What were the British and American Strategies for the Revolutionary war?

1 Answer | Add Yours

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The British featured some distinct strategies in seeking to win the Revolutionary War.  For the most part, these strategies were rooted in the idea that there was no real way that the Colonists could defeat the might and power of the British Armed Forces.  One of these strategies could be seen in how the British forces treated the Loyalist population in the Colonies.  The inconceivable belief that the Colonists could actually win was evident in the mistrust of the Loyalist population and the British discarding them,  not utilizing them in their advances against the Colonists.  

The initial strategy that the British contemplated was to capture Boston.  The belief was that the war would be over quickly and the capture of Boston, a vital port to the Colonists, would immediately weaken their resolve.  Yet, after the Battle of Bunker Hill, the British realized that this strategy had to be re- calibrated, given the heavy losses endured.  From this point, the British sought to isolate Boston and the New England region, instead focusing on New York and the Middle Colonies.  The belief was that in being able to take the Middle Colonies and New York, ironically where a great many of Loyalists lived, this could be a staging ground to finalize plans for subduing the Colonial threat and neutralizing their effectiveness.  Initially, this plan worked well as British General Howe proved to be quite successful in putting down Colonial forces in New York.  

Buoyed by this showing, British forces encountered Colonial forces in upstate New York at the Battle of Saratoga.  It is here where the British strategy faced a setback. The Colonial victory at Saratoga was a turning point in the war.  It showed that the Colonial forces could match the intensity and magnitude of the British troops on a man for man basis.  The victory at Saratoga also delivered foreign support to the Colonists, making them much more formidable. Reinforcements from Europe as well as supplies and resources began to move to the Colonists side, ensuring that England was not fighting only the Colonists, but longtime hated foes like the French.

From Saratoga, the Colonists were able to generate more victories against the British, thereby reducing the strategy of taking the Middle Colonies and isolating New England.  Finally, the British strategy turned to the South.  The approach taken resided in a three- pronged approach of tapping into Southern Loyalists, promising freedom to enslaved individuals, and changing the geographic focus of the war.  The belief here would be that this strategy would catch the Colonists off guard and spearhead a victory for the British.  Yet, it was evident at this phase in the war that the British underestimation of the Colonists had proved too costly to overcome.  

On the Colonial side, there was not much of an initial, drawn- out strategy. Unlike the British who had established a war apparatus that was second to none, the Colonists had to develop everything needed to fight a war.  Army, recruits, leadership, supplies, and a chain of command needed to be developed. This prevented a full out strategic focus from emerging and being thoroughly articulated.  For the most part, the Colonial strategy consisted of meeting the enemy wherever they emerged.  Enduring and persevering became another part of the strategic focus, something that Colonial leaders like Washington were skilled at maintaining amongst the troops.  When the Battle of Saratoga turned in favor of the Colonial forces, the strategy included obtaining foreign support for their cause.  Finally, in the South, the Colonial forces under Francis Marion embraced guerrilla- style, hit and run tactics against the conventional British forces.  This strategy paid off, as it challenged the British and thwarted any resurgence of the British in the American Revolution. 

Sources:

1 reply Hide Replies

We’ve answered 318,958 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question