Why Did the World Turn
The Strategy and Tactics of
American Victory and British Defeat
While the defeat at Yorktown did not immediately force the British government to recognize the independence of their colonies, Cornwallis' surrender set in motion a chain of events that eventually produced a Treaty of Paris which proved enormously advantageous to the new American republic. Almost as soon as this treaty formalized the new place for the United States in the world community, citizens of the nation sat in taverns, parlors and drawing rooms and debated how the rebel provinces had been able to secure their freedom from the most powerful empire in their contemporary world. This discussion has continued for over two centuries and has revolved around both the actual military engagements that ultimately resulted in patriot success and the abilities and weaknesses of the leaders who directed the opposing armies during the contest.
The actual American military success during the War of Independence presents a complex and multi-dimensional series of issues. Historians and military analysts have credited the patriot victory variously to innovative American battle tactics, incompetent British leaders, the alliance with France and numerous other factors. For example John Ferling's excellent collection of essays in The World Turned Upside Down includes contributions on the role of logistics, the impact of politics, the influence of the frontier and the consequences of naval warfare on the outcome of the war. Although there is probably no single cause for American victory or British defeat, an intensive review and analysis of all of the major campaigns and battles of the conflict reveals that the patriots developed just enough advantages over their adversaries to produce a paper thin margin of victory which could have swung in the opposite direction even in the last stages of the war.