Book Review of Strategy in the American War of Independence: A Global Approach
Posted by William Young on March 1, 2013
Originally posted on International History:
Donald Stoker, Kenneth J. Hagan, and Michael T. McMaster, editors. Strategy in the American War of Independence: A Global Approach. Cass Military Studies series. Abingdon, England: Routledge, 2010. ISBN 978-0-415-36734-9. Notes. Tables. Appendices. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xvii, 244. $145.00 (hardcover).
The international aspect of the American War of Independence (1775-1783) has traditionally been downplayed by American historians. Important exceptions would be Samuel Flagg Bemis’ The Diplomacy of the American Revolution (1957) and Jonathan R. Dull’s A Diplomatic History of the Revolution (1985). In Strategy in the American War of Independence: A Global Approach, an international group of experts contribute essays that show the global and multilateral angles of the conflict from a strategic perspective. The authors demonstrate that the American struggle for independence “was inescapably enmeshed in the military and diplomatic affairs of the rest of the world” (p.xvii). The American War of Independence was a very complex global conflict.
American strategy was slow to develop. In their essay, Dr Donald Stoker and Dr Michael W. Jones, both Professors of Strategy and Policy at the U.S. Naval War College in Monterey, California, examine American colonial military strategy. They show that the leaders of the Continental Army employed a Fabian strategy in military operations, supplemented by the waging of partisan warfare. American leadership “understood that success in the American Revolution depended on preserving the Patriot center of gravity, the army — in the north and in the south — and demonstrating success through incremental victories that in turn fed the colonials’ ability to preserve their army” (p.30). This strategy allowed the Patriots to make effective use of their limited resources and build British frustration and disillusionment with the conflict. Dr Kenneth J. Hagan, Professor of Strategy and Policy at the U.S. Naval War College, adds to the discussion of colonial military strategy by illustrating the beginnings of American naval strategy. As such, Hagan points out that the American colonies at first lacked a strategy against Britain. But, slowly the colonies developed a naval strategy to consist of commerce-raiding, coastal defense, a reliance on frigates instead of ships-of-the-line to engage like British ships, avoidance of battle on the high seas, and the projection, albeit limited, of naval power on distant shores.