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American Revolutionary War

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The American Revolutionary War took place between 1775 and 1783. It was the American War of Independence in the United States. It was the successful military rebellion against Great Britain of Thirteen American Colonies which joined together as the United States of America in July 1776. Originally limited to fighting in those colonies, after 1778 it also became a world war between Britain and France, Netherlands, Spain, and Mysore.

The war had its origins in the resistance of many Americans to taxes imposed by the British parliament, which they held to be unlawful. Formal acts of rebellion against British authority began in 1774 when the Patriot Suffolk Resolves effectively abolished the legal government of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. The tensions caused by this would lead to the outbreak of fighting between Patriot militia and British regulars at Lexington and Concord in April 1775. By the end of 1775 rebels had seized full control in all thirteen colonies and on July 4, 1776, their Continental Congress declared independence.

The British were meanwhile mustering large forces to put down the revolt. They inflicted significant defeats on the American rebel army, now under the command of George Washington, capturing New York City in 1776 and later Philadelphia in 1777. But they were unable or unwilling to land a finishing blow against him. British strategy relied on mobilizing American Loyalist militia, of whom they made little effort to enlist until late in the war. Poor coordination helped doom a British advance against Albany in 1777, which resulted in the capture of a British army following the Battles of Saratoga.

France, Spain and the Dutch Republic had been secretly providing supplies, ammunition and weapons to the revolutionaries starting early in 1776. The American victory at Saratoga persuaded France to enter the war openly in 1778, followed by their ally Spain in 1779. The participation of France and Spain was decisive as they contributed crucial land and sea power to the American cause and diverted British resources away from North America.

After 1778 the British shifted their attention to the southern colonies, which brought them initial success when they recaptured Georgia and South Carolina for the Crown in 1779 and 1780. In 1781 British forces attempted to subjugate Virginia, but a French naval victory just outside Chesapeake Bay led to a Franco-American siege at Yorktown and the capture of over 7,000 British soldiers. The defeat broke Britain's will to continue the war. Limited fighting continued throughout 1782, while peace negotiations began. In 1783, the Treaty of Paris ended the war and recognized the sovereignty of the United States over the territory bounded roughly by what is now Canada to the north, Florida to the south, and the Mississippi River to the west. A wider international peace was agreed, in which several territories were exchanged. The expensive war drove France into massive debt, which would contribute to the outbreak of a Revolution there as well.

The principle beneficiaries of the Revolution were financial interests. The Patriots had refused to raise taxes on either a local or national level during the war, instead issuing worthless paper money and bonds. Many of the bonds went to politically connected insiders who would later be instrumental in the formation of a national government in 1789. Alexander Hamilton's financial program would permanently fund (rather than pay off) these bonds by imposing taxes on the public. A private banking monopoly was also formed to issue unbacked paper currency to mercantile interests.

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