American War of Independence
In 1774, a little before war began between the colonies and England, George Washington stated that no thinking man in North America desired independence.
And yet he became the colonists’ commander-in-chief and later the first president of the American Republic. So the colonies did not begin fighting for the sake of independence. Their grievances were taxation and restrictions on trade. They challenged the right of the British Parliament to tax them against their will. “No taxation without representation” was their famous battle cry.
Disturbed by the developments in Boston harbour, the British government appointed General Gage as governor of Massachusetts with a mandate to quell the resistance. It also dispatched troops to Boston and passed the Intolerable Acts which decreed that all those who broke the laws would be taken to Britain for trial. In May 1774, in the Virginia Assembly, Thomas Jefferson declared that 1 June 1774 would be a day of fasting and prayer. In response to this declaration, the colonial governor dissolved the assembly. Thereafter, the members drafted a resolution to form the Continental Congress. Soon members joined from other colonies. On 5 September 1774 the First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia. The Congress agreed to vote by the representatives of colonies and endorsed the resolution declaring the Intolerable Act null and void. It called for economic sanctions against the British. The Congress adopted a Declaration of American Rights.
After the British troops shot down parading American militiamen at Lexington in Massachusetts, in April 1774 Governor Gage decided to seize arms hidden at Concord. When the local farmers came to know of this, they fought the British troops at the Battle of Lexington and then rushed to Boston to besiege the British garrison at Bunker Hill. It signaled the outbreak of the American War of Independence. Soon British-held Massachusetts was besieged by the militia. The patriot militia force of “Green Mountain Boys” captured Fort Ticonderoga in New York. The other colonies soon rushed to their help.
The Second Continental Congress met on 10 May 1775 at Philadelphia. John Adams, Sam Adams, Richard Henry Lee and Thomas Jefferson were some of prominent members of the Congress. It organized the army gathered around Boston as the Continental Army and placed it under the command of George Washington. Still hoping for a truce, the Congress dispatched ‘the Olive Branch Petition’ to the king and adopted the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms.
As the war progressed, the Continental Congress assumed the functions of government. In July 1775, it appointed Commissioners to negotiate with Native Americans. It also established a Postal Department with Benjamin Franklin as Postmaster-General. A Committee was formed to explore the possibility of foreign aid.
On 17 June 1775 the Battle of Bunker Hill, the first major battle was fought in Massachusetts. The 2200 strong British troops were twice forced to retreat. On the third attempt British troops emerged victorious with a heavy casualty of nearly 1000 soldiers. After the battle Washington assumed control of the American forces. Soon the British forces retreated from Boston.