The American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.
The war was the result of the political American Revolution. Colonists galvanized around the position that the Stamp Act of 1765, imposed by Parliament of Great Britain, was unconstitutional. The British Parliament insisted it had the right to tax colonists. The colonists claimed that, as they were British subjects, taxation without representation was illegal. The American colonists formed a unifying Continental Congress and a shadow government in each colony, though osten
sibly claiming loyalty to the monarch and a place in the British Empire. The American boycott of directly taxed British tea led to the Boston Tea Party in 1773. London responded by ending self-government in Massachusetts and putting it under the control of the British army with General Thomas Gage as governor. In April 1775 Gage learned that weapons were being gathered in Concord, and he sent British troops to seize and destroy them. Local militia, known as 'minutemen,' confronted the troops and exchanged fire (see Battles of Lexington and Concord). After repeated pleas to the British monarchy for intervention with Parliament, any chance of a compromise ended when the Congress were declared traitors by royal decree, and they responded with a declared independence forming a new sovereign nation external to the British Empire, the United States of America, on July 4, 1776.
France, Spain and the Dutch Republic all secretly provided supplies, ammunition and weapons to the revolutionaries starting early in 1776. After early British success, the war became a standoff. The British used their naval superiority to capture and occupy American coastal cities while the rebels largely controlled the countryside, where 90 percent of the population lived. British strategy relied on mobilizing Loyalist militia, and was never fully realized. A British invasion from Canada ended in the capture of the British army at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777. That American victory persuaded France to enter the war openly in early 1778, balancing the two sides' military strength. Spain and the Dutch Republic—French allies—also went to war with Britain over the next four years, threatening an invasion of Great Britain and severely testing British military strength with campaigns in Europe. Spain's involvement resulted in the expulsion of British armies from West Florida, securing the American southern flank. Though the decisive naval victory at the Battle of the Saintes thwarted French and Spanish plans to drive Britain out of the Caribbean, and the joint Franco-Spanish attempt to capture the British stronghold of Gibraltar also resulted in similar defeat.
French involvement proved decisive yet expensive as it ruined France's economy. A French naval victory in the Chesapeake led to a siege by combined French and Continental armies that forced a second British army to surrender at the Yorktown, Virginia in 1781. In 1783, the Treaty of Paris ended the war and recognized the sovereignty of the United States over the territory bounded roughly by what is now Canada to the north, Florida to the south, and the Mississippi River to the west.