Revolution and Independence
The American Revolution and the war for independence from Britain began with a small fight between British troops and colonists on April 19, 1775. The British troops left Boston, Massachusetts, planning to take weapons and ammunition from revolutionary colonists.
At Lexington, they met armed colonists who were called Minutemen because they could be ready to fight in a minute. The Minutemen planned to protest silently and not shoot unless the British shot first.
The British ordered the Minutemen to leave. The colonists obeyed, but as they left, someone fired a shot. The British troops attacked the Minutemen with guns and bayonets.
Fighting broke out in other places along the way as the British soldiers in their bright red uniforms returned to Boston. More than 250 “redcoats” were killed or wounded. The Americans lost 93 men.
Colonial representatives hurried to Philadelphia for the Second Continental Congress. More than half voted to go to war against Britain. They decided to form one army from the colonial forces. George Washington of Virginia became the commander-in-chief.
At the same time, they sent King George III a peace resolution to try to avoid a war. The king rejected it. On August 23, 1775, the king said the American colonies were in rebellion.
The desire for independence increased in the next few months. Thomas Paine, a radical political thinker, argued for independence and against hereditary monarchy in his pamphlet Common Sense. He described two possible conditions for America. The people could remain unequal citizens under a king, or they could live in an independent country with hopes of liberty and happiness.
The Second Continental Congress created a committee to write a document that outlined the colonies’ complaints against the king and explained their decision to separate from Britain. The reasons were based on French and British ideas. Thomas Jefferson was the main writer of the Declaration of Independence.
The Declaration of Independence told the world of a new nation and its beliefs about human freedom. It argued that political rights are basic human rights and are universal.
The Second Continental Congress accepted this document on July 4, 1776. The Fourth of July became Independence Day in the United States.
The colonies and Britain went to war. British soldiers defeated General Washington’s forces in New York and took control of Philadelphia, forcing the Second Continental Congress to flee. The Continental Army won at Saratoga in New York and at Princeton and Trenton in New Jersey. George Washington had problems getting the men and materials he needed to fight the war.
In 1778, France recognized the United States as an independent country and signed a treaty of alliance. France helped the United States as a way to weaken Britain, its long-time enemy.
There were battles from Montreal, Canada, to Savannah, Georgia. A huge British army surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781. The war ended when a peace treaty was signed in Paris on April 15, 1783. In this treaty, Britain and other nations recognized the United States as an independent nation.
The Revolution affected more than North America. The idea of natural rights became stronger through- out the Western world. Famous men, such as Thaddeus Kosciusko (Poland), Friedrich von Steuben (Prussia), and the Marquis de Lafayette (France) took the ideas of freedom to their own countries.
The Treaty of Paris turned the 13 colonies into states, but the job of becoming one nation remained.
1. The British soldiers were also called what?
2. Who was the commander-in-chief of the colonial army?
A. Thomas Paine
B. Thomas Jefferson
C. George Washington
3. What American holiday celebrates the colonists’ victory?
A. Veteran’s Day
B. Declaration Day
C. Fourth of July