The American Revolutionary War: Bet You Didn’t Know

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The American Revolution (1775-83) is also known as the American Revolutionary War and the U.S. War of Independence. The conflict arose from growing tensions between residents of Great Britain’s 13 North American colonies and the colonial government, which represented the British crown. Skirmishes between British troops and colonial militiamen in Lexington and Concord in April 1775 kicked off the armed conflict, and by the following summer, the rebels were waging a full-scale war for their independence. France entered the American Revolution on the side of the colonists in 1778, turning what had essentially been a civil war into an international conflict. After French assistance helped the Continental Army force the British surrender at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781, the Americans had effectively won their independence, though fighting would not formally end until 1783.

For more than a decade before the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775, tensions had been building between colonists and the British authorities. Attempts by the British government to raise revenue by taxing the colonies (notably the Stamp Act of 1765, the Townshend Tariffs of 1767 and the Tea Act of 1773) met with heated protest among many colonists, who resented their lack of representation in Parliament and demanded the same rights as other British subjects. Colonial resistance led to violence in 1770, when British soldiers opened fire on a mob of colonists, killing five men in what was known as the Boston Massacre. After December 1773, when a band of Bostonians dressed as Mohawk Indians boarded British ships and dumped 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor, an outraged Parliament passed a series of measures (known as the Intolerable, or Coercive Acts) designed to reassert imperial authority in Massachusetts.

Did You Know?: Now most famous as a traitor to the American cause, General Benedict Arnold began the Revolutionary War as one of its earliest heroes, helping lead rebel forces in the capture of Fort Ticonderoga in May 1775.

In response, a group of colonial delegates (including George Washington of Virginia, John and Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, Patrick Henry of Virginia and John Jay of New York) met in Philadelphia in September 1774 to give voice to their grievances against the British crown. This First Continental Congress did not go so far as to demand independence from Britain, but it denounced taxation without representation, as well as the maintenance of the British army in the colonies without their consent, and issued a declaration of the rights due every citizen, including life, liberty, property, assembly and trial by jury. The Continental Congress voted to meet again in May 1775 to consider further action, but by that time violence had already broken out. On April 19, local militiamen clashed with British soldiers in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, marking the first shots fired in the Revolutionary War.

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