In this lecture, Professor Freeman explains the logic behind American and British military strategy during the early phases of the Revolution. First, she discusses the logistic disadvantages of the British during the war: the difficulties shipping men and supplies from more than three thousand miles away; the vast expanse of countryside with no one central target to attack; difficulties in recruiting British soldiers to fight in America; and the fact that the British faced a citizen army comprised of highly motivated soldiers who didn't act in predictable ways. In addition, the British consistently underestimated the revolutionaries in America, and overestimated Loyalist support. Professor Freeman also discusses the four main phases of the Revolutionary War, differentiated by shifts in British strategy. During the earliest phase of the war, the British thought that a show of military force would quickly lead to reconciliation with the colonists. During the second phase, the British resolved to seize a major city - New York - in the hope that isolating New England from the rest of the colonies would end hostilities. By 1777, the war had entered its third phase, and the British set their sights on seizing Philadelphia and defeating George Washington. This phase ended with the Battle of Saratoga in late 1777.
Raphael, A People's History of the American Revolution, chapter 2
McDonnell, "Popular Mobilization and Political Culture in Revolutionary Virginia"
Schwartz, "George Washington and the Whig Conception of Heroic Leadership"
The American Revolution entailed some remarkable transformations--converting British colonists into American revolutionaries, and a cluster of colonies into a confederation of states with a common cause--but it was far more complex and enduring then the fighting of a war. As John Adams put it, "The Revolution was in the Minds of the people... before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington"--and it continued long past America's victory at Yorktown. This course will examine the Revolution from this broad perspective, tracing the participants' shifting sense of themselves as British subjects, colonial settlers, revolutionaries, and Americans.
This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Spring 2010.