How America Fought Its Wars: Military Strategy from the American Revolution to the Civil War

By Victor Brooks; Robert Hohwald | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
Southern Stars Fall from
the American Constellation

The British Offensive from Savannah to
Camden

The surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga and the ensuing alliance between France and the rebel colonies convinced the British ministry in London that a total military triumph over the Americans was becoming a more remote possibility. However, a number of civil and military leaders became increasingly intrigued with the prospect of redeploying the British army in an attempt to recover one or more of the southern provinces to royal authority. A southern strategy offered a number of potential benefits for the increasingly hard pressed British military machine. First, a progressive series of offensives designed to reconquer Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia might encourage the Continental Congress to accept a compromise peace settlement that exchanged some minimal acknowledgment of continued royal authority for British evacuation of the southern states. On the other hand, if the Congressional leaders insisted on total independence, the crown could maintain control over a substantial portion of North America.

The decision to shift the focus of the war from the northern to the southern provinces was based on fairly sound reasoning. Georgia, the initial British objective, was the least enthusiastic member of the American confederation and had provided few recruits for the Continental Army while raising large numbers of Tory regiments. It is quite possible that any full scale referendum on the issue of independence from Great Britain would have revealed a majority of Georgians more committed to the maintenance of political ties to the British Empire.

Rebel plans for the defense of the lower south were complicated by the existence of a very scattered population, while British encouragement of Indian raids and potential slave uprisings tended to siphon off a large

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