American Revolution Timeline of Events for Kids
“…These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country: but he that stands it NOW deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered. Yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” – Thomas Paine, 1776
April 19,1775 – The first shots of the Revolutionary War are fired at Lexington, Massachusetts. Word spreads through the east and thousands volunteer for the Continental Army. The British march to Concord, Massachusetts where they are picked apart by snipers.
April 23, 1775 – The Provincial Congress of Massachusetts orders the mobilization of 13,600 troops. Thousands of men from throughout the colonies descend upon Boston to partake in its defense.
May 10, 1775 – The second Continental Congress meets at Philadelphia. The Continental Army is officially formed and George Washington is named Commander-in-Chief.
May 10, 1775 – Ethan Allen and Green Mountain Boys capture Fort Ticonderoga on the shores of Lake Champlain. The fort was crucial for British communication with Canada and contained heavy artillery and cannons – which the Patriots dragged to Boston.
June 17, 1775 – British forces attack the Patriots at the heavily fortified Breed’s Hill in Boston. The Battle becomes known as Bunker Hill, despite the fact that most of the fighting took place on Breed’s Hill. British forces drive the Patriots to retreat, but suffer over 1,000 casualties.
July 3, 1775 – Washington arrives in Massachusetts and assumes duty as Commander-in-Chief. Most of his army, however, are untrained undisciplined farmers, artisans and workers.
July 6, 1775 – Congress drafts the Declaration on the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms which details the colonists’ reasons for fighting the British and states that Americans are “resolved to die free men rather than live as slaves.”
November 28, 1775 – America establishes its first navy and seeks assistance from foreign nations.
December 23, 1775 – King George III closes all American colonies to foreign trade effective in March, 1776.
January 6, 1776 – New Hampshire adopts the first American state constitution.
January 9, 1776 – Thomas Paine publishes “Common Sense”. The 50 page pamphlet is critical of King George and states the benefits of an independent America. Common Sense instantly becomes a best seller in America.
March 4-17, 1776 – American forces capture Dorchester Heights, Massachusetts which lies on a hill above Boston. Patriots strategically place a cannon, dragged from Fort Ticonderoga, on top of the hill, pointed at the British. British forces evacuate Boston and set sail for Halifax. George Washington, fearing an attack on New York City, rushes to set up defense.
April 6, 1776 – Continental Congress declares all shipping ports open to foreign traffic except the British. They also recommend the disarming of all Loyalists.
May 2, 1776 – The kings of Spain and France promise to help America in the quest for independence. King Louis XVI of France gives 1,000,000 dollars worth of supplies and munitions.
May 10, 1776 – Continental Congress authorizes its colonies to form local governments.
June 11, 1776 – Congress appoints a committee to draft a declaration of independence from England. Thomas Jefferson is chosen to write the declaration.
June 28, 1776 – Patriot forces inflict serious damage on a fleet of British ships off of Fort Moultrie, South Carolina.
June 28, 1776 – The Declaration of Independence drafted by Thomas Jefferson is presented to congress. Congress approves.
July 1776 – British forces receive massive reinforcements from England. 30,000 soldiers and 1,200 cannons arrive for the British at New York Harbor.
July 4, 1776 – The Declaration of Independence is ratified and sent to all 13 colonies.
August 27-29, 1776 American forces under George Washington are routed by 15,000 troops under the command of British General Howe. Americans are forced to retreat to Brooklyn Heights and are faced with disaster. Later that night, Washington evacuates his troops across the East River to Harlem Heights. The British fail to pursue and Washington has time to change his tactics.
September 11, 1776 – British and American officials meet for a peace conference at Staten Island, NY. British Lord Richard Howe demands the cancellation of the Declaration of Independence. American officials, including Benjamin Franklin, refuse.
September 16, 1776 – General Washington and Patriot troops defeat British forces in a small battle at Harlem Heights, NY. Soon after, a fire breaks out in New York City and destroys over 300 buildings.
September 22, 1776 – Nathan Hale is executed by the British for spying on their troops. His famous final words were, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country”.
October 11, 1776 – The newly formed American Navy is crushed by British forces at the Battle of Valcour Bay on Lake Champlain. Most of America’s naval forces are destroyed.
October 28, 1776 – Patriot forces under General George Washington are routed at the Battle of White Plains. Washington is forced to retreat westward.
November 1776 – Patriot forces under George Washington suffer a terrible defeat at the hands of British General Howe at the Battle of Fort Washington in Manhattan. Casualties number over 3,000 for Washington’s Continental Army. He also loses cannons and thousands of military supplies and is forced to retreat toward the Delaware River. British General Cornwallis, who took Fort Lee, New Jersey during the battle pursues.
December 6, 1776 – British forces take Newport, Rhode Island.
December 11, 1776 – Washington’s troops cross the Delaware River and enter Pennsylvania.
December 12, 1776 – Fearing a British attack, congress abandons Philadelphia and heads for Baltimore.
December 26, 1776 – General George Washington and Continental Army cross the icy Delaware River and ambush 800 astonished Hessian (German mercenaries) at 4:00 in the morning. All Hessians are captured. “Washington’s Crossing”, as it came to be known, improved the morale of the army but was somewhat inconsequential in the war itself.
January 1-3 1777 - Washington and his army defeat British forces at Princeton, N.J. and drive them northeast to New Brunswick. Washington sets up a winter encampment at Morristown, N.J. where his army is reduced by the cold weather and bad conditions. When the weather improves, 9,000 new troops volunteer.
April 27, 1777 – Patriot forces under General Benedict Arnold defeats British forces at Ridgefield, Connecticut.
June 14, 1777 – A new flag with thirteen stars and thirteen stripes is mandated by congress. John Paul Jones is chosen the Captain of Ranger, an 18 vessel ship, with plans to make raids on England’s coastal towns.
June 17, 1777 – The British plan to separate New England from the rest of the colonies commences. British General John Burgoyne and his army of 7,700 redcoats descends to Albany from Canada and plans to join General William Howe and forces marching north from New York City.
July 6, 1777 – British General Burgoyne’s forces easily take Fort Ticonderoga, an important northern stronghold, on the shores of Lake Champlain in New York.
July 23, 1777 – British General William Howe makes a serious tactical error. Instead of meeting Burgoyne near Albany, he decides to sail toward the Chesapeake Bay and invade the Patriot capital – Philadelphia.
July 27, 1777 – Marquis de Lafayette arrives in Philadelphia and becomes a major general in the Continental Army at age 19.
August 1, 1777 – Burgoyne’s British forces reach the Hudson River.
August 6, 1777 – British forces route Patriots under General Nicholas Herkimer at Oriskany, NY.
August 16, 1777 – Patriot forces defeat a detachment of Burgoyne’s army at Bennington (in present day Vermont) who were trying to steal horses.
September 9-11, 1777 – General George Washington and men meet British General William Howe and British forces at Brandywine Creek, Pennsylvania. Washington’s army of over 10,000 men is forced back toward Philadelphia. Both sides suffer heavy losses.
September 26, 1777 – William Howe’s and British forces occupy Philadelphia. Congress is forced to evacuate the city and head to Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
October 7, 1777 – American forces earn their first major victory of the war at Saratoga, NY (near Albany) under Generals Benedict Arnold and Horatio Gates. If British General William Howe would have followed through with the plan to meet Burgoyne, rather than occupy Philadelphia, the Continental Army likely would have fallen.
October 17, 1777 – General Burgoyne’s army of 5,700 hundred men are forced to surrender to Patriot general Horatio Gates. British soldiers are shipped back to England as word of the Patriot victory spreads through Europe. As a result of the British surrender, France recognizes America’s independence.
November 15, 1777 – Congress adopts the Articles of Confederation as the new government of the United States of America pending the approval of the 13 states. Congress is now the sole authority over the government.
December 17, 1777 – George Washington sets up winter encampment at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Disease and frigid temperatures decimate the camp. Morale is low until German General Baron Von Stueben is brought to train the people to be soldiers.
February 6, 1778 – France and the United States sign treaties of alliances. France became a strong partner in the quest for American independence and provided most of the Patriot military supplies. France further pledged to help fight Britain until American independence could be gained. Britain and France then declare war on each other when British ships fire upon a French fleet. Britain would now find themselves fighting not only in North America, but in Europe, Asia and Africa as well.
February 23, 1778 – Baron Von Steuben arrives at miserable Valley Forge and provides indispensable military training to Americans spending the winter there.
March 16, 1778 – British peace commission sent to Philadelphia offers to repeal all taxes and submit to all American demands except independence. Proposed compromise is rejected by Congress.
June 18, 1778 – British forces withdraw from Philadelphia, fearing a naval blockade by French fleets. General Henry Clinton and British forces cross New Jersey on their way to New York City. Patriot General George Washington sends troops after him.
June 27-28, 1778 – Clinton and Washington’s armies meet at Monmouth, New Jersey. The battle was inconclusive, but American General Charles Lee orders a retreat, which allows Clinton’s army to continue to New York City.
July 3, 1778- Patriot residents of Wyoming Valley in northern Pennsylvania are massacred by loyalists and Indians.
July 8, 1778 – General Washington moves headquarters to West Point, New York
November 11, 1778 – American settlers are once again massacred by Indians and loyalists at Cherry Valley, New York
December 29, 1778 – British forces begin their campaign in the southern colonies. They quickly score major victories at Charleston and Savannah and succeed in occupying all of Georgia. Battles in the southern interior are successful for the British but result in heavy casualties.
June 16, 1779 – Spain declares war on Great Britain.
July 5, 1779 – Loyalists burn Connecticut towns of Norwalk, Fairfield and New Haven.
August 29, 1779 – American forces defeat Indian and Loyalist forces at Elmira, New York. They proceed to burn Iroquois villages in retaliation for the massacres on American settlers.
September 3 – October 28, 1779 – U.S. forces are defeated at Savannah and suffer massive casualties.
September 23, 1779 – John Paul Jones defeats a British fleet off the coast of England. Despite initial failure, when his unconditional surrender is demanded by British forces, Jones utters the famous words ” I have not yet begun to fight”. He then captures the British ship before his own sinks.
October 17, 1779 – General George Washington sets up winter quarters at Morristown, New Jersey. His army suffers another brutal winter which results in death, disease, low morale, and at least one attempted mutiny.
April 8, 1780 – May 12, 1780 British General Henry Clinton arrives at Charleston, South Carolina from New York with 8,000 men. A month later, the British promptly take Fort Moultrie, South Carolina and then begin bombarding Charleston Harbor. American forces suffer their worse loss of the war, and are forced to surrender their entire southern army of 5,400 men on May 12.
May 25, 1780 – General Washington is threatened with mutiny at his Morristown, N.J. winter camp. Two armed soldiers march through camp and demand payment (which is overdue by five months). Pennsylvania soldiers put down the revolt, and two of its leaders are hanged.
June 11, 1780 – A new Massachusetts constitution is endorsed which calls for the freedom of slaves.
June 13, 1780 – General Horatio Gates is placed in command of the southern army.
July 11, 1780 – 6,000 French troops under the command of Count de Rochambeau arrive at Newport, Rhode Island. They are forced to remain there for nearly a year because of a blockade formed by the British fleet.
August 3, 1780 – Benedict Arnold is placed in command at Washington’s West Point headquarters. Unfortunately, Arnold has been collaborating with British General Henry Clinton for over a year concerning Washington’s position.
August 16, 1780 – 900 American soldiers are killed and 1,000 captured by British General Charles Cornwallis in South Carolina.
September 23, 1780 – Benedict Arnold is revealed as a spy and his plans to surrender West Point to the British are exposed. Arnold flees from West Point and joins the British army as a brigadier general.
October 7, 1780 – American forces capture 1,000 of Cornwallis’ men in North Carolina. Cornwallis abandons his attempt to invade the state.
October 14, 1780 – General Nathaniel Greene replaces Horatio Gates as commander of the southern army. Greene promptly rallies support by pursuing Cornwallis’ army on a wild chase through the wilderness of the Carolinas and Virginia. As a result, Cornwallis’ army is battered, fatigued, and low on supplies.
January 17, 1781 - American forces under Daniel Morgan defeat British forces at Cowpens, S.C.
March 15, 1781 – General Charles Cornwallis’ and his army of over 10,000 invade Guilford Courthouse, N.C. They suffer horrible casualties however, and fail to follow the retreat of the Patriots. Cornwallis decides to leave the Carolinas and lead his entire army into Virginia to conquer the state.
June 10, 1781 – American troops under Marquis de Lafayette, Gen. Anthony Wayne and Baron von Steuben form a combined force in Virginia to oppose British forces under Benedict Arnold and Gen. Cornwallis.
June 11, 1781 – Congress appoints a Peace Commission of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Jay and Henry Laurens.
August 1, 1781 – General Cornwallis’ army chooses Yorktown, Virginia as a resting place. He then establishes a base to communicate by sea with Henry Clinton’s forces in New York.
August 14, 1781 – General George Washington abandons a proposed attack on the British in New York City after learning that French Admiral Count de Grasse, 29 ships, and 3,000 French soldiers were heading south along the Chesapeake Bay. Washington then coordinates with Gen. Rochambeau to send troops south to Virginia to destroy the British position in Yorktown.
August 30, 1781 – Count de Grasse’s French fleet arrives off Yorktown, Virginia. De Grasse then lands troops near Yorktown, linking with Lafayette’s American troops to cut Cornwallis off from retreat by land.
September 5-8, 1781 – British naval forces under Thomas Graves engage the superior French naval forces under Count de Grasse off the coast of Yorktown, Virginia. British forces are forced to retreat to New York for reinforcements leaving the French in complete control of southern waters. The French Fleet forms a blockade which effectively traps British General Cornwallis at Yorktown and prevents his retreat by sea.
September 14-24, 1781 – French naval ships are sent north to transport Washington’s Continental Army to Yorktown.
September 28, 1781 – The siege at Yorktown begins. General Washington’s army of 17,000 begin encircling the city while French naval forces bombard Cornwallis’ army with cannon fire continuously.
October 17, 1781 – As Yorktown is about to be taken, General Cornwallis begins surrender negotiations.
October 19, 1781 – General Cornwallis formally surrenders at Yorktown. The British army is decimated and the war is virtually over.
January 5, 1782 – The British withdraw from North Carolina.
February 27, 1782 – The British House of Commons votes against further war with America.
April 12, 1782 – Peace talks between Benjamin Franklin and English officials begin in Paris.
June 11, 1782 – The British evacuate Savannah, Georgia.
August 27, 1782 – The last skirmish between the British and Americans occurs near the Combahee River in South Carolina.
December 14, 1782 – The British evacuate Charleston, South Carolina.
January 20, 1783 – England signs a peace treaty with France and Spain.
February 3, 1783 – Spain, Russia, Sweden and Denmark formally recognize America’s independence.
April 11, 1783 – Congress officially claims an end to the Revolutionary War.
July 8, 1783 – The Supreme Court in Massachusetts abolishes slavery in that state.
June 13, 1783 – The Continental Army disbands.
September 3, 1783 – The United States and Great Britain sign the Treaty of Paris officially ending the war. America is free!