The American Revolution - Vol. 2

The American Revolution - Vol. 2

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The American Revolution - Vol. 2

The American Revolution - Vol. 2

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Excerpt

The history of the Revolutionary War may be divided into four well-marked periods. The first period begins in 1761 with the resistance of James Otis to the general search-warrants, and it may be regarded as ending in June, 1774, when the acts for changing the government of Massachusetts were intended to take effect. This period of constitutional discussion culminated in the defiance of Great Britain by the people of Boston when they threw the tea into the harbour; and the acts of April, 1774, by which Parliament replied to the challenge, were virtually a declaration of war against the American colonies, though yet another year elapsed before the first bloodshed at Lexington.

The second period opens with June, 1774, when Massachusetts began to nullify the acts of Parliament, and it closes with the Declaration of Independence. During this period warfare was carried on only for the purpose of obtaining a redress of grievances, and without any design of bringing about a political separation of the English people in America from the English people in Britain. The theatre of war was mainly confined to New England and Canada; and while the Americans failed in the attempt to conquer Canada, their defensive warfare was crowned with success. The fighting of this period began with the victory of Lexington; it ended with the victory of Fort Moultrie. New England, except the island of Newport, was finally freed from the presence of the British, and no further attack was made upon the southern states for more than two years.

The essential feature of the third period, comprising the years 1776 and 1777, was the struggle for the state of New York and the great natural strategic line of the Mohawk and Hudson rivers. Independence having been declared, the United States and Great Britain were now fighting each other single-handed, like two separate and foreign powers. It was the object of Great Britain to conquer the United States, and accordingly she struck at the commercial and military centre of the confederation. If she could have thoroughly conquered the state of New York and secured the line of the Hudson, she would have broken the confederation in two, and might perhaps have proceeded to overcome its different parts in detail. Hence in this period of the war everything centres about New York, such an outlying expedition as that of Howe against Philadelphia having no decisive military value except in its bearings upon the issue of the great central conflict. The strategy of the Americans was mainly defensive, though with . . .

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