Monday, August 5, 2013

roads to revolution

ROADS TO REVOLUTION

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 We certainly congratulate ourselves in our own minds how our individualism triumphed over outdated concepts of nobility but the truth is far more complex and nuanced.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 ).

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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?

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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.

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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.

END

14 comments:

  1. Militia recruitment numbers alone blow huge holes in your 1/3rd each side claim. The numbers of patriots v. loyalist fluctuated of course but when Revolutionary forces are getting 25% and higher ratios of military age men to volunteer for service that shows a much higher support ratio than 33% overall. Typically the overall support of the populace must be double (or more) of the active recruitment percentages of available man power from the Horse and Musket period.

    The 1/3rd theory is an old one that most current historians of that era discount now.

    French participation that actually arrived was of little value. Politically it did prove useful however and training-wise proved very valuable indeed. That's about it.

    Bottom line the revolution was won because of money. It proved entirely too expensive to keep the colonies in line and that expense was never going to let up. The English knew they were not going to loose the trade regardless how the war went so why bother pumping money and troops into it. The inevitable outcome was the same with or without France and Spain as American allies.


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    1. Even if the total number of Tory and neutral was 25%, that still left areas the rebels could not trade or steal supplies, even if their currency had been worth something. Which it wasn't. And the Brits used their naval superiority to fight the land war. They decimated our sea trade, and controled our north south movements. Even if I'm 100% wrong on the French help, I still find it hard to believe we would have won a conventional war on our own. Guerilla war, sure, eventually. And if anything, the financial strain on the Brits was merely because they had other more strategic areas to control. They had to drop one area to support the others. Was France and Spain fighting them in other areas ( hot or cold war )? If so, they did indeed help us, indirectly.

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    2. Most of the French v. English fighting took place in India and some in the Caribbean.

      There is little about the Revolutionary war that can really be called "conventional" by 18th century standards. The battles were small, the ratio of militia to regulars was large, no battlefield cavalry to speak of nor heavy ordinance and expanded use of foreign mercenary troops. It really is in a class all it's own and was costing the British far more to continue than it was costing the colonies.

      Cornwallis was in serious trouble before he even withdrew into Yorktown. The English were being bled dry and for what? They were not going to lose their trade monopoly no matter how the war ended so why continue?

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    3. I don't think it was really costing the colonies all that much- printing press "Continentals". And it was costing the Brits real gold. And for what? A customer for its goods. Was cotton even that important yet? I seem to be recalling another fifty years or so before the textile industry got huge in England, but I could be way off. But the sugar off the Islands already was quite profitable I'm sure, and India was the Crown Jewel for its saltpeter which made the whole empire possible.

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    4. Studies of the colonial colonies show that the war was a disaster for the colonies. Huge sections of the colonies were broke.

      I don't agree with Pioneers assessment of the French in so far as the war would have dragged on much longer without their help. It was to some degree only luck that Yorktown occurred at a time when politically the British were getting tired of the fray, that just barely brought piece.

      However, going the other way, Spain was almost as important as France. They were tying up British interests in the Caribbean and elsewhere and their monetary funding was very timely.

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  2. would you agree that all war accomplishes other than financial gain for somebody, it to put a new set of greedy assholes in charge after driving the old ones out.

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    1. War does two things. 1) new set of greedy asswhores in charge, and 2) that new greedy asswhores skims off his share and with the rest keeps his minions alive with resources they were running out of. Which is why wars are very popular even amongst the cannon fodder ( to a degree, most times ). Those JUST for profit, such as Vietnam, get little support. WWII, Iraq, were for resources. Afghanistan, not too sure about. Could be all opium profits for the bankers, CIA, or it could be an area chockhold.

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    2. afghanistan is very rich in rare earth elements (solar panels, superconductors, electronics, batteries, etc.) it is also in the backyards of Russia, and China.
      Well worth it especially when the slapped the USA by harboring our villian #1 Osama bin Laden.
      Clear case of Woopie! bomb them and crush them and show them who is boss. But afghanies are prime guriella fighters so we are already getting tired of it and trying to bribe them to play nice with us in the future.
      -Grey

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    3. I just wonder if the rare earth is worth extracting. Same issues with any occupying force. And if they stay tribal, who will allow mining? So I don't think the minerals will ever be extracted. Opium pays more and you don't have an army trying to kill you ( also, opium grew not because of anything we did. The drought is hard on wheat, easy on poppies. Sell opium, buy wheat from elsewhere )

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  3. Lord Bison of the Great Basin and King of Coiffure;

    On the subject of war; Orwell wrote in his masterpiece 1984 from the point of view of O'Brien a member of inner party and secret thought police, that war was merely the effort of deprive people of needed resources and to keep an embittered minority in power over that of the great masses, which had a great potential for strength but no organization with which to effect that strength. In other words, war is the tool that the masters use to keep the rest of us complacent and cowed enough to where we never come together to smash the master's heads with paving stones in righteous violence as a demonstration of our unity and righteous anger over the corrupt system, that we've allowed to take place while the rest of us were lulled to sleep with visions of home ownership, gas-guzzling SUV's, trophy wives, college tuition at a democratic-socialist educational institution for the children who hate us, Sunday NFL games on the Chinese made 60" HDTV, cold genetically modified beer from the flawed by design Korean built refrigerator and Christmas in Florida at the commercial theme park of choice with the in-laws who hate us, because we aren't investment bankers, screwing millions with sub-prime mortgages making millions in the process. Yes the materialist American dream and all of its toxic spawn killing freedom, choice and responsibility for the remainder of the have-nots. Yes war keeps the masters in power and the rest of us screwed! Keep keeping it real James!

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    1. Well, 1984 was written with modern war in mind. Industrial war isn't like the good old days of yore when men were men and sheep were nervous. Far less energy surplus to put into the effort. If fact, I'd say that our new wars are post-industrial and hence more like the pre-Civil War era. Less effect economically on the populace. Sure, the lack of government control is not the same in our Orwellian survelliance state, but the total economic effort of the state is once again lacking.

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  4. "When Gods Fail" Pretty nasty after Da Bomb "adventure". Free on Amazon!!!

    Very good, Jim. Excellent points about the roads. There was also the French fleet that allowed Yorktown to fall.

    That being said, mohave rat's post and Jim's reply is the conclusion.

    Gil

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    1. Thanks, I'll go check it out. You're my go-to guy on free books-keep it up.

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  5. ha ha ha

    pp won again. good job pp.

    you can read books but your comprehension is crap.

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