3The Americans Won the War With Frontier Savvy and Guerrilla Tactics
Colonists were guerrilla fighters extraordinaire. They made a huge difference in the war outcome with constant raids, skirmishes, and ambushes, essentially going Home Alone on the British forces left and right.
It makes such an awful lot of sense: In the blue corner, we have a bunch of determined colonists who were on their home turf, lightly armed, and relatively inconspicuously clothed. In the red corner: tightly organized regiments of scarlet-clad soldiers with stiff upper lips, marching in lockstep through the forest like live Duck Hunt targets. Of course the Colonial forces took the opportunity to employ the kind of guerrilla tactics that wouldn't be seen until, well, two centuries later.
By which time the United States had completely forgotten their existence.
As enticing as the image of clever American guerrillas winning the war by hiding behind trees and shooting British troops who are standing in formation in open fields is, it couldn't be further from the truth. While guerrilla tactics did play a plucky part in the proceedings, they were always a condiment rather than the meat. Ordinary pitched battles decided the outcome of the war.
Which was smart, because the Patriots never actually had the advantage when it came to guerrilla-ing. British troops had at least as much guerrilla chops as the Colonies, as pretty much all significant Native American tribes had sided with the Redcoats -- even the guy who literally wrote the book on being an Army Ranger fought for the British.
"I actually wrote the book on gorilla warfare. And it is ridiculous."
There was also the matter of suitable firepower. The predominant muskets of the day had a maximum range of about 100 yards, and to actually hit what you wanted, you had to be way closer. These weapons required organized, concentrated fire to direct a "wall" of lead at the enemy, in the vague hope that something might actually hit someone. Also, the muskets took about 20 seconds to reload, and the opponent tended to have at least some cavalry around. So any Colonial commando attempting an ambush was under significant risk of finding out firsthand how much less than 20 seconds it takes for a saber-swinging dragoon to cover 100 yards on horseback. In fact, forget about the horses -- while you're struggling with your musket, the British soldiers could just nonchalantly stroll up to you and send you to an agonizing, perforated demise. See, despite the color of their coats, they weren't just some idiot henchmen waiting to be shot. They were trained soldiers with bayonets fixed at the end of their muskets -- sharp bayonets that they could use very well.
With this information in mind, feel free to watch this clip of The Patriot and count all the times Mel Gibson would've been murder-stabbed to death.
Seventeen. Per minute.
2Except for a Few Loyalists, Most Americans Fought for Liberty
Textbooks generally acknowledge the presence of some Loyalists in the Colonies. After all, no matter what your goal is, there's always someone who thinks it's idiotic. Even so, the sentiment for independent America must've been pretty overwhelming. Even allowing for the occasional Benedict Arnold, colonists crazy enough to continue supporting the king despite all the taxes and shit were surely just a ridiculous minority. Right?
Yep. Benedict Arnold was the only one. Suck it, history!
Wrong! In fact, the numbers of Colonial and Loyalist supporters were almost even.
The Revolutionary War was every bit as much of a civil war as, well the Civil War. If anything, there was a better chance for brother to be pitted against brother, because unlike the actual Civil War, your side in the conflict didn't depend on what part of the country you lived in. With the Loyalist and Patriot factions, a single street was fully equipped to have a civil war all its own.
It was like WWE's Royal Rumble, except with less genital outlines on the outfits.
In fact, there were not two but three sides: about a third of Americans fought for independence, another third opted for the king's side, and the remaining third didn't give a rat's ass as long as they survived with all appendages intact. Although recent research has revised the figures slightly in favor of the Patriots, that still leaves them in the minority. Yes, Patriots were a minority in America.
Incidentally, these power dynamics also tear down the traditional "Americans were the good guys, save for a few rotten apples" view of the Patriot/Loyalist relationship. Once you realize that back then literally anyone could be the enemy, the Revolutionary War is revealed as the all-out blood feud it actually was. "Good guys" were scarce, and Patriots dealt out at least as much dickitry as they received: Apart from the usual wartime horrors, after the war, at least 60,000 men, women, and children were forcibly cast out of the newly minted nation as refugees.
Meanwhile, Britain was busy trying to help its exiled supporters and, oh yeah, freeing the thousands of African-(ex-)Americans who had supported the losing side.
"Stay a slave, or get used to British cooking ... that's one hell of a choice."