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Revolutionary War

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Revolutionary War

On 19 April 1775, skirmishes at Lexington and Concord, Mass., initiated hostilities. While under siege at Boston, the British suffered heavy losses at Bunker Hill. American troops invaded Canada in the fall of 1775 and took Montreal, but were defeated at Quebec. Having sustained disastrous casualties, they retreated under hot pursuit by superior British forces, which might have occupied the Hudson valley but for Benedict Arnold's resistance on Lake Champlain that culminated in the battle of Valcour Island.
After artillery from Fort Ticonderoga drove the British from Boston in March 1776, operations shifted to New York City. William Howe's Royal Army solidified control of New York following battles at Long Island, Harlem Heights, White Plains, Kip's Bay, and Fort Washington. George Washington's Continental army retreated across N.J. in late 1776, but threw Howe's forces on the defensive at Trenton in December 1776 and Princeton in January 1777.
Britain's strategy in 1777 called for Philadelphia's capture by Howe and the Hudson valley's occupation by expeditions under Lieutenant Colonel St Leger and Major General Burgoyne. American victories at Oriskany and Fort Stanwix repulsed St Leger's campaign. Burgoyne allowed Fort Ticonderoga's garrison to escape capture, lost a tenth of his army at Bennington, suffered defeat at Freeman's Farm and Bemis Heights, and then surrendered at Saratoga to Major General Gates. Saratoga was the Revolution's turning point because it persuaded France to sign the Franco-American Alliance. (Spain declared war on Britain in 1779 and the Netherlands did so in 1780).
Howe's redcoats trounced Washington's army in Pa. at Brandywine Creek, Germantown, and Paoli in the fall of 1777. While Howe occupied Philadelphia, Washington's inspector general, Baron von Steuben, drilled Americans in battlefield tactics at Valley Forge until they equaled the British in fighting proficiency. When the British evacuated Philadelphia in June 1778, Washington drubbed them at Monmouth Courthouse and bottled them up in New York.
Fighting in the North then shifted to the frontier. Colonel George Rogers Clark established US control north of the Ohio River by capturing Vincennes in 1779. Bloody raids on frontier communities like Cherry Valley, N.Y., and Wyoming Valley, Pa., were avenged in 1779 by Sullivan's and Brodhead's campaigns against the Iroquois Confederacy.
The British meanwhile moved south. After taking Savannah in December 1778, capturing Charles Town (third battle) in May 1780, and smashing an American army at Camden, S.C., in August 1780, they gained control of Georgia and the Carolinas. American fortunes revived with small victories in S.C. at King's Mountain and Cowpens, which encouraged partisans like Francis Marion, Thomas Sumter, and Andrew Pickens to wage guerrilla warfare. Lieutenant General Cornwallis won Pyrrhic victories over Major General Greene's Americans at Guilford Courthouse, Hobkirk's Hill and Eutaw Springs. When Cornwallis's bloodied army limped into Va., Washington trapped him at Yorktown. Bereft of British naval support after the battle of Chesapeake Capes, Cornwallis endured a three-week siege before capitulating in October 1781. Serious hostilities then ended and negotiations began on the treaty of Paris (1783).
Over half the free males aged 16 to 45 performed military duty: 220,000 as US troops and 21,000 as Tories. The US Navy commissioned 57 vessels (1,192 guns), but civilians outfitted 1,697 privateers (14,872 guns) carrying 58,400 crewmen. US ships captured 2,208 British merchant vessels (excluding 879 retaken by the Royal Navy) and 89 privateers. British sailors captured over half the US merchant marine : 1,108 vessels (27 later regained by US ships) and 216 privateers. A total of 25,674 US troops died (6,090 in land combat, 1,084 in sea combat, 10,000 of disease, and 8,500 as enemy prisoners); 8,241 were wounded (7,783 on land, 458 on sea); and 18,572 were captured (15,542 on land, 3,030 on sea). The war cost $360,614,663 in continentals, with gold value of $85,077,835.