HY 480 Week 3 Notes
HY 480 Week 3 Notes HY 480
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This 7 page Class Notes was uploaded by Rhiannon Hein on Sunday February 7, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to HY 480 at University of Alabama - Tuscaloosa taught by Dr. Harold Selesky in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 22 views. For similar materials see Survey of Military History in History at University of Alabama - Tuscaloosa.
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Date Created: 02/07/16
Shy Chapters 5&10 Notes Chapter 5 The British Museum split the American Revolution into two parts: The constructive part of the political revolution upstairs, and the Revolutionary War downstairs. o In the historiography of the conflict, it is typical to split the revolution into political and social and military. o This separation is essentially false to the historical event, because people living through the Revolutionary years made no such artificial separation (Shy tries to put them back together). o You have to know how society impacts war and vice versa. o To cross this dividing line (between the upstairs and downstairs) and to restore some of the unified reality of two hundred years ago, is the task of this essay. The military operations of the American Revolution make sense only when they are placed in their political and social context. o The nature and character of American society profoundly affected the outcome of the Revolutionary war. It is possible to identify certain social characteristics common to each colony. o These social characteristics strongly affected the struggle for independence. o The characteristics are as follows: The population of colonial America grew very rapidly during the first threequarters of the eighteenth century, perhaps more rapidly than any other society. The availability of a virtually unlimited supply of land eliminated periodic starvation, chronic malnutrition, and much of the epidemic disease. Very high rate of immigration after 1700s. The relatively homogenous population of English were joined by ScothIrish and Germans. A quarter of a million Africans were forced to migrate to the colonies. o Blacks, who had solved the chronic labor shortage, also caused a growing fear of bloody insurrection. Immigration was a primary factor in spreading people over the land. Emergence of a social elite. Prosperity gave a minority of early settlers the chance to acquire wealth and status. The position of the colonial elite was precarious because he ruled only by consent and depended on the British letting it exercise its power. Threatened by rapid growth and diversification. “Institutional weakness”: The lack of Europeantype structures for the maintenance of order. There was no governmental bureaucracy. Even slavery was looser in practice than law. o Tightening of slavery came after the Revolution. “Provincialism”: the basic attitude, toward themselves and the outside world, that set Americans off from European societies. Provincialism meant a lovehate relationship with Britain and with European civilization generally. The colonial elite admired Britain and Europe, but many resented or feared their superiority and strength. Americans felt morally superior to Europe and never tired of saying so, but they also knew America was inferior. But the question remains: what impact did these features, or society, have on the war? At the outset, it was the sheer energy and prosperity of American society that shaped the war. o When new British policies had threatened the economic and political positions of the American elite, that elite mobilized public opinion behind it and against British authority. The lack of any specialized military organization meant that virtually everyone went to war. o Numbers as much as anything were the backbone of American strategy in the beginning. “Provincialism” of American leaders led American strategy away from reliance on popular military forces (militia) and toward organization of something like a regular army. o Washington said the militia was worse than useless, and that the creation of a European style army was essential. Shy suspects native American leaders stressed a regular army because they felt a need to be seen as cultivated, honorable, and respectable men. o It was never a very good army and never very large, but it did keep the British army pinned down and concentrated, which left most of the country free to be contested between Americans. o It also created a chance for men, as officers, to achieve reputation on a national scale. Popular enthusiasm of 1775 began to give out rapidly and became hardly visible by 1777. o Internal divisions and conflicts of late colonial America weakened the war effort. o The lack of any effective mechanism to mobilize manpower for war, once local and popular pressure had begun to weaken, forced the Revolutionaries to fall back on other means, mostly economic incentive. Men were almost never drafted, some men were hired to fight. o There was economic differentiation between those who served actively for long periods in the war and those who did not. o This method of raising an army had several effects: It further weakened the role of higher kinds of motivation It contributed to the bankruptcy of the war effort evident by 1778. Weak personal motivation and governmental bankruptcy combined to produce the real crises of the latter of the war: The mutinies High rates of desertion Defection Virtual collapse of the war effort from central control back onto state and local levels. The American war for Independence is highly inefficient, but ultimately, it is effective, because with the help of the French, it does force the British to recognize the independence of the United States (Selesky’s view, not Shy’s). The method of waging war seemed a perversion to revolutionary ideals. The sheer size and wealth of late colonial America, plus the ability of its leadership to mobilize the society, made initial resistance possible, but the “provincialism” of most leaders and the lack of strong institutions and internal conflicts led to a degeneration in the quality and strength of the war effort. Throughout the war, the nature of American society caused British leaders to misread their strategic problems. The British had concluded from looking at American society that they were “soft”, more like the prosperous farmers and artisans of England and Europe, and little inclined to active military service. British underestimated the extent to which public opinion sustained the initial rebellion independently of those leaders who had initiated it. o This made Americans more effective (initially) than they had been in the colonial wars. British failed to think that through the way in which their military strategy could be politically effective; they simply assumed armed force could “work” in America as it had in Europe and Ireland. Britain fomented a civil war their side never seemed able to win. o It was too late, many Americans were already disillusioned by the previous lack of British success o The Americans who would fight for them were bitterly angry people bent on vengeance and not restoration of law and order. People bent on vengeance do not create stable political resolutions; they create conflict. o Most loyalists went to the British side because they were socially and numerically weaker. o British arming of Cherokees and calls for black slaves to turn against their masters had similar counterproductive effects. This foments a race war. People aren’t going to sit around and watch their slaves get armed, so they go to the American cause. o The British army may have stepped into the great issue in American history: the “tyranny of the majority” Nothing did more in the later stages of the war to keep the Revolution alive than the British effort to activate loyalist minorities. Without French intervention, the revolution could not possibly have ended when or the way in which it did. o It marked the difference between American success and failure. o George Washington is extremely successful in not losing, but not losing is extremely different from winning. Chapter 10 Military historians have been trying to explain the question of the American Revolution for a very long time: o How does one answer the question of how one of the greatest military powers in history could have been defeated by a few million scattered, inadequately armed, and badly trained colonials. o Many historians however, like to explain British defeat in terms of British mistakes without looking at what the Americans may have done well. Did the American Revolution change American society? o Can we ask about the military conflict—revolutionary in structure? Revolutionary in effects? Much writing on military history of the Revolution is contaminated with preoccupations of military theory, especially those with the “principles of war”, which lie at the center of military science in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Shy wants to correct the illusion that the American Revolution, including its war, somehow took palceo utside the dynamics of violence that have afflicted revolutionary struggles elsewhere. Do the doctrines, studies, and general experience of “revolutionary warfare” in the twentieth century provide some insight into the American Revolutionary War? o Shy’s answer, with due caution and qualification, is yes. One measurable effect of war might have been to widen the gap between richer and poorer Americans. The structural feature of modern revolutionary wars that has most impressed intelligent observers is not the use of guerrilla tactics but the triangularity of the struggle. o Two armed forces contend less with each other than for the support and control of the civilian population. o The government and its forces are reluctant to perceive this essential traingularity, while rebels use whatever strength they can muster to break links between governor and governed. Revolutionary violence is less an instrument of physical destruction than one of persuasion. o Ideally, government ceases to function because no one any longer obeys and the old authority is displaced by revolutionary organization without massive confrontations of conventional warfare. o You want to get the hearts and minds of people on your side. Hope remains as long as the revolutionary organization survives. o You’ve got to do what you can militarily and political to undercut hope The above model of modern revolutionary warfare is not completely the same as the American Revolutionary War, but fits at some points close enough to be worth exploring. Parttime soldiers were not adequately focused upon because many thought they played at the fringes of the war. o Even Washington, who disliked militiamen, reveals the neglected importance and frequency of what was labeled in the twentieth century as unconventional warfare. Most regarded toe success and survival of the Continental army as the chief military factor on which the Revolution depended. American strategy from 17751783 was keyed to conventional operations. o By being militarily conventional, American Revolutionaries created at least the illusion of unified purpose, military strength, and political respectability. The record of British experience provides a uniquely valuable way of looking at the war. o British officers’ persistent efforts to understand in order to act effectively gives us the chance to consider the Revolutionary War apart from the parochial concerns and commitments that may have paralyzed the effort to understand it as Americans. The petite Guerre of the rebel militia had important social consequences. In the war for independence, the intimidation of the lukewarm was essential in creating the resistance movement. British efforts to interpret and put down rebellion in the American colonies divide into three distinct stages. o Before the war, British governments had defined their American problem as one of law enforcement and the maintenance of order policy on this belief failed because of sympathy for the few individuals who were punished.. o After the destruction of tea, the British government adopted a new interpretation, which was that insurgency had a center—Boston—and that this center could be isolated and punished. This new policy assumed that other colonies were disturbed by the latest acts of Boston insurgents and oculd be intimidated by the example made of Boston. Police thus needed to depend on overwhelming force to achieve clearcut success within a single geographical point. Of course this assumption was wrong. o With the outbreak of actual fighting, the British began believing that the government faced a fairly conventional war that could be conducted along classical lines. Game seemed to be one of maneuvering in order to bring the rebel army (the Continental, which was formed European style) to a decisive battle or to destroy it without costly fighting. The assumption seemed to be that success in conventional operations would automatically bring restoration of political control in the wake of military victory. o The assessments of civilian attitudes became more important than it had been in 1776 and affected planning in two ways: Because the unexpected continuation of the war for another year strained British military manpower, one British force would move to Philadelphia. The other would move down the CamplainMohawkHudson corridor. The campaign was a disaster, primarily because of the miscalculation of objectives and of timespace factors through an erroneous conception of the civilian environment within which military operation were to be conducted. o The outline of the third and last British strategy took a year to emerge from the confusion that followed the defeat at Saratoga. For the first time, civilian population came to be the major factor in planning. It was seen that Loyal and neutral civilians had to be organized and protected before any lasting results could be achieved and that the great pool of civilian manpower also accounted for the resilience of the rebel main armies. It was decided to begin the new campaign in the South, which was seen as the soft underbelly of the rebellion with its scattered population and fear of slave uprisings and Indian tribes. At last it was understood that the recruitment of Loyal provincial troops merely for use in conventional operations had deprived an area of the very people who might control it. High priority was given to local selfdefense forces. British strategy had finally become a comprehensive plan of pacification directed against a revolutionary war. New strategy was linked to political situation in Britain itself. o The government had justified a costly and controversial war on the ground that Britain had to defend Loyal Americans against rebel vengeance. o The crown believed that most Americans, given the choice to choose freely, would choose the Crown. In the end, the third southern campaign failed: why? o Small groups of rebel irregulars could not be eliminated altogether. o Neither side had the capability of protecting the civilian population fully and a ferocious guerrilla war spread throughout South Carolina, into Georgia, and through North Carolina. Almost every British action appears to have exacerbated the situation. Neither British nor rebel leaders regarded the bloody civil war in the South as “favorable” to their side: both tried to curb it in order to gain political control and prevent alienation of potentially friendly civilians. Every major British troop movement in the American Revolution created shock waves of civilian behavior in the surrounding area. British record reveals the response of the whole population to the multifarious stimuli of war. What emerges from the British record, is a picture of the great middle group of Americans. o Almost certainly a majority of the population, these were the people who were dubious, uncertain, and afraid who felt there was nothing at stake that could justify involving themselves and their families. o These people lost from sight in the Revolutionary Record or are dismissed as “the timid.” From a British perspective, it appears a great many of these people ^^ were changed by the war. o Beginning as uneasy, potentially loyal subjects of the Crown and ending up as knowing, wary citizens of the United States. o The war was a political education conducted by military means, and no one learned that more than the apathetic majority. The British and their allies were fascinated by the rebel militia. o The militia enforced law and maintained order wherever the British army did not. o From the British point of view, the rebel militia was one of the most troublesome and predictable elements in a confusing war. o From the British viewpoint, the militia was the virtually inexhaustible reservoir of rebel military manpower. Under the circumstances, enrollment in the militia could be a test of loyalty. “The militia also looked like a great spongy mass that could be pushed aside or maimed temporarily but that had no vital center and could not be destroyed” Eventually almost every colonial county had a point where men had to either take arms in an emergency or to do something that would visibly label them as suspicious or disloyal persons. The Revolutionary War, considered as a political education for the masses, helps to fill the explanatory gap of how America managed to win, provided we are willing to extrapolate a little from the evidence. The broad popular basis of military organization forced thousands of more or less unwilling people to associate themselves openly and actively with the cause. Another massive effect of the war was the rapid erosion of deferential political behavior. o Once they had seen and even taken part in the hounding, humiliating, and perhaps even killing men known as their superiors, it would’ve been hard for them to re attain the same unthinking respect for wealth and status. One last visible effect of the war on American politics was the sharpening of the struggle between central and local authority. Difficulty has always lain with discerning and describing the affects of the war and in explaining them without resort to some mystical notion of American character.
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