At the start of the American Revolutionary War the odds were pitted heavily in favor of an easy British victory. The British had the largest empire in the world at the time, the largest navy, and the best trained standing army of the day. America only had a militia, no means of raising money to obtain supplies, and no navy. Also Britain had just finished winning a war to defeat France, which gave the French a reason to help the colonies later in the war. However, even though the British were expected to win, both America and Britain had tactics that were both alike and dissimilar; which in turn played a pivotal role in the outcome of the war. What really helped the colonists during the war was a change in tactics from the traditional European style of warfare.
The accepted form of warfare during this period, as used by both the Continental Army and the British Army, was developed in Europe where the terrain consisted of mostly large flat fields. Each European country had developed or was in the process of developing large standing armies. These armies were well disciplined and obeyed orders. An army would face his adversary across the field and progressively march towards them, shoulder to shoulder, in tight formation. When in range the soldiers in the first row would drop to one knee, present arms, and fire in unison on command. Then the soldiers would reload while the opposing force fired upon them. The point was not to kill all of the soldiers in the opposing force but to thin their numbers so it would be easier to charge in with bayonets and succeed. Discipline was crucial to victory because a disorganized army could not stand against a bayonet charge. This is called linear tactics due to the fact that the armies lined up and marched in straight lines.
Looking at the tactics used by the Continental Army and the British Army today, it would seem impractical to march in an open field against the enemy. This was developed... [continues]
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