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PinkMonkey Study Guide - American History

3. 5 The Course of the War

While the new commander in Chief, George Washington was trying to organize a continental army out of 15,000 men near Boston; the war had already begun elsewhere. A group of men led by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold attacked and took control of a small British garrison at Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain. Making it their headquarters, the group masterminded an attack on Canada. Richard Montgomery led the Canadian attack. And on Nov. 13, 1775, he captured Montreal. Meanwhile Benedict Arnold, along with one thousand men from George Washington’s Army attacked the city of Quebec. But the band winter went against Arnold and his men. In the battle that followed, a 100 Americans were killed and many more were wounded. But Arnold refused to give up and the battle dragged on all through winter. Later, in spring, he was forced to return home.

Initially, the war was confined to the north.

The Battle of Saratoga
(New York 1777)

This is considered to be one of the most critical battles of the Revolutionary war. The battle was important for it was against the most hated British Generals sent to put down the American rebels. John Burgoyne was one was of the favorite punching bag of the Americans in the war. He was nicknamed "Sir Jack Brag" as he was rumored to have told the King that "with one regiment he could march triumphantly through all the American Colonies." The Americans were waiting to have a direct encounter with him. But the strategy planned by General Burgoyne was awesome. The British General sent one army of British, Hessian and Indian troops from Montreal; a second army from the West - through the Mohawk Valley, and a third up the Hudson from New York, all to meet at Albany. The aim was to create a chain of forts along the route from New York to Montreal and cut off New England - the heart of American Rebellion. The British troops secured victory on July 6, 1777, with the capture of Fort Ticonderoga. But from then onwards, the British General made several blunders. Deciding that he now had ample time to move his Army a mere seventy miles to Albany, he set out through the woods rather than follow Lake George. Hauling 52 cannons, his enormous wardrobe and wine cellar, and a female entourage through forests cluttered by thousands of trees that the Americans had felled, Burgoyne covered twenty-three miles in twenty-four days and got lost in the woods...

While Burgoyne wasted precious time, the American patriots gathered strength. At Oriskany and Fort Stanwix (Mohwak Valley) a tough fight ensued, when the British Army coming from the West received a sound thrashing.

The Jane McCrea Incident

Meanwhile, in the Upper Hudson Valley, American citizens were shocked when some Indians (allies of the British) murdered and scalped Jane McCrea, a young lady engaged to be married to a young American Officer. Incidentally, the British had been paying Indians for the scalps of revolutionists. Jane McCrea was with other women and children when she was "taken out of a house near Fort Edward, carried into the woods, and there scalped and mangled in a most shocking manner...The miserable fate of Miss McCrea was particularly aggravated by her being dressed to receive her promised husband, but met her murderer employed by you."

(Patriot Commander Horatio Gates to Burgoyne)

Fearing that his Indian allies would desert him in the war, General Burgoyne did not take any action against the perpetrators of this ghastly act. This aroused a great deal of anger among people in the entire region of Hudson Valley. The result was that a large number of volunteers joined and stayed to fight the British. Burgoyne sent forces to gather supplies in Vermont. 2,000 men from Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts sent the British back with heavy losses. By now, the English troops were facing a shortage of men and supplies. Also, now they had a large continental Army supported by local militia to reckon with. Still Burgoyne persisted and marched on with his troops, to reach Saratoga. Here, the Patriots troop under Gates won a decisive victory over the already battered British troops. Two battles were fought at Saratoga. In the second battle too, the Burgoyne’s troops suffered heavy losses. With most of his men killed and wounded, Burgoyne had surrender. A popular American verse put the battle of Saratoga in a nutshell:

"Burgoyne, alas! unknowing future fates, Could force his way through woods, but not through GATES."

At this point, it is important to understand the composition of the Patriot Army. The Patriot forces contained both State militias and the Continental Army. Since, the Congress had no power to raise an Army, it had to give quotas to the States for the men required in the army. Also, the Congress could not enforce taxes. So it had to request the States for money required for the Army. While some States contributed money for the Army, others could not comply with the request of the Congress. Consequently not everybody in the army could be paid. The Patriots’ army consisted of volunteers also who fought not just for money but because they believed in the cause of the war. During much of the war, the Americans fought on open fields, combining whatever little training they had received with natural common sense.

As the war progressed, the members of the Continental Army developed a feeling of unity and a sense of pride as a seasoned and experienced force. Only a few in this Army wanted to become Army professionals later. Most of them wanted to return to their home after the war. This is because most of them were farmers or artisans who had touched a gun for the first time. Through the ups and downs of the war, they became real soldiers.

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Table of Contents

3.0 - Chronology of Major Events in this Period
3.1 - Causes
3.2 - The Events Leading tothe war of Independence
3.3 - The First Continental Congress
3.4 - The declaration of Independence
3.5 - The Course of the War
3.6 - War and Peace
3.7 - Articles ofConfederation
3.8 - The Formation and Ratification of the Constitution
3.9 - Points to Remember

Chapter 4


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