Given the subjective nature of the phrase "major battle," it is important to note a few critical battles at the onset of the war for independence. The Boston Massacre in 1770, when five colonials were shot by British soldiers, is generally regarded as the first significant blood shed in the American-British conflict. The first military interactions between British soldiers and colonial minutemen took place in Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775.

Battle of Bunker Hill

Despite the prior conflicts, the Battle of Bunker Hill near Boston in June 1775 is widely referred to as the "first major battle" of the Revolutionary War. Both the British Library and the Independence Hall Association make this claim in their overviews of the war. Although the British were victorious over the colonial forces, the battle resulted in over 1,000 British casualties, compared to approximately 400 American casualties, and played a role in giving Americans an important boost in confidence.