Advantages and Disadvantages of the Revolutionary War:
Colonial America vs. Great Britain
In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. However, the first colony wasn’t founded and formally established until 1607. Many of the persons who settled in this New World had relocated in order to escape religious persecution, seeking peace, liberty, and safety. In the years to come, the colonists faced many struggles, both foreign and domestic. Yet, it wasn’t until the colonists’ felt that the English government was not treating them justly that the tension skyrocketed and the harmony could no longer be maintained. As the American colonies grew larger and became more prosperous, they came to the conclusion that they too should be granted the rights that were permitted to people in England. They believed certain rules and regulations were unjustified, and unnecessary, such as the Mutiny Act of 1765, which declared that British troops were to be stationed permanently in America, and that the colonists were required by law to provide provisions and maintain the army (Brinkley, 2015, p. 92). Most importantly, colonists felt that they should be free from taxation unless they were also represented in the legislature that voted for the tax. Once the revolution began, it was a gruesome seven years on either side; victories and losses were inevitable. Conversely, the outcome of a war depends on far more than individual battles, so, better yet, both sides yielded to an array of advantages and disadvantages. In April 1775 British soldiers, also referred to as lobsterbacks, or Red Coat’s, because of their red military issue uniforms, and the colonists’ militia, or Minute-Men, exchanged gunfire at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. This incident is what’s described as “the shot heard round the world,” it signaled the beginning of the American Revolution (Brinkley, 2015, p. 103).
Great Britain’s leadership had superior tactical training in military combat; giving them the advantage in the beginning of the Revolutionary War. Britain’s army and naval forces were among the strongest in the world; they outnumbered the American troops in most battles. With their soldiers being proficient in combat, they also had an advantage since their army and navy had large quantities of equipment. However, as the war proceeded, British troops came to realize that American forces would not be as easily defeated as they had once anticipated. America was unfamiliar territory for the Red Coat’s, the land vast and remote, making it difficult to conquer. Even territory that was won was increasingly problematic to hold on to. It also did not do the British Militia any favors that their uniforms were vibrantly colored, making the clearly visible from large distances, as if they were wearing targets on their backs. While large percentages of the colonies were still loyal to Great Britain, they overestimated the colonists’ willingness to assist the British troops once in enemy territory. Loyalists, as they were called, accounted for approximately half of the colonists’ population; however, they were usually conservative, cautious, and pacifist. Many of the more primary religious groups were fundamentally loyalist, or at least neutral in nature.
Unfortunately, the British army repeatedly misjudged not only the loyalists’ character, but also the overall extent of support for the Crown in a given area of operations. “The occupation of Charleston from 1780 to 1782 demonstrates the ways in which [colonial] military rule turned civilian populations against the [British] empire” (Johnson, 2014, p. 22). Initially, the British regime had an abundant amount of triumph in swaying the city’s population to cooperate with renewed royal decree. However, these advances soon soured. The experience of livelihood in Charleston undermined the cautious preparation and progressive beliefs of the occupiers, putting the British Empire in an unsustainable political predicament long before defeat on the battlefield, thus losing the loyalty of said Loyalist’s.
Unable to rally the loyalists’, Britain’s militia relied on mercenaries, who fought only for money and had little stake in the outcome. Britain’s government and military was also faced with a 3,000-mile line of communication across the Atlantic Ocean. Britain ensured that its soldiers were reasonably well equipped and never starved; however, significant inadequacies in their resupplying system did exist, and before these flaws were properly identified and corrected accordingly, they contributed significantly to the British Army’s defeat. Ultimately, the lack of sufficient reserve supplies, combined with cautious leadership, insufficient transportation, widespread depravity, and the lack of a logical plan to amplify the possible support of British loyalists in the colonies, ensured British failure. These factors forced the British Army to fight a guerilla war—the only kind of war that the upstart United States could hope to win.
While it may have been unorthodox, it seemed that a forceful, offensive war was the only type that was going to maintain the colonies for Britain. To grasp any chance of victory, the British had to pursue the rebel army and overthrow it. Yet far too often their soldiers were forced to sit and wait or, worse, to abandon a position, fort, or town that had already been won through bloodshed. The American rebellion had a Militia with warfare styles that differed vastly from that of Britain’s militia. They took advantage of the enemy’s disadvantages; they refined the art of hiding behind rocks and trees. Unlike the Red Coats, the Minute-Men were familiar with the land, knew where there were shortcuts, how to avoid problem areas, and which places were good to hide. They also received assistance from France and Spain; thus, successfully blockading the coast, cutting of Britain’s troop’s supplies.
Furthermore, the colonist’s militia, were more determined due to the fact that they were fighting for their own cause; their desire to win was intertwined with the demand to protect their homes, defend their families, and secure their rights; while, on the other hand, Britain’s forces were merely fighting per the decree of their King, not of their own free will. Though they had invested their lives, their motivators were lacking in comparison. Moreover, with determination in their hearts, the Minute-Men, led by none other than George Washington, held an inside advantage over the British Military. Prior to becoming a resident of the Thirteen American Colonies, “Washington served as a commanding British officer during the French and Indian War and in the Virginia House of Burgesses where he headed opposition to Great Britain’s foreign strategies” (Jordan & Bennett, 1997, p. 154).
Although American’s held several advantages over the enemy, they too faced complications throughout the war. For instance, even with Washington’s courageous, unsullied leadership, a vast majority of the military was composed of highly inexperienced soldiers; most of them being farmers with very little strategic combat training. In addition, the colonies were considerably less financially secure; they were at a constant disadvantage in regards to an unremitting unavailability of money, weapons, food, clothing, and medicine. And again, Loyalists play a role; however, this time it is a disadvantage on colonial America’s side. “Around one in five Americans openly favored the Crown, with about half of the population hoping to avoid the conflict altogether. Most Indian tribes sided with Britain, who promised protection of tribal lands” (Cheaney, 2000, p. 2). Often times, some circumstances consisted of neighbors were fighting against neighbors. Regardless, some freedoms are simply worth fighting for.
In conclusion, it might have seemed reasonable to expect that relationships between the colonists in America and the citizens in Great Britain would have been reinforced after the end of the French and Indian War in 1763 (Brinkley, 2015, p. 104); however, in fact, the resolution of that conflict altered their relationship indefinitely. In a way, the cessation of the French and Indian War ultimately encouraged Americans to rebel against English rule and begin a war for independence. After evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of the American Revolutionary War, it is clear that neither side had more or less weight over the other, both had strengths and weaknesses; both sides won and lost battles. Nonetheless, in the end, after overcoming boundless obstacles and thwarting the enemies for seven dreadful years, the colonist’s won the war. While they may have made many sacrifices, and lost countless lives, what was gained at the Revolution’s end was greater than any price to be paid.