20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution

20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution

Larry Holzwarth - September 6, 2018

The American Revolutionary War is remembered as citizen-soldiers battling the professional troops of Great Britain and its German mercenary allies in the woods, fields, and towns of the British colonies. American militias sought to secure the frontiers while a professional army was slowly enlisted, trained, and deployed. While these events are true, they are but a small part of the story of the Revolutionary War. With the involvement of France and Spain, the Revolutionary War became a global war, as the European powers fought to expand their colonial empires. The war was fought in the Indian subcontinent, the Caribbean, the North Atlantic, and in the Mediterranean.

There were American led raids in the British Isles. A joint Franco-Spanish expedition was prepared to invade Great Britain, posing its greatest threat of invasion since the days of the Spanish Armada. Gibraltar was besieged, threatening British trade in the Mediterranean. British and French troops fought in India. The British sugar colonies in the Caribbean, a source of wealth for the empire greater than the colonies on the North American continent, were attacked by French expeditions. The Dutch joined the war against Great Britain in 1780, further straining George III’s dwindling resources, and British overseas trade. It was a world war.

20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution
When the besieged British learned of a pending Spanish assault on Gibraltar, they sortied, disrupting their enemies’ plans. Wikimedia

Here are some of the events which placed England in a position from which it was forced to accept the independence of its 13 North American colonies as the United States of America.

20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution
An undated British caricature of John Paul Jones, regarded by the British as a pirate. National Archives

1. American sailors raided Whitehaven in England.

The intrepid Scottish born sailor John Paul Jones knew the harbor of Whitehaven well, having sailed from that British port at the beginning of his career at sea. Despite difficulties with his crew, particularly among the officers whom he considered motivated by financial gain rather than duty, Jones led a raid against the port on April 23, 1778, hoping to burn the nearly 200 vessels moored or at anchor there. The assault, led by Jones and consisting of fifteen men in two boats, did not go as planned. When the lanterns ran low on fuel, Jones dispatched a party to break into a public house to obtain alcohol for fuel. The sailors availed themselves of the opportunity to have a few drinks, delaying the operation.

Although the raid managed to set fire to a large collier, by dawn the town was aroused, fire engines pumped water onto the flames, and Jones and his men, some of them clearly drunk, were forced to make a prudent withdrawal. The retreat was protected from cannon fire because some of Jones’s men had spiked the town’s guns, preventing them from being fired. Although the raid inflicted little damage, it did bring British attention to the fact that the war was not limited to America, and their own coastal towns and villages were subject to surprise attack by the rebels. British newspapers depicted Jones as a pirate, and coastal towns were forced to increase their defenses.

20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution
A British history text illustration of John Paul Jones and his men plundering the property of the Earl of Selkirk. Wikimedia

2. American sailors raided the coast of Scotland

After the raid on Whitehaven, which provided no prizes or anything else to the Americans, Jones sailed across the Firth of Solway, bound for St. Mary’s Isle. Jones intended to seize and hold hostage the Earl of Selkirk, not for financial ransom but to be used as a bargaining chip to negotiate the release of American seamen who had been impressed into the British Navy. When the raiding party reached his home, the Earl was absent, and the Americans seized his silver plate and some other personal items, including a silver tea service. Once again, Jones had difficulty with members of his crew (which was common throughout his entire career), and withdrew only with difficulty, as some wanted to plunder as much as possible.

The raid on St. Mary’s Isle, and the stealing of a gentlemen’s personal property, furthered Jones’s reputation in the British Isles as a pirate, rather than as a naval officer and gentlemen, but as at Whitehaven also created the fear that nowhere in the kingdom was safe from American raids. The British Navy, supposedly invincible, appeared incapable of protecting its own coasts from the ravages of a nautical enemy, even before the intervention of the French fleet. Jones’s raids did much to increase the unease in Great Britain over a potential invasion by the French at a time when most of the British Army was deployed overseas, and angry merchants and citizens demanded protection, rather than conquest of the colonies.

20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution
The Battle of Flamborough Head occurred in full view of the British shores, where citizens witnessed two British warships surrendering to John Paul Jones’ squadron. National Archives

3. A naval battle was fought in full view of the British coast

The most famous naval action of the Revolutionary War, though hardly the most critical one, was fought off the British coast at Flamborough Head, on the North Sea, and in full view of spectators ashore. They were treated to the sight of British ships of war striking their colors – surrendering – to an American squadron which was officered by both American and French sailors under the overall command of John Paul Jones. The battle itself was a confused and brutal affair, one of the American ships, Alliance, under French captain Pierre Landais, fired into its commander’s ship as well as those of the enemy, and the victorious American vessel, Bonhomme Richard, sank after the battle.

The British newspapers, fed by the reports of eyewitnesses ashore, many of whom were seamen, gave the American victory grudging but clear admiration. A British warship surrendering to an American within sight of its homeland was a profound shock (though it was not the first). The British commander who surrendered, Richard Pearson, was knighted for his actions in the battle and the British eventually built another ship bearing the name Serapis, an almost unheard of honor rarely given for a ship lost in battle. The battle was another reminder that the war was not limited to the American territories, and the British themselves were susceptible to the attacks of a capable mariner.

20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution
After the British captured French possessions in India, French ally Hyder Ali initiated the Second Anglo-Mysore war. Wikimedia

4. The Revolutionary War spread to India

In 1779 troops of the British East India Company seized the French held port of Mahe in India. France’s ally in the subcontinent, the Kingdom of Mysore led by Hyder Ali, commenced open warfare against the company in early 1780. The majority of the troops deployed by the British were those of the East India Company, but beginning in 1780 additional troops of the British army, and supporting troops from the German principality of Hanover were sent to India. Both the British and French navies conducted operations along the coast of India and against each other. The early campaigns by Hyder Ali and his son, Tipu Sultan, had considerable success against the company troops.

England could ill afford the loss of its colonial possessions in both India and North America, and campaigns against Hyder Ali became critical in the eyes of Parliament and the King. The war in India also enjoyed considerable public support, unlike the war in America, which was seen by many as morally unsupportable by the time the French intervened militarily. In 1781 the colonial wars expanded further when the Dutch entered the conflict. Hyder Ali died of cancer in 1782, and the war continued under his heir, Tipu Sultan. By the end of the conflict the British had recovered most of the territory lost in the early campaigns, and though French involvement was curtailed following news of the Treaty of Paris, ending the American Revolutionary War, fighting continued in India for another year.

20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution
The British garrison at Gibraltar were besieged by Spanish and French troops and ships for more than three years. Wikimedia

5. Gibraltar was besieged for nearly four years

After the French militarily intervened in the Revolutionary War, negotiations by American diplomats bore further fruit when Spain entered the war against Great Britain. Spain and France agreed to mutually support one another in recovering territory lost to the British in previous wars, and Spain began preparations to recover Gibraltar, the gateway to the Mediterranean. Gibraltar was garrisoned by about 5,300 British troops, supported by well-fortified artillery batteries protecting it from attack from both land and sea. A Spanish army of about 14,000 men cut off Gibraltar by land, beginning the construction of siege lines in the summer of 1779, while combined Spanish and French naval squadrons blockaded the position by sea.

The worst of the siege for the garrison in Gibraltar, which also included German troops from Hanover (of which George III was also sovereign), was during the winter of 1779-1780. Rations were limited to salt meat and ship’s biscuit, with soft bread allowed only to children. The limited rations led to scurvy becoming prevalent among the troops. Firewood became scarce, and ships in the harbor, protected by the guns of the garrison, were broken up to provide fuel. Occasional harassing raids by Spanish troops were launched to test the resistance of the British troops. There were also skirmishes between vessels at sea. The winter was the beginning of what would eventually become the longest siege ever endured by the British army.

20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution
The British relief expedition was protected by the fleet under Admiral Romney, who fought the Spanish fleet at Cape St. Vincent in 1780. Wikimedia

6 The first great fleet battles occurred in European waters

The relief of Gibraltar required the assembly of a fleet of supply ships, which sailed in convoy escorted by 21 British ships of the line in December 1779. A Spanish fleet was dispatched to intercept the convoy, but when the Spaniards learned of the size of the escort, which was far greater than they expected, they attempted to withdraw. The British ships ran down and overwhelmed the Spanish at the First Battle of Cape St. Vincent, an unusual sea battle given that it was fought at night, a rare undertaking during the age of sail. Four Spanish ships were captured by the British, including the Spanish flagship, while two others were lost to grounding.

When Rodney’s victorious fleet arrived at Gibraltar, the much smaller blockading fleet was forced to withdraw to the security of the fortified harbor at Algeciras, and the first relief mission to Gibraltar arrived on January 19, 1780. The British fleet commander, Admiral George Rodney, then sailed for the West Indies, after detaching some of his ships which were in need of refitting in England. The relief expedition was one of three which were forced to fight their way to Gibraltar during the siege, in effect pinning large portions of Great Britain’s navy in European waters, at a time when they could have been used to great effect in North American waters.

20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution
French minister Gravier de Vergennes was a leading proponent of an invasion of England in 1779. Wikimedia

7 France and Spain planned an invasion of England

While the Spanish besieged Gibraltar, a French army was gathered around the port of Le Havre in northern France. The 40,000 man army was intended to invade the Isle of Wight and the British coast, and a fleet of almost 400 transport boats was assembled at Le Havre and St. Malo. A French fleet sailed from Brest to rendezvous with the Spanish fleet near Corunna. The French were undersupplied due to the haste of their departure, and their movement was slowed due to contrary winds. When they arrived at the rendezvous the Spanish were absent, driven from the station by the same contrary winds. The undersupplied French crews were soon stricken by scurvy and other diseases as a result of malnutrition.

The French and Spanish did not rendezvous until the third week of July, 1779. The combined fleet then sailed into the English Channel. At the same time John Paul Jones sailed with his small squadron including Bonhomme Richard as a diversion, which led to the Battle off Flamborough Head that year. The massive Franco-Spanish fleet hovered off of the coast of England in plain sight of a disturbed populace, presenting the greatest threat of invasion Britain had faced since 1588. In the end it was French indecision over a landing point which delayed an invasion, followed by Channel storms driving the fleet back out to sea. By the end of August the combined fleet sailed for Brest and the invasion of 1779 was called off.

20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution
A British caricature of the Duke de Crillon, in command of the Spanish troops during the Great Siege of Gibraltar. Wikimedia

8. The Spanish tried to starve the British out of Gibraltar

During the second winter of the siege of Gibraltar the Spanish were successful in keeping the British unsupplied via land and sea, and the starvation conditions were again apparent as 1780 rolled into 1781. In April 1781, a second relief expedition of nearly 100 supply ships, escorted by a British fleet of warships, arrived in the harbor, having eluded the Spanish fleet near Cadiz. As the supply ships unloaded their precious cargoes near the mole, the Spanish for the first time began a bombardment of the British garrison. The town was heavily damaged, but the ships at the mole were outside of the range of the Spanish guns, and the unloading continued unmolested. The cargoes included food, medical supplies, and ammunition.

During the unloading a council of war was held at which it was decided that the civilian population of Gibraltar would be evacuated by the same ships which delivered the supplies. The decision was made because of the Spanish bombardment and the realization that the fewer mouths to feed would allow the garrison to conserve supplies which would otherwise be consumed by non-combatants. The civilians and cargo ships again eluded the Spanish fleet on departure for England on April 21. Frustrated by their inability to starve the defenders into surrender, the Spanish and their French allies began to move batteries into more forward positions, erecting new bastions, and maintaining a steady bombardment on the British positions, who responded with a bombardment of their own.

20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution
The Dutch East India Company was decimated by their war with the British in India and Asian waters. Wikimedia

9. The Dutch joined the war too

During the early years of the American Revolution the British attempted to force the Dutch Republic into honoring previously enacted treaties and support them as they attempted to end the rebellion in North America. The Dutch refused and Dutch merchants surreptitiously traded arms and ammunition with the Americans in exchange for American goods, using the colony of St. Eustatius as a trading point. After France entered the war on the side of the Americans, the Dutch continued to trade with French ports, which the British claimed was a violation of their embargo. The British began seizing Dutch ships at sea, claiming their cargoes to be contraband. The Dutch responded by shipping goods in convoys, protected by Dutch warships.

At the end of 1780 the British declared war on the Dutch, which though they never officially allied themselves with the United States, recognized American independence from Great Britain in 1782. The war between the Dutch Republic and Great Britain carried the conflict which had begun in Lexington, Massachusetts, as far as Sumatra and Ceylon, as Britain dispatched expeditions to capture Dutch colonial possessions. Other expeditions sailed to the Caribbean to capture Dutch colonies in the West Indies. The expeditions against Dutch possessions and the need to blockade the Dutch coast placed even greater strains in the already overstressed Royal Navy, with ships and crews remaining at sea for ever increasing lengths of time. The British were also required to send a squadron to the Baltic to ensure that the Russia of Catherine the Great did not come to Dutch aid.

20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution
A French depiction of the siege of Gibraltar circa 1782. Wikimedia

10. The British counterattacked at Gibraltar

By the late autumn of 1781 supplies at Gibraltar were again dwindling, and the garrison discovered from Spanish deserters that the Spanish were preparing an assault for the ever advancing siege lines. On the night of November 27, 1781, the British launched an assault of their own, sallying forth with an attack of just over 2,500 men which caught the Spanish completely off guard. The advance posts of the Spanish siege works were captured, along with supplies, gunpowder, mortar shells, and artillery. The British wrecked the fortifications, spiked the guns, burned the supplies which they could not carry, and then withdrew into their own fortifications. The Spanish had over 100 casualties, the British five.

The British November sortie threw the Spanish timetable for the reduction of the Gibraltar garrison into a shambles. The assault they had been planning was postponed indefinitely as the Spanish and French troops rebuilt their fortifications and continued the bombardment of the British positions. The British meanwhile began the construction of a system of tunnels in the Rock of Gibraltar which allowed for the placement of guns capable of depressing their aim, allowing them to shoot down at troops approaching the Rock as well as elevating the barrel to engage targets at a distance. In March the British garrison at Minorca finally surrendered to the French, and French troops from the Minorca siege joined the Spanish besieging Gibraltar.

20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution
The floating batteries designed by French engineers were deployed by the Spanish before their technology was tested, leading to their destruction. Wikimedia

11. The French invented a new type of floating battery

To press the attack at Gibraltar French engineers developed a new type of floating battery, with hulls three feet thick, filled with sand and lined on the outside with heavy cable to deaden incoming shot. The batteries were equipped with pumps to keep the sides constantly wet as a countermeasure against fire. Only one side of the battery was equipped with guns, the opposite side was also filled with sand to counterbalance the weight. The batteries were to be used close inshore, to pound British gun emplacements supported by fire from the Spanish siege works. French engineers built ten of the floating batteries, which were supported by the ships of the line in the harbor, nearly fifty ships armed with heavy guns.

As it became evident that the peace commissioners in Paris were nearing an agreement which would end the war between France and Great Britain, recognizing American independence, the Spanish moved forward with greater urgency towards the reduction of the British outpost of Gibraltar. It was in the long term strategic interests of the French to ensure that the gateway to the Mediterranean was in the hands of the Bourbon King of Spain, and the French commitment to seizure of Gibraltar remained steady, despite the cession of hostilities in the North American theater. In September 1782, French and Spanish commanders decided to overwhelm the defenders with a massive bombardment, followed by an assault by troops from both the floating batteries and the Spanish siege lines.

20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution
Another French view of the attack of the floating batteries during the Grand Assault, which failed. Wikimedia

12. The largest battle of the American Revolution was fought in the Mediterranean

On September 13, 1782, French and Spanish troops and ships attacked the British fortifications at Gibraltar, with over five thousand men in the floating batteries, and another 35,000 preparing to attack from the siege lines. The batteries were by noon under fire by hot shot – cannon balls heated to a red hot glow before being loaded and fired – which at first had little effect as the pumping system doused those shot which hit their target. The floating batteries drifted apart from each other, making their fire less concentrated and thus less effective. The Spanish ships of the fleet failed to join the close bombardment, allowing the British gunners to concentrate on the batteries.

The British counterattacked with gunboats, and the Spanish manned floating batteries were soon captured and destroyed by British sailors and marines. As darkness fell the attack disintegrated into confusion, with Spanish batteries ashore firing on the British gunboats and hitting the floating batteries, which were destroyed when fire reached their heavily stocked magazines. Throughout the night the harbor was rent with explosions. By morning all of the batteries had been destroyed, the harbor was a mass of sunken hulls, and the Rock was still in British hands. The so-called Grand Assault on Gibraltar had been a dismal failure for the Spanish, who failed to commit their fleet to the assault when it may have been the deciding factor in the attack.

20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution
Admiral Richard Howe, who earlier in the war led the British Navy against Washington in New York, led another relief convoy to Gibraltar. Wikimedia

13. The British remained committed to resupplying Gibraltar

On September 11, 1782, another British supply convoy departed Great Britain with supplies for Gibraltar, defended by 35 ships of the line under Admiral Richard Howe, who had earlier in the war commanded the British fleet in North America. The journey was slow and in October the fleet was scattered by storms, which could have been disastrous since the combined Franco-Spanish fleet had sailed from Cadiz to meet the British fleet. Meanwhile one of the ships left at Gibraltar to enforce the blockade was driven by storms under the guns of the British garrison. After damaging the ship, San Miguel, with cannon fire from their batteries the British attacked it with gunboats and captured the vessel.

Howe had prepared his captains and those of the merchant ships in the convoy for the contingency of being separated, designating a rendezvous station, and by mid-October the British relief expedition, which also carried several regiments of the British Army, was in the harbor at Gibraltar. Howe used the warships of his fleet as bait to draw the reassembled French and Spanish fleet away from the convoy, sailing in line ahead formation as if he was preparing for battle. The Bourbon fleet was too slow to catch the newer British ships and battle eluded them, and the convoy was able to discharge its cargo unmolested. With Gibraltar again resupplied, and with its garrison reinforced, it was evident to the French that the port would remain in British hands. The Spanish continued to maintain the siege.

20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution
The Battle of the Saintes ended the joint Spanish-French plans to capture Jamaica from the British. Wikimedia

14 The Spanish and French attempted to capture Jamaica

After the British surrender at Yorktown in October 1781, the French fleet under the Comte De Grasse returned to the West Indies, where it planned a joint operation with the Spanish to capture the Windward Islands and the important British possession Jamaica. The operation’s intent was the disruption of British commerce and the possibility of luring the British fleet in New York to give battle. Sugar from Jamaica and the Caribbean colonies made the islands more economically important to Great Britain than the thirteen North American colonies combined. The threat to the sugar colonies led the British to dispatch George Rodney and his fleet to the Caribbean in the spring of 1782, after relieving Gibraltar.

An inconclusive action was fought by elements of the two fleets on April 9, 1782. De Grasse attempted to evade the British fleet, concerned about the superior speed exhibited by the British ships. On April 12 the fleets again engaged each other. By four in the afternoon, the French flagship, Ville de Paris, was isolated from the rest of the French fleet and overwhelmed by several British ships. De Grasse was captured by the British when his ship was forced to surrender. The French suffered a defeat at the Battle of the Saintes though most of the fleet escaped to Martinique, where they were joined by several Spanish ships. The Jamaica expedition was thwarted by Rodney’s action, and he was awarded a peerage despite criticism from several British officers, who cited his failure to destroy the French fleet.

20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution
Spanish troops overrun British positions during the Battle of Pensacola, which gave Spain control of West Florida. Wikimedia

15. The Spanish attacked the British along the Mississippi

After Spain entered the war against the British Empire troops from Spanish Florida and Louisiana attacked British outposts in the Mississippi Valley. The British were forced to surrender Mobile, Natchez, and Baton Rouge to Spanish troops. West Florida was then a British possession, which was conquered by Spain after the Battle of Pensacola in 1781. The British struck back by attacking the Spanish possessions in Nicaragua using a force dispatched from Jamaica. When yellow fever struck the British force was so weakened that the expedition was abandoned and the troops were withdrawn to Jamaica. The expedition included a young British naval officer named Horatio Nelson.

Nelson fought with distinction during the campaign, but as the tropical diseases struck the expedition he was one of the first to become ill, and was evacuated. After Nelson was removed from the British fortifications at San Juan the remaining British withdrew after blowing up their works. The entire San Juan expedition cost the British more than 2,500 casualties, making the campaign one of the most costly of the war. Following the success of the Spanish in Nicaragua, another Spanish force seized the Bahamas from the British. Nelson suffered from recurrences of the malaria he contracted during the San Juan expedition for the rest of his life, which was cut short against the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar in 1805.

20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution
The French and British East Indies squadrons fought several engagements, including this one off Negapatam in July 1782. Wikimedia

16. The war was fought in the Indian Ocean

After the Dutch entered the war the British moved quickly to reduce the Dutch Spice colonies in the Indian Ocean, as well as the Dutch Cape Colony in South Africa. An expedition against the Cape Colony was thwarted by a French fleet in the spring of 1781. The Dutch colonies themselves were defended by troops of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and the armed East Indiamen ships, which were also admirably equipped for the transportation of troops and war supplies. Nonetheless the British quickly captured the Dutch port of Negapatam, and followed that success with an attack on Trincomalee, a fortified Dutch possession with a fine harbor on the east coast of Ceylon.

The capture of Ceylon in 1782 gave the British a fortified base from which to launch actions against additional Dutch possessions, as well as those of the French, in the Indian Ocean and the subcontinent itself. The French fleet which had stopped the British from capturing the Cape Colony moved into the Indian Ocean to help defend French interests there, and in August 1781 captured Trincomalee from the British. The British attempted to recapture the harbor and port in a fleet action known as the Battle of Trincomalee in September, and though the naval battle was largely inconsequential the battered British fleet was forced to withdraw for repairs, and Ceylon remained in French hands.

20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution
Some of the fighting in India, such as the Siege of Cuddalore, continued after the Peace of Paris had been signed. Wikimedia

17. Fighting continued for a time following the Treaty of Paris

In the spring of 1783, as part of the Anglo-Mysore War, the British decided to capture by siege or assault the town and port of Cuddalore, which had been taken by the forces of Hyder Ali earlier in the war. Troops marched from Madras to Cuddalore, where they were to be supported by the British fleet under Sir Edward Hughes, the same fleet which had been defeated at Trincomalee and other actions. The French fleet from Trincomalee, under Bailli de Suffren, the same officer who had led it in the earlier actions, arrived near Cuddalore in mid-June. The fleets maneuvered in variable winds before engaging on June 20, fighting an action of over three hours which inflicted casualties on both sides but little significant damage to the ships.

The battle was one of several which pitted the two commanders against each other, and neither had achieved a clear tactical victory against the other, although the French fleet disrupted several British operations in the Indian Ocean, including the siege of Cuddalore. The British forces began preparations to end the siege and withdraw to Madras. On June 29, 1783, a British vessel arrived at Cuddalore bearing news of the Treaty of Paris and the end of hostilities between France, Spain, the United States, and Great Britain. The war against the Dutch officially didn’t end with the Treaty of Paris, since the Dutch Republic had not allied itself with France and Spain (or the United States). It ended by separate treaty in 1784, though a provisional treaty was included in the Peace of Paris.

20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution
The siege of Gibraltar was the longest ever endured by British troops in their history. Wikimedia

18. The siege at Gibraltar continued to drag on

Following the defeat of the Grand Assault on Gibraltar and the subsequent arrival of the third relief expedition, the siege of the Rock and the destroyed town continued, as the Spanish and French forces remained in their siege lines on land and the combined fleets continued to maintain a blockade of the port. In late September news of the Grand Assault began arriving in Paris and the magnitude of the operation, in which more troops were involved than in all of the campaigns in North America, made the entire operation a discouraging failure. Spanish authorities began to accept the probability that Gibraltar could not be taken, and the comparatively successful operations in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean led them to more meaningful negotiations.

As negotiators in Paris studied the maps of the globe and the possessions which had changed hands in Asian waters, the Caribbean, India, Africa, and in North America, the besieged garrison at Gibraltar began to bombard their tormentors with accurate and steady fire, damaging the siege works and destroying French and Spanish artillery. Spain continued to insist that the British cede Gibraltar at the negotiating table, and the British remained equally determined to retain it, since it was increasingly evident that the Spanish were unable to force them out. France began to lean on its ally to offer other concessions, such as Spanish conquests in North America, in exchange for Gibraltar. The Spanish refused, and the siege continued.

20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution
British negotiators refused to sit for Benjamin West’s painting, forcing him to leave the work unfinished. Wikimedia

19. The Americans negotiated a separate peace

As negotiations between America’s allies and Great Britain bogged down over Gibraltar and India, American negotiators secretly opened talks directly with representatives of Great Britain. The British economy was exhausted by the protracted war, as was the French, but France was still attempting to support the position of its Spanish ally, the throne of which was occupied by a fellow Bourbon King. British negotiators and the new Prime Minister, Lord Shelburne, recognized that a United States separated from an alliance with France and Spain would be a valuable partner in trade following the war, as well as blunting the influence of the Bourbon powers on the North American continent.

American ministers, led by John Jay, negotiated a separate peace with the British which established the western boundaries of the United States and recognized American independence. Britain attempted to create a buffer state for the American Indians under British protection; this demand was rejected by the Americans and the British dropped it, but it served as their excuse for maintaining outposts along the American frontier. When the Americans presented the treaty to their French ally it was met with official protests, which were for appearances sake, and the French and Spanish quickly completed treaties of their own, as well as a provisional treaty arrived at with the Dutch. The combined treaties were known as the Peace of Paris, ratified by Congress in 1784.

20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution
When Louis XVI intervened in America’s revolution he started a chain of events which led to global warfare. Wikimedia

20. The “shot heard round the world” led to shots exchanged around the world

That the American Revolution became a global war was perhaps inevitable, given the interests of the Great European powers in the North American continent and its surrounding waters. Its spread to India and Asia was a result of the need to replace lost elements of empires. The French economy was wrecked by the war, leading to its own revolution later in the decade. The Spanish failed to gain Gibraltar, but the silver mines of its Central American possessions restored its economy quickly, and its military successes restored much of its prestige. The Dutch Republic and the Dutch East India Company were devastated by the war, and never fully recovered as a naval and trading power.

Great Britain lost its North American colonies, but gained in the Indian subcontinent and the Indian Ocean, and retained most of its valuable sugar colonies in the Caribbean. Trade between the United States and Great Britain grew quickly following the war, and both economies recovered, especially after the American government was reshaped by the Constitution. Border disputes arose and were negotiated with Spain in the Floridas which it retained. George Washington and the Spanish King maintained a cordial correspondence. The biggest loser of the American Revolutionary wars was Louis XVI of France, who initiated a global war when he agreed to aid the Americans, and paid for it eventually with his life.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

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“Lord Selkirk, A Life”. J.M. Bumsted. 2005

“Log of the Bon Homme Richard, 1779”. John Paul Jones, John Paul Jones Cottage Museum, pdf

“Major Operations of the Royal Navy, 1762-1783”, Alfred T. Mahan. 1898

“The War of American Independence”. Richard Middleton. 2012

“A Few Bloody Noses: The American War of Independence”. Robert Harvey. 2002

“Sir Joseph Yorke, Dutch politics and the origins of the fourth Anglo-Dutch war”. Hamish M. Scott, The Historical Journal, 1988

“Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It”. Larrie D. Ferreiro. 2016

“Who designed the ‘unsinkable’ Floating Batteries and for what purpose?” Gibraltar Local History Collection, Gibraltar Heritage Trust. Online

“Rock of Contention: A History of Gibraltar”. George Hills. 1974

“The Influence of Sea Power Upon History 1660-1783”. Alfred T. Mahan. 1987.

“The Battle of the Saintes”. C.S. Forester, American Heritage Magazine. June 1958

“Bernardo de Galvez”. Thomas Fleming, American Heritage Magazine. April/May 1982

“The Dutch and the American Revolution”. F.Edler. 2012

“Command at Sea: Naval Command and Control Since the Sixteenth Century”. Michael Palmer. 2005

“A North American Neutral Indian Zone: Persistence of a British Idea”. Dwight L. Smith, Northwest Ohio Quarterly. 1989

“The Jay Papers”. Richard B. Morris, American Heritage Magazine. February 1968