King George III, Lord North, John Dunning, Oliver Cromwell, New Model Army, Caesar, King Louis XVI, General Washington and Cincinnatus

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 12th, 2012

Politics 101

Had the Time of Kings Come to an End?

The British people grew weary of the war in America.  And the cost.  Many felt that the relationship between King George III and Lord North was a little too cozy.  And a little too unconstitutional.  John Dunning entered a motion in the House of Commons in 1780.  Stating that “the power of the Crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.”  And the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781 didn’t improve the political climate.  On March 20, 1782, Lord North resigned as Prime Minister.  Even King George penned a letter of abdication.  Though he never sent it.  He did go mad for awhile.  In 1788.  But he got better.

They questioned the very idea of monarchy.  Whether the time of kings had come to an end.  It was done before.  They got rid of the king following the English Civil War.  Even executed him.  King Charles I.  And Parliament ruled without a king.  Under Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector.  After his New Model Army won the English Civil War for Parliament.  And the New Model Army was loyal to Cromwell.  Giving him a lot of power.  As a standing army in peacetime is wont to do.  Just like Caesar’s army crossing the Rubicon.  Allowing Caesar to declare himself Roman emperor.  Cromwell used his army to suppress the enemies of Parliament.  And the enemies of the Protestant Church.  But the government didn’t survive long after Cromwell’s death.  And Britain would soon have a king again.  Charles II.  The son of the king they beheaded.

But things settled down in Britain.  And King George remained king.  Until 1820.  Even though he lost about half of the British Empire.  Giving up his Crown only in death.  By natural causes, of course.  Unlike that of Charles I.  But things would not end well for another European monarch.  In particular the one that helped America gain their liberty from the British Crown.  The French king.  Louis XVI.  Whose country imploded under the cost of war.  The peasants suffered through famine while the monarchy and the Church lived fairly well.  Igniting the French Revolution in 1789.  And it didn’t end well for King Louis.  Or his wife Josephine.  The French Revolutionaries beheaded them both.  The time of kings had come to an end in France.  Ditto for the Catholic Church.  For awhile.  Napoleon would rise up and declare himself emperor.  Which is just like being a king.  Marching to Paris at the head of his army.  The source of his power.  But it didn’t last.  After Napoleon the French would bring back the monarchy.

History has Shown (and Continues to Show) that a Disgruntled Army is a Dangerous Army

So the American Revolution shook things up in Europe.  Causing one monarchy to tremble.  And another to fall.  But it wasn’t smooth sailing in America, either.  For winning the war was one thing.  But governing the new nation was another.  Would a new American nation arise?  Or would the states abandon their common interests now that the common enemy was no more?  Would Congress be able to keep the promises they made?  Or now that the war was over would the states cease funding the Congress?  Making it impossible to keep their promises.  Like the pensions they promised those who served in the Continental Army.  Who sacrificed so much to win America’s independence.

History has shown (and continues to show) that a disgruntled army is a dangerous army.  A wronged army with a popular leader could very well seize power.  And there was a real fear of this happening following the war.  In 1783 some officers began a movement to demand what the Congress had promised them.  Alexander Hamilton, then serving in Congress, became alarmed.  And wrote General Washington.  Asking him to advance these officers demands to prevent it from getting out of control.  Washington refused to get involved.  Then it escalated.  Some were advocating more forceful measures.  Calling for a meeting to discuss these measures.  And General Horatio Gates supported this meeting.  Gates was the general who won at Saratoga (but it was really Benedict Arnold and Daniel Morgan who won the day).  Gates was involved in the Conway Cabal, an attempt to smear the reputation of General Washington in order to replace him.  And Gates was, of course, a leading candidate to replace Washington.  And General Gates suffered one of America’s most humiliating defeats at the Battle of Camden.   Which he fled from on horseback.  Fleeing until he fled some 60 miles from the battlefield.  So Gates’ involvement spelled trouble.

An anonymous driver of the movement was urging the army to retire to the frontier if the war continued.  To abandon an ungrateful people.  Letting them meet their fate at the hands of the enemy.  Or to turn their arms on that ungrateful people.  To get what the Congress promised them.  And more.  Fearing a military coup General Washington issued an order forbidding the meeting Gates supported.  Then called a meeting of his officers to discuss their grievances.  And at this meeting General Washington once again saved the country.  By his presence.  His devotion to duty.  And his failing eyesight.  He pulled out a prepared speech and began to read.  Then paused.  He pulled out a pair of spectacles.  An officer in that meeting recorded what happened.  Major Samuel Shaw.  Washington “begged the indulgence of his audience while he put them on, observing at the same time that he had grown gray in their service, and found himself growing blind.”  There wasn’t a dry eye in the house after this.  These guys still loved Washington.  And would go to hell and back for him.  If he wanted them to support the civilian government they would support the civilian government.

General Washington Submitted his Resignation and Returned to Civilian Life like Cincinnatus 

Of course, having the army do whatever their leader asked could prove to be a problem, too.  If that leader had designs on power.  Especially when that leader had more power than any single man in the new nation.  Washington may have defused one military coup.  But a lot of people worried about his intentions.  Especially when a lot of people were asking him to be king.  Caesar may have been ancient history to some.  But Oliver Cromwell and the New Model Army were not.  Washington.  A standing army.  It made people nervous.  Even foreign powers never believed that Washington would give it all up.  Even King George.  Who said if Washington refused to be king he would be “the greatest man in the world.”

The last of the British troops left New York on December 4, 1783.  The war was truly over.  It was time to go home.  Washington had one last meeting with his officers.  On the evening of the 22nd of December there was a ball in his honor.  He danced until every lady had a chance to dance with the general.  Then he addressed Congress on the 23rd of December.  And became the greatest man in the world.  By submitting his resignation.  And returning to civilian life.  A regular Cincinnatus.  Called to serve his country.  And after serving his country he surrendered all power to return to his farm.

The war was over.  And it ended in peace.  More the exception than the rule when it came to revolution.  Thanks to George Washington.  And the other Founding Fathers.  Benjamin Franklin.  John Adams.  Alexander Hamilton.  Thomas Jefferson.  John Jay.  And everyone else of that unique generation.  Men of exceptional character.  Who never sacrificed their principles.  Or their sacred honor.

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Benedict Arnold, Fort Ticonderoga, Quebec, Battle on Lake Champlain, Freeman’s Farm, Bemis Heights, West Point and Major André

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 14th, 2012

Politics 101

Arnold prevented a British Drive down the Hudson Valley to separate New England from the Rest of the Colonies

There was a fine line between Patriot and Loyalist.  And between Patriot and traitor.  For Benedict Arnold, at least.  Who went from Patriot to hero to traitor.  Some would argue that if it weren’t for Benedict Arnold we may not have won the American Revolutionary War.  And they may be right.  Yet at the same time he almost single-handedly lost the Revolutionary War. 

Benedict Arnold was both the best and the worst of Americans during the Revolution.  For he was a complex man.  And a flawed man.  After hostilities broke out at Lexington and Concord Arnold led his company from New Haven to Boston.  One of the first to answer the call of duty after that fateful day when a shot was fired that was heard ’round the world.  He was in it from the get-go.  A Patriot.  When it became apparent that the Americans lacked the artillery to attack the British in the fortified Boston they looked west.  To Fort Ticonderoga.  The Massachusetts Committee of Safety directed Arnold to raise a force and march on Fort Ticonderoga.  Capture it.  And bring back their cannon for action on the British fortifications at Boston.  The Connecticut Committee of Safety, not knowing of the orders given to Arnold, gave similar orders to Ethan Allen.  These two leaders met on the way to Ticonderoga.  Argued a little.  Then shared command.  Captured Ticonderoga.  Ethan Allen dragged the captured cannon back to Boston while Arnold went on and captured Crown Point.  Captured a British ship.  Sailed it to St. John.  And captured it.

Right from the beginning Arnold was what the Americans needed.  An aggressive leader who took the initiative.  And he would again.  But Arnold was also a prima donna.  He yearned for glory.  Shortly after Ticonderoga Congress decided on a Canadian campaign.  To conquer the British in Montreal and Quebec (City) so the Canadians could join the Americans as the fourteenth colony.  While a campaign was put together for Montreal Arnold persuaded General Washington for another campaign he would lead through Maine to Quebec.  Washington approved. 

Arnold’s Action around Saratoga brought the French into the War and Changed everything for Britain 

So Arnold gathered his force.  Including one Daniel Morgan.  And marched through the inhospitable wilderness of Maine in some unpleasant weather.  His men were wet, hungry, cold and miserable.  They made it to Quebec and assaulted the fortress in a January blizzard.  It did not go well.  Richard Montgomery, coming to join Arnold after conquering Montreal, was killed in the attack.  Arnold was wounded.  The Americans retreated.  First to Montreal.  Then all the way back to Ticonderoga.  Battling the British in a rearguard action.  While smallpox decimated the American ranks.  British General Carleton was in hot pursuit coming down to Lake Champlain.  Where Arnold would meet him.  He threw together a small makeshift squadron and met Carleton in battle on Lake Champlain.  Arnold lost his fleet.  But he delayed Carleton a month.  Unprepared for a winter campaign, Carleton retreated.  Thus Arnold prevented a British drive down the Hudson valley to separate New England from the rest of the colonies.

About a year later British General John Burgoyne launched a three-pronged attack consisting of a force attacking east from Oswego through the Mohawk valley.  A force attacking north up the Hudson River from New York.  And a force led by Burgoyne taking the same route Carleton had a year earlier.  Down through Lake Champlain and into the upper Hudson valley.  All three prongs to converge around Albany.  To cut off New England from the rest of the colonies.  The southern prong coming out of New York never materialized, though.  For General Howe was busy running around in Pennsylvania.  While the other two prongs got bogged down before reaching their objectives.  Burgoyne himself was having some trouble around a little town called Saratoga.  Burgoyne’s lines of communications were stretched dangerously long.  He was getting into trouble.  At the same time, though, political intrigue changed the American commander.  Horatio Gates replaced General Schuler.  Gates was content to trust his defenses and wait for the British assault.  Arnold saw the British were going to attempt to turn a weak American flank at Freeman’s Farm.  He argued with Gates to counter that move.  He finally gave in and agreed to send a force that included Daniel Morgan’s riflemen.  As that battle ebbed and flowed Arnold led a force against the British center. 

Arnold saved the day.  Had he received reinforcements he may have defeated the British army that day.  Instead Gates relieved Arnold of his command.  And marginalized him in his report to Congress.  At the subsequent battle at Bemis Heights Arnold, without a command, gathered some men and assaulted some British fortifications as the British retired behind them.  Breached the fortifications.  Sending the British in retreat all the way back to Saratoga.  Getting a horse shot out from underneath him in the process.  And taking another bullet in the leg.  Because of Arnold’s action around Saratoga Burgoyne had no choice but to ask for terms of surrender.  And he surrendered to General Horatio Gates.  Who got all the glory.  While his part in this victory was marginal at best.  But this victory was big.  It brought the French into the war.  Which changed everything for Britain.  Who now had a world war on their hands.  And the Spanish would later join that war against the British.  As allies to the French.  Then Catherine the Great of Russia led a drive for an armed neutrality of the other nations not taking sides in this new world war.  Which isolated Britain further.  Making it more difficult to interdict supplies going to the American rebels on neutral ships.

We remember Benedict Arnold not for the Hero he was but for the Traitor he Became

You could say that Benedict Arnold made this all possible.  By saving New England twice.  First by delaying Carleton on Lake Champlain.  Then winning the battles at Freeman’s Farm and Bemis Heights.  But did he get the glory?  No.  Some respected him.  General Washington did.  But the politics of the Congress were against him.  Which was a problem for a man like Arnold.  Who had a huge ego.  Was arrogant.  A bit of a hothead.  And had a gambling problem.  Put it all together and it caused this Patriot to become a traitor.  Because he was not given the proper respect for his glorious achievements.  And saving the American cause time and again.  If the American political elite would not give him the proper respect the British would.  And made a deal with him.  Money and security for the rest of his life for him and his family.  In exchange for information.  And control of the Hudson River via the forts of West Point. 

Arnold asked for and got command of West Point from General Washington.  And then started feeding the British inside information.  And began making plans for the handover of West Point to the British.  To finally sever New England from the rest of the colonies.  And it might have happened as planned if not for his British contact, Major André, being caught behind the American lines out of uniform with plans of how to capture the forts of West Point.  Arnold was to meet General Washington that day who by then knew of André’s capture.  Arnold did not.  But he found out just in time to escape to the British lines.  André was not so lucky.  For the Americans hanged him as a spy.

Arnold would return to America.  As a British general.  Landing in Virginia and leading an army of Loyalist Tories near the end of the war.  Doing some damage.  But he would never recapture past glories.  He would retire to England.  Pretty much a footnote in the British history of the American Revolutionary War.  For their investment in Arnold delivered little.  So Arnold would live out his remaining days a man with no real country.  He could never return to America.  And the British never really accepted him.  Americans and British alike lamented the death of Major André.  Who died because of Arnold.  A death he nevertheless faced with honor and courage.  But Arnold would suffer a worse fate.  Indifference.  He mattered to no one.  He had no honor.  Lived another 20 years or so.  Insignificant.  And died a traitor.  Which is the only thing we remember him for.  Not the hero he was.  But the traitor he became.

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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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