Where Did the American War of Independence Start?
The American War of Independence started at Lexington, near Boston, Massachusetts, in 1775. The military governor of Massachusetts, General Thomas Gage, had sent troops from Boston to Concord to seize a store of illegal weapons. On the way back at Lexington, the troops were attacked by angry farmers and 273 of the 800 soldiers were killed. When the news of this battle reached Britain, war was declared on the rebellious colonists.
Meanwhile, Gage was waiting for reinforcements. On 26 May they arrived, led by three major-generals who were to play an important part in the war – William Howe, Henry Clinton and John Burgoyne.
Encouraged by his reinforcements, Gage decided to strengthen his position by capturing key hills that overlooked Boston on its island, and threatened the harbour. The Americans learnt of this plan, and fortified Breed’s Hill on the Charlestown peninsular north of the harbour. The resulting battle of Bunker Hill (17 June 1775) was a disaster for the British. Although they did manage to capture the American positions, it was at the cost of half of their force killed or wounded.
Bunker Hill effectively knocked the main British army out of the war for the next year. For nine months it remained in Boston, now commanded by Howe, who failed to appreciate the weakness of the American forces facing him.
Although this was the first open conflict, the colonists’ resentment against Britain had been growing for several years. This was mainly caused by the taxes imposed by the British government on certain goods imported into America. The taxes were intended to help pay for the Seven Years’ War which Britain had fought against France to defend the American states. The Americans considered these taxes to be unjust and refused to pay them. Eventually all these taxes were abolished, except for the tax on imported tea.
When war was declared, the Americans had no regular army. But one was soon formed under the command of a Virginian, George Washington. This army was badly equipped and lacked training. But it was fighting over vast territories against a British army 3,000 miles from home. Many times in the following six years the American army was nearly defeated by the superior training and numbers of the British troops, but gradually the tide turned. As the war continued, France and Spain sent help, declaring war on Britain.
On July 4, 1776, Congress, the American parliament, drew up the formal Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. This stated that America would no longer obey the British government and that the United States would be an independent republic. In 1781 at Yorktown in Virginia, the British forces were forced to surrender to a combined American and French army, and it became clear that the United States had won. For a time George III and the British government refused to accept defeat.
But at the Treaty of Versailles in 1783 the independence of the colonies was recognized and peace was made between Britain, America, France and Spain. The war was over and the United States had gained her independence.