Monday, July 04, 2011

Interesting Things About the American Revolutionary War

It’s the 4th of July, and it’s Filipino-USA Friendship Day for us Filipinos.  But for our American masters friends, they celebrate their Independence Day.    (Technically, July 4th in the USA is still tomorrow, but, hey, it’s already July 4th in our timezone.)  The 4th of July is not the date when the American colonists won against the British in their Revolutionary War, but rather, it was the date where the Colonies – then at war with the Empire – declared they are now independent states, i.e. the Declaration of Independence (actually, July 2, but was finalized at the 4th). 

Nonetheless, this article is about the Revolutionary War, or rather some overlooked or not much talked interesting aspects and facts about the War.  For the record, the American Revolutionary War is one of the best war stories there are in history.  A brilliant and dramatic underdog “fighting for freedom” story.  But there is more to it.
  • The British was wrong, of course, in forcing taxes upon colonists without representation.  But it was said that they didn’t collect much tax either.  The tax imposed was on trade only (prior to the taxing related to the French-Indian War).  But smuggling was rampant in the colonies.  Merchants were able of sailing past authorities and avoiding taxes.  And the British didn’t bother much in stopping the smuggling.  
  • In the 1750’s, American colonists got into a territorial dispute with the French and their Indian allies.  The colonies requested help from Great Britain and the British obliged by sending an army over there.  Thus, the French-Indian War started.  Eventually, the British won, but with the cost of heavy losses on life and money.  The British then raised tax on both the home isles and the colonies to compensate for the money lost.  It’s understandable (to an extent) that the colonists were pissed that they are being taxed when they are not represented.  But on the other hand, it was for their war in the first place and it’s only reasonable that they share some of the burden in compensating for it.
  • It is general knowledge that one of the fuses that lit up the war was the Stamp Act (one of the taxes imposed after the French-Indian War).  The British Parliament insisted that they have the right to tax the colonists (as already explained previously).  The colonists claimed that they can’t be taxed without representation.  But you know who really was all for the Stamp Act?  Benjamin Franklin.  Yes, that Benjamin Franklin.  One of the “Founding Fathers”.  He was kind of fiercely loyal to the British Crown.  And old Ben at that time was the colonies’ representative to the Crown.  But because crown-loving, Stamp Act-fan Ben was spending most of his time in Britain, he was clueless that his own people were pissed of the Stamp Act, thus, he was not able to get the colonists’ sentiments across to the crown.
  • Another fuse was the Boston Massacre, in which it is popularly (but erroneously) believed that British soldiers fired at unarmed civilians, killing dozens in cold-blood.  In truth, a douchebag colonist named Samuel Adams wanted to incite a rebellion in Boston.  He had his followers – the Sons of Liberty – throw insults at a British soldier.  When the soldier did not respond, the mob threw rocks and other things at him.  Fellow British soldiers came to their comrade’s aid.  But the mob continued throwing rocks at the British and dared the soldiers to fire at them.  The soldiers had no choice but to fire at them in self-defense.  When the smoke cleared, three men were dead.  The soldiers were put to trial, and John Adams – one of the “Founding Fathers” and the second president of the future USA – was their defense lawyer.  Adams, though he disagreed with the British, knew that the soldiers were only defending themselves, and won the case for them.  Soldiers (and policemen, as well), up to the present day, have several times suffered this type of treatment.  Though they are only defending themselves, they ended up as the bad guys.  And it’s not all the time that these soldiers are vindicated (like the British soldiers in Boston).  Just sad.  Oh, where did the “Boston Massacre” came from?  Blame the media.  Even then, they tend to exaggerate “massacres”.
  • Another significant happening in Boston was the Boston Tea Party.  It culminated with colonists led by the Sons of Liberty (remember those jerks?) dressed up as Indians, raided the British ships that held the cargos of tea that were forced on the colonists to buy and dumped them to the sea.  Now let’s dig a bit deeper on the story… Another way of the British taxing the colonies was the Tea Act.  (By the way, at this point all the other taxes were repealed now, and only the Tea Act remained, but still the colonists didn’t want to pay for it.) The Tea Act expanded the British East India Company’s monopoly on the tea on the colonies, selling excess tea at a reduced price.  It would have provided the colonies superior and cheaper tea than what they get from smugglers.  But the colonies were still pissed about being taxed (without being represented) and maybe also of getting told on what to buy (even if it was a better brand).  They also had the legitimate fear of that this was only the start and the British might extend the monopoly on other goods as well in the future.  But it is also worth considering that smugglers like John Hancock (yup, another “Founding Father”) would be the ones that was going be severely hit by the Tea Act.  That’s why they were the most active and loudest that oppose the act, carrying out a campaign of raising self-awareness (i.e. smear campaign) across the colonies.   
  • 5,000 blacks fought for the Continental Army.  Baron Ludwig von Closen, an officer in the French Army, once observed that the best regiment in the Continental Army was the one with about 75% African-American soldiers.
  • Women went out to War with their husbands.  They helped by cooking and sewing and washing for the men.  Among these women, the most famous is “Molly Pitcher”.  She was nicknamed such because she brought a pitcher of water to soldiers – sometimes, even under fire.  In the Battle of Monmouth, her husband – a cannon rammer – fell unconscious in battle from heat exhaustion.  “Molly Pitcher” took the place of her husband as a cannon rammer.  During the battle (which the Americans would eventually win), she caught George Washington’s eye.  Washington sought her after the battle and rewarded her courage by issuing her a warrant as a non-commissioned officer.  She would be nicknamed “Sergeant Molly” from then on.   
  • In 1799, there were less soldiers fighting against the British than the Loyalists (colonists loyal and fighting for the British Crown).
  • The Continental Army was brilliant in their espionage during the War.  They employed spies and double agents.  The most famous of them is Lieutenant Nathan Hale.  When he was captured by the British and was sentenced to hang, his badass last words were “I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” 
  • Military strategy was greatly different between the Continental Army and the British Redcoats.  The Redcoats were well-disciplined and well-trained professional soldiers.  Being an ocean away from home, they have trouble in logistics of supplies and reinforcements, thus they follow a conservative approach.  Their battle philosophy follows the warfare philosophy of the time in which they were organized in lines and fired simultaneously with muskets before charging with bayonets.   The Redcoats also had Hessians – German mercenaries – fighting with them.  The British goal was not necessarily to destroy the colonists but to force them to surrender and to submit back to the Empire.  Actually, the British were reluctant in fighting them because, no matter the differences, the colonists were they brothers.  Still, the British Army was a proud one (they would be the best in the world for some time) and wants to show their superiority over the Continental Army.  The Continental Army is mostly composed of militia.  Plenty of incentives – like money and property (and freedom for black slaves) – were offered to inspire recruitment.  French officers were the ones who mostly trained this makeshift army.  The Continental Army’s successes were mainly from use of guerrilla warfare, since they were usually being owned by the Redcoats in traditional face-off battle.  The British traditional formation was inutile in these surprise attacks by the Continental militiamen hiding behind trees and foliage as the British Redcoats pass through.  But the British, though, also had their own Light Infantry and managed to outfight the American guerrillas at times.  The Continental Army also had the legendary “minutemen” – the “elite” of the Continentals, as they were a highly mobile force that can be deployed rapidly to respond to an immediate need or threat.    
  • The Spanish, the French, and the Dutch provided supplies, ammunition, and weapons to the Continental Army.  At first, they aided the colonists in secret, but then, seeing that the British is vulnerable, openly declared war.  This coalition – Spanish, French, Dutch, and American – would be too much for the British, making them ultimately lose claim on the colonies.  However, the plans of invading other British interests in the world and even the Isles themselves prove futile to the colonies’ allies.  Spain’s main reason for declaring war against the British was to recapture Gibraltar and Minorca, which was taken by the British from them in 1704.  French and Spanish forces managed take Minorca but the British held on to Gibraltar.  The British Empire also managed to hold on to their other key colonies in the West Indies.  In India, the British Empire managed to capture Indian and Dutch outposts there, establishing sole control of the area.  Though they lost the 13 colonies, the British Empire, in a world-wide scale, managed to establish their superiority, emerging as the most powerful nation in the 19th century (which would last until the early 20th century).  
  • I am a George Washington fan.  I believe he was a good general.  But a brilliant strategist?  Hell, no.  Even Washington had admitted that he has limited and contracted knowledge on military matters on the large-scale.  He had actually more battle losses than wins.   He had made several missteps, was unable to make rapid field decisions and even froze at times, which had earned him losses.  Much of America’s tactical successes were because of the French.  Still, I believe him to be a good general.  Why?  Because being a good general is not all about being a brilliant tactician.  Washington’s exemplary character and work ethic made him an inspiration to his men.  Throughout those turmoil-filled and discouraging years, he had managed to keep the Continental Army from breaking apart, but instead kept them together to persevere until they gained victory.     

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