Soldiers of the Continental Army lithograph by Henry Alexander Ogden, 1897. Courtesy Library of Congress.
American Revolution Timeline - Major Battles
For seven years from 1775-1783, battles were waged around the eastern seaboard of the United States, a revolution among the citizens of America, the nascent United States of America, against the British Empire, colonies rising up against the tyranny of their oppressors and seeking freedom. Led by George Washington in battles fought from New England to the Carolinas, it would be a war of liberty, of men fighting for their homeland, of a nation being born. Many of these battles have been shortchanged in the annuls of history; some unknown in the areas where they were fought, but at the end of a decade, a new nation would be hatched from the bravery of the men and women of the American Revolution. The battles listed below are considered the major battles of the American Revolution by the staff of americasbesthistory.com, some protected by National Park Service sites, state parks, and others still to be protected.
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- Battle Timeline
January 1, 1776 - Burning of Norfolk, Virginia
Troops: Continental Army/Militia 1,200; British 4 British Navy Ships.
Casualties (Killed/Wounded/Missing): Continental Army NA; British NA.
Lord Dunmore, former Governor, returns to Norfolk with four British Navy ships and ultimatum for Colonel Robert Howe to abandon the city or provide them provisions. Howe did not comply and the bombarding reduced most of the city by fire within three days. Federal sympathizers, Whigs, also set fire to the city, wanting to make certain that loyalists would not be in control after the burning. Howe, in February, received permission from the Virginia Convention to destroy what was left.
February 27, 1776 - Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge, North Carolina
Troops: Continental Army/Militia 1,050; British 700-800.
Casualties (Killed/Wounded/Missing): Continental Army/Militia 2; British 30-50, 850 captured.
Although the battle at the bridge between Loyalists and the Continental Army and Militia was brief, over the next week, over eight hundred Loyalists were rounded up in the area.
May 18-20, 1776 - Battle of the Cedars
Troops: Continental Army 400; British 51, Iroquois 204.
Casualties: Continental Army 0, all captured; British 0.
Series of battles between the Continental Army and British troops plus Iroquois west of Montreal. Garrison surrendered on May 19; reinforcements captured one day later.
June 8, 1776 - Battle of Three Rivers
Troops: Continental Army 2,000; British 1,000 plus.
Casualties: Continental Army 60-80, 236 captured; British 17.
In an attempt to stop a British advance up the St. Lawrence River, the Continental Army under General Thompson is defeated. The general is captured, along with over two hundred men. General Sullivan, with the remainder of Continental soldiers in Quebec, leaves the province. This is the last major battle in Quebec of the American Revolution.
June 28, 1776 - Battle of Sullivan's Island, South Carolina
Troops: Continental Army 435/Fort Sullivan, 6,000 other defenses; British 2,200.
Casualties: Continental Army 37; British 220.
Colonel William Moultrie and General Charles Lee repulse the expedition of British Admiral Peter Parker and General Henry Clinton against Charleston, forcing their return to New York. British would not return to South Carolina for four years.
July 4, 1776 - Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia
Troops: 56 delegates to Continental Congress, 2,500,000 citizens (est.); British 0 delegates, 6,400,000 citizens (est.)
Casualties: 0; British 0.
Declaration of Independence announced by Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia that the thirteen colonies currently at war with Britain now considered themselves an independent nation, the United States of America, and no longer under British rule. Declaration was passed with no dissenting votes two days earlier and signed on the 4th of July. Washington read the declaration to his troops in New York City on July 9.
August 27, 1776 - Battle of Long Island, New York
Troops: Continental Army 10,000; British 20,000.
Casualties: Continental Army 1,000 plus 1,000 captured; British 388.
First major battle of war after United States declared their independence. With Continental forces in control of New York City, General Howe began to land troops on Staton Island and control the Narrows. Attack on Guan Heights produced panic in Continental troops who retreated back to Brooklyn Heights. Largest battle in war until that time.
September 15, 1776 - Landing at Kip's Bay, New York
Troops: Continental Army 500; British 4,000.
Casualties: Continental Army 50, 320 captured; British 12.
British attack and landing causes militia to flee, allowing unopposed, outside light skirmishing, loss of the lower half of New York City to the enemy. Washington withdraws the Continental Army to Harlem Heights.
September 16, 1776 - Battle of Harlem Heights, New York
Troops: Continental Army 1,800; British 5,000.
Casualties: Continental Army 130; British 92-390.
Washington's first battle success in front of his fortified position along the heights repels British advance.
October 11, 1776 - Battle of Valcour Island, New York
Troops: Continental Army 15 ships, 500 sailors; British 25 ships, 697 sailors, 1,000 soldiers, 650 Indians.
Casualties: Continental Army 80, 120 captured, 11 ships; British 40, 3 ships.
Battle of Lake Champlain between forces of Benedict Arnold, after retreat from Quebec, and augmented British fleet. British victory with destruction of much of American fleet and Arnold's retreat to Fort Ticonderoga. Defense of lake stalled British advance into the upper Hudson River valley.
October 28, 1776 - Battle of White Plains, New York
Troops: Continental Army 3,100; British 4,000-7,500.
Casualties: Continental Army 217; British 233.
Battle during Washington's withdrawal north from New York City, British General Howe landed troops in Westchester County, trying to cut off the Continental escape route. British victory causes Washington to retreat further north.
November 16, 1776 - Battle of Fort Washington, New York
Troops: Continental Army 3,000; British 8,000.
Casualties: Continental Army 155 plus 2,837 captured; British 458.
Last American stronghold in upper Manhattan, Fort Washington falls in one of the worst Patriot defeats of the war when General Greene decides, against a discretionary order by General Washington, to abandon the fort prior to battle. Continental troops are subsequently chased across New Jersey into Pennsylvania.
November 20, 1776 - Battle of Fort Lee, New Jersey
Troops: Continental Army 2,000; British 5,000.
Casualties: Continental Army NA; British NA.
Fort across Hudson River from Fort Washington is undefensible once Fort Washington is lost. General Washington orders evacuation once British land across river.
December 22-23, 1776 - Battle of Iron Works Hill, New Jersey
Troops: Continental Army 500-600; British and Hessian troops 2,000.
Casualties: Continental Army 10 (est.); British 7-16 (est.)
Series of skirmishes with British forcing American militia from their positions. Important as it kept British commander von Donop's forces from being in position to assist in the Battle of Trenton.
December 26, 1776 - Battle of Trenton, New Jersey
Troops: Continental Army 2,400; British (Hessian) 1,500.
Casualties: Continental Army 7 plus; British (Hessian) 105 plus 900-1,000 captured.
Surprise attack against Hessian forces at Trenton after Washington's night crossing of the Delaware at Washington's Crossing on December 25. Victory increased morale of Continental troops after series of losses and increased recruitment into the Continental Army.
Note: Photo above: Painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, 1851, Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Casualty and troop strength numbers from Wikipedia Commons via various sources. Other info source.Potteries.org Educational Resources.