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Sunday, May 19, 2013

America and Canada: Revolutionary Pipedreams

     The Americans invaded Canada after the Canadians, on at least three occasions,  turned down or ignored overtures to join the Revolution.  Their rationale was the pretext of "protecting" people who never asked for, needed or wanted American help.  General Phillip Schuyler, in charge of the northern theater of operations, had intended to lead the expedition to Montreal, but due to illness, ceded that command to General Richard Montgomery.  Montgomery arrived with some 1200 troops, against a garrison of only 150 defenders, and the city surrendered on November 13, 1775.  On December 31, Montgomery was killed in the joint attack on Quebec City by him and Benedict Arnold.

     The heart of the city is Place d'Armes.  In 1775. where the statue of Paul de Chomeday (founder of Montreal) stands, was a statute of King George, that Montgomery's troops defaced.

     Following World War I, the United States actually developed another plan for invading Canada, formulated in 1935 and reported by Richard Preston in 1977 in The Defence of the Undefended Border: Planning for War in North America 1867-1939.  Interestingly, Toronto was considered irrelevant; the most important Canadian cities in 1935 as seen by the United States were Quebec City and Halifax.  The report concluded that "That the critical areas of Canada are: (1) The Halifax-Monkton-St.John Area (The Maritime Provinces); (2) The St.Lawrence Area (Quebec and Montreal); (3) The Great Lakes Area; (4) The Winnipeg Area; and (5) The Vancouver Area (Vancouver and Victoria).

Friday, May 17, 2013

Prescott, Bunker Hill and Courage

Next month marks the anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775.  I have been listening to the  audio version of Nathaniel Philbrick's new book Bunker Hill (at the recommendation of Robert Gould).  Perhaps more than most accounts, he has managed to make us see, hear and know the people who brought the competing forces to this spot.  Colonel William Prescott still stands in his cape-like banyan, facing the attack on the redoubt he and his men build overnight on Breed's Hill.

When a British cannonball decapitated one of the Patriots helping to erect the redoubt, Prescott inspired his men to keep at it by parading up and down on the wall in plain view of the British.  One of the last to leave the redoubt when the Patriots' ammunition finally gave out, he exemplified the courage--if not always the best judgment--of the Patriot forces.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Crooked Billet

     The Battle of Crooked Billet on May 1, 1778 (now in present-day Hatboro, Pennsylvania), was one of the more extended skirmishes arising out of the competition for forage and supplies between British and American forces.  A monument on the grounds of a school commemorates the battle.

     Washington's preferred commander of Pennsylvania militia, General James Potter, was on leave, so General John Lacy was charged with patrol and prevention of British seizure of American supplies, in command of about 400 men.  Major John Simcoe, in command of the Queen's Rangers, and Colonel Robert Abercromby, led about 850 men in a dawn attack on May 1, overwhelmed the initial force, chased them for miles and emerged victorious.  Allegations of British brutality against prisoners led Washington to appoint General William Maxwell to investigate.

     Something else worth nothing about Crooked Billet is the fact that while the soldiers of the Continental Army were starving and freezing, and these foraging raids and skirmishes were occurring, Congress was setting the rates for wagons and supplies.  The American commissary and quartermaster functions were in complete disarray.  Americans were selling to the British because that was what the market would bear.  It wasn't all patriotic fervor in America.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The I-95 War

I made the reverse trip that Nathanael Greene made, going up from New Jersey to Rhode Island, to see what I could find of the Battle of Rhode Island on August 29, 1778.  In a small location crushed between highways is Patriot Park, where a plaque tells us this was the "location" of the battle.

American commander General John Sullivan was just to the north (left) of this monument as shown above.  The British moved northward on Aquidneck Island, both Hessians and Regulars, and were repulsed in this general area and to the east and north, but the Americans then withdraw to Tiverton and the mainland, in the vicinity of Fort Barton.  More to say on this battle is subsequent posts.

But what struck me on the drive back was the fact that the Revolution was really the I-95 War, from Charleston, South Carolina to Boston, Massachusetts.  While of course this world war spread across continents and oceans, the most significant battles on the American mainland were within exit-reach of I-95.  If you want to understand America and its roots. treat I-95 as a cruiseship, and stop off at the various "ports" to appreciate the differences in culture, politics and ethos of Eastern Seaboard Americans.