A Tale of Two Rebellions – Bob Atkinson
by Bob Atkinson
Twice in the space of thirty years, during the eighteenth century, armed rebels took to the field against the British army.
The failure of one rebellion and the success of the other has undoubtedly shaped the world we live in today.
But why should the rebels of 1776 have succeeded so spectacularly, while those of 1746 failed?
There are considerable similarities between the two conflicts. Both were civil wars, where populations were divided between those loyal to the crown and those seeking to overthrow it.
In both cases the French were sympathetic to the rebels. Although offering only token help in 1746, the military assistance of the French with their Spanish and Dutch allies was probably decisive in the American Revolutionary war.
In America the area of conflict stretched from Canada in the north to Florida in the south; a distance of almost two thousand miles. Britain lacked the manpower to defeat individual armies within this vast landscape, and then occupy the captured areas.
In 1777, after being defeated at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown, the American forces were able to withdraw to Valley Forge, where they remained for the next six months, surviving that terrible winter, training for the battles to come.
In Scotland, although the Highlanders of 1746 won three separate engagements against the British army, it took only one defeat to end that rebellion. After the disastrous battle of Culloden there was nowhere for the defeated rebels to withdraw and lick their wounds. No vast hinterland, or trackless forests in which they could melt away to continue the fight. For the Scottish rebels there would be no Valley Forge.
However, it is probably in the respective leaders of the two armies that the greatest contrast can be drawn. The Americans had a number of very able commanders, but if any single man won America her independence it was their Commander In Chief. General George Washington held his army together in defeat, never allowing his forces to be outmaneuvered by the British, striking his enemy where and when the opportunity presented itself. Thanks to his strategic genius, his forces captured two British armies at Saratoga in 1777 and Yorktown in 1781, effectively ending the war.
The Scottish rebels too had their own able Commander in Lord George Murray. Under his generalship the Highlanders had scattered two regular armies at Prestonpans in 1745 and Falkirk in January 1746.
Charles Edward Stuart, however, “Bonnie Prince Charlie”, had quarrelled with his Commander In Chief, and had petulantly assumed command of his army for that last calamitous battle. It has been said that if Charles had stayed in bed and left military matters to Lord George Murray, he would have awoken with a crown on his head.
In short, the rebellion of 1746 failed thanks in no small measure to royal interference and incompetence. While that of 1776 succeeded, thanks largely to something that would become enshrined within the American Constitution.
Genre – Time Travel Adventure / Romance
Rating – PG13
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