The Birth and Government

of the

United States of America

The American Revolution

1775 to 1783

Page 4


Battles continued through the remainder of 1776. The American Navy suffered a major setback in a defeat by the British on Lake Champlain on October 11. The British captured the naval base at Newport, Rhode Island on December 6. On December 11, Washington and his army crossed the Delaware River into Pennsylvania while the Second Continental Congress, fearing at attack, abandons Philadelphia for Baltimore. Then, on Christmas Day, Washington and his army crossed back over the Delaware River in a daring attack upon 1,500 British-Hessians at Trenton, New Jersey. Washington is victorious and takes over 1,000 prisoners. The victory lifts the spirits of the army and the citizens. This is the crossing that is mythically presented in a famous painting, “Washington Crossing the Delaware” by Emanuel Leutze. Later, morale is further increased when Washington’s army defeated the British at Princeton, New Jersey.

Feeling secure in the aftermath of Washington’s successes, the Second Continental Congress returned to Philadelphia from Baltimore on March 12, 1777. The next month, on April 27, Benedict Arnold led American troops in defeating the British at Ridgefield, Connecticut.


On June 14, 1777 Congress passed the first Flag Act which established the flag of the United States. It states: “Resolved, That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate read and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a field of blue, representing a new constellation.” June 14 is celebrated to this day as Flag Day. The Flag Act of April 4, 1818 states that a star will be added for each new stated admitted to the union. Hence, before the admission of Alaska and Hawaii, the flag had 48 stars. Now it has 50.


June 17 - Nearly 8,000 British soldiers under the command of General John Burgoyne invaded American territory via Canada by sailing down Lake Champlain to Albany. This cut off New England from the rest of America.

July 6 - British forces under General Burgoyne captured Fort Ticonderoga, which contains an arsenal of supplies. This was a stunning defeat for the Americans.

July 27 - Soon to be a revolutionary war hero, the Marquis de Lafayette volunteered without pay to help American troops. Congress made him a major general in the Continental Army. He becomes one of Washington’s most reliable officers. Today the park in front of the White House is called Lafayette Park in his honor.

August 16 - American troops gained a victory in the Battle of Bennington when Vermont militiamen and troops from Massachusetts destroyed a contingent of 800 German Hessians.

September 9 to 11 - British general Howe and his British troops drove Washington and his 10,500 men toward Philadelphia in the Battle of Brandywine Creek. This disaster forced Congress to leave Philadelphia and set up offices in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

FALL OF 1777

September 26 - British general Howe and his forces occupied Philadelphia. The proximity of his troops to Lancaster forced Congress to flee once again, this time to York, Pennsylvania.

October 7 - American generals Horatio Gates and Benedict Arnold provided America with a monumental victory in the Battle of Saratoga - the first truly great victory of the Revolutionary War for Americans - defeating British general Burgoyne.

October 17 - British general Burgoyne and his army of 5,700 men formally surrendered to American general Gates. His troops are marched to Boston and put on ships bound for England. News of the victory reached France which quickly recognizes the independence of America. This is the beginning of European recognition that the Unites States is a free and independent country.

November 15 - Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation. This will serve as the government of the new nation once ratified by the various states. Under the articles Congress is the sole authority of the national government.

WINTER OF 1777-1778

December 17 - Washington and his troops set up winter quarters at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

February 6 - An important step to American victory occurred when French and American representatives signed two treaties: The Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance. With these treaties, France became a full-fledged ally of the United States and vowed to help defeat the British. Britain recognized that it was then at war with both France and the newly created United States of America.

NEXT PAGE - Spring and Summer of 1778



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