Revolutionary War Timeline


First Continental Congress

Approx. September 1774 - Approx. October 1774

At the time, most people living in the colonies were very upset about the Intolerable Acts and wanted to take action. Each colony elected delegates to represent them and to meet in a group or congress. The group formed to create a structure and leader to represent them as they decided to rebel. The Continental Congress took place in Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the fall of 1774. There were 56 delegates including John Adams who attended. The delegates were elected to represent the colonists as a whole. Each colony sent representatives except for Georgia. The governor from Georgia was appointed by the king who would not allow them to elect delegates.

One of the biggest impacts of the First Continental Congress was the decision to meet again in 1775 if the Parliament had not addressed the colonies’ grievances. This led to the Second Continental Congress and the writing of the Declaration of Independence which led to forming the nation. The Congress also decided to boycott imported English goods and to stop exporting goods from the colonies to England.

Fig. 1 This early flag was designed in 1792. The Flag Resolution was passed by the Second Continental Congress and stated that the flag should have thirteen stripes, alternate red and white, with thirteen white stars on a blue background.

Lexington and Concord

April 18 1775 - April 19 1775

General Thomas Gage who commanded the British troops in Boston went to confiscate colonial military supplies. However, Paul Revere and William Dawes warned the colonists. There was a brief skirmish between the British and the colonists. Eight colonists died. This was the first skirmish of the Revolutionary War.

Second Continental Congress

Approx. May 1775 - March 1781

There were two groups of delegates. The first group of delegates, mainly from New England, wanted to become a independent country. The second group delegates wanted to resolve the conflict with Britain by negating a new relationship. They were responsible for the war effort and elected General Washington as commander-in-chief. Some the delegates also wrote the Olive Branch Petition.

Bunker Hill

June 17, 1775

The colonial militia of Massachusetts fortified Breed's Hill. (The battle was incorrectly named after Bunker Hill which is nearby.) The British army attempted to take the hill and succeeded. However, the British suffered 226 casualties with an additional 800 wounded. This was the first battle of the Revolutionary War.

Olive Branch Petition

Approx. July 1775

Not all colonists wanted to be part the revolution. Some delegates from the Second Continental Congress sent a petition to Britain pledging loyalty to Britain and asking King George to give them more rights and peace. This request was rejected by the king.

Common Sense

Approx. January 1776

Common sense was a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine who argued for what had been considered a radical idea. He argued it was madness to be ruled by a small country across the sea whose government is corrupt. Paine said that the colonies should be an independent country and urged people to fight for independence.

Declaration of Independence

July 4 1776

On June 7, 1776 a delegate named Richard Henry Lee put forth a resolution to the Congress that the colonies independent. Thomas jefferson and four other delegates formed a committee to write a declaration in support of Lee’s statement. On July 4, Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence.

Battle of Saratoga

Approx. September 1777 - Approx. October 1777

British forces commanded by General John Burgoyne from Canada marched to connect with the other armies marching south and west in an attempt to cut New England off from the other colonies. However the troops were attacked at Saratoga, New York by colonial troops under the command of Horatio Gates and Benedict Arnold. The army from Canada was forced to surrender. This prompted an open alliance between France, which was seeking to undermine Britain's power, and the colonists.

Valley Forge

Approx. December 1777 - June 1778

About 12,000 troops under the command of General Washington camped at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania. Out of the 12,000 troops, 2,000-2,500 died mostly do to sickness and starvation.

Battle of Yorktown

Approx. September 1781 - October 1781

This is the last major battle of the war. The battle was fought near the town Yorktown, Virginia on the shores of Chesapeake Bay. The French and colonial forces forced the large British army led by General Charles Cornwallis to surrender.

Treaty of Paris

September 3, 1783

The Treaty of Paris was signed in Paris by Britain and the delegates from the U.S. The Tories who had supported the British during the war grew increasing unpopular and were replaced by the Whigs who didn’t support the war.