When did the colonialists start 'winning' the American Revolution?

Jun 2019
Los Angeles, CA
“When did the colonialists start 'winning' the American Revolution?”

My English fails me often, but don’t you mean “loosing”? Or “colonials” instead of “colonialists”? After all the “colonialists” were the British while the “colonials” were the ones on the side of the future USA. Or is my English failing me again?
Ha! No, in this case it was MY English that failed me. I didn't even catch that I wrote 'colonialists' instead of 'colonists.' This will teach me to proofread more closely...
Likes: Tulius
Apr 2010
evergreen state, USA
From what I gathered a long time ago when I was reading about the Revolutionary War is that England had other engagements to worry about. They did not seek to commit the necessary troops to the American colonies, when they were conquering India about the same time. India was looked upon as a more profitable colonial cause.


Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
In the larger scheme of things Saratoga seems to be considered a major turning point. But I can't help but agree with another poster that the Battle of Trenton gave hope when there was none. It certainly helped to sustain the American's moral.
Feb 2016
Britain deployed 50 000 troops during the course of the war, and considering the pre war size of the entire army was only 48 000, I think we can call that a significant commitment to the cause.

India, there was more reliance on locally raised troops, I don’t think the HM forces in India were ever more than 4-6 000 during this time.

So I would not say they prioritized India.

They fought, in the misguided belief that they could win, though with hindsight I’m convinced once the shooting had started it was almost inevitable that American independence would be the outcome. Britain’s key to “winning” would have been through diplomacy, listening to the concerns of colonials and assuring them they were not vassals but free and equal Englishmen and acquiescing to some of their concerns.

On paper the Americans look weak. Bad and amateurish forces vs an Empire. But in reality they had pretty much everything stacked in their favour and the British position was very difficult. If America was a small island or archipelago then Britain’s real strength could have been brought to bear. As good as the British army was it was small and not big enough to conquer America... big enough to help the settler police the natives, sure, big enough to fight other small professional forces in small bush wars but it was never going to be big enough to suppress a landmass of that size and population spread with out the consent of its people.

Once the fighting started, the sheer size of the place, the smallness of the army and the inability of the British to foster and harness loyalism meant defeat was inevitable. Perhaps a crushing victory that kills or captures Washington would be enough to end the rebellion temporarily... but I’m sure once he had been shot or hung for treason and the American cause gifted some famous martyrs it would flare up again in the 1790s or 1800s.
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Likes: Kotromanic
Feb 2016
What the British should have done is appease their worries.

First give commissioned American Militia officers equal standing to regulars.

Then they needed to either find some way to incorporate elected American officials into parliament... either by allowing them to come to GB and take seats there, though logistically a bit of a pain, so they are represented and can vote on issues OR establish a local parliament that had powers over local issues and taxes.

That would be enough to nip any nonsense about tryanny in the bud for a few extra decades... maybe until the 1830-40s... though I’m wandering into speculative history there.
Likes: Futurist


Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
The British had a chance early on, but not after they moved to the south, figuring they had more support there.

The British raised 19,000 loyalist troops, maybe more like 10,000 if you exclude militia. Plus they had native American allies. So I wouldn't say the population was totally against the British.

Representation in parliament was not the real issue. IMO the most important issues were the Proclamation of 1763 banning settlement beyond the Appalachians and the Quebec Act of 1774, which gave what would become the Northwest Territory to Quebec. Washington, Franklin, and others had investments in some of that land. There was also the fear based on the provisions of the Quebec Act that the Roman Catholic religion would be established in those areas and that court proceedings would be in French with no jury.
Saratoga, including Bennington is my answer.

But... I've read, and I think it has some merit, that Bunker Hill was the key to victory. Because Bunker hill led to high British losses in a fight they though was going to be an easy win, the British command changed their tactics. They were very weary of taking on farmers who could dig more in a night than their troops could in a week. British commanders looked to outflank (and they did on many occasions) the rebels. They did not want to fight against intrenched colonials. That caution showed at Brooklyn heights and led to Washington's escape. At Brandywine Washington was outflanked but managed to escape. Cornwallis and Gray were the few commanders who did not fear a direct engagement and both had easy wins at Camden and Paoli. Although, the direct assault at Guilford Courthouse was a pyrrhic victory for Cornwallis and led to his defeat at Yorktown.
The major turning point for the war in the United states was the French declaration of war which prompted Britain to nominally adopt a blue water strategy which would have involved only holding onto coastal ports and engaging in attacks on French possessions. This is key because it essentially left Britain without an army large enough for offensive operations in the Northern colonies. Following the evacuation of Philadelphia, most of Clinton's army was deployed to defend the Caribbean or to Britain itself. By 1779 there were only significant British land forces in New York and Canada, whilst nearly 100,000 army and militia had been mobilised in Great Britain and Ireland. However the failure of Keppel's fleet to knock out the French fleet at Ushant, led Britain to adopt a far more defensive version of the "blue water" strategy then initially envisioned by Amherst or George Germain. In hindsight the resources used by Cornwallis in the southern colonies might have been better used attacking French economic targets because France quickly came under economic pressure, almost immediately after entering the conflict;

Incredibly it is not mentioned in popular history that due to this economic pressure in 1779 France secretly attempted to obtain peace with Britain. The French finance minister Jacquoes Necker had realised the high costs of the war and crippling loans were leading to disaster. He convinced Louis XVI that immediate peace with Britain was necessary and arranged secret meetings with a British banker in Paris named Thomas Walpole who was in contact with the British ministry. In 1780 Necker contacted Lord North and offered peace on the basis of uti possidetis. Britain saw the the peace overtures as a sign of weakness and broke off negotiations.

After 1780 Britain adopted the so called southern strategy in the colonies which they had long toyed with. The idea that they could essentially deploy a small professional force to back up a large loyalist army (which never materialised). With only limited loyalist support Cornwallis' force which was the size of a corps (much smaller than anything Howe or Clinton had in the Northern colonies) could never maintain effective offensive operations for long and was destined to be defeated or evacuated. Whilst there was a huge base of Loyalism, the British underestimated the level of brutality of the southern colonial civil war which had been ongoing since 1775 and left left loyalists deeply in fear of openly supporting the crown. Cornwallis' token force couldn't protect their homes if they joined him.

And whilst British ministers in London poured over maps of South Carolina and Southern India, by 1780 the European public interest in the war was not captivated by the drama in the colonies, but by the titanic showdown at Gibraltar. Both sides invested enormous resources into this microcosm, the British in various desperate attempts to relieve and resupply the garrison, and the French and Spanish who's combined fleet and army at Gibraltar was at least three times larger than any of the forces they fielded in North America.

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