Factors in American War of Independence

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Battle of Saratoga 1777

5th July- Burgoyne recaptured Ticonderoga. Campaign to seperate New England from colonies.

Went overland to Fort Ann and Fort Edward instead of sailing down Lake George. Took 3 weeks. Reached on 30th July. 600 men requisitioning supplies killed/captured at Vermont.  1000 troops lost in a few days. 

Burgoyne determined to drive to Albany (returning to Ticonderoga would have been more sensible). 19th September Gates and Burgoyne clashed at Freeman's farm.Clinton promised to push north from NY- gave Burgoyne hope. 8 october- retreat to Saratoga, Clinton not coming, surrendered. 

  • Burgoyne- underestimated strength of opposition
  • Howe- did little fo help Burgoyne
  • Germain did not co-ordinate Howe and Burgoyne


  • american morale boost
  • triggered foreign intervention
  • GB attempted to negotiate peace- Americans refuse- shows their confidence. 
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Yorktown 1781

May: Washington wanted to launch an attack to stop mutinies over delayed pay in the army. Combined forces with Rochambeau (1600 altogether) to attack cornwallis.

Sept: Marched south and trapped him on the Yorktown peninsula with a force twice the size of his own.By october his army was trapped with a weak fortified position and shortage of supplies.  

19th October: Cornwallis and his army of 17200 soldiers surrendered. That morning, Clinton had planned to send a relief force of 7000 men but arrived 5 days too late.


  • highlighted pre-existing problem of communication eg. cornwallis and clinton.
  • GB sceptical about continuing the war-stopped all offensive operations. 
  • Rest of the war was focused outside the 13 colonies
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Foreign Intervention

1778: American-French Alliance. To avenge the 7 years war and weaken GB as a world power. Supplied Americans with arms, sent young army officers, 6 Feb: Commercial Agreement and defensive alliance. 

Spanish intervene 1779, Dutch 1780. To regain Minorca, Floridas, Gibraltar + Jamaica. Defend trading posts + colonies. 


  • GB more concerned with France than war effort in America
  • couldnt devote as many resources to war (only 29% of troops in North America)
  • France creates fear, seen as a threat
  • GB now has to defend the West Indies, Gibraltar, Minorca + british possessions in Africa and India. 

But France + Spain not as strong as they seemed> french finances in a precarious state, spains financial problems worsened, number of spanish ships declined, Holland no longer such a great power, no conclusive victories. But french contribution did help cause defeat at Yorktown                                                              

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The Impact of the Navy

British Navy = supply + reinforcement, blockade of American coastline, 41 ships 1778, line ahead.

French Navy= reformed since 1763, new ships, better training, better leaders, tactique nava, les manoeuvres= superior to british tactics. 

Spanish Navy =59 ships of the line, ships better designed than GB and France, but tactics not equivalent as lacked trained officers. 


  • British reinforcements struggled
  • No massive impact as most engagements were overland and all navies were of a similar standard.
  • American seaboard so long- difficult to have naval engagements.
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Poor British leadership:

  • George III refused North's resignation, failed to gain any allies 
  • Germain- dismissed detailed instructions, didnt understand terrain or colonial determination. Unclear orders to Howe- didnt co-ordinate Howe and Burgoyne's strategies. 
  • Howe- battle of long island- missed opportunities. 
  • Burgoyne- undermines the strength of opposition, goes overland instead of taking Lake George, 30 baggage trains. 

Poor American Leadership

  • Washington lost more battles than he lost
  • Benedict Arnold- west point traitor.

Good American Leadership

  • W's defensive strategy- didnt get into battles he didnt want to fight. 
  • 100,000 hessian troops captured at Trenton
  • Defeats Burgoyne and Cornwallis at Saratoga and Yorktown, 
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Terrain and Distance

GB fighting a war 4800 km away= 3-6 months for supplies + troops. Gave Americans an advantage. New England rocky + cold. South boggy + humid. Western frontier impenetrable. 

American settlements vastly spread- difficult to transport men and supplies.


  • Burgoyne Saratoga- took 3 weeks to reach fort edward bcause of felling trees and difficult terrain. 
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