Sunday, August 22, 2010

Victory at Yorktown: The Campaign that (just barely) Won the Revolution

We saw a 12-part series on the History Channel recently called The Story of US, which was a quick survey of American history with a lot of snazzy computer graphics, well-acted vignettes and commentary by a passel of celebrity “experts.” One of those experts was NBC news guy Brian Williams, pontificating on the never-say-die American character that saw us through the Revolution gave birth to a new nation.

Well, what I learned from Victory at Yorktown is that there were indeed such never-say-die heroes toiling selflessly to win freedom from British rule. But, there were way too few of them, and they comprised only a tiny minority of the American population. And “the campaign that won the Revolution” was not only funded by France, but actually won - before the famous Siege of Yorktown even began - by the French Navy.

Don’t get me wrong. George Washington’s role was truly heroic, and absolutely essential. And there were many other stoic patriots whose exploits remain unsung, but without the French intervention, the American Revolution would have fizzled like a wet firecracker.

But lest you think I’m giving the French too much credit, consider this… They weren’t doing it out the kindness of their hearts. They’d recently had their butts whipped in a long war the British, and were itching for payback. They saw our little revolution as a way to tweak England’s nose and hopefully gain a foothold in the New World. And whenever they needed more convincing, old Ben Franklin was there in Paris putting ideas into their heads.

By 1781 the war had been dragging on for five long years, and what little fervor the American public had mustered at the start was largely spent. While some members of Congress still had faith, Congress as a whole was impotent because the states refused to send money or soldiers to support the cause. The great majority of our citizens were simply keeping their heads down and minding their own affairs. Many saw the once-proud dream of freedom as a lost cause and felt that to further antagonize the British would only make things worse.

It was a damn near thing, and no mistake. Without George, Ben and all those Frenchmen, I’d likely be writing this review with a British accent.

6 comments:

Deka Black said...

Correct me if i'm wrong, but i believe spanish help (in form of money, if i'm not wrong) also featured in the revolution of the british colonies.

Well, the reason, i think, is simple: at the the time. England and Spain were enemies, so...

Anyway, one last thing: Is sad, but only recently (in fact, yesterday) i learned Galveston is named after General Matias de Galvez y Gallardo.

(yeah, i'm a annoying man ;))

Have a good Sunday!

Evan Lewis said...

My books on Texas are packed away at the moment, Deka, or I'd look that General up. What what his involvement with the island named Galveston?

Deka Black said...

Well, if i'm not wrong, the island is named after him. I repeat: If i'm not wrong.

Charles Gramlich said...

You mean you don't have a British accent anyway? Probably more like a Marlowe or Spade, I guess!

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I've visited the battlefield and had a blast running over the berms and seeing the remaining redoubts. I was much, much younger then.

ARCHAVIST said...

I would have been on your side back in the day.