Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

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Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Honorius » 2015-08-22 12:12pm

While I was researching the Ferguson Rifle,I came across this site.

Enigma explained?

Before the American Revolution ended in 1783, the progress of Britain's war effort, including what led to King's Mountain, raised questions, some of them by General Washington. The common denominators among them was General Sir William Howe and his political associates.

As early as 1781, a prominent Englishman, Joseph Galloway, accused Howe of "losing the war on purpose." He charged that Howe, a member of Britain's Whig Party, had been an American sympathizer for years. When Howe had stood for Parliament in Nottingham in 1775, he said he would never fight against the Americans. But when the King ordered him to Boston, Howe could not refuse.

For years Americans had wondered why every time Howe had the Continental army nearly beaten, he refused victory. Squandered opportunities included: Long Island, where he had to issue repeatedly his order to halt his troops, preventing them from storming Brooklyn Heights; White Plains; Chatterton's Hill; Brandywine, where he could have followed up and destroyed Washington's army; and Valley Forge, when the Americans were sick, nearly helpless, and low on rations and ammunition. After Long Island, American General Israel Putnam said, "General Howe is either our friend or no general."


What do you guys think?

Was Howe the Colonials friend or just an incompetent general?

Me personally, I don't know enough about this period to comment one way or another. For all I know, General Howe may have been the victim of the fog of war due to the limited communications technology of the time.

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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Lord Revan » 2015-08-22 12:52pm

Hard to say but people of that era as with modern times tend to almost consistently ignore fog of war when it didn't work in their favor.
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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Sea Skimmer » 2015-08-22 02:35pm

This is BS. Galloway did indeed accuse him of being a traitor. And Parliament investigated this extensively and could find no fault with his military conduct. Funny how this guy just ignores that pesky detail.

Howe wasn't incompetent, he was simply faced with a militarily impossible situation, and he actually knew it unlike people in England whom failed to grasp how large an area the 13 colonies were. He never had enough troops, and while indeed he failed to purse enemies several times this was generally because his own forces had won, but in great disorder. He made many flanking attacks, and had to do so because he was often no more then equal in number to the continentals and understood he had to preserve his scare forces. It says something that the Royal Navy couldn't even keep the colonials from running escorted convoys along the coastline for long periods of the war because they simply were not assigning enough ships to physically intercept them. London did not want to pay what it would cost to win in America, but they didn't figure out it wasn't worth it until Yorktown became an avoidable disaster.
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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Ziggy Stardust » 2015-08-23 10:42am

Yeah, the situation becomes a lot clearer when you actually research the details surrounding the different battles quoted on that site.

Let's just take the Battle of Long Island, for instance. Howe won a massive victory in the field that day, forcing Washington to retreat to the main colonial fortifications in the Brooklyn Heights. Even before we get to his disengagement, if he were deliberately trying to lose, why did he outflank them in the first place? And then, he failed to push the assault on the Heights, but they were a well-defended network of fortifications. And it was raining through the evening and into the night, after which a dense fog settled in. The previous year, Howe had lost a lot of men near Boston trying to force colonial fortifications. And, with the East River at their backs and the Royal Navy in control of the seas, there was good reason to suspect that the colonial army was trapped and that they could lay siege with relatively minimal casualties. Really, it was more of a failure on the part of the Royal Navy to not notice the massive shipping activity going across the River; part of the blame goes to Howe's patrols that noticed the lack of American pickets and began to investigate, but didn't notice that the entire damned army had gone.

So, really, it wasn't incompetence or deliberate failure. Howe acted pretty reasonably. The truth is that the evacuation of Brooklyn was a pretty miraculous victory on the part of Washington, and not something that could have been easily anticipated.

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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-08-23 11:46am

It's debateable whether Britain could have paid what it would take to subdue the colonies; I seem to recall reading that the cost of sustaining the war was, at its height, something like half their government's budget.

[This may be me mis-remembering, I don't have time right now to go back and look it up all over, but will hopefully be able to do so later].
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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Sea Skimmer » 2015-08-23 12:04pm

It was something like that percentage, but a figure like that doesn't mean much without knowing how much of the economy it was. Non military spending was pretty low everywhere until the later 19th century, and heck in the run up to WW1 the supposedly 'high' levels of arms race spending actually only amounted to being about 2.5-3% of GDP.


The evacuation of Long Island was greatly aided by fog, and the East River was too narrow and shallow, not to mention having shore batteries on both sides, for the British to mount standing patrols in. They couldn't just use small boats themselves as those would simply be sunk. The waterway at that point was only about a mile wide. This sort of 'sails suck' situation is partly why certain European powers still had small numbers of rowing frigates around until the first steam tugs appeared, but the British abandon them early since they had many disadvantages. Just because something is water doesn't mean a wooden sailing fleet can dominate it.
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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Ziggy Stardust » 2015-08-23 01:58pm

Sea Skimmer wrote:The evacuation of Long Island was greatly aided by fog, and the East River was too narrow and shallow, not to mention having shore batteries on both sides, for the British to mount standing patrols in. They couldn't just use small boats themselves as those would simply be sunk. The waterway at that point was only about a mile wide. This sort of 'sails suck' situation is partly why certain European powers still had small numbers of rowing frigates around until the first steam tugs appeared, but the British abandon them early since they had many disadvantages. Just because something is water doesn't mean a wooden sailing fleet can dominate it.


The East River isn't that much shallower than, say, the River Thames (in fact, IIRC, the East River actually DOES get much deeper than the Thames up by Riker's Island, but that's not relevant since that isn't close to the Heights). And the Heights are pretty much right at the drainage into the Upper Bay (around where the Brooklyn Bridge stands now). I have a hard time believing that would be so inaccessible to any Royal Navy ships at all. I mean, the depth is certainly >10m, which should be accessible to fourth-rates, right?

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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Eternal_Freedom » 2015-08-23 05:49pm

Given how narrow it is, exactly how deep it is doesn't matter. Being only a mile wide and with batteries on either side means any ship, and the RN could only really have used frigates, could have been under fire from both sides. Frigates aren't built to stand in the line of battle, so they would be unable to take such fire for long, since the shore battery guns would probably have been heavier than the ship's (not being limited by weight and centre of gravity problems for a start).

The frigates would either have to work in pairs, each engaging one set of shore guns, or they'd have had to each man both broadsides at once, which simply isn't feasible for a sailing warship. Add the fact that with the narrow river they'd have precious little room to maneuver even if the wind or tide was in their favour. Turning around would expose their vulnerable sterns to those same shore batteries.
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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Ziggy Stardust » 2015-08-23 06:07pm

Fair enough.

Still, IIRC, Howe explicitly expected the Royal Navy to be able to keep the colonial army trapped in the Heights. Possibly that means it was a mental lapse on his part, not understanding the terrain. Also possible that the colonials either didn't have enough heavy artillery to credibly threaten the Navy. I would have to read more details of the background to the battle to know for sure.

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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Eternal_Freedom » 2015-08-23 06:53pm

I can't comment on the details exactly, it's an area of naval history I know precious little about. But it could be as simple as Howe not being a sailor and not grasping the problems of seamanship. And he shouldn't be expected to, he was a soldier not a sailor.
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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Thanas » 2015-08-24 12:54am

In that case it is still a failure of his, as the responsibility to remain in touch with the Navy or have a naval advisor is his.
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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-08-24 04:09am

A failure, yes- but hardly a reason to assume he was actively trying to lose the battle and let the Americans get away. I honestly can't remember how many times in history I've heard "the battle was lost/indecisive/a stalemate..." as a result of a senior officer of one service not understanding the capabilities of another service. Cavalry not understanding infantry, admirals not understanding generalship and vice versa, and so on.

Sea Skimmer wrote:It was something like that percentage, but a figure like that doesn't mean much without knowing how much of the economy it was. Non military spending was pretty low everywhere until the later 19th century...
The catch is that in the 1770s, Britain was still mostly a pre-industrial economy, so there really wasn't that much economic surplus, and what there was couldn't be mobilized fully. GDP is a good economic indicator for industrial societies, because their wealth is fairly fungible, and you can redirect most of it freely without anyone starving to death. In a society that hasn't completed the industrial revolution... not so much.

The main source of actual wealth for Britain that you could tax and spend on military operations was international sea trade, much of which was with America and therefore badly disrupted by the war.

Plus, Britain had to spend the majority of its available military budgets on the navy, because there were at least three sizeable European countries that would cheerfully swoop in and start chewing up their trade and shipping if it looked like Britain was weak enough navally to be taken down a peg or two. All of which piled in on Britain within three or four years of the outbreak of the rebellion in America.

So I figure that the government budget of Britain, while maybe not as great as it could have been, was at least within shouting distance of the maximum that the British political and economic system of the day would support. If the Revolutionary War was consuming half of that budget, it's a pretty strong indication that the government was working very hard to reconquer the colonies... and that the government was expending so many resources on it that other considerations almost had to be suffering.

Ziggy Stardust wrote:I have a hard time believing that would be so inaccessible to any Royal Navy ships at all. I mean, the depth is certainly >10m, which should be accessible to fourth-rates, right?
The problem is that while sure, the shipping channel may have been deep enough to float a large warship... the channel isn't necessarily as wide as the river. To safely navigate a river in an oceangoing vessel you need an experienced pilot or very very good charts. Otherwise you risk running aground on a random rock or sandbar. And doing so in a sailing ship is extremely risky, because as Skimmer noted, sail propulsion doesn't let you go just anywhere you want. If the wind changes direction and starts blowing you toward a dangerous obstacle, you may not be able to turn around and avoid hitting it, except by lowering your sails and breaking out the rowboats to tow you clear of the obstacle... which is suicidally dangerous if you're under cannon fire from both banks of a river.
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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Thanas » 2015-08-24 06:11am

Simon_Jester wrote:The main source of actual wealth for Britain that you could tax and spend on military operations was international sea trade, much of which was with America and therefore badly disrupted by the war.

Plus, Britain had to spend the majority of its available military budgets on the navy, because there were at least three sizeable European countries that would cheerfully swoop in and start chewing up their trade and shipping if it looked like Britain was weak enough navally to be taken down a peg or two. All of which piled in on Britain within three or four years of the outbreak of the rebellion in America.

So I figure that the government budget of Britain, while maybe not as great as it could have been, was at least within shouting distance of the maximum that the British political and economic system of the day would support. If the Revolutionary War was consuming half of that budget, it's a pretty strong indication that the government was working very hard to reconquer the colonies... and that the government was expending so many resources on it that other considerations almost had to be suffering.


That is a pretty bold assumption which I cannot agree with, considering that when a war really needed to be prosecuted in the past sums could easily be spent that surpassed the previous Governments budgets entirely, by way of massive money lending and credit. Like it happened every time Britain went to war with a continental power.

Likewise, the British war effort merely 12 years later on dwarfs this and was continued with small interruptions for nearly 30 years.
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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Ziggy Stardust » 2015-08-24 07:57am

Simon_Jester wrote:The problem is that while sure, the shipping channel may have been deep enough to float a large warship... the channel isn't necessarily as wide as the river. To safely navigate a river in an oceangoing vessel you need an experienced pilot or very very good charts. Otherwise you risk running aground on a random rock or sandbar. And doing so in a sailing ship is extremely risky, because as Skimmer noted, sail propulsion doesn't let you go just anywhere you want. If the wind changes direction and starts blowing you toward a dangerous obstacle, you may not be able to turn around and avoid hitting it, except by lowering your sails and breaking out the rowboats to tow you clear of the obstacle... which is suicidally dangerous if you're under cannon fire from both banks of a river.


I understand these issues, what I am questioning is whether or not they apply specifically to Upper New York Harbor, where the ships that could have feasibly intercepted the evacuation of the Heights would have been located. I mean, the shipyard in New York was a major naval base for the U.S. Navy after the Revolution; and the base for several American frigates during the War of 1812. While, granted, that doesn't necessarily imply that the geography is suitable for a sortie against fortifications, I have a hard time believing that such a major naval base would grow in an area where the ships would be almost unable to manuever/navigate in case it was attacked. In fact, the main site of the base itself was further UP the East River from the Brooklyn Heights.

I guess it comes down to the question of exactly how much heavy artillery the colonials had at the southern tip of Manhattan, which would have been the main deterrance against close operations near the East River.

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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-08-24 11:43am

Thanas wrote:
Simon_Jester wrote:The main source of actual wealth for Britain that you could tax and spend on military operations was international sea trade, much of which was with America and therefore badly disrupted by the war.

Plus, Britain had to spend the majority of its available military budgets on the navy, because there were at least three sizeable European countries that would cheerfully swoop in and start chewing up their trade and shipping if it looked like Britain was weak enough navally to be taken down a peg or two. All of which piled in on Britain within three or four years of the outbreak of the rebellion in America.

So I figure that the government budget of Britain, while maybe not as great as it could have been, was at least within shouting distance of the maximum that the British political and economic system of the day would support. If the Revolutionary War was consuming half of that budget, it's a pretty strong indication that the government was working very hard to reconquer the colonies... and that the government was expending so many resources on it that other considerations almost had to be suffering.
That is a pretty bold assumption which I cannot agree with, considering that when a war really needed to be prosecuted in the past sums could easily be spent that surpassed the previous Governments budgets entirely, by way of massive money lending and credit. Like it happened every time Britain went to war with a continental power.
The problematic aspect is that in those wars Britain was spending mostly on its navy, whereas here it had to spend on its army, which was traditionally lacking compared to the continental powers.

By 1780, Britain was trying to fight a naval war against the usual suspects it had fought repeatedly throughout the 1700s (France and Spain, with the Dutch thrown in for good measure)... and at the same time prosecute a land war on the other side of the Atlantic.

You are correct to point out that the British (like everyone else in this era) routinely borrowed on a huge scale to support their war effort. But when I stop and think about that and try to factor it into my view of the situation... there's still an issue of how much the British are spending compared to what they're willing to spend. It is simply that instead of the American Revolution representing the most the British were prepared to spend on a war at all, it represents the most they were prepared to spend on a land war.

In a naval war, money would be spent on something directly beneficial to the English merchant class (e.g. sinking French privateers or capturing sugar islands in the West Indies). Here, though, there was much less economic advantage to be had in pursuing the war. Especially after it became not just a question of fighting that war on land, but also fighting a naval war.

You are not wrong to say the British could have spent more on subduing the colonies.

However, I maintain that it would not have been in line with the politics and economics of the time for them to actually spend much more than they did, while facing the other threats they faced.

Likewise, the British war effort merely 12 years later on dwarfs this and was continued with small interruptions for nearly 30 years.
This is true- but this was was successfully pitched to the British people as an existential war in defense of British customs and institutions. Moreover, the British could choose to abstain from fighting a land war, except when circumstances were favorable. This allowed them to concentrate their budget on the navy, which, as noted above, was the part of the British armed forces most likely to enjoy widespread support for its budget.

Ziggy wrote:I understand these issues, what I am questioning is whether or not they apply specifically to Upper New York Harbor, where the ships that could have feasibly intercepted the evacuation of the Heights would have been located. I mean, the shipyard in New York was a major naval base for the U.S. Navy after the Revolution; and the base for several American frigates during the War of 1812. While, granted, that doesn't necessarily imply that the geography is suitable for a sortie against fortifications, I have a hard time believing that such a major naval base would grow in an area where the ships would be almost unable to manuever/navigate in case it was attacked. In fact, the main site of the base itself was further UP the East River from the Brooklyn Heights.
I must observe that there's a big difference between maneuvering when under fire and when not under fire.

For example, in peacetime if the wind is blowing in a direction that would cause you to run aground and you don't have room to dodge, you just stop. If you do that while someone's shooting cannons at you, your ship may never move again.

It wouldn't be completely impossible to sail up a broad, navigable river and silence shore batteries, but it is dangerous work, especially if you don't have a major qualitative advantage over the artillery of the batteries.
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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Thanas » 2015-08-24 12:26pm

Simon_Jester wrote:The problematic aspect is that in those wars Britain was spending mostly on its navy, whereas here it had to spend on its army, which was traditionally lacking compared to the continental powers.


That is not true, not at all. For example, in the War for the Dutch independence Britain spent way more on the army than on the Navy and all the new loans went towards purchasing goods for the armies.

You are correct to point out that the British (like everyone else in this era) routinely borrowed on a huge scale to support their war effort. But when I stop and think about that and try to factor it into my view of the situation... there's still an issue of how much the British are spending compared to what they're willing to spend. It is simply that instead of the American Revolution representing the most the British were prepared to spend on a war at all, it represents the most they were prepared to spend on a land war.


Again, wrong. The British spent so much on land wars that they were able to nearly equip the entire Prussian cavalry in the Napoleonic wars - and finance a good deal of their rearmament as well. Heck, they shipped so many blades to Prussia that the English sabre - based on an Austrian model - became the standard sabre until WWI. And that is besides the assistance they gave Russia, while also prosecuting a land war in Spain.

Meanwhile, the British total forces in the colonies hardly matched up to a standard field Army of the time. The numbers they put in the field were small. Cornwallis had a mere 9000 men at Yorktown, whereas a single corps of the Napoleonic wars had~20-30k of soldiers in the field.

This was a colonial war which the British never were invested in in the first place, as also evidenced by the absence of British retaliatory measures against the population, which paled in comparison to the measures regularly doled out in other wars, colonial or continental.
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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-08-24 03:14pm

There is a distinction between supplying arms to a foreign power, and maintaining an army of one's own.

In regards to the British investment or lack of investment in the war-

One, maintaining a large land army on the other side of the Atlantic ocean is considerably more expensive than maintaining them at home. The British army underwent a massive expansion during this period, from an initial size somewhere in the neighborhood of ten thousand men, and large forces were raised at home, but few of them were shipped to the Americas. Does this mean the British didn't want their colonies back? Or does it mean that they did not deem it practical to maintain a much larger force in the colonies?

Two, if you're going to argue that the lack of retaliatory measures is evidence for a lack of British investment in the war, it follows that the British only used such retaliatory measures when they were heavily invested in the war. Do you have evidence for this?
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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Thanas » 2015-08-24 03:42pm

Simon_Jester wrote:One, maintaining a large land army on the other side of the Atlantic ocean is considerably more expensive than maintaining them at home. The British army underwent a massive expansion during this period, from an initial size somewhere in the neighborhood of ten thousand men, and large forces were raised at home, but few of them were shipped to the Americas. Does this mean the British didn't want their colonies back? Or does it mean that they did not deem it practical to maintain a much larger force in the colonies?


They maintained a larger force in Canada for the war of 1812, which was at best a sideshow from the real war going on.

Simon_Jester wrote:Two, if you're going to argue that the lack of retaliatory measures is evidence for a lack of British investment in the war, it follows that the British only used such retaliatory measures when they were heavily invested in the war. Do you have evidence for this?


No, it does not follow. The British used retaliatory measures in every war against Guerilla warfare and shot them on the spot. This was standard procedure. Yet they did not do so against the colonists, which suggests that they were unwilling to fight a true war against their cultural brethren. Heck, they used way worse measures against the Scots and Irish. The British conduct of the war was tame.
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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-08-24 05:42pm

Thanas wrote:
Simon_Jester wrote:One, maintaining a large land army on the other side of the Atlantic ocean is considerably more expensive than maintaining them at home. The British army underwent a massive expansion during this period, from an initial size somewhere in the neighborhood of ten thousand men, and large forces were raised at home, but few of them were shipped to the Americas. Does this mean the British didn't want their colonies back? Or does it mean that they did not deem it practical to maintain a much larger force in the colonies?
They maintained a larger force in Canada for the war of 1812, which was at best a sideshow from the real war going on.
Was a larger force actively engaged in combat operations? Also, did it not matter that the British had relatively secure bases in Canada from which to stage troops in the War of 1812, whereas Cornwallis and Howe were both operating with basically no supply line at all except for whatever could come to him from overseas?

I would expect those things to matter.
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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Thanas » 2015-08-25 02:35am

Simon_Jester wrote:Was a larger force actively engaged in combat operations?


Actually, yes. Most of the ~60k troops the British used in the Rebellion were garrison troops and most British armies in the field were very small. Bourgoyne had 7000 at Saratoga, Cornwallis had barely over 2000(!) at Camden. The British Boston campaign meanwhile started with 4000 and ended with 11.000 soldiers under arms. In effect, most British armies in the field had less troops than were required to garrison a single European city effectively.

Meanwhile, in the war of 1812, the British put 14.000 in the attack on Northern USA, 4000 (later 5000) men into the attack on Washington and 11.000 into the attack on Lousiana, which more or less happened at the same time. The British army that fought in the Attack on New York was larger than the field forces of Cornwallis and Clinton put together.

That should tell you something.

Also, did it not matter that the British had relatively secure bases in Canada from which to stage troops in the War of 1812, whereas Cornwallis and Howe were both operating with basically no supply line at all except for whatever could come to him from overseas?


Not true, there were quite a lot of loyalists and of course the bases of Canada and the Caribbean to supply from.
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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-08-25 02:49pm

To what extent were Cornwallis and Howe able to meet their logistical needs from the American colonies proper? Rebels habitually harassed loyalists wherever possible and did on occasion raid British army supply lines; I would not want to rely on them as a supply base.

And while Canada was available as a base of supply, it was not a particularly safe base without shipping into an American colonial port, as the Saratoga campaign demonstrated.

Now, as to the matter of the numbers, it is true that the British armies fielded in the colonies were extremely small in the 1770s and '80s. I would argue that this was precisely because of a number of factors related directly to Britain's ability to prosecute a land war on another continent:

-The small overall size of the British Army in 1776; it expanded after European powers joined the war but those new units were urgently needed in Europe and to defend Britain proper.
-The logistical problems of maintaining troops in Pennsylvania or the Carolinas, as opposed to maintaining them in Europe.
-The lack of preparation for sustained land warfare on Britain's part, since Britain had was at the end of a long period of fighting what were almost purely naval wars against various combinations of France, Spain, and the Netherlands.

By contrast, in the War of 1812 thirty-five years later, Britain was at the tail end of its mobilization against Napoleon, had experienced another generation and a half of proto-industrial development, and was accustomed to sustaining much larger armies in the field.

So I suppose in one sense you are right that Britain "could" have fought much harder to maintain the colonies, if it had viewed doing so as being as high a priority as it later viewed the defeat of Napoleon. Whether it would be sensible to do so is another question, which can be tabled, I suppose.

In another sense, I feel that since the Britain of 1780 was quite simply not the Britain of 1813 in a lot of important respects; it had the potential to do what 1813 Britain did, but had not had decades of conflict to build up its military-mercantile complex to the extent that it did in the latter part of the Napoleonic Wars. So I am not convinced that Britain realistically could have committed much more in the way of resources to the war in the American colonies than it did, under the circumstances. At least, not while fighting multiple European powers at the same time, under the economic and military conditions then prevailing.
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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Ziggy Stardust » 2015-08-26 08:18am

It is also worth noting that ~30k of the soldiers Britain deployed during the American Revolutionary War were German mercenaries.

I think the interesting comparison for this debate would be the size of the British forces deployed during the Seven Years War. I am having a hard time finding hard numbers, but the peak deployment in the American theater seems to have been ~42k, but it's not clear if that is referring to just regulars or the joint numbers of regulars, militia, and American Indian allies. Similarly, General Braddock's famous campaign force was only 2,000 strong. Of course, military needs elsewhere at the time were more acute than they were during the American Revolutionary War, so it's not an easy comparison.

I would also be curious, too, to look at some primary documents from the time. Was the relative lack of major deployment a factor of unwillingness or underestimation? After all, most of the other colonial uprisings the British defeated around the same time period typically involved relatively small deployments of regulars, maybe ~10-20k at most.

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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Thanas » 2015-08-26 12:35pm

Ziggy Stardust wrote:It is also worth noting that ~30k of the soldiers Britain deployed during the American Revolutionary War were German mercenaries.


Yes, further pointing to the fact that the British were unwilling to fight and properly supply the war effort.

I think the interesting comparison for this debate would be the size of the British forces deployed during the Seven Years War. I am having a hard time finding hard numbers, but the peak deployment in the American theater seems to have been ~42k, but it's not clear if that is referring to just regulars or the joint numbers of regulars, militia, and American Indian allies. Similarly, General Braddock's famous campaign force was only 2,000 strong. Of course, military needs elsewhere at the time were more acute than they were during the American Revolutionary War, so it's not an easy comparison.


That was a sideshow of a war that was decided on European battlefields and on the seas. It at best proves that the British rated it as a sideshow. At worst, it proves that before several years of immigration and new prosperity the American colonies, without full mobilization, could sustain a comparable number of forces.
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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-08-26 02:45pm

Thanas wrote:
Ziggy Stardust wrote:It is also worth noting that ~30k of the soldiers Britain deployed during the American Revolutionary War were German mercenaries.
Yes, further pointing to the fact that the British were unwilling to fight and properly supply the war effort.
How so? Were the Germans contracting their own shipping and supply? If so, this would then turn into another example of Britain committing money as a substitute for committing troops- which it did on a fairly regular basis throughout the late 18th and early 19th century. Look at how many nations they subsidized against Napoleon.

That was a sideshow of a war that was decided on European battlefields and on the seas. It at best proves that the British rated it as a sideshow. At worst, it proves that before several years of immigration and new prosperity the American colonies, without full mobilization, could sustain a comparable number of forces.
Well, yes. It is tremendously convenient in any military operation to have a firmly allied region in your rear area, from which you can draw supplies at will, and to which you can safely retreat in an emergency. Conversely, it is tremendously inconvenient not to have those things, and greatly limits the amount of military force you can reasonably commit.
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Re: Did Howe purposely lose to the Colonials?

Postby Thanas » 2015-08-26 02:54pm

Simon_Jester wrote:How so? Were the Germans contracting their own shipping and supply? If so, this would then turn into another example of Britain committing money as a substitute for committing troops- which it did on a fairly regular basis throughout the late 18th and early 19th century. Look at how many nations they subsidized against Napoleon.


No, but are you at all familiar with the German troops? Seriously asking, because you act like you don't even know the faintest idea of their quality or what use they were good for.

Well, yes. It is tremendously convenient in any military operation to have a firmly allied region in your rear area, from which you can draw supplies at will, and to which you can safely retreat in an emergency. Conversely, it is tremendously inconvenient not to have those things, and greatly limits the amount of military force you can reasonably commit.


What's your point? Those were present in the rebellion as well.
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