The 2nd of a four-part series of why George Washington Matters, Yesterday, Washington the Revolutionary, today Washington the General.
Washington as a leader is often derided for his lack of victories against the British, but his record was much better than one might think.
When Henry Knox suggested bringing the cannon from Ticonderoga Washington signed on and thanks to the successful relocation of this artillery Washington was table to take Boston without a shot being fired. It’s the reason why so many of the historic buildings in Boston are still available to be visited.
There is no denying the New York Campaign was a fiasco Washington was defeated at Brooklyn Heights, White Plains and Fort Washington. But Trenton and Princeton were clear victories
Next year Howe defeated Washington at Brandywine and Germantown and at Monmouth while the batter was pretty much a draw Washington missed an opportunity and Washington doesn’t fight another battle for three years until the final victory at Yorktown.
At first glance this is not impressive, particularly when you consider numbers Washington’s victories come when he has numbers. At Trenton 60%, Yorktown 2-1 and Princeton nearly 4-1. His victory at Trenton is his most modest only a 60% advantage over the British force. In NY he is outnumbered but at Brandywine the numbers are within 7% and at Germantown he has a full 22% advantage as still loses.
While the British had numbers in all the battles of the NY Campaign at Brandywine the British have a mere 6% advantage and at Germantown has a full 22% advantage and still loses.
The numbers however don’t tell the whole story, consider his situation. England is the most powerful nation in the world, with a professional well-trained army and an experienced officer corps. Meanwhile Washington has to turn basically farmers and militia into a force that can stand against them.
Mel Gibson & Popular Lore not withstanding the war was not fought by a bunch of guys playing hit and run and hiding behind rocks. That’s Lexington & Concord and some of the partisan fights in the south but for the most part the American Revolution was a conventional War fought by the conventional tactics of the time.
Washington has to create, train and keep together an army, bring it up to snuff to stand against British Regulars in the face of lack of supplies, poor food and irregular pay.
The wonder isn’t that Washington lost so many battles, the wonder is his army lasted long enough to win any battles at all, let alone the revolution.
George Washington was more than the Colonial commander-in-chief, he was THE general of the American Revolution and perhaps of his time.
Tomorrow Washington the leader.