Conflict and Revolution
1775 to 1776
April 14, 1775 - Massachusetts Governor Gage is secretly ordered by the British to enforce the Coercive Acts and suppress "open rebellion" among colonists by using all necessary force.
April 18, 1775 - General Gage orders 700 British soldiers to Concord to destroy the colonists' weapons depot.
That night, Paul Revere and William Dawes are sent from Boston to warn colonists. Revere reaches Lexington about midnight and warns Sam Adams and John Hancock who are hiding out there.
At dawn on April 19 about 70 armed Massachusetts militiamen stand face to face on Lexington Green with the British advance guard. An unordered 'shot heard around the world' begins the American Revolution. A volley of British muskets followed by a charge with bayonets leaves eight Americans dead and ten wounded. The British regroup and head for the depot in Concord, destroying the colonists' weapons and supplies. At the North Bridge in Concord, a British platoon is attacked by militiamen, with 14 casualties.
British forces then begin a long retreat from Lexington back to Boston and are harassed and shot at all along the way by farmers and rebels and suffer over 250 casualties. News of the events at Lexington and Concord spreads like wildfire throughout the Colonies.
April 23, 1775 - The Provincial Congress in Massachusetts orders 13,600 American soldiers to be mobilized. Colonial volunteers from all over New England assemble and head for Boston, then establish camps around the city and begin a year long siege of British-held Boston.
May 10, 1775 - American forces led by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold capture Fort Ticonderoga in New York. The fort contains a much needed supply of military equipment including cannons which are then hauled to Boston by ox teams.
May 10, 1775 - The Second Continental Congress convenes in Philadelphia, with John Hancock elected as its president. On May 15, the Congress places the colonies in a state of defense. On June 15, the Congress unanimously votes to appoint George Washington general and commander-in-chief of the new Continental Army.
June 17, 1775 - The first major fight between British and American troops occurs at Boston in the Battle of Bunker Hill. American troops are dug in along the high ground of Breed's Hill (the actual location) and are attacked by a frontal assault of over 2000 British soldiers who storm up the hill. The Americans are ordered not to fire until they can see "the whites of their eyes." As the British get within 15 paces, the Americans let loose a deadly volley of musket fire and halt the British advance. The British then regroup and attack 30 minutes later with the same result. A third attack, however, succeeds as the Americans run out of ammunition and are left only with bayonets and stones to defend themselves. The British succeed in taking the hill, but at a loss of half their force, over a thousand casualties, with the Americans losing about 400, including important colonial leader, General Joseph Warren.
July 3, 1775 - At Cambridge, Massachusetts, George Washington takes command of the Continental Army which now has about 17,000 men.
July 5, 1775 - The Continental Congress adopts the Olive Branch Petition which expresses hope for a reconciliation with Britain, appealing directly to the King for help in achieving this. In August, King George III refuses even to look at the petition and instead issues a proclamation declaring the Americans to be in a state of open rebellion.
July 6, 1775 - The Continental Congress issues a Declaration on the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms detailing the colonists' reasons for fighting the British and states the Americans are "resolved to die free men rather than live as slaves."
July 26, 1775 - An American Post Office is established with Ben Franklin as Postmaster General.
November 28, 1775 - The American Navy is established by Congress. The next day, Congress appoints a secret committee to seek help from European nations.
December 23, 1775 - King George III issues a royal proclamation closing the American colonies to all commerce and trade, to take effect in March of 1776. Also in December, Congress is informed that France may offer support in the war against Britain.
January 5, 1776 - The assembly of New Hampshire adopts the first American state constitution.
January 9, 1776 - Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" is published in Philadelphia. The 50 page pamphlet is highly critical of King George III and attacks allegiance to Monarchy in principle while providing strong arguments for American independence. It becomes an instant best-seller in America. "We have it in our power to begin the world anew. American shall make a stand, not for herself alone, but for the world," Paine states.
March 4-17, 1776 - American forces capture Dorchester Heights which overlooks Boston harbor. Captured British artillery from Fort Ticonderoga is placed on the heights to enforce the siege against the British in Boston. The British evacuate Boston and set sail for Halifax. George Washington then rushes to New York to set up defenses, anticipating the British plan to invade New York City.
April 6, 1776 - The Continental Congress declares colonial shipping ports open to all traffic except the British. The Congress had already authorized privateer raids on British ships and also advised disarming all Americans loyal to England.
April 12, 1776 - The North Carolina assembly is the first to empower its delegates in the Continental Congress to vote for independence from Britain.
May 2, 1776 - The American revolutionaries get the much needed foreign support they had been hoping for. King Louis XVI of France commits one million dollars in arms and munitions. Spain then also promises
May 10, 1776 - The Continental Congress authorizes each of the 13 colonies to form local (provincial) governments.
June 28, 1776 - In South Carolina, American forces at Fort Moultrie successfully defend Charleston against a British naval attack and inflict heavy damage on the fleet.
June-July, 1776 - A massive British war fleet arrives in New York Harbor consisting of 30 battleships with 1200 cannon, 30,000 soldiers, 10,000 sailors, and 300 supply ships, under the command of General William Howe and his brother Admiral Lord Richard Howe.
June-July, 1776 - On June 7, Richard Henry Lee. a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress, presents a formal resolution calling for America to declare its independence from Britain. Congress decides to postpone its decision on this until July. On June 11, Congress appoints a committee to draft a declaration of independence. Committee members are Thomas Jefferson. Benjamin Franklin, John Adams. Roger Livingston and Roger Sherman. Jefferson is chosen by the committee to prepare the first draft of the declaration, which he completes in one day. Just seventeen days later, June 28, Jefferson's Declaration of Independence is ready and is presented to the Congress, with changes made by Adams and Franklin. On July 2, twelve of thirteen colonial delegations (New York abstains) vote in support of Lee's resolution for independence. On July 4, the Congress formally endorses Jefferson's Declaration, with copies to be sent to all of the colonies. The actual signing of the document occurs on August 2, as most of the 55 members of Congress place their names on the parchment copy.
July 12, 1776 - As a show of force, two British frigates sail up the Hudson River blasting their guns. Peace feelers are then extended to the Americans. At the request of the British, Gen. Washington meets with Howe's representatives in New York and listens to vague offers of clemency for the American rebels. Washington politely declines, then leaves.
August 27-29, 1776 - Gen. Howe leads 15,000 soldiers against Washington's army in the Battle of Long Island. Washington, outnumbered two to one, suffers a severe defeat as his army is outflanked and scatters. The Americans retreat to Brooklyn Heights, facing possible capture by the British or even total surrender.
But at night, the Americans cross the East River in small boats and escape to Manhattan, then evacuate New York City and retreat up through Manhattan Island to Harlem Heights. Washington now changes tactics, avoiding large scale battles with the British by a series of retreats.
September 11, 1776 - A peace conference is held on Staten Island with British Admiral, Lord Richard Howe, meeting American representatives including John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. The conference fails as Howe demands the colonists revoke the Declaration of Independence.
September 16, 1776 - After evacuating New York City, Washington's army repulses a British attack during the Battle of Harlem Heights in upper Manhattan. Several days later, fire engulfs New York City and destroys over 300 buildings.
September 22, 1776 - After he is caught spying on British troops on Long Island, Nathan Hale is executed without a trial, his last words, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
September 26, 1776 - Congress appoints Jefferson, Franklin and Silas Deane to negotiate treaties with European governments. Franklin and Deane then travel to France seeking financial and military aid.
October 9, 1776 - San Francisco is established by Spanish missionaries on the California coast.
October 11, 1776 - A big defeat for the inexperienced American Navy on Lake Champlain at the hands of a British fleet of 87 gunships. In the 7 hour Battle of Valcour Bay most of the American flotilla of 83 gunships is crippled with the remaining ships destroyed in a second engagement two days later.
October 28, 1776 - After evacuating his main forces from Manhattan, Washington's army suffers heavy casualties in the Battle of White Plains from Gen. Howe's forces. Washington then retreats westward.
November, 1776 - More victories for the British as Fort Washington on Manhattan and its precious stores of over 100 cannon, thousands of muskets and cartridges is captured by Gen. Howe. The Americans also lose Fort Lee in New Jersey to Gen. Cornwallis. Washington's army suffers 3000 casualties in the two defeats. Gen. Washington abandons the New York area and moves his forces further westward toward the Delaware River. Cornwallis now pursues him.
December 6, 1776 - The naval base at Newport, Rhode Island, is captured by the British.
December 11, 1776 - Washington takes his troops across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. The next day, over concerns of a possible British attack, the Continental Congress abandons Philadelphia for Baltimore.
Among Washington's troops is Thomas Paine. author of Common Sense, who now writes ". These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country: but he that stands it NOW deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered. Yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."
December 25-26, 1776 - On Christmas, George Washington takes 2400 of his men and recrosses the Delaware River.
Washington then conducts a surprise raid on 1500 British-Hessians (German mercenaries) at Trenton, New Jersey.
The Hessians surrender after an hour with nearly 1000 taken prisoner by Washington who suffers only six wounded (including future president Lt. James Monroe). Washington reoccupies Trenton. The victory provides a much needed boost to the morale of all American Patriots.
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