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Time Line: The American Revolution
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January 2, Washington forwards to governor Nicholas Cooke a letter from General James
Varnum advising him that Rhode Island's troop quota should be completed with blacks.
Washington urges Cooke to give the recruiting officers every assistance. In February, the Rhode
Island legislature approves the action. Enlisted slaves will receive their freedom in return for their
service. The resulting black regiment, commanded by white Quaker Christopher Greene, has its
first engagement at the battle of Rhode Island (or, Newport) July 29-August 31, where it holds off
two Hessian regiments. The regiment also fights at the battle of Yorktown. Slaves enlisted in the
Continental Army typically receive a subsistence, their freedom, and a cash payment at the end of
the war. Slaves and free blacks rarely receive regular pay or land bounties. In 1777, the New
Jersey militia act allows for the recruitment of free blacks but not slaves, as does Maryland's legislature in
1781. On March 20, 1781, New York authorizes the enlistment of slaves in militia units, for which
they receive their freedom at the end of the war. Virginia rejects James Madison's arguments for
enlisting slaves in addition to free blacks, but many enlist anyway, presenting themselves for
freedom after the war.
George Washington to Nicholas Cooke, January 2, 1778
February 6, the Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce is signed in Paris. Since 1776,
the French government has been secretly providing Congress with military supplies and financial aid. March 13, the French minister in London informs King
George III that France recognizes the United States. May 4, Congress ratifies the Treaty of
Alliance with France, and further
military and financial assistance follows. By June, France and England are at war. The American
Revolution has become an international war.
February 18, Washington addresses a letter to the inhabitants of New Jersey, Pennsylvania,
Maryland, and Virginia, requesting cattle for the army for the period of May through June. Washington writes them that the "States have contended, not
unsuccessfully, with one of the most Powerful Kingdoms upon Earth." After several years of war,
"we now find ourselves at least upon a level with our opponents."
George Washington to the Inhabitants of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, February 18, 1778
February 23, Baron Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin Steuben, a volunteer from Germany,
arrives at Valley Forge with a letter of introduction from the President of Congress, Henry
Laurens. Congress publishes his military training manual, which he has had translated into English. He
trains a model company of forty-seven men at Valley Forge and then proceeds to the general
training of the army. Congress commissions Steuben a major general and makes him an inspector
general of the Continental Army. Steuben becomes an American citizen after the war.
March 1, Congress orders the Board of War to recruit Indians into the Continental Army. March
13, Washington writes the Commissioners of Indian Affairs on how he thinks he may employ the
George Washington to Philip Schuyler, James Duane, and Volkert Douw, March 13, 1778
March 8, Lord Germain (George Sackville), Colonial Secretary in London, sends British General
Henry Clinton orders for a change of direction in the conduct of the war. The British are to
focus on the south, where Germain estimates loyalists to be more numerous. Actions in the north are to
be limited to raids and blockades of the coast. May 8, Clinton will replace General Sir William
Howe as commander of British forces in North America.
April, the British government sends the Carlisle Commission to North America. The Commission
is made up of the Earl of Carlisle (Frederick Howard), William Eden, and George Johnston, and
their secretary. Parliament has repealed all laws opposed by the American colonies since
1763. The Commission is instructed to offer home rule to the Colonies and hopes to
begin negotiations before Congress receives news of the Franco-American Treaty (which it
does on May 8). Congress ratifies the Treaty and ignores the Commission. April 22, Congress
resolves not to engage in negotiations on terms that fall short of complete independence. Late in
1778, the Commission returns to England.
May-June, British General Henry Clinton begins to move the main part of the British army from
Pennsylvania to New York via New Jersey. Washington's army, also located in Pennsylvania,
June 18, Washington sends six brigades ahead and on June 21 he crosses the Delaware River with
the rest of the army. By June 22, the British are in New Jersey, and Benedict Arnold is fast
approaching the twelve-mile long baggage train that makes up the end of Clinton's marching
June 28, the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse. Washington's army catches up with Clinton's. The
one-day battle is fought to a stalemate, both armies exhausted by the day's unusual heat. But
Washington is impressed with the performance of the American troops against the well-trained
veteran British regulars. Clinton and his army continue on to New York, while Washington
establishes camp at White Plains.
June 29, Washington writes in his general orders of the day about the success of the New Jersey militia in "harrassing and impeding their [the British]
Motions so as to allow the Continental Troops time to come up with them" before the battle of
Monmouth Courthouse. German Captain John Ewald, fighting for the British, in his Diary of
the American War: A Hessian Journal (New Haven and London, 1979), observes during the
march through New Jersey that the "whole province was in arms, following us with Washington's
army, constantly surrounding us on our marches and besieging our camps." "Each step," Ewald
writes, "cost human blood." From now on, Washington begins to employ local militia units in this
manner more often.
Die helden der revolution
[between 1850-1890] 1 print. Girsch, Frederick, 1821-1895, artist.
General Washington standing with Johann De Kalb, Baron von Steuban,
Kazimierz Pulaski, Tadeusz, Lafayette, John Mulenberg,
and other officers
during the Revolutionary War.
from Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
Reproduction #: LC-USZC4-3359(color film copy transparency)
July 3, loyalist Colonel John Butler with local troops and Seneca Indian allies invades Wyoming
of the Susquehanna River, and attacks at "Forty Fort." In the frontier war along the New York
Pennsylvania frontier, Onandagas, Cayugas, Senecas, and Mohawks of the Iroquois League
ally with the British. Joseph Brant (Joseph Fayadanega), a Mohawk war chief educated in English missionary schools and an Anglican
convert, has significant influence among British government and military leaders. Oneidas and Tuscororas
ally with the Americans. Washington writes Philip Schuyler, a member of the Indian commission for the northern department.
George Washington to Philip Schuyler, July 22, 1778
July 4, George Rogers Clark defeats the British and captures Kaskaskia near the Mississippi
River. Clark has been organizing the defense of the sparsely settled Kentucky region against
British and Indian ally raids. In October 1777, Clark puts before Virginia governor Patrick Henry
a plan to capture several British posts in the Illinois country, of which Kaskaskia is one. Clark and
about 175 men take the fort and town, which is inhabited mainly by French settlers. Clark
convinces them and their Indian allies on the Wabash River to support the American cause. The
British continue to hold sway at Fort Detroit, commanded by Lieutenant Governor Henry
Hamilton, and Clark spends the next several years attempting to dislodge him. Washington writes
governor of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, December 28, 1780, in support of Clark's efforts to take
George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, December 28, 1780
July-August, Charles Hector, Comte d'Estaing and his French fleet plan to participate with
General John Sullivan in a combined assault on the British position in Newport, Rhode Island.
Sullivan's troops are delayed and d'Estaing's fleet is battered by a hurricane after an indecisive
battle. He withdraws to Boston and later sails for the Caribbean Islands where he attacks British
November 9, British General Henry Clinton sends approximately 3,000 troops south under
Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell, and a fleet under command of Admiral Hyde Parker is assembled to
coordinate an invasion of South Carolina and Georgia with General Augustine Prevost and his
regular and loyalist troops in Florida. Campbell and his troops land at Savannah in late
November 14, Washington writes Henry Laurens, president of the Continental Congress,
confidentially, about a plan for a French campaign against the British in Canada that Lafayette
wants to lead. In 1759, during the Seven Years War, the French had been driven out of Canada by the
British and American colonial forces. Washington has become personally attached to the young
Lafayette. But he is also aware of the eagerness of all the French officers serving with the
American cause to regain Canadian territories. Washington expresses concerns about the future
independence of the American republic should European powers retain a strong presence in North
America: a French presence able to "dispute" the sea power of Great Britain, and Spain "certainly
superior, possessed of New Orleans, on our Right."
George Washington to Henry Laurens, November 14, 1778
November, Washington detaches General Lachlan McIntosh from Valley Forge to command the
western department of the Ohio country where bitter frontier war has erupted. McIntosh
establishes Fort McIntosh on the Ohio River, 30 miles from Pittsburgh, and Fort Laurens, further
west, as bases from which to launch campaigns against British and Shawnee, Wyandot, and
Mingo allies operating out of Fort Detroit. After bitter warfare, McIntosh is forced to abandon
the forts in June of 1779.
called the Brant,
the Great Captain of the Six Nations
[ca. 1776] 1 print.
Smith, John Raphael,
from Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
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