Why Did Britain Switch To A Southern Military Strategy? Why Did That Strategy Ultimately Fail?

Why did Britain switch to a southern military strategy in the Revolutionary War?

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The British had several reasons for moving the fighting to the South during the Revolutionary War. For one, the British weren’t experiencing much success in the North, and they had just lost the Battle of Saratoga. Britain hoped to cut the New England colonies off from the rest of the colonies. However, due to several factors, including poor military decision-making and leadership, the British failed to isolate the New England colonies.

The British also moved the fighting to the South because they had to defend the entire land that made up the thirteen colonies. Unlike the colonists, who could fight a defensive war and avoid major battles, the British needed to defend all of the areas that they controlled.

The British also hoped to get more support in the South. Many loyalists lived in the South, and the British hoped that they would be fighting in areas in which more people would support them.

This strategy ultimately failed, even though the British experienced some initial successes. The colonists were fighting on land that was more familiar to them than it was to the British. The colonists also didn’t have to go on the offensive. The longer the war lasted, there would be a growing number of voices in Great Britain to end the war. The colonists used guerilla-warfare strategies that helped them avoid major battles and helped to prolong the war. Also, they got help from France and from Spain. This help, which included supplies, money, and some soldiers, benefited the colonists significantly. The colonists were also fighting for a cause in which they believed. They wanted their independence, and some of the colonists knew they could be killed if the colonial war effort failed.

thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The American Revolutionary War featured armed conflict between the thirteen states of the former American colonies and the kingdom of Great Britain. The War was at first centered in the North but Britain was later to shift it to the South in what is known as the Southern Strategy. The reasons behind the shift in strategy include:

  • British territorial losses in the North and the recapture of New Jersey by General Washington and his army
  • The surrender and subsequent defeat of the British army under General Burgoyne at Saratoga
  • The Franco-American treaty where France saw the loss of the British as an opportunity to seek revenge and inflict more damage
  • The entry of Spain as an ally of France to support America in her quest for independence by providing military support

Due to the above reasons, Britain was forced to change her strategy and focused on the South, hoping that the high number of loyalists in the Southern States would strengthen their side. They however underestimated the growing Patriot population and logistical challenges leading to failure in the Southern Strategy.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The British switched to a southern military strategy after General Henry Clinton arrived in the colonies to take over command of British troops from William Howe.  Clinton decided that the British efforts in the North had failed and that they should move South.  The South, he felt, would be a better place for the British because it was believed that the South had many more Loyalists than the North did.  The British felt that they would be in friendlier territory there.  They would be able to draw on Tory strength to supplement the regulars.  They would build momentum by winning in the South and would then move back North to finish the job.