The American Revolutionary War (1775 – 1783), also known as the American War for Independence, began as a conflict between the British Empire and the British colonies in North America, soon developing into a clash on a global scale that involved several of the great European powers. Following its conclusion, many of the European powers officially recognized the independence of the newly formed United States of America.
The war was a result of the political revolution stemming from the Stamp Act of 1765, which the colonists held as unconstitutional because of their lack of representation in the Parliament of Great Britain. The colonists claimed that there could be no taxation without representation and that they had the right to a degree of self-governance, while the Parliament claimed that they represented all citizens of the British Empire, granting them "virtual representation" - a practice the colonists translated into "taxation without representation".
Thus, the Parliament continued to tax the colonists, until the tax on tea led to the Boston Tea Party in 1773, which was followed promptly by the Intolerable Acts as a punishment for the movement. Parliament also disbanded the civilian colonial government in Massachusetts and put the colony under the direct military control of British Army General Thomas Gage, headquartered in Boston.
General Gage sent British troops from Boston to seize and destroy the weapons, which resulted in the armed confrontations in Lexington and Concord. During this time, the British Regulars were forced back into the city of Boston.
After the battles at Lexington and Concord, militia from the New England colonies surrounded British-occupied Boston and laid it under siege. After two months, British forces attempted to break out of the city. The ensuing clash with Patriot militia on 17 June 1775 became known as the Battle of Bunker Hill. Again, the British were forced back into the city after suffering heavy losses.
In the same month, the Continental Army launched a poorly-planned, confused invasion of British Canada. By May of 1776, the British had blunted their invasion and inflicted heavy losses, beginning a counter-offensive. By October of 1776, the British had fully expelled the Continental Army from Canada, escalating the war further and hampering Continental efforts in the British colonies.
Declaration of Independence
In Philadelphia, the assembly of colonial representatives known as the Continental Congress debated the means to resolve the quickly escalating conflict. Though the Congress sent numerous pleas to King George III for intervention, a royal decree named the delegates as traitors to the British crown. On 4 July 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of and signed the Declaration of Independence. In conclusion, 56 men signed the Declaration and declared the American colonies to be a free and independent nation.
Despite the Declaration, the British upped the war effort. Arguments between King George III and the British Parliament complicated their war plans, though the British sent in reinforcements to the New England colonies and began winning victory after victory under General Charles Cornwallis throughout the late 1770s. By 1780, the British reached their height, having dealt disastrous losses to Continental forces at the Battle of Camden. With most of the southern East Coast under their control, the British began to attack from both north and south, converging on the middle of the colonies.
French aid and war escalation in the Pacific and Atlantic, and reversals by Franco-American forces in the colonies foiled their efforts however, and in 1781, Cornwallis' plan to trap Washington in Yorktown failed as French forces defeated the British fleet sent to reinforce him. Cornwallis surrendered to a massive Franco-American force at Yorktown, and though the bulk of the British Army was no longer active in the American colonies, sporadic fighting continued.
Treaty of Paris
The war would last until 1783, when the Treaty of Paris was signed, in which the United States of America was recognized by all parties as an independent sovereign nation.
The United States became fully independent as recognized by Europe's major powers, and it adopted a close relationship with France that carried on until a Franco-American Quasi-War. Due to their defeat in the American colonies, the British turned their colonial focus to India.
Casualties were estimated at 50,000 dead or wounded Americans and 6,000 Franco-Spanish. British casualties were estimated at 20,000 land forces dead or wounded, 19,740 sailors dead, 42,000 sailors deserted, and 7,554 Germans dead.