Tuesday, September 14, 2004

V. & VI. A War of Independence

V. 1775: The War Begins

By the rude bridge that arched the flood
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard ‘round the world.
-- from “Concord Hymn” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1836)


A. The Rising of the Countryside: Lexington & Concord

1. The Battles of Lexington & Concord: “Disperse, ye rebels!”

  • April 18-19: British move to seize cache of weapons at Lexington & Concord Mass.
  • Paul Revere & Dawes warn patriots; skirmish between Minutemen & Redcoats at Lexington.
  • Militiamen harass British between Concord & Boston.

2. May: Ethan Allen & the Green Mountain Boys seize Fort Ticonderoga

3. May 10: The Second Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia

  • June 6: George Washington named Commander in Chief of the Army
  • Continental Army volunteers sign on for one year at first.
  • American forces are a combination of Continental troops & militia

B. . June 1775: Battle of Bunker Hill.
Heavy casualties on both sides. British evacuate from Boston.

VI. 1776: The Year of Independence

A. July 4, 1776: The Declaration of Independence is published

B. Consequences of 1776:

1. Thirteen Colonies begin to reorganize themselves as “states”

  • By 1781, most have written republican constitutions

2. Articles of Confederation (1778) adopted by Congress.

  • A plan of union outlining a decentralized system that was later deemed inefficient & weak

3. The Revolutionary War must now be pursued to a successful conclusion, or the rebels are in trouble.

C. Meanwhile, the War Heats Up

1. 32,000 British troops arrive in New York harbor, occupy New York.

2. The British cccupy Philadelphia in 1777, Savannah, Ga. in 1778, Charleston, SC in 1780.

3. Washington’s army of 19,000 mostly untrained volunteers is pitted against the largest professional army in the world.

  • Washington, an 18th-century gentleman, realizes that the war cannot be conducted in 18th-century style, a lesson of the french & Indian War.
  • After a string of defeats, GW avoids pitched battles & keeps his army on the run.

4. Washington's Victory at Princeton, January 1777.

  • On Dec. 26, 1776, a desperate Washington & his Continentals slip across the Delaware River, surprising a garrison of Hessian soldiers at Trenton, NJ. Washington marches to Princeton & takes it. Washington cannot hold Trenton & Princeton, & etreats to Morristown, NJ.
  • But no matter: a much-needed hero is created, & the Revolution goes on.