Why did Britain switch to a Southern military strategy? Why did that strategy ultimately fail?  

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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During the Revolutionary War, the British switched to a southern strategy that ultimately failed.  The British started fighting in New York. However, due to a variety of missteps, they weren’t successful in cutting off the New England colonies from the rest of the colonies.  After their defeat in the Battle of Saratoga, the British decided to move the fighting to the south. One of the reasons they did this was the lack of success they had fighting in the northern regions of the colonies. Another reason they moved to the south was that there were more loyalists living in the south. Believing they would receive more support from the loyalists, the British thought they might be able to win more battles here.  In the beginning of the southern campaign, the British had successes at places like Savannah, Charleston, and Camden.  Finally, the British knew that to win the war, they would have to defend the whole empire, including the south.  Ultimately, this campaign failed for many of the same reasons why it failed elsewhere. The British generals were not the best military men.  Some of them got their commands because of whom they knew instead of because of their military knowledge. As a result, they often made poor military decisions.  For many of the British soldiers, they really weren’t fighting for a cause. Unlike the Americans who had definite causes for which to fight (freedom and saving their lives to name a few), the British had hired soldiers to help fight the war.  Getting paid was a main motive for some of these soldiers. Additionally, as the war moved to the south, people in Britain were getting tired of the war. The British people expected a quick victory.  Instead, this war was becoming a long one.  Thus, support for the war dropped at home.  The British also didn’t know the land as well as the colonists did.  This was a decided disadvantage for the British. Finally, the help the colonists were getting from the rivals of Britain, aided the colonists in their fight. For example, the role the French navy played at Yorktown was crucial.  There were many reasons why the British moved the fighting to the south. There also are many reasons why this strategy failed.

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