The Revolutionary War (The American War of Independence)

Subject: History
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Study level: College

The revolutionary war was also referred to as the American war of independence.

This war took place between 1775 and 1783 and it was a culmination of the conflict between the colonies of Great Britain in North America and their mother country.

France was a participant in the war as an ally to the independent states at that time.

The current United States of America was a product of the war when the colonies decided to break up after the war, forming the present United States of America.

After the war, the Americans overthrew British rule and achieved internal self-governance. Before the war, the Americans lacked a professionally trained army or navy, and the defense of the colony was mainly through lightly trained and unarmed without proper training militia. These militias did not have uniforms and lasted for a very short period of time for instance they lasted for a few weeks or months and they even feared going for a long time They lacked the skills and training as the regular soldier but they could subdue troops This was witnessed in battles at Concord.

Historians have estimated that between 40-45 % of the colonists were against the British rule and supported the rebellion while an estimated 15-20% were loyal to the British rule. The remaining 35-45% were neither against nor for the British rule did they, therefore, take a neutral position in the affair. The presence of British force was required by the loyalist factions. The British military encountered problems with the loyalists for instance in the south they had difficulties with strategic choice because there was the need to protect the loyalists and at the same time counter the large amounts of American troops. (Charles, 1989)

Another major problem encountered by the British concerned the assurance of the Loyalists that their military action would not bring the destruction of property and offending the loyalists’ opinion.

The army

Recruitment in the British army increased during the time of war from 36,000 to around 90,000 soldiers some of whom were hired from other states like Germany. This was in preparation to counter any form of resistance from the American militia groups.

Hessian was a term used to refer to the soldiers who originated from Hesse- Kassel.

Rebel soldiers in the army called the German soldiers mercenaries. The then-called private army was scorned when the independence of Americans was confirmed.

The Germans, therefore, contributed about a third of the British troops, and they were stationed in North America. The African Americans also contributed to the war.

The Africans gave their contribution to the war in the form of slaves and they were on both sides of the divide. Some of them were owned by the British for instance those who worked for the patriot masters. Initially, there was a burn on slaves being used in the army but this came to be revoked by Sir George Washington. The Black people including slaves were located at t. The British promised their slaves freedom after serving in the army other units were found in Haiti alongside other French forces.

An estimated 20,000 black soldiers of African American origin participated in the war he Rhodes Island and in some parts of Massachusetts. (Charles, 1989)

Native Americans

The Native Americans had their involvement in the war. However, the people in this category demonstrated confusion on whether to support the British or the colonists.

In other words, they were confused about how to respond to the conflict at the time.

The Native Americans had a feeling that the expanding American settlement could grab their land and displace them from their ancestral land. They, therefore, contributed an estimated 13,000 warriors to help the British.

The North

In the North, activity started around 1775. There was a lot of resistance in parts such as Boston. It is with such activities that there was the enactment of the governing law in Massachusetts that marked the end of the home rule. This was taken to be a form of punishment and it consequently led to some resistance. As this resistance intensified some officials who were in charge sought refuge in the Boston region.

At the moment the revolutionaries had already surrounded and were in control of the countryside. The militia in the countryside had stored munitions in Concord and this, therefore, prompted the action of the British to move in and take the weapons.

The countryside had been alerted of the intentions by the British and on their arrival, there was evidence of gunshots that led to the death of several minutemen.

After this event, the British decided to retreat back to Boston. On their way, they were attacked thus weakening them to some extent but lucky enough they received reinforcement from Britain, Otherwise it would have been a disaster for the British army.

With battles of this nature in Concord and Lexington, the revolution had already begun.

In Boston, the British were surrounded as the militia tool over the city. They, therefore, received more men to their aid and they arrived through the sea with the great leadership of General Howe. These people managed to capture the Charlestown Peninsula in a fierce battle at Bunker hill. This battle had a negative impact on them because they experienced heavy losses immediately after the Americans retreated. They did not bother to move in and counter-attach the Americans. General Washington came back to Boston in 1775 to take charge of the British forces and to make the army more organized.

His army had run short of gunpowder and he had to find new sources. Some gunpowder was imported from France while some were locally manufactured. Throughout the fall of winter the stand-off went on and in early march 1776 heavy cannons that had been captured at Fort Ticonderoga were positioned at Dorchester Heights and this kind of artillery outmatched the British positions forcing them to flee on march 17 1776.

As the standoff in Boston went on the continental congress was seeking ways of unleashing the initiative elsewhere. They had already invited the French Canadians to join them but it never came to happen. They, therefore, authorized the invasion of Canada with the aim of eliminating the British rule from Quebec.

They undertook two major expeditions to Canada in September and November 1775.

The invasions in Canada did not go well for the Americans and it cost them their base of support in the British public opinion.

After withdrawing from Boston, the Americans focused on capturing New York.

General Washington divided his 20000 between Manhattan and Long Island.

The British soldiers had been strategizing near the Staten island.

In this war the largest battle was noted to have occurred at the Brooklyn Heights when the British drove the Americans to this same location. 22000 British men had landed on this location to confront the Americans.

Howe took control of New York on September 15 after succefully landing 12,000 men prompting the Americans to withdraw but still holding on their ground. The Americans feared and withdrew when Howe went a head to surround Washington’s army in October

The White Plains also witnessed the battles where Howe had no option but to go back to Manhattan. It captured the Fort Washington in mid November and took about 2,000 prisoners. This so the onset of the famous prison ship system.

For the remaining period of the war the British had to remain in New York.

Historians have noted that most American soldiers died in the war out of neglect.

Causes of the war


The colonists were very much against this act because they thought it to be a violation of their rights. The stamp act had been scrapped off but some other taxes such as mutiny and sugar act were not liked by the Americans These acts were not changes and furthermore they were extended to the colonies. The taxation was heavy to the Americans and they were very uncomfortable with the situation. There was trouble in New York because the assembly had passed a limited act concerning the two regiments which were supposed to be supplied in December 1766 therefore refusing the supply of troops to and went a head to stand firm throughout in a long controversy with Sir Moore.

New York had been deprived off legislative powers by the parliament as a punishment for their disobedience. Much of the revenue collected in taxes was used for paying the crown officer and this was actually a violation of the rights of the various colonies and this went as far as exciting apprehension from the Americans. At the time of the war most Americans were acting against the acts of navigation and the imperial authority.

For instance the colonial merchants went on smuggling goods and trading with the enemy. The colonial assemblies on the other side continued to refuse to supply the military with supplies and soldiers. The war left negatively impacted on Great Britain leaving it with a huge debt to such an extent that it was very difficult to manage the newly acquired colonies in North America. The British wanted the Americans to have a share in the costs of providing defence for the colonies. They also advocated for navigation acts to be strictly enforced on the colonists. They therefore sought for ways of increasing the revenue for instance using the parliament to enact laws such as the stamp act. ( Middlekauff,2005)

This law after implementation was supposed to ensure that the colonists use special paper for all the official documents for instance the mortgages, title deeds and even newspapers. Also in the enforcement of this law those who were found guilty of violating it were to be prosecuted in admiralty courts even without a judge. The revenue collected from this taxation could be used to pay the military for their defence job so as to prevent hostilities between the colonists and the Native Americans.

Such laws encountered great resistance from the colonists because the considered then to be a violation of their rights. What the Americans wanted was a framework that could divide power and authority equally between the colonies and Great Britain.Since their early stages, the colonial assemblies had made themselves on Parliament and had enacted laws governing internal matters, which comprised of increasing the taxes and armies, and administration of the judiciary.

In the management of the colonies, Britain was to take care of affairs such as declaring war and peace. It also controlled trade and managed foreign affairs. The use of the post office was also under their, mandate. From the colonialists acts such as the stamp acts were supposed to discriminate Americans and protect the British from paying the tax.This in effect destabilized the independence of the assemblies in the colonies. This was seen as a move to rob off the Americans of their freedom. Based on such argument there was resistance and opposition towards this act. For example the sons of liberty, a secret society organized riots in colonial port cities thus not allowing the British stamp distributors to take control of the posts.

The stamp act was abolished by the assemblies. Americans also resisted using boycotts which were well organized and successful that they paralyzed trade and they experienced heavy losses as a result. Delegates from nine colonies met in New York. They petitioned the parliament and the king concerning the grievances of the colonists. In march 1766 the stamp act was done away with. Those who benefited were not only the colonists with their constitutional objections but also the British merchants who experienced economic problems. The abolishment of the stamp act did not go very far in terms of satisfying the demands of the British.

Parliament had not submitted to the right to tax the colonies and this followed in 1767, at the advice of Chancellor of the Exchequer Charles Townsend, it so the passing of the Townsend Acts. Products such as lead, paint paper and others started being taxed after they had been imported from Britain. The Townsend’s laws were also fundamental in shaping the American board of customs commissioners whereby the members were very much interested in enforcing the navigation acts.( Humphrey,2003)

Since the royal officials depended so much on the assemblies, this was meant to free them and pave way towards self governance.

Impact of the war

The war lasted for 6 years and it had far reaching effects for both the Americans and the British There was massive loss of life and property especially during the battles that occurred in various Cities for instance Boston. America lost its people who fought in the militias while Britain lost so many soldiers in the war.

After the war there were peace negotiations in Paris. This gave America land and internal self governance and almost all wishes of the Americans were achieved after the negotiations, with the exception of Canada. The new American country stretched all the way from the west to the perimeter of Spanish region, the Mississippi River. The treaty also included other provisions as well, for instance the sharing of Canadian waters by American fishermen.

This was meant to improve the relations between the two countries as both could benefit from the treaty. Since there was destruction of property it followed that there was a high demand of commodities for both the British and Americans. This consequently led to an increase in prices of commodities. This affected the worthiness of the continental currency; This also made America to loose Britain as one major partner in trade. After the war supplies declined the territory experienced great inflation rates and high levels of unemployment.

This became a common feature of the urban areas in America. Americans lacked the security they enjoyed from the British and hence their trade overseas became quite impossible for instance there was a lot of piracy in such seas as Mediterranean because the British navy was not in existence to provide protection to those who were involved in the trade. In other words the war shook the American economy making it very fragile and unstable. However it is vital to underscore the fact that the war created some opportunities for the economy. For instance, British restrictions on American trade were no longer effective. This allowed the marine mercantile and manufacturing industries to mature without interference

Even Though the war did some serious harm to the country’s hatchling economy in some ways, it did, in fact, strengthen it in others. This would go far in reconstructing the economy and creating more opportunities for development. The war impacted on women both on the positive and on the negative sides. As the men left to go out in war, the women were left behind to take care off business, farms and other affairs which were handled by their men.

This made them improve on important skills and led to emergence of their empowerment. Women after the war gained more power such that they could divorce their husbands if they so wished. The idea of spheres of influence became famous, and women, like Abigail Adams, hoped to have men recall in history that they too had talents and abilities that could go far from mere simple housekeeping chores.( Calhoon,2000)

In North America, the War was helpful as it assisted the liberation of slaves, because many of them had been involved in the Continental Army. The case was a bit different in the south because here they considered slaves to be very important to the economy in terms of providing labour. This means that they were not willing to let the slaves go because they could experience serious labour shortages and this would eventually affect the economy.

Therefore they had to continue with the practice of slavery. Humphrey ( 2003)After the war, the Native Americans also started experiencing the repercussion as white settlers started settling on what was initially claimed to be their land. This automatically resulted in further conflicts and strife as the various groups resisted the move. Examples of communities that were involved in this conflict include the Cherokees that were associated with the Appalachian Mountains and the Shawnees who came from Ohio. This brought even more suffering to the people as they had to go through all the hardships of economic recession and at the same time come into terms with the conflicts of land with the settlers.

After the end of the American war of independence, it became obligatory for a slackly binding government to clutch the nation together, at least to a better degree. The whole Native American population lost much in the war. The American had participated in the war as a loosing side What followed then was the establishment of the articles of confederation which gave some power to the legislature but still retained some to the state. The conflicts and the battles that took place during the war affected the minority groups in different ways. Some suffered loss of loved ones while others lost in terms of trade or employment. Egalitarianism as a thought emerged as a result of the war.

This refers to a believe that all people are equal and should receive equal treatment. This believe was demonstrated in the war when wealthy men and women who were soldiers in the army intermingled with very poor men all of them working towards a common course. This was a very significant principle for uniting all the Americans so as to forge a head and achieve economic prosperity. People began to embrace the spirit of working hard together despite the financial background and this was very important for the sake of nation building. However the people still looked down upon the slaves and the Native Americans.

However it is vital to underscore the fact that the war created some opportunities for the economy. For instance, British restrictions on American trade were no longer effective. This allowed the marine mercantile and manufacturing industries to mature without interference. This was a very important move that was aiming at reviving the economy which has developed to the heights enjoyed to date in the United States.


Charles W. Toth, Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite: The American Revolution & the European Response. (1989) p. 26.

Calhoon, “Loyalism and neutrality” in Greene and Pole, A Companion to the American Revolution (2000) p.235.

Humphrey, Carol Sue ed. The Revolutionary Era: Primary Documents on Events from 1776 to 1800 Greenwood Press, 2003.

Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789 (2005).