Skip to Content

Who Fought in the Revolutionary War?

Who Fought in the Revolutionary War?

If you are an American citizen or student you would think the question who fought in the Revolutionary War would be obvious. However, it does not surprise me that many people don’t know the answer to this or at least don’t know EVERY NATION that fought in the Revolutionary War.

Here is the list of nations that participated in the American Revolution on the side of the Patriots:

The United States

The 13 original colonies viewed themselves as independent colonies that belonged to Britain. They each had their own commerce, own unique laws, own unique culture, and their own leadership.

To unite these colonies was much harder than what is studied in history books. John Adams of Massachusetts Bay, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia were leaders that were in favor of independence from Britain.

However, John Dickinson of Pennsylvania and many delegates from the Southern Colonies were not in favor. John Dickinson was a Quaker and pacifist and believed the dispute could be argued for peacefully and slavery was beginning to become an issue throughout Colonial America.

13 Colonies Flag

France

Most students do not grasp how important French involvement was to the colonies. When the French allied themselves with the United States they not only supplied the colonies with much-needed military and naval support, but dominoes throughout the world began to fall and Great Britain was forced to defend its global empire from many different countries.

France began considering allying with the United States in 1776, however, the defeats during the New York Campaign caused them to hesitate. The victory at the Battle of Saratoga proved to be the decisive victory France needed to justify entrance into the war.

On February 6, 1778, two treaties were signed. The first, the Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce, recognized the independence of the United States and established commercial relations between them.

The second treaty, the 1778 Treaty of Alliance was a military alliance and signed immediately thereafter, as insurance, if fighting with Britain should erupt as a result of signing the commercial treaty.

French Flag

Spain

Spain’s role in the independence of the United States was part of its dispute over colonial supremacy with the Kingdom of Great Britain. Spain declared war on Britain as an ally of France and provided supplies and munitions to the American forces.

Spain’s interest was not American Independence, but to inflict damage on the colonial empire of Great Britain. Spain was still licking its wounds after losing territory during the French and Indian War (Seven Years War in Europe).

The Treaty of Aranjuez was signed on 12 April 1779 by France and Spain. Under its terms, Spain agreed to support France in its war with Britain, in return for French assistance in recovering the former Spanish possessions of Menorca, Gibraltar, and Florida.

On June 21, 1779, Spain declared war on Great Britain creating a de facto alliance with France and Great Britain.

Spanish Flag

Mysore

Following the British seizure of the French port of Mahé in 1779, Mysorean ruler Hyder Ali opened hostilities against the British in 1780, with significant success in early campaigns.

As the war progressed, the British recovered some territorial losses. Both France and Britain sent troops and naval squadrons from Europe to assist in the war effort, which widened later in 1780 when Britain declared war on the Dutch Republic.

In 1783 news of a preliminary peace between France and Britain reached India, resulting in the withdrawal of French support from the Mysorean war effort.

The British consequently also sought to end the conflict with Mysore, and the British government ordered the Company to secure peace with Mysore.

This resulted in the 1784 Treaty of Mangalore, restoring the status quo ante bellum under terms company officials such as Warren Hastings found extremely unfavorable.

Mysore Battle

The Dutch Republic

Although the Dutch Republic did not enter into a formal alliance with the United States and their allies, U.S. ambassador (and future president) John Adams managed to establish diplomatic relations with the Dutch Republic, making it the second European country to diplomatically recognize the Continental Congress in April 1782.

In October 1782, a treaty of amity and commerce was concluded as well.

Catherine the Great of Russia formed the League of Armed Neutrality. This league was an alliance between European countries that remained neutral during the American Revolution. This would protect these countries from the British navy’s policy of searching neutral ships for French contraband.

Great Britain rightly feared the Dutch Republic would join the league which could throw England into a war with Russia, Sweden, and Denmark if they were to attack Dutch ships trading with the United States.

In a pre-emptive strike, Great Britain declared war on the Dutch and listed many grievances they had with the republic. This included the harboring of American naval officer John Paul Jones which allowed him to attack British ships and coastal cities on the British mainland.

Since the British were able to declare war on the Dutch ahead of time it made them ineligible to join the league as Catherine was not keen on fighting a war against Great Britain.

The Dutch then signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce with the United States on October 8, 1792. This would throw the Dutch into the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War.

Dutch Republic

Native Americans

Most of the Native Americans fought with the British, however, there were a handful of Native American tribes that sided with the Americans:

Catawba Tribe: The Catawba Tribe sided with the Americans during the American Revolution after the British failed to enforce provisions of the 1763 Treaty of Augusta.

Abenaki Tribe: The Abenaki tribe was divided and segments of them fought for both sides.

Penobscot Tribe: They did not officially side with anyone, however, they did send some of their young warriors to aid George Washington at his request.

Maliseet and Micmac Tribes: Joined the Americans with the hope to restore French rule to the region. They both signed the Treaty of Watertown in 1776.

Passamaquoddy Tribe: Sided with Americans in 1776. They did not take part in much combat but did supply General Washington with warriors when he requested them.

Stockbridge Mohican Tribe: This portion of the Mohican tribe sided with the Americans to assert their own independence over Great Britain and reclaim their lost lands.

Lenape/Delaware Tribe: An Indian Tribe in the Ohio Valley that sided with the Americans. They signed the Treaty of Pitt with the Americans in 1778.

Oneida Tribe: The Oneida Tribe sided with the Americans. This was a tactical decision as they correctly believed the Iroquois Confederacy was weakening.

Tuscarora Tribe: Influenced by the Oneida Tribe, the Tuscarora also sided with the Americans which weakened the Iroquois Confederacy further.

Potowatomi Tribe: Sided with the Americans after George Rogers Clark met Chief Siggenauk and convinced him it would be in their best interest.

Here is the list of nations that participated in the American Revolution on the side of the British:

Great Britain

Great Britain consisted of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Each of them fought in the war at some point.

The British had become the dominant world power after the Seven Years War. They had taken control of most of the New World, despite getting a late start and Spain’s early dominance through their Conquistadors.

They had defeated the French and had possession of Canada and had developed positive relations with many Native American tribes.

However, they accumulated much debt and in order to help their economy, they began to tax the colonies. The colonies did not respond well and it would be one of the primary causes of the Revolution. The colonies had developed much of their economy and culture themselves so when Britain tried to assert itself over them they pushed back and eventually wanted independence.

To fight the war with the Americans they would need to enlist Native American support

Great Britain

The Hessians

The Hessians were Germanic peoples that the English hired to help fight in the war. They were well trained and from many different locations.

The Americans resented the use of foreign mercenaries and it turned many colonists who were neutral towards the war to the side of independence. The idea of a foreign army occupying American land was unsettling.

Hessian Flag

The Hessians were well organized. For more information read the two articles I have written that breaks down their involvement in the war:

Loyalists

The Revolutionary War was a Civil War between Patriots and those loyal to the crown. There were many colonies whose population was in support of England and believed that the colonists should pay their fair share in order to be part of the empire.

This was especially prevalent in New York and many of the southern colonies where the fighting would become fierce. It would become neighbor against neighbor and some of the action in the Southern Theatre was the most brutal in the entire war. This was especially true at the Battle of Waxhaws and Battle of King’s Mountain.

After the war, many Loyalists fled to England or Canada for refuge. Those that stayed most likely had their land condemned and faced terrible persecution while on enemy soil.

Native Americans

While there were quite a few tribes that fought on the side of the Americans, the most powerful and well-organized tribes fought on the side of the British.

Joseph Brant was an influential Native Chief that would go on to influence other Native American leaders, including the great Tecumseh that would fight against the Americans in the War of 1812.

Cherokee Tribe: The Cherokee’s believed that the Americans were encroaching on their land and sided with the British with the intent to push back and maintain what they had. Their involvement would come at a high price as it would be held against them much later after the war.

Choctaw Tribe: Joined the British in hopes of stopping American advancement west. They were located in the southern Mississippi region.

Chickasaw Tribe: Sided with the British to stop American advancement west. They were located in the portions of Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Shawnee Tribe: The Shawnee was one of the most powerful Indian tribes in the Ohio Valley and they sided with the British. They would fight against the Americans as early as 1777. They would remain hostile to the Americans after the war.

Miami Tribe: Located in the Ohio Valley, they were influenced by the Shawnee and Iroquois Confederacy. They joined the British against the Americans.

Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, and Seneca Tribes: Tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy that sided with the British.  Their combined forces were probably the strongest Native support the British had.

Wyandot Tribe: Located in the Ohio Valley. They sided with the British during the American Revolution.

While the consequences would be significant for all who lost the war, this would mark the beginning of the end for the Native Americans. They were divided people and without unity, they would never survive the expansion of the Americans. They would rise again during the War of 1812 and would lose.

<- Return to American Revolution Guide

<- Return to Revolutionary War Battles

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.