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The GED® Social Studies Test: What You Need to Know About the Revolutionary War

When, Where, and What Was the Revolutionary War?

The American Revolutionary War took place between 1775 and 1783 and is significant because it led to independence for the United States. The war was fought almost exclusively on the east coast of the modern day U.S., but several naval battles occurred across the Atlantic. It began with skirmishes between British troops and American militia at Lexington and Concord, MA. The conflict quickly expanded into a full rebellion against the British, and the Americans formed an army. In 1778, the French joined the war on the side of the American colonists, and by 1783, the British were defeated at Yorktown. Fighting ended completely by 1783 and the United States, a new nation, was born.

What Life Was Like During This Time

Life during the Revolutionary War was full of suspicion and uncertainty, especially in towns and cities. While people continued about their normal daily activities, colonists were split between being loyal to the British government (loyalists) and rebelling (patriots). Loyalists were often ridiculed by the patriots, but even citizens sympathetic to the American cause had to pretend to be loyal in the presence of British troops, who could stay in anyone’s home at any time. This was called quartering soldiers and the U.S. Constitution forbids the practice for this specific reason.

Some Important People During This Era

  • George Washington— leader of the Continental Army and first president of the United States after the war
  • Thomas Jefferson— writer of the Declaration of Independence
  • Marquis de Lafayette— French general influential in helping Washington and the Americans win the war
  • General Cornwallis— British general in charge of most operations during the war, surrendered to Washington at Yorktown in 1781
  • John Adams— helped write the Declaration of Independence and the treaty that ended the war
  • King George III— king of Britain during the Revolutionary War (His policies toward the colonies caused them to revolt.)

A Brief Chronology of the Revolutionary War

  • 1775— Battles of Lexington and Concord took place, the first armed conflict of the war.
  • 1776— Declaration of Independence was signed.
  • 1777— Battle of Saratoga, NY was won by the Americans, encouraging the French to join the war for America, marking a turning point in the war.
  • 1781— British are defeated at Yorktown, marking an end to major military conflict.
  • 1783— Treaty of Paris was signed. The British accepted defeat and recognized American independence. The Revolutionary War was officially over.

Some Important Documents During This Time

  • Declaration of Independence— Drafted by colonists, this document stated their intent to break away from Britain and rule themselves.
  • Common Sense— Written and published by Thomas Paine in 1776, this pamphlet outlined the benefits of breaking away from Britain and persuaded many to join the patriot cause.
  • Treaty of Paris— Signed in 1783, this treaty ended the war and recognized the U.S. as an independent country.
  • Bill of Rights— Though not adopted by the Constitution until 1791, the Bill of Rights was drafted in the 1770s; outlined the basic rights and freedoms that the Founding Fathers believed everyone in society should be able to enjoy; first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution

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