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Advantages and Disadvantages of Fighting in the Revolution. How did the sides line up?. American Advantages. Washington was a great leader; Belief in the necessity and purpose of the revolution;

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american advantages
American Advantages
  • Washington was a great leader;
  • Belief in the necessity and purpose of the revolution;
  • The Continental Army was largely composed of citizen-soldiers, including local militia who knew the terrain and were skilled at hit-and-run tactics;
  • Spy system set up throughout the colonies;
  • They were defending their homes – more personal investment!
british advantages
British Advantages
  • Military strength:
    • A large well-trained army (authorization for 55000, including 30000 Germany mercenaries. 32000 arrived at New York in August 1776),
  • Sufficient funds for war, which provided sufficient supplies (which the navy kept coming);
  • loyalists (historians estimate that perhaps as much as one-third of the colonial population remained loyal to England).
american disadvantages
American Disadvantages
  • Fewer soldiers;
  • The army was comprised of volunteers – it wasn’t mandatory to fight on the patriot side;
  • Lack of supplies;
  • Financial problems – no money to fund a big war;
  • Congress had little power to support the military – no unification among states to commit to provide men to fight;
  • BIGGEST PROBLEM: DESERTION – there was no way to force the men to keep fighting – they could leave whenever they wanted to.
british disadvantages
British Disadvantages
  • The war was unpopular in Britain – little support from home;
  • British soldiers were fighting for something they didn’t understand or support;
  • Fighting was far from home;
  • To win, they needed to control a large territory (this would require a lot of men);
  • There were troubles in other parts of the British Empire that stretched the troops thin;
  • The soldiers were fighting on territory far from home (didn’t have to defend their homes, families, etc.);
  • BIGGEST PROBLEM: THEY DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO RESPOND TO THE AMERICAN WAR TACTICS (HIT-AND-RUN)
how did they fight the british
HOW DID THEY FIGHT?The British
  • Used traditional tactics developed over many years of battle against the French. 
  • Lines of bright Redcoats would march into battle with drums beating, giving the troops courage and intimidating the enemy. 
  • Then the artillery would "loosen up" the enemy lines and the infantry would advance within firing range, in tight formation, stand and fire, line after line, as each line reloaded.  (It took about 30 seconds to reload and fire an 18th century army musket... a complicated three-step process: insert powder, insert ball, ram it down, open a firing charge and insert it, aim, cock, and fire). 
  • The muskets were not especially accurate, but the infantry lines made up for that with the heavy volume of fire. 
    • As men fell, the lines would begin to break, and often the enemy [in this case, the Americans] would turn tail and run. 
  • Then the Redcoats would charge with bayonets. 
  • The cavalry was mostly used for reconnoitring (riding around to check things out) but also they would charge with sabres and pistols in battle, typically in a flanking (side) manoeuvre or to follow up an infantry advance. 
how did they fight the americans
HOW DID THEY FIGHT?The Americans
  • Most American officers with any formal military training and experience also were inclined to use traditional European tactics, but they tended to be more creative and flexible, having lived and fought in the wilder territory of the western frontier. 
  • Using muskets with longer, rifled (grooved) barrels, American "riflemen" could pick off Redcoats from a much longer distance than the British could return fire. 
  • Pennsylvania riflemen were famous for long-range sniping from behind protective walls and trees.  Most of the fighting, however, was done in open fields, face to face.
the british strategy offensive
The British Strategy - OFFENSIVE
  • The British commander in chief, General Sir William Howe’s, mission was to end the rebellion and restore the American colonies to their allegiance. They had various strategic options to achieve this end:
  • A blockade,
    • but the Atlantic coastline of North America was over 3,000 miles long and this was impractical even for the world's largest navy. 
  • Some British leaders recommended the German strategy of Shrecklichneit--the deliberate use of extreme violence and terror--to break the will of the Americans to resist. 
    • Howe believed this strategy was unlawful, inhumane and also ineffective. 
    • General Howe ordered the execution of soldiers who attacked civilians and burned private property (although that did not prevent it). 
  • A third strategy, advocated by Howe's second in command, General Henry Clinton, was to relentlessly seek out and destroy the rebel army. 
    • Howe rejected this, believing that the American army was too elusive; militia would melt into the civilian population, and chasing them would only make his forces vulnerable to piecemeal destruction. 
  • A fourth strategy appealed to Howe: sort of a “spreading-ink-stain”strategy. 
    • The idea was to seize small strategic areas (such as New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston) as bases of control and then expand them until the rebellion came to an end. 
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Howe decided to

    • Blockade American ports along the east coast
    • take control of major corridors and river lines, such as the Hudson River, to divide and conquer the colonies. 
    • encourage Loyalist Americans, whom he believed greatly outnumbered the insurgents , to undermine the revolution from within (possibly his biggest mistake was overestimating the size and strength of American Loyalists)
    • Use the army to divide the northern and southern colonies to force their surrender.
  • The main British plan, in short, was to capture major ports and cities and thereby crush American resistance. 
  • For the plan to succeed, the army needed to be successful.
the american strategy defensive
The American Strategy - DEFENSIVE
  • Washington’s strategy proved to be key to keeping his military fighting and ultimately winning the revolution.
    • Maintain a strong Continental army and navy and attack whenever an opportunity presents itself, while offering no opening to the enemy and avoiding a major battle where you're outnumbered and vulnerable to being trapped and destroyed;
    • never hesitate to retreat when necessary, and
    • use a few small, highly mobile forces to confuse, distract and wear down the enemy through attrition. 
  • The key was to keep the fight going until the British lost the will to fight and recognize American independence, not to win major battles.