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Download The War of Independence : The British Army in North America 1775-1783 epub

by J. W. Fortescue,John Shy,Sir John Fortescue

The War of Independence is a detailed and spirited history, told from the British perspective, of military operations during the American Revolution. Written by a foremost authority on the British Army, this superbly narrated account of the war brings to life the ebb and flow of the fighting, the color of eighteenth-century warfare and the harsh realities of warfare in North America and the West Indies.
Download The War of Independence : The British Army in North America 1775-1783 epub
ISBN: 1853674524
ISBN13: 978-1853674525
Category: History
Subcategory: Americas
Author: J. W. Fortescue,John Shy,Sir John Fortescue
Language: English
Publisher: Greenhill Books (July 14, 2001)
Pages: 192 pages
ePUB size: 1682 kb
FB2 size: 1158 kb
Rating: 4.1
Votes: 727
Other Formats: mobi txt lrf rtf

I had always wondered why some enterprising publisher didn't excise the irrelevant material from Volume III of Fortescue's monumental history of the British Army and produce an all American War of Independence volume. I have just ordered the Greenhill edition but have read the original from the multi-volume set. Presumably, John Shy's introduction will provide enough perspective to take the edge off of Fortescue's rankling (to 21st century ears) chest-thumping Victorian imperialist harangue. However, to anyone who winced at the "Patriot's" demonizing of Tarleton (somewhat overdone) and the "Bloodyback" regulars ( a lot overdone), this view from "the other side of the hill" is refreshing. Readers of Higginbottam, John Shy and a hostof other recent sociologically oriented AWI studies may find this as a throwback to the so-called "drum and trumpet" war history, where the strategies and tactics were discussed with little reference to the societies that produced them. Personally, I welcome the return to the nuts and bolts of military operations. Fortescue is no admirer of the American mobocracy, as he makes clear. For example, his description of the viciousness of the ungrateful crowds of colonists as they hurled insult and injury upon the heads of the poor redcoated troops trying to protect them from themselves will be all too familiar to those who read the late 1960s propaganda pieces supporting the US role in Vietnam. It is fascinating to read about the various Kent-state type crowd control episodes and the Boston Tea Party, etc. in that light. On the other hand, given Fortescue's prejudices, it makes his reluctant praise of such episodes as Washington at Trenton and the Saratoga and Yorktown campaigns all the more gratifying to the American reader. He does cast much of the blame on the inefficiency and greed of John Bull's erstwhile native allies, the Loyalists. Likewise the vacillating British foreign policy (that blundering St. Germaine!) is considered to have sold out the valiantly performing British troops. All in all, this is a welcome reprint of Fortescue's take on the American victory of 1781...especially since the full set from which this volume is extracted was only reprinted once, in the 1970s by AMS and the reprint volumes are going almost for as much as the originals from the dawn of the 20th century.
Excellent history of the REvolution from the perspective of the British Army.
deadly claw
Sir John Fortescue is still a household word when it comes to his multi-volume history of the British army that was published in the early years of the 20th century. The chapters dealing with the American Revolution have been detached from the whole and like an elite Grenadier or Light battalion with its companies drawn from various units, stands ready to fight the difficult task of showing the British side of the war.

Despite a distinctive tone in fair Albion's favor, Fortescues does give credit to the Americans more often than not. When he was writting these chapters Britain was involved in the nasty Boer War, in which many paralells with the American conflict could be drawn. So the reader need not fear too much anti-American sentiment in that regard, as Fortescue always favors the forthright soldier over the slippery politician. Therefore watch out Continental Congress and British Parliament! To Fortescue much of the work of these institutions serves to restrict their respective military's efforts, even though these august bodies make strict demands upon their services! The main vilain seems to be Sir George Germain who is very guilty of the sin of trying to conduct a transatlantic war from the confines of his London Office. A ruinous political apointee, he comes in for much of the blame concerning Britain's misguided strategy in the Rev War. Washy gets praise for the most part, because he is considered a gent in Fortescue's view of the world, and rightly credits him for holding the American war effort together, despite the corruptions and inefficiencies of his own Congress.

The main stength of this collected work lies in its wider description of the war. In this regard we get to see the Rev War as truly a world wide conflict. The chapters concerning British operations against the French and Spanish in the Carribean, and elsewhere are illuminating. Few if any American authors ever bother to mention these conflicts, despite the overall impact they would have in North America. In particular the stubborn action at St. Lucia where a much smaller British force bests a French one many times larger provides a great example of how British troops were learning the methods of effective skirmish tactics in America and applying them with significant results. This would hold true for the later Napoleonic wars.

Fortescue's true sympthies lie with Tommy Atkins Redcoat. His knowledge and interest concerning British regiments and where they were employed is one of the major strengths of this work. We not only learn details of British regiments and their service in North America, but elsewhere as well, and we see new formations that were raised for the conflict. The politics conerning these new regiments is also interesting. We learn of new and promising officers like young John Moore, just an a Lieut. in the 80th Foot, but destined to become the father of the British Light Infantry in the Napoleonic Wars. We see a young Nelson too, fighting as a Midhshipman in various naval actions. Throughout he believes that had British soldiers and their commanders not been fettered by the restrctions placed upon them by their politicians thay might well have won the American conflict. Certainly they felt undefeated, and more betrayed at Yorktown than defeated by the Franco-Americans.

British commanders are also not without some share of the blame. Fortescue admires Howe, but sees his faults as a slow moving commander. He thinks Cornwallis too headstrong and reckless, and Clinton, while capable and with a good understanding of the American situation, suffers from lack of resources and self-doubt. Some of the sub-commanders like Rawdon, Percy and Grant come in for a good word, others such as Stuart and Tarleton are considered slack or too ruthless. Benedict Arnold is seen as an opportunist, but with some good cyncial advice. Money he believes could have bought off the American Revolution. Since this was one of his reasons why he betrayed his cause perhaps this advice was ignored out of principle by the British. Certainly an interesting example in this regard is seen when many American prisoners captured at Camden are offerd bounties and take service with the British army in the Carribean. Such things were commonly done among the armies of the ancien regime in Europe, but it is surprising to learn that it also occured in America.

Taken all together Fortescue's chapters on the Rev War make for interesting and challenging reading. For a relatively short work, the reader will find much to ponder. Notwithstanding the author's bias at times, there is still much that is worthwhile for an older work. Many current American historians should avail themselves of this handy little volume to gain a wider perspective of the conflcit that they tell so many colorful stories about in their books. Highly recommended for all Rev War buffs.