May 1775, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina
asserted its independence from Britain and established
local government in the Charlotte Town Resolves.
6 Slavery and the Revolution: the
Dunmore On 14 November 1775, Virginia Royal
Governor Lord Dunmore offered freedom to
any slaves or indentured servants in
Virginia willing to fight against the colonists.
This outraged the colonists. In addition to
fears that Dunmore was encouraging a
slave rebellion, colonists believed that, in
freeing slaves, Dunmore was interfering
with their property.
This is demonstrated in the French cartoon
of the British soldiers with the slaves where
the man is holding a sign reading
"Liberation of the Negroes" and the British
soldiers are trampling on documents
labeled "The Rights of Men," and "The
Rights of Civilized Nations at War."
Later, British General Henry Clinton
extended this offer to slaves throughout the
colonies. Later, British General Clinton
would expand the offer to all slaves in the
colonies. 7 In Virginia's Response to Dunmore,
the colony threatens to execute
anyone attempting to take advantage
of Dunmore's offer.
The Memoirs of Boston King tell the
story of a slave able to escape to the
At the end of the war, the British
evacuated liberated slaves and other
loyalists from New York City.
As terms of the peace, the Americans
insisted that the British record the
identity of any freed slaves so that
their former owners could sue for
This became known as "The Book of
Negroes." While it is unclear how
many slaves attempted to escape to
freedom, the Book of Negroes
contains three thousand names,
including a slave of George
Washington. 8 Common Sense By the winter of 1775, after the fighting around Boston
and the British rejection of overtures to settle the crisis,
many Americans for the first time began to seriously
think about independence from Great Britain.
In this environment, the impact of the publication
Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” in January 1776 can
hardly be overstated.
In “Common Sense,” Paine lays out an argument, in the
language of common people, for why the colonies should
declare their independence from Britain. 9 The Declaration of Independence In June 1776, Thomas Jefferson, only 33 years old, distilled a century of
enlightenment thought into a few sentences:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable
rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That
to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving
their just powers from the consent of the governed."
Even if imperfect in their application, the thought that all men were equal
and that government existed to serve the people, was revolutionary in a
world dominated by monarchy and aristocracy.
Jefferson's words have changed the nature of government throughout the
world, even the most repressive regimes pay at least lip service to
"Remember the Ladies" is a playful, yet serious letter from Abigail to John
Adams asking him to keep women in mind when forming the new
10 Loyalists and the Revolution For many Americans, the Revolution was a civil
The war divided families and communities
between patriot and loyalist. Most famously, this
estranged Benjamin Franklin from his son
William. 11 Times that Try Men's Souls Shortly after the jubilation of
independence had subsided, the
winter of 1776-1777 found the
Continental Army poorly fed and
equipped and Congress unable to
appropriate any money to help.
In December 1776, Thomas Paine,
who had joined the Continental Army,
published nine “Crisis” essays to boast
troop morale and rally public support
for the war effort.
Similarly, George Washington led the
army on several attacks against
unsuspecting British and Hessian
forces camped in their winter quarters.
It was on one of these attacks that
Washington made his iconic crossing
of the Delaware River.
of 12 Battle of Saratoga and French
Involvement The Battle of Saratoga represents the turning point in the Revolutionary War.
British General John Burgoyne planned a three pronged attack into New York to
drive the Americans to battle near Buffalo.
Burgoyne's plan called for General St. Leger to attack from the west, General Clinton
to attack from the south, and Burgoyne would float an army down the Hudson River
and attack from the north.
The plan fell apart from the start. Burgoyne, having never seen the Hudson, did not
realize the challenge of floating an army, and an extensive camp including
champagne and wives, down a wild river.
When Burgoyne arrived at Saratoga, he expected to find the other prongs of his
attack waiting for him. Instead he found himself alone. St. Leger was defeated at the
Battle of Oriskany and Clinton, rather than moving North actually went further south.
Burgoyne quickly found himself surrounded by American soldiers and, after two
battles, was forced to surrender.
Overshadowing the actual battle, the victory proved to the European powers that the
Americans could win. Following the Battle of Saratoga, Benjamin Franklin
successfully negotiated a treaty in Paris for French entry into the war.
successfully 13 The World Turned Upside Down:
Yorktown After a grueling campaign through the
southern colonies, General Cornwallis
retreated to the coast of Yorktown, Virginia
for the winter and the protection of the
Cornwallis was not aware however that the
French navy had defeated the British fleet
at the Battle of the Capes in September.
Therefore, when Cornwallis arrived at
Yorktown, he found the French navy at his
back and the American army before him.
The Americans and French laid siege to the
British position and, with no where to turn,
Cornwallis surrendered on 20 October
This ended major fighting in the
Legend says that, as the British
surrendered, their band played the song
"The World Turned Upside Down."
"The 14 ...
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