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Old October 6th, 2010, 09:46 AM   #1

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Why did the British loose the Revolution?


This was something I never really fully understood. For all intents and purposes, the British were winning before the French and the Spanish got over to help.

I've concluded two things:

1) During the latter half of the Revolution, Great Britain was essentially now in war with the colonies, Spain and France and thought its resources spent in getting the colonials to stand down wasn't worth it.

2) They had bigger trades and colonies to exploit.

So, why did they loose?
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Old October 6th, 2010, 10:40 AM   #2

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Re: Why did the British loose the Revolution?


Quote:
Originally Posted by HistoryFreak1912 View Post
This was something I never really fully understood. For all intents and purposes, the British were winning before the French and the Spanish got over to help.

I've concluded two things:

1) During the latter half of the Revolution, Great Britain was essentially now in war with the colonies, Spain and France and thought its resources spent in getting the colonials to stand down wasn't worth it.

2) They had bigger trades and colonies to exploit.

So, why did they loose?
Lots of reasons.

3000 miles supply line - They had to cross the 3000 mile Atlantic to send fresh troops and supplies. Very hard to keep your troops supplied especially after the French fleet arrived.

Friends behind the scenes -American diplomats like Benjamin Franklin working behind the scenes to get the French, Spanish, and even British sympathizers to help the cause.

Knowing the land - The americans hunted and farmed the lands and knew all the hidden caves etc. This made it easier for them to ambush British forces and retreat when they had too.

Leadership - With the exception of Cornwallis, John Burgoyne, Guy Carleton, Sir Henry Clinton, William Howe, and Thomas Gage weren't didn't have what it took to fight the kind of guerrilla war they were fighting.

Numbers - The British didn't have enough troops to fight the continental army and hold the cities which were full of a populace divided between loyalists and revolutionaries. The problem was you couldn't tell which citizen was loyal and which would sabotage your supplies. In 1776 the colonies had roughly 2.4 million people. The British had around 75,000 troops which had to both fight the colonist armies in the field and maintain control of the cities to keep supplies coming in.

The British weren't prepared for a long war. They figured it would take a year or two to whip the colonies back into shape. Instead it took 8 years. In the end the British were just worn down until it proved to costly to keep the war going.
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Old October 6th, 2010, 11:41 AM   #3
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Re: Why did the British loose the Revolution?


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Originally Posted by daftone View Post
Lots of reasons.

3000 miles supply line - They had to cross the 3000 mile Atlantic to send fresh troops and supplies. Very hard to keep your troops supplied especially after the French fleet arrived.

Friends behind the scenes -American diplomats like Benjamin Franklin working behind the scenes to get the French, Spanish, and even British sympathizers to help the cause.

Knowing the land - The americans hunted and farmed the lands and knew all the hidden caves etc. This made it easier for them to ambush British forces and retreat when they had too.

Leadership - With the exception of Cornwallis, John Burgoyne, Guy Carleton, Sir Henry Clinton, William Howe, and Thomas Gage weren't didn't have what it took to fight the kind of guerrilla war they were fighting.

Numbers - The British didn't have enough troops to fight the continental army and hold the cities which were full of a populace divided between loyalists and revolutionaries. The problem was you couldn't tell which citizen was loyal and which would sabotage your supplies. In 1776 the colonies had roughly 2.4 million people. The British had around 75,000 troops which had to both fight the colonist armies in the field and maintain control of the cities to keep supplies coming in.

The British weren't prepared for a long war. They figured it would take a year or two to whip the colonies back into shape. Instead it took 8 years. In the end the British were just worn down until it proved to costly to keep the war going.
All of that - and, in addition, it was in some ways a continuation of the earlier British Civil War, nothing like, say, the Poles fighting the Russians. It was no accident that at the British Surrender the band played the old Ranter song, 'The World's turned upside down' (which, as has been pointed out elsewhere, is the right way up for working people).
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Old October 6th, 2010, 12:05 PM   #4
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Re: Why did the British loose the Revolution?


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All of that - and, in addition, it was in some ways a continuation of the earlier British Civil War, nothing like, say, the Poles fighting the Russians. It was no accident that at the British Surrender the band played the old Ranter song, 'The World's turned upside down' (which, as has been pointed out elsewhere, is the right way up for working people).
Sorry. Can you explain that in a little more depth please. I know nothing about what you are talking about and it sounds interesting.

Thanks.
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Old October 6th, 2010, 12:15 PM   #5

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Re: Why did the British loose the Revolution?


As well, the British poorly handled the South, which had plenty of Loyalists and agitated enough of them for the South to throw their lot in. It was considered for a while to be a purely Yankee Revolution, until the loss of the South.
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Old October 6th, 2010, 12:28 PM   #6
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Re: Why did the British loose the Revolution?


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Sorry. Can you explain that in a little more depth please. I know nothing about what you are talking about and it sounds interesting.

Thanks.
There was a Civil War between our Parliament and the King in the 1640s, and the Parliament won. By and large, the people who went to America were the sort of people who fought for that Parliament. In 1660 the tensions within the various forces of the British Republic reached a point where it was easier to ask the King back as a constitutional monarch. That meant even more parliamentarians went to America. In 1688 a settlement in the UK meant a fixed sort of government by the landowners and very rich businessmen, but by the mid-Eighteenth Century this was beginning to be challenged again. When the Americans began to demand their rights, strong forces in the UK backed them, just as large numbers of tories in America opposed them: it was not at all a matter of two clear sides, British versus American - more a renewed Civil War.

One radical group (though there is argument about its actual existence) during our Civil War was called the Ranters, and 'The World's turned upside down' was regarded as a Ranter song. Like 'The Red flag' here now, it had apparently survived in the popular memory despite all the repression, and people saw the connection still.
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Old October 6th, 2010, 12:43 PM   #7
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Re: Why did the British loose the Revolution?


The British also still fought in the old style. The gentlemens war. They would line up and shoot. Early Americans during the war adapted to defeat the enemy. Their tactics were the beginnings of guerrilla warfare. Tactics of the Americans gave them the upper hand.
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Old October 6th, 2010, 12:49 PM   #8

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Re: Why did the British loose the Revolution?


Quote:
Originally Posted by daftone View Post
Lots of reasons.

3000 miles supply line - They had to cross the 3000 mile Atlantic to send fresh troops and supplies. Very hard to keep your troops supplied especially after the French fleet arrived.

Friends behind the scenes -American diplomats like Benjamin Franklin working behind the scenes to get the French, Spanish, and even British sympathizers to help the cause.

Knowing the land - The americans hunted and farmed the lands and knew all the hidden caves etc. This made it easier for them to ambush British forces and retreat when they had too.

Leadership - With the exception of Cornwallis, John Burgoyne, Guy Carleton, Sir Henry Clinton, William Howe, and Thomas Gage weren't didn't have what it took to fight the kind of guerrilla war they were fighting.

Numbers - The British didn't have enough troops to fight the continental army and hold the cities which were full of a populace divided between loyalists and revolutionaries. The problem was you couldn't tell which citizen was loyal and which would sabotage your supplies. In 1776 the colonies had roughly 2.4 million people. The British had around 75,000 troops which had to both fight the colonist armies in the field and maintain control of the cities to keep supplies coming in.

The British weren't prepared for a long war. They figured it would take a year or two to whip the colonies back into shape. Instead it took 8 years. In the end the British were just worn down until it proved to costly to keep the war going.
In a tight nutshell, you are correct. I agree.
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Old October 6th, 2010, 03:19 PM   #9

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Re: Why did the British loose the Revolution?


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Originally Posted by willhartbrown View Post
The British also still fought in the old style. The gentlemens war. They would line up and shoot. Early Americans during the war adapted to defeat the enemy. Their tactics were the beginnings of guerrilla warfare. Tactics of the Americans gave them the upper hand.
Not quite. The "Old style" you refer to was used by both sides in the American Civil War. In fact, the American Expeditionary Force was still using this tactic in 1917.

I'll agree they adapted to fit the conditions, but this was far from becoming the "beginnings of geurilla warfare" - for just one example, the Picts ran circles round the Romans using geurilla tactics and there were many other examples which far pre-dated the 18th century.

Neither tactics or stategy can overcome logistics. What ultimately caused the British to lose in the American War of Independence wasn't tactics or strategy- it was logistics (and trouble a helluva lot nearer to home). In the final analysis, the Revolution was an unimportant sideshow to the British government.
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Old October 6th, 2010, 05:03 PM   #10

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Re: Why did the British loose the Revolution?


But if it was an unimportant sideshow to the British government? Why bother send in men and supplies? Why didn't they just go: "Fine, you lazy colonials. Have fun trying to stay alive without us!"?
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