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The American Revolution - OverSimplified (Part 2)

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14:40   |   Aug 30, 2018

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The American Revolution - OverSimplified (Part 2)
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  • Washington's butt was sufficiently kicked (not licked), winter was here, his troops' morale was low, some just up and left.
  • Washington needed to do something; anything, to restore faith in the revolution.
  • The British had spread throughout New Jersey and settled in for a winter of drinking cider and partying hard.
  • Nobody expected an attack in the winter,
  • so Washington started making plans for an attack in the winter. (Of course he did, He's George Washington.)
  • The British had hired a large force of Hessian mercenaries from the German states of Hesse-Kassel and Hesse-Hanau to fight the rebels.
  • It was these mercenaries that were stationed across the Delaware River from Washington and his army.
  • And there were more Hessian reinforcements incoming, but they made an unscheduled stop because their commander got thirsty.
  • No, not that kind of thirsty,
  • that kind of thirsty. ;)
  • It was Christmas Eve with a blizzard outside when Washington heard the Hessian defenses were down and he decided to attack. (Again, it's George Washington.)
  • He made a perilous crossing of the icy Delaware River
  • with 2,400 men and marched nine miles to Trenton,
  • where he caught the Hessian forces completely off-guard.
  • After a short, but fierce battle the Hessian surrendered in droves.
  • It was a much-needed victory that sent a clear message, not only to the British,
  • but to Americans across the colonies; the war was far from lost.
  • General Cornwallis led the British forces South to counter-attack the Americans, but in a series of battles,
  • Washington's defensive positioning and flanking maneuvers defeated the British three times in ten days, (There's a taste of 'Murica for you.)
  • and the British decided to abandon Southern New Jersey for the rest of the winter.
  • Washington finally set up a winter camp in Morristown, but for the Americans, there was much less partying than the British.
  • Elsewhere, the British had taken Newport, Rhode Island because it was a good naval base.
  • In the South, they failed to take Charleston, South Carolina,
  • which left British loyalists unsupported and vulnerable to more harassment, and even mass expulsion.
  • Congress sent Benjamin Franklin to France on a mission to convince them to join the war.
  • And while the French generally loved any opportunity to hoodwink the Brits,
  • they didn't want to join unless it was a sure win. (That coward)
  • So, for now, Franklin spent his days chilling out and chasing tail. (Really, Ben?)
  • The British Parliament couldn't believe the war wasn't over yet, and the pressure was on to end it.
  • So the British came up with a plan;
  • General Burgoyne in Montréal and General William Howe in New York would advance
  • through the Hudson Valley and meet in the middle,
  • splitting the colonies in two, and thus screwing over the American communication lines.
  • Burgoyne began his movement South and after taking Fort Ticonderoga quite easily,
  • he then came across heavy American resistance.
  • So he sent Howe a dingle-dongle, asking if he'd be showing up anytime soon.
  • Meanwhile, Howe completely abandoned the plan and gone for all-out personal glory by capturing the American capital, Philadelphia.
  • He defeated Washington and his army at Brandywine Creek by using the old hit-him-with-a-decoy-and-flank-him-from-behind tactic,
  • and Philadelphia was now in British hands, forcing Congress to escape to York. (Oof rekt)
  • But Burgoyne was left on his own to face the ever-increasing American force in Saratoga.
  • American General Horatio Gates teamed up with our old friend Benedict Arnold to deal one final blow to Burgoyne's army.
  • Arnold wanted to take the fight to the British, but Gates wanted to wait for the British to come to them.
  • After a heated debate, Gates, the senior officer, told Arnold to go to his room,
  • but Arnold defied his orders and at the Battle of Bemis Heights, he charged at the British, and obliterated them.
  • Great job, Horatio! By the way, what happened to that other guy who was in Saratoga?
  • Who?
  • Benedict Arnold.
  • Never heard of him.
  • Ouch. (So sad, Alexa play Despacito)
  • Hey, George.
  • Didn't I do a great job?
  • Taking Philadelphia and all?
  • Hmm?
  • Didn't I-
  • You're fired. (lol)
  • Both Burgoyne and Howe returned to Great Britain, leaving British General Henry Clinton to take charge of the war.
  • And the war was about to take a nasty turn, because with the victory at Saratoga,
  • the French were finally ready to join the Americans.
  • Alright Benny, we're in.
  • Hey, isn't this kind of funny?
  • You know, 'cause you're a republic trying to overthrow an absolute monarchy,
  • and I'm an absolute monarchy helping you?
  • Like,
  • like could you imagine if your revolution inspired my people to revolt against me?
  • And then they imprison me and all my family?
  • And they chopped all of our heads off?
  • (lol shut up)
  • Could you imagine?
  • That's called foreshadowing!
  • For now, in America, winter was here once again, which meant yet more disease, more starvation,
  • and even a little mutiny.
  • After losing Philadelphia, Washington's job was again on the line.
  • But suddenly, a Prussian guy with a very fancy name, hired by Benjamin Franklin, showed up out of nowhere and said,
  • "Hey, I'm here to give your man a European military training."
  • And train them, he did! They learned how to shoot accurately, how to march in formation,
  • where to poop and where not to, and strict punishments were handed out to any who didn't comply.
  • Washington's army came out of the winter in 1778 a new and improved force,
  • ready to take Philadelphia back from the British.
  • In the end though, they didn't have to.
  • With the French entry into the war, the British ordered General Clinton to evacuate Philadelphia,
  • and consolidate all of the British forces in New York.
  • So Washington sent Benedict Arnold to reoccupy and secure the city,
  • as he pursued the British through New Jersey on land, eventually finding a good opportunity to attack at Monmouth Courthouse.
  • The battle took place on a sweltering hot summer's day, and as many soldiers died from heatstroke as they did from battle.
  • In the end, after some incompetent/borderline treason from Washington's second-in-command,
  • it was a draw, and in this war a draw is kind of a victory for the Americans.
  • Next up, let's talk about this guy.
  • This is John Paul Jones. John Paul Jones is handsome, Scottish, and absolutely insane.
  • When the war first broke out, everyone was like,
  • "How do the colonies expect to stand up to the might of the British Navy with their meager fleet of converted merchantme-"
  • Yep, try telling that to John Paul Jones.
  • This guy sailed to the British Isles, somehow captured a British ship off the coast of Ireland, and brought it back to France.
  • Then he returned, attacking more ships, raiding towns, and evading capture the entire time.
  • These are basically pirate tactics, but hey, if it works, it works.
  • In one incident, he captured a British ship and returned to a Dutch port without an official ensign, because his was lost during the battle.
  • That's a big no-no, and can have you arrested as a pirate.
  • The Dutch helped him out by quickly creating a design based on Benjamin Franklin's description of what the American flag should look like,
  • and they entered it into their records as an official U.S. flag.
  • What they came up with looks pretty cool!
  • The whole campaign probably played heavily on British morale,
  • and brought into question their ability to win the war.
  • And, Fun Fact, he was so cool that one of the towns he raided in 1778 gave him an official honorary pardon in 1999.
  • Keep rippin' in heaven, John Paul Jones. You're an angel now.
  • What the Continental Navy was lacking resources, though, the French entry into the war made up for.
  • The French began with naval skirmishes in the English Channel, and they sent a large fleet to America,
  • although it sustained a lot of damage in a storm off Rhode Island.
  • The Americans were hoping for a bigger commitment from the French,
  • so John Adams went to France to help Benjamin Franklin continue negotiations.
  • Oh good. You're finally here. Check this out. Hey ladies. I'd like to fight you like a kite, cuz you're electrifying!
  • Isn't this great?
  • Is this...
  • Is this what you've been doing?
  • Yeah, why?
  • We were sent here on a diplomatic mission to secure military support from France, not to philander with the locals.
  • Wait, no, ladies come back! Ugh...
  • Worst. Wingman. Ever.
  • But the Americans would get some more help; the Dutch provided aid, although they never formed an official alliance.
  • More significantly though, the Spanish, who had already been providing aid officially joined the war in June 1779.
  • They would provide support in the Midwest and the Gulf Coast,
  • campaigns that heavily impacted the Native American tribes in those areas.
  • Both sides actually enlisted the help of Native American tribes throughout the war,
  • sometimes even pitting those tribes against each other.
  • In the summer of 1779, after a series of raids against the Americans by the Iroquois,
  • Washington organized an expedition that burned down more than 40 villages,
  • forcing the tribes to relocate to Canada for British protection.
  • And another group that shouldn't go unmentioned were African Americans, both free and enslaved.
  • They joined both sides of the war, hoping to gain their freedom,
  • but afterwards, many were simply returned to slavery, particularly those who had fought for the Americans.
  • Despite owning slaves himself, Jefferson had written a condemnation of slavery in the Declaration of Independence,
  • but out of fear of offending the southern colonies, this was removed from the final draft.
  • For the same reason, the American Army stopped enlisting African American men in 1775,
  • a policy that Washington, a slave owner himself, supported.
  • But they were forced to reverse the policy after the British promised freedom to any slaves who joined them.
  • In general, you stood a better chance of gaining freedom if you fought for the British.
  • However, even those that left with the British after the war suffered mistreatment and discrimination in their new lives outside of America.
  • Our good friend Benedict Arnold is now in charge of Philadelphia, having a good time, partying down with,
  • and even marrying a member of the Philadelphia elite,
  • the same elite that had partied down with the British when they controlled the city, and suddenly the people of Philadelphia,
  • including the state governor, started accusing Arnold of having pro-British sentiments.
  • To keep the people happy, Washington wrote a letter rebuking Arnold, calling his conduct imprudent and improper,
  • and that was too many ouchies for Benedict Arnold to handle.
  • He asked Washington to put him in charge of the fort at West Point,
  • then he contacted the British, offering to hand the plans of the fort over to them and join their side.
  • Our good friend Benedict Arnold is our good friend no more.
  • Luckily, the treasonous plans were discovered on a captured British officer,
  • but Arnold managed to escape before he was arrested.
  • As a British Brigadier General, he would go on to lead raids against American cities, most notably his rate of Richmond, Virginia in 1781.
  • His betrayal shook George Washington, who had once again set up camp at Morristown.
  • His leadership somehow held the Continental Army together through the harshest winter of the war.
  • We're entering 1780, and Parliament was hopping mad that the war still wasn't over.
  • The British debt was soaring, and despite taking parts of Massachusetts in late 1779, the North was in a stalemate.
  • So the British decided to make a major shift in strategy to the South, an economically rich area with a higher level of support for the British.
  • Or so the British thought.
  • A year earlier, they had captured the under-defended city of Savannah, Georgia easily,
  • and a joint American French counter-siege failed.
  • Now, they laid siege to Charleston, South Carolina.
  • It fell within months, with thousands of American troops surrendering to the British, a costly defeat.
  • The British quickly moved to take control, and they sent stereotypical Hollywood villain with a British accent Bannister "the Butcher" Tarleton into the back country,
  • where he hunted down rebels and destroyed them with ruthless brutality.
  • The British presence also inspired local loyalist militias in the back country to rise up against their persecutors.
  • The British really seemed to be onto something with their new strategy, and the ball was very much in Washington's court.
  • I'm gonna send my most loyal general, Nathanael Greene, to the south to stop the British.
  • Gonna have to overrule you there, George.
  • We're sending Hero of Saratoga and your biggest rival, Horatio Gates.
  • Watch this, George. I'm gonna save the day again, everybody will love me, and I'm gonna get your job.
  • Here I go!
  • And he got into one battle with Cornwallis, got annihilated, and ran away.
  • Alrighty. Let's go with your guy.
  • Nathaniel Greene knew the British outnumbered his own forces, and wouldn't be defeated with conventional tactics.
  • So he had to think outside the box.
  • He split his army into two, said "Hey, Big Boy, look at me!"
  • and then they went running in two different directions
  • Cornwallis sent Tarleton after Morgan, and he caught up with him at Cowpens, where Morgan proceeded to kick Tarleton's butt.
  • Then the two led Cornwallis on a wild chase through North Carolina,
  • his bigger and better equipped army, much heavier and slower than Greene's quick and mobile troops.
  • Greene led Cornwallis further and further from his supply line, then crossed the Dan River into Virginia,
  • picked up some reinforcements, and turned back to face the now exhausted British.
  • At the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, the two sides engaged in vicious close combat.
  • Cornwallis, fearing loss, fired his big guns into the chaotic fighting, cutting down many of his own men.
  • Greene retreated, giving Cornwallis the victory,
  • but Cornwallis lost a quarter of his men in the fighting, so it felt much more like a British defeat.
  • At this point, both sides desperately needed something to happen soon to end the fighting.
  • The British were running out of money, while the Americans were again facing mutinies,
  • as the men went without pay or even basic living needs.
  • Fortunately, the French were now showing up in greater numbers and were ready to fight.
  • After his encounter with Greene, Cornwallis decided the only way to win the South
  • was to first prevent the Southern Continental Army from using Virginia as a supply base.
  • So he abandoned the Carolina's, moving to Wilmington, and on to Yorktown,
  • a position the British believed would be easy to supply and support.
  • On his march to Yorktown, he raided many farms, stealing horses and supplies from the locals,
  • but also freeing thousands of slaves, many of whom joined him.
  • The French saw Cornwallis' new position as an opportunity to land a decisive blow on the British.
  • Washington wanted to attack Clinton in New York, but the French said it was a really dumb idea,
  • and, to be fair, it was.
  • Instead, Washington sent out fake dispatches to make it look like they would attack Clinton,
  • but secretly their combined force marched all the way down to Virginia.
  • A large French fleet under the command of Compte de Grasse arrived and successfully cleared the British Navy out of the Chesapeake Bay.
  • The combined land and naval forces then laid siege to Cornwallis' army in Yorktown.
  • The American and French forces tightened in around the city, raining artillery down on Cornwallis,
  • who desperately appealed to Clinton for aid, but Clinton was unusually chilled out about the whole thing.
  • Cornwallis held out for nearly a month before he had no choice but to surrender.
  • Over 7,000 British troops were captured, a crushing defeat, and with that, Parliament had reached the end of its rope.
  • The war just wasn't worth it, and it needed to end now. The British still held New York, Charleston, and Savannah,
  • but fighting between the two sides mostly ceased as peace negotiations opened up in Paris.
  • The resulting treaty in 1783 saw Great Britain remove its troops from American soil, recognize U.S. independence,
  • and cede territory up to the Mississippi River.
  • In return, the Americans agreed to pay any debt still owed to Britain, and gave fair treatment to any colonists who remained loyal to the Crown.
  • The Spanish got Florida, while the French got an economic crisis that led to its own revolution a decade later. (Best reward ever.)
  • Washington retired to his home in Mount Vernon, wishing his men farewell by saying,
  • "I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable."
  • He hoped to live out the rest of his days in peace, but unfortunately for him,
  • a number of people wanted him to be the first leader of the new country.
  • And by a number of people, I mean literally everyone.
  • The first election campaign in American history was basically a grassroots effort to convince Washington to accept the office.
  • He was sworn in on April 30th, 1789, and he himself established many of the standards and limitations of what the American leaders should be.
  • First of all, there was debate on what he should be called. Is he a king? Is he our glorious leader?
  • In the end, they went for a word that, at the time, was pretty modest; president.
  • Like the president of your local bowling club, or office bake sale committee.
  • He set up a cabinet of expert advisors knowing that no president could know everything,
  • no matter how much of a stable genius they claimed to be.
  • He proposed major legislation to Congress, and gave an annual State of the Union address to keep his own power in check.
  • He stated that the U.S. should remain neutral in foreign conflicts,
  • and in the end he voluntarily gave up his power after just two terms.
  • He could have made the presidency anything he wanted,
  • but his careful and cautious actions helped set the precedent of an office that is powerful in its limitations,
  • decisive through its diplomacy, and respected in its humility.
  • And so the United States was born, and everything was perfect. It had no problems. Not a single one.
  • Certainly nothing that would, I don't know, cause such an extreme divide that it would lead to a civil war.
  • Anyway, moving on.
  • Quick quiz! Name the most American thing you can think of.
  • Baseball? Bald Eagles? (Orange dude that wants to build a giant wall?)
  • Calling the winner of an America-only sports tournament World Champions? (Sounds right.)
  • Or maybe math and science?
  • Wait. Math and science?
  • That's right. If you didn't know, science is American as combining chicken with waffles.
  • And don't just take my word for it, ask Thomas Jefferson!
  • Of course, to do that, you would need a time machine, and that would take some math and a lot of science.
  • If you want to deeply understand math and science, say you want to calculate the age of the universe,
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  • then you've got to check out Brilliant.
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