The Revolutionary Era: Primary Documents on Events from 1776 to 1800

By Carol Sue Humphrey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3

The Battles of the Revolutionary War, 1776–1781

The fighting in the American Revolution lasted from April 19, 1775, to October 19, 1781. During these six-plus years, both sides won some battles and lost some battles.

The British concentrated their efforts on conquering population centers because that was how wars were won in Europe—you took control of the major city or cities and the country surrendered. But that did not work in the American colonies. At one time or another, the British occupied every major American city (including New York from September 15, 1776, to November 25, 1783), and still the war went on.

The colonials, under the leadership of George Washington, just tried to survive. While trying to win military engagements, Washington realized that the most important goal was for the Continental army to continue to function. As long as the army existed the war would go on. Washington tried to reduce major losses in men and supplies by avoiding major battles. Only when the circumstances were almost perfect at Yorktown, with Cornwallis holed up on a peninsula and the French fleet threatening to defeat the British navy, did Washington commit the bulk of his forces to a single battle.

Throughout the conflict, the newspapers worked to keep their readers informed and to put the best face on the results of various military engagements. Thus, the paper’s side—be it Patriot or Loyalist—always came out on top, no matter what the actual outcome had been.

The documents below are divided into five sections by the battles that are discussed: Trenton, Germantown, Saratoga, Camden, and Yorktown. In each section, both Patriot and Loyalist views of what happened at the battle are included. And, in each case, the winners emphasize the glories of victory while the losers downplay or almost ignore the losses of defeat.

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The Revolutionary Era: Primary Documents on Events from 1776 to 1800
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Series Foreword vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Chronology of Events xix
  • Chapter 1 1
  • Chapter 2 33
  • Chapter 3 49
  • Chapter 4 67
  • Note 79
  • Chapter 5 81
  • Chapter 6 93
  • Chapter 7 105
  • Chapter 8 119
  • Chapter 9 127
  • Chapter 10 137
  • Chapter 11 161
  • Chapter 12 181
  • Chapter 13 189
  • Chapter 14 201
  • Note 210
  • Chapter 15 211
  • Chapter 16 223
  • Chapter 17 233
  • Chapter 18 243
  • Chapter 19 253
  • Chapter 20 263
  • Chapter 21 277
  • Chapter 22 295
  • Chapter 23 303
  • Chapter 24 313
  • Chapter 25 323
  • Notes 335
  • Chapter 26 337
  • Selected Bibliography 349
  • Index 353
  • About the Author 359
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