Outbreak of War

History AS - Unit 2

  • 1774-75 - General Gage sent spies through Massachusetts - investigate strength of colonial resistance and find where the weapons were
  • February 1775 - he sent troops to Salem to seize weapons - BUT they were outnumbered and denied entry - forced to withdraw - open colonial resistance

Lexington and Concord

  • April 14: Gage received letter from Dartmouth - arrest leaders of Provincial Congress + disarm the population using force
  • April 18: he sent 700 troops (under Colonel Smith) from Boston to seize rebel powder and arms stored at Concord (27km away) + arrest members of Provincial Congress
  • BUT all members of Boston Committee of Safety warned the Massachusetts militia
  • April 19: British troops found their path barred by 70 minutemen at Lexington - 8 militiamen killed and British continued to Concord - confronted by large militia force - British destroyed military stores but did not arrest Provinical Congress members
  • on return, British were assaulted by American forces firing from behind the woods - Earl Percy arrived with a relief force, holding back militiamen at Lexington
  • on reaching Boston, British had suffered 273 casualties (73 dead) + Americans (49 dead and 43 wounded) surrounded Boston - within a week 20, 000 militia

Second Continental Congress

  • 10 May - 65 delegates met in Philadelphia - had to take charge of the management of the war - colonies must:
  • immediately be put into a state of defence
  • assume responsibility for the army around Boston
  • raise a Continental Army of 20, 000 men
  • Mid-June - Congress voted to issue $2 million in paper money to finance the force
  • Congress agreed that George Washington take command of the Continental Army - aristocratic + had experience from 7 Years' War
  • July 6 - 'Declaration of the Causes and Necessities of Taking up Arms' - listed all colonial objections since 1763
  • 8 July - Olive Branch Petition - begged George III to prevent further hostile measures - wanted reconciliation - seeing independence would be a last resort
  • HOWEVER - George III refused to receive or consider the Olive Branch Petition (Congress was illegal + had been fighting against his troops)
  • August 23 - he declared that the colonies were in a state of rebellion + called upon his civil and military officials to help suppress this rebellion

Battle of Bunker Hill

  • 26 May - British generals Howe, Clinton + Burgoyne arrived in Boston with a few thousand troops - Gage now had a force of 6, 500 men
  • 12 June - Gage declared Massachusetts in a state of rebellion - those who would put down their arms and return to peace were to be forgiven
  • Gage knew that American forces were set to occupy Bunker Hill - a rebel force of 1, 500 men occupied Breed's Hill by mistake + Gage was determined to remove them
  • Howe launched a frontal attack on the rebel defences - removed the Americans after three frontal assaults (226 killed: 828 wounded) - Americans lost less than half
  • 1/8 of the British officers killed in the war died in this battle


  • July 2 - he takes command of the Continental Army (never had more than 2,000)
  • FOUND:
  • 15, 000 poorly trained, poorly equipped + poorly disciplined troops
  • less than 50 cannon, limited powder + few trained gunners
  • no military order - no inspections or supervision of food + quarters
  • incapable officers removed (distinguished by a badge) - set to impose discipline
  • BOSTON -
  • Washington wanted - attack Boston (scared politicians) - strong British barricades
  • Washington had a shortage of arms + gunpowder (+ many troops had gone home)
  • mid-winter - American army was very ill (typhoid etc.)
  • Britain now substantially outnumbered them - BUT Howe (replaced Gage) did nothing - 9, 000 British troops in Boston took no effective action
  • American rebels had time to secure their control in other colonies

Invasion of Canada

  • June 1775 - Congress told Schuyler - seize Montréal - advanced from Ticonderoga
  • second force under Arnold would march through Maine (join Schuyler in Québec)
  • Schuyler's army (without Schulyer - ill) of 1, 200 men headed north (Montgomery took command) - they surrounded Fort St John from 16 September - 2 November (stubborn defence of Fort St John probably saved Canada)
  • 13 November - Montgomery captured Montréal + the 150 men surrendered
  • Meanwhile - Arnold (+ 1000-strong force) marched through Maine - 700 tired, hungry and sick men arrived opposite Québec in November
  • early December - 300 soldiers (under Montgomery) arrived from Montréal - most troops allowed to leave at the end of the year - attack on Québec had to be soon
  • General Guy Carleton had 1,800 men - militia, seamen + marines from British ships + around 100 regular soldiers - to defend Québec
  • 31 December - American attack through a heavy snowstorm - massive failure
  • Montgomery killed + Arnold wounded - over 400 Americans surrendered + Arnold pulled back a mile from Québec
  • Arnold's men suffered from lack of supplies + smallpox (many deserted)
  • Spring - arrival of 10, 000 British reinforcements - ended the siege


  • Lord Dunmore (with 500 loyalists + assistance of several warships) launched raids on Virginian coastal towns - several months
  • November - he issued proclamation - promised freedom to slaves who fled their rebel masters + helped British war effort - solidified rebel support further

The South

  • governors suggested that with loyalists + British forces, rebellion in the South could be put to a stop - starting point was North Carolina
  • many background settlers - ready to support Britain
  • BUT Carolinian loyalists acted too quickly - crushing defeat at Moores Creek (February 1776)
  • General Clinton (+ 1, 500 troops) did not sail south from Boston until February - supposed to meet British fleet (2, 500 troops) under Cornwallis - Cape Fear
  • Clinton arrived in early March (5 weeks later) - little support along North Carolina so sailed to South Carolina - unsuccessful capture of Charlestown
  • British force sailed to New York

Evacuation of Boston

  • weapons from Ticonderoga transported by sledge, boats + wagon more than 480km to Boston - arrival in February
  • 4 March - rebels (17, 000 strong) captured Dorchester Heights (overlooked Boston)
  • 17 March - Howe's army (+ over 1000 loyalists) began evacuating Boston - sailing to Halifax, Nova Scotia (Britain's main naval base)

Situation in Britain

  • most British people supported the American war (some army + naval officers resigned BUT the armed forces were always loyal - politicians criticised the policy of the force but none of them wanted an independent America)
  • 22 December 1775 - Prohibitory Act declared the rebellious colonies to be outside the protection of the Crown - forbade business with colonies + made their ships forfeit to the Crown


Declaration of Independence

Loyalty to Britain

  • early 1776 - hopes of reconciliation were over:
  • George III did not want independence for America - rejection of OBP
  • several months of fighting weakened British-American ties
  • Governor Dunmore offered slaves their freedom - support for separation in South
  • Americans believed that Parliament + ministers were to blame for the plan to completely get rid of American liberty

Situation in early 1776

  • foreign aid appeared vital to the American cause
  • November 1775 - Congress established a committee - secret correspondence for negotiation with foreign nations
  • Silas Deane sent to France - retrieve military supplies
  • spring 1776 - royal governors replaced by rebel governments

Move Towards Independence

  • Continental Congress had to declare independence formally - needed a unanimous vote - had to begin on local levels (individual colonies)
  • some colonies declared independence before Congress e.g. Virginia and Rhode Island (4 May) + North Carolina
  • Congress saw they could not declare independence yet - Middle Colonies had not agreed (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware + New York)
  • Committee set up (11 June) to create a draft declaration (Thomas Jefferson, Sam Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston)
  • Thomas Jefferson - worked on it for 2 weeks + submitted it on 28 June
  • 1 July - only 9/13 voted (South Carolina + Pennsylvania - voted against it, Delaware delegation was split + NY forbidden from participating)
  • 2 July - 3rd Delaware delegate rode out and voted for independence, South Carolina changed their minds + another Pennsylvanian rode out, voting for independence
  • 12/13 colonies voted for independence - creation of the United States

Declaration of Independence

  • to provide a moral + legal justification for the rebellion
  • presented a list of wrongs committed against colonies - interfering/waging war etc.
  • 4 July - formally adopted - throughout the weeks, the document was read before troops + public gatherings throughout the colonies
  • BUT - Britain was arranging 32, 000 troops to be sent to New York in preparation for a major attack - British Empire was about to strike back

What Caused The American Revolution?

Economic Factors

  • YES
  • Trade and Navigation Laws
  • drain on colonial finance
  • NO
  • colonists benefited from mercantilism - trade relations pulled them together
  • unpopular taxes/duties - very low + affordable (hardly mentioned in declaration) - principle NOT hardship was the cause of opposition to taxes/duties
  • E.G. Sugar Act, Stamp Act - boycotts


  • American leaders - political ideology - classical ideas, Puritanism, Enlightenment
  • English constitutional thought - emphasised rights + liberties of free-born Englishmen + limitations of royal power
  • colonists insisted they were Englishmen - same rights should be granted to them - 'no taxation without representation' - same in America
  • influenced by early eighteenth-century English radical writers - though a small group of evil British ministers aimed to destroy American liberties - very strong
  • E.G. views from Stamp Act Congress, republicanism

Mob Action

  • revolution was acted out in towns - crowds (often encouraged by Sons of Liberty) made it impossible to enforce British legislation
  • BUT majority of Americans were farmers - did not take part in mob action (occasionally violent mob action frightened American elite as well as British !! )
  • E.G. Boston Massacre, Wilkesite Movement

British Policy

  • old system overthrown by new policies which brought Britain + colonies into conflict
  • in the 1760s Britain ministries created a series of irritations, propelling them towards independence (1764, 1765, 1767 + 1773 in particular) - power over colonies
  • parliament backed down twice (repealing the Stamp Act then Townshend Duties) - undermined its claim for control over colonies
  • colonial resistance grew in strength + authority - after the Boston Tea Party, North's ministry chose to stand firm - he thought a show of force would suppress the rebellious people of Massachusetts - but became a major military effort
  • North took too long to realise the seriousness of the challenge - may have been more successful had Gage had 24, 000 troops rather than 4, 000
  • E.G. Townshend Duties, Quartering Act