British Mistakes during the Revolutionary War
December 17, 2012
Topic: Was American success in achieving independence due more to General Washington’s strategic skill or to British blunders?
While there are numerous contributing factors to America’s success in achieving independence, the most critical factor can be attributed to the series of British mistakes throughout the conflict. Prior to the onset of the Revolutionary War, the British government faced serious challenges, both politically and fiscally. The conclusion of the French and Indian War coupled with the fighting in Europe, India and the West Indies, left Britain with considerable debt and with few to little allies. The British government saw America as a way to generate revenue in order to assist in its recovery efforts. The fiscal stress in a post-war economy as well as various internal struggles with foreign policy, bureaucratic processes and growing concern amongst its citizens regarding the war set the stage which ultimately ended in America defeating what was the most powerful military in the world. The following paragraphs address specific reasons as to why the British failed to achieve and sustain a strategic advantage during the American Revolution. Government Organization
From the onset of the war, the British failed to provide a cohesive and unified strategic vision for the dispute with America. The organizational structure and political system was not particularly efficient in decision making or policy establishment. Decision making was lengthy and critical information and strategic decisions were done independently and often in a dispersed manner. This process considerably added to the frustrations held by the American colonialists. In addition, the British military never had one sole leader to provide and oversee a clear strategic direction of the war effort (Professor Carpenter, NWC lecture). There were often personality clashes between military commanders, heads of state and other influential roles not to mention the widespread corruption throughout all government entities which further complicated the situation. As a result of the French and Indian War, the British Army had also reduced the number of regiments. Both Naval and Army budgets were slashed resulting in less than half the forces than at the height of the previous war. The demands of maintaining a home guard as well as other critical areas such as Ireland and Gibraltar stretched forces and provided additional challenges (Professor Carpenter, NWC lecture). In addition, recruiting was also a problem, particularly for British regiments stationed in America. “Throughout the war the government experienced great difficulty in obtaining sufficient men for the ranks. Again and again it was found impossible to complete the augmentation voted by parliament” (Recruiting of Army, Chapter 3). These internal conflicts and issues led to poor command and control and ineffective strategic leadership which lacked coherence and unity. Failure to Understand the True Nature of War
In order to adequately assess the British perspective of the American colonists, we must first explore the varying aspects of the environment. The British government struggled on how to sufficiently deal with the uprising in America. King George III, a great believer in preserving the British imperial interests, believed a British operation of brute force would force allegiance and submission. Although he himself didn’t have the authority, he played an active role in persuading Parliament into taking action by overtaking various key American cities. The British assumed this show of force would demolish motivation and compel the Americans to cooperate. This approach proved to be flawed. The British didn’t understand that the American complaints centered on theories of constitution, economic independence and religious concepts. Supply Chain Management
In the case of the American...
Bibliography: Carpenter, NWC lecture Red Team: Britain and the American War for Independence
Clausewitz, C. On War. Michael Howard and Peter Paret, eds. and trans. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989.
Mahan, A. T. The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783. New York: Dover, 1987.
“The Recruiting of the Army”. The Organization of the British Army in the American Revolution, Chapter 3. http://americanrevolution.org/britisharmy3.html.
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