v During the renaissance, several European countries sent sailors to explore North & South America, then known as the New World. Countries like Spain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and England were looking for new lands to create colonies and gain wealth.
v Europeans introduced horses, cows, and pigs to the New World, and brought back corn, potatoes, tobacco, beans, squash, and turkeys. Europeans also carried over terrible diseases like smallpox and measles (osýpky) that killed millions of Native Americans.
v Spain was first to discover America, with Christopher Columbus sailing in 1492, landing in Hispaniola, and later Puerto Rico. Columbus is a controversial figure because, although he was considered a brave hero and explorer, he also killed and enslaved many of the Native Americans that he found. Hernando De Soto landed in Florida, and explored much of the Southeast and west of America. Soon there were settlements (osady) and missions all over the Southern US.
v The Dutch formed New Netherland between 1600-1650, a colony in what is now New York. Their expeditions were led by Henry Hudson. In 1664, the English took it by force, and changed the name.
v French settlers (osadníci) and traders (obchodníci) explored and formed colonies all along the Mississippi River, from New Orleans in Louisiana (named after the French king Louis) up to the Great Lakes and Quebec, in what is now Canada.
v It was mostly the English who formed colonies all along the Eastern coast, forming 13 colonies which would become the first states of the US.
v The first English settlement was on Roanoke Island, off the coast of what is now North Carolina. After two years, all the settlers disappeared, and the only clue as to where they went was the word “Croatoa” carved into a fence post.
v The first two successful English colonies were the Jamestown Colony in Virginia (1607), and the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts (1620). The English who lived in these colonies were Puritan pilgrims (pútnici).
v Puritans were members of the Church of England who wanted to “purify” it by taking out aspects of the church that they felt were still too Catholic. Puritans believed they should exemplify God’s will in everything they did, down to the smallest detail. They also believed in witches and demons, and killed several women for witchcraft.
v Many English settlers to America were prisoners, mostly convicted for owing debts. They came to the US as indentured servants (obligačné služobníctvo), working like slaves for a certain number of years before gaining freedom.
v Colonists often fought with Native Americans over land. In 1622, the Powhatans tried to kick the English out of Virgnia, killing hundreds. The English responded by killing the whole tribe.
v The Wampanoags and Narragansett tribes in Massachusetts (who had originally helped the pilgrims) attacked the English in 1675, led by their leader Metacom, who called himself King Philip. These tribes were both wiped out.
v The largest fight was the Yamasee War in South Carolina from 1715-17. The colony almost collapsed, until the Cherokee decided to help the English in defeating the Creek tribe.
v Colonies also competed with each other to make alliances with Indians. The French became allies with the Wabanaki (of Maine & Nova Scotia), and the English befriended the Iroquois (ranging from Boston to New York).
Many factors contributed to the unification of the English colonies, and their wish to revolt against England:
1. The Seven Year’s War in Europe was also fought in the New World. The colonists called it the French & Indian War. It was long and bloody, lasting from 1754-63. Around 5,000 soldiers died. Many Americans wondered why they had to fight England’s war with the French, when they could be trading and making money with them. And, since every colony had to send soldiers, this helped the colonists get to know and respect one another.
2. In 1764 the English King George III decided to tax the colonies, first with the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act and then the Townshend Acts. Everything made from paper was taxed, and needed a stamp: newspapers, playing cards, legal documents, everything. Various imports were taxed: tea, glass, paint, etc. And the colonists needed to pay in British currency, not American. This was to pay for the salaries of British soldiers stationed in the US, that many Americans felt were unnecessary. Americans had no representation in British Parliament, and so they protested, “No taxation without representation!” Protests of this kind led to the Boston Massacre of 1770, in which British soldiers shot and killed five protestors.
3. In 1773 colonists of Boston protested with the Boston Tea Party. Dressed as Indians, these colonists boarded English ships at night, and threw tons of British tea into the harbour. England punished the Massachusetts colony with the Coercive Acts, or as the colonists called them, the Intolerable Acts, taking away their right to self governance, and putting the British army in charge.
4. The Intolerable Acts frightened and angered all thirteen English colonies, which formed a “continental congress,” a meeting of all colonial leaders. In the first congress (1774), they sent a list of grievances (complaints) to English parliament.
5. Parliament ignored the petition of this first Congress, and ordered their soldiers to arrest colonial leaders in Massachusetts, and to take any guns found. So, in Feb. 1775, 700 red coats (British soldiers) marched on the towns of Lexington and Concord, starting the American Revolution. They were beaten back, and had to retreat to Boston.
v After the war had begun, colonial leaders convened a second Continental Congress (1776) where they drafted and signed the Declaration of Independence, which they ratified on July 4th, America’s independence day.
v American colonists allied with France, Spain, and the Netherlands, and defeated the English, gaining independence in 1783. This was agreed upon in the Treaty of Paris.
v The Americans were led under Gen. George Washington, who surprised the world when he gave up command at the close of the war, and went home to his farm. He was later elected the first president of the United States.
v America suffered around 28,000 casualties (anyone wounded, killed, or taken prisoner). An estimated 6,800 American soldiers were killed in action, 6,100 wounded in action, and upwards of 20,000 were taken prisoner. Historians believe that at least an additional 17,000 deaths were the result of disease, including about 8,000–12,000 who died while prisoners of war.
v It is estimated that Britain suffered around 24,000 casualties. This total number includes battlefield deaths and injuries, deaths from disease, men taken prisoner, and those who remained missing.
v Approximately 1,200 Hessian soldiers, fighting for Britain, were killed in action, 6,354 more died of disease, and another 5,500 deserted (ran away) and settled in America afterwards.