The american revolution (part II) Show notes
The Second of three parts devoted to the American Revolution. We go through the Battle of Bunker Hill, the Second Continental Congress' decision to declare their independence from Great Britain, and their decision to appoint George Washington as the General of the first Continental Army. An episode packed with a story of struggle, excitement and fear that is ultimately the beginning of American History.
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Before the Second Continental Congress made the ultimate decision to draft the Declaration of Independence, penned by Thomas Jefferson, the revolutionary movement had yet to achieve a single unified vision. Many of the state representatives at that congressional meeting were still pushing for British loyalty after the war should they be able to achieve their goal of true representation. They saw the war as a way to let Great Britain and Parliament know the seriousness with which they viewed their purpose.
Ultimately on July 2nd, 1776 the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America was voted on and approved. Two days later it was signed and ratified and the United States of America was officially a sovereign nation; it was anyone's best guess as to how long that union of states would last.
Before the congressional meeting in Philadelphia, PA drafted, signed, and ratified that monumental document, the Battle of Bunker Hill gave colonial Americans a glimpse of hope that they would be able to use their untrained, unexperienced and unorganized militias to stave off the British invaders.
The Battle of Bunker Hill
- The Battle of Bunker Hill occurred one year before the Declaration of Independence was signed. It was the first real engagement of American militia as American soldiers against the British Regular Army.
- The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought on June 17, 1775, during the Siege of Boston in the early stages of the American Revolutionary War. The battle is named after Bunker Hill in Charlestown, Massachusetts, which was peripherally involved in the battle. It was the original objective of both the colonial and British troops, though the majority of combat took place on the adjacent Breed's Hill.
- On June 13, 1775, the leaders of the colonial forces besieging Boston learned that the British were planning to send troops out from the city to fortify the unoccupied hills surrounding the city, which would give them control of Boston Harbor. In response, 1,200 colonial troops under the command of William Prescott stealthily occupied Bunker Hill and Breed's Hill. During the night, the colonists constructed a strong redoubt on Breed's Hill, as well as smaller fortified lines across the Charlestown Peninsula.
- By daybreak of June 17, the British became aware of the presence of colonial forces on the Peninsula and mounted an attack against them that day. Two assaults on the colonial positions were repulsed with significant British casualties; the third and final attack carried the redoubt after the defenders ran out of ammunition. The colonists retreated to Cambridge over Bunker Hill, leaving the British in control of the Peninsula.
- The battle was a tactical victory for the British, but it proved to be a sobering experience for them, involving many more casualties than the Americans had incurred, including a large number of officers. The battle had demonstrated that inexperienced militia were able to stand up to regular army troops in battle. Subsequently, the battle discouraged the British from any further frontal attacks against well defended front lines. American casualties were comparatively much fewer, although their losses included General Joseph Warren and Major Andrew McClary, the final casualty of the battle.
- The battle led the British to adopt a more cautious planning and maneuver execution in future engagements, which was evident in the subsequent New York and New Jersey campaign, and arguably helped rather than hindered the American forces. Their new approach to battle was actually giving the Americans greater opportunity to retreat if defeat was imminent. The costly engagement also convinced the British of the need to hire substantial numbers of foreign mercenaries to bolster their strength in the face of the new and formidable Continental Army.
The Battle of New York and Washington's Growth
The Battle of New York was a massive blow not only to the army under Washington's command, it was a blow to his mental fortification and resolve. The battle of New York began in August of 1776 and in terms of troop deployment it was the largest battle of the whole war. Most notably though it was a string of defeats, much like the battle of bunker hill, that saw the American army outgunned and outnumbered by a devestating margin. Somehow the American Regulars were able to quell their casualties to an unbelievably low amount given the potential they could have sustained. Much like the battle of Bunker Hill was able to create a cautious hesitancy in the leadership of the British Regulars, so too did the Battle for Brooklyn, the Battle for long Island or most known as the Battle for New York.
George Washington is most known for his exceptional leadership in the Revolutionary War and from then as the first President of the United States of America. He was the kind of man with character that doesn't exist anymore; he declined what was essentially the coronation of the King of America and not only did he decline that when the people clamored for his third term, he explained to them why he must do that and what the whole war was faught for to begin with.
What is lesser known about Washington is his string of failures in this battle that nearly broke his resolve, his fortitude, and the country.
Without Washington the Revolution Dies
George Washington was more crucial to the American "rebellion" or revolution, depending on which way you saw it at the time, than most people tend to realize. This was a man who embodied the revolution and in a way showed the American citizens to be what an American really looked like. Its important to look at who Washington was in order to understand how the country got its vision from his leadership style and his character.
Washington was born in Virginia and lived the life of a farmer who was not very well educated, something he always was self-conscious of. He was a self educated man and strived to become a gentleman according to the books he was reading. He was a large physical presence as well as having a personality that could fill a room on its own. He was an excioptional horseman and Thomas Jefferson himself said he was the finest horseman on the planet at the time. This was something Washington, whether knowingly or not, used to propel his image as leader or commander in chief if you will.
He was always pictured on top a horse with that type of heroic pose that you see in paintings, except that was how people saw him in real life. In one of the most exceptionally well written books describing Washington and his part of the war and revolution entirely, Washington's Crossing, the opening pages are dedicated to explaining his presence as he rode through Boston on horseback and how the people of the city saw him and were inspired just from the sight of him.
He wasn't just a figure of the revolution, he was the soul of it.
* Kierner, Cynthia A. Revolutionary America, 1750-1815: sources and interpretation. Upper Saddle River (N.J.): Prentice Hall, 2003.
* McCullough, David G. 1776. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2006.
* Fischer, David Hackett. Washingtons crossing. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.