A History of America
Part 4

As winter arrived in 1777 the United States Government was created formally by the drafting and circulation of the Articles of Confederation, however it would take until 1781 before enough of the states ratified the blue print for a nation to make it the law of the land.

The confederation was a loosely bound collection of individual states, including to a limited degree, Canada, who retained many sovereign rights, including the ability to print their own money, raise their own armies, create their own laws, engage in free commerce with other states and nations, although the government of the United States did reserve the right to declare both war an peace, except if a local state was invaded in which case they were free to fight and defend themselves.

Financing war efforts, which included the one the United States was already engaged in with England, was based on the value of land. Property tax was the basis used to raise revenues for the battle. The states could commission their own junior officers, who were then admitted to the ranks of the United States military.

The military was also in trouble. The British occupy Philadelphia and the United States government flees and relocates in York. General George Washington settled his ill-equipped, under-paid troops in for the winter at Valley Forge where his numbers dwindled and the men suffered great hardships from the bitter cold winter weather.

By February of 1778 American delegates to France helped secure treaties for both commerce and defense of North America from the British. This action eventually lead to a Spanish and Dutch alliance with France and America, forcing the British to now fight on multiple fronts including on their own European soil.

Later that month Baron von Stuben arrives at Valley Forge and beings training the American military.

Britain holds out an olive branch in March but it doesn’t recognize independence, although it did finally meet all demands of the First Continental Congress. In short it was too little, too late. The American government said no to the offer and the war continued.

The English started enlisting the aid of the local Indian nations in their war against the rebellious colonists and many attacks on settlements in New York and Pennsylvania, which eventually leads the United States military and militia to being their own attacks against Indian villages.

By the summer of 1778 American re-take Philadelphia, which was considered the “capital” of the United States. France is now officially at war with England. By the winter of 1778 Washington’s troops, now located at West Point, were once again in trouble due to the cold winter weather while the English began waging a new front in the much warmer climate of the deep South where they capture Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia. This campaign continues in 1779 with cities and seaports in Virginia, the Carolinas and then northward into Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine.

By the summer of 1779 Spain and England are at war in Europe, France is also involved but aligned with Americans as well as the Spanish (the Spanish didn’t get directly involved in the North American conflicts). So the English had their hands full...

John Adams is tapped to do peace negotiations with England by the end if 1779 as battles rage and America suffers many great loses on both land and sea. In some battles close to a thousand American soldiers died while the English suffered only a hundred or so casualties. These set backs were taking a toll on morale of both the foot solider and some leaders. General Benedict Arnold, who was a hero on the American side for his great campaigns early in New York. His wife’s family had many English loyalists among their ranks and in 1779 Arnold was reprimanded by Washington for minor charges after a court-martial. At this point Arnold was already engaged in treasonous acts as a spy, proving information to the English and when he was appointed by Washington to take over West Point as commander Arnold was planning to surrender that contingent to the British in exchange for a Royal Commission and payments of money. The capture of a courier thwarted those plans and Arnold switched sides waging war against America in the South as part of the British military. Meanwhile in Washington’s new camp in New Jersey with yet another hostile winter brings a near mutiny from soldiers who have gone without pay for almost half a year and are living on deeply cut rations. Their leaders are hanged and the rebellion crushed.

By the spring of 1780 the English had literally captured the entire contingent of the Southern American army (over 5,000 men), plus the harbor and several ships while only suffering 225 causalities. English General Cornwallis pushes on against a quickly reconstructed army in South Carolina and captures 1000 of these troops while killing close to another thousand in the battle. He pushes on to take North Carolina but his progress is halted as American capture 1000 of his Loyalist reinforcements. General Nathan Greene, the new American General of the Southern Army, chases the British troops throughout the back woods of South Carolina, forcing the English to pillage from American settlers which helped to built strong resentment against the English troop and Loyalist supporters.

By 1781 Cornwallis gives up the fight for North Carolina after facing huge losses to American troops and turns his attention on Virginia, establishing the British in Yorktown.

The French now have thousands of troops stationed in America and war ships off the coast. Washington proposes an attack on New York City but when other French ships arrive off the cost of Virginia Washington changes plans and decides to strike Cornwallis on several fronts.

From the sea the French Admiral Count de Grasse will place land troops, then continue on to the harbor to face the English Navy. Marquis de Lafayette, Gen. Anthony Wayne and Baron von Steuben had already joined forces in the battle for Virginia against Cornwallis. Gen. Rochambeau brought is French troops down to Philadelphia along with troops supplied by Washington.

Admiral de Grasse quickly overpowered the British fleet in the Chesapeake Bay area and cut Cornwallis off from the sea. Then de Grasse picked up 17,000 troops of the French and American coalition and landed them at Yorktown. The siege of Cornwallis reach a climax on October 17, 1781 with the formal surrender coming two days later on October 19 when the British forces march out of Yorktown in formation.

General Clinton in New York dispatched 7,000 reinforcements for Cornwallis, but they arrived days later and immediately turned back upon hearing of the surrender.

By the start of 1782 British forces start to leave the South, British Loyalists head for the great North East and the English House of Commons takes action to speed to war to an end and by March the King of England is empowered to seek peace with America, Prime Minister Lord North resigns and is replaced by Lord Rockingham who starts immediate negotiations in France with Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Jay and Laurens. Sir Guy Carleton replaces General Clinton as commander of the British forces and brings all hostilities to a standstill as troops are shipped back to England.


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