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

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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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.

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thetall | (Level 3) Educator

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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.

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