During this phase of war Massachussetts was the main scene of action. When the fighting started in 1775, the only large British army in the colonies was stationed in Boston under General Howe. Washington was in command of the colonial forces. The Bunker Hill was fought before Washington took over the command.

In the battle of Bunker Hill, the colonial troops were driven away to Charlestown. It seemed as a result of this war as if the British had gained their objective of displaying their power, though at the cost of heavy losses. For the remain­der part General Howe remained on the defensive, while Washington utilized this time to reorganize the army.

In the meantime the colonists planned to attack and conquer Canada. The plan was to divert the British attention from their operations around Boston so as to deprive British of a base for attack. The general calcula­tions were that the Canadians would side with the colonists and the objec­tive would be achieved. The Americans were inspired to take Montreal and Quebec after their victories at Ticonderoga earlier. A force under General Montgomery succeeded in capturing Montreal and proceeded to attack Quebec. Meanwhile, Arnold joined him and they attacked the fortress of Quebec. But as ill-luck would have it, the assault failed.

Mont­gomery was killed and Arnold serverely wounded and the colonists had to withdraw. Thus the colonists failed to conquer Canada. The failure of the campaign against Canada is attributed to the failure of the French to revolt against the British and non-receipt of support from the British colonies like Nova Scotia and Bermeda, as expected.


The first colonist victory was the seizure of Boston and removing of General Howe from Nova Scotia. In March 1776 George Washington succeeded in capturing Boston and General Howe was compelled to re­treat. At this time Washington believed that the British would attack New York and sent a part of his troops to the hills of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

The strategy of the British was to cut-off New England from the rest of the colonies, as the population of that area generally owed allegiance to the Crown and were known as loyalists. In June 1776, General Howe with 30,000 troops came to the harbour of New York. In the following months Howe defeated the Americans at Brooklyn and occupied Manhattan and drove the colonial forces across Hudson and pursued them further through New Jeresy and beyond Delaware River. However, George Washington was not demoralized and planned a counter-attack. In the bitter winter Washington crossed the Delaware and attacked Trenton.

The Hessian mercenaries and Govern r unaware. Almost the entire force was either killed or captured, and Trenton fell in the hands of the colonists. Washington next planned an attack on Princeton and in July 1773 he made a surprise attack and defeated the British forces. Howe abandoned New Jeresy and came to New York City. These two victories re-established the American morale and made them confident that they could meet the might of Great Britain. With this the first phase of the war ended.

According to Prof. Bining, “The political effect of this phase of the Revolution was important, as it gave the patriots increased confidence in the conduct of war by Congress. Many people in European countries, too, began to doubt the ability of Britain to reduce the colonies, and the American cause was greatly strengthened both at home and abroad.” [3]