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The American Revolutionary War: Problems in Waging War with the British

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The American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) began as a civil war between the North American British colonies and Great Britain.  This war began as a by-product of the American Revolution against Great Britain’s taxing.  When other nations allied with the colonies, the civil war became an international war.

During the Revolutionary War, Americans had encountered many problems in fighting against the British.  One of the main problems was the British naval forces.  The British had a quite superior naval force that was able to capture cities along the coastline (Higginbotham, 1977).  With control of the Atlantic Ocean, the British navy could attack anywhere along the coast without encountering heavy resistance (Baack, 2001).

Another problem for Americans was the size of their military-type defenses.  In the beginning, each colony had to provide its own defenses because a professional military was nonexistent.  Each colony had locals who provided defenses.  They were poorly armed and poorly trained.  However, their numbers were high and could overwhelm British troops (Black, 1991).  Great Britain had a professional army that was stocked with experienced officers.  British army units were extremely disciplined and well-drilled (Baack, 2001).

In addition to the lack of adequate military and defense supplies, the Americans lacked the proper funding for the war effort.  Adequate funds were needed to pay the soldiers in the newly formed Continental army, and provide them with food, medicine, and clothing.  The states were responsible for providing these supplies, but often failed (Higginbotham, 1977).

The British, on the other hand, had a tax system that provided necessary wartime funds.  They had also developed the ability to acquire foreign funds if needed (Higginbotham, 1977).  To make matters worse, the British helped the already deteriorating status of money value for the colonies.  The British began circulating counterfeit Continental dollars.  They used the British soldiers and Loyalists to circulate the counterfeit money through the colonies (Newman, 1957).

The colonies were completely unprepared to engage in war.  There was no main government and no official army or navy.  Shortages in weapons, ammunition, shelter, and clothing combined with geographical and atmospheric conditions to create almost unbearable conditions in which to survive (Grizzard, 2008).

To say that the American Revolutionary War was Great Britain’s Vietnam would only be the truth when comparing a civil war to another civil war.  There are many similarities between the two civil wars.  There are also crucial differences.

The American Revolutionary War was a civil war, at least until foreign nations became involved.  The Merriam Webster Online Dictionary (2007) defines civil war as “a war between opposing groups of citizens of the same country.”  The American Revolutionary War was a civil war within Great Britain.  The colonies were founded and maintained by Great Britain.  Therefore, even though there was a vast amount of sea between the two locations, the colonies ultimately belonged to Great Britain.  So essentially, Great Britain was at war with itself.

The same is true of the Vietnam War.  While the exact reasoning for the civil war in Vietnam was different, the country was fighting itself.  North and South Vietnam were against each other.  Communist-ruled North Vietnam wanted to discontinue the United States’ support of the noncommunist South Vietnam, and return Vietnam to a single, undivided nation once again.

In a differential comparison, the 13 colonies in America did not want to be controlled by Great Britain any longer.  They wanted to become independent, but Great Britain saw the American colonies as a source of monetary gain.  The colonists believed that it was not their responsibility to pay for the newly ended war between Great Britain and France.


Baack, B. (2001). “Economics of the American Revolutionary War.” EH.Net Encyclopedia. Available at http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/baack.war.revolutionary.us

Black, J. (1991). War for America: The Fight for Independence, 1775-1783. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Grizzard, F. (2008). “Supply Problems Plagued the Continental Army from the Start.” Available at http://revolution.h-net.msu.edu/essays/grizzard.html

Higginbotham, D. (1977). The War of American Independence: Military Attitudes, Policies, and Practice, 1763-1789. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Merriam Webster Online Dictionary. (2007). “civil war.” Available at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/civil%20war

Newman, E. (1957). “Counterfeit Continental Currency Goes to War.” The Numismatist, 1: 5-16.

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