Wednesday, June 30, 2010

1775: The Start of the American Revolutionary War

As probably a lot of other people, I always considered 1776 to be the important, definitive year of the American Revolution. It’s the year of the Declaration of Independence. I gave short shrift to 1775, although that year defined the independence that so many Americans wanted and were willing to wage war to achieve.

1775 absolutely changed the relationship between Great Britain and America forever. Not that there weren’t many people who desperately remained loyal to Great Britain and King George III. But those who did became the enemy of the Patriots who were ready to fight. As yet there was no army to speak of, but when George Washington, after much controversy, was appointed General, that gradually changed. Farmers were “Minutemen”, ready to fight at any minute; militias were mobilized to take on the well-trained professional British troops.

In 1775, colonies, particularly Massachusetts, were no longer content to be obedient subject of their British masters. The time of revolution had come. Incidents such as the Boston Tea Party were behind them. Pitched battles were the order of the day.

What the revolutionaries achieved in 1775 is, in retrospect, absolutely amazing. The American forces had practically nothing. They were a skeleton force, with hardly ever sufficient ammunition or much else, for that matter. Discipline had yet to be established. But our fighters had firm resolve, courage, and cunning. The British realized that they were not going to have a quick victory over their audacious American enemy.

The Second Continental Congress’s agenda for formally declaring Independence in 1776 could never have been realized without the tumultuous year preceding it.

April 19, 2010, was a big day in Boston. The running of the Marathon set a new time record. The day also commemorated what is officially designated as the beginning of the American Revolutionary War, the battles of Lexington and Concord in the Boston area. There was nothing unexpected about the fighting location. Already there were British occupying troops, the Boston Massacre, the Tea Party; the British considered by now the Boston area to be at the root of all her colonial problems. Boston residents were anti-British and quarrelsome; they could degenerate into mob action at a moment’s notice, encouraged by powerful agitators such as Sam Adams.

The British at Lexington and Concord had the primary objective of capturing American weapons and ammunition. If they could do this secretly, it might put the American forces out of commission, given our chronic shortage of arms. If the British could also lay their hands on Adams and Hancock, so much the better.

None of these plans worked. The arms had been moved elsewhere and Revere had done a good job warning Adams and Hancock. Secrecy was not very effective against the canny and treacherous Bostonians. Other pitched battles such as Bunker Hill followed quickly. A real war was on. – Renata Breisacher Mulry

This period of the American Revolutionary War is well documented. I found some sources to be particularly interesting and easy to follow. Military history can get quite complicated. Here are a couple of useful citations:
American Battlefields. Hubbard Cobb. McMillan USA. 1995. 382 pp. Emphasis on maps and illustrations. Covers all wars. Amazon | AbeBooks |

Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence. John Ferling. Oxford University Press. 2007. 679 pp. Covers the whole war in as much detail that one could possibly find in a single volume. I think this is a must-have for the subject. Amazon | AbeBooks |

Notable American Battles in 1775
Lexington and Concord, Boston area | April 19
Capture of Fort Ticonderoga | May 10
Control of Lake Champlain
Bunker Hill | June 16 -17
Invasion of Canada
Montgomery Captures Montreal | November 13
Assault on Quebec | December 31

Although the American forces committed significant troops in Canada and there were many maneuvers, our invasion of Canada ultimately failed. The War in the South was predominantly a conflict between Patriots and Loyalists.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The California Primary Election

Last Tuesday was primary election day. Republicans and Democrats chose their candidates for the big contest in November. Some won, some lost, some are in limbo facing a run-off, and a few are in election hell as they still don’t know the result. Many candidates were quite unknown to the voters so generally incumbents did well. That makes a lot of voters angry enough to vote for term limits. Not that it always makes much of a difference. Politicians don’t fade quietly from view. They go on to compete in a different political office be up for grabs. These may not have term limits at all.

Not many people vote in primaries. I think that’s due to a massive dose of inertia, lack of any

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

Memorial Day has come and gone, with flags, tears, huge crowds spending the day at the beach, and barbecues sending out delicious aromas of hamburgers and hot dogs sizzling for a festive holiday meal.

The weather might be a challenge, traffic jams are expected, but a lot of people are happy they have the day off.

Many people feel that the real significance of Memorial Day has been lost -- now it’s nothing more than a chance for a three-day weekend. I don’t agree. Americans are hard workers; we actually don’t get that many

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Friends of 1776 Anniversary

Friends of 1776 celebrated its first anniversary last month.

I thank you sincerely for all your interest and support. Birthdays for people and events come around quickly.

Some things I would have done differently: generally, I found writing posts more difficult than I expected. I would have enjoyed more comments; these keep one sharp.

I am amazed though at the huge variety of opinion expressed in this country, and with so much conviction.

After one year, the story of how America became independent from Great Britain is still incredible. And after

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Tea Party Movement

There were many reasons for the American Revolution. If you asked the general public you would probably get one answer. The colonists didn’t want to pay taxes. Benjamin Franklin set out the permanent reality of death and taxes. So what else was new? Governments have always wanted to levy taxes, and nobody wanted to pay them. The tax code always seems eminently unfair; tax allocations don’t benefit us personally.

Who should we pay taxes to? King George III of England? His Parliament? Don’t tax us, was the clear message; we’re not represented at all in your government. It is illegal for you to levy taxes on us.

The British wanted to bail out its monopolistic East India Tea Company by

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mini-post on HBO’s The Pacific

March 14 will air the first episode of HBO’s ten hour epic TV miniseries, The Pacific, a very expensive, graphic retelling of the US battles against the Japanese in the Pacific during World War II. Much of the ferocious fighting took place on countless islands such as Peleliu. Many of these campaigns are long forgotten.

Co-producers are Tom Hanks

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Two Military History Episodes to Celebrate George Washington’s Birthday

Washington’s Birthday should be commemorated as more than a retail bonanza.

The previous post for Friends of 1776 has tried to revise his birthday celebration as more serious, more patriotic, something more fitting for the occasion.

One suggestion was to award each year a military history literary prize. Washington was a general for much of his active life; he was our Supreme Commander during the Revolutionary War.

Here are two military stories that have produced good reading.