10 Things you Didn’t Know About American Independence

Date Posted: 07/04/2016

My latest book The Struggle for Seapower: A Naval History of American Independence tells for the first time the full naval story of the most remarkable war of the Age of Sail and answers one of the most telling conundrums in military history: How did the British, with the largest and most successful navy in history lose the American colonies?

Here are some more facts to whet the appetite:

10 Things you Didn’t Know About American Independence [yes I know there are actually thirteen]

  1. Only 25 original copies of the Declaration of Independence are known to exist and the most recently-discovered was found in 2009 in a collection of British naval documents in the National Archives in London.
  1. The war was knocked off course on numerous occasions by severe weather events including three of the worst Atlantic storms on record and a storm surge that was bigger than that created by Hurricane Katrina which destroyed New Orleans in 2005.
  1. The first naval action of the war between Britain and France led to a new hairstyle in which women wore a large model of a fully rigged battleship in their hair. Bonkers.
  1. The war involved no fewer than twenty-two (yes! 22) separate navies.
  1. There were more large scale naval actions fought in the American Revolutionary War than in any other naval war of the period and one of those battles was the most strategically significant in all of French, British and American naval history.
  1. At one stage the British dragged an entire fleet, in pieces, up a river, up a waterfall and through a forest to control a key strategic inland lake.
  1. The British repeatedly prioritised the fate of Gibraltar – a tiny rocky outpost at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea – over the American colonies. Hmmm.
  1. The most famous American action of the war, Washington’s ‘Crossing of the Delaware’ is a misnomer. He did not cross it once but four times, each a monumental feat of maritime logistics.
  1. The most important people in Washington’s army were sailors, not soldiers.
  1. Thousands of slaves used the war as an opportunity to escape and many of them escaped to British warships.
  1. Throughout the war the Royal Navy was responsible for numerous large-scale civilian evacuations which dramatically re-shaped the Atlantic world.
  1. The result of the war – the independence of America – was uncertain until the very last moment when, entirely unexpectedly and uncharacteristically, the allied French, Spanish and Americans actually started to work together.
  1. Everyone knows that the first shot of this war was fired between soldiers on Lexington Common in 1775, but did you know that the last was fired between warships at the battle of Cuddalore in the Bay of Bengal on 20 June 1783?