1776 American Revolution - The Early Stages

16 September 1777

1776-1777 The War's Early Stages

The year 1776 started badly for the colonists, who suffered a bitter defeat at Quebec, which dashed hopes of drawing Canadians into the conflict and opened the northern frontier to British attacks. In February, however, American supporters crushed loyalist forces at Moores Creek Bridge, NC. In late March, the cannon from Ticonderoga allowed the Continental Army to force the British out of Boston, and in June, American forces repulsed a British attack on Charleston, SC. In June and July, the British began assembling one of the largest naval and military forces ever seen in North America at New York. Meanwhile, the Congress at Philadelphia approved the Declaration of Independence, which was read publicly to Washington's troops in New York. After a costly defeat at Brooklyn Heights on Long Island, Washington managed to cross the East River back to Manhattan. He retreated first north, suffering defeats at Harlem Heights and White Plains, then down into New Jersey as the British captured Forts Washington and Lee on opposite sides of the Hudson River and took control of Manhattan Island. Washington finally crossed the Delaware River into Pennsylvania; then, after even he feared the cause was almost lost, scored critical victories at Trenton, N.J., in late December and Princeton, NJ, in January, stopping the downward spiral. Soon Washington's army went into winter quarters at Morristown, NJ

In 1777, Britain tried to isolate radical New England from the other colonies by sending a force under Gen John Burgoyne down from Canada to the Hudson River. Troops under Gen. Howe sailed from New York toward Philadelphia, by way of the Chesapeake Bay. They captured Philadelphia, but by then Howe was unable to reinforce Burgoyne, who surrendered his much-diminished army to Continental soldiers and local militiamen at Saratoga, NY, in October. After that victory, the French negotiated an alliance with the Continental Congress, greatly reducing Britain's chances of victory. Not only would French military and naval forces become available to the Americans, but Britain now faced a worldwide war and could no longer focus only on North America. Meanwhile, after being defeated by Howe's forces at Brandywine and Germantown in Pennsylvania, Washington's army went into winter quarters at Valley Forge, low on food and other necessities. There, German-born "Baron" Friedrich Wilhelm Augustus von Steuben drilled the troops, providing a discipline that would prove useful the following year. - NPS



Y/M/D Description Place
1777/09/16 British General John Burgoyne wins a small, but costly battle over American forces led by Horatio Gates and Benedict Arnold Saratoga National Historical Park, Stillwater

Data »

Military Event: American Revolutionary War
Area of Significance: Rebellion

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