Lesson 2: The War in the South, 1778–1781

The failure to restore royal authority in the northern colonies, along with the signing of an alliance between the American rebels and the French monarchy, led the British to try an entirely new strategy. Believing that there were considerable numbers of loyalists living in the southern colonies, they made that region the focus of their operations for the remainder of the war. But while they managed to win several dramatic battlefield victories over the Americans, they were ultimately no more successful in restoring control here than they had been in the North. Disappointed, the British general Lord Cornwallis led his army northward into Virginia—and straight into a trap laid by Washington's army and the French fleet.

This lesson will examine military operations during the second, or southern, phase of the American Revolution. It will also study the French alliance and the role of African-Americans, since both of these would have significant impact on operations in the South. Students will use documents and maps to learn why the focus of the war shifted to the South, and why the War of Independence was won there.

Guiding Questions

Why did the decision of the British leadership to move the war into the South prove unsuccessful?

Learning Objectives

List the major terms of the Franco-American alliance, and explain their importance to the cause of independence

Identify the most important military engagements in the South and explain their significance for the outcome of the war

Explain the role that African-Americans played in the southern phase of the war