The War of American Independence: 1775-1783, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The War of American Independence

1775-1783, 1st Edition

By Richard Middleton


368 pages

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Wars rarely turn out as expected. This book shows how Britain entered a conflict that it believed could not be lost. The American Patriots were similarly optimistic about their martial prospects. Although they eventually secured independence, it was only with the assistance of France and indirectly Spain, who diverted British resources from the conflict in America, allowing France eventually to deliver a knockout blow at Yorktown.

This extensive yet accessible exploration into the War of American Independence provides aclear analysis of why this complex conflict occurred and why it ended as it did, revealing the fragile nature of the American Patriot cause. An essential guide for any history student, including those specializing in war/peace studies and the study of international relations, as well the general reader with an interest in the study of war.


'This is an authoritative and up-to-date assessment of the twists and turns of war and diplomacy through which thirteen former British colonies gained their independence. The complex story is narrated with exemplary clarity and the measured judgements will command wide respect. The extended treatment given to the war on the frontiers, whose outcome was to be of the utmost importance to the native peoples of America, is a most welcome feature.'

Peter Marshall, Professor Emeritus of History, King's College London

'This fresh synthesis offers a clear narrative and shrewd assessment of a seemingly interminable struggle between very different British and American forces, both hobbled by inadequate resources, lame strategies, and flawed leadership. Middleton convincingly argues that this exhausting contest was finally ended only by a dramatic, if widely under-appreciated, French naval intervention at Yorktown.'

Ian K. Steele, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Western Ontario

'Middleton's account of the American Revolution not only successfully places the rebellion in a broad Atlantic context, but also reminds us that what government leaders at the time called military strategy was largely the product of ignorance and incompetence.'

T. H. Breen, Professor of American History, Northwestern University

Table of Contents

PREFACE and acknowledgements

CHAPTER 1: Britain and America come to Blows, 1763-1775 [4]

1. John Bull and his Empire, 1763.

2. The Rights of British America

3. A Tea Party in Boston: Parliament versus Congress

4. The First Shot: Lexington and Concord

CHAPTER 2: The Fighting Begins, 1775 [18]

1. Prospects and Perspectives of the Combatants

2. Bunker Hill and the Siege of Boston

3. Congress widens the Conflict: Canada

3. The Political Revolution: America Declares her Independence

CHAPTER 3: Britain Reasserts her Authority, 1776 [44]

1. Patriots and Loyalists: The Factors of Identity

2. The Two Sides Prepare

3. The British Invasion of New York

4. Trenton and Princeton: the Patriot Cause Retrieved

CHAPTER 4: The Unpredictable Fortunes of War, 1777 [73]

1. The British Plan a New Offensive

2. Howe Goes to Philadelphia

3. Burgoyne meets his match at Saratoga

4. The Maritime Dimension, 1775-1777

CHAPTER 5: France Comes to America’s help, 1778 [106]

1. The French Connection, 1775-1778

2. Britain’s Strategic Options

3. Naval Preliminaries in Europe

4. Valley Forge and the Fashioning of a New Army

5. Clinton: Retreat and Retrenchment

6. Britain ventures into Georgia

CHAPTER 6: Spain Enters the Conflict, 1779 [143]

1. Spain and the American War

2: Britain faces Invasion

3. Stalemate in America

4. Britain, Spain and Gibraltar

CHAPTER 7: Changing Strategies, 1780 [170]

1. The Bourbon Powers alter their Focus

2. The Struggle for Mastery in the West Indies

3. Britain Looks Southwards: The Campaign for the Carolinas

4. Northern Impasse: The Bankruptcy of Congress

5. Europe: The League of Armed Neutrality

CHAPTER 8: The North American Frontier, 1775-1781 [212]

1. The Southeastern Mosaic

2. The Struggle for the Ohio and Illinois

3. The Devastation of Iroquoia

CHAPTER 9: No Daylight at the Tunnel’s End, 1781 [237]

1. France seeks a Resolution

2. Washington’s Darkest Hour: the Continental Mutiny

3. The Royal Navy bids Europe defiance

4. Britain’s Southern Strategy Unravels

CHAPTER 10: Resolution at Yorktown [270]

1. The War moves to Virginia

2. De Grasse and Rodney: The Naval Prelude

3. Cornwallis ensnared

CHAPTER 11: End Game, 1782 [297]

1. The Political and Military Consequences of Yorktown

2. The War draws to a Close in America

3. Britain strikes back in the Caribbean

4. Europe: Final Operations

5. A Peace takes Shape: The Treaty of 1783


APPENDIX: Washington on the art of Command, 10 Nov 1775



About the Author

Richard Middleton was for many years Lecturer and Reader in American History at Queen's University, Belfast. Among his various publications are The Bells of Victory: The Pitt-Newcastle Ministry and the Conduct of the Seven Years' War, 1757-1762 (Cambridge University Press, 1985 and 2002), Colonial America: A History to 1763 (Blackwell, 1992, 1996, 2002 (and 2011 with Anne Lombard) and Pontiac's War: Its Causes, Course and Consequences (Routledge, 2007). He is now an independent writer and scholar.

About the Series

Modern Wars In Perspective

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / United States / General
HISTORY / United States / Revolutionary Period (1775-1800)