In April of 1775 the fighting had started, including Paul Revere's ride and the Battles of Lexington and Concord. It wasn't until 1781 when the fighting ended and 1783 when the peace treaty was signed.
So why celebrate July 4th, 1776 as Independence Day?
The Declaration of Independence was a declaration adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies, then at war with Great Britain, regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. The vote was a passed by the Continental Congress 12, 0, 1, a couple of days before.
The Declaration starts with these statements:
"In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, ...."
The reasons for the declaration are then carefully stated and it concludes with this:
"We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
It is for this reason we celebrate the 4th of July. A new flag with white stars in blue with red and white stripes would be designed in 1777. The Constitution would be adopted in 1787. We should not forget the declaration of independence from July 4th, 1776 and those that risked all to create this country. Many have fought for, and do still fight for these truths and freedoms.
May we all continue to do so is my hope.
The Text of the Declaration: