George Washington , Clinton, Cornwallis, Lord George Germain, Comte de Rochambeau, Comte de Grasse, Yorktown and Treaty of Paris

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 28th, 2012

Politics 101

British Sea Power allowed the British to Remain in a Hostile Land for the Eight Years of the Revolutionary War

The American Revolutionary War began in April of 1775 with the Battles of Lexington and Concord.  For years following these battles George Washington yearned to meet the British in a grand battle and defeat them.  What he got instead was a lot of smaller battles that sent him in retreat.  For despite fighting on the far side of an ocean the British had a large professional army.  A vast merchant marine to supply them whatever they needed.  And the world’s preeminent navy.  The Royal Navy.

That sea power allowed the British to remain in a hostile land for the following 7 years.  Allowed them to remain in New York.  Allowed them to take the war to the South unopposed.  It allowed them to move armies.  And supply armies.  As well as control the world’s sea lanes to maintain their commerce.  The Royal Navy tipped the balance of power well to the side of the British.  And perhaps it was their undoing as well.  Trusting that their naval superiority would always be there.

British generals Clinton (superior in rank and resting comfortably in New York) and Cornwallis (junior in rank and chasing American armies in the South) did not see eye to eye.  Their boss, Lord George Germain, Secretary of State for the American Department, didn’t help matters.  It was his job to suppress the American rebellion.  But he didn’t understand the country.  Or the people.  Thinking of America in European terms.  He thought the Americans were no match for a professional European army assembled on the field of battle.  And he was right.  But the Americans didn’t fight the war like Europeans.  Which proved to be a great disadvantage for the British.

With the French Fleet heading to Chesapeake Bay Washington Scrapped his Plan to Attack New York

General Burgoyne had a grand strategy to cut off New England from the rest of the colonies.  A three-pronged attack that required General Howe (who preceded Clinton) coming up from New York.  Germain approved the plan.  And two of the three prongs proceeded accordingly.  East through the Mohawk Valley.  And south down the upper Hudson valley.  Howe was to come up the Lower Hudson valley and meet the other two prongs around Albany.  But Germain did not order Howe to do so.  So Howe didn’t.  Executing his own plans in Pennsylvania.  Which led to Burgoyne’s surrender at Saratoga (1777).  And the entry of France into the War (on the condition that the Americans would not make a separate peace with the British).  The Spanish later (allied to the French).  The Dutch, too.  And an armed neutrality of the other powers who did not want to partake in the war and would not submit to the advances of the Royal Navy on the high seas.  Making it difficult to blockade arms and supplies from reaching the Americans.

The first Franco-American actions proved disappointing.  In fact a lot of public sentiment turned against the French.  Especially after they abandoned an offensive action in Rhode Island.  Leaving the Americans to retreat again.  Then Cornwallis moved north.  Toward Virginia.  And there was another window for French cooperation after some action in the West Indies.  And there was a French Army in Newport, Rhode Island, commanded by Comte de Rochambeau, a veteran of the Seven Years’ War.  So he knew a thing or two about fighting the British.  These forces arrived after Clinton pulled his forces out and returned them to New York.  Which is where Washington wanted to attack with this Franco-American force.

Washington and Rochambeau drew up some plans.  The French fleet coming from the West Indies commanded by Comte de Grasse was to support the attack.  However, this was the battle Clinton was waiting for.  And he was ready for it.  Washington tested the New York defenses and found them formidable.  And there was a British fleet in New York Harbor.  Then he got a letter from De Grasse.  Rochambeau had left him some freedom in his orders.  Instead of going to New York he was heading to the Chesapeake Bay.  Where Cornwallis’ army was.  It wasn’t New York but it was still a British army.  And he would have a large French fleet in support.  Washington soon scrapped his New York plans.  And looked to Virginia instead.   

Cornwallis and Burgoyne lost their Armies because the British never Coordinated their Forces in a Unified Plan

Quickly and quietly the Franco-American force moved from around New York towards Virginia.  They were across the Delaware River before Clinton knew where they were going.  Or what they planned to do.  They kept Admiral Graves in the dark as well.  Who kept his British fleet around New York.  Waiting to support the army when the Americans and French launched their attack on New York.  By the time they figured out what Washington and the Franco-America force were up to it was too late.  The French fleet beat them to the Chesapeake Bay.  The superior French fleet repelled the smaller British fleet which returned to New York.  Leaving Cornwallis on his own.  As he faced an enemy that outnumbered him more than two to one.  A force that numbered 5,700 professional Continentals and 7,000 professional French troops.  As well as 3,100 militia.

Cornwallis was entrenched in Yorktown.  With Banastre Tarleton (of Waxhaw Massacre fame) across the York River in Gloucester.  As Cornwallis looked out at the gathering force against him laying siege to his army he saw the French on his right.  And the Americans on his left.  Their trenches slowly moving closer to his.  Across the York the French were closing in on Tarleton.  Soon the American artillery was within effective range.  And George Washington lit the first fuse.  It was over in less than a month.  And included a bayonet charge led by America’s first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton.  Recognizing the seriousness of Cornwallis’ position Clinton sent a fleet to help lift the siege.  But by the time it arrived Cornwallis had already surrendered.

Cornwallis lost his army for the same reason Burgoyne lost his army at Saratoga.  Lord Germain.  Who failed to coordinate his generals in the American Department.  While the Americans did.  For most of the war the British had the superior army and the superior navy.  Yet they could not win.  Because these superior forces were never coordinated together in a unified plan.  Opposition in Parliament forced Germain out of office after the fall of Yorktown.  And called for the resignation of the Prime Minister.  Lord North.  Which he gave.  A first for a British Prime Minister.  The new government would end the war with the Americans with the Treaty of Paris (1783).  Where the Americans did very well.  And conducted separate peace treaties with the Spanish and the Dutch.  As well as the French.  Which the French were not pleased with.  And they did not do as well as the Americans in the peace.  Worse, they would find themselves in their own revolution within a decade.  The American Revolution being a major cause of the French Revolution.  By saddling France with an enormous war debt.  And filling their people with the spirit of liberty.

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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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