General Howe's strategy was to capture colonial cities and stop the rebellion at key economic and political centers. He never abandoned the belief that once the Americans were deprived of their major cities, the rebellion would wither. In the summer of 1777, he mounted an offensive against Philadelphia. George Washington moved in his army to defend the city and was defeated at the Battle of Brandywine. Philadelphia fell two weeks later.
In the late summer of 1777, the British army sent a
major force, under the command of John Burgoyne, south from Quebec to
Saratoga, New York, to split off the rebellion in New England. But the
strategy backfired, as Burgoyne became trapped by the American armies
led by Horatio Gates and Benedict Arnold, at the Battle of Saratoga.
Without support from Howe, who couldn't reach him in time, he was forced
to surrender his entire 6,200 man army. The victory was a major turning
point in the war as it encouraged France to openly ally itself with the
American cause for independence.
Through all of this, Washington
discovered an important lesson: The political nature of war was just as
important as the military one. Washington began to understand that
military victories were not as important as keeping the resistance
alive. Americans began to believe that they could meet their objective
of independence without defeating the British army. On the other hand,
British General Howe clung to the strategy of capturing colonial cities
in hopes of smothering the rebellion. He didn't realize that capturing
cities like Philadelphia and New York would not unseat colonial power.
The Congress would just pack up and meet elsewhere.
time for Washington and the Continental Army was during the winter of
1777 at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The 11,000-man force went into
winter quarters and over the next six months suffered thousands of
deaths, mostly from disease. But the army emerged from the winter still
intact and in relatively good order. Realizing their strategy of
capturing Colonial cities had failed, the British command replaced
General Howe with Sir Henry Clinton. The British army evacuated
Philadelphia to return to New York City. Washington and his men
delivered several quick blows to the moving army, attacking the British
flank near Monmouth Courthouse. Though a tactical standoff, the
encounter proved Washington's army capable of open field battle.
the remainder of the war, George Washington was content to keep the
British confined to New York, although he never totally abandoned the
idea of retaking the city. The alliance with France had brought a large
French army and a navy fleet. Washington and his French counterparts
decided to let Clinton be and attack British General Charles Cornwallis
at Yorktown, Virginia. Facing the combined French and Colonial armies
and the French fleet of 29 warships at his back, Cornwallis held out as
long as he could, but on October 19, 1781, he surrendered his forces.
Washington had no way of knowing the Yorktown victory would bring the
war to a close. The British still had 26,000 troops occupying New York
City, Charleston, and Savannah and a large fleet of warships in the
Colonies. By 1782, the French army and navy had departed, the
Continental treasury was depleted, and most of his soldiers hadn’t been
paid for several years.
A near mutiny was avoided when Washington
convinced Congress to grant a five-year bonus for soldiers in March
1783. By November of that year, the British had evacuated New York City
and other cities and the war was essentially over. The Americans had won
their independence. Washington formally bade his troops farewell and on
December 23, 1783, he resigned is commission as commander-in-chief of
the army and returned to Mount Vernon.
For four years, George
Washington attempted to fulfill his dream of resuming life as a
gentleman farmer and to give his much-neglected plantation the care and
attention it deserved. The war had been costly to the Washington family
with lands neglected, no exports of goods, and the depreciation of paper
money. But Washington was able to repair his fortunes with a generous
land grant from Congress for his military service and become profitable