American Independence Day

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Part 2: The Reality of Independence

Great Britain, however, was not so willing to let the colonies go.

The Declaration made the British all the more angry, and their battlefield victories piled up. British generals pushed American General George Washington further and further away from the rest of the American troops. Only Washington's dramatic victory at Trenton (after he "crossed the Delaware") kept the Americans' spirits alive.

The war dragged on, and some colonists began to wonder whether they really wanted independence. Many of the colonists were Loyalists, people who had stayed loyal to Britain. The more battles the British army won, the more opportunity the Loyalists had to gain members.

The Americans fought on, though. In 1777, things began to change. First and foremost was the American victory at Saratoga. The British had thought to divide and conquer the American troops, but the victory went to the colonists. British General John Burgoyne surrendered almost his entire army to American General Horatio Gates. This smashing victory convinced France to enter the war on the side of America.

In the next few years, British successes were fewer. They won several great victories in North and South Carolina, but further battles resulted in little more than a draw. It was getting more and more difficult to send reinforcements all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, and the Americans were getting more and more determined to end the war in their favor.

Finally, in 1781, General Charles Cornwallis, surrounded at Yorktown by the Americans on land and the French at sea, surrendered his sword and his army to George Washington. The fighting was over.

The Treaty of Paris, signed two years later, granted lasting independence to the United States of America. The Revolutionary War had been fought and won to protect the independence asserted on July 4, 1776. The American people had won the right to govern themselves.

Next page > The Legacy of Independence > Page 1, 2, 3

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