The spread of the war

The spread of the war

Outbreak of Hostilities: Lexington and Concord

  • The Battles of Lexington and Concord (1775) marked the outbreak of hostilities between the British forces and the American colonies.
  • British troops, en route to Concord to seize a cache of colonial weaponry, confronted an assembled militia at Lexington, leading to unexpected gunshots.
  • The news of these battles spread quickly amongst the colonies, triggering a wave of rebellion, and marking the start of the Revolutionary War.

Expansion of the War: British and American Strategies

  • The British war strategy initially aimed to isolate New England, the heart of the rebellion, by securing New York and pushing northward. This plan faltered at the battles of Saratoga.
  • The American war strategy involved maintaining a defensive stance, hoping to wear down the British and waiting for a major victory to encourage foreign intervention.

Foreign Intervention: France and Spain

  • France, seeking revenge for its losses in the Seven Years’ War, began providing covert aid to the colonists from 1776. The American victory at Saratoga prompted France to openly enter the war in 1778.
  • Spain, although not allied with the American colonies, declared war on Britain in 1779 aiming to regain lost territories, adding another global dimension to the war.

The Southern Theatre and Native American Involvement

  • The Southern Theatre (1778-1781) witnessed harsh fighting, with the British capturing Savannah, Charleston, and attempting to rally Loyalist support.
  • Native American tribes generally sided with the British hoping to stop colonial expansion. Tribes like the Iroquois Confederacy and Cherokee were actively involved in several battles.

The War in the North: Stalemate and the Emergence of a New Strategy

  • The Northern war had reached a stalemate by 1779. Britain was unable to crush the rebellion, and the Continental Army survived despite several defeats.
  • A new British strategy focused on the Southern colonies where they hoped Loyalist support was stronger, marking the next phase of the war.
  • The war expanded at sea with significant naval battles. British naval superiority was challenged by growing American and French fleets, climaxing in the key Battle of the Chesapeake in 1781.
  • The war also spread internationally, with the Anglo-French War (1778-1783), the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War (1780-1784), and various conflicts in the Caribbean and Asia.