The American Revolutionary War
“Despite all that has been written about the American Revolution, it seems that very little of what ‘actually’ happened or even the correct order that events occurred is known today by the vast majority of Americans.
From birth they are taught the war was the utmost expression of liberty and nobility, a notion so sacrosanct that no one seems to question its improbability. How many of them ever read beyond the first few words of the Declaration of Independence to discover the nonsense, fear-mongering, lies and baseless speculation that it contains?
How many can see that the winner’s efforts to justify their actions has left only one sided accounts,dominated by the grievances of some of the colonist’s to be forever compounded by historical and jingoistic accounts that are as much to do with ingratiating an opinionated psyche as to anything else.
So now effectively unchallenged for well over two centuries and immortalized in American folk law, is it time for a more objective account?
It is of course true that freedom is enshrined in English law, therefore legitimised the colonist’s right to pursue independence, but only through the wishes of a majority, without which it was illegal and the rebels were far from commanding a majority.
A starting point for any analysis should be to understand the various groups that were involved, as along with those that either bought or were given land as a reward and those looking for a better life with land of their own, (they obtained by agreeing to work for a few years as indentured labour), America had been attracting many of a radical persuasion, both religious and political, who sought to free themselves from the restrictions of the British establishment. Add to these the ‘fortune hunters’ who saw a land of great opportunity open for exploitation. Then of course in addition to these, those who didn’t want to be there at all, because prior to Australia being a depositary for petty criminals, they were being sent to America since 1718.
Therefore the ingredients for evolving republicanism were in place and democracy gradually expanded in America, accelerating in its course when the military threat to the American colonies from France ended. This budding philosophy benefitted those who sought increasing autonomy and so felt free to propose that the people should have the natural right to overthrow their leaders, should those leaders betray the historic rights of Englishmen and by advocating that all men were created equal, they both exploited undisciplined selfishness and formed an illusion of freedom to popularise support for their ambitions.
So the war was essentially a conflict between the first two groups of conservatives, who wanted to remain British and the remaining groups of radicals who wanted freedom from restriction and the opportunity to seize the assets of the others. The later groups knew the French would be tempted by an opportunity to settle some old scores with the British, so they sought their assistance, but were unable to persuade them to help directly at first.
The British government that emphasized corruption should always be feared, considering it the greatest of all possible evils and thought that, virtue required men to put civic duty ahead of their personal desires, was becoming out of step with what was going on in America.
Therefore by seeking to tax its American possessions, primarily to help repay debts incurred defending North America against the French in the Seven Year War and to prepare for any future threat, it had become out of touch, not fully appreciating they were now dealing with colonial leaders who questioned the aristocracy’s bigger picture approach to governance, with some rejecting all, that was not in their own interests.
The proclamation act of 1763, which restricted the movement of colonists across the Appalachian Mountains and the Quebec Act of 1774 that extended Quebec’s boundaries down to the Ohio River were introduced to limit spiralling defence costs and to protect Indian land, but of course shut off claims from the 13 colonies. This angered those colonists (that paid little attention to laws from London anyway) who wanted to claim more and more Indian land, so they started to organize for war by drilling their own militias.
Britain had relied on the Navigation Acts to derive sufficient funds to administer the colonies, but because they had paid insufficient attention to the smuggling going on there for far too long, it had become an ever increasing problem causing revenue to keep falling.
So by the time Britain attempted to enforce an anti-smuggling policy, the practice had become perversely ‘time honoured’ and by interfering in such a way, it was portrayed by protagonists (smugglers) as violating the ‘rights’ of colonists and started the talk of the King as a Tyrant.
Bemused Britain then changed tack and tried the use of taxes to pay for administration, namely the Currency Act 1764, and the Sugar Act 1764 but this just lead to the rebels organising a boycott of British goods.
With the King getting nowhere, Parliament introduced their first direct tax i.e. the Stamp Act 1765, but the colonial protagonists reacted to this with even more vehemence and set up secret insurgent groups employing thugs, best described as drunken, canting, cruel hypocritical lairs without order or cleanliness (e.g. the Sons of Liberty) who subjected anyone who sold these stamps to physical violence and the burning down of their houses.
With the situation getting out of hand, Britain repealed the Stamp Act and sent troops to maintain law and order but stated in the ‘Declaratory Act’ March 1766 that parliament would retain full power to make laws for the colonies “in all cases whatsoever”.
Yet another tax was tried, the Townshend Acts 1767 but fared little better and met an ever increasing war of propaganda and incitement. The principle examples of this propaganda are: the Boston Massacre, 1770Boston Tea Party, 1773
<align=”left”>All of this unrest was still only from a small minority of colonists, but by allowing smuggling to go on for so long, this minority had become powerful, influential and resourceful, getting their way by carrying out acts of aggression.
In 1774 Britain then introduced a set of Coercive acts (deemed the ‘intolerable acts’ by insurgent propaganda) in order to try to counter the mounting lawlessness in the colonies which included closing Boston Harbor and demanding that the colony indemnified the tea merchants. But this obvious inconvenience was used to further darkened colonial opinion towards the British
By 1775 the British were protecting an ever increasing number of Loyalists in Boston, having been driven there from the surrounding area by rebels using brutal acts of intimadation, but when an intended seizure of gunpowder being stockpiled by rebel militias at Concord was disclosed and so consequently went badly wrong at the Battle of Lexington/Concord that year it mobilised more support against the British, who although won an ensuing battle at Bunker Hill two months later, did so in such a suicidal manner they lost 25 officers, 226 regulars and had 803 wounded. Although these wounded were stretchered off the battlefield by the thousands of American women who carried them into their houses to care for them, this pyretic victory left British ranks too depleted to retain any offensive capability, hence it lead to Boston coming under siege for 11 months.
During this siege hundreds of Loyalists left for Halifax, fearing the smallpox Washington was deliberately spreading in Boston by sending infected men into the city, then by allowing the rebels to occupy a hill overlooking Boston harbor the British were forced to vacate the city. Although 8800 Loyalists were able to cram themselves onto the 170 ships available, this was only about 25% of those wanting to leave and escape the inevitable rebel vengeful savagery. Even those that managed to get away, the ordeal was not over, as some ships were preyed upon by rebel privateers who boarded their ships, then ran them aground to steal their possessions and rape their women. This horrible situation was a severe blow to Loyalist morale and sowed seeds of resentment that would show itself later when the tables were turned.
Over this same period, much to John Hancock’s displeasure Congress appointed George Washington as commander in chief of the Continental Army who quickly turned his attention to Canada, first inviting them to join the rebellion, but when rebuffed he planned a two pronged invasion, one going up from Ticonderoga via Lake Champlain with 2400 men and the other with 1100 men that landed up travelling through Maine’s wilderness, which by the time they arrived had 45% fewer of them due to disease and desertion. Canada was only being defended by a handful of British and a few hundred Canadian militia, but their commander Sir Guy Carleton aided by Loyalist intelligence and Canada’s natural elements, held out until the arrival of 3 British supply ships, enabling him to defeat the rebels at Quebec City, then drive them out of Canada completely.
At this stage with neither side backing down, America’s celebrated struggle began with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but it seems people know very little about what actually happened to the fifty-six men, that signed this document. How they had not only brought chaos and ruin on the American people, they suffered a variety of ignominious fates that they had brought upon themselves, with many of them later turning upon each other.
With the situation obviously well beyond just a policing operation and as the very wealthy rebel leaders were used to getting their way by hiring rowdies, meaning the Continental army was<align=”left”>at its strongest it had ever been, Britain sent a larger and more strategic force to America, landing 15,000 men at Gravesend Bay, Long island which was quickly engaged by 19,000 men of the rebel army, but this time the rebels received a good thrashing and could have been finished off completely, the British having won decisively, didn’t want a massacre of brethren, which was a likely outcome, if they had advanced on the defeated Continentals in the heavy fog that had descended at nightfall. They instead were hoping for an amicable surrender, but this just resulted in Washington and the remainder of his men being able to slip the noose.
This leniency however had further consequences, as when the rebels fled, they set fire to as many of the buildings in Manhattan as they could, to deny valuable accommodation for British forces (some US historians try to pathetically claim this was an accident even though the rebels had done the same thing on Long Island days earlier).
Embarrassed the British then pursued the rebels north but were caught out by a defensive stand the rebels had made at White Plains, which by the use of musket balls embedded with nails inflicted such horrendous injuries they convincingly scattered the British advance columns. But then instead of driving home their advantage the rebels chose to loot the dead and wounded’s supply of rum, got drunk and had to fall back under a British counter charge, which only ground to a halt under the weight of a torrential downpour.
Thwarted, Howe then turned his attention towards Fort Washington (the Pearl of the Hudson) where the British, under heavy fire hauled cannon up and over steep rocks in order to get into a position that could subdue the rebel’s defences and in doing so, were able to take over 2800 rebel prisoners and their immense stores and weaponry.
Next, the British advanced on Fort Lee, but the rebels seeing what had happened at Fort Washington, deserted the fort without a fight and retreated across the Delaware to Bucks County Pennsylvania. However Washington’s 2nd in command General Charles Lee had been slow leaving a tavern and was captured by a young later to be famous cavalry officer called Banastre Tarleton, who delivered him to Gen. Howe and as was British custom, treated him as an equal allowing him good treatment on Long Island, which surprisingly he responded to by offering advise on how Howe should conduct the war.
If a defining turning point of the war can be found, although less obvious, it was at this stage, as charismatic Howe (born 10/Aug/1729) and the exacting Clinton (born 16/Apr/1738) fell out over a clash of personalities and took their eye off the ball. ”