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"Revolutionary Myth-Conceptions" Topic

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572 hits since 11 Jun 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP11 Jun 2018 3:00 p.m. PST

"Frustrated historians often claim that the average American knows almost nothing about the Revolutionary War--and that most of what they do know is wrong. There are so many misconceptions, inaccurate quotes, and downright lies told about the American Revolution that it is hard for those who study the period to share their knowledge with the average person. There's a fine line between sharing what you know and telling someone they are wrong. Funny thing, people don't like to be told they are wrong. During the last election and inauguration I kept finding my jaw on the floor as newscasters stated "facts" that I knew were wrong to millions of unsuspecting viewers. Not one of my helpful e-mails to various news departments got a response or a correction.

So, here is our unscientific list of the top 10 myths that we run into here at Breed's Hill Institute, along with the truth. Be warned, however; the next time you hear someone spouting one of these in public, it is not wise to blurt out "That's wrong!" This is especially true if the speaker is a teacher, a tour guide, or physically larger than you…."
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Personal logo ochoin Supporting Member of TMP11 Jun 2018 3:54 p.m. PST

The problem with discussing the American War of Independence is that has become, in many quarters, a sacred topic in the US and it is not always possible to therefore discuss logically and dispassionately.

As Dutton Peabody had it, "This is the West, sir," he explains. "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP11 Jun 2018 4:20 p.m. PST

I never heard of a lot of those "myths".

lugal hdan11 Jun 2018 5:46 p.m. PST

Myths 2, 4, 9, and 10 are definitely still prevalent, at least on the States side of the Atlantic.

Brechtel19811 Jun 2018 5:48 p.m. PST

Myth Number 9 is the most prevalent. And it has been perpetuated by the Higginbotham/Shy 'school' of 'history.'

rvandusen11 Jun 2018 6:08 p.m. PST

Myth #1 covers every period prior to the advent of modern medicine. I've had a few futile arguments debunking the "everyone died at 30" legend and tried to explain infant mortality, etc, but most of my opponents simply refuse to accept this.

#9 is the most persistent myth. When I was a mere lad I believed the legend of American frontiersman taking cover behind fences and trees and pouring fire into foolish British lined up in close order. I've even had college professors use that myth in lectures. Sometimes, especially if I don't care at all about the other person, it is fun to bring up the fact that the opposite was true. The British were actually better adapted to wilderness warfare than the Patriots, and the Loyalists and Indians in my home state were a scourge on the often hapless and poorly organized local militia.

Tommy2011 Jun 2018 10:07 p.m. PST

There is so a map on the back of the Declaration of Independence. And I've been in the basement of Mount Vernon and seen where the secret tunnel begins. I have pictures…

Dn Jackson11 Jun 2018 10:22 p.m. PST

While I agree that the war wasn't won through guerilla tactics, I can see how the myth got started. There were numerous, major, victories won using non-linear tactics.

Lexington and Concord
a large part of the Saratoga campaign
Kings Mountain
New Jersey prior to Trenton
most of the Southern campaign

Brechtel19812 Jun 2018 3:22 a.m. PST

Two things: First, The battles of Freeman's Farm and Bemis Heights were fought overwhelmingly by Continentals.

Second, the decisive battles of the Southern Campaign, with the exception of King's Mountain, were fought largely by Continentals. They were the main reason that the British lost the campaign.

The militia ran at Camden in August 1780 and the North Carolina militia ran at Guilford Courthouse in March 1781.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2018 6:44 a.m. PST

The Saratoga campaign was much more than just Freeman's Farm and Beni's Heights. I would even argue that those battles were fought because of the petit guerre being fought against the British supply lines.

I can only think of one instance where the "hide behind trees while the dumb British advanced in dense…." theme comes into play. That would be Hand's retreat during Second Trenton.

Kings Mountain had motivated militia taking on disorganized militia.

The retreat from Concord comes close, but the British LI were able to use formal skirmish tactics to keep the Minutemen at bay. It was costly but they did accomplish their goal of getting the heck out of there.

That myth was derived from politics. The American psyche was directly derived from the British/English experience of distrusting a standing army.
It was overwhelmingly believed that the militia could do the job.
I always counter that argument by asking why Washington tried so desperately to maintain a "standing army" of trained regulars.
I've never changed anyone's mind though. grin
I'm usually arguing with either gun nuts or "educated" people (a strange coalition) who know better than me. The first want to believe in the yeoman farmer standing for his rights, the second … distrust a standing army.
What the heck. My fellow gamers agree with me. Usually. Sometimes. It's a hard myth to argue against. It's an entrenched view.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2018 6:52 a.m. PST

The "hiding behind trees" myth also goes counter to the reason you have a battle. You have a battle by imposing your will on the enemy.
It's difficult to see how hiding imposes your will on the enemy.
Washington wanted troops who COULD stand in line, and go toe to toe with the guys standing in red.

23rdFusilier12 Jun 2018 8:56 a.m. PST

Let us not over value The regulars and under value The militia and state line troops. You needed both to win independence.

The 1st Maryland broke and ran at both Hobkirk's Hill and Eutaw Springs. Yet the Virginia militia held firm till over whelmed at Guilford Courthouse (and at Brandywine). At Freeman Farm the two Conneticut militia regiments fought along side regulars throughout the battle. Sometimes regulars ran, sometimes militia stood and fought.

Rather then decisive battles I feel it was the constant wearing down of outposts and isolated regiments by the South Carolina and other State and militia line which turned the War in the south. Yes you needed the regulars, but you also needed the militia to win.

Winston, brilliant points!

23rdFusilier12 Jun 2018 8:59 a.m. PST

Curious silence. I would like hear what Supercilius Maximus has to say on this topic. Always good to hear his thoughts which are well phrased and ground in solid research.

Bill N12 Jun 2018 10:56 a.m. PST

Guerrilla warfare did occur in the AWI. While many overstate it, especially in connection with major battles, some understate its importance. The AWI was more than just major battles. Quite often the occurrence and even outcome of major battles was influenced by the guerrilla conflict being waged.

This is especially true of the southern campaign. Large bodies of British forces were tied up as garrisons, and units were worn down trying to deal with guerrillas, protecting supply convoys and couriers. From the time Clinton landed in South Carolina in 1780 onwards the British always had more regulars, counting Hessians and Provincials, than the Americans had Continentals. The reason Cornwallis was outnumbered at Camden and GCH was only partly due to the presence of large militia bodies in the American army. It was also due to the large numbers of troops deployed dealing with guerrillas.

I am not arguing that we should return to the old myth of the AWI being won by crafty American militia gunning down Redcoats from behind trees. Rather I am saying we also need to move beyond the idea that it was won solely by the regulars Steuben trained at Valley Forge. It was a joint effort.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2018 11:11 a.m. PST

Very good points!… thanks!.


Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2018 3:35 p.m. PST

Four and nine I have heard but most of the rest of the myths I didn't know there were such myths. I must be hanging out in educated circles.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2018 3:41 p.m. PST

I have often had to explain the difference between Continentals and militia. That Continentals were the American regulars.

I think it is funny that a new set of AWI rules have come out called "The British are coming". When I saw the name the first time, I immediately thought these guys don't know anything about the AWI.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2018 4:48 p.m. PST

How many sets could they sell if they called them "The Regulars are out!"
I think a wee bit of slack may be cut here. At least until you play them, and then you may be right.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2018 5:11 p.m. PST

That bit about biting off the ends of clay pipes was just bizarre.

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP12 Jun 2018 8:48 p.m. PST

From a long lost friend:

Many of the myths are not particularly relevant to wargaming, or the study of military history, but I would tend to support the view that #9 is the most prevalent. I'm not sure whether things have deteriorated in the past decade or so since I was last over, but my recollections of touring battlefield parks in the US are that it is one of the things Park Rangers and other interpreters generally go out of their way to clarify/expunge at the start of their talks.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP13 Jun 2018 11:37 a.m. PST



Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP13 Jun 2018 8:28 p.m. PST


Then don't name you rules after something Paul Revere may have or may have not said. I presume if you go to all the trouble to conduct research for a set of AWI rules, then I would except something like, oh I don't know, the title of the rules set to be catchy and accurate! At least not blatantly so inaccurate or at least is in question, that most of us AWI players would pick up on it. It doesn't give one confidence in those rules.

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