American Revolution Lesson Seven
Lesson Seven A: American Revolution, Fighting the War; British Strategy - the northern expedition
After 1778 The British adopted a new strategy. Divide the colonies into three parts, and then beat each part separately. The British believed that each part would be much weaker than a united group of colonies. This was a very good strategy. It goes by many names, divide and conquer, defeat in piecemeal, etc.
NOTE: You can demonstrate this to your students by using toothpicks (the flat kind work best.) Give one or two students a bundle of 13 toothpicks bound with a rubber band and have them try to break them in half. If they can, it will be with great effort. Now divide the toothpicks up into groups of three or four and have the students break them. Let them make the connection.
The British had already captured New York City. They would send part of their army up the Hudson River Valley and meet a second part of their army which was coming down from Canada. This would separate the Northeastern colonies (Mass, VT, Ct, RI, NH, NY) from the rest.
Then they would send another part of their army to South Carolina and Separate the southern colonies (South Carolina, Georgia) from the rest. That would leave the middle colonies (VA, NC, MD, PA) On their own.
Let us look at the two different pieces.
First the northern expedition.
Lesson Seven A
The Battle of Saratoga.
There are several very good maps here.
Use these with the lesson. Have your students find Montreal, Fort Ticonderoga, Bemis Heights, Saratoga, and Albany.
The campaign started well for the British. They captured Fort Ticonderoga and the rest of the colonistsí forts around Lake Champlain. Then General Burgoyne started his advance down the Hudson River towards the city of Albany, New York. A second group of British troops started east from Lake Champlain to meet up with Burgoyne in Albany. The rest of the British Army was supposed to move north from New York City. This is when things started to go wrong for the British.
Ask your students why the British were following along the rivers.
Answer: There were no roads. Food, ammunition and other supplies had to be brought along the rivers.
Try to bring out that most of northern New York State was a forest with no roads, few farms and fewer towns. There was no place to stop and buy food or anything else.
(math connection coming up)
Ask students if they know how much the average person eats every day. (The average adult eats about 2kg or 5lbs per day by weight of food.) Now figure this out for an army of 9000 men who would need about 45,000 lbs or 22 tons of food per day. The British army had to bring this all down the rivers from Canada.
Now if you were the colonists how would you stop the British Army (why cut off their food supply of course), which is exactly what the colonists did. Then the colonists brought their army (mostly local state militia) up and stopped the advancing British through several battles in the Forests the most important of these was the Battle of Bemis Heights which was fought over two days. General Benedict Arnold was the hero here and was wounded in his leg, a wound that never healed right. After these defeats the British tried to retreat, but were soon surrounded by the colonists. General Horatio Gates became a hero in the colonies when he accepted the surrender of the British Army (approximately 9000 men) at Saratoga, New York. This would have important consequences including an alliance with France.
The Northern portion of the British strategy had been stopped. But what about the South?
Fighting the War; British Strategy 7b (war in the south)