The American Revolution through British Eyes
A Documentary Collection
Publication Year: 2012
The letters in this collection were written mostly by British military officers and diplomats reporting directly to their superiors in London. Many of the writers were actively engaged in fighting the Americans from 1775 until 1783; others were colonial administrators traveling through North America assessing the progress of British troops.
Beginning with reports of the surprisingly violent American response at the battles of Lexington and Concord, these letters by British army officers and soldiers initially conveyed supreme confidence. Likewise, correspondents in the Royal Navy had no reason to doubt their ultimate victory, since they understood themselves to be the world’s most formidable commercial and military fleet.
As the Revolution proceeded, the Colonists confounded the British by issuing Letters of Marque to the owners of privately held ships, which enabled them to supplement the modest colonial navy with privateers that attacked and disrupted British supply lines, cutting off needed reinforcements and provisions, including food that the colonists refused to provide. Other unorthodox tactics followed, causing increasing concern among the British, including the eventual fate of many Loyalists, some of whom had fought alongside British troops. What would befall these allies if America actually achieved independence?
The near-daily reports in this engrossing two-volume collection enable us to appreciate the familiar drama of American independence from a different standpoint, one not widely studied. Little-known details emerge, such as the fact that King George III seriously considered abdicating the throne at least twice, should independence be granted to America.
The American Revolution through British Eyes is sure to captivate anyone with an interest in America’s war for independence.
Published by: The Kent State University Press
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Most of the documents in this collection are firsthand accounts by British officials and military officers who were serving in North America during the War for Independence. There are also responses and reports from government officials in London with letters and petitions from Loyalists on both sides of the Atlantic, conveying...
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To appreciate these letters, it might first be useful to review British colonial policies, which over time led to the eruption of violence in North America in 1775. To begin with, much colonial discontent stemmed from unresolved issues that remained after the French and Indian War (1756–1763) in North America, commonly...
1. 1775–1776. The Coming of War
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This chapter focuses on New England, especially the Massachusetts Bay colony. Participants on both sides of the Atlantic were uncertain just how events would evolve. Many hoped that an ultimate breach between the Rebels and the British could be avoided, but there were others, mainly colonists, who hoped that a...
2. 1775–1776. Colonial Troops Invade Canada
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As early as May 1775, a few weeks after the fighting at Lexington and Concord, two small colonial forces set off by different routes to take Fort Ticonderoga. Arriving on 9 May, the commanders of the Patriots, Colonels Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold, settled their differences long enough to mount a joint attack on the following...
3. 1775–1776. British Occupation of New York and New Jersey
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Throughout 1775 and the first half of 1776, the mid-Atlantic colonies were beset by uncertainty, disruption, and occasional violence. Colonial legislatures tried to assert more power and influence over their inhabitants, while colonial governors and other administrators increasingly wielded their authority in the name of the Crown....
4. 1775–1777. Turmoil in the South
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During the course of 1775, the position of Royal Governors in the southern states grew more and more precarious. As word from the North filtered down, many southern colonists decided to emulate the disturbances in New England, the protests stemming from the Continental Congress, the demonstrations and riots in...
5. 1776–1777. The British Capture Philadelphia
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The year 1777 was dominated by major battles. In early January, Washington’s troops made a quick raid on Princeton, New Jersey, and then withdrew to the relative safety of Morristown before Earl Cornwallis was able to provoke the Patriots into fighting. The successful raids at Trenton and Princeton greatly boosted...
6. 1776–1777. Canada, Upper New York, and the Battle of Saratoga
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During 1776 and the first half of 1777, Canada was under the authority, both civil and military, of General Guy Carleton. He devoted his energy to building up the military establishment, recognizing the likelihood that those of French extraction could not be relied upon, and those of British origin might prove tepid in their...
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7. 1778. France and Spain enter the War
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Perhaps the most important events occurring during the year 1778 took place in Paris, not in North America. On 7 January, the French Royal Council agreed to an alliance with the American colonies, followed by a formal treaty on 6 February. One week later, they announced this to the British, knowing that it would...
8. 1779. Britain’s Southern Strategy
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The military situation in the New World at the beginning of 1779 seemed auspicious for the British. They had re-taken Savannah the previous December, establishing a military government in Georgia until former Governor James Wright returned to resume his governorship on 14 July. Hit-and-run raids along the eastern...
9. 1780. British Success in South Carolina, and the Defection of Benedict Arnold
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Britain’s Southern Strategy came to fruition in May 1780, the culmination of months of preparation and military execution. The early months witnessed continued attacks by the Spanish against British-held West Florida, resulting in the capture of Mobile Bay by General Bernardo de Galvez on 14 March. Following the...
10. 1781. Cornwallis is Defeated
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In the early months of 1781, the British Southern Strategy seemed to continue to yield positive results. In January, Benedict Arnold’s troops carried out more raids in Virginia, which the Marquis de Lafayette was unable to prevent, and on 15 March, Cornwallis forced Nathanael Greene to withdraw his troops from Guilford...
11. 1782. Diplomatic Maneuvers for Peace
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Although many observers on both sides of the Atlantic thought the War for American Independence was virtually over following the Battle of Yorktown, hostilities continued throughout 1782. The British gave every indication that they wanted to negotiate a peace. On 5 January their troops withdrew from North Carolina...
12. 1783. Negotiations to End the War
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During the course of 1782 and 1783, there were specific issues that plagued peace negotiations between the United States and Britain. Foremost of these was British recognition of American independence, which the colonists secured initially in the preliminary treaty of 30 November 1782. Another point raised by Benjamin Franklin...
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Publication Year: 2012