The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #97022 Message #1907332
Posted By: Teribus
12-Dec-06 - 08:30 AM
Thread Name: BS: The NEW Red Coats
Subject: RE: BS: The NEW Red Coats
Little Hawk, in his post of 10 Dec 06 - 08:46 PM, gave an eight point list of why the British Lost the American Revoultionary War. I could have given it to him in one sentence - Complete and utter lack of interest, the American colonies just did not matter to them, particular once the "War" went international, Britain had far more important concerns elsewhere.
With regard to the points put forward by Little Hawk:
LH - 1. Their king was deeply incompetent:
Most monarchs are, that is why Britain since 1688 has maintained a "constitutional monarchy" in which the Monarch has no power. With regard to the American War of Independence, Little Hawks point is irrelevant, the King had absolutely no say whatsoever in the prosecution of the war so his incompetence was immaterial.
LH - 2. Their committments in Europe and elsewhere in the Empire were spreading them a bit too thin:
What commitments in Europe Little Hawk? Having recently concluded one war in Europe against France, Britain was not eager to provoke another, her Navy at this time consisted of ships that were old and generally in poor condition. The protagonists were all "British" up until the Spring of 1778 when France signed a Treaty with the United States. They couldn't give a damn about American Rebels, their main aim was to recover possessions previously lost to Britain elsewhere (Carribean and in India). Spain entered the war as an ally of France in June 1779, unlike France, however, Spain refused to recognize the independence of the United States. Spain entered the war to regain Gibraltar and Minorca, she failed to regain either. Finally, the Netherlands also became a combatant in 1780, a move she was to regret bitterly four years later on conclusion of hostilities.
LH - 3. The assistance of the French navy at Yorktown was vital to achieving the final American victory:
Correct, the French Fleet managed to keep the smaller British Fleet off the coast and the landing of French troops and supplies went on unopposed. Had Hood commanded the British Fleet instead of Graves the result would have been far different.
LH - 4. Their officers were overconfident in many cases:
Where did you get this from? - Hollywood? or Mel Gibson?
LH - 5. They did not properly address the political grievances of the colonials and the tax issues...which they could have:
Myth, far from being overburdened by Tax, the colonists were being subsidised. Niall Ferguson* covers the subject very well in his book, "The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power". All but one of the so-called taxes objected to by the Colonists had been removed by 1773. A person living in the American Colonies was taxed one twenty-seventh of his counterpart in Britain. As later in 1812, what the Colonists really wanted was land, Britain on conclusion of the Seven Years War had signed a Peace Treaty with the French and had given their undertaking to the Indian Nations that colonial expansion westward into the Wabash and Ohio Basins would be forbidden. While "shackled" to Britain those obligations remained inforce (The Brits generally honoured their promises to indigenous peoples - The Americans acquired a habit of reneging on them). Unfortunately having accepted France as an ally, on conclusion of the American War of Independence expansion west could not take place as that would put the newly fledged United States of America in conflict with here new found ally.
*Niall Ferguson, MA, D.Phil., is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University. He is a resident faculty member of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies. He is also a Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford University, and a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
LH - 6. Washington was a very gifted commander:
If that refers to him being a gifted strategist, I would agree. If it in anyway implies that he was a gifted battlefield commander then I would disagree.
Washington's contribution to victory in the American Revolution was not that of a great battlefield tactician. In fact, he lost more battles than he won. His operational planning was often far too complicated for his amateur soldiers to execute.
As a strategist however, he was remarkably successful, and in many respects the Duke of Wellington adopted many of the same principles:
- keep control of the mass of the population at all times, keep them on "your" side, do not alienate them at any cost, do not unnecessarily burden them;
- keep the army intact at all costs, avoid decisive battles except to exploit enemy mistakes (Saratoga and Yorktown).
Washington was a military conservative, he preferred building a regular army on the European model and fighting a conventional war. The indiscipline of most of his militia troops more often that not completely exasperated him, often putting his plans and his precious army at risk unnecessarliy.
One of his most significant contributions was the innoculation of his troops against smallpox - There was an epidemic raging through the colonies at the time of the revolution, 130,000 people died because of it. Fewer American troops died of the disease than their opponents. Odd statistic however was that overall far more Americans died than the British, due mainly to the quirk that British Troops were more successful in combat, they won more engagements, their casualties were lighter, but they still managed to lose the decisive actions and the war.
LH - 7. The colonials were using, in many case, more accurate firearms (long rifles as opposed to short range, smooth-bore muskets), and they were making better use of cover in the wilderness fighting...as you indicated...but more of the decisive battles were fought in fact with large formations of men, fighting very much in the European style:
The first part regarding arms, is irrelevant, they only came into effect in skirmishes, skirmishes do not win wars. As pointed out by LH himself the decisive battles were conventional in which tactics of the day favoured the smooth bore musket as it was capable of delivering a greater weight of fire on the enemy - The British Army of the Napoleonic era found a combination of both rifle and musket to be the most effective - had the British Army of Napoleonic times been armed solely with rifles the French Columns would have won over the British Line. During Napoleonic times Britain only had two Rifle Regiments, 95th Rifles and 60th Royal American Rifles, neither fought as Regiments in the Line of Battle, they were normally split up to provide the other Line Regiments of Foot with skirmishers.
8. The colonials outlasted the British, and the British lost heart for the whole thing. Kind of like the French or the Americans in Vietnam. Matter of fact, Dienbienphu was very much like the Battle of Yorktown in that sense...the final straw that broke the colonial power's will to continue the fight:
Hardly outlasted the British Little Hawk. While the Treaty of Paris was Signed in 1783, hostilities arising from the American War of Independence continued until 1784, by which time the French influence in India and in the West Indies had been weakened to the point of insignificance, The Spanish had failed in their war aims and the Dutch faced economic ruin from which they did not recover, many of their possessions in the Far East were lost. Of all the theatres of operations encompassed by this War - Britain's American Colonies were the least significant to the British Exchequor - You tend to put your best effort into securing that which is most important to you.