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Revolution, Independence, and Upheaval in American Society, 1776 - 1783. The American Revolution, and the consequences of the war. The Shot Heard ‘round the World. http:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6ikO6LMxF4.
From the onset of the Revolutionary War, there was little or no reason for optimism in the Continental Army. Here’s why:
Meanwhile, Americans were at a tremendous disadvantage in terms of organization.
The Continental Army had little money.
Americans distrusted standing armies.
There were almost no trained soldiers.
The equipment the soldiers carried was poor, and there were few factories or markets to make or procure more.American Circumstances
Geography proved to be enormously important in this war, and Americans knew the lay of the land. This allowed for strategic victories both in small scale guerrilla style skirmishes and in larger conflicts – like Saratoga, or Yorktown.
The Americans were a vast, rural society, and in many instances, rural populations were the most patriotic. This meant that winning New York, Philadelphia, or other cities was not enough.
Allies: France, Spain, and Holland would all support the Americans when war erupted.Advantages of the Colonists, 1775
The Battle of Concord was more substantial. The arsenal there had been completely emptied by the minutemen, who were staged at the North Bridge – the entry into the town. During this battle, the Continental Army used guerrilla tactics and were largely successful at repelling the British invasion, driving the soldiers out of the region and back to Boston, and giving chase against a retreating British foe.The Battles of Lexington and Concord
For English General Thomas Gage, the challenge was to defend the city – which was now flooded with loyalists seeking protection – without escalating the conflict any more. He realized the armed militia were gathering outside the city, but was – by necessity – forced to equivocate and proceed with caution.An undeclared War for england
After the militia had ignored Thomas Gage’s order to disarm and disperse, he placed the responsibility of routing the men out of the high ground on fellow officer William Howe. What resulted was bloodshed on a scale never seen in New England. Howe’s men carried out a full frontal assault on an entrenched position on the high ground, which resulted in carnage. Nevertheless, it proved victorious. The Continental Army did not have the resources or ammunition to maintain their position; hence, after inflicting horrifying injury upon their enemy, the men retreated. The Battle of Bunker Hill, it has not been forgotten by historians, was actually fought on Breed’s Hill.
The historian Charles Royster, in his work, A Revolutionary People at War: The Continental Army & American Character reveals the extent of corruption and war profiteering during the War for Independence:
“Soldiers probably suffered much more directly from the graft of contractors or suppliers… Americans repeatedly sold defective food, clothing, gunpowder, and other supplies to their own army. Wagoners drained the brine from barrels of pickled meat to lighten their loads, then charged at the full weight for shipping spoiled meat; meat-packers drained the brine and replaced it with water – which kept up the weight but ruined the meat; barrels of flour arrived at camp with the flour in the middle scooped out; cobblers used odd scraps to make shoes that looked good when new but quickly fell apart; the army received blankets that, when opened, revealed that each blanket was only a fraction of the proper size; gunsmiths cheated the government when hired to repair arms; large quantities of gunpowder were “bad and not to be depended on.”Graft and Corruption in The American Revolution
If 1777 seems awfully early in the conflict for a turning point victory, it is no less surprising that the mortal injury was self-inflicted. It was the poor decision-making of General John Burgoyne which brought the English to this crossroads, however, with an ambitious plan that was poorly researched, even more poorly communicated, and recklessly carried out in territory which was as unforgiving as it was unknown to the British.
Burgoyne had underestimated the terrain – and over packed; he was traveling luxuriously.
The Native American allies which Barry St. Leger had been counting on failed to emerge.
General Howe had left New York City and was completely unaware of Burgoyne’s predicament.Saratoga: the turning Point
Once France entered the war on the side of the American colonists, Henry Clinton felt unsafe in Philadelphia. The city was too easy to blockade, at the end of the Delaware Bay. He hastily fled for New York City. Although the major cities in the North were under British control, very little else was under British rule; the Northern region of the colonies remained in a stalemate.
Meanwhile, in the conflicts between the Continental Army and the British, Americans led by Horatio Gates – the hero of Saratoga – had suffered crushing defeats, the worst of which was at Camden, South Carolina. Gates would be replaced by the younger and more energetic Nathanael Green. Although Green’s Army could not defeat the larger and better trained men of Lord Charles Cornwallis, they were determined to lead him on a merry chase before retreating. Perhaps his most important contribution was to instill greater discipline in his own men, who had been guilty of much plunder and mistreatment of locals. Green attempted to make reparations and even went so far as to propose pardons for loyalists and create alliances with local tribes. Gift-giving schemes won over all but the Creeks. Green would then devoted himself to a strategy of self-preservation. He would make Cornwallis chase his army from sunup to sundown.
Green dispersed several of the groups at his command to harass the English lines and create disorder. At the battle of Cowpens, American riflemen under the command of Daniel Morgan stood their ground against an oncoming enemy attack in a meadow in South Carolina, and although largely outnumbered, they repulsed the British. So frustrated was Cornwallis after this disheartening loss, that he decided to launch an offensive to capture Nathanael Green’s Army – but he would have to catch them first. And Green and his army would prove to be elusive.
The Battle of Guilford Courthouse ensued in the spring of 1781, when Cornwallis and his army finally caught up with Nathanael Green’s men and forced them to fight. The conflict was bloody and both sides would suffer staggering loses. The Americans would escape and retreat yet again, though, leaving Cornwallis disgusted. Ultimately, he and his men would head north, hoping for better luck in Virginia. There, luck would not improve.
As Lord Cornwallis was tracking northwards, in pursuit of Nathanael Green’s men, a treasonous scandal was coming to light in the North. Benedict Arnold, hero of the Battle of Saratoga and one of the key figures in procuring the guns of Ticonderoga at the outset of the war, was discovered consorting with the enemy – attempting to give the keys to the fort at West Point to the British. Although the plot was discovered and put to a halt, the blow to morale which resulted from the discovery of treachery from one of the most revered leaders of the cause was painful. His name is now associated the worst treason.
General Rochambeau and George Washington did not see eye to eye regarding strategy as the war came to its conclusion in the 1780 – 1781. Indeed, Washington believed that an assault on New York City – a stronghold of the loyalists and Great Britain’s army and naval strength – was a high priority. Rochambeau, however, though Washington’s plan superfluous, and believed that following Washington’s command would be a bit like the tail wagging the dog. He had already sent orders to the French naval commander Admiral De Grasse to make haste for the Chesapeake – for the combined force would attempt to corner and siege Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown.
The Continental Army, led by Washington – along with French soldiers under the command of Rochambeau, cornered Cornwallis’s men on the peninsula near Yorktown. With Admiral de Grasse en route to the Chesapeake, the army would surely be cornered and a siege would result in his eventual surrender. Although Henry Clinton attempted to intercept the French Navy before they reached the Chesapeake, his action was too late, and siege began in earnest in the summer. The action was a who’s – who of the Revolutionary War, with Washington, Rochambeau, Lafayette, Anthony Wayne and Baron von Steuben all playing important roles in the maneuvers. Meanwhile, aiding Cornwallis was the traitor Benedict Arnold. The outcome, however, was predictable enough. Cornwallis surrendered October 19, 1781. Although this would be the last major conflict point during the Revolutionary War, there were many smaller scale events to follow, and major diplomatic missions.
Fighting continued between bands of Loyalists and Patriots – less organized units of men who fell upon each other in the backcountry – particularly in the South.
Bloody warfare continued on the Frontier, often involving Native American tribes with varying degrees of interest in the outcome of the larger conflict. British military outposts and forts in the West would be occupied all the way through the War of 1812…
The British continued to occupy most of the major cities in the American colonies: Charleston, New York, Savannah, and to a lesser degree Philadelphia.
The Parliament, however, passed legislation to stop funding the Revolutionary War efforts in March of 1782, effectively calling a cease-fire from afar.In the Aftermath of yorktown
Benjamin Franklin, the elder statesman of the new American Republic; John Adams the patriotic if prudish New Englander, and John Jay, the aristocratic New Yorker, were assigned with the task of negotiating the Treaty of Paris.
The Congress gave the men the power to negotiate, but insisted that they tie themselves and their allegiance to France – instructions which were dismissed out of hand by all three men.
They insisted upon the pre-condition that the United States would be treated as an independent nation from the beginning of the negotiations.Negotiating the Treaty of Paris, 1783
All English possessions from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River was ceded – the Northern boundaries approximately the same as the present borders with Canada, the Southern boundaries at Florida.
Americans were granted fishing rights off the coast of Newfoundland.
The British agreed to evacuate all forts in the Northwest Territory – today’s Ohio River Valley. (They did not.)
Americans promised to pay on their debts to England and to restore the property of the Loyalists who had fled the United States or had their belongings seized. (They did not.)Terms of the Treaty of paris, 1783