The Art of War - Jean-Christophe Malevil - ebook

The Art of War ebook

Jean-Christophe Malevil

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The American colonists had a very special relationship with England since many of them originated from this country. As the days were passing by, the colonists enjoyed a “salutary neglect.” They were far from the English monarch who enjoyed in turn the bounties of his colonies. The trade on which the colonists and the king relied was of benefit to all of them. Not only did they feel free but also they were loyal to their English king. By the mid 1760’s, the understanding between the American colonies and the mother country was crumbling. The harmony which had existed turned into discord when the English Parliament decided to tax the American colonies because of the high cost of the French and Indian War (1754-1763), and thus all the colonies were thrown into turmoil. The more the colonists rose up against Britain, the more troops the British sent to enforce the laws. From skirmishes to attempts to settle matters, the relations between the two countries were so strained that they could break up at any time.The war the Continental Congress intended to wage would require money, men and the experience of soldiers skilled in the art form of warfare such as it was waged in the 18th century. The American resistance to power got organized with great difficulty but how could the American colonists hope to defeat the English in The Art of War?Get a deeper understanding of the American war of Independence thanks to this essay.EXCERPTA major problem for the American colonists was that one third of the people remained loyal to the crown and another third did not know what to think about the war. The various colonies which rejected the authority of a king did not completely want to rely on the sole authority of a Continental Congress. The only force in the colonies was that of the militias but they were not trained for pitched battles even if they excelled in guerrilla warfare. The Continental Congress realized that relying only on guerrilla warfare would not allow the American colonists to take well populated cities and ports occupied by the British army. In order to win the American War of Independence, they had to demonstrate their ability to fight European types of battles. Then, they would be able to rely on foreign support.ABOUT THE AUTHORThe author: at the master's level, Jean-Christophe Malevil chose to write his thesis about the American War of Independence; in seeing Roland Emmerich's The Patriot in 2000. He knew he would work on The Art of War and to illustrate his work, he of course decided to rely on this movie. This book is the result of the findings of his investigations about war in the 18th century.

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Collection

Jean-Christophe Malevil

The Art of War:

The

American

War

Of

Independence

Introduction

The American colonists had a very special relationship with England since many of them originated from this country. As the days were passing by, the colonists enjoyed a “salutary neglect.” They were far from the English monarch who enjoyed in turn the bounties of his colonies. The trade on which the colonists and the king relied was of benefit to all of them. Not only did they feel free but also they were loyal to their English king. During the Seven Years War, siding with their English brothers, they took up arms against the French. After all, they were English subjects and should defend the crown if they were asked to do so. In 1763, the French and Indian War was over. By the mid 1760’s, the understanding between the American colonies and the mother country was crumbling. The harmony which had existed turned into discord when the English Parliament decided to tax the American colonies because of the high cost of the French and Indian War (1754-1763), and thus all the colonies were thrown into turmoil. The more the colonists rose up against Britain, the more troops the British sent to enforce the laws. From skirmishes to attempts to settle matters, the relations between the two countries were so strained that they could break up at any time.

A chain of cause and effect was to disrupt the next years. The colonies declared their independence and plunged into a state of war. The reasons why the colonies wanted to secede from Britain were on different levels. There were those who wanted their liberty for they thought themselves oppressed by a tyrannical ruler or those who wanted freedom to get rid of England with which they had to share a part of their profits.

The Battles of Lexington and Concord (1775) triggered the American War of Independence. Many Americans subscribed to ideals of freedom simmering in the air. They wanted to fight for a just cause, that of liberty, and decide on their own future. They were ready to die. They were motivated. They inherited military techniques from the former French and Indian War but they had to pit their strength against the world’s largest navy and one of the best professional armies.

A major problem for the American colonists was that one third of the people remained loyal to the crown and another third did not know what to think about the war. The various colonies which rejected the authority of a king did not completely want to rely on the sole authority of a Continental Congress. The only force in the colonies was that of the militias but they were not trained for pitched battles even if they excelled in guerrilla warfare. The Continental Congress realized that relying only on guerrilla warfare would not allow the American colonists to take well populated cities and ports occupied by the British army. In order to win the American War of Independence, they had to demonstrate their ability to fight European types of battles. Then, they would be able to rely on foreign support.

The Continental Congress needed strategies, a military establishment like that of England and leadership. The war it intended to wage would require money, men and the experience of soldiers skilled in the art form of warfare such as it was waged in the 18th century. The American resistance to power got organized with great difficulty but how could the American colonists hope to defeat the English in the art of war?

Part I

American

Resistance

to

Power

1. The Rise of Patriotism in the Thirteen Colonies

1.1 Propaganda

In 1765, the Stamp Act generated a political storm for it affected nearly every member of colonial society, but elite leaders assumed direction of the resistance movement. Middle class artisans and business men created the Loyal Nine in Boston to fight the Stamp Act. The Sons of Liberty went as far as using violence to prevent enforcement of British laws. By 1768, all over the Thirteen Colonies, merchants adopted a non-importation non-exportation and non-consumption agreement. This agreement was to collapse in July 1770 but be that as it may, the Sons of Liberty resisted taxation by not drinking taxed tea.

In 1768, Samuel Adams who was closely linked to the Loyal Nine defied Massachusetts’ royal governor by drafting a circular letter to the colonies appealing to them to think about their common grievances. Samuel Adams’ Committees of Correspondence requested that appointed people exchange information and spread it throughout New England. The Committees of Correspondence slowly became effective tools in the fight against Great Britain and coordinated measures to defend colonial rights. Even women themselves had played a major role in the rise of patriotism. The Daughters of Liberty had a moral influence on public opinion.

But thoughts are often higher designs than going up to the front line or making guerrilla warfare are. As early as the 17th century there was a growing feeling of self-reliance among colonists and the feeling that they could be autonomous. These sentiments were transferred into literature and religion

New England and more particularly Boston became a hotbed of revolutionary activism for independence from Great Britain. New England’s Patriots played leading roles in establishing the new nation at the end of the war. Strange as it may be, the majority of colonists had but little enthusiasm about the idea of any independence whatsoever but ten per cent of fervent activists made every effort to win them over.

Propaganda was the main vitriolic and ferocious weapon used by the Patriots to manipulate public attitudes in the colonies and especially in New England where it was organised through meetings and publications. It contributed greatly to the victory. We can define propaganda as being “the spreading of ideas, information, or rumour for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person” as well as being “ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause”{1}. During the American War of Independence, propaganda was above all an organised effort to conceal facts and policies. The role of propaganda was to control public opinion and to stimulate the desire for independence. It was the art of telling people what they wanted to hear. Thomas Paine understood that he had to put the idea in the colonists’ heads that independence was the only good decision to make. 

Propaganda had different forms. There were newspapers, pamphlets or speeches whose concepts were often abstract and led to many interpretations. But its very aim was to have power over people’s thoughts. Thanks to Committees of Correspondence, propaganda was floating in the air and slowly began lurking in men’s soul. Thus, the Boston Massacre, which was at the least the result of provocation, “passed into American folklore as a characteristically brutal attempt by the military to put down peaceful protest by ill-used citizens.” {2}

The leadership of newspaper publications was in the hands of printers under pseudonymsmaking mountains out of molehills. The press often gave personal opinions rather than factual accounts. All followed Samuel Adams’s motto: “Where there is a spark of patriotic fire, we will enkindle it.” Propaganda was used as a weapon and it was as efficient as any military weapon:

""Deflowering virgins," together with bayoneting wounded prisoners, was, according to the patriot newspapers, the art of war as practised by the British army.{3}

The British army punished itself by mistreating its prisoners for those who escaped from its jails were a godsend for propagandists. Benjamin Franklin, for his part, “[compiled] a School Book of choice atrocity stories, profusely illustrated” and also “printed a fictitious newspaper… containing an account of the cruelties perpetrated by the Indians at the orders of the British… This fabrication… was regarded as a genuine document.”{4} Propagandists made it their duty to show the colonists that Britain was not as fair as she pretended to be and that the forgiveness she promised was but hot air. It was a period when the Patriots needed to convince not only other Americans but also the whole of Europe of the legitimacy of their rebellion.   

In 1775, 42 newspapers were published in the colonies{5}, 15 of them were printed in New England. The Boston Gazette had a circulation of several thousand copies. But according to Thomas Hutchinson, governor of Massachusetts, nine tenths of what was read in the newspapers of occurrences in Boston was either utterly counterfeit or revoltingly distorted and adulterated. Moreover, Patriots never hesitated to destroy or burn any press which might have published negative items about them and their actions. But newspapers such as the Massachusetts Spy created by Isaiah Thomas were sometimes obliged to flee to a safer location since it was difficult and dangerous to spread propaganda when surrounded by British soldiers and officials.  

During the American War of Independence and in the times preceding it, unified efforts among the press and the patriot leaders created the frame for  propaganda which  succeeded in uniting together many people under a common cause often even by means of lies, omissions, distortions or wittingly misinterpreted facts.  

1.2 Warfare Literature and Patriotism

In a human mind, war is a precise concept but its interpretations can be infinite. It is obvious that for most people, the word “war” means terror, death and destruction. War is seen as a tragedy which afflicts society, a social disaster. Even if only one nation is at war, it is all humanity that is concerned, and that is why warfare has been described by many writers. War literature leads the reader to ask questions about Life, human nature, reason versus duty. If warfare is the annihilation of human and social life, literature describes the violence and death bred by war.

This literature criticises warfare, denounces it, tries to explain it, to explain the madness of men who generate death and desolation, as if literature were warfare’s lost conscience. The hero of this genre is sometimes the victim sometimes the hanged man. War is often treated retrospectively, by authors of the next age such as Lord Byron and his romantic heroes who have sometimes gained glory at war or Sir Walter Scott who glorifies heroes in battles, often dead ones, even if his poems are rather lamentations at their loss than descriptions of their deeds. Anyway, war is so frequent a theme that it is one of the main sources of all literature.

But writers of the period called the “Federal Age” were not inclined to gory descriptions of battle. Theirs was a literature of reason. Few books were written during the American Revolution except essays, political pamphlets, speeches, poetry, letters or songs. Whereas propaganda dwelled on massacres, literature often satirised, parodied or mocked British actions. The recurrent themes were self-government, revolution or principles of liberty, justice and battles but above all, literature, stirring patriotic feelings, tried to unify people who were to create a new nation.

In a letter to Benjamin Franklin, Francis Hopkinson wrote:

"I have not Abilities to assist our righteous Cause by personal Prowess & Force of Arms, but I have done it all the Service I could with my Pen—throwing in my mite at Times in Prose & Verse, serious and satirical Essays, &ca."{6}

The writer energetically formed an alliance with the soldier. Each fought with his own arms. Literature was as efficient a weapon as propaganda but was more sophisticated in its forms. Francis Hopkinson’s The Battle of the Kegs ridiculed the British Navy. Besides, this song, along with others, had been enhancing the revolutionary spirit of the period since the passage of the Stamp Act. Moreover, songs helped the Patriots to inoculate those who could or would not read serious political tracts or essays. The force of these songs was that they could evolve as stanzas were added or altered. John Dickinson’s Liberty Song was sung by all the Patriots in the Colonies for it promoted unity and resistance:

"Then join Hand in Hand brave Americans all,

By uniting We stand, by dividing We fall"{7}

Thomas Paine’s political pamphlets were war cries against taxation and a call for liberty. Paine’s Common Sense attacked the British monarchy and at the same time, encouraged the Continental Congress to declare independence. The success of the latter originated from the plain and direct style the author used to write it. Not only did Thomas Paine want the Colonists to take up arms against the English crown but he also demonstrated that getting rid of England would be a great improvement in commercial exchange around the world:

"Europe is too thickly planted with kingdoms to be long at peace, and whenever a war breaks out between England and any foreign power, the trade of America goes to ruin, because of her connection with England."{8}

Paine’s The Rights of Men tackled hereditary government and argued for equal political rights. Paine’s Liberty was Democracy. In 1791, he was to write that “[he] had seen enough of the miseries of war, to wish it might nevermore have existence in the world.” {9} Benjamin Franklin used political satire so as to mock Britain’s policies. He advocated killing Americans if Britain wanted them to respect the Stamp Act.{10}

Philip Freneau’s poetry supported the Freedom Fighters’ cause. He wrote against General Gage and as soon as 1780 became a fierce agent of patriotism. Besides, he is known as the Poet of the American Revolution. Hugh Henry Brackenridge’s The Rising Glory of America (1772), The Battle of Bunker-Hill (1776) and The Death of General Montgomery (1777) are glorious drama and he believed that America would be synonymous with grandeur.

Literature supported the Revolutionary War. It was an intellectual fight for independence as important as armed clashes. All literary genres aimed at playing on patriotic feelings and avoided dampening the ardour of colonists by describing battle scenes of Americans falling under lethal British weaponry.

The truth was that even though the American Revolution, or civil war, provided a dramatic background for writers, they often deliberately chose to cast aside many military and bloody aspects of war as such, but through satire, helped keep patriotism uppermost in American minds. As soon as the war ended, poetry and other narratives about war itself began to appear such as Philip Freneau’s The American Soldier (1795), On the Fall of General Earl Cornwallis (1786) or Joel Barlow’s The Columbia; or, A Poem on the American War (1795). And lastly, the Declaration of Independence, as a literary text, could be regarded as a actual declaration of war.  

1.3 Religious Activism

"I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously:

the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.

The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation:

he is my God and I will prepare him an habitation;

my father's God, and I will exalt him.The Lord is a man of war:

the Lord is his name."{11}

In the Ancient Testament, warfare was both military and religious. Only God knew the result of all wars. The Holy Bible is rich in stories that depict Jehovah asking the Hebrews to wage war and annihilate His enemies. History does not lack references to wars led for the glory of an almighty God: the conquest of the Americas made by the Spanish and the Portuguese in the name of the “true cross” and of the Christian religion and the Crusades undertaken in the powerful name of religion that transcended many a member of the Church. But it seems dubious that those wars were waged in order to save the Indians’ or Mohammedans’ souls or to pave the way to divine salvation{12}. It rather seems that the love of God and religious ideals served economic, political, personal and imperialistic reasons.

In the 18th century{13}, religion was the driving force of main political passions and especially during the American War of Independence when religion became a favourite rhetorical tool, as it thwarted Britain’s reinforced control of the American colonies. Preachers took the leading role in battering their parishioners with revolutionary sermons. They thought that resistance to Britain was a Christian duty.

Politics and religion were intimately linked. Preachers wanted to convince their congregations that God himself had a predilection for this revolution and that with His help, Americans would be able to win their liberty by taking arms. The point was that many preachers were radical Protestants who saw the forthcoming rebellion as an actual American “Holy War” of Independence aimed at getting rid of George III and his dominion over the thirteen colonies. Many preachers drew an analogy between the thirteen colonies and Israel as if the colonists were the Jews of the Old Testament and were God’s new chosen people who had to thwart an unholy enemy, a monarchical government. The radical protestant sermonology was based upon how to oppose a king who prohibited freedom to a large part of his people. Since God embodies Liberty, He is necessarily on the colonists’ side.

Jonathan Mayhew (1720-1766) was a vigorous pre-revolutionary Boston minister who saw the Church of England as but a sinister fiend. According to him, the duty of Americans was to fight the tyranny of the British. He argued against heredity of royalty as being “the most absurd reveries of ancient or modern visionaries”{14} and urged the colonies to oppose British dominion. Jonathan Mayhew believed that the British government acted in total opposition to the law of nature and right reason and all things considered, rebellion through warfare was justified: