BRITISH ADVANTAGE - American Institute for History
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THE AMERICAN WAR OF INDEPENDENCE, 1775-83 (Right) The 2nd South Carolina Regiment holds Fort Moultrie in the face of a British naval attack on Charleston, South Carolina, June 28, 1776.
THE AMERICAN WAR OF INDEPENDENCE: THE THEATER OF WAR
A BRITISH SHOW OF FORCE, 1774-75 In 1774, the British attempted to intimidate malcontents in Massachusetts by placing the colony under martial law and stationing 4,000 Redcoats in Boston. The British garrison included these light infantry officers from the 4th Regiment of Foot (left) and the 10th Regiment of Foot (right).
A TAX PROTEST TURNS TO REBELLION Massachusetts militia and British light infantry exchange shots on Lexington Green at dawn, April 19, 1775.
THE AMERICAN WAR OF INDEPENDENCE: THE THEATER OF WAR
A REBELLION TURNS INTO A WAR FOR INDEPENDENCE In July 1776, the Second Continental Congress (below) adopted a declaration that proclaimed the Thirteen Colonies were now free and independent states. (Right) The Declaration of Independence is read to an enthusiastic crowd in a colonial city.
BRITISH ADVANTAGE: THE ROYAL NAVY The British Navy began the Revolutionary War with 270 warships, including many ships of the line (18th century battleships), like the 104-gun HMS Victory.
BRITISH ADVANTAGE: THE ROYAL NAVY (Below) The gun deck on the HMS Victory. (Right) A British gun crew in action. Nothing that the Patriots could put to sea could match the firepower of a British ship of the line. Consequently, the Continental Navy had to resort to commerce raiding rather than challenge the Royal Navy for control of the seas.
BRITISH ADVANTAGE: THE ROYAL NAVY Naval supremacy allowed the British to land their troops anywhere along the American coast at will, while the Patriots, forced to rely on America’s inadequate road network, could not move Continental forces fast enough to check these invasions.
BRITISH ADVANTAGE: THE ROYAL NAVY The long American coastline was vulnerable to British amphibious operations.
BRITISH HANDICAP: A DIVIDED POPULACE • The unpopularity of the War of Independence at home inhibited the British Army’s recruiting efforts. • Consequently, the British hired 30,000 troops from various German princes to serve in North America. • The Patriots labeled these “Hessians” as barbarous mercenaries, and their use turned many colonists against the British cause. • The soldier at right is a private from the Hesse Hanau Regiment Erbprinz, circa 1777.
BRITISH ERROR: MISHANDLING THE LOYALISTS Two British officers who overcame their anti-American prejudices and formed two highly efficient Loyalist military units were Lieutenant Colonel John Graves Simcoe of the Queen’s Rangers (left) and Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton of the British Legion (right).
BRITISH ERROR: MISHANDLING THE LOYALISTS Contemporary views of personnel from the Queen’s Rangers. Under John Graves Simcoe, these green-garbed troops delighted in setting ambushes for their Rebel foes. The British Army erred in not raising as many Loyalist units as it could when the Revolution started.
BRITISH ERROR: MISHANDLING THE LOYALISTS • A rifleman of the Queen’s Rangers. The Patriots were not the only ones to employ these long-range weapons to harass their enemies. • The Queen’s Rangers was one of the few Loyalist units that the British Army allowed to engage in extensive combat. • Most other Loyalist units were consigned to garrison duty, which made them feel mistrusted and sapped their morale.
BRITISH HANDICAP: GEOGRAPHY -AMERICA’S SIZE AND DEMOGRAPHICS This map of the Thirteen Colonies shows the distribution of America’s population in 1775. A rural people, the colonists were able to continue resistance even after the British seized some of their most important cities.
BRITISH HANDICAP: FRENCH INTERVENTION Yearning for revenge for previous defeats, France funneled military aid to the Patriots beginning early in the Revolution. With the Patriot victory at Saratoga, the ministers of King Louis XVI (left) decided France should enter the war as an ally of the young United States and send French regulars (right) to fight in North America.
BRITISH ERROR: DIVIDED COMMAND In 1777, General William Howe (left) decided to capture Philadelphia, rather than cooperate with General John Burgoyne (right), who was leading a British army south from Canada along the Hudson River. Consequently, the Patriots were able to trap Burgoyne at Saratoga and compel his surrender.
BRITISH ERROR: DIVIDED COMMAND General Sir Henry Clinton (left) tried to micro-manage the campaigns that Lord Charles Cornwallis (right) conducted in Virginia in 1781. Eventually, Clinton ordered Cornwallis, who was conducting effective mobile operations, to take refuge at Yorktown, where the latter was trapped by a French fleet and FrancoAmerican army.
BRITISH ADVANTAGE: A STANDING ARMY The British started the Revolution with a small but well-trained regular army. British Redcoats were the fastest musketmen in Europe, able to fire three to four shots in a minute.
BRITISH ADVANTAGE: A STANDING ARMY • From the start of the Revolution to the end, Great Britain’s superbly disciplined infantry took pride in its willingness to close with the enemy with the bayonet. • Washington’s Continentals did not master the bayonet until they came under the tutelage of Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-78.
• WASHINGTON’S CONTINETALS, 1781: AN IDEALIZED VIEW • A recent U.S. Army print showing General George Washington’s 1779 uniform regulations. A lieutenant from New York or New Jersey (foreground) strides past an artilleryman. Infantry from New England stand in the left background, and infantry from Pennsylvania, Maryland, or Virginia stand to the right.
• WASHINGTON’S CONTINENTALS, 1783: AN IDEALIZED VIEW • General George Washington bestows the newly created “Badge of Merit” on a New England infantryman. A light dragoon from New England (at right) proudly wears the same award. • In the background are musicians from a regiment from New York or New Jersey.
WASHINGTON’S CONTINENTALS: THE REALITY
As seen in this view of the Battle of Monmouth, New Jersey, June 28, 1778, Washington’s regulars often wore fringed hunting shirts and civilian garments in place of European-style uniforms.
WASHINGTON’S CONTINENTALS: THE REALITY An eyewitness sketch by a French officer who fought at Yorktown shows (left to right) a black private of the Rhode Island Regiment, a white soldier from an unidentified regiment, a rifleman in his fringed hunting shirt, and an artilleryman.
CONTINENTAL UNIFORMS, 1777-80 (Left to right) Private, 2nd South Carolina Regiment, 1777-80; Private, 5th Pennsylvania Regiment, 1780; Sergeant, 2nd Connecticut Regiment, 1777; Private, George Rogers Clark’s Illinois Regiment, 1780
CONTINENTAL ELITES: RIFLEMEN AND LIGHT INFANTRY (Left to right) Private, Morgan’s Rifle Corps, 1777; Private, Light Infantry Company, 2nd Virginia Regiment, 1779; Sergeant, Corps of Light Infantry (Lafayette’s Light Division), 1781
A RESPECTABLE ARMY AT LAST Continental light infantry and pioneers storm a British redoubt at Yorktown, October 14, 1781.
After the Valley Forge encampment, 1777-78, Washington’s Continentals took pride in their ability to successfully engage their foes with the bayonet.
PATRIOT MILITIA IN ACTION: LEXINGTON GREEN, APRIL 19, 1775 Contrary to this National Guard print, the Lexington militia broke and fled at the first British volley.
PATRIOT MILITIA IN ACTION: BREED’S HILL, JUNE 17, 1775 Fighting from behind stout field works, New England militiamen stood their ground and held off two British assaults, retreating before a third only after their ammunition gave out.
PATRIOT MILITIA IN ACTION: BREED’S HILL Poorly trained and often unequipped with bayonets, militiamen could rarely hold their own against British regulars at close quarters.
GENERAL GEORGE WASHINGTON: THE CONTINENTAL ARMY’S INDISPENSABLE COMMANDER-INCHIEF, 1775-83 Washington is seen here in his customary blue and buff uniform shortly after taking command of the Continental Army outside of Boston in July 1775. To the left stands an aid in a brown coat and to the right stands Major General Artemas Ward, former commander of the New England Army.
GEORGE WASHINGTON: A PORTRAIT FROM LIFE This 1780 portrait by John Trumbull shows Washington in his prime as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. The African American at right is William Lee, Washington’s slave, who served as his servant faithful companion throughout the war.
A BRITISH HOST DESCENDS ON NEW YORK Some of the officers and men of the huge army of 32,000 Redcoats and Hessians that General William Howe assembled to take New York in the summer of 1776.
DISASTER ON LONG ISLAND, AUGUST 27, 1776 The Delaware Regiment, one of the few Continental units to give a good account of itself in the New York Campaign, attempts to delay the advancing Redcoats and Hessians in the battle that began four months of defeat and retreat for George Washington’s Main Army.
A DRAMATIC CHANGE IN STRATEGY Thwarted in his efforts to save New York City from the British, Washington adopted a strategy of harassment that would make it impossible for his opponents to disperse their troops sufficiently to control the American countryside.
WASHINGTON’S TARGETS AT TRENTON (Left) A soldiers of the Grenadier Regiment Rall and a fusilier from the Regiment von Lossberg. (Below) Feld Jaegers, elite Hessian riflemen.
WASHINGTON CROSSES THE DELAWARE, DECEMBER 25-26, 1776 Emanuel Leutze’s 19th century painting is not very accurate, but it certainly captures the indomitable spirit that George Washington displayed during the campaign.
TRENTON, DECEMBER 26, 1776 General George Washington and his ragged Continentals overrun a Hessian gun.
TRENTON, NEW JERSEY, DECEMBER 26, 1776 Captain Alexander Hamilton’s Company of New York Artillery fires down a street crowded with confused Hessians during General George Washington’s surprise attack.
PATRIOT MILITIA IN ACTION: BENNINGTON, AUGUST 17, 1777 With stealth, deceit, and raw courage, 2,000 New England militia overran a foraging expedition of 800 Hessians, Redcoats, Loyalists, and Indians in a battle that helped turn the tide in the decisive Saratoga Campaign.
VICTORY AT SARATOGA Continental infantry and riflemen maul the British at the Battle of Freeman’s Farm, October 7, 1777. The Continentals succeeded in this campaign because of the support they received from Patriot militia.
MAKING THE BEST USE OF THE PATRIOT MILITIA: THREE BATTLES IN THE SOUTH, 178081
THE OPPOSING COMMANDERS AT CAMDEN (Left) Lieutenant General Lord Charles Cornwallis. (Right) Major General Horatio Gates.
BRITISH LIGHT INFANTRYMAN, 1777-81 By 1777, British troops in America had discarded the spit and polish fashions of the European parade ground and adapted both their clothing and their tactics to conditions in North America.
BRITISH ARMY COMBAT DRESS, 1776-83 •
A contemporary portrait of Lieutenant Thomas Dowdeswell, 1st Regiment of Foot Guards, who served in the Thirteen Colonies from the summer of 1776 until July 1777. Dowdeswell’s coat is stripped of the extravagant gold lace prescribed for officers of his regiment, and he trusts to a fusil (musket) to protect himself in North America’s wooded terrain rather than the British line officer’s traditional spontoon (short pike) and sword.
• MAJOR GENERAL NATHANAEL GREENE • Washington’s most trusted lieutenant. • Took command of the Southern Department following the Camden disaster. • A poor tactician, but a brilliant and resilient strategist
THE OPPOSING COMMANDERS AT COWPENS (Left) Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, young, aggressive, and impulsive. (Below) Brigadier General Daniel Morgan in the frontier uniform he wore commanding Continental riflemen earlier in the war.
COWPENS, JANUARY 17, 1781 (Left) A map of the battlefield. (Below) A company officer from a British fusilier regiment, like Tarleton’s 7th Regiment of Foot.
TARLETON PREPARES FOR THE KILL Tarleton’s troops reached the Cowpens battlefield hungry and exhausted, but they were confident of victory. (Below) Highlanders of the 71st Regiment of Foot deployed for battle.
COWPENS, JANUARY 17, 1781 The 3rd Continental Light Dragoons and militia cavalrymen rout the British 17th Light Dragoons and Loyalist troopers of the British Legion.
COWPENS, JANUARY 17, 1781 Morgan’s counterattacking militia overrun the 71st Fraser’s Highlanders on Tarleton’s left flank. Last-minute militia reinforcements probably raised Morgan’s numbers closer to 2,000, a fact he concealed for propaganda purposes to increase the impact of his victory.
COWPENS, JANUARY 17, 1781 Colonel John Eager Howard’s Maryland Continentals overrun Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton’s 7th Regiment of Foot.
GUILFORD COURTHOUSE, MARCH 15, 1781 Major General Nathanael Greene deploys the North Carolina militia in the first of his three lines.
GUILFORD COURTHOUSE, MARCH 15, 1781 Lieutenant General Lord Charles Cornwallis commits his outnumbered army against Greene’s first line.
GUILFORD COURTHOUSE, MARCH 15, 1781
Maryland Continentals in Greene’s third line check advancing British infantry while the 3rd Continental Light Dragoons counterattack.
BAYONET TO BAYONET AT GUILFORD COURTHOUSE, MARCH 15, 1781 Maryland Continentals and a crack battalion of British Foot Guards engage in a savage hand-to-hand melee that marked the climax in the fight along Greene’s third line. Although the Redcoats were beaten back, Greene withdrew his troops from the field, leaving Cornwallis to claim an empty victory.
BAYONET TO BAYONET
British Foot Guards and Maryland Continentals melee in the final phase of the Battle of Guilford Court House.
VICTORY AT YORKTOWN This 1784 Charles Willson Peale portrait captures Washington at the scene of his greatest triumph – the siege that broke the British will to continue the war against American independence. In the background, soldiers of the combined FrancoAmerican army parade with their colors – the Stars and Stripes of the young United States and the white banner with golden fleur-de-lis of Bourbon France.
THE VITAL IMPORTANCE OF FRENCH AID It took the assistance of a French army under the Comte de Rochambeau (left) and a French fleet to allow George Washington to trap Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown.