Lesson 1: The War in the North, 1775–1778

The first years of the Revolutionary War were not happy ones for Britain's rebellious colonies. Lacking any organized army before 1775 (aside from local colonial militias), the Continental Congress had to assemble a more or less improvised fighting force that would be expected to take on the army of the world's largest empire. In George Washington Congress found an able leader, but his record on the battlefield in the early years of the conflict was not heartening. His most impressive accomplishment was keeping the army together after a string of defeats, and making enough of a showing in battle that eventually France would be tempted to enter the conflict.

This lesson will trace events in the North from 1775 to 1778. By looking at documents of the time, and using an interactive map, students will see how an army was created and understand the challenges that Washington and his men faced during this critical early stage of the war.

Guiding Questions

What hardships and difficulties did the Continental army face in the early years of the war, and how were they able to sustain the war effort in spite of those challenges?

Learning Objectives

Explain the significance of the battles of Lexington and Concord on both America and Great Britain.

List the expectations that the Continental Congress had of George Washington, and assess how well he met them.

Articulate the problems that the Continental Army faced during the early phase of the war.

Explain how Washington and his men turned the tide in the North in 1777–78.

Identify the most important military engagements and explain their significance.