You Gotta Know These Revolutionary War Battles
- Lexington and Concord (April 19, 1775): The first battles of the American Revolutionary War were skirmishes near Boston in the two towns of Lexington and Concord, as well as Cambridge, Lincoln and Menotomy. British regulars under Francis Smith attempted to destroy the supplies of the colonial militia, but were stopped by Minutemen. Ralph Waldo Emerson described the first shot as the “shot heard round the world.”
- Ticonderoga (May 10, 1775): A small but symbolic victory for the American forces led by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold. The Green Mountain Boys captured Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain from the British and transported its cannons to Boston.
- Bunker Hill (June 17, 1775): This British pyrrhic victory outside Boston resulted in the capture of the Charlestown Peninsula, but showed that colonial troops could stand up to British regulars. Most of the fighting actually occurred on Breed’s Hill, not Bunker Hill.
- Quebec (December 31, 1775): The culmination of a failed invasion of Canada by American colonists. In a blinding snowstorm, the American general Richard Montgomery was killed in battle, Benedict Arnold was wounded, and Daniel Morgan was captured.
- Long Island (August 27, 1776): The largest battle of the entire war, Long Island (or Brooklyn Heights) resulted in the British capture of New York. William Howe defeated George Washington.
- Trenton (December 26, 1776): Occurred early in the morning after George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas night. The Hessians, under the command of Johann Rall, were surprised and about two-thirds of them were captured.
- Germantown (October 4, 1777): Washington’s attack on Germantown was the Continental Army’s last major effort to retake Philadelphia before the winter of 1777–1778. After this defeat, Washington’s troops wintered at Valley Forge.
- Saratoga (ended October 17, 1777): The major turning point of the American Revolution because the American victory led France to join the war. British General John Burgoyne led an invasion into New York from Canada with hopes of meeting another British army and splitting the American colonies. The final surrender was preceded by battles at Freeman’s Farm and Bemis Heights. Horatio Gates led the American forces.
- Monmouth (June 28, 1778): The last major battle of the Northern theater of the war; its outcome was inconclusive. American general Charles Lee was court-martialed for his actions at Monmouth. Molly Pitcher became famous for fighting in this battle in place of her husband.
- Camden (August 16, 1780): The American defeat was part of the British “southern strategy,” which included the earlier capture of Charleston and Savannah. Charles Cornwallis inflicted a humiliating defeat on the forces of Horatio Gates.
- Cowpens (January 17, 1781): A turning point in the American recapture of South Carolina. Daniel Morgan commanded the Continentals and Banastre Tarleton led the British. The battle was fought between the Pacolet and Broad Rivers.
- Yorktown (ended October 19, 1781): The Siege of Yorktown essentially ended the American Revolutionary War, although the Treaty of Paris wasn’t signed until two years later. George Washington, with help from the French navy under the Comte de Grasse, surrounded the forces of Cornwallis and forced the British to surrender. General Charles O’Hara presented Cornwallis’s sword of surrender.
This article was contributed by former NAQT writer George Stevens.