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The American Revolution. Major Carlos Rascon. References. Dupuy and Dupuy, The Encyclopedia of Military History , pp. 708-725 Fuller, A Military History of the Western World , Vol. II, Chronicles 9, 10; ch. 9,10; pp. 271-340 Weigley, The American Way of War , pp. 3-39. Learning Objectives.

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the american revolution

The American Revolution

Major Carlos Rascon

  • Dupuy and Dupuy, The Encyclopedia of Military History, pp. 708-725
  • Fuller, A Military History of the Western World, Vol. II, Chronicles 9, 10; ch. 9,10; pp. 271-340
  • Weigley, The American Way of War, pp. 3-39
learning objectives
Learning Objectives
  • Know the U.S. and British strategies and objectives, and how they changed.
  • Be familiar with key campaigns and the policies that contributed to their success.
  • Describe the factors that contributed to the British losses.
  • Describe how the intervention of the French assisted the U.S.
  • Understand the changes in warfare precipitated by the American Revolution.
causes of the war
Causes of the War
  • British defeat French in French/Indian War
    • Defeat of Indians removes colonists’ perceived need for British protection
    • War costly for Brits and need add’l income
  • Stamp, Navigation, and Revenue Act force colonists to pay for protection
  • 1770 Boston Massacre – 5 dead after protesting taxation w/o representation
causes of the war cont
Causes of the War (cont.)
  • Quartering Act
    • Colonists forced to house British troops
    • 3rd Amendment of the Constitution
  • Real Causes
    • Colonists had intellectual differences with British gov’t
    • Spirit of independence brought about by frontier life
    • Belief in democracy over oligarchy
colonial strategy
Colonial Strategy
  • Partisan warfare through local militia
  • Strategy of attrition
    • Gradual wear down or weakening
    • Long lines of comm/supply for English
    • English resolve is weak
    • English has enemies in Europe
  • Colonialists split 1/3 rebel, loyalist, and indifferent causing civil war
british strategy
British Strategy
  • Break colonies in half at NYC
    • Break lines of communication and supply
    • Separate passion from provision
  • Economic warfare
    • Blockade
    • Counterfeiting
  • England’s Royal Navy
    • Able to move freely along long coastal strip
    • No critical points to maneuver against
battle of lexington 19 apr 1775
Battle of Lexington19 Apr 1775
  • Brits send 700 troops to destroy arms stash in Concord
  • “Minute Men” meet Brits at Lexington
  • Eight colonists dead, 10 wounded – American Revolution begins
  • Buys time to remove arms
  • Public sentiment becomes strongly anti-British
bunker breed s hill jun 1775
Bunker (Breed’s) HillJun 1775
  • New “Continental Army” takes position on Breed’s Hill
  • British conduct frontal assault
    • Poor judgement – flanks/rear exposed
    • 40% casualties for Brits (1,100 dead)
  • Colonials repel two assaults but run out of ammo
results of bunker hill
Results of Bunker Hill
  • Colonists convinced standing army was unnecessary
  • Showed colonial determination
  • Gen Howe forever failed to press victories
  • New colonial tactics:
    • Simple defensive
    • Hold at the Hudson
saratoga oct 1777
SaratogaOct 1777
  • Brits only hold NYC, part of RI & Philadelphia
  • Brit plan is to hold on to major city, isolate North, and gain southern sentiment
  • Burgoyne moves south from Canada
    • Plan to take Albany, NY
    • Meeting up with Howe in NYC to cut North from South
follies at saratoga
Follies at Saratoga
  • Burgoyne sets off with an overbundance of supplies/equipment
    • Movement extremely slow (1 mile/day)
    • Guerillas could easily stay ahead and slow further
  • The success of guerillas led to more partisan support
  • Burgoyne’s forces quickly wore down
  • Delays allow colonials to reinforce and win
significance of saratoga
Significance of Saratoga
  • Turning point of Revolution
  • French enters war, aligning with colonists
  • Brits now move focus to the South
  • Spain and Holland soon join war
    • British forced to protect its own borders from aggressors
    • British concerned about about long ocean supply lines
southern campaign late 1778
Southern CampaignLate 1778
  • Brits felt there were more loyalists in South
  • Southern resources more valuable
  • Brits win small victories but unable to pacify countryside
  • Greene vs Cornwallis
    • Greene sacrificed mass for manuever
    • Smaller forces more easily could live off land
    • Provided add’l rally points for local militia
    • Tempted Cornwallis to split his forces
battle of cowpens 17 jan 1781
Battle of Cowpens17 Jan 1781
  • Daniel Morgan – Colonial leader
    • Very charismatic
    • Expects only two good shots before falling back
    • Eliminates unseasoned troops fleeing
  • Numerically equal forces but Americans ¾ militia
  • Colonials envelop Brits with militia and cavalry
  • Brits lose 9/10th of men due to overconfidence
  • Cornwallis consolidates forces
  • French defeat British ships at Battle of Capes
  • Americans to front; French to rear
  • Brits surrender 17 Oct 1781
british forces
British Forces
  • Classic 18th century European army
    • Linear tactics
    • Well-trained soldiers
  • Loyalty suspect in England
    • English sympathy for colonies
    • Employment of Hessians (mercenaries)
american forces
American Forces
  • Most local militia for local defense
    • Troops often under-trained
    • Quick to flee under fire
  • Von Steuben becomes IG
    • Discipline instilled – little before his tenure
    • Streamlined musket loading & uniformity
    • Standardized training – speed and marksmanship
  • Length of service impeded tactics
impact of french
Impact of French
  • Anxious to regain international position
  • French repeatedly help American cause:
    • Loans of money
    • Use of French ports by American privateers
    • Protected American vessels near French waters
  • Made English uneasy at home
  • French Navy critical at Yorktown
failures of england
Failures of England
  • Initial plan could have worked
    • Didn’t act with resolution
    • Adequate forces were never provided
  • Lacked unity of command and comm
    • Commanders uncertain of objective
    • Lord Germain directed from England
    • Indecisive and slow to act
  • Brits unable to exploit Royal Navy
  • Focused on terrain (cities) instead of enemy
weapons of the era

Rifle (minority)

More accurate

Longer to reload

No bayonet

Good guerilla weapon

Musket (majority)

Accurate fire


Individual targets


Brown Bess musket

Volley fire

No target picked

Video 4 min Brown Bess

Weapons of the Era
impact on warfare
Impact on Warfare
  • Democratization of warfare
    • “Well regulated” militia
    • Balanced rights with obligated military service
    • Impact of “people’s army” fighting for a cause
    • New concept of total war for total victory
  • Changed tactics
    • Rifle makes linear tactics difficult
    • Brits adopt American tactics (cover and concealment)
  • Causes for the war
  • Colonial and British strategies
  • Various battles and tactics
  • English short-comings
  • French contributions
  • Weapons of the Revolution
  • Impact on warfare
  • Video 8min Rifleman