Despite all that has been written about the American Revolution, it seems that very little of what actually happened,
or even the correct order that events occurred is known today by the vast majority of Americans.
From birth they are taught the war was the utmost expression of liberty and nobility, a notion so sacrosanct that no one
seems to question it.
How many of them ever read beyond the first few words of the Declaration of
Independence to discover the nonsense, fear-mongering, lies and baseless speculation that it contains?
How many can see that the winners' efforts to justify their actions have left only one sided accounts,
dominated by the grievances of some of the colonists, to be forever compounded by historical and jingoistic narratives that
are as much to do with gratifying an opinionated psyche as anything else.
So now, effectively unchallenged for well over two centuries and immortalized in American folk lore, is it time for a more
It is true that freedom is enshrined in English law, which therefore legitimised the colonists' right to pursue independence, but
only through the wishes of a majority, without which it was illegal; and the rebels were far from commanding a majority.
A starting point for any analysis should be to understand the various groups that were involved, as
along with those that either bought or were given land as a reward and those looking for a better life with land of their
own, (which they obtained by agreeing to work for a few years as indentured labour), America had been attracting many of a
radical persuasion, both religious and political, who sought to free themselves from the restrictions of the British
establishment. Add to these the fortune hunters who saw a land of great opportunity open for exploitation.
Then of course in addition to these, those who didn't want to be there at all, because prior to Australia being a
depository for petty criminals, they had been sent to America since 1718.
Therefore the ingredients for evolving republicanism were in place and democracy gradually expanded in
America, accelerating in its course when the military threat to the American colonies from France ended.
This budding philosophy benefitted those who sought increasing autonomy and so felt free to propose that the people
should have the natural right to overthrow their leaders, should those leaders betray the historic rights of Englishmen
and by advocating that all men were created equal, they both exploited undisciplined selfishness and formed an illusion
of freedom to popularise support for their ambitions.
So the war was essentially a conflict between the first two groups of conservatives, who wanted to remain British
and the remaining groups of radicals who wanted freedom from restriction and the opportunity to seize the assets of the
The later groups knew the French would be tempted by an opportunity to settle some old scores with the British, so they
sought their assistance, but were unable to persuade them to help directly at first.
The British government that emphasized corruption should always be feared, considering it the greatest of all
possible evils and thought that, virtue required men to put civic duty ahead of their personal desires, was becoming out
of step with what was going on in America.
Therefore by seeking to tax its American possessions, primarily to help repay debts incurred defending North America
against the French in the Seven Year War and to prepare for any future threat, it had become out of touch, not fully
appreciating they were now dealing with colonial leaders who questioned the aristocracy's bigger picture approach to
governance, with some rejecting all, that was not in their own interests.
The proclamation act of 1763, which restricted the movement of colonists across the Appalachian Mountains and the Quebec Act
of 1774 that extended Quebec's boundaries down to the Ohio River were introduced to limit spiralling defence costs and
to protect Indian land, but of course shut off claims from the 13 colonies. This angered those colonists (that paid
little attention to laws from London anyway) who wanted to claim more and more Indian land, so they started to
organize for war by drilling their own militias.
Britain had relied on the Navigation Acts to derive
sufficient funds to administer the colonies, but because they had paid insufficient
attention to the smuggling going on there for far too long, it had become an ever increasing problem causing revenue to
So by the time Britain attempted to enforce an anti-smuggling policy, the practice had become perversely 'time honoured'
and by interfering in such a way, it was portrayed by protagonists (smugglers) as violating the 'rights' of colonists and
started the talk of the King as a Tyrant.
Bemused Britain then changed tack and tried the use of taxes to pay for administration, namely
the Currency Act 1764,
and the Sugar Act 1764
but this just lead to the rebels organising a boycott of British goods.
With the King getting nowhere, Parliament introduced their first direct tax i.e.
the Stamp Act 1765,
but the colonial protagonists reacted to this with even more vehemence and set up secret insurgent groups employing
thugs, best described as drunken, canting, cruel hypocritical lairs without order or cleanliness (e.g. the Sons of Liberty)
who subjected anyone who sold these stamps to physical violence and the burning down of
With the situation getting out of hand, Britain repealed the Stamp Act and sent troops to maintain law and order but stated
'Declaratory Act' March 1766 that parliament would retain
full power to make laws for the colonies "in all cases whatsoever".
Yet another tax was tried, the Townshend Acts 1767 but
fared little better and met an ever increasing war of propaganda and incitement.
The principle examples of this propaganda are:
the Boston Massacre, 1770
Boston Tea Party, 1773
All of this unrest was still only from a small minority of colonists, but by allowing smuggling to go on for so
long, this minority had become powerful, influential and resourceful, getting their way by carrying out acts of aggression.
In 1774 Britain then introduced a set of
(deemed the 'intolerable acts' by insurgent propaganda) in order to
try to counter the mounting lawlessness in the colonies which included closing Boston Harbor and demanding that the
colony indemnified the tea merchants. But this obvious inconvenience was used to further darken colonial opinion towards
By 1775 the British were protecting an ever increasing number of Loyalists in Boston, having been driven there from the surrounding
area by rebels using brutal acts of intimidation, but when an intended seizure of gunpowder being stockpiled by rebel
militias at Concord was disclosed and so consequently went badly wrong at the Battle of
Lexington/Concord that year it mobilised more support against
the British, who although won an ensuing battle at Bunker Hill two months later, did so in such a suicidal manner they lost
25 officers, 226 regulars and had 803 wounded. Although these wounded were stretchered off the battlefield by the thousands of
American women who carried them into their houses to care for them, this pyrrhic victory left British ranks too
depleted to retain any offensive capability, hence it led to Boston coming under siege for 11 months.
During this siege hundreds of Loyalists left for Halifax, fearing the smallpox Washington was deliberately spreading in Boston
by sending infected men into the city, then by allowing the rebels to occupy a hill overlooking Boston harbor the British
were forced to vacate the city. Although 8800 Loyalists were able to cram themselves onto the 170 ships available, this was only
about 25% of those wanting to leave and escape the inevitable rebel vengeful savagery. Even those that managed to get away, the ordeal
was not over, as some ships were preyed upon by rebel privateers who boarded their ships, then ran them aground to steal their
possessions and rape their women. This horrible situation was a severe blow to Loyalist morale and sowed seeds of resentment that
would show itself later when the tables were turned.
Over this same period, much to John Hancock's displeasure, Congress had appointed George Washington commander in chief of
the Continental Army and he was quick to turn his attention to Canada, first inviting them to join the rebellion, but when rebuffed
planned a two pronged invasion, one going up from Ticonderoga via Lake Champlain with 2400 men and the other with 1100 men that
landed up travelling through Maine's wilderness, which by the time it arrived had 45% fewer men due to disease
and desertion. At the time Canada was only being defended by a handful of British and a few hundred Canadian militia, but their
commander Sir Guy Carleton aided by Loyalist intelligence and Canada's natural elements, managed to hold out until the arrival of 3 British
supply ships which enabled him to defeat the rebels at Quebec City, then drive them out of Canada
At this stage with neither side backing down, America's celebrated struggle began with the signing of the Declaration of
Independence, but it seems people know very little about what actually happened to the fifty-six men, that signed this
document and how they had not only brought chaos and ruin on the American people, they also brought a variety ignominious
fates upon themselves, with many of them later turning upon one another.
With the situation obviously well beyond just a policing operation and very wealthy rebel leaders being used to getting
their way by hiring rowdies, resulting in the Continental army being
at its strongest it had ever been,
Britain sent a larger and more strategic force to America, landing 15,000 men at Gravesend Bay, Long island.
This force was quickly engaged by 19,000 men of the rebel army, but this time the rebels received a good thrashing and could have been
finished off completely, the British having won decisively, didn't want a massacre of brethren, which was a likely
outcome, if they had advanced on the defeated Continentals in the heavy fog that had descended at nightfall. They
instead were hoping for an amicable surrender, but this just resulted in Washington and the remainder of his men being
able to slip the noose.
This leniency however had further consequences, as when the rebels fled, they set fire to as many of the buildings in
Manhattan as they could, to deny valuable accommodation for British forces (some US historians try to pathetically claim this
was an accident even though the rebels had done the same thing on Long Island days earlier).
Embarrassed the British then pursued the rebels north but were caught out by a defensive stand the rebels had made at
White Plains, which by the use of musket balls embedded with nails inflicted such horrendous injuries they convincingly scattered the
British advance columns. But then instead of driving home their advantage the
rebels chose to loot the dead and wounded's supply of rum, got drunk and had to fall back under a British counter charge,
which only ground to a halt under the weight of a torrential downpour.
Thwarted, Howe then turned his attention towards Fort Washington (the Pearl of the Hudson) where the British, under heavy
fire hauled cannon up and over steep rocks in order to get into a position that could subdue the rebels'
defences and in doing so, were able to take over 2800 rebel prisoners and their immense stores and weaponry.
Next, the British advanced on Fort Lee, but the rebels seeing what had happened at Fort Washington, deserted the fort
without a fight and retreated across the Delaware to Bucks County Pennsylvania.
However Washington's 2nd in command General Charles Lee had been slow leaving a tavern and was captured by a young later to be famous
cavalry officer called Banastre Tarleton, who delivered him to Gen. Howe and as was British custom, treated him as an equal
allowing him good treatment on Long Island, which surprisingly he responded to by offering advise on how Howe should conduct the war.
If a defining turning point of the war can be found, although less obvious, it was at this stage, as charismatic Howe
(born 10/Aug/1729) and the exacting Clinton (born 16/Apr/1738) fell out over a clash of personalities and took their
eye off the ball.
Key Battles of the War
If active content enabled click on Map to enlarge & Double click back
See the four Campaign Maps:
New York - Northern -
Philadelphia - Southern
A list of all Battles in the War
If more decisive action had been taken at this stage, Washington was as good as finished because although he had taken up a
good tactical position, the other side of the Delaware and had stretched British supply lines, he had fewer than four
thousand men, who were starving, cold and threadbare, but British inaction enabled him an opportunity to turn the tables
and attack Howe's dangerously exposed forward outpost at Trenton. Washington had the time to take advantage of knowing that
it was manned by Hanoverians (Hessians), who traditionally drank far too much at Christmas.
So he had another two thousand men conscripted and on the eve of battle he recited Paine's
'American Crisis' to them all,
then drove them at the point of their officers' bayonets through the frozen snow and across an ice bound river to attack at
dawn December 26th
The Hessians had been warned of Washington's intentions, but had not only arrogantly ignored this warning by still drinking,
they hadn't even built up any outer defences.
So the starving continentals needed little further incentive to overrun the well supplied with food and rum stupefied
Germans, and took over a thousand of them prisoner.
The captured supplies had transformed Washington's position and he prepared for the inevitable British counter attack by
sending out snipers to harry what came in the form of Cornwallis and seven thousand men from Princeton. But his quick
managed to corner Washington against the Delaware River at Trenton. The British had arrived just before dark and were
tired, so would not attack till the morning. This allowed Washington to again take advantage of the night and slip away,
time not to run, but to attack Cornwallis's base at Princeton that was only being guarded by a few hundred troops.
Washington had about five thousand men, but before he reached Princeton, they ran into Lieutenant Colonel Charles
Mawhood's brigade of 800 men, who although out-numbered six to one, first repulsed several rebel attacks with bayonet
charges, then broke straight through the Rebels' lines, but despite this brave fight with so few against so many, the
outcome was inevitable and the small force at Princeton was only able to resist for a while before being forced to retreat.
Cornwallis had attempted to come racing back, but Washington had his men destroy the bridges then prevented him
from crossing the river by intense sniper fire. This hold up was for a reason, Washington wanted the time to make an
loyalist 'Tory' homesteaders in the area and had his men raid their farms and houses, killing, raping, pillaging as many
as he could,
proclaiming them traitors or collaborators and considered all others 'potential Tories' unless they signed up to his army.
This tactic intimidated several thousand men to come forward and volunteer this proved so effective that before he had
retreated to the Pluckemin Mountains ready for the next battle, it had delivered over 16000 men.
By the time Cornwallis had forced his way back to Princeton, the town was a very different place from the one he had left
a few days earlier, so with little to encourage him to stay had his men and surviving Loyalists retreat north
to New Brunswick NJ.
But this style of warfare had dire consequences for the British, as it meant their local sources of supply
started to dry up and they found that they were having to fall back onto a 3000 mile supply chain, which was both very
expensive and unreliable.
Then Lt General John Burgoyne, who history has judged unfairly,
didn't really stand a chance when he was ordered to link up with Howe, who was supposed to be coming up from the south,
but never did, which meant that he travelled further down from Canada than expected.
He did however start off well when his men out-manoeuvred rebels at fort Ticonderoga by hauling cannon up the sheer face of
a bluff, which then enabled them to bear down on the rebels. But after making good progress and taking other forts on the
river, he made a poor decision by travelling overland with cannon, making his journey very difficult.
Something else not in his favour, his force was actually weaker than mere numbers would suggest, because nearly half
of his 8250 men were Hessians who not speaking English couldn't distinguish between Loyalist and foe and consequently were
reduced by 1000 when their commanding officer on their way to collect horses from Bennington, allowed (against the better
judgment of their Loyalist guides), hundreds of rebels posing as Loyalists to join his force, only to be led into an
ambush by 2000 rebels.
Also the approx. 400 Indians with him were more trouble than they were worth, having been made very resentful their
chiefs and best warriors had been singled out and killed by the rebels, they then became more interested in murdering surrendering
Continentals and raping homesteaders on route than fighting as ordered. This no doubt was exploited by a rebel
soldier who claimed to have witnessed the murder and scalping of both Jane McCrea, the fiancťe of a Loyalist officer and another Loyalist
Mrs McNeill, which of course reflected upon Burgoyne and suppressed further Loyalist support in the area.
Then there were the 650 Canadians/American Loyalists who always being specifically targeted tended to wilt under the
ferocity of their fellow Americans.
So his reliable force was really only the 3300 British (many with their wives/girlfriends), and the remaining Hessians.
As Burgoyne moved south, 6000 rebels under the command of Horatio Gates took up a
strong defensive position at Bemis Heights, so Burgoyne having been
informed of this, had his men advance on them in three columns. Burgoyne headed up 1000 men in the centre and the rest were
split between a left and right flank that were to come around onto the rebels sides. But seeing Burgoyne advancing on them
the rebels counter charged led by Benedict Arnold, which was intended to out flank the British centre, but instead ran into
the British left flank and a savage battle ensued that lasted 4 hours.
Arnold was at his most inspired and with his superior numbers forced the British and
Germans back, but they continued to fight. Burgoyne charged about in support of his men till nightfall and had still
managed to retain possession of the field, but by then he had lost 30% of his men. He expected the fight to continue
in the morning but the rebels had also lost a lot of men and were low on ammunition and food.
Reviewing his position Burgoyne was going to sensibly withdraw, but he was informed that Howe was on his way, so remained
in the area, this was actually far from the truth. Clinton however did responded to Burgoyne's predicament and sent him
all the men he could spare which was 2000, but the door was closing behind Burgoyne as his hard won forts were being
re-taken by the
rebels. Burgoyne had 5000 men but was facing rebel numbers nearer to 16000 men and this perilous position was causing
Germans and Indians to desert. Arnold pugnacious as ever, pressed home attack after attack and took particular delight
in decimating a flank of Canadian volunteers.
Burgoyne constantly found himself out flanked, which caused him to have to keep retreating his exhausted men, but when they
arrived at Saratoga, Burgoyne saw a potential for a trap, which could well have saved him if 2 of his men, having
deserted hadn't strayed into the advancing rebels and no doubt exchanged their lives for betraying his clever ambush attempt.
As a result the British became surrounded and out-numbered four to one, however Burgoyne wasn't actually defeated as he only
surrendered because the rebels had promised him and his men safe passage home, but unlike Burgoyne, gentlemen they were not
as they then cynically betrayed this promise.
Howe apparently far too preoccupied with revolutionary headquarters at Philadelphia to concern himself with Burgoyne's plight,
was to rescue the City with 6000 men,
but the well supplied Washington with the support of Nathanael Green and Anthony Wayne was equally determined with their
8000 men to prevent him
from doing so and 'formed well' (in Cornwallis's own words) in a strong defensive position at Brandywine. But the outcome was a
resounding British victory after first feinting at, then out-manoeuvring Washington's lines. The British lost around 100
men with 500 wounded but Washington lost a total of 1250 men.
On securing the city, even though very short of men, Howe's first priority was to open up the Delaware to shipping and
released 3000 men for this difficult task. On seeing this Washington was far from discouraged as he had 11000 men
and was still in a very strong position, so launched an attack at Germantown in order to re-take Philadelphia.
But a thick fog had descended and his men were so drunk that in 3 hours of fighting they probably killed more of each
other than the British had and lost 1090 Men.
However unlike Washington, who could always replace his losses, Howe by losing 537 in this encounter became even more seriously
short of men with no chance of any replacements. Despite this he still tried to re-engage with Washington's army, but
Washington managed to avoid this, first retreating to Whitemarch then further away at Valley Forge.
Philadelphia certainly lived up to its name (brotherly/sisterly love) and proved
remarkably friendly towards the British, particularly the ladies whose hospitality they certainly took to, with Howe
spending his time with one lady in particular, Elizabeth Loring who he would be seen with at all of the city's social functions. So it would have seemed
to onlookers they had forgotten the task at hand, by not moving on Washington's worsening position at Valley Forge,
but Howe although perversely sympathetic towards the American cause, knew he just didn't have the men to pursue him and probably
considered Washington's army would soon just disintegrate anyway.
Benjamin Franklin had been in France negotiating the terms of their alliance, knowing that Canada, Nova Scotia and the Floridas
were unlikely to join their revolution, so as a sweetener promised those areas to them, if they would fight the war on their
behalf. France agreed and entered the war on the rebel side, but failed to mention they were going to prolong the war in order to weaken both
the British and the Americans, so then everything changed, Britain was no longer just dealing with a minority of wayward brethren, the threat had become global.
A succession of French officers arrived at Valley Forge, but all were clearly contemptuous of what they saw, with the exception of
a very rich aristocrat, the Marquis de Lafayette, who had travelled to America at his own expense defying orders not to, but he like
many of the rebel leaders, including George Washington was a
Freemason (a fact suspected by
the French authorities).
In addition to this, another Freemason, a Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben from Prussia, (recruited by fellow Freemason
Franklin in Paris) was appointed Inspector General, despite not speaking a word of English. But his relentless drilling of
the rebel troops while at the same time having it explained to them the reasons behind his orders did gain their respect.
The army that emerged from this was a very different one, one that would be both disciplined and ruthless.
At this time the British concerned about Howe's lack of progress (there is strong but anecdotal evidence that Howe was also a Freemason)
decided to replace him with Clinton, who instead of receiving the reinforcements to finish off Washington, was ordered to march his
men to New York, as those there were to be released for other duties, e.g. 5000 for St Lucia and 3000 for Florida.
As an indication of what most Philadelphian's thought life would be like without the British, when Clinton and his 10,000 men
headed north overland, he had a 12 mile tailback of Loyalists and soldiers' girlfriends who had been asked to go on the
few ships available, but had instead chosen to accompany them on route. So with great sadness this vibrant, congenial
city had been abandoned to its anarchical fate, leaving all too many that stayed to live in fear.
Washington no doubt knowing all this immediately set after them with 11000 revitalized men and not having any civilians to
slow him down
was able to close quickly. He first ran
parallel to them, then got ahead to destroy the bridges that Clinton intended to use, which forced Clinton to turn to the
so that he could be attacked at Washington's advantage in Monmouth. Despite the unbearable heat the British drove this
with astonishing vigour and were only stopped from completely routing them by Washington's intervention when he stormed in
his men, but then, much to the amazement of his men, Clinton did a similar thing, charging at the rebels with few dragoons,
but probably that was only because he had become delirious in the insufferable heat.
These days the battle is really only remembered by the legend of Molly Pitcher who supposedly was seen manning her fallen
husband's cannon, although an inspiring thought, there is no evidence that she ever existed and was probably yet just
another fabrication of the rebel's propaganda machine.
Otherwise it's known as the battle that just ground to a halt in the heat of the hottest day in living memory, leaving the
British with loses of about 300 killed, of which at least 60 died of heatstroke and 600 missing, all Germans who mysteriously
disappeared, probably back to their girlfriends
in Philadelphia, Washington had lost about the same number in battle but with his recruitment method, he had men deserting
all the time.
Some say the battle was a draw because Clinton had left the field for New York and Washington hadn't pursued him, but
Clinton achieved his objective (by getting nearly everyone to New York), whereas Washington hadn't managed to slow Clinton
down sufficiently as planned to give the French Fleet time to arrive and catch his men being ferried from Sandy hook.
Unlike France, Britain could not risk losing control of her own waters, so could not release ships to reinforce those
assigned for American duty.
So when a French fleet arrived off New York, they both outnumbered and outgunned the few British ships laying at
anchor there, but the British had positioned themselves well, behind a sand bar, which the larger French ships with their
deeper draught couldn't get over, so thwarted the French moved on to Rhode Island to land 4000 French troops to support
Nathaniel Greene's 6000 men who were going to attack the British base there.
But as soon as these men had disembarked, the sails of the British flotilla from New York were sighted approaching.
The two sides sailed around each other for 2 days; the out-gunned British could not risk an attack and had to wait for an
advantage, which came in the form a violent gale that dismasted several French ships. The smaller British ships moved in
and inflicted so much damage that the French picked up their troops and sailed for Boston. This left the Americans
unsupported and unsupplied so soon had to retreat, but the British ashore missed a trick and drove them off the island too
soon, not waiting for Clinton's men who were marching from New York to catch the continentals in a pincer, but arrived a few
hours too late to block their escape.
The Franco American relationship hadn't got off to a good start, the Americans thinking the French were worse than
useless and French thinking the American's shambolic army was a laughable spectacle, consequently were not welcomed in
Boston, (but there again, from my experience that wouldn't be anything unusual). After repairs the French sailed for the
West Indies to attack the British there.
For the next few months both sides could only just probe at each other, Cornwallis was finally allowed to return to
England to care for his sick wife and Clinton became more and more shackled, having to constantly release men for other
campaigns, it's difficult to imagine these days, but back then the West Indies were worth a lot more to the British than the
whole American mainland.
So if America was to be saved the British needed recruits and with the loyalists brutally suppressed in the north, their
only option was to try the south.
This task initially fell to Archibald Campbell and his 3500 men, made up of Highlanders, Hessians and American
volunteers (one battalion from Philadelphia alone) who after their long stormy sea voyage landed near Savannah Georgia on
the 29 December 1778.
Although at least half of them were sick, Campbell immediately marched towards Savannah,
only to be stopped in his tracks by a seemingly impregnable
fortification. But a local slave told them of a secret path that led to a place behind rebel's lines, so Campbell first
distracted the rebels with a frontal feint to
the left, then had his main force follow the slave along a winding path through the swamp to completely surprise the rebels.
The move claimed not many more than 50 rebels that drowned while trying to make their escape through the swamp. But
later more died in the appalling heat as prisoners on board the British ships, probably because there was little love lost
between them and the Loyalist volunteers, as many had suffered grievously at the hands of the rebels.
As hoped, volunteers then started coming forward, in numbers sufficient to overpower remaining rebel resistance in the area
and allowed the British to move inland. But the rebels started their psychological warfare of capturing Loyalists, putting
them on trial and hanging them, to both deter other Loyalists and gather support for themselves, to a point they could start
pushing the British back to the ocean.
However, Prevost coming up from Florida had taken the rebel stronghold at Sunbury which gave him sufficient supplies to
skilfully get behind this gathering rebel force and
attack them from the rear, his move inflicted 600 rebel casualties, but was unable to continue the assault because of being
deprived of his own supplies, when they had been captured at sea.
Now vulnerable, with his only ace played, help arrived from friendly locals, sufficient that he was then able to make his
way to James Island to both try to distract the rebel's attack from
Savannah and wait for supplies there. But his decoy did not work, so had to march to Savannah in defence of the city.
The French Fleet having been contacted, agreed to simultaneously attack from the sea to isolate the British whose position
there looked ominous, but hundreds of Blacks came to the aid of the British by working incredibly long hours to build up
When the French arrived they found they alone outnumbered the British, so felt justified in demanding that the British
surrender, but Provost delayed giving a reply long enough to gather in all possible support.
The British endured 4 days of shelling, then an approaching storm forced the rebels/French
to launch a premature attack, that went disastrously wrong when they landed up in the swamp as sitting ducks for
British artillery to disseminate, the result was the French lost 637 and the rebels 264. The remaining defeated and
dispirited rebels withdrew to Charlestown.
Meanwhile up north, August 1779, Clinton received his long awaited replacements, all 3400 of them, which was less than he
had been forced to release since he asked for more in order to re-engage with Washington. If not disappointment enough,
it turned out that most of
them had fever, which then spread to the others, resulting in him having 6000 troops in hospital shortly after.
These 'replacements' only later allowed him to carry out raids on rebel ammunition depots and ports, but would find that
churches were getting burnt down, presumably by rebels to inhibit such raids and much more importantly to embarrass the
British government with its electorate.
While at the same time, rebel raids were being carried out with almost chivalry e.g. light horse Harry Lee at Paulus Hook,
but this was just another ploy, as later he proved just how ruthless he could be against Loyalists in the Carolinas
The propaganda war was going badly for the British, until a little talked about battle between a piquet of 50 redcoats
commanded by 17 year old Lt John Moore while trying to defend a group of Loyalist refugees at
Penobscot Maine and 3000 Bostonian rebels that arrived in their 40 ships.
The battle ended disastrously for the rebels with only one of their
ships getting back home, the shock of this consequently took the spring out of their step for a while.
But soon after the British would also have the smile wiped from their faces, when they learnt that Spain had also entered
the war against Britain.
In Britain the prospect of a joint Franco Spanish attack upon them completely overshadowed what was happening 3000 miles
So as Cornwallis's wife had died and left him completely deflated, he was sent back to America out of the way, but with so
many of the few troops that accompanied him dying on the 116 day voyage across the Atlantic, his spirits couldn't have been
When he eventually arrived, Clinton had evacuated Rhode Island and sent the troops to Canada as the French there were
becoming hostile, that left
only New York/Long Island. But Washington was in no better position and was just as depressed, because 500 dollars then
only worth just over £1, as fast as he recruited men (despite certain death if caught) at least half of them were deserting
to the British, effectively maintaining parity.
The French and Spanish navies sought to keep British minds off America, but had been repeatedly beaten by the Royal Navy
worldwide let alone in home waters, so when the opportunity arose to pit the British up against one of their own ilk, they
seized it and had the French fit out a number of American ships that led to John Paul Jones (a slaver and pirate) to become about as
popular in Britain as Banestre Tarleton became with American Rebels.
There had always been those in Britain who had sympathised with the rebels,
after all the English cherish their freedom, but
there was no such sympathy for the French and Spanish and Britain's attention was almost completely transferred to them.
Gibraltar became a focal point during the Great Siege of 1779-83, as few places in the world can boast of holding out
unbelievable odds as they can, resisting everything France and Spain could throw at them for 31 months. But when her sister
outpost, Minorca was lost it was almost as harder blow as losing America
(12,773 times larger).
What little interest remained in Britain for America was confined to the plight of Loyalists and knowing that by holding
Savannah, where the French had relied on trading there, was then hurting them and if the same thing could be done for
the Carolinas, the French would really start to suffer.
Clinton had increasingly relied on the use of Loyalists to mount lighting raids, keeping Washington off balance
to prevent him from threatening Canada, so if a move was to be made on Charlestown he could not use the few
British troops left in New York, as Washington would quickly turn his attention to Canada. So with the force in Savannah
also already stretched, Clinton, Cornwallis and three British officers (Simcoe, Ferguson, Tarleton) set sail with 7600
mainly Loyalists for South Carolina.
But with their luck they were subjected to severe gales for over a month and consequently arrived in a poor condition to
face a rebel strength in the area of around 7000.
Clinton first had Simcoe's Queens Rangers and Tarleton's British Legion cut supply lines to Charlestown and in doing
so had completely routed a large rebel force capturing large quantities of supplies. At this time Ferguson noted that the
Loyalists under his command were behaving as the rebels did, but in addition had an air of desperation about them which he
felt uneasy about.
Nevertheless with the rebels held at bay, Clinton was free to mount a siege of Charlestown, but before long he had to reprimand his
loyalist artillery officers as they were turning a most picturesque town into rubble and he didn't think that was the way
to win hearts and minds.
But unlike Savannah, the inhabitants of Charlestown were ardent rebels (Loyalists there had either killed or driven inland after
being left unsupported by the British when they failed to land on Sullivan's Island at the entrance to
Charleston harbour in June 1776) so would not surrender for about a week, however
they suffered very few casualties and 4000 prisoners were taken. Clinton offered them parole if they promised to stay on
their farms, but they proved treacherous almost as soon as they had made such a pledge, by killing several Loyalists.
Soon after Clinton was informed that, a large French Fleet was heading for New York, so felt compelled to get back there
with half the men, leaving Cornwallis in command.
Cornwallis first split his pathetically small force into 3 divisions sending one to Ninetysix,
another to Augusta and himself to Camden, but no sooner there was informed that a rebel force which had been sent to relieve
Charlestown, was now retreating, so he sent Tarleton and
270 Loyalists after them, it took them 53 hours hard riding to catch up with Buford's force of 400 men at Waxhaw's. Despite
being tired and outnumbered, the Loyalists prevailed taking two thirds of them prisoner, the rebels covered up their
embarrassment with propaganda and the myth of '
Tarleton's Quarter' was born.
However what happened next was the result of rebel mobs having roamed the south for years threatening to destroy corn,
shoot pigs, burn houses and tar and feather anyone that didnít sign pledges of allegiance to their cause, the long
suffering persecuted Loyalists in the area then retaliated against
their tormentors, causing the most horrible outbreak of violence from both sides imaginable, which the rebel
propaganda machine was able to feast upon, gorging themselves in a frenzy of debauchment and of course, where possible,
The spectacle was so sickening that Cornwallis thought his already difficult task of policing over such a large area with
less than 4000 men was going to be impossible. The Rebels with no such compunction were able to grow in strength, but
Tarleton, so often an equal to this threat became the most feared and successful commander of the war, leaving the rebels
only able to discredit him with their propaganda.
Cornwallis had established his headquarters at Camden (then called Pine Tree Hill) with 2000 men, when he heard that this
gathering strength was heading his way, it was coming in the form of 2000 men under Gates and another 800 men commanded by
Sumter, so made preparations for their arrival.
The redcoats charged with such determination they scattered the rebels' forward ranks,
but were then stopped by the rebels' main body of men, who stood their ground for a while until being dispersed by Tarleton
Legion who then chased them for miles leaving a trail of corpses along the way.
Gates had fled nearly 200 miles before stopping, quite a feat, but his reputation was then lost forever.
Tarleton then rode off in pursuit of Sumter's men so quickly that only 200 of his men had been able to keep up with him and
after a brief exchange, in which Sumter was wounded and only narrowly escaped capture, 350 of his men were either killed or captured.
Cornwallis hadn't lost many men but more and more of them were sick, even so he had felt it necessary to mount an attack on
Charlotte, but while doing so, heard that his outpost at Augusta had been attacked, albeit at terrible cost to the rebels
but his force's vulnerability was becoming all too apparent so decided he had little choice but to withdraw.
Conversely as rebel causalities had been mounting they were increasingly recruiting Ulster Scots; Lowland Scots originally
enticed to ulster by James I, but some later emigrated to America and settled on the western frontier borders, although these people
were unreliable they fitted the rebels' terrorist style of warfare.
Loyalists were proving difficult to recruit, because the rebels had prepared for years in ways to dissuade them
from serving their King, The Battle at Kings Mountain is the best-known example of how
this was achieved and is only reliably known, through the diary of a New York Loyalist officer, who managed to survive
the carnage. His diary has been almost eclipsed by the subsequent rebel propaganda cover up of this atrocity, which has
also transformed Major Ferguson, a humane, amiable British officer into a bloodthirsty zealot
On hearing the depressing news of this defeat, threats to the garrison at Ninety-six and low supplies at Camden, Cornwallis
was no longer in a position to mount any further campaigns as not only had Loyalist
recruitment all but dried up, most of his men had the fever, himself included, so with little other choice they retreated
to Winnsboro, but in weather so appalling, they only survived the journey by the incredible kindness they received from a
succession of Loyalist homesteaders on route.
Once there, their situation didn't improve as reprisals against Loyalists had cut intelligence and supplies, the only
saving grace was that Washington was in no better position with the dollar having become worthless his desertion rate was
rampant and those that remained, seemed more threatening to their own officers than they were likely to be to the British.
Washington's dire position was not lost on the French and their fleet arrived to aid him, but was almost immediately
chased off by the Royal Navy.
To add to Washington's troubles his most trusted commander, Benedict Arnold having been injured was made governor of
Philadelphia and there became disillusioned with the rebel cause, being revolted by their cruelty to Loyalist women
and senseless hanging of pacifists, so started envisaging an American with its own parliament, but with a Royal
appointed president. Perhaps to this end he married a beautiful 19 year old Loyalist from Philadelphia, Peggy Shippen and
was subsequently recruited to spy for the British. He was given an assignment to enable the British to take West Point,
for which he was to liaise with a young intelligence officer, John Andre, but Andre got caught behind enemy lines. He
didn't use the pass Arnold had given him and doing so had saved Arnold's life, but at the expense of his own.
Although when caught he made no secret of his identity, he was hanged for spying, as mercy, always short in the rebel
camp, had at Greene's insistence, become non-existent there.
In January 1781 Clinton sent Arnold wearing his new coat and 1600 fellow defectors to cut Greene's lines of communication, then
capture or destroy his supplies in Virginia, which he did so with great success, whereas Cornwallis sent Major James Craig to Wilmington in
North Carolina to establish a supply base there, from which Loyalist Colonel David Fanning carried out many daring raids in the
area, including liberating a large number of British and Loyalist prisoners being held at Hillsboro 12/Sept/81, this gave the much needed boost
of confidence required for other Loyalists to enlist.
Cornwallis with only 1300 men left, was then heartened to learn that Loyalist recruitment in North Carolina had raised
2000 men, because as cunning as the rebels were, they couldn't be everywhere at the same time
to destroy the homes of those who signed up.
So with his small force he moved north to rendezvous with these volunteers and then split his force into two.
Tarleton heading up one of these divisions with 2000 men came across a rebel force with their back against a river commanded by Morgan
at a place called Hannah's Cowpens on a particularly bitter cold morning. A carefully planned trap awaited Tarleton
which relied on him reacting predictably.
Tarleton obliged by charging straight in with men that were exhausted from the previous night's gruelling journey. They first
had to endure the rebels' marksmen volleys and then were set upon by their cavalry that had been hiding behind a hill and
were twice his strength. For the first time the British had been outwitted and by the end only had small pockets of
redcoat resistance left on the battlefield.
The British lost over 1000 men, Tarleton continued to thrash around and may well have cut down a group of Loyalists in all the
confusion. Morgan satisfied, retreated with his men across the river.
Cornwallis determined that that Morgan should not get away set off in pursuit and got drawn further and further into North
Carolina. This was yet another trick, as while their rear guard subjected the British to constant guerrilla warfare, with
rebel snipers picking off their horses to slow them down, they despite travelling up to 40 miles in a 16 hour day were actually
getting to potential Loyalist support before the British did. They posed as British recruitment to get them to come
forward and then would butcher them in the most inhumane way; Harry Lee's men are known to have slaughtered 400 Loyalists in
a single encounter.
This travesty caused Cornwallis to break off his pursuit and assigned 350 of his men to act as his rear guard, who had to
fend off a considerably greater number of rebels.
The rebel strength had actually grown to 4500 men whereas Cornwallis had fewer than 2000, tired, hungry and ragged men,
but despite this he decided that he would make a stand at Guildford Court House. Tarleton with a badly injured hand
commanded the cavalry and stood waiting,
but the rebels stayed under cover. Which really provoked the British into
advancing on them, but what they couldn't see was that the rebel sharpshooters were set up in widely spaced rows that
would fire at them and then run, as the British advanced the rebel second row did the same, holding for a while before
dispersing, then never known before, there was a third line of Riflemen who stubbornly
stood their ground and stopped the British/Loyalists in their tracks. The British front row under heavy fire managed to
regrouped and got among these men from Maryland, but were so surrounded and outnumbered they didn't stand a chance. So in an
uncharacteristically ruthless move, Cornwallis ordered his artillery to open fire on them all, which cut down the lot. The other
rebels then fell back, for which Tarleton didn't miss his cue and charged in to inflict heavy casualties upon them,
the rebels then left reeling, withdrew for many to desert.
But Cornwallis had lost 30% of his tiny army and the rest were starving, so was in no position to pursue Greene, but now he
most concerned for Lord Rawdon and his small garrison of 800 Loyalists back at Camden. So he cajoled his tired men
into marching, acting as decoy to draw Greene away from them. But Greene was not going to be diverted and made camp just two
miles from Camden at Hobkirks Hill and no doubt intended to make an attack the next day.
The Loyalists although outnumbered four to one, took the initiative and attacked the rebel camp at daybreak, marching
shoulder to shoulder at rebel lines. Greene thought that by concealing his artillery until the last moment he could cut
them down, but the
loyalists parted and their reserve moved up to outflank the rebels as they charged forward, while at the same time had
their sharpshooters picked off as many rebel officers as they could, after all (bar one man) this was an all American
The rebels recoiled in the cross fire and struggled to get away losing many men and about a 100 to be taken prisoner.
The Loyalists' had undeniably won, but Lord Rawdon, their commanding officer had lost 270 men and could no longer
remain in the area, so had to withdraw south, nearer to the coast and in doing, a whole string of British lightly manned
forts were lost to the rebels.
Next Augusta fell, the rebels always seemed to have plenty of rough necks and cannon fodder at their disposal, but the
Loyalists only had a limited supply of ammunition, which when it ran out, the rebels, as usual, hung all the Loyalist
left Ninety-six as the last outpost, a Loyalist dispatch rider carrying orders for the fort to be abandoned had been killed
and Greene soon put it under siege,
Lt Colonel Cruger and the 550 Loyalists there, knowing what would happen to them, were going to fight to the
death, so Greene's men cautiously dug towards the fort, thinking in the meantime, that the Loyalists would just starve,
but this wasn't happening as naked blacks were bringing supplies in under cover of darkness.
Then just as the rebels were ready to attack, Lord Rawdon with a force of 1250 arrived and managed to out manoeuvre
Greene's position. Greene was lucky to escape and had to flee east, but Rawdon had become very ill in the unbearable heat
and many of his men had died of exhaustion getting there, so pursuing Greene was out of the question.
Command was transferred to Colonel Stuart just in time before Greene and 2000 men returned and with their greater strength
slowly gained the upper hand, but the type of men the rebels used, would when they came across the rum store, always prove that
it was too much a temptation for them and would start to pour it down, quickly getting drunk and making themselves easy
targets. Greene in despair had to use his cavalry to drive them to safety.
After this Greene famously wrote: 'we fight, get beat, rise and fight again' missing out 'get drunk'.
Despite their victory the British had no reason to stay and moved off to re-join their main force.
Over a period of time Cornwallis was receiving reinforcements and now had 7000 men, so made plans to again attack rebels
supply lines in Virginia, but as soon as he had the men he received orders from Clinton to send most of them to New York,
because the French had landed 5000 of their troops in Rhode Island.
Then Lafayette with overwhelming numbers started to close in on Cornwallis to
defend these supply lines, sending Wayne
with 500 men ahead to track him, when they came across 2 men. These men claimed they were British deserters and said the British
had, all bar their rear guard, crossed the river. Wayne didn't hesitate and charged after them, but the men were Loyalists
and Cornwallis was still on the same side and had concealed his men in woods surrounded by swamps at Green Spring.
As Wayne's men passed by, the British closed in behind them and had their cannon opened up on him.
Wayne continued further into the trap before realizing his mistake, he then tried to escape through the swamp. Although a
complete rout, with most of Lafayette's men having been killed or wounded, Cornwallis had lost 75 men, he could ill afford.
Clinton was trying to run the war from New York and was expecting Cornwallis to carry out his various plans, but Cornwallis having had
little confidence in them for some time, started receiving one dispatch after another, often countermanding each other and was receiving
them in the wrong order, which ranged from ordering him back south, to returning to Philadelphia.
But all this didn't ultimately matter, as it was clear something big was mounting, the French were landing in large numbers. So
Cornwallis's priority was to find, establish, fortify and hold a vantage point overlooking an anchorage for the Royal Navy
in the Chesapeake Bay area.
Cornwallis's options were limited with nothing very promising, but he settled on a place called Yorktown, that did offer some
advantages, as it
was flanked by swamps and the opposite shore to the north was at its closest there, less than a mile away.
Something was mounting all right, 16,000 troops were preparing to attack Cornwallis and he couldn't hold Yorktown without
reinforcements from Clinton, which he was promised but Clinton had to consider that he was protecting over a hundred
thousand Loyalists in New York and he knew that Washington would love to be able to run-a-muck amongst them.
But Washington's men had mutinied and his army was on the brink of disintegration, the French knowing this, knew it was
now or never. They had considered attacking New York, but the Royal Navy would be a considerable obstacle there, so they
paid the wages of those few men Washington had left, to have them join the French attack on Cornwallis.
Clinton could have attacked the rebels' supply line, but instead wanted the very talented Rodney to launch an attack on the French
Fleet, but Rodney was very ill at the time and without him, he dare not risk the fleet which would mean the loss of the
So he sent those few ships he thought he could spare under the command of Samuel Hood. But they were so out-gunned by the French that
when they had managed to limp back to New York, they were so badly damaged they made a pitiful sight.
Clinton's inaction (mainly caused by him always thinking that New York was the real target) was dooming Cornwallis, who was
an army at least twice his own, with overwhelming numbers of siege cannon and a full range of ordinance.
Britain was far too concerned with the situation in the Mediterranean to worry about the Royal Navy being considerably outnumbered in
America, so Clinton finally decided that, despite his total force of 26, mainly old ships that were no match for the 36 powerful
French ships anchored off the Chesapeake, they were going to do what they could. The French ships had lined up
ready to receive them and in the ensuing battle both fleets were badly damaged, but the French had been unbroken when the
British had to retire.
The British then with virtually no serviceable ships left in American waters responded by moving to send a
relief fleet but it was going to take some time to arrange.
Whereas Cornwallis's position was going from bad to worse with sickness having broken out amongst his men, Washington was
so excited, his rabble having been transformed by their new blue French made uniforms and looking so impressive, when he
ordered them on the 9th October to open fire, but then took no further part.
Cornwallis had 3250 men fit for duty against 16,000 mainly French troops and his food supplies had become so short that
he had to force his non fighting Black sappers and engineers out, for them to escape the best way they could and not all
of them made it to safety.
Between the French and the rebels they had 100 plus cannon and so out gunned
the British that when the British tried to return fire, they attracted so many apposing cannon, they were soon silenced.
There was no refuge from the French/rebel bombardment
and before long, mutilated British/Loyalist bodies were everywhere, 36,000 cannon shot being fired at them in the first day.
There was so little return fire from the British that some rebels started to blatantly taunt them, but there were sufficient
Loyalists snipers left to quickly put an end of this.
All Cornwallis could do was get across the York river to Gloucester being held by Tarleton, so he sent out 350 troops to spike the enemy guns and
managed to get a few hundred men across, but the weather was so bad and worsening that they couldn't get the boats
back for any more to escape.
The British had no choice but to surrender and sent out a white flag, which Washington accepted, but Cornwallis's main
concern was for the Loyalists under his command and did what he could to avoid them being punished, including packing 600
of them onto a small Royal Navy sloop Washington had allowed as a courtesy to carry up to 250 British officers to New York, who actually
made their way overland, much to the annoyance of Washington.
But what happened to those Loyalists Cornwallis couldn't get out has been erased from history.
Apart from this anguish, there was little animosity between the British and rebel troops, but the British would not forget
the French part in all of this.
The powerful relief fleet to save Cornwallis arrived at Chesapeake Bay a week later, but the only people left there were
two Loyal Black sappers, who rowed out to them in a small boat to tell them the news.
Yorktown was the last significant battle of the war the British were involved in, after which they concentrated on fighting the French
and Spanish elsewhere, so the war then became essentially just between Loyalists and rebels and with so many Loyalists
motived by the cruel treatment they had suffered at the hands of rebels, they continued to fight on, launching raids
on the frontier and from British held areas, which if they had been allowed to fight the war their way earlier on,
they may well have got the better of Washington.
e.g. John Johnsonís Kings Royal Regiment conducted borderland raids from Canada depriving rebels of food, burning down their
houses and killed many of them, year after year until the end of the war.
~ Epilogue ~
The British had never taken the American threat seriously enough and consequently were nearly always outnumbered; the
imbalance was not made up by Loyalists, as the rebels relentlessly persecuted them, being particularly ruthless
in the south. They also had adopted guerrilla tactics, hitting and running and taking advantage of easily accessible
supplies, but destroying what they didn't need to deny the British, with the exception of leaving small amounts as a
trap to catch the British in withering sniper fire.
After Yorktown Britain had little interest left for the war, the rebels were bankrupt and it had been France's last
throw the dice, so an uneasy stalemate existed until a formal ending of the war in 1783.
During negotiations the British tried to get compensation for the Loyalists, but despite several attempts to get
the new USA to honour its agreements, they could never get them to do so and landed up footing the bill for these themselves.
Some historians say as many as 250,000 Loyalists emigrated, relocating in Canada, the West Indies and Britain, making
it one of the largest mass migrations in history.
The new independence country was then subjected to the chaos of the rabble and the 2nd amendment, the right of citizens
to bear arms, a legacy that has condemned it to an endless cycle of violence.
Also little was gained from 7 years of war as in 1794 Chief Justice John Jay negotiated a
treaty with Britain agreeing to
re-introduced the Navigation Acts of 1696 that allowed Britain to apply tariffs on American exports and had the US
government repay pre-war debts to British creditors.
So the Rebels leaders had not only brought chaos and ruin on themselves for which they later turned on each other, they had
also brought it upon the American people, that they justified by claiming to have won the freedom for people to live as they
choose, which has in fact condemned the citizens of the United States to being held in a permanent state of fear
of something or other, as the only means of preventing society from descending into anarchy.
Verifiable today by Americans only having to think for a moment to know how 'fear' is a reoccurring theme to them and how
they wait for a leader to emerge unprimed by lobbyists from their two party system straight jacket having told them all they
want to hear to get elected then not to treat them with contempt.
It took a long time for the United States to recover from the splitting of a people, which was only slowly corrected by
immigration re-establishing support those of a loyal inclination, as to have a country full of radicals will only ever
have them thinking of themselves and always be in conflict with each other.
For Bibliography see Related Links
For more on American Loyalists see:
Buried History of the American Revolution