A fresh view of Britain’s attempt to quash an independence movement that didn’t have to occur.
The British defeat in America was as unnecessary as the war. The colonists never wanted to separate from England; they were willing to pay taxes and support the king. Leading from abroad demanded unrealistic goals and provided insufficient resources. Different strategy, improved leadership at home, and better field commanders would have made a world of difference. The king’s fixation on gaining control of the corridor along the Hudson to Canada was an impossible task, illustrated by Gen. John Burgoyne’s loss at Saratoga. Throughout the war, the English reliance on loyalist support was delusional; any who might have joined them were put off by English and Hessian atrocities. Daughan’s (The Shining Sea: David Porter and the Epic Voyage of the U.S.S. Essex During the War of 1812, 2013, etc.) broad background in the naval history of the period and his inclusion of the English view comprises a portrait of a different revolution than the one taught in textbooks. The English leaders spent more time squabbling with each other than fighting battles. Too often, advantages were not pressed and defeats were snatched from the jaws of victory. Particularly absurd was the failure, without explanation, of Henry Clinton to press the attack on West Point after Benedict Arnold was exposed. It was scheduled within days, but he held back. George Washington had a similar amount of trouble, with subordinates undermining his authority and even, in the case of Gen. Charles Lee, ignoring orders. Throughout the war, Washington’s troops were undersupplied, hungry, and unpaid, and he didn’t even have a standing army until after the evacuation of New York. What Washington had was the ability to reinforce his army, something the British could not do. These stories are fascinating—egos run rampant, and myriad opportunities go by the wayside—and Daughan brings all his subjects to vivid life.
A stimulating look at the American Revolution by a diligent historian and talented writer.