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4 the American Revolution Military Events

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4. THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (MILITARY EVENTS). The fundamental fact in the British strategy of the American campaigns was their possession of control of sea-power, for the use of which in penetration of the seaboard strip by the openings of the Hudson River and Chesapeake Bay, the topog raphy afforded pre-eminent opportunities. In defense the Americans had the advantage of moving rapidly on lines of interior communica tion; and the holding of a position somewhere between the coast and the mountains from which they could keep control of these interior lines and thus prevent the success of British detachments, quite as often by refusing as by giving battle, was an essential feature of Amer ican strategy throughout the war. As a matter of fact, both sides were seriously handicapped in the course of working out their respective policies. On the American side, the prejudice against a standing army, the undue influence as sumed by the States after the first flush of the enthusiasm of the Union had passed and the precarious character of the support given to military operations made the maintenance of a reliable military force a matter of supreme dif ficulty for the genius of Washington himself. On the other hand, after 1778, the British were involved in war with France, after 1779 with Spain, and after 1780 with Holland and in this quadruple contest found no allies.

The first three years of the war constitute, in a way, the most critical period from the strategic point of view, for it was in these years that the British held undisputed posses sion of all the military advantage which con trol of the sea could give, and it was in this period that their most serious attempt to breilc the confederacy in two by occupation of the Hudson-Champlain-Saint Lawrence waterway was made and frustrated. In 1775 the Amer icans succeeded in keeping the British force confined in Boston while the attempt at the capture of Quebec by a double expedition north from Ticonderoga and northwest and west through the Maine forest under Montgomery and Arnold was made. This invasion collapsed and the evacuation of Boston by the British in March 1776 left each side in possession of its own territory.

The campaign of 1776 saw the British attempt at occupation of a Southern port, Charleston, repulsed and the advance south from Canada checked by Arnold's impromptu naval force on Lake Champlain till so late in the season that it got no further than Crown Point. New York, however, was occupied by the British army, supported by the fleet, and Washington's army was forced across New Jersey, leaving the mouth of the Hudson and large parts of both East and West Jersey in the hands of the enemy — supposedly for the winter. But Washington's masterly surprise at

Trenton and manoeuvre at Princeton in the last days of 1776 enabled him to hold northern New Jersey and keep the British confined to New York City and East Jersey only as far as Amboy and New Brunswick. The campaign of 1777 should have been devoted by the British to the single great object of occupying the whole length of the Hudson-Champlain-Saint Lawrence waterway, both ends of which lay in their possession. This fact made it the most available opening for their purpose and once the connection between the termini was made, the task of reducing the confederacy by sec tions would become practicable. But Howe's move on Philadelphia by sea so reduced the strength and delayed the co-operation of the force at the mouth of the Hudson with the southward movement of Burgoyne that the lat ter, hindered in his movements and unable to maintain himself at so slow a rate of advance, was surrounded and captured before the former had covered half the distance between New York and Albany. It is impossible to over estimate the importance of this achievement of the Americans. It made possible the French Alliance, which not only increased the military resources of the American defense by the use of the French sea-power, but involved the dis persion of the total military resources of the British against several opponents instead of allowing them to concentrate on the task of subduing the Americans. The consequences became apparent in the campaign of 1778 which was opened by Clinton's withdrawal from Phil adelphia across New Jersey toward New York, close-pressed at Monmouth by Washington, who now took up a position north and west of New York, from which he could watch and at tack any movement of the enemy toward either New England or Philadelphia. This po sition these armies practically maintained with out decisive engagement till the end of the war. There was an attempt of the French fleet and American land force against Newport in 1778 which ended in failure. There were numerous marauding expeditions by the British, designed to draw Washington from his commanding po sition. There was on the other hand the capture of the posts in the country west of the Alleghanies in 1778 and 1779 by Clarke, which had important consequences for the future de velopment of the country. But from 1778 on, the most active endeavors of the British invad ing force were directed against the Southern States. The bold dash of Wayne on Stony Point in 1779 and the narrow escape from loss of the Highlands of the Hudson through Arnold's treason in 1780 were only episodes in a situation in the North which showed no decisive changes from 1778 to 1781.

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