The George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress

Time Line: The American Revolution
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January 2, Washington forwards to governor Nicholas Cooke a letter from General James Varnum advising him that Rhode Island's troop quota should be completed with blacks. Washington urges Cooke to give the recruiting officers every assistance. In February, the Rhode Island legislature approves the action. Enlisted slaves will receive their freedom in return for their service. The resulting black regiment, commanded by white Quaker Christopher Greene, has its first engagement at the battle of Rhode Island (or, Newport) July 29-August 31, where it holds off two Hessian regiments. The regiment also fights at the battle of Yorktown. Slaves enlisted in the Continental Army typically receive a subsistence, their freedom, and a cash payment at the end of the war. Slaves and free blacks rarely receive regular pay or land bounties. In 1777, the New Jersey militia act allows for the recruitment of free blacks but not slaves, as does Maryland's legislature in 1781. On March 20, 1781, New York authorizes the enlistment of slaves in militia units, for which they receive their freedom at the end of the war. Virginia rejects James Madison's arguments for enlisting slaves in addition to free blacks, but many enlist anyway, presenting themselves for freedom after the war. George Washington to Nicholas Cooke, January 2, 1778

February 6, the Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce is signed in Paris. Since 1776, the French government has been secretly providing Congress with military supplies and financial aid. March 13, the French minister in London informs King George III that France recognizes the United States. May 4, Congress ratifies the Treaty of Alliance with France, and further military and financial assistance follows. By June, France and England are at war. The American Revolution has become an international war.

February 18, Washington addresses a letter to the inhabitants of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, requesting cattle for the army for the period of May through June. Washington writes them that the "States have contended, not unsuccessfully, with one of the most Powerful Kingdoms upon Earth." After several years of war, "we now find ourselves at least upon a level with our opponents." George Washington to the Inhabitants of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, February 18, 1778

February 23, Baron Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin Steuben, a volunteer from Germany, arrives at Valley Forge with a letter of introduction from the President of Congress, Henry Laurens. Congress publishes his military training manual, which he has had translated into English. He trains a model company of forty-seven men at Valley Forge and then proceeds to the general training of the army. Congress commissions Steuben a major general and makes him an inspector general of the Continental Army. Steuben becomes an American citizen after the war.
Die helden der revolution
Die helden der revolution
[between 1850-1890] 1 print. Girsch, Frederick, 1821-1895, artist.
General Washington standing with Johann De Kalb, Baron von Steuban,
Kazimierz Pulaski, Tadeusz, Lafayette, John Mulenberg, and other officers
during the Revolutionary War.
from Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
Reproduction #: LC-USZC4-3359(color film copy transparency)

March 1, Congress orders the Board of War to recruit Indians into the Continental Army. March 13, Washington writes the Commissioners of Indian Affairs on how he thinks he may employ the Indians recruited. George Washington to Philip Schuyler, James Duane, and Volkert Douw, March 13, 1778

March 8, Lord Germain (George Sackville), Colonial Secretary in London, sends British General Henry Clinton orders for a change of direction in the conduct of the war. The British are to focus on the south, where Germain estimates loyalists to be more numerous. Actions in the north are to be limited to raids and blockades of the coast. May 8, Clinton will replace General Sir William Howe as commander of British forces in North America.

April, the British government sends the Carlisle Commission to North America. The Commission is made up of the Earl of Carlisle (Frederick Howard), William Eden, and George Johnston, and their secretary. Parliament has repealed all laws opposed by the American colonies since 1763. The Commission is instructed to offer home rule to the Colonies and hopes to begin negotiations before Congress receives news of the Franco-American Treaty (which it does on May 8). Congress ratifies the Treaty and ignores the Commission. April 22, Congress resolves not to engage in negotiations on terms that fall short of complete independence. Late in 1778, the Commission returns to England.

May-June, British General Henry Clinton begins to move the main part of the British army from Pennsylvania to New York via New Jersey. Washington's army, also located in Pennsylvania, gives chase.

June 18, Washington sends six brigades ahead and on June 21 he crosses the Delaware River with the rest of the army. By June 22, the British are in New Jersey, and Benedict Arnold is fast approaching the twelve-mile long baggage train that makes up the end of Clinton's marching army.

June 28, the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse. Washington's army catches up with Clinton's. The one-day battle is fought to a stalemate, both armies exhausted by the day's unusual heat. But Washington is impressed with the performance of the American troops against the well-trained veteran British regulars. Clinton and his army continue on to New York, while Washington establishes camp at White Plains.

June 29, Washington writes in his general orders of the day about the success of the New Jersey militia in "harrassing and impeding their [the British] Motions so as to allow the Continental Troops time to come up with them" before the battle of Monmouth Courthouse. German Captain John Ewald, fighting for the British, in his Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal (New Haven and London, 1979), observes during the march through New Jersey that the "whole province was in arms, following us with Washington's army, constantly surrounding us on our marches and besieging our camps." "Each step," Ewald writes, "cost human blood." From now on, Washington begins to employ local militia units in this manner more often.
Joseph Fayadaneega
Joseph Fayadaneega,
called the Brant,
the Great Captain of the Six Nations

[ca. 1776] 1 print.
Smith, John Raphael,
1752-1812, engraver.
from Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
Reproduction #:

July 3, loyalist Colonel John Butler with local troops and Seneca Indian allies invades Wyoming Valley, north of the Susquehanna River, and attacks at "Forty Fort." In the frontier war along the New York and Pennsylvania frontier, Onandagas, Cayugas, Senecas, and Mohawks of the Iroquois League ally with the British. Joseph Brant (Joseph Fayadanega), a Mohawk war chief educated in English missionary schools and an Anglican convert, has significant influence among British government and military leaders. Oneidas and Tuscororas ally with the Americans. Washington writes Philip Schuyler, a member of the Indian commission for the northern department. George Washington to Philip Schuyler, July 22, 1778

July 4, George Rogers Clark defeats the British and captures Kaskaskia near the Mississippi River. Clark has been organizing the defense of the sparsely settled Kentucky region against British and Indian ally raids. In October 1777, Clark puts before Virginia governor Patrick Henry a plan to capture several British posts in the Illinois country, of which Kaskaskia is one. Clark and about 175 men take the fort and town, which is inhabited mainly by French settlers. Clark convinces them and their Indian allies on the Wabash River to support the American cause. The British continue to hold sway at Fort Detroit, commanded by Lieutenant Governor Henry Hamilton, and Clark spends the next several years attempting to dislodge him. Washington writes governor of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, December 28, 1780, in support of Clark's efforts to take Fort Detroit. George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, December 28, 1780

July-August, Charles Hector, Comte d'Estaing and his French fleet plan to participate with General John Sullivan in a combined assault on the British position in Newport, Rhode Island. Sullivan's troops are delayed and d'Estaing's fleet is battered by a hurricane after an indecisive battle. He withdraws to Boston and later sails for the Caribbean Islands where he attacks British islands.

November 9, British General Henry Clinton sends approximately 3,000 troops south under Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell, and a fleet under command of Admiral Hyde Parker is assembled to coordinate an invasion of South Carolina and Georgia with General Augustine Prevost and his regular and loyalist troops in Florida. Campbell and his troops land at Savannah in late December.

November 14, Washington writes Henry Laurens, president of the Continental Congress, confidentially, about a plan for a French campaign against the British in Canada that Lafayette very much wants to lead. In 1759, during the Seven Years War, the French had been driven out of Canada by the British and American colonial forces. Washington has become personally attached to the young Lafayette. But he is also aware of the eagerness of all the French officers serving with the American cause to regain Canadian territories. Washington expresses concerns about the future independence of the American republic should European powers retain a strong presence in North America: a French presence able to "dispute" the sea power of Great Britain, and Spain "certainly superior, possessed of New Orleans, on our Right." George Washington to Henry Laurens, November 14, 1778

November, Washington detaches General Lachlan McIntosh from Valley Forge to command the western department of the Ohio country where bitter frontier war has erupted. McIntosh establishes Fort McIntosh on the Ohio River, 30 miles from Pittsburgh, and Fort Laurens, further west, as bases from which to launch campaigns against British and Shawnee, Wyandot, and Mingo allies operating out of Fort Detroit. After bitter warfare, McIntosh is forced to abandon the forts in June of 1779.

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