American War of Independence

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American War of Independence
George Washington crosses the Delaware River on December 26, 1776 (painting by Emanuel Leutze, 1851).
George Washington crosses the Delaware River on December 26, 1776 (painting by Emanuel Leutze , 1851) .
date April 19, 1775 to September 3, 1783
place East coast of North America
exit Victory of the Thirteen Colonies
consequences Foundation of the USA
Peace treaty Peace of Paris
Parties to the conflict

Great Britain kingdomKingdom of Great Britain Great Britain
German subsidiary troops in British service: Hessen-Kassel , Hessen-Hanau , Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel , Ansbach , Bayreuth , Anhalt-Zerbst , Waldeck and Pyrmont
Indian allies: Onondaga , Mohawk , Cayuga , Seneca , Mi'kmaq (from 1779) , Cherokee , Odawa , Muskogee , Shawnee

Flag of the United States (1776–1777) .svg Thirteen colonies United States France Spain United Netherlands Indian allies: Oneida , Tuscarora , Watauga Association , Catawba , Lenape , Chickasaw , Choctaw , Mahican , Mi'kmaq (until 1779) , Abenaki , Cheraw , Seminoles , Pee Dee , Lumbee
United States 13United States 
France Kingdom 1792France 
Spain 1506Spain 
Republic of the Seven United ProvincesRepublic of the Seven United Provinces 


Great Britain kingdomKingdom of Great Britain Thomas Gage William Howe Henry Clinton Guy Carleton John Campbell, of Strachur Wilhelm zu Innhausen
Great Britain kingdomKingdom of Great Britain
Great Britain kingdomKingdom of Great Britain
Great Britain kingdomKingdom of Great Britain
Great Britain kingdomKingdom of Great Britain
Hessen KS flag.svg

United States 13United States George Washington Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben Gilbert de La Fayette François de Grasse Jean-Baptiste de Rochambeau Bernardo de Gálvez
United States 13United States
France Kingdom 1792France
France Kingdom 1792France
France Kingdom 1792France
Spain 1506Spain

General George Washington 1779, Commander of the American Continental Army , by Charles Willson Peale

The American War of Independence ( English American Revolutionary War or American War of Independence ) took place from 1775 to 1783 between the Thirteen Colonies and the British colonial power instead. It was the climax of the American independence movement and, after the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the formation of the Confederation in 1777, led to its victorious conclusion and the creation of the United States of America .

From 1778 the outcome of the war was only decided by the active intervention of France in favor of the colonists. The main fighting ended in 1781 after the British defeat in the Battle of Yorktown , the war itself was officially ended with the signing of a preliminary peace on November 30, 1782 and the Peace of Paris on September 3, 1783.


Already at the beginning of the reign of George III. (1760-1820) the tensions between the British motherland and the colonies were great. The causes were the colonial trade barriers (including a ban on industry in the colonies, which forced them to purchase end products from the mother country), British settlement bans west of the Appalachian Mountains and the considerable tax burdens that the Townshend Acts of 1767 became on the central bank side in the year 1751 the colonies restricted the money supply of their own currency Colonial Scrip , 1764 with the currency law the own currency prohibited ( Currency Act ).

After the end of the Seven Years' War (1756–1763) in Europe , Great Britain tried to offset the high costs of the war through increased or new taxes (see Stamp Act ) and levies on its overseas colonies , which subsequently set the American Revolution in motion. The colonists, on the other hand, demanded a free choice of their trading partners as well as more participation and independence, but without striving for independence. The slogan “ no taxation without representation ” was popular, that is, no taxation without the possibility of political participation. The British Parliament rejected the colonist requests in 1767, and troops that had become vacant were sent to America instead.

The independence movement was initially led by Samuel Adams and Thomas Jefferson . There were multiple attacks in Boston , partly controlled by the secret society Sons of Liberty . After the first boycott in 1770, the Boston Tea Party took place in 1773 . Then the British government adopted in 1774 the so-called "intolerable laws" ( Intolerable Acts ) and ordered the confiscation of military supplies in Massachusetts (see. Powder alarm ). The colonists responded by calling the first continental congress , which met in Philadelphia in September and October 1774. All 13 colonies ( Connecticut , Delaware , Georgia , Maryland , Massachusetts , New Hampshire , New Jersey , New York , North Carolina , Pennsylvania , Rhode Island , South Carolina , Virginia ) refused to trade with Great Britain from now on.

On February 9, 1775, the British government declared Massachusetts a breakaway province. On March 23, Patrick Henry delivered his speech, " Give me Liberty, or give me Death, " to the Virginia Provincial Assembly . On the British side, King George III's determination to conquer the colonies by force was quite popular. On March 30th, the British Parliament passed the New England Restraining Act , which aimed to punish the most rebellious provinces. A corresponding motion was adopted in 1775 in the lower house of parliament with 304 against 105 votes, in the upper house with 104 against 29 votes. However, this measure could no longer prevent the merging of the provinces in the conflict that followed.

Influence of financial and economic interests

The War of Independence was preceded by recurring efforts by influential colonialists to achieve their own financial and economic sovereignty in the British-American provinces . B. through the creation of a new "colonial" currency (later the US dollar ). The minting ban for American colonies issued by the British motherland in 1704 contributed significantly to the prevention of such efforts for decades. In 1774 some influential men, including the later US President George Washington , met as delegates of the respective provincial parliament and declared themselves to be the first continental congress , which ultimately amounted to a form of "open coup d'état" against the sovereignty of the British colonial power . In the following year the American War of Independence broke out, in 1776 the members of this “Congress” proclaimed the creation of their own currency ( continental dollar ).

One of the influential members of Congress was Robert Morris , who had previously been involved as a member of the so-called secret committee with war preparations with regard to the later smuggling of war equipment and the illegal import of weapons and ammunition into the British colonies. He was also the brainchild of the establishment of the first private bank in America (later the Bank of North America ), which was to ensure the subsequent printing and issuance of the new currency. Morris was entrusted with the supervision of this "bank of notes" by the members of Congress. After the end of the War of Independence, in 1785 the term “continental” was deleted from the previous currency name.

Around the creation of a US constitution in 1787/89, the former member of Congress, the founder of the bank ( Bank of New York ) and (later) the first finance minister of the newly founded state ( USA ), Alexander Hamilton , started thinking about a first national “state bank “Entrusted, which from 1791 as the First Bank of the United States was to take over the former role of the Bank of North America as the official central bank . One of her first tasks was also the handling of an extensive privatization program of the new government, with the aim of the sale of extensive North American land areas or real estate, which was formerly owned by the British , but whose owner representation the first US government members as a result of the war and the founding of the state.


George Washington on a quarter dollar coin

On April 19, 1775, the first skirmishes between an American militia and British troops, the battles of Lexington and Concord , took place. This was the beginning of the War of Independence.

In the colonies, however, significant sections of the elite did not initially intend to strive for full independence. Rather, they sought equality and wanted to resolve local issues without interference from the English Parliament. The opponent, at least at the beginning, was the Parliament in London, while not a few members of the American elite were quite loyal to the king, whom they considered to be ill-advised. However, when King George III. In October 1775 anticipated the parliamentary resolutions of November and gave them full backing so that the Royal Navy , which was directly subordinate to the king , should raise American ships, the mood changed fundamentally.

At first, the situation of the 2.5 million insurgent settlers was unfavorable: Neither regular troops nor financial resources and war material were available in sufficient quantities. George Washington , then a landowner from Mount Vernon, Virginia , received on July 2, 1775 the supreme command of a 15,000-strong gathering of militia troops from the states of New England, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, which was called the " Continental Army ".

On the opposing side, alongside the British troops, there were mainly 30,000 mercenaries from German states. This force was supported by the Loyalists , English loyal settlers, and several English loyal Indian tribes who feared further violations of the border agreement of 1763 after independence. Since most of the German mercenaries came from Hessen-Kassel , this part of the troops is often summarized in English-language historiography under the name of Hessians . The attempt of troops under the command of Benedict Arnold to wrest Canada from the British failed after initial success with the defeat in the Battle of Québec on December 31, 1775. On July 4, 1776 the rebellious 13 states declared their independence .

Course of the war

In August 1776 the British took New York . After a series of defeats, George Washington managed to stabilize the situation of the insurgents in December 1776 with his victory at the Battle of Trenton . The secret support of the rebels with arms by France with the participation of Beaumarchais from 1776 undoubtedly played a decisive role. British troops occupied Philadelphia in September 1777 . However, with their victory in the Battle of Saratoga , the American army turned the war.

Despite the victory at Saratoga, the military situation for the American army in the winter of 1777/78 was very bad. The American militias went home for lack of food, money and clothing. The army only consisted of around 5,000 men. Uniform disciplinary and official structures practically did not exist. At this point Washington withdrew to Valley Forge near Philadelphia, outside the British sphere of influence.

The increased training of the troops here, in which Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben played a major role, is considered one of the decisive factors for the victory in the American War of Independence. Steuben built up the army tactically and operationally in the Valley Forge camp as Major General and Inspector General ( Rules for the Order and Discipline of the Forces of the United States , 1779). He took care of the discipline , organization and training of the troops and was temporarily chief of staff of George Washington. Steuben also remained inspector general of the army until 1784.

Steuben's improvements in the American Army were evident on June 28, 1778 at the Battle of Monmouth . This gave the troops the feeling that they were up to the British even in an open battle.

The British and their allies increasingly suffered from a fragmentation of forces and supply problems, which were further exacerbated by the Americans when France entered the war in 1778, Spain in 1779 and the Netherlands in 1780. The conflict was now increasingly being carried out at sea. France in particular moved large numbers of troops to the New World.

Lexington, April 19, 1775

Train of the British to Concord, April 1775

Hostilities between the British colonial powers and American settlers escalated in Concord and Lexington , Massachusetts when British troops who had swarmed out of Boston to dig rebel supply stores clashed with colonies of armed settlers on April 18, 1775. It is unknown who fired the first shot (see The shot that was heard around the world ). The fighting at Lexington and Concord ended with the British retreating to Boston, which was then besieged.

Ticonderoga, May 10, 1775

At the same time, an attack on Fort Ticonderoga in Lake Champlain was planned. Fort Ticonderoga was of strategic importance as it stored large stocks of weapons, ammunition and other supplies and its cannons covered a large field of fire. The attack began on May 10: 80 men from New England , led by Colonels Ethan Allen from Vermont and Benedict Arnold from Connecticut, took the fort by surprise with its small crew of 40 men, who surrendered without a fight. Since war had not yet been declared, the fort's crew had not even posted guards. This success further raised the morale of the revolutionaries and spurred the two leaders on. Allen took Crown Point on May 12th . Crown Point was now a ruin with no value whatsoever, as the fort had exploded a year earlier from a lightning strike into a powder magazine; while Arnold was able to temporarily occupy St. John, Quebec , a fort on Canadian territory from May 16 . On this occasion, Ethan Allen was captured by the British near Montreal. The loot of 100 cannons from Ticonderoga was sent overland directly to George Washington's Army under the supervision of Maj. General Henry Knox to aid them in the siege of Boston .

Siege of Boston, June 1775 to March 1776

On the night of 16 on June 17, nearly 1,200 men attracted to the siege on the isthmus of Charlestown , which gives an overview of the city and dug there in the Breed's Hill one. 2,200 British troops under the command of Major General William Howe embarked the following morning and stormed the hill. In the battle that followed, which was incorrectly referred to as the Battle of Bunker Hill , the settlers were repulsed after three assaults. With a total of 1,000 dead and injured, the British suffered two and a half times as many losses as their opponents. However, they had meanwhile even increased their number of troops to 3,000 men. It was to remain the only major combat operation during the siege of Boston. General Washington formally took over command of the troops near Boston on July 3, 1775 and first and foremost tackled the strengthening of the troops and the removal of logistical bottlenecks. By March 1776 he had an army of 14,000 men. On March 4, he attacked in a lightning operation on Dorchester Heights and a little later on Nook's Hill (two elevations south of Boston, which overlooked the city) to set up artillery there . Howe recognized his now quite hopeless situation and had the city evacuated from March 17th. He and his 9,000 men disembarked for Halifax , Nova Scotia on March 26th.

Invasion of Canada 1775/76

In June 1775, the Continental Congress approved all military action against Canada. This decision was influenced by the hope that with the help of the French, who claimed most of Canadian territory, they would be able to drive the British out of North America and take Canada as their 14th colony. In addition, Congress had learned from several reports that the British commander in Canada was about to raise new troops to attack New York. This Congressional decision was followed by a two-stage invasion of Canada in the fall of 1775. Colonel Benedict Arnold, attacking from Cambridge , Massachusetts, had his 1,100 men transported across the Maine and its riverside stadiums to Kennebec . When he reached Québec on November 8th, his manpower was 650. There he was to expect the arrival of Brigadier General Richard Montgomery , who had taken command of the troops of Major General Philip Schuyler, who was initially resident there, at Fort Ticonderoga . Montgomery dashed along the Lake Champlain - St. Lawrence River and began on September 17 with it, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu ( Quebec besiege), which finally fell on November 2. This was the decisive step that made an American occupation of Québec possible. On December 3, Montgomery caught up with Arnold, but his remaining 300 men - moreover in moderate condition - were only suitable for fortifying St. Johns and Montreal . Another problem arose for the two commanders: most of their soldiers were volunteers, whose contracts would expire at the end of 1775. In great desperation, they attacked on the night of December 30th to 31st, but the British easily resisted the attack and countered immediately. The losses on the American side in the Battle of Québec were around 100 dead and 400 prisoners, with Montgomery himself also falling in this battle. However, the remaining soldiers could be moved to stay until the end of the siege. This came in the spring of 1776, when the royal troops with reinforcements from the north were finally able to break the siege and push the settler troops back to Lake Champlain.

Operations in the South, February to June 1776

After the fighting in New England , the British turned their attention south. Governor Josiah Martin of North Carolina had fled the insurgent capital New Bern in the summer of 1775 on a warship anchored off the coast. A landing operation by the British fleet from New York and fresh troops from Ireland were supposed to restore order. When Martin was back in office, the troops should move overland to South Carolina and fight the insurgents there too.

The landing operation failed because in the battle of Moores Creek Bridge on February 27, 1776, around 800 patriotic insurgents stopped around 1,600 loyalists who were therefore unable to secure the landing zone. The fleet did not even try to land, but after a long stay off the coast drove on to Charleston, South Carolina, where its attack was repulsed in June in the Battle of Sullivan's Island . After the total failure of the British plans, the fleet withdrew to New York. The insurgents in the south were motivated by the successes, the delegates of South Carolina in the Continental Congress voted in April 1776 as the first for the complete independence of the 13 colonies.

Capture of New York and withdrawal of Washington

Battle of Long Island and American withdrawal by December 1776

After the British had to evacuate Boston, Washington immediately moved to New York with his troops, weakened to a militia , as he expected an attack by the Crown at this strategically important point. During the July and August months of 1776, General Howe, with the support of his brother's fleet , Admiral Lord Richard Howe , landed 32,000 British and foreign professional soldiers each, unmolested by the enemy, on Staten Island . During this time Washington was able to assemble 20,000 untrained Congressmen and militiamen and had heavy fortifications built on and around Manhattan Island. He moved half of his troops to the newly built fortifications on Brooklyn Heights and left Manhattan to Major General Israel Putnam .

Between August 22 and 25, 20,000 of Howe's men landed on Long Island when they attacked Continental forces under the command of Major General John Sullivan in the Battle of Long Island . Howe then decided to stab Sullivan in the back the next morning, which was achieved despite bitter resistance from the now joined right flank under Brigadier General William Alexander, Lord Stirling . The American front quickly collapsed. The dispersed American troops organized the retreat to Brooklyn (which went unnoticed by the British). Two nights later they made an orderly retreat to Manhattan. American casualties were estimated at 300 to 400 dead and 700 to 1200 prisoners. Howe documents 367 own losses.

Great Fire of New York, September 1776

From September 11th to 15th, peace talks took place on Staten Island between the British and a delegation made up of Benjamin Franklin , Edward Rutledge and John Adams , but these were broken off when they refused to discuss the repeal of the Declaration of Independence. On the same day , the British landed 4,000 men in Kip's Bay on the southern tip of Manhattan and drove out the American militias posted there. The Americans withdrew to Harlem Heights in north Manhattan, where they fought back against the British on the 16th and then blocked their advance. On September 21st, a major fire broke out in New York, devastating large parts of the city.

In mid-October Howe landed with most of his troops on the mainland in Westchester County and Washington decided to evacuate Manhattan. On October 28, the two armies met at the Battle of White Plains . Howe then took Fort Lee and Fort Washington on both sides of the Hudson River until mid-November , while Washington retreated to the west side of the Hudson via Stony Point and then turned south. Pursued by troops under General Cornwallis , he retreated through New Jersey over the Delaware River to Pennsylvania by December , leaving the British to control the New York area and most of New Jersey.

Trenton, December 26, 1776

Meanwhile, Howe and his men moved into winter quarters in New York, but had Newport , Rhode Island and various cities in New Jersey fortified. Washington, in turn, decided in December 1776 to launch a surprise attack on the 1,400 Hessian soldiers in Trenton , in the hope of giving a new boost to the badly battered American morale. Of the 7,000 reservists that were available to him on Christmas Day 1776, he had 2,400 brought over the almost completely frozen Delaware to the vicinity of Trenton. He had the city itself attacked in two columns at 8 a.m. on the morning of December 26th . The Hessians were completely unprepared, because they trusted in the Christmas peace, and surrendered after an hour and a half of fighting. However, about 400 of them escaped to Bordentown , New York. Even two troops sent to stop such movements could not prevent this. Incidentally, 25 of the Hessians were killed and 920 captured. The settlers had 2 dead and 4 injured.

Princeton, January 3, 1777

After the coup in Trenton, Washington again crossed the Delaware to Pennsylvania with its Hessian prisoners in tow. However, by the end of the year he feared that he would not have enough troops and gathered a force of just under 5200 men in Trenton, which was about half of all the troops available to him at the time. He was followed unnoticed to Trenton by Major General Charles Cornwallis , who stormed into Trenton on January 2, 1777 with 6,000 British professional soldiers. Washington now had its back to Delaware, having retreated to Assunpink Creek . Cornwallis delayed its attack, which gave the Americans the opportunity to retreat down a back road on the night of January 2-3. To deceive the British, they had received all the signs of life on the original frontline, such as bonfires . After escaping south and east, that morning they attacked a column of British soldiers under the command of Colonel Charles Mawhood who were about to join Cornwallis. Mawhood's squad consisted of a single battalion of just under 400 men. Nonetheless, he succeeded in rubbing out two American battalions one after the other, and was only driven out with the arrival of Washington, whose symbolism reunited his troops and brought in another battalion. Meanwhile, the Americans were numerically 11: 1 superior. Mawhood managed an orderly retreat to Morristown and New Brunswick in New Jersey. He suffered 86 losses. Washington, too, with its 40 to 50 casualties, withdrew to heavily forested hills east of New Brunswick, which offered protection from British attacks. Here he set up his winter quarters, which flanked the enemy's communication routes. General Howe noticed this and was forced to retreat to New Brunswick as well, since it seemed impossible to him to adequately cover all the points which Washington could attack.

Saratoga campaign July to October 1777

The British strategy of 1777 had two goals. First, New England was to be cut off from the rest of the colonies with a sickle cut from Canada down the Hudson to Albany , while another large unit, advancing north from New York, would complete the encirclement and strengthen the Canadian units. The second part of the strategy was to take Philadelphia because that was where the revolutionary government was located.

The British campaign began with a two-point movement from Canada, led from New York by Major General John Burgoyne , whose manpower was 5000 British, 2500 Brunswick troops under General Riedesel and about 400 Indians who volunteered Colonial rulers had joined. This force advanced across Lake Champlain, forcing 2,500 continental and militia troops to evacuate Ticonderoga on June 27th. Other American units in the area, under Schuyler's overall command, also withdrew south. In doing so, they were able to slow down the heavy British units, since even as lightly armed they preferred to retreat over rugged terrain. One of the Canadian units consisted of 700 professional soldiers, some so-called Tories and almost 1000 Indians, commanded by Colonel Barry St. Leger . This force moved eastward from Fort Oswego on Lake Ontario , and reached the Mohawk Valley on August 2nd . St. Leger's preliminary goal was to join Burgoyne. But he had to refrain from this when 950 settlers under Arnold were able to disperse his Indian troops with a tactical trick.

Burgoyne continued to march towards Albany, even if he himself had been weakened: A division of his unit, including 200 Braunschweiger Dragoons, was almost wiped out by militias under John Stark during the search for provisions in the Battle of Bennington , Vermont . In addition, he had to deal with almost 2,600 militia guards under Major General Horatio Gates . On September 13 and 14, Burgoyne crossed the Hudson at Saratoga (now Schuylerville , New York). In the meantime, Gates, who had replaced Schuyler on August 19 as commander of the northern troops, had increased his troops to 7,600 men and stood against him again. Determined to reach Albany before winter, Burgoyne devised a strike at Bemis Heights. Gates kept his men in their heavily fortified positions. At an outpost, Freeman's Farm, Burgoyne was able to trigger a battle . The Americans had to give up the outpost, but caused twice as many casualties (approx. 600) as they suffered and were therefore able to stay on the hills.

Burgoyne then remained passive for more than two weeks while Major General Gates, now the commanding officer of the troops in New York, made a miserably failed attempt to bring reinforcements to him across the Hudson. In the course of the following days, Burgoyne risked a breakout with 1,650 men in the direction of the American left flank (in the meantime almost 15,000 Americans had surrounded him), which was sharply rejected at the Battle of Bemis Heights . This decided the battles of Saratoga , considered the turning point in the American War of Independence - on October 17th, Burgoyne surrendered with his 5,000 men and some remaining supply camps, the disappearance of which had contributed to Burgoyne's decision.

Brandywine, September 11, 1777

The British company aiming to capture Philadelphia started in late July 1777. It represented the second part of the royal strategy. Under Howe's command, 15,000 soldiers sailed from New York to the Head of Elk (now Elkton ) in Maryland , where their landing was completed a month later (August 25). Meanwhile, Washington and its 11,000 soldiers had taken a heavily fortified defensive position at Chad's Ford on the east side of Brandywine Creek to keep Howe from invading Pennsylvania. Howe attacked Washington on September 11, 1777 by ordering General Cornwallis to attack the American soldiers on the right flank after a long swing, while his Hessian soldiers on the other bank of the river were to maneuver massively to intimidate. The soldiers of the American major general Nathanael Greene repelled the threatening encirclement of all troops of Washington, however, with a sortie attack. After the battle, the Americans withdrew to Chester , Pennsylvania, heavily pressed but ordered . They had lost almost 1200 soldiers. In contrast, there were British losses of 576 men.

Germantown, October 4, 1777

After their victory at Brandywine, the British forces under Howe patrolled the Philadelphia area for two weeks. During this time they practically wiped out an American unit under General Anthony Wayne at Paoli that was left behind for guarding , before they took the city without a fight on September 26, 1777. Howe established a headquarters in nearby Germantown and had about 9,000 men stationed there. Since Washington feared a further fortification of the British, he attacked the base in a coordinated action on the night of October 3rd to 4th. Two columns, which consisted of militiamen, did not take part in the attack, but the columns under Greene and Divan achieved considerable success. In the morning, however, thick fog came up, which meant that the American soldiers initially shot at each other, while the better organized British regrouped. When the colonial units also ran out of ammunition, they began their retreat at around 9 a.m., which was disorderly. Howe pursued them for a few miles, but did not use his victory consistently by sparing the remaining American soldiers. The American losses were 673 dead and almost 400 prisoners of war, the British 521 dead and wounded.

Monmouth, June 28, 1778

By concluding the American-French alliance negotiated by Benjamin Franklin on February 6, 1778, the British had to consider a new threat in the form of the strong French fleet. General Henry Clinton , who relieved Howe of command of America on May 8 of the same year, decided to move most of his Philadelphia-based troops closer to the coast, where it seemed easier for him to maintain contact with the British fleet . As a result of this decision, he ordered this troop relocation for his 10,000-man garrison . When this set out through New Jersey on the way to New York, Washington disbanded the camp and set out to pursue the British with around 13,500 soldiers. Well-advanced American troops attacked the British column as it had just passed through Monmouth Courthouse , now Freehold , New Jersey. For reasons that are not fully understood, the American Lee did not take advantage of early advantages in the battle and ordered the retreat when British reinforcement units arrived. One possible explanation is the extremely hot weather that day. This encouraged Clinton to attack with his main army. Washington relieved Lee with its own reinforcements, but also took command. The Battle of Monmouth lasted into the evening hours without a war party being able to withdraw or gain the upper hand. Under cover of darkness, the British escaped the Americans to Sandy Hook , New Jersey, from where their fleet took them to New York City. The British reported 65 dead, 155 wounded and 64 missing, the Americans 69 dead, 161 wounded and 130 missing. As a result of the battle, General Lee was tried by court-martial and suspended for disobedience and negligence. Washington's army moved north and took up positions at White Plains, New York .

Savannah, December 29, 1778/16. September 10th to October 10th 1779

For the Continental Army, these two battles at Savannah, Georgia are represented by a single banner. In the first battle, a British expeditionary force under General Archibald Campbell landed on a section of the Savannah River near the city of the same name and soon took it. During the following year, d'Estaing's French fleet returned from the Caribbean and unloaded troops at Beaulieu , 14 miles south of Savannah, to begin an attack on the British soon after. When the preparations were completed, 1,500 Americans under General Benjamin Lincoln and 5,000 French from d'Estaing's fleet besieged the nearly 3,200 British in the city. However, the besiegers were forced to a swift attack as d'Estaing worried about the vulnerability of his fleet. The attackers were repulsed with 828 casualties. The British suffered 103 losses.

Charleston, March 29 to May 12, 1780

The siege of Charleston by the British led to the surrender of the American General Benjamin Lincoln and his 5400 men. It was the worst defeat of the insurgents in the War of Independence. But the British could not use their success. Settler troops organized themselves in guerrilla warfare and devastated British outposts and communication routes (scouts, messengers, etc.).

Camden, August 16, 1780

In the battle of Camden on August 16, 1780, 4100 newly drafted American troops under Gates and Baron de Kalb , who had been sent to reinforce the troops near Charleston, met almost 2200 British-Hessian soldiers under Cornwallis. With the first onslaught of the British, the American center and left flanks, consisting of militiamen, broke apart, leaving the right flank of conscripts. This was surrounded and rolled out of her back by the British cavalry under Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton . De Kalb was killed. While the British lost 312 men, 880 Americans were killed or wounded and around 1,000 were captured.

Cowpens, January 17, 1781

The Battle of Cowpens , South Carolina, is classified as a classic encounter after prior maneuvering. The battle marks the beginning of the offensive of the revolutionaries under General Nathanael Greene , which was to drive the British from the southern combat area. With little losses of its own, the army of Daniel Morgan inflicted a crushing defeat on the forces of Tarleton. The battle outweighed Princeton in terms of duration and soldiers, and it proved invaluable towards the end of the war, as the annihilation of much of the Royal South Army would prove to be a major strategic advantage.

Pensacola, March 9 to May 8, 1781

The Battle of Pensacola , Florida , from March 9th to May 8th, 1781 was the culmination of the Spanish reconquest of Florida from the British . Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid , the governor of Spanish Louisiana and strategist behind the successful Spanish campaign against the British led a force consisting of warships and land forces against Pensacola and forced the British General John Campbell to surrender on May 8, 1781 after storming Fort George. With Pensacola, apart from Jamaica , the last British naval base on the Gulf of Mexico had fallen.

Guilford Court House, March 15, 1781

The Battle of Guilford Court House, North Carolina, was to be the decisive battle against Greene sought by Cornwallis. Although he was able to beat Greene, Cornwallis failed to destroy his army. Greene was able to replenish his 1,300 man losses (including 1,000 missing men, presumably deserters), in contrast to the British with 500 men lost. While Cornwallis moved further north to Virginia, Greene was able to continue operating with his troops behind him, undoing his conquests. Cornwallis was cut off in Yorktown and forced into a decisive battle.

Yorktown, September 28 to October 19, 1781

From 1778 the British had turned their attention to the southern colonies as they tried to regain their influence here. But by 1781 they came to the conclusion that this was impossible as long as American operations started from Virginia. So Clinton sent the American defector Benedict Arnold with 1,600 subordinates to campaign up the James River . By the end of May, the British had managed to rally 7200 men, including the remaining Cornwallis troops that had come from Wilmington. Cornwallis was given command of all forces in Virginia and carried out attacks until about mid-June. At first, American troops under the Marquis de Lafayette were only able to oppose him in numbers , but in mid-June they were reinforced by stronger troops under Brigadier General Anthony Wayne and Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, the chief inspector and top instructor of the Continental Army. Cornwallis then withdrew to Yorktown on the coast to keep in touch with Clinton in New York.

In the meantime, Washington's preliminary establishment of a northern army had begun, which had recently been reinforced with 4,800 French commanded by Lieutenant General Jean B. de Rochambeau for an imminent attack on New York. However, Washington abandoned his plan when it learned that 3,000 more French from Admiral de Grasse had been placed at his disposal. The admiral had left his area of ​​operations in the Caribbean and made the soldiers available to Washington in Chesapeake Bay by mid-October . Washington then decided with a large part of its army, which also included the French, to leave for Virginia. He crossed the Hudson from August 20-26, feinted Clinton to stay in New York, and advanced into Maryland via New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, de Grasse's fleet reached the coast at Yorktown and unloaded the 3,000 soldiers who reinforced Lafayette. The admiral was surprised by Thomas Graves while sailing on September 5 and then fought the sea ​​battle off Chesapeake Bay , after which Graves had to retreat to New York for repairs and surrender control of the Chesapeake Bay to his French opponent. This allowed Washington and Rochambeau, with their total of more than 15,500 soldiers, to begin the siege of Yorktown on September 28 .

On the morning of October 17, Cornwallis asked for a truce when his last attempts to retake key strategic points had also failed. He handed over his entire command of almost 8,000 soldiers on October 19, after he had recorded 156 dead and 326 wounded. The American casualties amounted to 20 dead and 56 wounded, while the French reported 52 dead and 134 injured. With Cornwallis's defeat, all British hopes of victory in North America were dashed. The British Prime Minister, Lord North , was dismissed in March 1782 and the new cabinet gave instructions for peace negotiations with the American delegation in Europe which ended the war.

Fighting in Europe, the Caribbean, Africa and India

In 1778 and 1779 the absolutist powers France and Spain intervened on the side of the rebels in the war. Against the British pirate war, Russia, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Prussia also declared armed neutrality as an alliance to protect against attacks by British naval warfare.

In Europe, despite their numerical superiority, the Allies failed to vigorously block the English coasts. The sea ​​battle at Ouessant against the French on July 27, 1778, the sea ​​battle at Cape St. Vincent on January 16, 1780 against the Spaniards and the battle on the Dogger Bank on August 5, 1781 against the Netherlands remained undecided. In February 1782 the Spaniards were able to conquer Port Mahon on Menorca , while the siege of Gibraltar failed.

Important French-British naval battles in the Caribbean that were Battle of Grenada on July 6, 1779, the Battle of Saint Kitts on 25 and 26 January 1782, the Battle of the Saintes on 12 April 1782. Also east front of India gave it several sea battles. In West Africa, the British occupied both the Dutch Gold Coast and the Danish Gold Coast from 1782 . French troops then landed in the Dutch Cape Colony to work with the Dutch to repel a British attack.

British forces collapse and peace is made

The decisive blow came in October 1781 for American troops and their French allies when the British army surrendered after the siege of Yorktown , Virginia.

On November 30, 1782, a preliminary peace was signed between the United States and Great Britain. The United States withdrew from the war without consulting its European allies, while outside North America France, Spain and the Netherlands continued to fight Great Britain.

In the Peace of Paris (1783) Great Britain recognized the independence of the former British colonies. Great Britain renounced all areas up to the Mississippi . The United States extended its northern border to the Great Lakes , Florida fell back to Spain .

The loyalists

The Loyalists were American colonists who remained loyal to the British monarchy during and after the War of Independence. They were referred to as Tories , royalists, or people of the king by the patriotic insurgents who supported the revolution . When their cause was lost, around 20 percent of them left the scope of the Declaration of Independence to settle in other parts of the British Empire , or to emigrate to or return to Britain. Some of the loyalists were blacks who also fought in their own regiments. One reason for this was that under the laws of the British monarchy there was no slavery in Britain , so their hope for liberation from slavery was combined with the hope of victory for the loyalists.

Quite a few of the American elites initially did not intend to break with the crown, but primarily wanted to ward off the influence of parliament. However, they were then disappointed by the political developments when the King stood fully behind Parliament and allowed the British Navy to capture American ships. Nevertheless, there was still a strong minority in the south of the colonies who were fundamentally loyal to the crown and who were either negative or waiting for the patriots' efforts for independence. Historians estimate that 15 to 20 percent of the white population in the colonies were loyalists.

The role of the "Hessians" or Germans

Uniform of a Hessian soldier in the Lossberg Regiment during the American Revolutionary War, Hessian Museum, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania

In general, the soldiers from the German principalities were referred to as "Hesse" on the British side. In fact, under a subsidy agreement, Hessen-Kassel in particular had committed itself to providing the British Crown with a total of 12,000 soldiers for use in America. Since soldiers who had fallen, were no longer fit for action and had deserted had to be replaced, a total of around 20,000 soldiers from Northern Hesse were deployed in the American War of Independence. Since almost all the other mercenaries recruited by the British came from German-speaking countries, they became synonymous with all non-British troops. "The Hessians" were primarily known for their high fighting power, which is why people were afraid of the sound of their drums, which could quickly identify them. After the end of the War of Independence, around half of the soldiers from Hessen-Kassel remained in America. About half of the soldiers returned home.

See also “ Blood Dollars ” with a contemporary report on rented soldiers and money paid by the English crown to Friedrich II. Von Hessen-Kassel.

In addition to the Hessian soldiers, the small principality of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel and the principalities of Ansbach and Bayreuth, as well as Anhalt-Zerbst and Hessen-Hanau, which are linked in personal union , also provided troops for Great Britain. Over 4,000 Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel soldiers took part in the fighting, mainly in Canada, plus a regiment from the Principality of Waldeck and Pyrmont . Five regiments of the Electorate of Braunschweig-Lüneburg , which was in personal union with the British Crown, were deployed in Gibraltar to relieve the British in North America .

Germans were also on the American side. In addition to numerous individuals in higher and lower military ranks, the French regiment Royal Deux-Ponts from Zweibrücken under Marshal Rochambeau took part in the last campaigns of the war ( Battle of Yorktown ).

See also:


Copper engravings by Daniel Berger (1744–1824) based on a template by Daniel Chodowiecki 1784.

The Americans oppose the Stamp Act, and burn the stamp paper sent from England to America at Boston, August 1764.jpg

Stamp Act 1765

The engraving shows citizens of Boston burning the notices from England regarding the 1765 Stamp Act.

Original caption:
The Americans oppose the Stamp Act, and burn the stamp paper sent from England to America at Boston in August 1764.

The residents of Boston throw the Anglo-East Indian tea into the sea on December 18, 1773.jpg

Boston Tea Party

The engraving shows citizens of Boston disguised as Indians who have boarded ships in Boston harbor and throwing boxes of tea overboard.

Original caption:
The inhabitants of Boston throw the Anglo-East Indian tea into the sea on December 18, 1773.

The first citizen blood, for the foundation of American freedom, was shed at Lexington on April 19th, 1775.jpg

Battle of Lexington and Concord

The engraving shows British troops shooting into the front of the American militiamen at the Battle of Lexington.

Original caption:
The first citizen blood, for the foundation of American freedom, was shed at Lexington on April 19th, 1775.

Congress declares the 13 United States of North America independent on July 4th, 1776.jpg

American Declaration of Independence

The engraving shows a meeting of the Continental Congress .

Original caption:
Congress declares the 13 United States of North America independent on July 4th, 1776.

The Hessians, from General Washington on December 25th.  Attacked at Trenton in 1776, they are brought into Philadelphia as prisoners of war.jpg

Battle of Trenton

The engraving shows Hessian soldiers who were captured during the Battle of Trenton on their way to Philadelphia .

Original caption:
The Hessians, from General Washington on December 25th. Attacked at Trenton in 1776, they are brought into Philadelphia as prisoners of war.

The Americans take the Corps of General Bourgoyne prisoner, at Saratoga, on October 16th.  1777.jpg

Battle of Saratoga

The engraving shows British troops laying down their arms after the surrender of Saratoga .

Original caption:
The Americans take the Corps of General Bourgoyne prisoner, at Saratoga, on October 16th. 1777.

As envoy of the American Frey State, Dr Franklin receives his first audience in France, at Versailles, on March 20th, 1778.jpg

The engraving shows Benjamin Franklin at the French court in Versailles .

Original caption:
Dr. As envoy of the American Frey State, Franklin received his first audience in France, at Versailles, on March 20th, 1778.

Landing of a French auxiliary army in America, at Rhode Island, on July 11th 1780.jpg

The engraving shows the disembarkation of French troops under the command of Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau in Newport (Rhode Island) .

Original caption:
Landing of a French auxiliary army in America, at Rhode Island, on July 11th, 1780.

Major André, stopped by three Americans at Tarrytown on September 23rd.  1780.jpg

Major John André

The engraving shows Major John André being taken into custody near Tarrytown (New York) by three men, John Paulding , Isaac Van Wart and David Williams .

Original caption:
Major André, stopped by three Americans at Tarrytown on September 23rd. 1780.

The Americans take Lord Cornwallis and his army prisoner at Yorktown on the 19th of October.  1781.jpg

Battle of Yorktown

The engraving shows British troops surrendering their weapons after the surrender after the Battle of Yorktown.

Original caption:
The Americans take Lord Cornwallis with his army prisoner, at Yorktown on the 19th October. 1781.

End of hostilities, the English grant New York to the Americans.  1783.jpg

The engraving shows soldiers, a man and a woman, and a native family standing in the streets during the evacuation of New York City on November 25, 1783.

Original caption:
End of hostilities, the English grant New York to the Americans. 1783.

1 American sniper or hunter (Rifleman) 2 regular infantry from Pensylvania.jpg

The engraving shows an American hunter and a soldier from the Pennsylvania Infantry.

Original caption:
1. American sniper or hunter (rifleman) 2. Regulaire infantry from Pensylvania.

1 General Washington's Horse Bodyguard 2 The Independent Company, Chief General Washington.jpg

The engraving shows two members of units that were under the command of George Washington.

Original caption:
1st General Washington's mounted bodyguard. 2. the independent company, Chief General Washington.


  • Robert M. Calhoon: The Loyalists in Revolutionary America, 1760–1781. Harcourt 1973.
  • Stephen Conway: A Short History of the American Revolutionary War. IB Tauris, London / New York 2013.
  • Howard Fast : The Hessian . Wm. Morrow & Co., New York 1972 (German: The drum boy . Molden, Vienna 1975; as Der Sohn der Söldner , Vienna 1978).
  • John Ferling: Almost A Miracle. The American Victory in the War of Independence. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2007.
  • Jack P. Greene, JR Pole (Ed.): A Companion to the American Revolution. Blackwell, Malden / Oxford 2000.
  • Michael Hochgeschwender : The American Revolution: Birth of a Nation 1763-1815. CH Beck, Munich 2016, ISBN 978-3-406-65442-8 ( technical review ).
  • Gerald Horne: The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America. New York University Press, New York 2016, ISBN 978-1-4798-0689-8 .
  • Robert G. Parkinson: The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill 2016, ISBN 978-1-4696-2663-5 .
  • Charlotte A. Lerg: The American Revolution. A. Francke Verlag (UTB Profile), Tübingen 2010, ISBN 978-3-8252-3405-8 .
  • Hermann Wellenreuther : From chaos and war to order and peace. The American Revolution Part One, 1775–1783. Lit Verlag, Berlin 2006.
  • Hermann Wellenreuther: From the Confederation to the American Nation. The American Revolution second part, 1783–1796. Lit Verlag, Berlin 2016.

Web links

Commons : American Revolutionary War  - Album containing pictures, videos and audio files

Mercenary theme


  1. William Makepeace Thackery: The Four George. Reclam, Leipzig 1965, pp. 95 and 97.
  2. Stephen Conway: A Short History of the American Revolutionary War. London / New York 2013, p. 64.
  3. ^ Philipp Gassert et al .: Brief history of the USA. Reclam, Stuttgart 2007, p. 132.
  4. ^ Philipp Gassert et al .: Brief history of the USA. Stuttgart 2007, p. 133.
  5. Cf. Charlotte A. Lerg: The American Revolution. Tübingen 2010, p. 63 f.
  6. ^ Treaty of Alliance Between The United States and France; February 6, 1778 ( Memento from January 16, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) (text of the contract in the Avalon Project of the Yale Law School)
  7. Cf. Charlotte A. Lerg: The American Revolution. Tübingen 2010, p. 67.
  8. ^ Robert A. Selig: The Revolution's Black Soldiers
  9. Stephen Conway: A Short History of the American Revolutionary War. London / New York 2013, p. 64 and p. 66.
  10. ^ Robert M. Calhoon: Loyalism and neutrality. In: Jack P. Greene, JR Pole (Ed.): The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. 1991.