How were the colonial forces able to defeat the British army?    

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There were several reasons why the colonists were able to defeat the British army. One reason was the British generals didn’t make wise decisions. At the Battle of Saratoga, the British planned for three divisions of troops to meet near Albany, New York. However, General Howe didn’t follow the plan and went to Philadelphia instead. Additionally, General Burgoyne carried so many unnecessary luxury items with him, which caused his army to move very slowly. This allowed the colonists to regroup when needed. This third army that was expected to arrive at Albany was defeated. Thus, only one of the three armies made it to Albany. The British lost this battle and failed to isolate the New England colonies from the rest of the colonies.

The colonial victory at Saratoga not only gave the colonists hope, it opened the door for foreign aid. Both Spain and France were waiting until the colonists won a major battle before committing to help them. Now that colonists won a major battle, foreign countries began to help the colonists.

Another blunder the British made was bringing their fleet to Yorktown. This gave General Washington an opportunity to trap the British fleet. General Washington moved his army by land to the area around Yorktown. The French fleet sealed the entrance to Chesapeake Bay preventing the British fleet from escaping by water. The British were surrounded and had to surrender.

The colonists had very good military leadership. George Washington was an outstanding leader. He had experience fighting  from the French and Indian War. He was able to alter his plans to fit any situation. For example, his flexibility allowed us to surround the British fleet at Yorktown. He also understood the importance of getting some kind of victory heading into the first winter after the Revolutionary War began. Thus, he moved his troops on Christmas night, when the British would least expect an attack, to fight the British at Trenton. This victory, along with another one at Princeton, gave the colonists some hope as the winter of 1776-1777 arrived.

There are many reasons to explain why the improbable colonial victory over the British occurred.

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