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In April, however, Gage received orders to arrest several patriot leaders, rumored to be around Lexington. Gage sent his troops out on the night of April 18, hoping to catch the colonists by surprise and thus to avoid bloodshed.
When the British arrived in Lexington, however, colonial militia awaited them. A fire fight soon ensued. Even so, it was not obvious that this clash would lead to war. American opinion was split.
Some wanted to declare independence immediately; others hoped for a quick reconciliation. The majority of Americans remained undecided but watching and waiting. Washington's first task, when he arrived in Boston to take charge of the ragtag militia assembled there, was to create an army in fact.
It was a daunting task with no end of problems: recruitment, retention, training and discipline, supply, and payment for soldiers' services were among those problems. Nevertheless, Washington realized that keeping an army in the field was his single most important objective. During the first two years of the Revolutionary War, most of the fighting between the patriots and British took place in the north.
At first, the British generally had their way because of their far superior sea power. Despite Washington's daring victories at Trenton and Princeton, New Jersey, in late and early , the British still retained the initiative. Indeed, had British efforts been better coordinated, they probably could have put down the rebellion in But such was not to be.
Within months, this victory induced France to sign treaties of alliance and commerce with the United States.
11. The American Revolution
In retrospect, French involvement was the turning point of the war, although that was not obvious at the time. Between and , British military operations focused on the south because the British assumed a large percentage of Southerners were loyalists who could help them subdue the patriots.
Until early in , the American Revolution was a civil war within the British Empire , but it became an international war as France in and Spain in joined the colonies against Britain. The French navy in particular played a key role in bringing about the British surrender at Yorktown , which effectively ended the war. In the early stages of the rebellion by the American colonists, most of them still saw themselves as English subjects who were being denied their rights as such.
What made the American Revolution look most like a civil war , though, was the reality that about one-third of the colonists, known as loyalists or Tories , continued to support and fought on the side of the crown. Americans fought the war on land with essentially two types of organization: the Continental national Army and the state militias. The total number of the former provided by quotas from the states throughout the conflict was , men, and the militias totaled , At any given time, however, the American forces seldom numbered over 20,; in there were only about 29, insurgents under arms throughout the country.
The war was therefore one fought by small field armies.
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Militias, poorly disciplined and with elected officers, were summoned for periods usually not exceeding three months. The terms of Continental Army service were only gradually increased from one to three years, and not even bounties and the offer of land kept the army up to strength. By contrast, the British army was a reliable steady force of professionals. Since it numbered only about 42,, heavy recruiting programs were introduced.
Many of the enlisted men were farm boys, as were most of the Americans. Others were unemployed persons from the urban slums.
Still others joined the army to escape fines or imprisonment. The great majority became efficient soldiers as a result of sound training and ferocious discipline. The officers were drawn largely from the gentry and the aristocracy and obtained their commissions and promotions by purchase.
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Though they received no formal training, they were not so dependent on a book knowledge of military tactics as were many of the Americans. British generals, however, tended toward a lack of imagination and initiative , while those who demonstrated such qualities often were rash. Because troops were few and conscription unknown, the British government, following a traditional policy, purchased about 30, troops from various German princes. The Lensgreve landgrave of Hesse furnished approximately three-fifths of that total. Few acts by the crown roused so much antagonism in America as that use of foreign mercenaries.
American Revolution - Wikipedia
American Revolution United States history. Written By: Willard M. Top Questions.
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