On 2 July 1776, the British under General. Howe attempted to
regain what they had lost. Washington was forced to evacuate Long Island. The
main American army managed to reach Pennsylvania. While Howe waited in New York
for the winter to pass, Washington made a daring attack on Christmas night at
Trenton. The British forces were defeated in Princeton.
Meanwhile Americans were divided among themselves as Patriots and
Loyalists. About two-thirds of the people who supported the war were Patriots.
The Patriots fought for independence and the Loyalists supported the British.
The Patriots were better organized than the loyalists. The American War of
Independence was as much a civil war as a war with the British. According to an
eyewitness, “Neighbour was against neighbour, father against son and son
In 1777 the British attempts at splitting the colonies into two by
a campaign from the north failed. However, they managed to occupy Philadelphia.
Washington’s efforts to take a town near Philadelphia were spoiled by Lord
Cornwallis. But the British were defeated at Saratoga. This defeat paved the
way for an alliance between France and the Americans. On 6 February 1778,
France and America signed two treaties by which France recognized the United
States of America and offered trade concessions. By June 1778 England and
France were at war.
By the end of 1778 the theatre of war shifted to the south. In the
Battle of Guilford Courthouse in March 1781 Cornwallis suffered heavy losses.
He then marched towards Virginia. Finding not much support he took up a
defensive position in Yorktown. Cornwallis was cut off from the sea by the
French fleet. In September Washington attacked Yorktown, with a combined
American and French troops. On 19 October 1781 Cornwallis surrendered. In 1783,
the Peace of Paris was signed. Great Britain agreed to the independence of the
United States. The military band played the tune ‘The World Turned Upside Down’
as British forces departed from Yorktown in 1781.
Cornwallis: Born into an aristocratic family and educated at
Eton and Cambridge, Cornwallis joined the army in 1757. Upon his father’s death
in 1762 he became Earl Cornwallis and entered the House of Lords, the upper house
of Britain. His military action in the American War of Independence was
praiseworthy, inflicting defeats on the American army in a few battles though
finally he had to surrender his army at Yorktown. Despite this defeat,
Cornwallis retained the confidence of successive British governments and
continued to enjoy an active career. Knighted in 1786, he was appointed
Governor General by the East India Company government in British India.