Burgoyne, Saratoga, Daniel Morgan, Banastre Tarleton, Loyal Legion, Waxhaw Massacre, Camden, Horatio Gates, Cowpens and Yorktown

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 7th, 2012

Politics 101

The Scotch-Irish and Germans in the South had a connection to the Stuart/Hanover King George III

It turns out the first British general to lose an army on the field of battle to the Americans was the only one with a coordinated plan.  General Burgoyne planned to separate and isolate New England with a coordinated three-prong attack.  He’d attack down Lake Champlain and the upper Hudson.  St. Leger would attack out of Oswego and head east along the Mohawk valley.  With Howe coming up the Hudson.  Bringing all three prongs together around Albany.  And it may have worked if Burgoyne had overall command of British forces in America.  But he didn’t.  For there was no one in charge of all British forces coordinating their resources in a unified plan.  So General Howe ran around Pennsylvania instead of going up the Hudson to meet Burgoyne at Albany.  Downriver from Saratoga.  Where Burgoyne surrendered his army.

Now Burgoyne wasn’t the greatest general the British had.  But he had about the only grand strategy to defeat the Americans.  For no one else tried to marshal Britain’s superior forces towards some strategic end.  Lucky for the Americans as it gave them the time to survive through Valley Forge.  Where they emerged as good as any European army.  Which rebuffed the British when they turned to the Middle States.  Cities they captured they eventually gave up and left for the Americans.  And returned to New York.  Where a large British force stayed ensconced throughout the American Revolutionary War.  While another British force tried their luck in the South.

Things could have been different in the South.  For there were a lot of Loyalists in the South.  Especially in the back country of North and South Carolina.  A great mutt of nationalities.  Including a lot of Scotch-Irish.  And Germans.  Who had a connection to King George III.  Who was the king of England and Wales.   As well as Scotland, Ireland and Hanover.  A German province.  And family.  Related to the British House of Stuart.  Yes, those Stuarts.  Who had ruled England for such a long time.  And still do to this day.  Thanks to their Hanoverian relations.  So there was hope in the South for Britain.  Made even more promising by the fact that these Scotch-Irish and Germans didn’t get along well with the local American governments.

Tarleton’s Waxhaw Massacre inflamed anti-British Sentiment and Turned a lot of Neutrals into Patriots

In truth once you moved away from the big cities the South was neither Loyalist nor Patriot.  It was both.  Depending on where in the South you were.  In fact there was a lot of bloody fighting in the South that the British had no part in.  This bloody fighting was between neighbors and families.  Which is why it was so bloody.  For civil wars are the cruelest of wars.  Because of the vengeance factor.  Whenever your enemy did unspeakable acts of atrocities to their former friends and family the retaliation was in kind.  Or worse.  It was an ideal environment to wage war in.  A little overwhelming force and coordination with the Loyalist side could have paid large dividends for the British.  Sort of like D-Day in World War II.  The Allies dropped paratroopers behind the beach defenses to support the beach invasions.  A multi-pronged British force could have done the same.  Attacked the coastal areas while the Loyalists kept the Patriots busy, preventing them from joining the action in the coastal areas. 

Instead the British won great battles.  And captured cities.  But the surrounding countryside was rife with partisan guerilla war.  The British did not bring a large enough force to subdue the countryside.  Or to protect the cities they won.  Where Patriot leaders like Francis Marion, Thomas Sumter, Andrew Pickens and Daniel Morgan rode freely, making hit and run raids at will.  While British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton lead a cavalry unit made up of Loyalists Tories.  The Loyal Legion.  (Mel Gibson’s character in the movie The Patriot was a composite based on these Patriots.  And his enemy was based on Tarleton).  And waged a cruel war that won him no love from those who had remained neutral in the South.  Such as following the fall of Charleston.  Tarleton set out to try and subdue the countryside.  And met a force of some 300 Virginians commanded by Colonel Buford at Waxhaw Creek.  When they met Tarleton demanded Buford’s surrender.  He refused.  They fought.  Overwhelmed, the Americans raised the white flag.  Tarleton’s men then killed the surrendering Americans by bayonet.  Perhaps the cruelest act of the war.  And from this came the battle cry ‘Tarleton’s quarter’.  Meaning take no prisoners when fighting the British.   The British win at Waxhaw secured much of the south for them.  But the massacre inflamed anti-British sentiment.  Turning a lot of neutrals into Patriots.

For the most part both the British and the American regular soldiers fought according to accepted rules of warfare.  And committed no such atrocities like the Waxhaw Massacre.  In fact, it wasn’t even the British who committed this atrocity.  It was American Loyalists fighting for Tarleton.  Part of that civil war in the South.  Which grew ugly.  The British and their Tory American allies were like Vikings.  Doing a lot of pillaging.  And not being very nice to the Patriot ladies.  While their men were away they not only looted their homes but stole the possessions they were wearing at gun and sword point.  And who knows what else.  Acts perpetrated on no orders.  But by the free-for-all in a land consumed by civil war.  And once again the crueler the war the more it inspired people to continue the fight.  While their men were away continuing the good fight their women were at home.  Securing supplies for their Patriot men.  And getting them to those fighting the good fight.  Brave women these Patriot women.  And heroes.

General Daniel Morgan’s Victory at the Battle of Cowpens was the Turning Point of the War

The ‘hero’ of Saratoga came south to take command of American forces.  Horatio Gates.  Who came in to take command just prior to the surrender at Saratoga.  Where the battle was truly won by future traitor Benedict Arnold.  And Daniel Morgan’s riflemen.  Who would leave the military soon thereafter.  After a long and distinguished career.  But those in Congress gave the credit to Gates.  As they did the Southern Department.  Something General Washington was not in favor of.  And for good reason.  For Gates displayed a certain incompetence that put his army in danger.  And suffered one of the greatest American defeats at the Battle of Camden.  In the general route that followed Gates got on a horse and fled from the battlefield.  And did not stop fleeing until he reached Charlotte.  Some 60 miles away.

General Nathaniel Greene replaced General Gates in the Southern Department.  He was who Washington wanted for the position in the first place.  And Morgan emerged from retirement to join the department under Greene.  Where they and those other Patriot partisans were causing all sorts of trouble for the British in the South.  General Morgan was proving to be quite the problem so General Cornwallis detached Tarleton and his Loyal Legion to handle the Morgan problem.  And caught up to him at Cowpens.  Suffering one of the greatest British defeats of the war.  (The final battle in The Patriot is based on the Battle of Cowpens.  Though in real life Tarleton survived and returned to England, forever haunted by this great defeat).  Which proved to be the turning point of the war.  Setting the stage for another British army to surrender.

The failed British Strategy in the South allowed a revitalized American army to push the British across Virginia.  To the coast.  Where they were hoping to get support from the Royal Navy.  Only to see the French navy.  For the French had joined the American cause after the victory as Saratoga.  And were now joining forces with the Americans under General Washington.  At a little place called Yorktown.  Where Cornwallis found his back to the water.  And the French navy.  While surrounded on land by a Franco-American force.  And for the second time in the American Revolutionary War a large British army surrendered on the field of battle to an American general.  Only this time “northern laurels” didn’t turn into “southern willows” as they had for Gates.  The victory at Yorktown was only the prelude to an American win in the Revolutionary War.  And the birth of a new nation.

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LESSONS LEARNED #16: “The military part of the military has been a success story. The Big Government part of the military has not.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 3rd, 2010

BIG GOVERNMENT DID NOT create the greatest military power of all time.  It’s not a top down success story.  It’s a bottom up success story.  You win wars by winning battles.  And you win battles with a rifle in your hands.  Those who matter don’t hear the clash of arms from afar.  They hear it from within the battle itself.

The successes of the military are due to the people who fight the battles.  They are not due to governmental bureaucrats.  In fact, you can say the fighting people achieve success despite the governmental bureaucrats.  I can give you a list of esteemed military personnel that would agree with me.  Here’s an abbreviated list:  George Washington and Robert E. Lee.   Of course, you can’t ask either of them because they’re dead.  But the history speaks for itself.  Their most difficult enemies were the politicians.  And the ones on their side.  Not the enemies’.

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY WAR was a lot like the Vietnam War, only without the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  Both had the mightiest military power in the world taking on a military lightweight.  Therefore, both used Fabian tactics.  Like Roman general Quintus Fabius Maximus, the underdog avoided major engagements with the enemy.  (Excluding the Tet Offensive, of course, which was very un-Fabian-like.)  Theirs was not to win.  No, theirs was not to lose.  For he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day. 

But the big difference between these wars was supply.  The Viet Cong and the NVA had the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  No matter how many of them you killed or how many of their supplies you destroyed, more just kept coming down that trail.  George Washington and his ragtag armies, on the other hand, were, well, ragtag.  Plead as he might for supplies the Continental Congress delivered little.  Including pay.  His armies were chronically under-supplied, under-fed and under-paid.  But still they carried on. 

When they took winter quarters in December 1777 on the barren hills on the west side of the Schuylkill River in eastern Pennsylvania, they had not received any supplies from the Quarter Master General since the previous July.  Now the winter at Valley Forge was not the coldest during the War, but it was cold.  Especially if you were barefoot and half naked.  And this was the condition of the average soldier.  While the British quartered themselves in the warm houses of Philadelphia and enjoyed the comforts of regular meals and warm beds, the Americans left trails of blood in the snow from their bloody, bare feet.  They slept by fire for warmth.  Shirts as well as blankets were lacking.  And there was a lack of food, for man and animal.  Hundreds of horses starved to death that winter.

But the British did well that winter.  Why?  Why did they have food, drink, clothing, blankets and forage for their horses?  Because not everyone felt the Spirit of ’76 as earnestly as others.  Thomas Paine, just before the Battle of Trenton a year earlier (at perhaps the low point of morale in the Army) wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”  There were no summer soldiers or sunshine patriots at Valley Forge.  They were in warm houses.  Well fed.  And making money.  From the War.  There were supplies, yes, but there were more profitable markets than Washington’s armies.

So while graft and speculation made some rich, the Army suffered at Valley Forge.  The Continental Congress did little for them.  The states did little for them.  They suffered that ordeal alone.  Together.  And they became better soldiers.  Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter of introduction for a Prussian captain, Baron Friedrich von Steuben.  He came with exaggerated credentials.  Franklin said he was a general under Frederick the Great even though he was only a staff officer.  And an unemployed staff officer at that.  But he knew how to make and drill an army.  And he did.  Washington held the Army together.  The men persevered.  And the army that emerged from Valley Forge could face any European army on the field of battle.  And they fought on.  And about 4 years later, General Cornwallis would surrender at Yorktown.

THE UNITED STATES offered the command of the Union Army in the American Civil War to General Robert E. Lee.  He declined.  He could not raise his sword against his own country.  Virginia.  So he would fight on the Confederate side in what they called the War of Northern Aggression.

There is an interesting exchange in the movie Gone with the Wind before war breaks out.  Rhett Butler is discussing the South’s prospects with his fellow southern gentlemen. 

RHETT BUTLER: I think it’s hard winning a war with words, gentlemen.
CHARLES: What do you mean, sir?
RHETT BUTLER: I mean, Mr. Hamilton, there’s not a cannon factory in the whole South.
MAN: What difference does that make, sir, to a gentleman?
RHETT BUTLER: I’m afraid it’s going to make a great deal of difference to a great many
gentlemen, sir.
CHARLES: Are you hinting, Mr. Butler, that the Yankees can lick us?
RHETT BUTLER: No, I’m not hinting. I’m saying very plainly that the Yankees
are better equipped than we. They’ve got factories, shipyards, coal mines…and a fleet to bottle up our harbors and starve us to death. All we’ve got is cotton, and slaves and…arrogance.

No.  The South’s prospects were not very encouraging.  And the North’s advantages would make up for her failings.  In time.

The American Civil War was not a war of Fabian tactics.  The First Battle of Bull Run (or the First Battle of Manassas as the Confederates called it) was a shock.  Casualties (killed, wounded and lost) were high.  About 4,800 in total.  No one had anticipated such carnage.  If that wasn’t enough to sober them up, then came Shiloh in the West.  This 2-day battle claimed about 23,750 casualties.  This exceeded the total of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War combined.  By the time the Civil War was over, casualties would top 1,000,000.  Over 600,000 Americans would eventually die.  Including a president.

Why such high casualties?  A couple of reasons.  This was one of the first wars benefitting from the Industrial Revolution.  Better and more powerful weapons created more powerful armies.  And a network of railroads brought them efficiently to the battlefield.  Unfortunately, these armies still employed Napoleonic tactics.  Mass in formation, fire and charge with bayonets.  Rifled barrels, though, replaced smoothbore muskets.  This tripled the effective range of an infantryman’s weapon.  Improved cannon, like the Parrot gun, made cannon fire more devastating.  So, while they stood en masse and fired, and marched forward with bayonet, they faced a withering, accurate fire.  Before the Battle of Cold Harbor, life expectancy in battle was such that soldiers sewed their name inside their jackets.  Why?  They wanted their fallen bodies identified and sent home for burial.

Another reason for the high casualties?  Two of the best armies in the world were fighting each other.  American was killing American.  In the beginning, the Confederates had the edge.  Robert E. Lee and General Stonewall Jackson were displaying by far the greater competence in battle.  But that was in the east.  In the west, Generals Grant and Sherman advanced along the Mississippi River with dogged determination.

At the Battle of Chancellorsville, though, Stonewall Jackson would fall from friendly fire as he reconnoitered the front.  He lost his left arm.  Lee would lament that Jackson may have lost his left arm, but he had lost his right.  Jackson would subsequently die from complications of pneumonia 8 days later.  A couple of months from that, Lee would be in Gettysburg, the ‘high water mark’ of the Confederacy.  And after 3 days of battle, he would lead his defeated army back across the Potomac.  Meanwhile, in the west, Grant had just taken Vicksburg and, as a result, control of the Mississippi river.

Lee’s foray into Pennsylvania may have not been a wise move.  It was only the second time a Confederate army invaded the North (the last resulted in the bloodiest single day of the war – Antietam).  Battle in the north favored the North.  Shorter lines of communications.  Better network of railroads.  Coal mines.  Factories.  It was a bold plan.  But a poorly executed plan.  The armies came into contact, after all, because barefoot Confederate soldiers looking for shoes came into contact with dismounted Union cavalry.  That’s what was in Gettysburg.  Shoes.  That, and one big-ass road intersection that brought all those armies together.

Lee’s forces started the Battle of Gettysburg prematurely because of singular defect in the South.  Supply.  Lee faced the same problems Washington did.  The Confederate Army was superior to the Union Army at many times.  They often outgeneraled the North.  And often outfought the North.  But they took heavy losses.  As did the North.  But, as Rhett Butler pointed out, the North was in a position to replace their losses.  The South simply was not.  It became a war of attrition.  And the north simply outlasted the South.  And had the time to become a superior army. 

The problem was the very thing they were fighting for.  States’ rights.  The north was able to wage total war.  The South, try as they might, could not.  States had some warehouses full of material, but a state allotted its material stores for its own regiments.  A state may have had a surplus of shoes, but they held them for their own soldiers while others went barefoot.

The southern soldier suffered beyond human endurance.  Days would go by without food or provision.  Some would pick up horse droppings and pick out undigested kernels to eat.  When they broke out of the siege around Richmond/Petersburg, they marched for days to promised provisions.  When they reached the rail cars, they opened them to find unneeded equipment.  Not food.  But they still fought on, emaciated as they were.  Until they found themselves surrounded near Appomattox Courthouse.  When faced with the choice of surrender or guerrilla warfare, Lee chose surrender.  He saw one country destroyed.  He did not wish to see another.

WASHINGTON DID PREVAIL in the end.  Despite his government.  Lee did not.  In part because of his government.  All the while the soldier in the fight persevered through great privations.  But never gave up.  They fought, and died, together.  For God.  For country.  And for each other.  All the while, no doubt, cursing their respective governments.

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