The American Revolutionary War

Famous painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware River with his men on a cold winter’s day.
A political cartoon urging the American colonies to unite. (The division of the snake into eight parts has to do with political boundaries at the time of the cartoon’s creation.)
American colonists in the Continental army struggling with wind and cold.
Re-enactment of a Revolutionary War campsite.
Re-enactment of American soldiers of the Continental army deciding to return home.
Re-enactment of British soldiers lined up for a small-scale pitched battle.
Re-enactment of an army drummer, signaling different commands to the soldiers through different drum beats.
General Washington and his close French aid Lafayette inspecting their Continental army troops.
French warships taking on the British fleet off the American coast.
Fight between Continental army and British army cavalry soldiers. A black slave (to the left) is fighting on the side of the Continental army.
Some women served in the Continental army in various capacities, sometimes disguised as men.
George Washington (in a blue coat and holding his hat in his hand) accepting the surrender of British general Cornwallis in Yorktown.

After the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775, which were covered in a previous chapter, neither American colonists nor the British were willing to give in to the other side’s political demands. Therefore, a war in which American colonists sought independence from colonial power Britain now began.

Starvation and lost battles

The American colonists’ army of ragtag farmers, which was ill-equipped and practically without naval support, did not have the odds on their side as they went to war with Great Britain, possibly the strongest military power the world had ever seen. Logically too, owing to its inferior position, rebel leader George Washington’s untrained army lost many battles in the beginning of the war, and despite ammunition and supplies being provided by France, the American soldiers often starved. It didn’t look like the colonies would ever become independent, and hungry and frustrated, some soldiers therefore decided to go back home and look after their families instead of continuing to fight a war they didn’t believe was worthwhile. Yet, a formal declaration of independence came in 1776, giving the reasons for the revolution as the colonists’ grievances with Great Britain and its king, George III.

A cat-and-mouse game

As the months and years went by, the war raged on, with the Americans’ inexperienced Continental army suffering many casualties. Over time though, the American colonists learned from their mistakes, which meant that they stopped fighting — and stopped losing — pitched battles on open fields. Their new tactic, instead, was to act more like an elusive guerrilla force, which the British had a hard time catching. Gradually, the war now turned in the American rebels’ favor, and as the cat-and-mouse game dragged on, the British got bogged down far away from their main supply stations. At this point, the chase became a “redcoat” frustration, and combined with simultaneous wars in other parts of the world, it slowly wore down the British war-machine.

Realizing that their arch-enemy Britain was becoming exhausted, France, towards the end of the Revolutionary War, decided to unite its forces with George Washington’s army in North America. Soon after that, a well-planned siege by the Franco-American alliance of a large British army squadron at Yorktown, in 1781, delivered Great Britain its final blow. Ultimately defeated, the notorious redcoats thereafter humiliatingly had to go back to Europe, and the United States had finally won independence.