Desktop version

Home arrow History

Cornwallis and losing morale

British General Charles Cornwallis took the South's most important city, Charleston, forcing the surrender of the entire Southern patriot army. Then he marched through the Carolinas and Virginia, constantly harassed by patriot forces who attacked any time they could isolate a bite-sized British force. Patriots stung Cornwallis but couldn't stop him.

After four years of war, the patriots were running out of steam in 1780. Despite French help, the powerless Congress was so broke that it announced it could pay off patriot debts only at the rate of 2.5 cents on the dollar. Without food and supplies, Washington's army was close to mutiny. Rich American merchants sold the patriots poor quality supplies at huge profits. The South seemed to be going to the British. Many of the once enthusiastic revolutionaries despaired of ever winning their freedom. Soldiers worried about how their families were doing without them, the chronic lack of guns and food, and the fact that they got paid in almost-worthless paper money.


Question: What were the complaints of the Continental soldiers in Washington's army?

Answer: Continental soldiers' discontent came from home worries, not enough weapons, paper-money pay, and little food.

Victory and the Treaty of Paris

At this point, Cornwallis decided to do something he considered very safe: He marched his army to what he thought was shelter and resupply in Yorktown on the Virginia coast. Instead of being met by the protective, well-stocked British fleet, however, he found the French navy controlling the escape routes by sea. Washington and his French allies marched 300 miles from New York in a few weeks to attack the trapped British.

Cornwallis surrendered with about one-quarter of all the British troops in North America. After another year of small-scale fighting, the British government gave up. The Americans went from despair to joyous celebration.

In the Treaty of Paris (1783), the British formally recognized the independence of the United States and, taking a satisfyingly broad view of what the new United States owned, signed over everything from the Atlantic to the Mississippi and from the Great Lakes to Spanish Florida. America began its independence with the largest area of rich land in the world and with a priceless heritage of freedom.


Question: What were the major parts of the 1783 Treaty of Paris?

Answer: Under the Treaty of Paris, the United States was free and owned all the lands to the Mississippi.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >

Related topics