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Evolution of Warfare. The American Revolution 1775-1783 MOI. Learning Objectives. Contrast/compare the expressions “strategy of attrition” and “partisan warfare,” and apply them to the American Revolution

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Evolution of warfare

Evolution of Warfare

The American Revolution



Learning objectives
Learning Objectives

  • Contrast/compare the expressions “strategy of attrition” and “partisan warfare,” and apply them to the American Revolution

  • Discuss British and American strategy and objectives, and note how they changed during the course of the American Revolution

  • Contrast the Continental Army with the professional armies of the 18th century and show how this difference dictated Washington’s strategy

  • Explain how French intervention tipped the balance in favor of America in the War for Independence


  • Two causes

    • Taxation

    • Quartering of troops to defend against Indian forays after expulsion of French

      • British felt colonists should pay

      • Acts of Trade & Navigation ignored(smuggling)

      • Stamp Act, Revenue Act, Quartering Act

      • “No Taxation, without Representation!”


  • Real causes

    • Colonists had intellectual differences with British government (king vs. parliament)

    • Colonists had spirit of self-independence brought about by frontier life

    • Colonists believed in democratic form of government vice oligarchy

Other factors
Other factors

  • Colonist goals distinct from mother country

  • British victory in French/Indian War freed colonists of need for protection from French

  • 1763 - British move to tighten imperial control (station 10,000 soldiers along American frontier @ colonist expense)

Definition of terms
Definition of Terms

  • Attrition - gradual weakening

  • Partisan - “irregular” troops

  • Guerilla warfare - “irregular” troops fighting small-scale, limited actions against larger orthodox military forces

Application of terms
Application of Terms

  • Strategy of Attrition - adopted by Washington due to economy

    • long lines of communication

    • English enemies in Europe (need to protect homeland)

    • popular support in England for colonies (prospect of long war might cause England to abandon cause)

  • Down side - division in colonies

Application of terms1
Application of Terms

  • Partisan Warfare

    • local militias supported nucleus of continental soldiers

    • tactics well suited to means and background (Cowpens is classic example)

    • Irregular troops- citizen soldiers

American strategy and objectives
American Strategyand Objectives

  • Population - 1/3 rebel, 1/3 loyalist, 1/3 indifferent.

  • Loyalists provided more support to England than rebels provided to Continental Army

  • Two wars - foreign war against major European power & civil war

  • Strategic defensive for most of war

Lexington bunker hill
Lexington & Bunker Hill

  • Lexington gave impetus to siege of Boston & battle of Bunker Hill

  • Bunker Hill affected military policy:

    • convinced that regular military was unnecessary

    • Gen Howe henceforth failed to press victories

    • The battle served to prove to the American people that the British Army was not invincible. It became a symbol of national pride and a rally point of resistance against British rule.

Concord and lexington
Concord and Lexington

  • Concord

    • Col Barrett on the North Bridge

    • 3 companies of minutemen and one alarm company under Prescott

  • British opened fire on the approaching rebels

    • British won initial battle but a 16 mile gauntlet was formed by militia

    • Broke the British discipline

    • Ruthless on both sides

  • Losses: British: 273 Rebels: 93


  • Concord and Lexington Apr 1775

    • Paul Revere “One if by land, two if by sea”

    • Left at 2200 at night

  • Lexington

    • Rebels tried to leave and were fired upon, did not lay down weapons

    • Capt Jonas Parker and 7 others killed

    • One British soldier wounded


  • Entire population was under arms and fought the British (Lord Percy) back to Boston

    • British lost 259 men

  • Militia Proved its value

    • Result was that Gage was not surrounded on Boston

    • Continental Congress formed the “Army of the United Colonies under Washington

    • Benedict Arnold Emerged

  • Battles2

    • Bunker Hill

      • British – Gage wanted the rebels off the hill (Bunker and Breeds)

      • Ordered Howe to take Bunker Hill

      • Howe attacked Breed’s hill twice without success and finally a third time and was successful (rebels out of ammo)

    • Cost: British 1,054 Rebels 441

      • Very heavy % for both

    General washington
    General Washington

    • After Bunker Hill he was forced to change to more Fabian Tactics by avoiding battle whenever he could.


    • Saratoga Campaign

      • Ticonderoga

        • LtCol St. Clair 2500 plus 900 militia

        • Burgoyne for the British with a force of British, Germans and Jagers

        • British landed and occupied the high ground

        • St Clair withdrew to Saratoga


    • Saratoga Campaign

      • 1st Battle 19 Sept 77

      • Gates holds strong but with German reinforcements Burgoyne defeats him

      • 2nd Battle 7 Oct 77

      • Arnold rallies the Americans to victory

      • Burgoyne surrenders on 17 Oct 77


    • Turning point in revolution

    • British now held only N.Y. City, Part of R.I., & Philadelphia

    • France recognized U.S. & signed treaty of alliance (1778)

    • France & colonies now more aggressive

    Southern campaign
    Southern Campaign

    • Gen Greene - war of maneuver against Cornwallis

      • marched and counter-marched against main armies

      • used partisan bands under Lee, Pickens, Sumter, & Marion to harass flanks, cut off supplies, attack posts & put down loyalist aid

    Southern campaign1
    Southern Campaign

    • Intentionally violated principle of mass:

      • Divided forces could live off land

      • More rallying points for local militia

      • Tempted Cornwallis to split his force

      • Sacrificed mass for maneuver

    • Combination of regular and Guerilla warfare speedily reduced British occupation

    British strategy and objectives
    British Strategyand Objectives

    • British Ministry Plan:

      • Occupy territory to break up union of patriots

      • Blockade coast to prevent

        re-supply from sea

      • Destroy organized armies

      • Suppress Guerilla warfare

    British strategy and objectives1
    British Strategy and Objectives

    • Plan actually carried out:

      • Make N.Y. City headquarters (occupy)

      • Secure from NYC to Hudson Valley to Canada

      • Cut off New England - hotbed of sedition and source of supplies, ideas, encouragement & reinforcements

    • Actually only held one port (Newport) in New England

    British strategy and objectives2
    British Strategyand Objectives

    • South of NY the line was Chesapeake Bay

    • Strong positions in Maryland and Virginia.

    • Attempt to isolate the middle from the south and prevent communication.

    • Controlling the south: Occupy Charleston and 2 or 3 points along the Santee River in SC.

    British strategy and objectives3
    British Strategyand Objectives

    • Advantage: Royal Navy - freedom of maneuver along coastal strip

    • Disadvantage: no critical point to maneuver against along coast, unable to physically control all the territory

    British strategy and objectives4
    British Strategyand Objectives

    • Economic warfare

      • Blockade

      • Counterfeiting

        • ruining value of continental money

        • making own purchases with Gold

    British force
    British Force

    • Classic 18th century European Army

      • Linear tactics

      • Well-trained soldiers

    • Loyalty & dedication suspect in England

      • Sympathy for colonists

      • Hessians (mercenaries) employed

    American force
    American Force

    • Most forces @ home for local defense - few forces for continental army

    • Prior to von Steuben - little discipline

      • Steuben served under Frederick

      • Made I.G. of Washington’s Army

      • Streamlined musket loading & uniformity

      • Standardized training - speed and tactics

      • Discipline instilled

    American force1
    American Force

    • Used rifle more than British

      • Most useful in Guerilla actions

      • Of great value in wooded areas

      • slow rate of fire

      • lack of bayonet

      • inferior to musket for open-field fighting


    • Cowpens 1/17/81

      • Great American Victory

      • Turning Point? Changed the psychology of the war

      • Morgan against Tarleton

    • Americans

      • Camped at Cowpens between two small hill tops

      • Motivated by Morgan at night by the campfires

    American force2
    American Force

    • Cowpens (Jan, 1781)

      • Numerically equal forces, but Americans were 3/4 militia

      • Continental infantry on hill, leaving flanks open

      • Militia riflemen in front

        • 1st line fires two volleys, falls back

        • combined line fires until British presses

        • Then fall back to rear & become reserve


    • British

      • Attacked head on with Dragoons (British Calvary) on the flanks and artillery in the center

      • Thought it would be an easy victory and that the Americans would flee quickly.


    • Americans

      • Anticipated Tarleton’s tactics

      • Formed in three lines

        • Sharpshooters out front behind trees

        • Andrew Pickens Militia 150 yds back

          • Two volleys and fall back

        • Howard’s Continentals 150 yds back


    • Cowpens: Actions in the field

      • Sharpshooters picked off many British Officers and Dragoons

        • Dragoons retreated and the sharpshooter fell back to the 2nd line

        • 2nd line got off two volleys and fell back to the 3rd line but were caught by a second charge of the Dragoons

        • William Washington’s Patriot Cavalry came out of nowhere to join the battle and routed the British Dragoons


    • Cowpens: Actions in the field

      • Infantry on both sides continued to fire volley after volley

      • British advanced at a trot

      • Morgan rallied the Americans

      • British 71st Highlanders came from the reserve and charged the American line

      • Howard on the right flank ordered his units to face slightly right and face the charge.

        • Order was confused as to retreat.

        • Americans started falling back


    • Cowpens: Actions in the field

      • Morgan confronted Howard and turned the retreating forces around.

      • The British thought the Americans were in retreat and had broken ranks to pursue.

      • The Americans turned and delivered devastating volleys into the British forces.

      • American conducted a fierce bayonet charge and broke the British lines.

      • American forces then conducted a double envelopment of the British

      • British Infantry surrendered


    • Cowpens: Actions in the field

      • Tarleton fled and dueled William Washington.

      • Made it to Cornwalis’ camp to tell him of the news

    • 1 hour battle

    • 110 KIA, 200 WIA 500 POW for the British

    • 12 KIA, 60 WIA for the Americans

    Impact of french
    Impact of French

    • French anxious to regain international position

    • Helped in three other significant ways:

      • Loans

      • Use of French ports for American privateers

      • Protected American vessels near French Waters

    Judging english failure
    Judging English Failure

    • Initial plan could have worked

      • Didn’t act with resolution hoping for conciliatory measures

      • Adequate forces never provided

    • British didn’t use strategic initiative to advantage

    • No Unity of Command

    • No defined objective

    • Lord Germain directed to much from England:

      • Lacked timeliness, knowledge and may have been incompetent


    “well regulated” militia

    • Trained and organized under a uniform system in all states and could be called into national service

  • balanced rights with obligated military service

  • impact of “peoples army” fighting for cause vice professional army

  • new concept of total war for total victory (conscription/draft)

  • Impact1

    • Changed tactics

      • Rifle

        • increased range

        • improved accuracy

        • made linear tactics difficult

      • British adopted American tactics

        • skirmishes

        • cover

        • concealment

    Weapons of the war
    Weapons of the War


    Flintlock musket and pistol

    Weapons of the war1
    Weapons of the War

    • Rifles were used more in the south and during guerilla type operations for accuracy.

    • Took too long to reload for the battle field.

    • Could not use bayonet

    American long Rifle

    Weapons of the war2
    Weapons of the War

    • Musket balls were undersized for quick reloading

    • Bayonets were mounted on them

    • Paper cartridges

    • NO sights

    • Used volleys to compensate for the inaccurate muskets

    • French provided most of them

    Weapons of the war3
    Weapons of the War


    Weapons of the war4
    Weapons of the War

    • Cannons were smoothbore muzzle loaded

    • 3, 4, 6 pounders mounted on wooded carriages

    • Up to 800 yds. range

    Weapons of the war5
    Weapons of the War



    • Political, social, economic aspects of American Revolution

    • Weapons development during this period

    • Difference between attrition and partisan warfare.


    • Mass

    • Objective

    • Offensive

    • Surprise

    • Economy of Force

    • Maneuver

    • Unity of Command

    • Security

    • Simplicity