US History: An Introduction

Before we can look any further into the government of the United States, we need to look into the events that led up to the creation of the US government.  Which means that we are going to be looking at the events that led up to the Revolutionary War and the events that came immediately after it.  But before we do that we need to have a timeline of those events.

Timeline Of the Revolutionary War

1754-1763

The French and Indian Way

1754

June 19-July 11: The Albany Congress

1763

October 7: Proclamation of 1763

1764

April 5: The Sugar Act

September 1: The Currency Act

1765

March 22: The Stamp Act

March 24: The Quartering Act of 1765

May 29: Patrick Henry’s “If this be treason, make the most of it!” speech

May 30: The Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions

October 7-25: The Stamp Act Congress

1766

March 18: The Declaratory Act

1767

June 29: The Townshend Revenue Act

1768

August 1: Boston Non-Importation Agreement

1770

March 5: The Boston Massacre

1772

June 9: The Gaspee Affair

1773

May 10: The Tea Act

December 16: The Boston Tea Party

1774

March 31: Boston Port Act, one of the “Intolerable Acts”
May 20: Administration of Justice Act, one of the “Intolerable Acts”
May 20: Massachusetts Government Act, one of the “Intolerable Acts”
June 2: Quartering Act of 1774, one of the “Intolerable Acts”
June 22: Quebec Act, one of the “Intolerable Acts”
Sept. 5–Oct. 26: The First Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia and issues Declaration and Resolves
Oct. 10: Battle of Point Pleasant, Virginia (disputed as to whether it was a battle of the American Revolution or the culmination of Lord Dunmore’s War)
Oct. 20: The Association (prohibition of trade with Great Britain)
Oct. 24: Galloway’s Plan rejected

1775

March 23: Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech
Apr. 18: The Rides of Paul Revere and William Dawes
Apr. 19: Minutemen and redcoats clash at Lexington and Concord, “the shot heard ’round the world.”
May 10: Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys seize Fort Ticonderoga
May 10: The Second Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia
June 15: George Washington named Commander-in-Chief
June 17: Battle of Bunker Hill: The British drive the Americans from Breed’s Hill
July 3: Washington assumes command of the Continental Army
Nov. 13: Richard Montgomery’s Continental Army forces occupy Montreal in Canada
Dec. 11: Virginia and NC patriots rout Loyalist troops and burn Norfolk
Dec. 22: Colonel Thomson with 1,500 rangers and militia capture Loyalists at Great Canebrake, SC
Dec. 23–30: Snow Campaign, in SC, so called because patriots are impeded by 15″ of snow
Dec. 30–31: American forces under Benedict Arnold fail to seize Quebec

1776

Jan. 1: Daniel Morgan is taken prisoner during his attempt to take Quebec City
Jan. 15: Paine’s Common Sense published
Feb. 27: Revolutionaries drive the loyalists from Moore’s Creek Bridge, North Carolina
March 3: The Continental fleet captures New Providence Island in the Bahamas
March 17: The British evacuate Boston; British Navy moves to Halifax, Canada
June 8: Revolutionaries fail to take Three Rivers, Quebec
June 12: The Virginia Declaration of Rights
June 28: Sullivan’s Island, SC, failed British naval attack
June 29: The First Virginia Constitution
June 28: American forces decisively defeat the British Navy at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina
July 1: At the instigation of British agents, the Cherokee attack along the entire southern frontier
July 1–4: Congress debates and revises the Declaration of Independence.  
July 4: Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence; it’s sent to the printer
July 8: The Declaration of Independence is read publicly
July 15: Lyndley’s Fort, SC, Patriots fend off attack by Indians and Tories dressed as Indians
Aug. 1: Ambushed by Cherokees, Patriots are saved by a mounted charge at Seneca, SC
Aug. 2: Delegates begin to sign The Declaration of Independence
Aug. 10: Tugaloo River, SC, Andrew Pickens defeats Cherokees
Aug. 12: Andrew Pickens’ detachment surrounded by 185 Cherokee Indians, forms a ring and fires outward. It is known as the “Ring Fight.”
Aug. 12: Colonel David Williamson and Andrew Pickens burn Tamassy, an Indian town
Aug. 27: Redcoats defeat George Washington’s army in the Battle of Long Island. Washington’s army escapes at night.
Sept. 15: The British occupy New York City
Sept. 16: Generals George Washington, Nathanael Greene, and Israel Putnam triumphantly hold their ground at the Battle of Harlem Heights
Sept. 19: Colonel David Williamson’s Pennsylvania militia forces attacked by Cherokees at Coweecho River, NC
Oct. 11: Benedict Arnold defeated at the Battle of Valcour Island (Lake Champlain), but delayed British advance
Oct. 28: The Americans retreat from White Plains, New York. British casualties (~300) higher than American (~200).
Nov. 16: The Hessians capture Fort Washington, NY
Nov. 20: Lord Cornwallis captures Fort Lee from Nathanael Greene
Dec. 26: Washington crosses the Delaware and captures Trenton from Hessians

1777

Washington victorious at Princeton
Jan. 6–May 28: Washington winters in Morristown, NJ
Apr. 27: Benedict Arnold’s troops force a British retreat at Ridgefield, Connecticut.
May 20: Treaty of DeWitt’s Corner, SC: Cherokees lose most of their land east of the mountains
June 14: Flag Resolution
July 5: St. Clair surrenders Fort Ticonderoga to the British
July 27: Lafayette arrives in Philadelphia
Aug. 6: The Redcoats, with Iroquois support, force the patriots back at Oriskany, NY, but then have to evacuate
Aug. 16: American Militia under General Stark victorious at the Battle of Bennington, VT (actually fought in Walloomsac, New York, several miles to the west)
Aug. 23: British withdraw from Fort Stanwix, NY, upon hearing of Benedict Arnold’s approach
Aug. 25: British General Howe lands at Head of Elk, Maryland
Sept. 11: The British win the Battle of Brandywine, Pennsylvania
Sept. 16: Rainout at the Battle of the Clouds, Pennsylvania
Sept. 19: Burgoyne checked by Americans under Gates at Freeman’s Farm, NY. This is part of the “Battles of Saratoga.”
Sept. 21: Paoli Massacre, PA
Sept. 26: British under Howe occupy Philadelphia
Oct. 4: Americans driven off at the Battle of Germantown
Oct. 7: Burgoyne loses second battle of Freeman’s Farm, NY (at Bemis Heights). This is part of the “Battles of Saratoga.”
Oct. 17: Burgoyne surrenders to American General Gates at Saratoga, NY
Oct. 22: Hessian attack on Fort Mercer, NJ repulsed
Nov. 16: British capture Fort Mifflin, Pennsylvania
Dec. 5–7: Americans repulse British at Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania
Dec. 19: Washington’s army retires to winter quarters at Valley Forge

1778

Feb. 6: The United States and France sign the French Alliance
March 7: British General William Howe replaced by Henry Clinton
May 20: Battle of Barren Hill, Pennsylvania. Lafayette with 500 men and about 50 Oneida Indians successfully evade British onslaught
June 18: British abandon Philadelphia and return to New York
June 19: Washington’s army leaves Valley Forge
June 28: The Battle of Monmouth Court House ends in a draw
July 4: George Rogers Clark captures Kaskaskia, a French village south of St. Louis
Aug. 8: French and American forces besiege Newport, RI
Sept. 28: The Tappan Massacre (“No Flint” Grey kills 30 Americans by bayonet)
Dec. 29: The redcoats occupy Savannah

1779

Feb. 3: Major General Moultrie defeats British detachment at Port Royal Island, SC
Feb. 14: Patriots Andrew Pickens and Elijah Clarke beat Loyalists at Kettle Creek, GA
Feb. 23–24: American George Rogers Clark captures Vincennes (in what is now Indiana) on the Wabash in the Western campaign
March 3: British Lt. Colonel Jacques Marcus Prévost defeats Americans under General John Ashe at Brier Creek, GA
May 11–13: Major General Augustin Prévost (brother of Jacques, see above) breaks his siege when American forces under Major General Lincoln approach
June 20: Stono River, SC, Major General Lincoln inflicts extensive British casualties in indecisive battle
June 21: Spain declares war on Great Britain July 8: Fairfield, CT, burned by British July 11: Norwalk, CT, burned by British July 15–16: American “Mad” Anthony Wayne captures Stony Point, NY
Aug. 19: Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee attacks Paulus Hook, NJ
Aug. 29: Newtown, NY, after two massacres, American forces burn Indian villages
Sept. 23: John Paul Jones, aboard the Bonhomme Richard, captures British man-of-war Serapis near English coast
Oct. 9: American attempt to recapture Savannah, GA fails
Nov.–June 23, 1780: Washington’s 2nd winter at Morristown, NJ (the harshest winter of the 18th century)

1780

May 12: British capture Charleston, SC
May 29: British crush Americans at Waxhaw Creek, SC
June 20: Patriots rout Tories at Ramseur’s Mill, NC
July 11: French troops arrive at Newport, RI, to aid the American cause
Aug. 6: Patriots defeat Tories at Hanging Rock, SC
Aug. 16: British rout Americans at Camden, SC
Sept. 23: John André arrested, leading to the exposure of Benedict Arnold’s plans to cede West Point to the British
Oct. 7: King’s Mountain, SC: battle lasts 65 minutes. American troops led by Isaac Shelby and John Sevier defeat Major Patrick Ferguson and one third of General Cornwallis’s army
Oct. 14: Washington names Nathanael Greene commander of the Southern Army

1781

Jan. 1: Mutiny of unpaid Pennsylvania soldiers
Jan. 17: American General Daniel Morgan overwhelmingly defeats British Colonel Tarleton at Cowpens, SC
Feb. 1: The Battle of Cowan’s Ford, Huntersville, NC
March 2: Articles of Confederation adopted
March 15: British win costly victory at Guilford Courthouse, NC
April 25: Greene defeated at Hobkirk’s Hill, SC
May 15: British Major Andrew Maxwell cedes Fort Granby, SC to Lieutenant Colonel Henry Lee
June 6: Americans recapture Augusta, GA
June 18: British hold off Americans at Ninety Six, SC
July 6: “Mad” Anthony Wayne repulsed at Green Springs Farm, VA
Sept. 8: Greene defeated at Eutaw Springs, SC
Sept. 15: French fleet drives British naval force from Chesapeake Bay
Oct. 19: Cornwallis surrounded on land and sea by Americans and French and surrenders at Yorktown, VA

1782

March 8: Gnadenhutten massacre, a.k.a. the Moravian massacre. 
March 20: Lord North resigns as British prime minister
July 11: British evacuate Savannah, GA
Nov. 30: British and Americans sign preliminary Articles of Peace
Dec. 14: British leave Charleston, SC

1783

April 19: Congress ratifies preliminary peace treaty
Sept. 3: The United States and Great Britain sign the Treaty of Paris
Nov. 25: British troops leave New York City
Dec. 23: Washington resigns as Commander

1787

Sept. 17: U.S. Constitution signed

1788

June 21: U.S. Constitution adopted, when New Hampshire ratifies it

The French and Indian War

            The first thing that we see listed on our timeline is the French and Indian War.  We have probably all heard of the French and Indian War, but the vast majority of us have no idea what the French and Indian War was and more importantly how it played such a significant role in the American Revolution.

            The French and Indian War was the American phase of a worldwide nine year war (1754-1763) fought between France and Great Britain.  The more complex European phase was the Seven Years War (1756-1763).  The French and Indian War determined control of the vast colonial territory of North America.  The three earlier phases of this extended contest for overseas mastery included King William’s War (1689-1697), Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713), and King George’s War (1744-1748).  All three of these earlier phases failed to address the primary cause for conflict in North America and that was which imperial power would control the vast territory contained within the North American continent.  Which led to a fourth and final phase to what could be described as the French and Indian Wars.

Causes of the French and Indian War

            What then was the cause of this fourth and final phase of the French and Indian Wars.  This final phase began over the specific issue of whether the upper Ohio River valley was a part of the British Empire, and therefore open for trade and settlement by Virginians and Pennsylvanians, or part of the French Empire. Behind this issue, also, loomed the infinitely larger one: which national culture was to dominate the heart of North America.  Because settlers of English extraction were in a preponderance in the coveted area, but the French exploration, trade, and alliances with Native Americans predominated.

            The British territorial claims rested upon exploration of the North American continent by John Cabot in the latter part of the 15th century.  In the early 17th century, an English royal charter granted land within certain limits between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to both the Virginia Company and the Plymouth Company.  In 1663 the province of Carolina was created south of Virginia, with a sea-to-sea grant; the Carolina charter was amended two years later, and the expanded territory would come to form the colonies of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.  Thus, all the lands to the south of French Canada and to the north of Spanish Florida, stretching from sea to sea, were claimed by England.  In conflict with this was France’s claim to the whole of the Mississippi valley, including the Ohio Valley, based upon the explorations of Rene-Robert Cavelier, sieur de la Salle.  Starting from Canada, La Salle moved through the Great Lakes and then, after descending the Mississippi River in 1682, took possession in the name of the king of France all of the lands drained by the river and its tributaries.

            For about 60 years, the conflict over which country had the stronger claim to the lands in the great Mississippi basin was to remain in abeyance.  The English gradually settled all along the Atlantic seaboard to the south of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, where more than a dozen colonies-including British Nova Scotia, founded in 1749-came into existence and flourished.  In the course of time, the inhabitants of these colonies in the course of time pushed westward from tidewater areas to establish themselves in the Piedmont country.  By the middle of the 18th century, the small cabins of Virginians were to be found even to the west of the Appalachians on the upper reaches of such waterways as the New and Holston Rivers.  By that period, hundreds of Pennsylvanian traders had likewise settled in the villages of Native peoples of the upper Ohio Valley, with whom Great Britain was allied.  The French, firmly in control of Canada from the early 17th century, gradually began expanding into the Great Lakes region, establishing a permanent settlement at Detroit.

Impact of the French and Indian War on the Revolutionary War

            These competing claims and attempts to expand territory led to open conflict.  And this conflict ended with the English ultimately coming to dominate the colonial outposts, but at a cost so staggering that the resulting debt nearly destroyed the English government.  And it was this debt that caused the escalation of tensions leading to the Revolutionary War.  With Parliament being desperate to obtain two objectives; first, to tax the colonies to recover money expended on the battle over North America, and the second to restore the profitability of the East India Company in an effort to recover money spent on the battle over India.

            The French and Indian War was the beginning of open hostilities between the colonies and Great Britain.  England and France had been building toward a conflict in America since 1689.  These efforts resulted in the remarkable growth of the colonies from a population of 250,000 in 1700, to 1.25 million in 1750.  Britain required raw materials including copper, hemp, tar, and turpentine.  They also required a great deal of money, and so they provided that all of these American products be shipped exclusively to England (the Navigation Acts).  In an effort to raise revenue and simultaneously interfere with the French in the Caribbean, a 6 pence tax on each gallon of molasses was imposed in 1733 (the Molasses Act).  Enforcement of these regulations became difficult, so the English government established extensive customs services, and vice-admiralty courts empowered to identify, try and convict suspected smugglers.  These devices were exclusive of, and superior to, the colonial mechanisms of justice.

            The colonies were wholly interested in overcoming the French in North America and appealed to the King for permission to raise armies and money to defend themselves.  But despite sincere petitions from the royal governors, George II was suspicious of the intentions of the colonial governments and declined their offer.  English officers in America were also widely contemptuous of colonials who volunteered for service.  A few of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence had been members of volunteer militias who, as young men, had been dressed down and sent home when they applied for duty.  Such an experience was not uncommon.  It led communities throughout the colonies to question British authorities who would demand horses, feed, wagons, and quarters-but deny colonials the right to fight in defense of the Empire, a right they considered central to their self-image as Englishmen.

            It was these injustices that led to the frustration with the British government.  And when you add in the way the French and Indian War ended it is impossible for you not to see why this frustration grew into outright hostility and eventually a severing of all ties to the British Empire.  But you will have to comeback next to learn about the unfortunate way the French and Indian War ended.

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