Chapter 6: Securing Independence, Defining Nationhood, 1776-88
The Prospects of War
The Revolution gave white northerners and southerners their first real chance to learn what they had in common, and they soon developed mutual admiration. In July 1776, the thirteen colonies had declared independence out of desperation and joined together in a loosely knit confederation of states. Only as a result of collective hardships experienced during eight years of terrible fighting did the inhabitants cease to see themselves only as military allies and begin to accept one another as fellow citizens. Americans remained divided over some basic political questions relating to the distribution of power and authority. 1. Loyalists and Other British Sympathizers
Most colonists were still loyal to Britain, called “Tories” by their Whig foes, these loyalists opposed the rebellion actively and refused to support the Confederation unless threatened with fines or imprisonment. Although loyalists usually opposed Parliament’s claim to tax the colonies, many found themselves fighting for a cause with which they did not entirely agree, and as a result, many of them switched sides during the war. Loyalists denounced separation as an illegal act, certain that it will ignite an unnecessary war, and above all, felt that if they failed to defend their king, they would sacrifice their personal honor. The worst atrocities committed during the war were inflicted by Americans upon each other as both sides, the Wigs and the Tories, saw its cause as so scared that any opposition was an unforgivable act of betrayal. Loyalist strength in any area was influenced by the standpoint of the leading elite family in that area. When leading families acted indecisively, their communities remained divided when the fighting began, like in NY and NJ. Many Canadians hoped for an American victory, however, Britain’s military hold on the region remained strong throughout the war. A few German, Dutch, and French religious congregations were largely pro-British, but the majority of German colonists had already embraced republicanism by 1776 and supported the Americans. African-Americans fought for both sides, but the majority of southern black slaves were largely pro-British as compared to the northern slaves who were more pro-American. The Six Nations Iroquois and the Creek Confederation, like most other Native Americans, were deeply divided in their support, like although most did support the British, both sides saw the dangers of Anglo-American expansion. Native Americans in upper New England took a pro-American side as they took an anti-British stand because of earlier ties with the French. 2. The Opposing Sides
Britain’s two major advantages, it’s 11 million population and world’s largest navy, greatly outnumbered the 2.5 million colonists, a third of which were either slaves or loyalists. Britain also hired 30,000 German mercenaries known as Hessians and later enlisted 21,000 loyalists. The new nation, however, still managed to mobilize about 220,000 troops, compared to the 1620,000 who served in the British army, although most Americans served short terms and would have been hard pressed without the help of France and Spain later in the war. Britain’s ability to crush the rebellion was largely undercut due to a reduction in the navy’s budget in 1762 along with 42,000 men who deserted and the 20,000 who were lost to disease or wounds. American privateers helped damage the Britain’s supply lines overseas as they capture over 2,000 British vessels and 16,000 crewmen causing a deficit in British supply as their navy to never effectively blockade American ports. The British people were also under strain from record taxes along with the national debt that had doubled since the war. Americans, on the other hand, faced the problem of an unprofessional army against the strictly trained British troops. Although they perform well in hit-and-run battles, the Americans could not...
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