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American Revolutionary War
Revolutionary War (collage).jpg
Left, Continental infantry at Redoubt 10, Yorktown; Washington rallying the broken center at Monmouth; USS Bonhomme Richard capturing HMS Serapis
Date April 19, 1775 – September 3, 1783
(8 years, 4 months and 15 days)
Eastern North America, North Atlantic Ocean, the West Indies
Great Britain cedes control of all territories east of the Mississippi R.; south of the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence R. to Spanish Florida




Commanders and leaders

  • United States:
  • France:
    • French Army: Total UNK
    • French Navy: task-force
      • fleets, escorts
  • Spanish Army: Total UNK
  • Spanish Navy: Various fleets and escorts
  • Dutch Navy: Various fleets and escorts
  • American Indians: UNK
Casualties and losses
  • United States:
    • 6,800 dead in battle
    • 6,100 wounded
    • 17,000 disease dead
    • 25–70,000 war dead
    • 130,000 smallpox dead
  • France:
    • 2,112 dead – Eastern seaboard and adjoining waters
  • Spain:
    • 371 dead – W. Florida
    • 4,000 dead – prisoners
  • Great Britain:
    • 5,500 dead in battle
  • Germans:
    • 7,774 total dead
    • 1,800 dead in battle
    • 4,888 deserted
  • Loyalists:
    • 7,000 total dead
    • 1,700 dead in battle
    • 5,300 dead of disease
  • American Indians
    • 500 total dead

The American Revolutionary War was a war fought between Great Britain and the original 13 British colonies in North America. The war took place from 1775 to 1783 with fighting in North America and other places. The Continental Army (army of the colonies), led by George Washington and helped by France and other powers, defeated the armies of the British Empire.

After the war ended, the Thirteen Colonies became independent, which meant that the British Empire was no longer in charge of them. They together became the first 13 states of a new country called the United States of America.

Background and causes

The war started after years of problems between the British Empire and the colonists of North America after the French and Indian War (The seven years war). People in the Thirteen Colonies disliked many of the actions of the British Government, such as the Intolerable Acts. For many years the British government decided which countries could trade with the colonies, instead of the colonies deciding it themselves. Many colonists wanted free trade.

In 1765, the British Parliament needed money to pay back the debt for the French and Indian War. They passed a Law called the Stamp Act. This law said that colonists had to buy stamps for legal papers, newspapers, and even playing cards, as other British people did. The money from the stamps went to the King. The colonies did not follow this law. The colonies kept refusing to do what the King wanted. The Boston Tea Party and Boston Massacre caused people to become more angry about the situation. The British sent more soldiers (who were called Red Coats by the colonists to insult them) to keep control of the colonies and they sometimes had to fight. In 1774, the British passed the Intolerable Acts to punish the colonists in Boston for the Boston Tea Party.

Not all colonists wanted to leave the British Empire. The Loyalists, or Tories, stayed loyal to Great Britain. They were not going to change their views. The Patriots, or Whigs, wanted independence. Before the Revolutionary War, most people in America were Loyalists; but after it, most people were Patriots.

Many colonists wrote letters showing how they felt. Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense, a famous pamphlet about independence from Britain. Other colonial leaders, such as Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson wanted independence.

Northern battles

The first battles of the American Revolutionary War were Lexington and Concord. One of the first major battles was the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775. After that, the British controlled Boston. Around that time, the Second Continental Congress sent an Olive Branch Petition to King George III (which he rejected) and named George Washington head of the army. Early in 1776, Washington's army drove the British out of Boston.

A few months later the Continental Army and British troops under William Howe fought the New York and New Jersey Campaign. During the New York battles, the British started using Hessian troops, who were from Germany. Though the colonists lost New York (the British would hold it for the rest of the war), Washington was able to hold onto most of his army. Over Christmas, 1776-77, Washington crossed the Delaware River and defeated the Hessians at Trenton and the British at Princeton.

In 1777, the British attacked the city of Philadelphia, then the American capital. Two battles were fought over Philadelphia: Brandywine and Germantown. Again, the Americans lost a major city, but Washington was able to keep most of his army. Around this time, the Frenchman Lafayette joined the American Army. In 1778, the British left Philadelphia. Between 1778 and 1781, most battles between Washington and the British were inconclusive (they did not have any major effect militarily).

One of the most important battles was the Battle of Saratoga in 1777. American soldiers under Horatio Gates forced a British surrender under John Burgoyne. This led to France and Spain joining the war on the side of Americans. These powerful countries fought the British around the world. From 1778 to 1780, there was fighting in the West.

The Scottish (fighting on the side of the Americans) commerce raider John Paul Jones also won several naval battles over the British, but the French navy did most of the fighting at sea. The Americans tried to capture Canada several times.

Southern battles

In 1779 major fighting shifted to Georgia and South Carolina. As fighting spread northward, General Nathanael Greene led the Rebel campaign. He caused many people in the South to be Patriots instead of Loyalists, and won several battles against the British.

In 1781, Washington and French general Jean Rochambeau led an offensive against British troops in Yorktown, Virginia. This was called the Battle of Yorktown. When their soldiers lost this battle, the British surrendered.

The British continued to fight the French and Spanish for two years, winning in India, Gibraltar and elsewhere.

End of the war

The American Revolution came to an end in 1783 when a peace treaty was signed in Paris, France. In the Treaty of Paris, the British King, George III accepted the independence of the colonies and recognized the newly created nation as the United States of America.

The treaty also gave all the land Britain said it owned which was west of the Appalachians as far as the Mississippi River to the new country. This land would eventually become part of the US, and lead to the creation of 35 new states (some of which later rebelled as part of the Confederate States of America) that now make up the contiguous United States. Many Loyalists fled to Canada.


As usual for 18th-century wars, casualty figures (killed/wounded/missing/captured) for the American Revolution are poorly known. Unlike American Civil War casualties which were published in newspapers, Revolutionary War casualty reports are found in local town histories; total casualties of the Revolution are rough estimates. Estimates are around 25,000 Americans and 27,294 British and German seaman.

Revolution beyond America

The American Revolution had a strong immediate impact in Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, and France. Many British and Irish Whigs openly supported the Patriots in America, and the revolution was the first lesson in politics for many Europeans who later became active during the era of the French Revolution.

The American Revolution set an example to the rest the world. For the first time in the western world, a people had successfully overthrown the rule of a major country. The revolution encouraged the people in other countries to fight for their rights, and showed that they could be successful like the Americans.

Similarly, in the early 19th century, revolutions broke out in the colonies in South America against Portugal and Spain. Years later, similar revolutions occurred in Asia and other places.


The American Revolution established the United States with its numerous civil liberties and set an example to overthrow both monarchy and colonial governments. The United States has the world's oldest written constitution, and the constitutions of other free countries often bear a striking resemblance to the US Constitution, often word-for-word in places. It inspired the French, Haitian, Latin American Revolutions, and others into the modern era.

United States one dollar bill, reverse
U.S. motto Novus Ordo Seclorum, "A New Age Now Begins"

Although the Revolution eliminated many forms of inequality, it did little to change the status of women, despite the role they played in winning independence. Most significantly, it failed to end slavery which continued to be a serious social and political issue and caused divisions that would ultimately end in civil war. While many were uneasy over the contradiction of demanding liberty for some, yet denying it to others, the dependence of southern states on slave labor made abolition too great a challenge. Between 1774 and 1780, many of the states banned the importation of slaves, but the institution itself continued.

In 1782, Virginia passed a law permitting manumission and over the next eight years more than 10,000 slaves were given their freedom. With support from Benjamin Franklin, in 1790 the Quakers petitioned Congress to abolish slavery; the number of abolitionist movements greatly increased, and by 1804 all the northern states had outlawed it. However, even many like Adams who viewed slavery as a 'foul contagion' opposed the 1790 petition as a threat to the Union. In 1808, Jefferson passed legislation banning the importation of slaves, but allowed the domestic slave trade to continue, arguing the federal government had no right to regulate individual states.

Commemorations of the Revolutionary War

After the first U.S. postage stamp was issued in 1849, the U.S. Post Office frequently issued commemorative stamps celebrating the various people and events of the Revolutionary War. However, it would be more than 140 years after the Revolution before any stamp commemorating that war itself was ever issued. The first such stamp was the 'Liberty Bell' issue of 1926.

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See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Guerra de Independencia de los Estados Unidos para niños

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