Tactics During The Revolutionary War Essay, Research Paper
AP American History
The American Tactics of the
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Eric HeppenAmerican History Term Paper
December 13, 1999Period 7
The American Tactics of the Revolutionary War
Most of Europe thought that the British with their immense amount of capital, soldiers and supplies would beat the American resistance in the American revolutionary war without much of an effort. However the Patriots realized, from their earliest difficulties, to capitalize on the enemy?s weaknesses. Guerrilla warfare and a strategy that emanated from the ability to manipulate events to their own benefit enabled the Americans to defeat the ostensibly more powerful British.
The Americans suffered great abuse from their mother country. The British laid upon the Americans heavy taxes between the years 1764 to the middle of 1776. They created such taxes in the Sugar Act, Townshend Act, Tea Act, the Intolerable Acts and many other acts. These acts over the course of the years destroyed much of the faith that Americans had in the British government. The greater portion of the population thought the British were inadequate rulers and that they could do a much better job in ruling themselves . The Americans were tired of the Quartering Act which let British troops be housed in their own homes. They didn?t enjoy housing British troops so that their families could be spied upon or have their children raped. The least the Americans thought they deserved was the right to have a representation in Parliament and the right to settle the land over the Appalachian Mountains . If the farmers could have more land to work on, the Americans could have a surplus of food to ship to other countries creating a better economy for the American people.
Over the course of about twenty-five years the Americans sent over 500 bills to the British House Of Trade trying to repeal the economic acts that Britain laid down upon them . The Americans also tried to convince the British to let them have the ability to trade with other countries. If the British would have allowed this the common people of American would have been doing better economically; the percent of poor people would have been lowered greatly and the average income would have gone up a great deal . The reason it would have gone up so much is that Britain controlled the prices of products. The British decided how much they would buy a product for from the Americans and charge them two or three times as much to buy it back. All the American people really wanted was to be treated properly. As Thomas Paine said in Common Sense the British treated the Americans like an abusive mother would treat her child.
Due to the economic hardships the Americans suffered they knew that they were going to face many problems in the war. The Americans knew that the British had a larger supply of men ranging from more experienced
generals to more soldiers . The British had such a surplus of income from all of their colonies that they were able hire and supply mercenaries from Germany to come and fight in America. They had a stronger navy and a lot more artillery than the Americans had. The Americans faced many other disadvantages such as lack of guns, ammunition, food, clothing, and most of all they were heavily outnumbered by men . The British had most advantages except for three main things. The first of all the British had a harder time setting up their supply line because they were so far away from any major base . Their main head quarters was on Long Island. The British had a difficult time setting up a supply line outside of New York and New Jersey to feed, clothe, and keep in contact with their men.
The second disadvantage was that the American generals knew the land and terrain where they were fighting a lot better then the British generals did . The American Generals knew how to deal with certain weather issues and turned it to their advantage. The Americans could plan out strategies based on land and terrain rather than sheer numbers, which is how the British tried to deal with the patriots.
The third and probably one of the most important British disadvantages that they faced was that the Patriots had more desire to win. The soldiers knew that they were defending their land, their families, and they were protecting their desires. The British soldiers were fighting for what most of them considered to be nothing. Most of the British soldiers were tired of fighting in America and wanted to go home and see their families or create and have a family.
The Americans at the beginning of the war tried a certain style of warfare known as Jomini warfare . The two enemies would decide when to have a battle and attack each other. The two enemies would charge at each other, shoot and hope that the basic strategy that was planned at the beginning would hold out. Much less strategy was used and involved in a battle such as this . The only problem with this style of warfare for the Americans was that in certain battles the British sometimes outnumbered them four to one .
One such battle that proved that the Americans could not beat the British using European warfare was in the Battle of Brandywine. Washington was trying to keep the British from overtaking Philadelphia and at least give the Continental Congress time to leave Philadelphia before they were attacked . Washington with a force of 11,000 men thought he could take on General Howe . Howe divided his army and over took Washington with a flanking maneuver and forced Washington to retreat. Washington had lost about a thousand men. This battle proved to Washington how he needed a strategy that would not have them going into a man to man combat situation where numbers were the main deciding factor . He tried to overtake General Howe at Germantown in fog by sending half of his army to the backside of the town and half to the front side of the town . The army failed to move properly so Washington lost the battle of Germantown but it prevented Howe not to have another assault on Philadelphia that year. Even though Washington lost this battle it was a victory for him personally as a commander and for the army. It proved to the Americans how they could not face the British in direct man to man combat and forced them to form new methods to fight the British so that they could survive .
The Americans created new strategies in order to overcome their enemies and capitalize on their weaknesses. The native people coined this new strategy called guerrilla warfare. The basis of this style of warfare is to quickly attack your enemy and run away.
The Americans carefully selected their battleground and time of attack as much as possible in guerrilla warfare so that they could have every advantage possible so that they could have a chance to win. Two such instances where the time of day and choice of terrain were the complete reasons for British defeat were at Stony Point and at Paulus Hook .
The battle at Stony Point took place on the night of July fifteenth and ended the morning of July sixteenth . Washington assigned ?Mad Anthony? Wayne to this attack . Wayne had 1,350 men that were given to him for this attack. He set his men in two tight lines and marched towards the fort in and camouflaged by the night darkness. The first men to raid the fort attacked with their bayonets. The British fort soon went into chaos and surrendered very quickly. In total this battle cost the Americans 15 lives, they killed 63 British soldiers, and General Clinton was forced to surrender the fort to the Americans .
Another battle that was won by time of day and terrain was in Paulus Hook, New Jersey . Harry Lee took a small squad and attacked the 200 men post . He attacked at dawn and caught the British completely off guard and shocked them. He killed or captured almost everybody at the fort. He retreated with everyone within two hours of the attack to make sure no British reinforcements arrived .
There were many different guerilla warfare styles and strategies over the course of the revolutionary war. One such strategy was to have two rows of riflemen fire and then run away . The British would then try to catch them and the troops would be lead into a trap waiting for them. Two of the best, and most successful, uses of this strategy were at the Battle of Cowpens and the Battle at Guilford Court .
The Battle of Cowpens physically took place on January 17 but was set up between January 2,1781 and the day of the actual battle on January 17 . The battle of Cowpens was a major battle of the war against the British for conquest as much as morals . Previous to the battle General Greene had separated his army of about 1,700 into two divisions . His army would have 1,100 and General Morgan would have about 600 men . General Cornwallis thought this to be a very foolish move and sent out Banastre Trarleton, one of the most fearsome British officers with 1,100 men . Morgan knew he would lose against Trarleton at his present so he traveled to Cowpens South Carolina to wait for the onslaught that they knew was coming . On the way to Cowpens Morgan picked up enough men to almost evenly match the British man for man. He knew that Trarleton would attack frontally so he prepared a strategy that would be able to handle it. He knew and planned on the fact that his militia would retreat at first sign of charge so he laid out a strategy that would take this into account .
He had his militia stand in two rows. All of the militia that were in the rows were instructed to fire twice and leave. This strategy worked better then Morgan could have ever planned. His two rows of men, totaling about 400 men knocked back and completely destroyed the first British charge and then the militia retreated . Leaving his other men to charge at the British, General Morgan completely humiliated Trarleton. Morgan had killed or captured more than three fourths of his force. Trarleton had only escaped with 140 horsemen.
The same strategy was implemented at the battle at Guilford Court. British General Cornwallis wanted revenge on General Morgan for what he did to the British at Cowpens . So Cornwallis had his army of 2,500 men trail General Morgan?s army who chose to go north after their victory and rejoin with General Greene?s army . He trailed their army for nearly two months and after losing at least 500 men trailing Morgan and Greene, he decided to go in a complete circle back to Hillsborough . There General Nathan Greene was waiting for him. He had applied their previous strategy in the battle at Cowpens to this battle. General Greene started with 2,000 men after the Battle at Cowpens and had increased his numbers up to over 4,500 men . He decided to place a good number of his militia in two forward lines and the continental part of his army in a third row. He called Colonel Washington to protect his left flank and ?Light Horse? Harry Lee to protect his right flank . After the quick attack Greene decided to leave and not pursue a fight. He knew that the losses that they would have suffered would not have been worth the fight but during this battle they killed about 300 British troops . This battle at Guilford Court caused Cornwallis to retreat all the way back to Wilmington and then to Virginia where the demise of the British was.
Another reason the Americans won certain battles over the British army was that the British did not take the American resistance with total seriousness causing them to do some stupid things do to poor judgement. One example of a battle when the British lost due to their stupidity was in the Battle at Bennington. The British were heading towards Vermont to obtain horses, food, and other supplies to aid the German mercenaries who had been without horses for a great length of time . Lieutenant Colonel Fredrich Baum was instructed ? not to risk heavy losses but to scare and despoil the Vermonters? . Baum left his camp with about 700 men and two cannons, which was thought to be more than enough to fight any small resistance that they might face. His first defiance of his orders was when Baum encountered a force of 200 men sent by Brigadier General John Stark . After the battle he was informed that these men were part of a militia force gathering at Bennington . He decided to press towards Bennington and destroy the force, even though it went against his orders again. Baum then marched towards Bennington. On his way there Baum saw two contingents of men going towards his rear and presumed that they were Tories that were going to flank the enemy and didn?t give them a second thought after seeing them . When Baum approached Bennington, Stark order his men in front to charge, at the same time the two contingents of men already behind Baum also attack him and Baum was massacred . If Baum had taken any care as to even think of the contingents traveling behind him he could have possibly beaten the Americans at Bennington. But because of his disobedience of orders and his ignorance he lost the battle .
The British, with all their money, men, supplies, and power couldn?t overcome what little the Americans had . The Patriots realized, from their earliest difficulties, to capitalize on the enemy?s weakness. The Americans devised new tactics to overcome the British in their traditional Jomini style of warfare . The Americans used all that they possibly had to beat British. What drove the Americans to create these new strategies, though, was their desire; their desire to overcome the British is what gave the colonial fighters their true advantage during the American Revolutionary War.
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