Wednesday, August 14, 2013
This is a fascinating work on the American Revolution. It is told as a tale of English leaders--political (George III, Lord North, Lord Germain, the Earl of Sandwich), army (Generals Howe, Burgoyne, Clinton, and Cornwallis), and navy (Admirals Howe and Rodney) One narrative of the success of the Revolutionary War is poor leadership by the British. This book, though, contends that many of the leaders were actually very good. Leadership was not, in fact the reason for the American victory.
George III? He is described as a king whose (Page 19) "accession seemed like the dawn of a new age with unbounded promise." And, later in his reign--before medical problems began to cripple him--he was still viewed positively by his people. Hardly the image of the tyrant. Given the increase in the role of Parliament that had been ongoing, his reign is the more intriguing.
Military leaders? The Howe brothers were part of a team that routed the Americans in Long Island and Manhattan. Generals Clinton and Cornwallis, as chief lieutenants, were key players in the humiliating defeats of General George Washington's forces. Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne was another of the key army leaders. He, too, had been under the command of General Howe. He convinced the British leaders that he could take a force down the Hudson and cut the republic in two. It did not work out, as he was defeated at the Battle of Saratoga and then surrendered to the American army under General Gates.
The narrative continues. Including General Cornwallis' string of victories in the South--which amounted to nothing as he ended up surrendering to George Washington's French-American army.
In the end, the author concludes, the military commanders--for the most part--did their jobs quite well. There was political turmoil that ended up undermining the military forces--budget problems, the questions about the war by many powerful figures, the involvement of France and Spain in the conflict.
In the end, the author concludes that the war was not readily winnable. There were too few military resources committed to the continent. There was not a full political consensus for continuing the war. There were budgetary constraints. Military resources were adequate for victory in battles--but not for occupation to maintain some degree of tranquility. Incompetent leaders? The author notes that many of the team (Page 361) "who lost America were also the men who saved Canada, India, Gibraltar, and the British Caribbean." A thought provoking work, with lessons going beyond the American Revolution.
Posted by Hanley Smith at 3:36 PM