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  Stories from the Revolution  

Image: Wounded British soldiers.Those Who Fought

America's revolution was both a civil war within British North America and, by 1778, part of a world war involving European powers. The British fought the war with an army of professional soldiers, lifetime recruits who were subject to strict military discipline. They also employed soldiers from German states and a large number of loyalists, American supporters of British rule who formed their own military units and fought against patriot forces.

The patriots, those who favored independence, developed their own Continental Army, which consisted initially of New England militiamen besieging the British in Boston and then of soldiers supplied by various colonies. They also relied on local militia units, whose members served for short terms, and partisan forces, especially in the South. The Marquis de Lafayette, Baron Friedrich W. A. von Steuben, and other European officers made significant contributions to the patriot cause. So, too, after 1778, did French soldiers and sailors, especially in the 1779 siege of British-held Savannah and in helping Washington's army trap Lord Cornwallis's large British force at Yorktown in 1781.

With an overall goal of slowing the advance of white settlement, American Indians were divided in their loyalties. Depending on local conditions, they joined the side they thought would favor their interests. Although Southerners opposed their use, some 5,000 African Americans fought side by side with whites for the patriot cause and their own freedom; tens of thousands more enslaved African Americans sought freedom with the British forces.

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