The Shot Heard Around the World (3:11)
For 10 years the colonists have protested the laws. Some are eloquent some are violent.
Although they have no voice in the British government, most are not yet ready to break away, but they are determined to defend their rights to assembly, free speech, trial by jury, taxation by their own representatives, the right to bear arms, the controversy explodes on that April morning.
Most of the men scatter, but a few stand their ground.
Who fired that 1st shot heard round the world may never be known.
When the smoke clears, 8 Americans lay dead and another 9 more wounded. The British move to Concord. Word of the movement spread.
At Concord, the British find only remnants of the stockpile. The real weapons are in the hands of the Militia.
300 Americans attack the British column near the Concord River. The British withdraw, the Americans pursue and it evolves into a running battle.
British soldiers are killed or wounded continuously. Most run out of ammunition. Some considered surrendering. The British limp back to Boston losing nearly 300 men.
Almost miraculously the Patriots win their 1st battle.
But the revolution has only just begun.
Within weeks, Boston is surrounded by an army of New England militia.
As news of the 1st victory spreads, other Americans take action.
In May (1775), a group of men who call themselves the Green Mountain Boys take out seize Ft. Ticonderoga in upstate New York.
In June (1775) the British attack an American position in Boston. The rise known to the locals as Bunker Hill. As the Red Coats battle lines approach, an American Commander tells his men not to fire “(Don’t fire) until you see the whites of their eyes.”
The British are slaughtered. Although the British capture the hill, American morale rises as British morale plummets.
Despite these early success, American leaders know that they will need more than an enthusiastic militia to win the conflict.
The Continental Congress, in session in Philadelphia, creates the Continental Army and appoints George Washington, a member of the Virginia delegation, to lead it.
Washington rushes to join the army at Cambridge, Massachusetts, telling Congress that he will need heavy artillery to drive the British out of Boston.
In January, he orders Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense, which advocates independence from Britain to be read aloud to his soldiers in order to strengthen their resolve for the cause.
Washington is aided by 25 year old Henry Knox. Who spends the winter removing cannons from Ft. Ticonderoga and bringing them to Boston. Despite having to sled across frozen rivers and scale snowy mountains, Knox doesn’t lose a single gun.
By March of 1776, the American artillery is in place. Unwilling to suffer a bombardment, or risk another attack, the British evacuate the city. Washington watches as the fleet sails away. He knows the enemy will soon return, in even greater numbers. The question is where?
War Without Precedence (0:51)
The Patriots face enormous challenges. The British Empire wields incredible power.
To win the Revolution, the Americans will need foreign support. In early 1776, France begins to secretly send weapons to the colonists.
But before the French will do more, the Americans need to demonstrate their determination. On July 4th 1776, Congressional delegates signed the Declaration of Independence, signaling to France that the United States of America is committed to victory and capable of achieving it.
The War for Independence has officially begun.
New York Campaign (3:45)
Washington moves the Continental Army from Boston to New York, anticipating a British attack. By the end of June 19,000 Patriots have joined him. And then, the British return. 130 ships carrying more than 20,000 soldiers sailed into New York harbor. One amazed American exclaims that “All of London is afloat.”
August 22nd (1776), the British land on Long Island, sweeping aside the American defenders at the Battle of Brooklyn.
Washington skillfully retreats across Manhattan to Harlem Heights. In September, the British land on lower Manhattan and capture the city. Then dislodge the Americans from the defenses on Harlem Heights.
Washington retreats again. Part of the army withdraws north to White Plains, while another occupies a strong position astride the Hudson at Forts Washington and Lee.
William Howe, the British commander, defeats Washington at the Battle of White Plains on October 28th. In November, he decides to remove the threat to his rear at Forts Washington and Lee.
The battle at Fort Washington is a disaster. 3,000 Americans are overwhelmed and captured by the British assault. 4 days later the British cross the Hudson and capture Fort Lee.
Washington’s army is reduced to but a few thousand men. With morale low and enlistments set to expire, he retreats across New Jersey into Pennsylvania.
All that is stopping the British is the Delaware River and the coming winter.
Convinced the rebels are all but defeated, the British spread out in numerous outposts throughout New Jersey. Washington must rekindle his army’s confidence. He tells his men that if you will consent to stay only one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty and to your country which you probably can never do under any other circumstances.
Thomas Paine writes a second pamphlet, The American Crisis, which circulates around campfires and steels the resolve of the Patriots.
On Christmas night, 1776, Washington makes good on his promise. He moves his forces across the ice-choked Delaware River. It is a desperate and dangerous maneuver, but it works. His men gather on the opposite bank and Washington launches a surprise attack on Trenton, New Jersey. The battle of Trenton is a stirring American victory.
Nearly 1,000 Hessians are captured, along with 6 cannons, and enough supplies to outfit several American brigades.
7 days later, Washington presses his advantage, outmaneuvering the main British army and striking the garrison at Princeton. He wins another victory and captures nearly 200 British regulars.
With his army rejuvenated, Washington marches to Morristown and settles in for the rest of the winter. There is almost constant skirmishing between British foraging parties forcing the New City British controlled garrison to rely on supplies brought by sea.
Crisis of 1780