Final Battles of the American Revolution

The Southern Campaign of the American Revolutionary War refers to the series of military conflicts that took place in the southern colonies between 1778 and 1781 in the final years of the American Revolution.

The British, who had focused their efforts on the northern colonies during the early years of the war, shifted their attention to the southern colonies in an effort to divide and conquer the colonists. They hoped that by controlling the southern colonies they could cut off supplies and resources to the colonists in the north and eventually crush the rebellion.

The southern colonies, which had less military experience and fewer resources than the northern colonies, were initially unable to mount a strong defense against the British. However, the colonists were able to gradually build up their strength and gain the support of the local population and the aid and support they received from the French, who had joined the war on their side.

Battle of Cowpens

The Battle of Cowpens was fought on January 17, 1781, in present-day South Carolina, near the village of Cowpens.

The Colonial army, outnumbered and outgunned, employed a unique and unorthodox battle strategy. They divided their forces into three lines, with the first two lines pretending to retreat while drawing the British into a trap. The third line, composed of sharpshooters, then launched a surprise attack on the disorganized British troops, causing heavy casualties.

Battle of Cowpens, William Ranney (1845), Location Unknown

The Battle of Cowpens is considered one of the most brilliant American tactical victories of the Revolutionary War, with the British suffering significant losses and weakening the British hold on the southern colonies. Cowpens was also one of the first major victories for the Colonists in the southern colonies, and it demonstrated their potential to defeat the regular British army.

Battle of Guilford Courthouse

The Battle of Guilford Courthouse, fought two months later, took place in present-day Greensboro, North Carolina. The colonists were outnumbered, but they put up a strong resistance against the British and were able to inflict significant casualties. The Battle of Guilford Courthouse is considered one of the bloodiest battles of the Revolutionary War. However, the British ultimately emerged victorious, and the American army was forced to retreat.

Despite the British victory, the Battle of Guilford Courthouse was considered a strategic victory for the Americans. The British army suffered heavy casualties and was forced to withdraw to the coast, where they were further weakened by disease, marking the beginning of the end of British control of the southern colonies. The battle also gave the colonists a moral victory and a sense of momentum that they used to continue to fight.

Battle of Yorktown

The Battle of Yorktown was the last major battle of the war. The battle took place in Yorktown, Virginia, near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The American and French forces, who had been maneuvering for months to trap the British army, finally succeeded in surrounding Cornwallis’s troops at Yorktown, subjecting them to a prolonged siege, which lasted for several weeks. The British were ultimately forced to surrender on October 19, 1781, after the arrival of a French fleet blocked off any possible escape by sea.

Surrender of Lord Cornwallis, John Trumbull (1826), Capitol Rotunda Washington, D.C.

The Battle of Yorktown is considered to be one of the most important battles in American history. It marked the end of the Revolutionary War and the birth of the United States of America as an independent nation. It also demonstrated the crucial role played by the French in the colonists’ victory, which helped seal the alliance between the two countries that would endure for centuries to come. 

Treaty of Paris, 1783 

The Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, was the peace treaty that officially ended the American Revolutionary War and recognized the independence of the United States. 

Treaty of Paris, Benjamin West (1784), Winterthur Museum. The painting is incomplete because the British refused to sit for the painter; they had no desire to commemorate their defeat in the American Revolution.
Treaty of Paris, Last Page (1784) National Archives

The treaty recognized the independence of the thirteen British colonies in North America, which had formed the United States of America. It also established the new nation’s boundaries, with the British recognizing the Mississippi River as the western boundary and the Great Lakes as the northern boundary. It also established that debts incurred by either side during the war would be assumed by the respective governments and that prisoners of war would be returned.


Ultimately, the United States of America came out of the American Revolution victorious.  However, victory in the war did not mean the struggle to create a new country was over.  Now the newly independent colonies would have to form their government and pay their own expenses.  The American Revolution was the first of many steps to create a successful nation.