American Revolution

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Why did the American colonies win the Revolution?

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There were many reasons why the colonial soldiers, though outnumbered, defeated the British in the Revolutionary War, among them the following:

  • The colonists were more motivated than the British. The colonists were, after all, fighting for their independence on their own lands.
  • The British had to transport soldiers over 3,000 miles across the Atlantic to reach the battlegrounds, which was wearing, costly, and long. The colonists, on the other hand, were fighting on their own lands, which they knew well.
  • The colonists were able to receive help from the French, Dutch, and Spanish. The French were particularly helpful in sending troops.
  • Many of the British troops were foreigners, including Hessians from Germany. The recruitment of mercenaries angered the colonists, making them even more eager to fight.
  • The colonists used guerrilla-style battle tactics, enabling them to outwit and outmaneuver the British troops, who still fought in traditional formations. 
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The colonies' chances of winning the Revolution improved greatly after the Battle of Saratoga when France joined the war.  Soon after France, Spain and the Netherlands joined the war on the American side.  Britain had to defend all of its colonial holdings and this led to less troops being sent to the Americas.  The British people and Parliament also lost interest as the war dragged on, while the British army angered many colonists.  The Americans were simply more motivated to fight.  The Americans also had advantages in terms of supply lines and communications, as British supplies had to come to America via a long Atlantic crossing.  

It was also easier for the colonists to win, as they had to outlast the British army, whereas the British had to destroy the American army and American resistance.  The American seat of government was constantly on the move and George Washington's best asset as a general was his unwillingness to put his army in a position where it could be surrounded and destroyed.  The British were also never able to understand the American concept of using guerrillas and regular army soldiers, especially in the Southern theater which ultimately decided the war in favor of the Americans.   

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There are many reasons why the colonies were able to defeat Great Britain.  Let us look at three of the most important:

  • Help from France.  It is almost inconceivable that the Americans could have won without help from Britain’s rival superpower.  French money, ground forces, and naval forces all played huge roles in the colonists’ victory.
  • Better motivation.  The colonists had much more at stake in the war than did the British.  This was true both for those fighting and for their political leadership.
  • An easier path to victory.  For the British to win, they would have needed to change the minds of the colonists and make them happy to be British.  This is hard to accomplish militarily.  By contrast, the colonists only had to keep from losing long enough for Britain to tire of the war.

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