- A British Perspective On The American Revolution
- More on Odyssey
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- 50 Must-Read Revolutionary War Books
- England's Greatest Loss : Documentary on How Britain Lost The American Colonies (Full Documentary)
- Book revolutionary war british perspective
- Selected items from the British Library collection
- A mother and her whining teenager. Did those red coats actually have a point?
At this stage with neither side backing down, America's celebrated struggle began with the signing of the Declaration of Independence , but it seems people know very little about what actually happened to the fifty-six men , that signed this document and how they had not only brought chaos and ruin on the American people, they also brought a variety ignominious fates upon themselves, with many of them later turning upon one another.
With the situation obviously well beyond just a policing operation and very wealthy rebel leaders being used to getting their way by hiring rowdies, resulting in the Continental army being at its strongest that it had ever been, Britain sent a larger and more strategic force to America, landing 15, men at Gravesend Bay, Long island.
This force was quickly engaged by 19, men of the rebel army, but this time the rebels received a good thrashing and could have been finished off completely, the British having won decisively, didn't want a massacre of brethren, which was a likely outcome, if they had advanced on the defeated Continentals in the heavy fog that had descended at nightfall.
They instead were hoping for an amicable surrender, but this just resulted in Washington and the remainder of his men being able to slip the noose.
This leniency however had further consequences, as when the rebels fled, they set fire to as many of the buildings in Manhattan as they could, to deny valuable accommodation for British forces some US historians try to pathetically claim this was an accident even though the rebels had done the same thing on Long Island days earlier.
Embarrassed the British then pursued the rebels north but were caught out by a defensive stand the rebels had made at White Plains, which by the use of musket balls embedded with nails inflicted such horrendous injuries they convincingly scattered the British advance columns. But then instead of driving home their advantage the rebels chose to loot the dead and wounded's supply of rum, got drunk and had to fall back under a British counter charge, which only ground to a halt under the weight of a torrential downpour.
Thwarted, Howe then turned his attention towards Fort Washington the Pearl of the Hudson where the British, under heavy fire hauled cannon up and over steep rocks in order to get into a position that could subdue the rebels' defences and in doing so, were able to take over rebel prisoners and their immense stores and weaponry.
A British Perspective On The American Revolution
Next, the British advanced on Fort Lee, but the rebels seeing what had happened at Fort Washington, deserted the fort without a fight and retreated across the Delaware to Bucks County Pennsylvania.
However Washington's 2nd in command General Charles Lee had been slow leaving a tavern and was captured by a young later to be famous cavalry officer called Banastre Tarleton, who delivered him to Gen. Howe and as was British custom, treated him as an equal allowing him good treatment on Long Island, which surprisingly he responded to by offering advise on how Howe should conduct the war.
Washington had the time to take advantage of knowing that it was manned by Hanoverians Hessians , who traditionally drank far too much at Christmas. So he had another two thousand men conscripted and on the eve of battle he recited Paine's 'American Crisis' to them all, then drove them at the point of their officers' bayonets through the frozen snow and across an ice bound river to attack at dawn December 26th The Hessians had been warned of Washington's intentions, but had not only arrogantly ignored this warning by still drinking, they hadn't even built up any outer defences.
So the starving continentals needed little further incentive to overrun the well supplied with food and rum stupefied Germans, and took over a thousand of them prisoner. The captured supplies had transformed Washington's position and he prepared for the inevitable British counter attack by sending out snipers to harry what came in the form of Cornwallis and seven thousand men from Princeton.
But his quick arrival had managed to corner Washington against the Delaware River at Trenton. The British had arrived just before dark and were tired, so would not attack till the morning. This allowed Washington to again take advantage of the night and slip away, but this time not to run, but to attack Cornwallis's base at Princeton that was only being guarded by a few hundred troops.
Washington had about five thousand men, but before he reached Princeton, they ran into Lieutenant Colonel Charles Mawhood's brigade of men, who although out-numbered six to one, first repulsed several rebel attacks with bayonet charges, then broke straight through the Rebels' lines, but despite this brave fight with so few against so many, the outcome was inevitable and the small force at Princeton was only able to resist for a while before being forced to retreat. Cornwallis had attempted to come racing back, but Washington had his men destroy the bridges then prevented him from crossing the river by intense sniper fire.
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This hold up was for a reason, Washington wanted the time to make an example of loyalist 'Tory' homesteaders in the area and had his men raid their farms and houses, killing, raping, pillaging as many as he could, proclaiming them traitors or collaborators and considered all others 'potential Tories' unless they signed up to his army.
This tactic intimidated several thousand men to come forward and volunteer this proved so effective that before he had retreated to the Pluckemin Mountains ready for the next battle, it had delivered over men. By the time Cornwallis had forced his way back to Princeton, the town was a very different place from the one he had left a few days earlier, so with little to encourage him to stay had his men and surviving Loyalists retreat north to New Brunswick NJ.
But this style of warfare had dire consequences for the British, as it meant their local sources of supply started to dry up and they found that they were having to fall back onto a mile supply chain, which was both very expensive and unreliable.
Then Lt General John Burgoyne, who history has judged unfairly, didn't really stand a chance when he was ordered to link up with Howe, who was supposed to be coming up from the south, but never did, which meant that he travelled further down from Canada than expected. He did however start off well when his men out-manoeuvred rebels at fort Ticonderoga by hauling cannon up the sheer face of a bluff, which then enabled them to bear down on the rebels.
But after making good progress and taking other forts on the river, he made a poor decision by travelling overland with cannon, making his journey very difficult. Something else not in his favour, his force was actually weaker than mere numbers would suggest, because nearly half of his men were Hessians who not speaking English couldn't distinguish between Loyalist and foe and consequently were reduced by when their commanding officer on their way to collect horses from Bennington, allowed against the better judgment of their Loyalist guides , hundreds of rebels posing as Loyalists to join his force, only to be led into an ambush by rebels.
Also the approx. As Burgoyne moved south, rebels under the command of Horatio Gates took up a strong defensive position at Bemis Heights, so Burgoyne having been informed of this, had his men advance on them in three columns.
Burgoyne headed up men in the centre and the rest were split between a left and right flank that were to come around onto the rebels sides. But seeing Burgoyne advancing on them the rebels counter charged led by Benedict Arnold, which was intended to out flank the British centre, but instead ran into the British left flank and a savage battle ensued that lasted 4 hours.
Arnold was at his most inspired and with his superior numbers forced the British and Germans back, but they continued to fight. He expected the fight to continue in the morning but the rebels had also lost a lot of men and were low on ammunition and food. Reviewing his position Burgoyne was going to sensibly withdraw, but he was informed that Howe was on his way, so remained in the area, this was actually far from the truth.
Clinton however did responded to Burgoyne's predicament and sent him all the men he could spare which was , but the door was closing behind Burgoyne as his hard won forts were being re-taken by the rebels.
Burgoyne had men but was facing rebel numbers nearer to men and this perilous position was causing Germans and Indians to desert.
Arnold pugnacious as ever, pressed home attack after attack and took particular delight in decimating a flank of Canadian volunteers. Burgoyne constantly found himself out flanked, which caused him to have to keep retreating his exhausted men, but when they arrived at Saratoga, Burgoyne saw a potential for a trap, which could well have saved him if 2 of his men, having deserted hadn't strayed into the advancing rebels and no doubt exchanged their lives for betraying his clever ambush attempt.
As a result the British became surrounded and out-numbered four to one, however Burgoyne wasn't actually defeated as he only surrendered because the rebels had promised him and his men safe passage home, but unlike Burgoyne, gentlemen they were not as they then cynically betrayed this promise.
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Howe apparently far too preoccupied with revolutionary headquarters at Philadelphia to concern himself with Burgoyne's plight, was to rescue the City with men, but the well supplied Washington with the support of Nathanael Green and Anthony Wayne was equally determined with their men to prevent him from doing so and 'formed well' in Cornwallis's own words in a strong defensive position at Brandywine. But the outcome was a resounding British victory after first feinting at, then out-manoeuvring Washington's lines.
The British lost around men with wounded but Washington lost a total of men. On securing the city, even though very short of men, Howe's first priority was to open up the Delaware to shipping and released men for this difficult task.
On seeing this Washington was far from discouraged as he had men and was still in a very strong position, so launched an attack at Germantown in order to re-take Philadelphia. But a thick fog had descended and his men were so drunk that in 3 hours of fighting they probably killed more of each other than the British had and lost Men.
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However unlike Washington, who could always replace his losses, Howe by losing in this encounter became even more seriously short of men with no chance of any replacements. Despite this he still tried to re-engage with Washington's army, but Washington managed to avoid this, first retreating to Whitemarch then further away at Valley Forge. But what happened to those Loyalists Cornwallis couldn't get out has been erased from history.
Apart from this anguish, there was little animosity between the British and rebel troops, but the British would not forget the French part in all of this.
Yorktown was the last significant battle of the war the British were involved in, after which they concentrated on fighting the French and Spanish elsewhere, so the war then became essentially just between Loyalists and rebels and with so many Loyalists motived by the cruel treatment they had suffered at the hands of rebels, they continued to fight on, launching raids on the frontier and from British held areas, which if they had been allowed to fight the war their way earlier on, they may well have got the better of Washington.
They also had adopted guerrilla tactics, hitting and running and taking advantage of easily accessible supplies, but destroying what they didn't need to deny the British, with the exception of leaving small amounts as a trap to catch the British in withering sniper fire.
After Yorktown Britain had little interest left for the war, the rebels were bankrupt and it had been France's last throw the dice, so an uneasy stalemate existed until a formal ending of the war in During negotiations the British tried to get compensation for the Loyalists, but despite several attempts to get the new USA to honour its agreements, they could never get them to do so and landed up footing the bill for these themselves. Some historians say as many as , Loyalists emigrated, relocating in Canada, the West Indies and Britain, making it one of the largest mass migrations in history.
England's Greatest Loss : Documentary on How Britain Lost The American Colonies (Full Documentary)
The new independence country was then subjected to the chaos of the rabble and the 2nd amendment, the right of citizens to bear arms, a legacy that has condemned it to an endless cycle of violence.
Also little was gained from 7 years of war as in Chief Justice John Jay negotiated a treaty with Britain agreeing to re-introduced the Navigation Acts of that allowed Britain to apply tariffs on American exports and had the US government repay pre-war debts to British creditors. So the Rebels leaders had not only brought chaos and ruin on themselves for which they later turned on each other, they had also brought it upon the American people, that they justified by claiming to have won the freedom for people to live as they choose, which has in fact condemned the citizens of the United States to being held in a permanent state of fear of something or other, as the only means of preventing society from descending into anarchy.
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Verifiable today by Americans only having to think for a moment to know how 'fear' is a reoccurring theme to them and how they wait for a leader to emerge unprimed by lobbyists from their two party system straight jacket having told them all they want to hear to get elected then not to treat them with contempt.
It took a long time for the United States to recover from the splitting of a people, which was only slowly corrected by immigration re-establishing support those of a loyal inclination, as to have a country full of radicals will only ever have them thinking of themselves and always be in conflict with each other.
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Despite all that has been written about the American Revolution, it seems that very little of what actually happened, or even the correct order that events occurred is known today by the vast majority of Americans. From birth they are taught the war was the utmost expression of liberty and nobility, a notion so sacrosanct that no one seems to question it. How many of them ever read beyond the first few words of the Declaration of Independence to discover the nonsense, fear-mongering, lies and baseless speculation that it contains?
How many can see that the winners' efforts to justify their actions have left only one sided accounts, dominated by the grievances of some of the colonists, to be forever compounded by historical and jingoistic narratives that are as much to do with gratifying an opinionated psyche as anything else.
So now, effectively unchallenged for well over two centuries and immortalized in American folk lore, is it time for a more objective account? It is true that freedom is enshrined in English law, which therefore legitimised the colonists' right to pursue independence, but only through the wishes of a majority, without which it was illegal; and the rebels were far from commanding a majority.
A starting point for any analysis should be to understand the various groups that were involved, as along with those that either bought or were given land as a reward and those looking for a better life with land of their own, which they obtained by agreeing to work for a few years as indentured labour , America had been attracting many of a radical persuasion, both religious and political, who sought to free themselves from the restrictions of the British establishment.
Add to these the fortune hunters who saw a land of great opportunity open for exploitation.
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Then of course in addition to these, those who didn't want to be there at all, because prior to Australia being a depository for petty criminals, they had been sent to America since Therefore the ingredients for evolving republicanism were in place and democracy gradually expanded in America, accelerating in its course when the military threat to the American colonies from France ended.
This budding philosophy benefitted those who sought increasing autonomy and so felt free to propose that the people should have the natural right to overthrow their leaders, should those leaders betray the historic rights of Englishmen and by advocating that all men were created equal, they both exploited undisciplined selfishness and formed an illusion of freedom to popularise support for their ambitions.
So the war was essentially a conflict between the first two groups of conservatives, who wanted to remain British and the remaining groups of radicals who wanted freedom from restriction and the opportunity to seize the assets of the others.
The later groups knew the French would be tempted by an opportunity to settle some old scores with the British, so they sought their assistance, but were unable to persuade them to help directly at first.
The British government that emphasized corruption should always be feared, considering it the greatest of all possible evils and thought that, virtue required men to put civic duty ahead of their personal desires, was becoming out of step with what was going on in America.
Therefore by seeking to tax its American possessions, primarily to help repay debts incurred defending North America against the French in the Seven Year War and to prepare for any future threat, it had become out of touch, not fully appreciating they were now dealing with colonial leaders who questioned the aristocracy's bigger picture approach to governance, with some rejecting all, that was not in their own interests.
The proclamation act of , which restricted the movement of colonists across the Appalachian Mountains and the Quebec Act of that extended Quebec's boundaries down to the Ohio River were introduced to limit spiralling defence costs and to protect Indian land, but of course shut off claims from the 13 colonies. This angered those colonists that paid little attention to laws from London anyway who wanted to claim more and more Indian land, so they started to organize for war by drilling their own militias.
Britain had relied on the Navigation Acts to derive sufficient funds to administer the colonies, but because they had paid insufficient attention to the smuggling going on there for far too long, it had become an ever increasing problem causing revenue to keep falling. So by the time Britain attempted to enforce an anti-smuggling policy, the practice had become perversely 'time honoured' and by interfering in such a way, it was portrayed by protagonists smugglers as violating the 'rights' of colonists and started the talk of the King as a Tyrant.
Bemused Britain then changed tack and tried the use of taxes to pay for administration, namely the Currency Act , and the Sugar Act but this just lead to the rebels organising a boycott of British goods. With the King getting nowhere, Parliament introduced their first direct tax i.
A mother and her whining teenager. Did those red coats actually have a point?
With the situation getting out of hand, Britain repealed the Stamp Act and sent troops to maintain law and order but stated in the 'Declaratory Act' March that parliament would retain full power to make laws for the colonies "in all cases whatsoever". Yet another tax was tried, the Townshend Acts but fared little better and met an ever increasing war of propaganda and incitement.
The principle examples of this propaganda are: the Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party, All of this unrest was still only from a small minority of colonists, but by allowing smuggling to go on for so long, this minority had become powerful, influential and resourceful, getting their way by carrying out acts of aggression.
In Britain then introduced a set of Coercive acts deemed the 'intolerable acts' by insurgent propaganda in order to try to counter the mounting lawlessness in the colonies which included closing Boston Harbor and demanding that the colony indemnified the tea merchants.
Although these wounded were stretchered off the battlefield by the thousands of American women who carried them into their houses to care for them, this pyrrhic victory left British ranks too depleted to retain any offensive capability, hence it led to Boston coming under siege for 11 months.
During this siege hundreds of Loyalists left for Halifax, fearing the smallpox Washington was deliberately spreading in Boston by sending infected men into the city, then by allowing the rebels to occupy a hill overlooking Boston harbor the British were forced to vacate the city.
Even those that managed to get away, the ordeal was not over, as some ships were preyed upon by rebel privateers who boarded their ships, then ran them aground to steal their possessions and rape their women. This horrible situation was a severe blow to Loyalist morale and sowed seeds of resentment that would show itself later when the tables were turned.
At the time Canada was only being defended by a handful of British and a few hundred Canadian militia, but their commander Sir Guy Carleton aided by Loyalist intelligence and Canada's natural elements, managed to hold out until the arrival of 3 British supply ships which enabled him to defeat the rebels at The Battle of Quebec City , then drive them out of Canada completely.