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[Detail] An accurate map of North America.

Introduction | Colonial Claims by European Nations | The Colonists' Grievances | The American Revolution and the Peace of Paris

The American Revolution and the Peace of Paris

The American Revolution and Its Era contains numerous military maps from the American Revolution, beginning with the encounter between British troops and local militia at Lexington and Concord in April 1775 and continuing to the siege of Yorktown in 1781. Below is a list of maps related to several key battles in the American Revolution.

Choose one of the maps. Examine it carefully, using MrSID to see details like the one below. Answer the following questions:

  • From what perspective (British or colonial) was the map drawn? Why do you think so?
  • How did the geography of the area affect the battle or siege?
  • Note information about the positions of the British and colonial troops. Which position do you think was more advantageous? Why? Also look for evidence of troop movements. Can you make any inferences about military strategy from the information available on the map?
  • Compare information from the map with information available in your textbook or other sources. What information does the map provide that the text does not provide? What information does the map not provide? Based on your analysis, what are the strengths and weaknesses of historical maps as primary sources?

It is interesting to note that once the major fighting in the Revolutionary War turned to the south after 1778, there are no maps in this collection showing the engagements between British and American forces in that region. Perhaps one explanation is that Continental Army General Nathanael Greene (who replaced General Horatio Gates after his disastrous battle at Camden, South Carolina, in the late summer of 1780), often chose to divide his forces and engaged in hit-and-run tactics against the British. Moreover, the "battle front" kept changing over a very wide area of South Carolina, North Carolina, and eventually Virginia. As a consequence, there was probably little time or inclination to make maps since the military campaigns in the south were so helter-skelter.

The formal end to the American Revolution, the Peace of Paris, required new map-making. John Wallis was one of the first cartographers to show the new territory of the United States and surrounding territories as defined by that treaty (on the left below). A second map (on the right), created by William Faden in 1783, also depicts the results of the American Revolution.

Use MrSID technology to examine the details of the two maps and think about the following:

  • How are the details of the two maps above similar or different?
  • From the contents of these maps, where do you think conflicts with foreign powers would be most likely to occur in the years after the Revolution?
  • Compare these maps with the description of the boundaries of the United States as described in the official treaty of peace from the Journals of the Continental Congress. Do the maps help you make sense of the textual descriptions of the boundaries of the recently recognized United States? Why or why not?