The American Revolution ended two centuries of British rule over most of the North American Colonies, resulting in the formation of the United States of America. The various causes of the American Revolution can be traced to the end of the French and Indian War, when Britain had succeeded in gaining territory from France at the expense of increasing its already enormous national debt. In an attempt to relieve Britain of its financial burden, Parliament decided that the American Colonists would have to help pay for their own defense, despite the fact that a French invasion was no longer a real threat.
Toward this end, Parliament passed thefirst of several tax laws, the Stamp Act, which taxed all paper products in the colonies. The Americans declared it was unfair to tax them when they had no representation in Parliament, and protests eventually escalated to open hostilities in 1775, when the British Regulars fired on the Minutemen of Lexington, Massachusetts. This conflict contributed to the formation of the Continental Congress (which directed the American war effort) and to the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Still, it wasn’t until 1783–a full eight years after the initial outbreak of violence–that Great Britain signed the formal peace treaty recognizing the former colonies as an independent nation. In 1777, the British were still in excellent position to quell the rebellion. Had it not been for a variety of mistakes, they probably could have won the war. During early 1777, British officials considered a number of plans for their upcoming campaign. One they apparently decided upon was to campaign through the Hudson River Valley and thereby cut off New England from the rest of the colonies.
General William Howe was to drive north from New York City while General John Burgoyne was to drive south from Canada. Meanwhile, British General Barry St. Leger would drive down the …