He also claimed that the militia were merely an auxiliary force for a military system that must be based on a professional army of soldiers disciplined and trained, which would be committed to serve throughout the war.
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He added that the militia could not protect the colonies for long, and therefore the establishment of a regular army was an immediate need. Several years before Washington had himself been appointed as the militia officer of Virginia, but for him this appointment had merely been a jumping board for a permanent position in the British army.
For the British officer corps the militia was no more than an auxiliary force, mainly for security assignments, and not a military force for attack operations. Washington therefore adopted a strategy of attrition and went into battle only when he knew that the chances of victory were clearly in his favor.
The first was an attempt to gain time in order to enlarge his forces, equip it, and more importantly to train it. The second was to induce the involvement of the European powers, especially France, and perhaps also Spain and Holland, in support of the colonies.
The British Minister of the Colonies, Lord Germain, estimated that there were more loyalists in the south than in the north and therefore a smaller British force would be required. After control was restored in the south, the British army could return and carry out military operations in the northern colonies. The change in British strategy was also due to the participation of France, Holland, and Spain in the war, which constituted an immediate and more serious threat to the British Empire. The American-French attempts to regain it ended in painful defeat.
The British then went on to conquer South Carolina with the general aim of gradually advancing northwards, establishing an operational base in the mouth of Chesapeake Bay Maryland , and reconquering the northern colonies. In May Charleston South Carolina was taken, and Washington tried to send his army, which was encamped around the city of New York, southwards in an attempt to strengthen the militia forces.
But the situation of the Americans became worse after the defeat of General Gates at the battle of Camden in August In fact, after this battle, there was no organized American army in the south, and even the militias had ceased to function. It should be noted that during this period there were various guerrilla groups operating in the south, but British control over the settled areas of the colonies denied the guerrilla fighters freedom of movement and support.
However, the British failure to control the border areas of the southern colonies allowed the guerrilla groups to re-organize and return to operational activities. Benedict Arnold, one of the most gifted generals of the revolution, deserted to the British side. Arnold was the commander of the system of fortifications at West Point, and the fear was that his desertion would lead to the fall of the Hudson River into British hands.
These crises led Washington to focus once again upon the situation in the north. He therefore issued a series of severe orders to transfer reinforcements to the fortification system at West Point and also to increase the state of alert in Maryland and Virginia. Although Britain did not take advantage of the opportunity to control the Hudson River, the very presence of a large and well-trained British army supported by the navy in New York the southern egress of the Hudson River , can explain the fears and the measures taken by Washington.
The first is the change that occurred in European armies in the years following the Thirty Years War, in particular the development of standing armies in France and Prussia in the years extending from the end of the Thirty Years War up to the Seven Years War.
These two processes intersected in a series of wars conducted in Europe, beginning with the wars of Louis XIV and reaching its peak in the War of the Spanish Succession , continuing through the War of the Austrian Succession and ending in the Seven Years War The last two wars were marked by the remarkable victories of Frederick the Great against the armies of France, Austria and Russia, and the Prussian Emperor was considered as the most important military authority in the Western world at that time. Moreover, from the end of the seventeenth century the American colonies were involved in European conflicts, mainly between Britain and France.
One of these officers was George Washington. This could explain the actions of Washington during the American Revolution and his desire to establish standing army acting in accordance with contemporary principles of military thinking, especially those of the Prussian army. These armies were trained, equipped, and mobilized with the assistance of an efficient taxation system, and were controlled by a centralized bureaucracy. Regular soldiers loyal to the crown could crush any internal opposition to central government, lay down the law, and assist in the collection of taxes.
The relatively long period of peace after , together with improvements in tax collection systems, contributed to the increasing size of armies. These trends created military forces that, in the French and later the Prussian case, became effective instruments in the hands of those monarchs aspiring to absolutism and European hegemony.
By the Austrian army possessed , soldiers in a standing army, making it the main component in the military coalition against Louis XIV. The ability of the Austrians to cope with both French and Turkish aggression turned Austria into a central power in Europe. Similar trends also occurred in Sweden and Russia. Under his rule Prussia developed the fourth largest army in Europe and the strongest one on the continent.
The Prussian rulers managed to set up an efficient bureaucratic system and invested many resources despite demographical and economic limitations. Prussia was strategically weak because it did not have natural borders and because it was surrounded by European powers that were stronger and more aggressive. Prussia also consisted of a group of territories without territorial contiguity. The colonies in North America were surrounded by powerful enemies, with no natural borders either in the north or the south that could bar against European invasion, whether British, French or Spanish. Although there was physical contiguity of territory among the colonies, each of them conducted its affairs independently with hardly any coordination with neighboring colonies, and military cooperation against various strategic threats was rarely to be found.
This was the poor but proud and tough landed aristocracy considered as the most superior and consolidated social class in Europe, devoting its life to the service of country and emperor, unlike the French officer corps that purchased rank with money, and many of whom were not qualified to be officers at all. Prussian soldiers were mostly native born recruits called up to join the army, often by compulsion, on a territorial basis.
Every district was divided into cantons, each being obliged to provide a regiment. Rossbach demonstrated the military philosophy of Frederick the Great. Thus the army of the enemy became the main military target and not the supply lines or logistic stores. But he did aspire to build a national army acting in accordance with the principles of warfare that were designed by Frederick the Great. Washington saw the essential need to oblige the governors of the colonies to recruit soldiers and place them under the authority of the Continental Army under his direct command.
During the American Revolution, especially in the southern colonies, Washington sought the decisive battle that would end the war. The theoretical and practical approach of Frederick the Great reflected the ideas of the Enlightenment in showing that the arts of war should be taught like all the other arts and that it demanded professional training and extensive knowledge in various fields.
Contemporary writers defined the importance of the link between the army in the battlefield and its bases of supply, something that military analyst Henry Lloyd referred to as the core principle. It is necessary to select the shortest and most convenient line in order not to be exposed to counterattack from the sides. If the line is too long the attacking army will be vulnerable to losing supplies and reinforcements from counter-attacks. Therefore the attacker must bring his supply bases forward and the defender must maneuver to threaten the lines of communication and force the attacker to retreat.
On the other hand, Charles Lee and Horatio Gates, who had served in the past as officers in the British army, supported militia operations and were opposed to setting up a regular army. Some claim that their opposition to the strategic perceptions of Washington led in the end to their dismissal. It should also be remembered that in spite of the fact the French army used such methods in the French and Indian War, the war was finally decided in a series of regular battles, with victory for the British.
This was the reason why the American army was not capable, during most of the war, to cope successfully with the British army in the orthodox warfare methods of the time. These two basic facts led to a strategic paradox on the American side.
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In order for the revolution to succeed and the colonies to achieve independence, it was necessary for Washington to defeat the British army. But the operational and logistic weakness of his own army led to an inability to initiate a wide-scale attack. The weakness of the American army was demonstrated clearly in the battle of New York in the summer of After this battle Washington refrained from direct confrontation with the British army on the battlefield.
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Three options presented themselves. The first option was to lead the Continental army westward in order to avoid direct clashes and to use guerrilla tactics.
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The second option was to conduct a series of clashes and tactical retreats with the aim of causing losses to the British army without endangering his army in a regular battle. The third option was to stand with all his army face to face with the British army and to risk the outcome of a pitched battle. The second option was perceived by Washington as avoiding the challenge posed by the British army and as a cowardly strategy that would eventually lead to the conquest of the central cities. The third option was the preferred one for Washington, but this required building up a regular army that was well equipped and trained according to the European theories of warfare.
Therefore, until his army was ready for this enormous task, Washington designed a strategy composed of the first two options, which were now merely tactical means to achieve his strategic goal, the buying of time needed for building up a regular army. Washington also designed this Fabian strategy in an attempt to put political pressure upon Britain to abandon the war and the colonies.
In these letters Washington claims that Britain would not give up its empire in North America until it suffered another decisive defeat as it had in Saratoga. However, in his view, this defeat would take place only if his forces, together with the French navy, could re-conquer New York. The entry of France would solve this problem. During this time French and Prussian officers arrived to train the army in European tactics. Military engineers also arrived who fortified key points on the Hudson River including West Point , according to the method of the famous French engineer Vauban.
The first was that it was the last battle in the northern colonies. Washington managed to station a line of defense around New York, enclosing the British stronghold. The center of this line of defense was West Point. The commander of the British forces in the north, General Clinton, did not try to break through this line of defense, which led to the transfer of the British war effort to the south. The main criticism of Washington was the continued dependence on the militia system.
Although the militia forces had defeated the British army at the battle of Saratoga, Washington claimed that the basic assumption of reliance on a militia force was erroneous. He claimed that in spite of the victories of Britain in the south, it was having difficulty financing the war and there were signs of rebellion in Britain, especially by the Irish.
Its international situation was also difficult following the entry of France, Spain and Holland into the war. The conversion of the American Revolution into a war in which the European powers were involved proved the success of the attrition strategy adopted by Washington. In his view, Britain was close to the point at which she could no longer continue to fight in North America. But Washington continues to assert that the establishment of a large standing army based on general recruitment for three years was essential to win the war.
The United States would never win its independence so long as it did not have a regular army. In his opinion, the militia could never confront a regular army, and in order to save the revolution it was necessary to recruit several thousand soldiers from the states of North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, and to set up an army that would also include cavalry and artillery units. The militia, within the framework of a regular army, would constitute an auxiliary force that would be engaged in patrolling, securing border crossings, and skirmishes.
Both generals conducted a strategy of attrition, but executed it in different tactical ways. Greene always acted under the command of Washington and never tried to undermine his authority as the Supreme Commander of the American forces. Greene was the commander of an arena, and in this capacity he had a fair amount of independence to decide on strategy. Even before Greene had reached the south, patriot guerrilla units conducted an attack on a British-loyalist force at King Mountain October 7, Washington and Greene present us with two methods for conducting war, one conventional Washington and the other unorthodox Greene.
The army was then reinforced by French forces preparing for the decisive battle of the revolution at Yorktown. Guerrilla warfare was the means and the establishment of a regular army was the end. It is also possible that the aim of the attrition strategy conducted by Greene was to damage the financial abilities of Britain to continue with the war, and thus to induce Britain to end the war through negotiations.
He split his small army into three groups. One of these was under the command of Daniel Morgan, whose task was to attack the British on the border between Georgia and South Carolina. Morgan told the militiamen to fire only three rounds of ammunition and then to retreat. In fact, at the very beginning of the British attack the militia units retreated.
When Greene arrived in the south, the ratio between the American and British forces had been in favor of the British. The unconventional thinking of Greene found expression in the splitting of his forces and the subordination of the guerrilla forces to his authority. Although this did not lead to a significant victory between February and August , the attrition of the British caused them to abandon areas in Carolina and Georgia and to withdraw into the cities of Savannah Georgia , Charleston South Carolina , Wilmington North Carolina and Yorktown Virginia.
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The last act of the revolution, the conquest of the city of Yorktown, was a conventional one. Therefore, from the strategic viewpoint, there was no difference between the two generals. Greene was unconventional in his military thinking, but from his letters it appears that he believed only a standing army, based on the eighteenth century European model, could win the revolution. In a letter that he wrote to Washington, Greene says that the outcome of the battle at King Mountain proved that one could depend on the irregular units for local operations so that the British would be forced to direct military resources to the internal areas of the southern colonies, thereby preventing their advance northwards towards Virginia.
As soon as Greene arrived in the south, he wrote to Francis Marion and Thomas Sumter that he was aware of their important operations that denied the British any achievements after the defeat of Gates at Camden, but that their main task at present was to gather intelligence about the strength and intentions of the British.
Even some of the victories were more strategic than measurable in military terms. The army was ragtag, barely trained, half-starving and woefully unequipped. The group was also hardly united for too much of the war and led by generals often squabbling, undermining, or fighting with each other.
The victories, while qualified, are remarkable in this light. Despite these various problems and disadvantages, Washington led an army that defeated the world's premier war machine of its day. Historians have praised Washington for his choice and supervision of the generals, how he encouraged morale, and held together the army. His close coordination with governors and state militias, his cooperative relations with Congress, and his professional attention to supplies, logistics, and training all contributed to the success of the Continental Army.
A trained, experienced leader during the F rench and Indian War , Washington was the logical choice to lead the Continental Army. The Army was formed by the Continental Congress in after the outbreak of the American Revolution. Washington served as Commander-in-Chief of the army throughout the War. When Washington assumed command, the Continental Army truly was not even an army.
Rather, it was a loosely and poorly coordinated band of militias and citizen-soldiers under control of the individual states. There were no established protocols for exercising coordinated authority, for supplying and feeding the troops, for transportation, or any other of the myriad tasks necessary for a field army. Because eighteenth century communication was very poor and maddeningly slow, gaining the Continental Congress' required approval for anything took long periods of time.
Under these conditions fighting the powerful British army was a gargantuan task. Despite these impediments, Washington organized this seemingly motley amalgamation into three divisions, six brigades, and thirty-eight regiments. He initially employed one state's militia - Major General Philip Schuyler's ten regiments in New York - in an unsuccessful attempt to invade Canada. When it became clear that the Crown wanted to crush independence, Congress lengthened enlistment terms and ordered States to contribute regiments in proportion to their population.
Washington managed to force the British out of Boston in , but his next tests under fire were defeats. New York was abandoned with Washington nearly captured, Fort Washington fell, and most disastrously Fort Lee was so slowly evacuated that the British seized precious cannons, muskets, and supplies. In response, some called for Washington's removal from command because of this series of blunders.
The frequently critical General Charles Lee trumpeted Washington's "critical indecision" and expressed the need for General Horatio Gates to replace the general. But Washington reacted calmly, while limiting the military damage. He retreated his army through New Jersey and crossed the Delaware River into Pennsylvania to put a barrier between the pursuing British troops and his exhausted, dispirited forces. As the eight-year war dragged on, Washington learned to fight a quasi-guerilla style of warfare—a "war of posts"—against a superior, though tactically conservative foe.
Washington also became skillful in protecting himself from sniping generals and interfering politicians. The problems, however, never ceased.