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British Southern Strategy during the American Revolution
British Southern Strategy began in late 1778 with the capture of Savannah, Georgia. In 1780, British troops fought in the South Carolina and defeated the Continental Army at Charleston and Camden. General Nathaniel Greene, who took command of the Continental Army after Camden, took against the British strategy of evasion and the war of attrition. The two armies conducted a series of battles, most of which were tactical victories of the British. The high losses in all of the victories undermined the power and strength of the British army. The Continental Army remained almost intact and continued to struggle. The best example is the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. The rare victories of the Continental army, as a Cowpens and Kings Mountain, also served as a general weakening of the British forces. The end point in this campaign became the siege of Yorktown. The fight for this city ended with the surrender of the British army. As a result, it essentially put the British rule out of the continent. One of the main figures of the British Southern Strategy was the British Secretary of State for the American Department George Germain, who believed in the easy expansion of the war with the minimal cost into the south.
In March, 1778, the king of the Britain established the Carlisle Peace Commission in order to finish the military actions on the American continent. However, the Continental army forced the British authority to recognize the independence of the U.S. Both sides were in the position of different views. As a result of this difficult situation, the British Prime Minister Lord Frederick had to organize the military operations. Lord George Germain was responsible for the results of the war with Americas. He was convinced that the British army still had good chances to keep the power in the south region. Germain came to believe that southern loyalists were prepared to rise up in great numbers to defeat the rebels if British troops provided them protection (Pearson). He developed a strategy how to protect loyalists. He hired mercenaries from Hesse-Cassel and offered a good payment to the volunteers. In this way, he created additional troops. He sent a letter to the general Clinton in North America, in which he stated the importance of the invasion of the British forces to the South. The plan was to undermine the economic base of the Americans, cutting them from the exporting crops. The American government used the funds from these crops to purchase war stocks and equipment from Europe (Pearson).
On December 26, 1778, a British expeditionary force under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell captured Savannah in Georgia. Then he made the attempt to capture the city of Augusta. The main reason of this action was to recruit as much loyalists as possible there. The Continental army was under the command of the Benjamin Lincoln. He put a lot of efforts during the American Revolutionary War. As a strong supporter of the new United States Constitution, he made a lot of contribution to the taking British forces out of the continent. His active participation in the battle of Saratoga made surrender of the British forces. In October, 1779, the French and Continental armies together tried to return Savannah. This attempt, under the command of General Lincoln with a French squadron of Count d'Estaing failed miserably. The combined French and American forces lost more than 900 people, the British only 54. Making sure that the city is under control, Clinton decided to have a new attack on Charleston. Lincoln also moved surviving troops to Charleston in order to help build fortifications.
The essential point in all British attempts to regain control over South was the possession of the port. The port would help the British army to transport people and supplies. Therefore, the British expedition conceived to create a reference point somewhere in the southern colonies, and began to send officers to recruit loyalists in North Carolina. When General Henry Clinton joined with Cornwallis at Cape Fear in North Carolina, he found that the conditions were not suitable for a strong outpost. Intelligence of the Royal Navy, as a more suitable location was identified Charleston, with incomplete fortifications seemed vulnerable. Charleston seemed to be a good place for using it as a port. However, the army of Clinton was defeated. After this humiliating failure, the Clinton campaign in Carolinas has been revoked. For three years loyalists have been left without support. Some part of the British government considered that the South was lost to Britain due to this defeat. Charleston served to Americans until 1780. In 1780, General Clinton moved against Charleston with his army for the second time. General Lincoln could not withstand to the British troops. It was the largest surrender of the U.S. troops before the Civil War. At the cost of a relatively small loss, Clinton captured the major city of the South and gained the port. It was the greatest British victory in the War. It destroyed the structure of the U.S. military in the South.
After the failure in Charleston, the organized Continental army of Americans in the South collapsed. However, their government continued operating. General Clinton was replaced by Lord Cornwallis. Cornwallis made the invasion into North Carolina. Lord Cornwallis was a general of the British forces. He had many battles during the American Revolutionary War. From 1780, he was responsible for the whole British army. He was very talented in the military strategy, but he could not defeat the American and French forces (Wickwire). It was the biggest defeat in his military career. His first military actions against Continental army were very successful. However, they ended up with the defeat of his forces by Nathanael Green in South Carolina. Nathanael Green was a key figure in American War against British forces. He was in charge of the defense of Ney York. In 1776, he was promoted to the major general. He was successful in the surprise attack on Trenton.
In the southern colonies, there was a real civil war between the patriots and loyalist troops. Charles Cornwallis troops chased the Continental Army with Nathaniel Greene. The final point in the war against British and American forces was a battle in Yorktown. American and French forces finally managed to agree on a joint military operation against Cornwallis. At the end of the summer, in 1781, Franco-American force of 17 thousand people met face to face with British army at Yorktown. After a short siege, Cornwallis was forced to surrender. While irregular warfare has continued for several months, the defeat at Yorktown meant a total defeat of Britain and the recognition of the independence of America.
The main figures of the British forces in the British Southern Strategy were Lord George Germain, General Henry Clinton and General Cornwallis. They fought against Continental army and were wrongfully convinced in the successful result of this campaign. The main figures of the Continental force in the war were Benjamin Lincoln and Nathaniel Greene. They made the significant contribution in the effort against British colonists. Savannah, Charleston and Yorktown were cities that held main battles during the British Southern strategy. British forces failed in this campaign due to the wrong assumption of loyalist support and great military operation of the Nathanael Green. It was also difficult for them to control the territory on the continent.