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The Fate of the Defeated in the Continental War?

Updated on February 20, 2018
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The American Revolutionary War between 1775-1783 saw the people of Colonial America shake off the rule of their British masters and form their own destiny. The new republic would go on to become the superpower we now know as the United States of America. The USA is proud of its history and its many achievements. It is a country of many peoples and has retained a strong attachment to the British Isles as much of its population has strong roots in the old world.

After the American War of Independence the relationship between the British Empire and the United States continued to be strained for many years. There was still the lingering threat of British invasion up until the early part of the twentieth century. Many Historians believe that the Great War in Europe (1914-1918) prevented the two rivals from going to war again. The scale of the slaughter in the Great War cooled the enthusiasm on both sides for further blood shed.

Revolutionary War cemetery.
Revolutionary War cemetery. | Source

The Start of the Revolutionary War.

There are many small reasons for the outbreak of war, conflict and rebellion in the North America colonies but the ultimate cause of the Revolutionary War stem from the poor treatment of the colonial subjects within the Thirteen colonies of the North America. The British parliament continued to levy taxes against the Colonial American possessions to finance the military engagements that the Crown was undertaking in the New World. The constant conflict with fellow European settlers in the area and the renegade Native Americans were beginning to become a black hole that the British Exchequer struggled to contain.

The main objection by the American settlers was the lack of representation that the colonists in the Thirteen colonies had back in the British Parliament. Unlike other British possessions of the time, Colonial America was made up of British subjects who were aware of their civil rights they had in the British statutes such as the Magna Carta. The perceived indifference by the British King and his ministers seemed to have only inflamed the revolutionary spirit across the Atlantic Ocean.

The fate of prominent British Generals after the War.

Fate after War
Viscount William Howe
Returned to England
Marquess Cornwallis
Governor-General of India
Benedict Arnold
Branded a traitor. Returned to Britain
General Sir Henry Clinton
Governor of Gibraltar,
The Commanders of the British forces returned to Great Britain and resume their political ambitions.

Who were fighting for the British Crown?

Although the "Redcoats" of the British Army were involved in the American War of Independence, those wearing the red tunics of the crown were often less British than the rebels whom they were fighting against. Because the British Crown had a large empire to protect, they often used mercenary troops or were able to use the troops of their allies for advancing the conflict.

The use of German mercenaries such as the Hessian troops from King George the third's European allies was one of the Empires favoured tactics. Also the use of friendly Native American tribes such as the Iroquois in the area around modern Canada is well documented.

The use of non-British forces alongside the loyalist forces fighting against the rebels, possibly caused more harm than any perceived good. To the everyday colonists trying to forge a living in the new world, it would seem treacherous and a betrayal by the Crown to send foreign mercenaries to settle this dispute with armed conflict. The majority of the British troops fighting in the American theatre were usually loyalist American subjects. These soldiers had little in common with mercenaries and Native Americans who had often been at war with the American colonists.

A Hessian Soldier
A Hessian Soldier | Source

Prisoners of War.

The prisoners taken after the end of the major battles were often poorly treated on both sides of the conflict. The Loyalist side was not really interested in trying to convert the Rebels to their cause as they did not trust the renegade faction as they were allied with colonial rivals such as France. The Rebels often offered the captured Loyalist prisoners the chance to join their side or desert the battle entirely.

We know that the German mercenaries were offered land and bribes to switch allegiance, and many a German soldier took up the offer of the enemy. After all it was not really their War and America offered them great opportunity away from the often harsh German Princes that drilled their individual units.

Any British officers captured in the conflict were well treated and given the usual terms of surrender so their honour was kept in tact. Those who were captured and then exchanged for Rebel prisoners often returned home to Great Britain as the terms of their surrender included the clause not to take back their arms in the present conflict.

Many of the British Officers serving in the New World often had estates to run back in Britain or within the Empire, and were needed elsewhere. To join the Rebels as an officer would severely dent the honour of the officer, to the point he would never recover socially in Britain's Elitist establishment.

America's First President George Washington.
America's First President George Washington. | Source

Settlement in the USA.

After the end of the Revolutionary War there were many soldiers who fought against the Republic, but saw their future in the New World. Many injured by the war were able to be lost to the military system and could settle in the vast continent. Some drank to excess and died shortly after the conflict, others built homes in the area and became American, some joined the American forces such as the Navy and turned their back on the lives they had known. Many conscripted men deserted from the ranks of the defeated British armies and chose to join the communities they had served in. Already many of the American towns had large amounts of Irish and Scottish settlers from before the rebellion.

The German soldiers used by the Crown readily took up citizenship in the New World they settled in the German enclaves in Pennsylvania. They were offered lands in Nova Scotia by both the British and the American sides. Britain wanted to have a contingent of trained elite soldiers close to America just in case they needed further assistance at a later date, while the Americans saw the Germans as serving their own desires as citizens of North America. These settlers would protect their lands if threatened by the British, Spanish or the French.

© 2013 Andrew Stewart


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    • Asp52 profile image

      Andrew Stewart 5 years ago from England

      Always a pleasure Jainismus, thanks for reading.

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 5 years ago from Pune, India

      Great information, thank you for sharing it.