Timeline of the Revolution

1763
10-Feb

The Peace of Paris ends the French and Indian War; Britain gains an empire.

1764
05-Apr

Parliament passes the The Sugar Act, which is an indirect tax on the colonists, in order to raise revenue.

01-Sep

Parliament passes the Currency Act, which has the effect of tightening the money supply in the North American colonies.

1765
22-Mar

Parliament passes the Stamp Act, which includes taxes on most forms of paper, including playing cards. It is the first direct tax on the colonists.

24-Mar

Parliament passes the first Quartering Act, which orders local colonial governments to provide housing and provisions for British soldiers.

29-May

In the Virginia House of Burgesses, Patrick Henry, during his speech against the Stamp Act, reputedly answers a cry of Treason! with If this be treason, make the most of it!

30-May

The Virginia Resolves on the Stamp Act (Stamp Act Resolutions) is passed by the House of Burgesses.

19-Oct

The Stamp Act Congress, meeting in New York with representatives from nine colonies, adopt the Declaration of Rights & Grievances.

01-Nov

The Stamp Act goes into effect in the British colonies and is met with fierce resistance.

1766
17-Mar

King George III reluctantly agrees with Parliament and gives his assent to repeal the Stamp Act.

18-Mar

Parliament passes the Declaratory Act, which asserts its authority to pass laws binding on the American colonies.

1767
29-Jun

Parliament passes the Revenue Act, the first of the Townsend Acts, levying taxes on the American colonies.

1768
01-Aug

The Boston Non-Importation Agreement calls for a boycott certain types of British goods.

01-Oct

British Regulars, under General Thomas Gage, arrive in Boston to maintain order.

1770
05-Mar

British troops, taunted by a crowd, kill five colonists — the event is dubbed the Boston Massacre. Crispus Attucks, a slave, is the first one shot.

12-Apr

Following widespread boycotts in the colonies, most of the Townshend Revenue Act is repealed.

1773
27-Apr

British Parliament passes the Tea Act; King George III gives his royal assent on 10 May.

16-Dec

Bostonians dressed as Mohawks dump 342 chests of tea into the harbor. The Boston Tea Party demonstrates that colonists will not cooperate with the implicit tax in the Tea Act.

1774
31-Mar

Parliament passes the Boston Port Act — the first of the Intolerable Acts — which closes the ports of Boston to all commerce.

20-May

Two more Intolerable Acts become law: the Administration of Justice Act and the Massachusetts Government Act.

02-Jun

Parliament passes a second Quartering Act, one of the Intolerable Acts, which mandates that colonists must board English troops in their homes.

22-Jun

The Quebec Act, the last of the Intolerable Acts, becomes law.

05-Sep

In response to the Intolerable Acts, representatives from twelve colonies assemble in Philadelphia for the First Continental Congress.

14-Oct

First Continental Congress passes a declaration of colonial rights.

26-Oct

First Continental Congress adjourns but agrees to meet again 10 May 1775.

26-Oct

Congress of Massachusetts reorganizes their defenses so that one-third of their militia are Minutemen — ready to fight at a minute's notice.

1775
09-Feb

Parliament declares that Massachusetts colony is in rebellion.

23-Mar

During an illegal meeting of Virginia colony representatives in St. John’s Church in Richmond, Patrick Henry declaims: Give me liberty or give me death.

18-Apr

Paul Revere and William Dawes ride on separate routes from Boston to Lexington to warn that the British Regulars are coming.

19-Apr

The Battle of Lexington / Concord. The American Revolution begins after a shot is fired in Lexington Common.

10-May

The Second Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia.

10-May

The Battle of Fort Ticonderoga. Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys, along with troops under Benedict Arnold, capture Fort Ticonderoga in New York.

15-Jun

The Second Continental Congress elects George Washington, a delegate to Congress from Virginia, as Commander of the Continental Army. He leaves for Boston the next day.

17-Jun

The Battle of Bunker Hill gives the British a victory with so many troops killed or wounded, that it almost seems a defeat.

03-Jul

General George Washington takes command of the Continental Army at Cambridge, Massachusetts.

06-Jul

Second Congress issues Declaration of the Causes & Necessity of Taking up Arms, listing grievances but denying that it wants to be independent.

22-Aug

King George III proclaims the North American colonies to be in open rebellion.

13-Nov

Brigadier General Richard Montgomery leads Continental Army soldiers to take Montreal without opposition.

22-Dec

Continental Congress creates a Navy, naming Esek Hopkins, Esq., as commander in chief of the fleet. Four captains are also named, as well as five first lieutenants, including John Paul Jones.

31-Dec

General Montgomery dies while fighting the British unsuccessfully in the Battle of Quebec.

1776
10-Jan

Common Sense, by Thomas Paine, is published.

16-Jan

Reversing itself from 23-Oct-1775, the Continental Congress approves enlistment of free blacks.

04-Mar

Fortification of Dorchester Heights with cannon (taken from Fort Ticonderoga by a team led by Henry Knox).

17-Mar

British forces evacuate Boston, accompanied by Loyalists, to winter in Nova Scotia.

12-Apr

North Carolina adopts Halifax Resolves to declare independence.

04-May

Rhode Island declares independence from Britain.

07-Jun

Richard Henry Lee of Virginia moves for the Continental Congress to declare independence from Britain.

11-Jun

Congress appoints a Committee of Five to draft a Declaration of Independence.

12-Jun

Virginia adopts a Declaration of Rights, largely written by George Mason.

23-Jun

The final draft of the Declaration of Independence is submitted to Continental Congress.

29-Jun

The Virginia state constitution is adopted. Patrick Henry becomes Governor.

02-Jul

Continental Congress resolves these United Colonies are & of right ought to be Free & Independent States.

04-Jul

The Declaration of Independence is adopted by the Continental Congress and sent to the printer.

08-Jul

Colonel John Nixon gives the first public reading in Philadelphia of the Declaration of Independence.

09-Jul

The Declaration of Independence is read to George Washington’s troops in New York.

27-Aug

The British, under command of William Howe, overwhelm the Continental Army in Battle of Long Island.

30-Aug

Under cover of night and early morning fog, Continental troops avoid defeat on Long Island by escaping across the river to Manhattan.

09-Sep

Congress renames United Colonies the United States.

15-Sep

British forces capture Kip’s Bay, Manhattan.

21-Sep

A fire starts in lower Manhattan, burning much of it, as the Continental Army, pursued by the British, withdraws to the north.

28-Oct

Battle of White Plains. Washington crosses the Hudson and retreats to New Jersey.

16-Nov

Battle of Fort Washington. British troops capture Fort Washington in upper Manhattan.

20-Nov

Nathaniel Greene evacuates his troops from Fort Lee (across the Hudson River from Fort Washington) just ahead of its unopposed capture by Lord Cornwallis.

26-Dec

Battle of Trenton. General Washington and his soldiers complete their crossing of the Delaware River to surprise and defeat 1,400 Hessians at Trenton, New Jersey.

1777
03-Jan

Battle of Princeton. Washington follows his victory at Trenton by overcoming the British in Princeton, New Jersey.

13-Jun

Marquis de Lafayette, age 19, arrives from France to fight along side the Americans. Congress commissions him a Major General six weeks later on 31 July.

14-Jun

Continental Congress adopts the Stars & Stripes to replace the Grand Union flag.

05-Jul

Major General Arthur St. Clair abandons Fort Ticonderoga, allowing British General John Burgoyne’s much larger force to take it without firing a shot.

16-Aug

Battle of Bennington. New England’s Green Mountain Boys rout the British in Vermont.

11-Sep

Battle of Brandywine. Continental forces are defeated by the British, who then move towards undefended Philadelphia.

25-Sep

First Battle of Saratoga. General John Burgoyne holds the fields but suffers serious losses by the Americans under General Horatio Gates at Freeman's Farm, New York.

26-Sep

General Howe and the British Regulars take Philadelphia, which will serve as their winter quarters.

30-Sep

Continental Congress opens session in York, Pennsylvania, after fleeing from Philadelphia, which is occupied by the British.

04-Oct

Battle of Germantown. General Washington's troops attack British at Germantown, Pennsylvania, but suffer a defeat with heavy casualties.

06-Oct

Battle of Fort Montgomery and Fort Clinton. British seize the Forts near West Point as a diversion to draw troops from General Gates.

07-Oct

Second Battle of Saratoga. American troops under General Gates defeat the British at Bemis Heights in New York. Burgoyne surrenders on 17-Oct.

22-Oct

Battle of Red Bank. Hessian attack on Fort Mercer, on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River, is repulsed by militia.

15-Nov

The Articles of Confederation is adopted by the Continental Congress and submitted to the 13 states for ratification two days later.

16-Nov

Siege of Fort Mifflin. British capture the Fort, just below Philadelphia, on the Delaware River.

17-Dec

France recognizes the independence of North American colonies, just days after King Louis XVI hears of British defeat at Saratoga.

19-Dec

General Washington settles his troops for the winter at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

1778
06-Feb

The French-American Treaty of Alliance is signed in Paris, the first U.S. treaty, providing aid and support to the American cause.

06-Feb

Britain declares war on France.

23-Feb

Baron von Steuben joins the Continental Army at Valley Forge.

07-Mar

British General William Howe is called back to London, replaced by his second-in-command Henry Clinton.

18-Jun

Following a winter and spring in Philadelphia, the British evacuate the city.

19-Jun

Washington’s army leaves Valley Forge more disciplined as a result of enforced drilling by Baron von Steuben.

28-Jun

Battle of Monmouth. Washington holds the field against General Clinton in New Jersey.

08-Aug

Battle of Rhode Island. Combined American and French and American forces unsuccessfully besiege Newport.

04-Sep

Amsterdam signs trade agreement with the U.S.

11-Nov

The Cherry Valley massacre, an attack by British and Seneca Indian forces in eastern New York, is one of the most horrific frontier massacres of the Revolution.

29-Dec

Battle of Savannah. British begin their southern strategy by taking Savannah, Georgia.

1779
18-Jun

Following Washington’s orders for total destruction and devastation of the Iroquois settlements across upstate New York, Generals Sullivan and Clinton lead troops who destroy at least forty Indian villages by 3-Oct.

21-Jun

Spain, an ally of France, declares war on Great Britain.

16-Jul

Battle of Stony Point. American General Mad Anthony Wayne captures Stony Point, New York.

23-Sep

John Paul Jones’s ship, Bon Homme Richard, defeats the British H.M.S. Serepis near English coast.

27-Sep

Congress names John Adams to negotiate terms of peace with England.

23-Dec

Benedict Arnold is court-martialed for improper conduct. By the end of January he will be cleared of all but two minor charges.

1780
01-Mar

Pennsylvania becomes the first U.S. state to abolish slavery — though for new-borns only.

12-May

Battle of Charleston. British capture Charleston, South Carolina.

11-Jul

French troops arrive at Newport, Rhode Island, to aid the American cause.

16-Aug

Battle of Camden. Lord Cornwallis decisively defeats General Gates’s American forces in South Carolina.

23-Sep

British Major John André is arrested leading to the exposure of Benedict Arnold's plans to cede West Point to the British.

07-Oct

Battle of King’s Mountain. American militia led by Isaac Shelby and John Sevier defeat Major Patrick Ferguson and one-third of Lord Cornwallis’s army in a battle that lasts 65 minutes.

14-Oct

Following Horatio Gates ignoble defeat in Charleston, Washington names General Nathanael Greene commander of the Southern Army. Without winning a single battle, Greene will wear the British down.

1781
05-Jan

A British naval expedition led by Benedict Arnold burns Richmond, Virginia.

17-Jan

Battle of Cowpens. Militia General Daniel Morgan overwhelmingly defeats British Colonel Banastre Tarleton in South Carolina.

01-Mar

The Articles of Confederation is officially in effect when it is ratified by the 13th state, Maryland.

15-Mar

Battle of Guilford Courthouse. Lord Cornwallis wins a costly victory against Major General Nathanael Greene’s troops in North Carolina.

01-Aug

British troops, under General Charles Cornwallis, arrive in Yorktown, Virginia.

21-Aug

Washington and French General Rochambeau begin to move their troops south to fight Cornwallis in Yorktown.

05-Sep

Battle of the Chesapeake Capes. The French fleet commanded by Admiral d’Estaing drives British naval force from Chesapeake Bay. Cornwallis’s troops are trapped in Yorktown.

08-Sep

Battle of Eutaw Springs. Nathanael Greene is narrowly defeated by British in in the last major engagement of the Carolinas.

15-Sep

French fleet drives British naval force from Chesapeake Bay, leaving Cornwallis and the Regulars without an exit from Yorktown.

28-Sep

Battle of Yorktown. 9,000 American forces and 7,000 French forces begin siege of Yorktown, Virginia.

19-Oct

British General Charles Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown, Virginia. Though no one knows it yet, the Revolutionary War is effectively over.

1782
20-Mar

Lord North resigns as British prime minister.

20-Jun

Congress approves the Great Seal of the U.S. with the eagle as its symbol.

11-Jul

British evacuate Savannah, Georgia.

30-Nov

British and Americans sign preliminary Articles of Peace which recognizes U.S. independence.

14-Dec

British evacuate Charleston, South Carolina.

1783
03-Feb

Spain recognizes U.S. independence.

03-Sep

The Treaty of Paris, the formal agreement ending hostilities between America and Britain, is signed in Paris.

02-Nov

The Continental Army is disbanded; General Washington bids farewell to his soldiers at Fraunces Tavern in Manhattan.

23-Nov

Annapolis, Maryland, becomes the temporary U.S. Capitol (until June 1784).

25-Nov

British troops evacuate New York, their last military position in the U.S.

23-Dec

Washington resigns as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. He tells congress in Annapolis: Having now finished the work assigned to me, I retire from the great theatre of action ...

31-Dec

The import of African slaves is banned by all of the Northern states.

1784
14-Jan

Congress ratifies the Treaty of Paris, which formally concludes the Revolutionary War.

1786
29-Aug

Shays’ Rebellion. Daniel Shays, a veteran of the Revolution, leads debt-ridden farmers in Massachusetts in a rebellion — ironically it is a rebellion against taxes.

11-Sep

Delegates from five states convene in Annapolis, Maryland, to discuss interstate commerce. They call for a Constitutional Convention.

1787
04-Feb

Shays’ main forces are scattered by a surprise attack by militia. Though there is scattered resistance for several months to come, the Rebellion ultimately fails.

25-May

The Constitutional Convention convenes in Philadelphia with the prestige of George Washington presiding.

17-Sep

All but three of the delegates — George Mason, Elbridge Gerry, and Edmund Randolph — adopt the Constitution in Philadelphia.

27-Sep

The new Constitution is submitted to the states for ratification.

27-Oct

The first Federalist letter appears in New York newspapers. In all, 85 essays will be written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay advocating for ratification of the Constitution.

07-Dec

Delaware becomes the first state to ratify the Constitution.

12-Dec

Pennsylvania becomes the second state to ratify the Constitution.

18-Dec

New Jersey becomes the third state to ratify the Constitution.

1788
02-Jan

Georgia is the fourth state to ratify the Constitution.

09-Jan

Connecticut is the fifth state to ratify the Constitution.

06-Feb

Massachusetts is the sixth state to ratify the Constitution.

28-Apr

Maryland is the seventh state to ratify the Constitution.

23-May

South Carolina becomes the eighth state to ratify the Constitution.

21-Jun

The Constitution is adopted when New Hampshire is the ninth state to ratify it.

26-Jun

Virginia is the tenth state to ratify the Constitution.

26-Jul

New York becomes the 11th state to ratify the Constitution.

13-Sep

Continental Congress votes to begin a new government on 4 March 1789.

13-Sep

Continental Congress votes for New York City to become the first capitol of United States.

1789
04-Feb

The first Electoral College chooses Washington as president and John Adams as vice president of the new government.

04-Mar

The First Congress of the United States, comprising nine senators and 13 representatives, convenes and declares the Constitution to be in effect.

21-Apr

John Adams is sworn in as the first U.S. Vice President.

30-Apr

George Washington is inaugurated and becomes the first President of the United States.

25-Sep

Congress passes 12 constitutional amendments guaranteeing personal rights and proposes them to the states for ratification.

29-Sep

The First Congress adjourns its first session.

21-Nov

North Carolina is the 12th state to ratify the Constitution.

1790
13-May

Rhode Island is the 13th and last state to ratify the Constitution.

1791
15-Dec

Three-fourths of the states ratify 10 of twelve amendments to the Constitution. The Bill of Rights becomes law.

As in the case of his career as commander-in-chief, Washington’s most important act as president was his giving up the office. The significance of his retirement from the presidency is easily overlooked today, but his contemporaries knew what it meant. Most people assumed that Washington might be president as long as he lived, that he would be a kind of elected monarch like the king of Poland. Hence his retirement from the presidency enhanced his moral authority and set a precedent for future presidents.

Gordon S. Wood
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)