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Battles of the American Revolution - 1775

The American Revolutionary War began April 19, 1775 with the skirmish at Lexington, Massachusetts although the Declaration of Independence was not signed in Philadelphia until July 4, 1776. The war is conspicuous as being the most famous struggle in history where colonial dependencies defeated their mighty parent state.

The war is instructive in presenting exceptional conditions and consequent errors in attempts to put down the revolt. The reasons for Britain's failure appear in the progress of the war, which assumed two distinct stages: operations in the north, followed by operations in the south. In point of time and energy, military activity was about equally divided between these two fields.

As for naval operations in connection with the war, Britain was a great naval power with the ability to control the seas, especially until the colonies were able to launch enough ships to challenge the free movement of the British fleet along the eastern seaboard. But Britain had problems elsewhere; France; Spain; Portugal; Holland; and was never in a position to commit enough warships to make a difference in the final results. After the British defeat at the Battle of Saratoga in late 1777, France pledged her support to the rebellion on the side of America, introducing the prospects of a world war and thus effectively neutralizing much of the British navy.

To strike at the rebellion in the north was a natural move. To King George Massachusetts was the hotbed of disloyalty, the head and front of opposition to Britain's colonial policy, and there the point should be made. It was also convenient for a prompt display of authority, as the town of Boston was the headquarters of General Thomas Gage, recently appointed royal governor of Massachusetts and commander of the king's troops in North America. He had with him four regiments of regulars, the initial force with which to overwhelm the restless and defiant population in his vicinity.

However, early in the war many skirmishes were fought between loyalist and rebels with no participation by the British military. Victories for the loyalist in these battles were often short-lived because the loyalist could not sustain victory without maintaining control over the territory gained and its inhabitants. On many occasions -- after the defeated rebels resorted to gorilla-warfare tactics of sniping, destruction of personal property, threats to families -- a loyalist victory was followed by an immediate need for the victors to escape with families and knapsacks to seek a safe-haven within an area under British control, only to be abandoned when the mobility of the war dictated the relocation of the British forces. Except for isolated instances, Britain never attempted to consolidate these loyalist groups into cohesive units.


Quill and Pen General Gage advised his government that not less than 20,000 men would be necessary for the work at hand, yet he proceeded after some delay to suppress warlike preparations near Boston. His first determined effort brought about the skirmish of April 19 in which a detachment sent to seize some military stores collected at Concord suffered heavily at Lexington, Concord and other places, at the hands of the surrounding militia. This encounter roused the New England colonies, and in a few days about 16,000 of their townsmen marched in small bands upon Boston to protest against and resist further incursions; and in this irregular body we have the nucleus of the colonial forces which carried the war in New England through.

No one knows who fired the first shot at Lexington (the "shot heard around the world"), but King George, anxious to conciliate the colonist, publicly insisted throughout the following year that the regulars (British) had fired first and that "the colonist were defending themselves within their rights as Englishmen." Colonial leaders repeated their professions of loyalty to his majesty and the principles of the English constitution. Conscious, nevertheless, that a struggle impended, they instantly sent word to all the other colonies, and all responded to the alarm. Fights broke out between loyalist and rebels as the insurrection spread through the area surrounding Boston and groups of rebels harassed "redcoats" whereever they appeared. Slowly, rebel camps appeared around Boston and soon the British were bottled into the area of Boston harbor; a beginning to the Siege of Boston.

Britian extended its precautions and preparations. General Sir William Howe, General Sir Henry Clinton, and General John Burgoyne were sent at once with reinforcements. General Charles Cornwallis followed later. The force at Boston was increased. The Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and appointed George Washington to head a continental army.

In June the British attempted to break out from the cramped confines of their coastal perimeter resulting in the Battle of Bunker Hill (the battle was fought on nearby Breed's Hill). Technically, it was a British victory but they suffered heavily, losing one-third of their force in storming the hastily constructed lines of the rebels.

Throughout the colonies rebel units began to take up arms. In Virginia British governor, Lord Dunmore offered freedom to slaves who would fight for Britain. From 1,000 to 2,000 blacks joined him and in December, the patriots defeated a force led by Dunmore at Great Bridge, south of Norfolk.

Meanwhile, Captain Benedict Arnold arrived in Cambridge with a company of militiamen and suggested that he be allowed to take Fort Ticonderoga, the key to the passage of Lakes George and Champlain to Canada, to obtain cannon and other war supplies. Benjamin Church promoted Arnold to colonel and gave him the authority to proceed, but Arnold learned that Ethan Allen had already received the same assignment from Connecticut so Arnold volunteered to join Allen's forces. The mission was successful, Arnold returned a hero for his exploits and, Washington, who had arrived during Arnold's absence, dispatched him to attack Quebec, Canada. Arriving in early December, Arnold found the defenses of Sir Guy Carleton formidable and waited for reinforcements. General Richard Montgomery soon arrived from Montreal and together they attacked December 8-31, 1775. Montgomery was killed in the action and Arnold was wounded in the leg, but Arnold continued in Canada until May 1776, when he was forced to withdraw.

Washington took command of the American forces at Cambridge on July 3, and began to train and organize them. He also proceeded with what is known as the Siege of Boston, which was marked by no special incident, and closed with the American seizure of Dorchester Heights and the evacuation of the town by the British on March 17, 1776, with Howe sailing to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Time Line for 1775
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Lexington, MA April 19, 1775
British kill patriots on Lexington Green, Paul Revere rides.
"Shot heard around the world."
Concord, MA April 19, 1775
Minutemen clash with British at North Bridge.
Martha's Vineyard, MA May 5, 1775
Ticonderoga, NY May 10, 1775
Ethan Allen takes fort from British
Crown Point, NY May 12, 1775
Fort St. John, Canada May 14, 1775
Benedict Arnold captures fort with his navy.
Grape Island, MA May 21, 1775
Noodles Island, MA May 27, 1775
Hogg Island, MA May 28, 1775
Siege of Boston, MA June 17, 1775 - March 17, 1776
After 9 months, Gen. Howe evacuates to Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Bunker Hill (Breeds Hill), MA June 17, 1775
Roxbury, MA July 8, 1775
Gloucester, MA August 13, 1775
New York City, NY, Attack on, August 29, 1775
Fort Johnson, SC September 14, 1775
St. John's, Canada September 18 and November 3, 1775
Americans capture John André
Montreal, Canada September 25 and November 12, 1775
Stonington, CT September 30, 1775
Bristol, RI October 7, 1775
Falmouth, ME October 18, 1775
Chambly, Canada October 19, 1775
Hampton, VA October 26, 1775
Phipp's Farm, MA November 9, 1775
Kemp's Landing, VA November 14, 1775
Ninety-Six, SC November 19-21, 1775
Great Bridge, VA December 9, 1775
Governor Dunmore of VA offers freedom to slaves to put down rebellion. They lose at Great Bridge.
Siege of Quebec, Canada December 8-31, 1775
Gen. R. Montgomery and Col. B. Arnold attack Sir Guy Carleton's forces. Montgomery is killed. Arnold stays until May 1776.
Cane Brake, SC December 22, 1775
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