Revolutionary War Timeline

March 31, 1774: Boston Port Act

After the Boston Tea party, British Parliament passed the “Intolerable Acts:” laws designed to prevent further resistance from the colonies. The Boston Port Act’s opening line states: “An act to discontinue, in such manner, and for such time as are therein mentioned, the landing and discharging, lading or shipping, of goods, wares, and merchandise, at the town, and within the harbour, of Boston, in the province of Massachusetts Bay, in North America.” (British Parliament, 1774) Simplified, this act closed off the ports of Boston. This prevented trade and commerce in the city. (The Intolerable Acts.)

May 20, 1774: Administration of Justice Act

The Administration of Justice Act allowed British troops stationed in the colonies to, essentially, do anything they wanted. This was because the act prevented British soldiers from being tried for any crimes they might have committed. This was done by granting a soldier relocation to a different colony to avoid being tried. (The Intolerable Acts.)

May 20, 1774: Massachusetts Government Act

The Massachusetts Government Act was “An act for the better regulating the government of the province of the MassachusetÂ’s Bay, in New England.” (British Parliament, 1774) This law repealed the charter of the Massachusetts colony, reducing it to the levels of a crown colony. This stripped the colony of individualistic rights. The governing body was replaced by a military government under General Thomas Gage. (Intolerable Acts, 2015)

June 2, 1774: Quartering Act of 1774

The Quartering Act, similar to the original passed in 1765, required colonists to provide British soldiers with living accommodations. This ranged from public institutions, like inns or taverns, to private homes of the colonists. (Quartering Act (1774))

June 22, 1774: Quebec Act

The Quebec Act had already been considered since 1773, but was finally implemented in 1774. The Act eliminated the territory between the Ohio and Mississippi rivers from colonial rule, also taking away trade in the region. The territory was given to the province of Quebec, reinstating French civil law. (Intolerable Acts)

Sept. 5-Oct. 26, 1774: First Continental Congress

The Continental Congress was a governing body of delegates from each of the 13 colonies. This body coordinated the resistance against Britain in the early American Revolution. The first meeting occurred September 5th, 1774, with delegates coming from all colonies except Georgia. During the first Continental Congress, the delegates produced the Articles of Association, which stated that if the Intolerable Acts were not repealed by a certain date, the colonists would boycott British products. (Continental Congress, 1774-1781.)

Threats against the British included: “That from and after the first day of December next, we will not import, into British America, from Great-Britain or Ireland, any goods, wares, or merchandise whatsoever, or from any other place, any such goods, wares, or merchandise, as shall have been exported from Great-Britain or Ireland…,” (Randolph, 1774) which meant the colonists would stop importing their products from Britain, and “We will, in our several stations, encourage frugality, economy, and industry, and promote agriculture, arts and the manufactures of this country, especially that of wool…”, (Randolph, 1774) meaning the colonists would stimulate their own economy and make themselves a source of competition for Britain. (Randolph, 1774)

March 23, 1775: “Give me liberty or give me death” speech by Patrick Henry

Delegate Patrick Henry, at one of the Virginia Conventions, gave a speech made famous by the line of “Give me liberty or give me death!” His speech is a call to action, as he claims that “Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun!” (Henry, 1775) The purpose of the speech was to appeal to the president of the congress, Peyton Randolph, to organize troops from every Virginia county. (“Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death!”) To support his position, he says the colonies are capable of taking on Britain: “Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us.” (Henry, 1775)

April 18, 1775: Ride of Paul Revere

A subgroup of the Sons of Liberty, known as the Mechanics, discovered plans of the British to march over 700 men to take the munitions and arms of the Patriots. Patriot Paul Revere was given the task of warning Samuel Adams and John Hancock at Lexington of the British Operation. His warning to those in Lexington, and afterwards Concord, allowed the “minutemen” to prepare for the oncoming British attack. (Intelligence Throughout History: Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride.)

April 19, 1775: Battle of Lexington and Concord

The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first fights of the Revolutionary War. On April 15th, 1775, General Thomas Gage, Military Governor of the Massachusetts Colony, received orders to destroy the military supplies of the Patriots in Concord. Inside informants in Boston allowed Paul Revere to warn Lexington to intercept the British and prevent them from reaching Concord. When British troops, consisting between 650-900 men, met the “minutemen” at the Lexington green, a shot rang out. It is unknown which side fired first. This prompted the British to start firing, killing 8 militiamen and injuring 10. (Battle of Lexington and Concord)

After the militia retreated, the British marched to Concord. When they reached Concord, the Americans were more prepared to face the troops. The first shot of the battle is referred to as “The Shot Heard Round The World,” as it officially began the Revolutionary War. American fighting techniques drove the British back, resulting in a 20% casualty rate for the British. This battle would be pivotal in causing the Siege of Boston. (Battle of Lexington and Concord)

May 10, 1775: Second Continental Congress

War had already begun at the next planned Continental Congress. The delegates became the default national government as the colonies shied away from Britain. During this time, they drafted and presented the Olive Branch Petition, and formed the Continental Army. (Continental Congress, 1774-1781.)

May 10, 1775: Battle of Fort Ticonderoga

Fort Ticonderoga had been an important site in the French and Indian War, but had surrendered to the British upon French defeat. A British garrison manned the Fort and became an insignificant asset of the British. A militia force called the Green Mountain Boys, lead by Ethan Allen, along with 400 men under the lead of Benedict Arnold, launched a surprise attack on the unsuspecting British troopers. No casualties were suffered on either side. The victory raised the spirits of patriots in all 13 colonies. More importantly, heavy weapons were taken from the fort and used in important battles, and the location of the fort cut off the British route between New York and Canada. (Intelligence Throughout History: The Capture of Fort Ticonderoga, 1775.)

June 17, 1775: Bunker Hill Battle

American troops were vastly underprepared at the Battles of Lexington and Concord, even with the warning from Paul Revere. Now that they had launched into war, the Patriots were more organized in their war effort. When a plot of the British to seize neglected territories reached colonists, a militia was organized to capture Bunker Hill and beat the British to it. (The Battle of Bunker Hill.)

July 5, 1775: Olive Branch Petition

The Olive Branch Petition was a last-chance effort to make peace with Britain and avoid all out war. Written by John Dickinson, a delegate of Philadelphia, the petition explained the reasons for the colonists taking up arms: the document states “Your Majesty’s Ministers, persevering in their measures, and proceeding to open hostilities for enforcing them, have compelled us to arm in our own defence…” (Dickinson, 1775) and goes on to explain their right to resist against oppressive rule. The petition seeked to show the colonists loyalty to the King, but King George III rejected the petition and declared the colonies to be in rebellion. (Reconciliation or Revolution? The Olive Branch Petition.)

January 10, 1776: Common Sense by Thomas Paine is published

Common Sense, published by Thomas Paine, was effective propaganda against Britain. The easy language made the literature more accessible for general colonists to read. The document challenged the rule of Britain and outright asked for Independence. He states that government is a “necessary evil,” goes on to elaborate on the rights of the governed to overthrow a tyrannical reign. (Paine, 1776)

July 4, 1776: Declaration of Independence

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” (The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription.) This is the opening statement of the Declaration of Independence, the founding document of America. The declaration announced and finalized the colonist’s intent to disband from British rule. The document states the full reasoning behind the split, and then issues a formal dissolving of connection to Britain. (The Declaration of Independence.)

October 4, 1777: Battle of Germantown

Following defeats at the hands of the British, such as Brandywine and the capture of Philadelphia, General Washington took the initiative to gain the upper hand by attacking British General William Howe’s divided troops in Germantown. The Americans suffered significant losses, including 152 deaths and over 400 of their own captured. (Gabreil)

July 27, 1777: Marquis de Lafayette is appointed a major general in continental army

October 7, 1777: Battle of Saratoga

This battle had a significant impact on the reputation of the Continental Army. The outcome showed that they were effective in holding off the British forces, causing the French to take interest in the American’s efforts. Several battles of Saratoga made up the larger conflict. Tactical measures by generals of the Continental Army hit the British so badly that they surrendered. (Battle of Saratoga.)

November 15, 1777: Articles of Confederation are adopted.

The first constitution of the new United States was the Articles of Confederation. Though these would later be rewritten and adopted as the modern Constitution, due to their instability. This was due to most of the power belonging to the states instead of a strong central government. (The Articles of Confederation.)

December 19, 1777: Washington’s forces arrive arrive at Valley Forge.

The winter of 1777-1778 was particularly harsh on the Continental Army. After several defeats from the British, General Washington lead his troops to Valley Forge to coordinate and prepare for fighting to start back up in warmer weather. Camp conditions lead to the rapid spread of sickness, and many Patriots were without adequate supplies to last the winter. Drilling of the troops and reorganization of the camp began when a former member of the Prussian Army, Baron von Steuben, arrived to assist General Washington. This lead the army to becoming a better fighting force when the winter ended. (The Continental Army at Valley Forge, 1777.)

January 17, 1781: Battle of Cowpens

The Battle of Cowpens is regarded as a turning point in the war for causing a chain reaction of events that would result in the victory at Yorktown. (The Battle of Cowpens.)

October 19, 1781: The Siege of Yorktown

Supplemented by French troops and supplies, as supplied with the French Alliance, gave the Continental Army an additional edge leading up to the battle. Trench warfare made up the majority of the battle. General Cornwallis of Britiain surrendered to General Washington when he realized he was outnumbered and cornered by American forces. This defeat was extremely humiliating for the British. (History of the Siege.)

January 14, 1784: Treaty of Paris

The Treaty of Paris was a treaty that officially ended the war between the United States and Britain, establishing America fully as it’s own country. The document also established America's new borders. The treaty was brought on by the significant defeat of the British at Yorktown. Peace talks had already begun in 1782, but the treaty was officially ratified in 1784. (Treaty of Paris.)