The American Revolutionary War was not a contest of good over evil or freedom over oppression but as always a fight over control which were settled not by might or right but by accidents of geography. We certainly congratulate ourselves in our own minds how our individualism triumphed over outdated concepts of nobility but the truth is far more complex and nuanced. Our rulers were certainly no worse than most others for the time. And it was never a war over oppression. The complaint was lack of representation, not over taxes per se, just the lack of compensation for that taxation. And yet, if one views the political views of the colony, only about a third of the population thought they were being unfairly taxed. One third was squarely behind the Crown ( of course, to be fair, those were coastal residents who were predominately the richer segments protecting their existing wealth whereas the “patriots” were hoping to increase theirs at the expense of the loyalists. Inland populations, more prone to independence were also more removed from the existing wealth structures ). It wasn’t a simple revolt over unfair rule but more of a fight for a redistribution of riches. Under typical human nature, even if there was plenty of newfound wealth stolen from the Indigs to go around for everyone, the top tiers still used the masses to bleed for them and steal the wealth from others. But at least they were smart enough to allow a trickle down effect to placate and bribe the masses. The loyalists were too enamored with the class system and couldn’t see any benefit in sharing, which ultimately was their undoing. The war was won by begrudgingly allowing the 99% to share in the minority of the new wealth. In the long run. If the war hadn’t been fought conventionally independence would have taken far longer. More than likely. But the war was fought conventionally and so to her credit France must be acknowledged as one of our saviors. Begrudgingly or not. France, however inept at empire building, still had a lot to do with our independence. And that was because of the colonies road network ( or lack thereof ).
Long before Macadam and concrete, roads ( with a few notable exceptions such as Roman rock ) were almost always dirt. There were crappy roads, always a quagmire, of clay. In these areas, warfare was conducted after the first freeze or in dry weather ( the first ski troops were used to avoid bad roads ), and usually only then. Good roads were more sandy. In America, the only good roads running north to south, were on the coast. There were a few secondary north/south roads away from the coast but they were clay. If one looks at a map of main roads for the thirteen colonies, only three run north south and over fifteen run east to west. Those horizontal roads mainly followed natural drainage of the land. The roads hugged the contours of the earth, and they were not laid according to mans wishes but natures. Man could easily move to the west but not up or down the colonies. The main method of trade was to load Atlantic ocean ships which hopped from port to port. Then the goods were moved inland east to west. This was so widespread a practice, and America had so many ships just for this purpose, the English merchant marine was predominately American colony. Now, are you forming a picture of how the British conducted the suppression of the rebellion?
The British quickly suppressed ocean shipping with their superior naval forces. They then had achieved transportation superiority. Rebellion forces were now relegated to the inferior inland clay roads. This was enough to keep the rebellion alive, but it was no where near enough to supply a conventional military. The rebels could not freely move supplies, both because of terrible roads and because the coastal areas had both superior roads under British control, but also because the loyalists occupied those areas and denied the rebellion fodder or farm supplies. As an aside, also looking at a colonial road map, the three parallel north to south roads were above and below Philadelphia. That city was a natural choke point where the network formed an hourglass and only a single main road connected the two systems. Control the city and rebel supply lines were further constrained. But even bad roads and inferior lands were not the only issues the rebels faced. They also decimated the transportation system they did have.
Most young farm lads, those who knew how to work horses and oxen, were funneled into infantry instead. The teamsters were mostly comprised of the unfit or undesirables. Even after independence, most teamsters were denied compensation for joining the fight, so low were they regarded. Yet, how can troops fight without beans and bullets? But logistics were neither thought about or appreciated by large. More thought was given to strategy. Yet, the British, those evil bastards, offered precious metal payment for immediate delivery of supplies from the locals. Compared to the toilet paper Continentals the rebels offered, this was readily accepted by most farmers. The British merely had to visit an area first and no local supplies were left for rebel forces, with nary a hard feeling from the locals. Which then meant the shoddy transport system the colonialists had barely constructed was expected to get supplies from far away. It is a wonder the rebellion succeeded on its own, or if it even did. I contend that we needed the French’s help, and not just with land troops but more as a naval disruption to the Brits ocean dominance and hence their lock on transportation at the scale needed militarily. Because of a road, the war was nearly lost.
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