American Revolution Timeline

George Washington in the American Revolution by Junius B. Stearns, 1854.

George Washington in the American Revolution by Junius B. Stearns, 1854.

For more than a century England had possessed 13 colonies stretching along the coast between Canada and Florida. The British Parliament made laws that benefited the English merchants, and by 1750 had passed many laws to encourage trade with her colonies. Some of the laws forbade them to trade with other countries or even, in some cases, with one another. Had all these laws been rigidly carried out, the great Revolution might have come before it did. This is a timeline of events through the Revolutionary War which would see a Nation’s birth and the world’s beacon of Freedom.

British Reforms and Colonial Resistance:


No Taxation without Representation

No Taxation without Representation

February 1764 – James Otis urges a united response to the recent acts imposed by England. The phrase “Taxation without Representation is Tyranny” is usually attributed to James Otis

July 1764 – James Otis publishes “The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved.”

August 1764 – Boston, Massachusetts merchants begin a boycott of British luxury goods.


March 22, 1765 – The Stamp Act was passed by the British Parliament.

March 24, 1765 – The Quartering Act required American colonists to house British troops and supply them with food.

July 1765 – The Sons of Liberty, a secret organization opposed to the Stamp Act,  is formed.

December 1765 – Over 200 Boston merchants refuse to pay the Stamp Tax.


January 1766 – The New York assembly refuses to fully enforce the Quartering Act.

March 18, 1766 – The Stamp Act is repealed.

August 1766 – Violence breaks out in New York between British soldiers and members of the Sons of Liberty.


July 1768 – Merchants in Boston and New York boycott British goods

September 1768 – English warships sail into Boston Harbor leaving two regiments of English troops to keep order.


March 1770 – The Boston Massacre occurs and four workers are shot by British troops in Boston, Massachusetts.


December 16, 1773 – The Boston Tea Party occurs when Massachusetts patriots dressed as Mohawk Indians protest against the British Tea Act by dumping crates of tea into Boston Harbor.


1774 – The First Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

March 1774 – The Coercive Acts, called Intolerable Acts by Americans, are implemented.

The American Revolution Begins:


February 9, 1775 – The English Parliament declares Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion.

April 14, 1775 – Massachusetts Governor Thomas Gage is ordered by the British to enforce the Coercive Acts and suppress any rebellion among colonists by using all necessary force.

The ride of Paul Revere

April 18, 1775 – General Thomas Gage orders 700 British soldiers to Concord to destroy the colonists’ weapons depot. Paul Revere and William Dawes are sent from Boston to warn the colonists. Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were hiding in Lexington, Massachusetts were able to escape.

April 19, 1775 – The first shots are fired at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts where the weapons depot is destroyed. “Minute Men” force British troops back to Boston. George Washington takes command of the Continental Army.

April 19, 1775 – American Militia defeated British regulars at Concord, Massachusetts.

April 23, 1775 – The Provincial Congress in Massachusetts orders 13,600 American soldiers to be mobilized. Colonial volunteers from all over New England assemble and head for Boston and begin a year-long siege of the city.

May 10, 1775 – The Second Continental Congress convenes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with John Hancock elected as its president.

May 10,  1775 – American forces led by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold capture Fort Ticonderoga and its artillery in New York.

May 15, 1775 – The Second Continental Congress places the colonies in a state of defense.

Battle of Lexington, April 19, 1775. illustration by John H. Daniels & Son, 1903. 

Battle of Lexington, April 19, 1775. illustration by John H. Daniels & Son, 1903.

June 15, 1775 – The Second Continental Congress unanimously votes to appoint George Washington general and commander-in-chief of the new Continental Army.

June 17,  1775 – The first major fight between British and American troops occurs at Boston, Massachusetts in the Battle of Bunker Hill.

July 3, 1775 – General George Washington assumes command of Continental Army, about 17,000 men, at Cambridge, Massachusetts.

July 5, 1775 – The Continental Congress adopts the Olive Branch Petition which appeals directly to King George III for reconciliation.

July 6, 1775 – The Continental Congress issues a Declaration on the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms. It details the colonists’ reasons for fighting the British and states the Americans are “resolved to die free men rather than live as slaves.”

The American Revolution, the American War of Independence, led by George Washington begins between Great Britain and the 13 British colonies in North America.

July 26, 1775 – An American Post Office is established in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with Benjamin as Postmaster General.

August 1775 – King George III refuses even to look at the petition submitted by the Continental Congress and instead issues a proclamation declaring the Americans to be in a state of open rebellion.

November 10-21, 1775 – Patriots are sieged by the British at Ninety-Six, South Carolina. The battle ended in a truce.

First Continental Navy

First Continental Navy

November 28, 1775 – The American Navy is established by Congress.

November 29, 1775- Congress appoints a secret committee to seek help from European nations.

December 1775 – Congress is informed that France may offer support in the war against Britain.

December 11, 1775 – Virginia and North Carolina patriots routed Loyalist troops and burned Norfolk.

December 22, 1775 – At Great Canebrake, South Carolina Colonel William Thomson with 1,500 rangers and militia captured a force of Loyalists.

December 23, 1775 – King George III issues a royal proclamation closing the American colonies to all commerce and trade, to take effect in March of 1776.

December 23-30, 1775 – During the Snow Campaign in South Carolina against Loyalists, the Patriot militia is impeded by 15″ of snow.


February 27, 1776 – North Carolina militia defeated South Carolina Loyalists at Moore’s Creek, North Carolina inflicting heavy casualties.

View of Boston from Dorchester Heights, by Robert Havell, 1841.

View of Boston from Dorchester Heights, by Robert Havell, 1841.

March 4-17, 1776 – At Dorchester Heights, Massachusetts, American forces capture Dorchester Heights which overlooks Boston harbor. The British evacuate Boston and set sail for Halifax.

March 17, 1776 – British Navy evacuated Boston, Massachusetts and moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Washington’s Army then occupies Boston.

April 6, 1776 – The Continental Congress declares colonial shipping ports open to all traffic except the British

April 12, 1776 – The North Carolina assembly is the first to empower its delegates in the Continental Congress to vote for independence from Britain.

May 2, 1776 – The Continental Congress gets the much needed foreign support they had been hoping for. King Louis XVI of France commits one million dollars in arms and munitions. Spain then also promises support.

May 10, 1776 – The Continental Congress authorizes each of the 13 colonies to form provincial governments.

Leaders of the Continental Congress, John Adams, Morris, Hamilton, Jefferson, by A. Tholey

Leaders of the Continental Congress, John Adams, Morris, Hamilton, Jefferson, by A. Tholey

June 7, 1776 – Richard Henry Lee, a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress, presents a formal resolution calling for America to declare its independence from Britain. Congress decides to postpone its decision on this until July.

June 8, 1776 – Patriot attempt to take British position in Three Rivers, Canada failed.

June 11, 1776 – Congress appoints a committee to draft a declaration of independence. Committee members are Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin FranklinJohn Adams, Roger Livingston, and Roger Sherman. Thomas Jefferson is chosen by the committee to prepare the first draft of the declaration, which he completes in one day.

June 28, 1776 – Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence is ready and is presented to  Congress, with changes made by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.

June 28, 1776 – At Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, British naval attack failed when the palmetto logs held against the bombardment.

June-July, 1776 – A massive British war fleet arrives in New York Harbor consisting of 30 battleships with 1200 cannon, 30,000 soldiers, 10,000 sailors, and 300 supply ships, under the command of General William Howe and his brother Admiral Lord Richard Howe.

July 1, 1776 – Incited by British royal agents, the Cherokee attacked along the entire southern frontier.

July 2, 1776 – Twelve of 13 colonial delegations (New York abstains) vote in support of Richard Henry Lee’s resolution for independence.

Declaration of Independence by Arthur Szyk

Declaration of Independence by Arthur Szyk

July 4, 1776 – The Congress formally endorses Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, with copies to be sent to all of the colonies.

July 12, 1776 – As a show of force, two British frigates sail up the Hudson River blasting their guns. Peace feelers are then extended to the Americans. At the request of the British, General George Washington meets with General William Howe’s representatives in New York and listens to vague offers of clemency for the American rebels. Washington politely declines before he leaves.

July 15, 1776 – At Lyndley’s Fort, South Carolina, Patriots defended against attack by Indians and the British dressed as Indians.

August 1, 1776 – At Seneca, South Carolina, Americans are ambushed by Cherokee Indians. Patriot forces saved by a mounted charge.

August 10, 1776 – Cherokee Indians defeated by Andrew Pickens at Tugaloo River, South Carolina.

August 1776 – In the Ring Fight in South Carolina, 200 Cherokee Indians attacked Andrew Pickens and 25 militia. From a circle, firing in turn, the Patriots held off attackers until a rescue force arrived.

August 12, 1776 – Colonel David Williamson and Andrew Pickens defeated a large Cherokee war party and burned the Indian town near Tamassee, South Carolina.

August 27, 1776 – George Washington’s army defeated is defeated but, escaped by night in the fog at Long Island, New York.

Battle of Long Island, New York

The Battle of Long Island, New York by Virtue and Co. Click for prints & products.

August 27-29, 1776 – General William Howe leads 15,000 soldiers against Washington’s army in the Battle of Long Island, New York. Washington, outnumbered two to one, suffers a severe defeat as his army is outflanked and scatters. The Americans retreat to Brooklyn Heights, facing possible capture by the British or even total surrender.

September 11, 1776 – A peace conference is held on Staten Island, New York with British Admiral, Lord Richard Howe, meeting American representatives including John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. The conference fails, however, as Howe demands the colonists revoke the Declaration of Independence.

September 16, 1776 – After evacuating New York City, Washington’s army repulses a British attack during the Battle of Harlem Heights in upper Manhattan, New York. Several days later, fire engulfs New York City and destroys over 300 buildings.

September 19, 1776 – Colonel David Williamson’s patriots were attacked by Cherokee south of Franklin, North Carolina in a gorge known as the Black Hole. Americans eventually cleared the pass.

September 22, 1776 – After he is caught spying on British troops on Long Island, New York, Nathan Hale is executed without a trial, his last words, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

September 26, 1776 – Congress appoints Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Silas Deane to negotiate treaties with European governments. Franklin and Deane then travel to France seeking financial and military aid.

October 11, 1776 – With makeshift boats on Lake Champlain, Benedict Arnold engaged a British squadron. Arnold was defeated but delayed the British until it was too close to winter to continue their campaign.

Yankee Doodle, 1776

Yankee Doodle, A.M. Williard, 1776.

October 28, 1776 – After evacuating his main forces from Manhattan, George Washington’s army suffers heavy casualties in the Battle of White Plains, New York from General William Howe’s forces. General George Washington then retreats westward.

November 16, 1776 – American commander surrendered Fort Washington, New York to the Hessians.

November 20, 1776 – Lord Charles Cornwallis captured Fort Lee, New Jersey. Nathanael Greene abandoned the position.

December 6, 1776 – The naval base at Newport, Rhode Island is captured by the British.

December 11, 1776 – General George Washington takes his troops across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania.

December 12, 1776 – With concerns of a possible British attack, the Continental Congress abandons Philadelphia for Baltimore, Maryland.

December 26, 1776 – General George Washington re-crosses the Delaware River and conducts a surprise raid on a Hessian brigade and defeated it. Known as the Battle of Trenton.


George Washington in military uniform, by Rembrandt Peale

George Washington in military uniform, by Rembrandt Peale.

January 3, 1777 – A second victory for General George Washington as his troops defeat the British at Princeton and drive them back toward New Brunswick.

Winter, 1777 – General George Washington establishes winter quarters at Morristown, New Jersey. During the harsh winter, Washington’s army shrinks to about a thousand men as enlistments die and deserters flee the hardships. By spring, with the arrival of recruits, Washington will have 9,000 men.

March 12, 1777 – The Continental Congress returns to Philadelphia from Baltimore after Washington’s successes against the British in New Jersey.

April 27, 1777 – American troops under Benedict Arnold defeat the British at Ridgefield, Connecticut.

May 20, 1777 – The Cherokee sued for peace and lost most of their land east of the mountains in the Treaty of DeWitt’s Corner, South Carolina.

June 14, 1777 – The flag of the United States consisting of 13 stars and 13 white and red stripes is mandated by Congress.

June 14, 1777 – John Paul Jones is chosen by Congress to captain the 18 gun vessel Ranger with a mission to raid coastal towns of England.

June 17, 1777 – A British force of 7,700 men under General John Burgoyne invades from Canada, sailing down Lake Champlain toward Albany, planning to link up with General William Howe who will come north from New York City, thus cutting off New England from the rest of the colonies.

July 6, 1777 – General John Burgoyne’s troops surprise the Americans with the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, New York on Lake Champlain. Its military supplies are greatly needed by Washington’s forces. The loss of the fort is a tremendous blow to American morale.

July 23, 1777 – British General William Howe, with 15,000 men, sets sail from New York for the Chesapeake Bay to capture Philadelphia, instead of sailing north to meet up with General John Burgoyne.

July 27, 1777 – Marquis de Lafayette, a 19-year-old French aristocrat, arrives in Philadelphia and volunteers to serve without pay. Congress appoints him as a major general in the Continental Army. Lafayette will become one of General Washington’s most trusted aides.

Continental Army by Henry Ogden

Continental Army by Henry Ogden

August 1, 1777 – General John Burgoyne reaches the Hudson River after a grueling month spent crossing 23 miles of wilderness separating the southern tip of Lake Champlain from the northern tip of the Hudson River.

August 6, 1777 – British column with Iroquois warriors attack Oriskany, New York from Oswego. rescue troops ambushed.

August 16, 1777 – British General John Burgoyne detached Hessians, British regulars, Loyalists and Iroquois against Bennington, Vermont. American militia attacked and defeated the British. Known as the Battle of Bennington.

August 23, 1777 – Benedict Arnold intended to siege Fort Stanwix, New York but the Indians and Loyalists deserted and the British retired.

August 25, 1777 – British General William Howe disembarks at Chesapeake Bay with his troops.

September 9-11, 1777 – At Brandywine, Pennsylvania, General George Washington and the main American Army of 10,500 men are driven back toward Philadelphia by General William Howe’s British troops. Both sides suffer heavy losses.

September 11, 1777 – Once again worried about an attack, Congress leaves Philadelphia and resettles in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

September 26, 1777- British forces under General William Howe occupied Philadelphia. Congress relocates again to York, Pennsylvania.

Surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga New York

Surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga New York

October 17, 1777 – General John Burgoyne surrendered his British Army to American Major General Horatio Gates at Saratoga, New York. It is the first major American victory of the Revolutionary War.

September 21, 1777 – British troops attack with bayonets and surprised Americans at Paoli, Pennsylvania. Americans called it the “Paoli Massacre.”

October 4, 1777 – At Germantown, Pennsylvania, an American attack on British positions failed.

November 15, 1777 – Congress adopts the Articles of Confederation as the government of the new United States of America. Conditions are terrible for the soldiers.

December 17, 1777 – At Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, the Continental Army led by General George Washington sets up winter quarters.


February 6,  1778 – France signed a treaty with the Continental Congress which would provide troops, ships, and supplies to America.

George Washington at Valley Forge in 1777 by P. Haas

George Washington at Valley Forge in 1777 by P. Haas

February 23, 1778 – Baron von Steuben of Prussia arrives at Valley Forge to join the Continental Army. He then begins much-needed training and drilling of Washington’s troops, now suffering from poor morale resulting from cold, hunger, disease, low supplies, and desertions over the long, harsh winter.

March 16, 1778 – A Peace Commission is created by the British Parliament to negotiate with the Americans. The commission then travels to Philadelphia where its offers granting all of the American demands, except independence, are rejected by Congress.

May 8, 1778 – British General Henry Clinton replaces General William Howe as commander of all British forces in the American colonies.

May 30, 1778 – A campaign of terror against American frontier settlements, instigated by the British, begins as 300 Iroquois Indians burn Cobleskill, New York.

June 18, 1778 – Fearing a blockade by French ships, British General Henry Clinton withdraws his troops from Philadelphia and marches across New Jersey toward New York City. Americans then re-occupy Philadelphia.

June 19, 1778 – General George Washington sends troops from Valley Forge, Pennsylvania to intercept General Henry Clinton.

June 27-28, 1778 – The Battle of Monmouth occurs in New Jersey as Washington’s troops and General Henry Clinton’s troops fight to a standoff.

July 2, 1778 – Congress returns once again to Philadelphia.

July 3, 1778 – British Loyalists and Indians massacre American settlers in the Wyoming Valley of northern Pennsylvania.

Illinois Campaign during the American Revolution.

Illinois Campaign during the American Revolution.

July 4, 1778 – Kaskaskia, Illinois is captured by Colonel George Rogers Clark.

July 8, 1778 – General George Washington sets up headquarters at West Point, New York.

July 10, 1778 – France declares war against Britain.

September 14, 1778 – Benjamin Franklin is appointed to be the American diplomatic representative in France.

August 8, 1778 – American land forces and French ships attempt to conduct a combined siege against Newport, Rhode Island. But bad weather and delays of the land troops result in failure. The weather-damaged French fleet then sails to Boston for repairs.

December 29, 1778 – The British begin a major southern campaign with the capture of Savannah, Georgia, followed a month later with the capture of Augusta.



Major General William Moultrie

Major General William Moultrie

February 3, 1779 – Major General Moultrie defeated a British detachment at Port Royal Island, South Carolina.

February 14, 1779 – At Kettle Creek, Georgia, Andrew Pickens and Elijah Clarke and their Georgia and Carolina militia defeated North Carolina Loyalist militia who were traveling to Augusta to join the British forces.

February 24, 1779 – Loyalists and Indians recaptured Vincennes, Indiana but, George Rogers Clark forced them to retreat.

March 3, 1779 – British Lieutenant Colonel Augustine Prevost defeated Americans under General John Ashe at Brier Creek, Georgia.

April 1-30, 1779 – In retaliation for Indian raids on colonial settlements, American troops from North Carolina and Virginia attack Chickamauga Indian villages in Tennessee.

May 10, 1779 – British troops burn Portsmouth and Norfolk, Virginia.

May 11-13, 1779 – In Charleston, South Carolina Major General Augustine Prevost had to break his siege as American forces under Major General Benjamin Lincoln approached.

British General Henry Clinton

British General Henry Clinton

June 1, 1779 – British General Henry Clinton takes 6,000 men up the Hudson River toward West Point, New York.

June 16, 1779 – Spain declares war on England, but does not make an alliance with the American Revolutionary forces.

June 20, 1779 – At Stono River, South Carolina Major General Benjamin Lincoln engaged a British rear guard. The indecisive battle resulted in many casualties.

July 10, 1779 – Naval ships from Massachusetts are destroyed by the British while attempting to take the Loyalist stronghold of Castine, Maine.

July 5-11, 1779 – Loyalists raid coastal towns in Connecticut, burning Fairfield, Norwalk, and ships in New Haven harbor.

July 16, 1779 – At Stony Point, New York, Americans attacked with bayonets only resulting in extensive British casualties.

July-August 1779 – American attempt to dislodge British along the Penobscot River in Maine failed.

August 13, 1779 – At Paulus Hook, New Jersey, the Americans make a successful surprise attack on British outposts.

August 14, 1779 – A peace plan is approved by Congress which stipulates independence, complete British evacuation of America and free navigation on the Mississippi River.

August 28, 1779 – After two terrible massacres, American forces moved into the Indian territory of New York and burned villages. Iroquois and Seneca power was diminished although they remained hostile.

August 29, 1779 – At Elmira, New York American forces defeat the combined Indian and Loyalist forces at Elmira, New York. Following the victory, American troops head northwest and destroy nearly 40 Cayuga and Seneca Indian villages in retaliation for the campaign of terror against American settlers.

September 16-Oct 19, 1779 – American Army under Major General Benjamin Lincoln failed to dislodge British from Savannah, Georgia.

"I have not yet begun to fight!" - John Paul Jones, painting by  Charles J. Andres.

“I have not yet begun to fight!” – John Paul Jones, painting by  Charles J. Andres.

September 23, 1779 – Off the coast of England, John Paul Jones fights a desperate battle with a British frigate. When the British demand his surrender, Jones responds, “I have not yet begun to fight!” Jones then captures the frigate before his own ship sinks.

September 27, 1779 – John Adams is appointed by Congress to negotiate peace with England.

November 11, 1778 – At Cherry Valley, New York, Loyalists and Indians massacre over 40 American settlers.

December 26, 1779 – British General Henry Clinton sets sail from New York with 8,000 men and heads for Charleston, South Carolina, arriving there on February 1, 1780.

Winter 1779-1780 – Morristown, New Jersey sheltered the main encampments of the American Continental Army and served as the winter quarters of its commander-in-chief, General George Washington.