American War of Independence Causes and Events 1763 – 1784

American War of Independence

 This timeline details the main causes and events of the American War of Independence also known as the American Revolutionary War

Main Causes
1763 (15th February)
Seven Years War
The war ended with the British and their allies victorious.
1763 (late February)
The British Prime Minister, John Stuart, Earl of Bute, decided that it would be unfair to put army officers, many of whom were members of the nobility, out of work. He therefore decided to station an army in the American Colonies.
1763 (early Spring)
Bute’s government introduced a Cider Tax in Britain to help raise money. The tax was met with riots and protests.
1763 (8th April)
John Stuart, Earl of Bute, resigned as Prime Minister. He was succeeded by George Grenville.
1764 (early)
Grenville was reluctant to further tax the British people and decided to tax the American Colonies instead.
1764 (5th April)
Sugar Tax
The British government imposed a tax on all imports of sugar from the Colonies. The tax was not well received and colonists protested.
1764 (May)
Although each colony elected representatives to their own local governing body, the colonists had no representation in the British government. The British Constitution states that subjects give their consent to taxation through sending a representative to Parliament. The American Colonists questioned the right of the British government to tax the colonies since they had no representation in Parliament. The government’s reply that as a colony they were ‘represented virtually’, was not well received.
1765 (during)
Sons of Liberty
This was a secret group formed in the thirteen American colonies to co-ordinate protests against the British Government.
1765 (22nd March)
Stamp Act
The British parliament passed this act which required an official stamp on all legal documents and the stamp had to be paid for. It would become effective in November 1765.
1765 (late Spring)
Agents were appointed to collect the Stamp Duty from the Colonies.
1765 (13th July)
George Grenville was dismissed as British Prime Minister. He was replaced by Charles Watson-Wentworth, Marquess of Rockingham.
1766 (18th March)
Stamp Act Repeal
In the face of widespread and violent protests, the act was repealed.
1766 (18th March)
Declaratory Act
This act, passed in conjunction with the repeal of the Stamp Act, stated that parliament had the right to pass laws in the Colonies.
1766 (30th July)
Rockingham’s government fell. William Pitt became Prime Minister.
1767 (during)
Stamp Act
In the face of widespread and violent protests, the act was repealed.
1767 (29th June)
Townshend Acts
Named after Chancellor of the Exchequer, Charles Townshend, this series of Acts imposed taxation to raise money to pay for the salaries of governors and judges, introduced measures to enforce trade regulations and set a precedent for the British Parliament to directly tax the colonies. The Acts which taxed all imports from Britain were met with protests and rioting.
1768 (June)
The Liberty, owned by American merchant, John Hancock, was seized by British customs officials in Boston on suspicion of smuggling goods into America. Bostonians rioted and the British sent troops into the city.
1770 (22nd February)
Christopher Seider, an 11 year old boy, was part of a crowd of people gathered outside the house of Ebenezer Richardson, a British customs official. Stones were thrown and a window was broken. Richardson fired into the crowd and Seider was hit in the arm and chest. He died shortly afterwards.
1770 (5th March)
Boston Massacre
Tensions were high in Boston following the killing of Christopher Seider. A group of protesters gathered outside the Boston Custom House. Insults were shouted at Private White who was on guard duty. The crowd of protesters, led by former slave, Crispus Attucks, grew, and objects were thrown at Private White. White retaliated and struck a colonist with his bayonet. The army sent reinforcements led by Captain Preston which further annoyed the growing crowd who struck the soldiers with clubs and sticks. The situation became confused and one soldier thought he heard the command ‘fire’ and fired into the crowd. Other soldiers followed the lead and also fired into the crowd. Five people including Crispus Attucks were killed and six others were wounded. The crowd dispersed but anger against the British was growing.
1772 (9th June)
Gaspee Affair
The British ship HMS Gaspee was used by customs officials to prevent smuggling. Colonists in Rhode Island seized  HMS Gaspee in protest against the British.
1773 (10th May)
Tea Act
This act was introduced by the British to help the British East India Company by only allowing the colonies to import tea from the British East India Company. All colonies except Massachusetts refused to allow ships to dock. In Massachusetts the governor allowed the ships to dock in Boston.
1773 (16th December)
Boston Tea Party
The Sons of Liberty organised this protest against the import of British East India Company tea. Demonstrators boarded British ships and threw chests of tea into Boston Harbour.
1774 (20th March)
Boston Port Act
This act of retaliation against the Boston Tea Party by the British government, set up a blockade of Boston Port refusing to allow ships to enter or leave the port until the East India Company was compensated for the lost tea.
1774 (Summer)
Intolerable Acts
This was a series of measures taken by the British government to punish Massachusetts following the Boston Tea Party. The Acts included the withdrawing of the right to self-governance and the right of the British army to house troops in private property. The British hoped the harsh measures would prevent further rebellion in the other colonies but instead they increased resistance to the British.
1774 (5th September)
First Continental Congress
This was the first meeting of delegates from the British colonies. They met at Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The delegates discussed a response to the Intolerable Acts and decided to boycott British trade.
1774 (October)
Petition to the King
The First Continental Congress drafted a petition to be sent to King George III. It called for the repeal of the Intolerable Acts. The colonists did not receive a reply.
1775 (18th April)
British troops were sent to seize ordnance stored at Concord, Massachusetts. The Sons of Liberty sent Paul Revere and William Dawes to warn patriots.
Events
1775 (19th April)
Battles of Lexington and Concord
Local militia had assembled in readiness for the British arrival. Shots were fired at Lexington and the militia were forced to withdraw to Concord. The British split into groups to search for the weapons. The British that were sent to Concord were outnumbered by 4:1 and forced to retreat to Boston. This battle generally marks the beginning of the American War of Independence.
1775 (25th May)
Around 4,500 British troops led by Generals Howe, Burgoyne and Clinton, reached Boston.
1775 (15th June)
The Second Continental Congress voted to assemble a Continental Army which would be commanded by George Washington.
1775 (17th June)
Battle of Bunker Hill
This battle was fought in Charlestown, Massachusetts. The colonists suffered heavy casualties and were forced to retreat. The British took control of the Charlestown peninsula.
1775 (3rd July)
George Washington took control of the colonists’ Patriot Army that had laid siege to Boston.
1775 (5th July)
Olive Branch Petition
The Second Continental Congress approved this Petition to be sent to King George III. The Petition stated American loyalty to the Crown and called on the King to grant concessions and prevent war.
1775 (6th July)
Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms
The Second Continental Congress agreed this resolution, written by Thomas Jefferson, which explained why the Colonies had felt the need to take up arms against the British.
1775 (23rd August)
Proclamation of Rebellion
King George III issued this statement after receiving news of the Battle of Bunker Hill. He declared that the American Colonies were in rebellion against the British and ordered the suppression of the rebellion.
1775 (16th September)
American forces led by Richard Montgomery captured the Canadian city of Montreal from the British.
1775 (19th November)
Siege of Savage’s Old Fields
Fighting broke out between Patriots (those that wanted freedom for America) and Loyalists (those who remained loyal to the British Crown) in the town of Ninety Six, South Carolina and the Loyalists were forced to retreat.
1775 (31st December)
American forces led by Montgomery and Benedict Arnold attacked Quebec but were defeated by British forces under Guy Carleton. Montgomery was killed in the fighting.
1776 (10th January)
Thomas Paine published ‘Common Sense’ a pamphlet urging the American people to support independence.
1776 (27th February)
Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge
This battle saw Loyalist forces defeated.
1776 (3rd March)
British forces landed in the Bahamas and seized gunpowder and weapons that were stored there.
1776 (4th March)
Colonial troops commanded by George Washington took control of Dorchester Heights on the outskirts of Boston and fortified the region. Cannons were installed and pointed at the city and British ships in the harbour.
1776 (17th March)
Washington allowed the British to leave Boston for Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
1776 (late March)
Washington moved his troops to New York.
1776 (15th June)
British forces forced the Americans to leave Montreal.
1776 (Summer)
The British tried to persuade Indian tribes to join their side. The American Colonists tried to persuade them to remain neutral in the conflict.
1776 (28th June)
Battle of Sullivan’s Island
This battle, fought near Charleston, South Carolina, saw the Patriots successfully repel a British assault.
1776 (2nd July)
Congress voted in favour of independence.
1776 (2nd July)
William Howe began landing British Loyalist troops on Staten Island, New York. In response Washington split his troops between Manhattan and Long Island.
1776 (4th July)
Declaration of Independence
Largely written by Thomas Jefferson, this declaration proclaimed the independence of the Thirteen Colonies from Britain. It includes the infamous statement ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’ It was circulated to the troops and people of the Colonies.
1776 (27th August)
William Howe’s troops successfully outflanked Washington and forced the Patriots to retreat from Long Island.
1776 (15th September)
The British forces commanded by Wiliam Howe took control of New York City.
1776 (11th October)
Battle of Valcour Island (Lake Champlain)
Patriot forces led by Benedict Arnold were defeated by the British. However, the battle delayed the British advance.
1776 (28th October)
Battle of White Plains
William Howe managed to force Washington to retreat further.
1776 (16th November)
Battle of Fort Washington
The British managed to take control of Fort Washington in New York. Those Americans inside the fort that were not killed were taken prisoner on prison ships.
1776 (20th November)
George Washington ordered a further retreat. William Howe ordered British troops not to pursue but to take control of New York and then enter winter quarters in the city.
1776 (25th December)
George Washington took the British by surprise at Trenton, New Jersey. After so many defeats this victory helped to raise morale among the Patriots.
1777 (3rd January)
General Cornwallis had marched to retake Trenton but was repulsed by Washington.
1777 (6th January)
Washington and his army entered winter quarters in Morristown, New Jersey.
1777 (27th April)
Benedict Arnold forced the British to retreat at Ridgefield, Connecticut.
1777 (14th June)
The first stars and stripes American flag was produced.
1777 (5th July)
John Burgoyne led British troops in the capture of Ticonderoga. He left a garrison of 1,300 men and continued towards Albany. However, he made slow progress since the Patriots adopted guerrilla tactics to continually hamper his advance.
1777 (16th August)
Battle of Bennington
German troops from Brunswick, in support of the British, were defeated by the Americans.
1777 (22nd August)
British troops led by Barry St Ledger, that were marching to rendezvous with Albany had to retreat to Quebec after being abandoned by their native American support.
1777 (11th September)
Battle of Brandywine
British troops under William Howe defeated American troops led by George Washington. However, Howe failed to destroy Washington’s troops.
1777 (19th September)
First Battle of Saratoga
British troops led by John Burgoyne defeated an American force led by Benedict Arnold and Horatio Gates at Freeman’s Farm. However, the British had lost 600 men and morale was low.
1777 (20th September)
Battle of Paoli
British forces under Charles Grey defeated an American force under Anthony Wayne. They decided to take no prisoners and massacred survivors of the battle.
1777 (26th September)
Grey’s victory at Paoli enabled Howe to take Philadelphia.
1777 (4th October)
Battle of Germantown
Washington led a surprise attack on Howe but was repulsed.
1777 (7th October)
Second Battle of Saratoga
After victory on 19th September, Burgoyne had dug his forces in and requested reinforcements. Reinforcements had not arrived and with supplies running low Burgoyne ordered an assault on the American army. Burgoyne’s force of around 5,000 men were repulsed by the Patriots and then pursued.
1777 (13th October)
Second Battle of Saratoga
The American force led by Gates and Arnold had managed to surround the British.
1777 (17th October)
Second Battle of Saratoga
The British had run out of supplies and Burgoyne surrendered.
1777 (16th November)
The British captured Fort Mifflin in Pennsylvania.
1777 (5th – 8th December)
Battle of White Marsh
The forces of Howe and Washington fought sporadicly for three days. Howe then made the decision to retreat to Philadelphia.
1777 (19th December)
George Washington took his troops into winter quarters at Valley Forge. Over the coming winter around 2500 American troops died due to poor conditions and lack of supplies.
1778 (6th February)
France formally recognised the United States and signed a military alliance with the Continental Congress.
1778 (23rd February)
Baron von Steuben, an experienced Prussian officer who supported the American cause, arrived at Valley Forge. George Washington appointed him as inspector general. Von Steuben quickly made changes to the camp and which improved hygiene, health and conditions for the men. He also introduced drilling and military exercises for the men.
1778 (7th March)
General Howe resigned his command and was replaced by Henry Clinton.
1778 (June)
Carlisle Peace Commission
The British government sent a deputation led by Frederick Howard, Earl of Carlisle, to offer self-rule and parliamentary representation for the colonies. The Second Continental Congress declined the terms stating they would only agree to full independence which Carlisle had no authority to grant.
1778 (18th June)
The British left Philadelphia and began marching towards New York.
1778 (28th June)
Battle of Monmouth
The British led by Clinton met the Americans led by Washington but were unable to make gains.
1778 (29th June)
Clinton withdrew the British and continued on to New York.
1778 (8th August)
American and French forces lay siege to Newport, Rhode Island.
1778 (29th August)
Battle of Rhode Island
Continental troops under General John Sullivan decided to abandon the siege and withdrew north but were attacked by the British. The Americans left the island leaving it in British hands.
1778 (29th December)
Battle of Savannah
After failing to make significant gains in the north, the British had moved south in the hopes of finding more support from the southern states. They successfully took Savannah.
1779 (16th July)
Battle of Stony Point
The Continental army took Stony point from the British.
1779 (19th August)
Battle of Paulus Hook
The Continental army took Paulus Hook from the British after making a surprise night time raid.
1779 (late)
The war had reached a stalemate with neither side making significant gains. Morale among the American troops was poor and public support for the continuing war was diminishing. American Benedict Arnold secretly approached the British with a view to surrendering West Point in return for a position in the British Army.
1779 (November)
Washington entered winter quarters at Morristown.
1780 (12th May)
Siege of Charleston
Charleston, which had been under siege by the British for six weeks, surrendered. This victory secured the British position in the south.
1780 (16th August)
Battle of Camden
Continental troops led by Horatio Gates were defeated by British troops led by Charles Cornwallis.
1780 (23rd September)
British spy John Andre was captured by the Americans who found out about Benedict Arnold’s plan to defect.
1780 (7th October)
Battle of the Kings Mountain
This battle saw British troops defeated by the Patriots.
1780 (14th October)
Nathanael Greene took over from Horatio Gates as commander of American troops in the South. He immediately began a campaign of guerrilla warfare against the British.
1781 (19th January)
Raid on Richmond
The British took Richmond, Virginia and burnt the city. Governor Thomas Jefferson managed to escape.
1781 (15th March)
Battle of Guilford Court House
This battle between the forces of Nathanael Greene and Charles Cornwallis saw the Americans defeated. However, Cornwallis had suffered large casualties which significantly weakened his force and he had to retreat to await reinforcements.
1781 (23rd April)
Siege of Fort Watson
After an eight-day siege, Continental forces took control of the fort.
1781 (25th April)
Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill
The British took control of Hobkirk’s Hill after defeating the Americans. However, two weeks later the British retreated.
1781 (12th May)
Siege of Fort Motte
After a four-day siege, Continental forces took control of the fort.
1781 (6th June)
Siege of Augusta
After two week siege, Augusta fell to the Patriots. This victory effectively secured the south for the Americans.
1781 (Summer)
General Henry Clinton sent orders to Charles Cornwallis to move his British troops and fortify Yorktown.
1781 (5th September)
Battle of the Chesapeake
The British navy were decisively beaten by the French in Chesapeake Bay. The defeat cut off British supply routes to the British at Yorktown.
1781 (mid September)
Despite the British naval defeat in Chesapeake Bay, Cornwallis maintained his position at Yorktown, believing that reinforcements would arrive from New York.
1781 (28th September)
Siege of Yorktown
American and French forces placed Cornwallis under siege at Yorktown.
1781 (19th October)
Siege of Yorktown
The British had received no reinforcements and an attempt to break out of Yorktown across the river had failed. Cornwallis decided that he had no choice but to surrender.
1781 (25th November)
News of Cornwallis’ surrender reached Britain.
1782 (27th February)
The British government voted to end the war by 19 votes. Henry Clinton was recalled from America and Guy Carleton was sent as his replacement with instructions to suspend further attacks.
1782 (20th March)
Lord North resigned as Prime Minister of Britain. He was succeeded by William Petty, Earl of Shelburne.
1782 (30th November)
Peace Agreement
Terms for a peace between America and Britain were agreed with Britain agreeing independence for the colonies.
1783 (19th April)
The Continental Congress ratified the Peace Agreement.
1783 (3rd September)
Peace of Paris/ Treaty of Paris
This treaty was signed by representatives of King George III and the United States.
1783 (25th November)
The last British troops left New York City.
1783 (23rd December)
George Washington resigned as Commander of the Continental forces.
1784 (14th January)
The United States Congress of the Confederation ratified the Treaty of Paris.

 

Published Feb 23, 2020 @ 3:50 pm – Updated – Apr 21, 2020 @ 3:44 pm

Harvard Reference for this page:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2020). American War of Independence Causes and Events 1763 – 1784. Available: https://www.totallytimelines.com/american-war-of-independence-causes-and-events Last accessed [date]