Michael Logusz’ With Musket & Tomahawk is a fascinating read that covers Burgoynes’ ill fated wilderness campaign during the early part of the American Revolution.
Two overarching themes struck me as I read the book. One is histories consistent yet rarely heeded reminder that no matter how well intentioned an invading force may be, it is still an invading force. The second is the innovations of 18th century warfare brought about by the influence of geography and the native Americans.
- I was struck by the intensity of the fighting and will power brought to the fight by the Americans. The motivations of liberty and freedom from tyranny were FAR from the primary factors here. Far more important was the motivation to protect one’s family and property from invading forces. Another factor was the seeming grudge that many Americans felt toward an Empire that pushed its fringe elements (forcefully in many instances) half way across the world. Many, if not most, of these people were in America for a reason, and that reason was now in front of them dressed in a wool red overcoat.
- I can maybe get off two shots in one minute with my 1777 Charleville musket. Even then, I find that the musket is rather finicky and unreliable. The stories of battles raging on for HOURS where in many instances some 40+ shots were fired by a single soldier really instilled in me the level of skill these men had. I can’t imagine having to replace a flint in the middle of a firefight (much less simply reloading), while your barrel is red hot and you are under fire.
- Over the course of the 8 year war, the bayonet was the primary reason why so many militia chose to retreat rather than engage in hand to hand. However, during this early campaign, it seems as if the Tomahawk helped buck this trend.
- Here’s to the American long rifle. Often overstated in its impact in the war, it cannot be overstated in its impact in this particular campaign. Morgan’s Riflemen were a forced to be reckoned with.
- Despite the many tactical and logistical setbacks the British faced, the campaign — and subsequently the war–was really lost on a Strategic level. Howe’s determination to take Philadelphia and not link up with Burgoyne was the fatal flaw. Pride and ego lost them the campaign that turned out to be the first domino in a series of falling dominoes that lead to defeat (French intervention and subsequent war, shaken British confidence, and escalating cost of the conflict). This campaign was probably the best chance Great Britain had of nipping the rebellion at the bud, and it was blown in the quite confines of Howe and Clinton’s quarters as they argued over strategy.
- The thing that always fascinated me about this particular war was the amount of variety involved in its participants. Native Americans, British, Irish, Germans, African Americans, Scotch Irish…you name it, they were all there. No wonder so much innovation grew from this conflict.
After reading this book I find myself often shaking my head at politicians and military authorities assumptions around invading foreign soil. No doubt history has its many lessons to teach, but do we really want to listen? Or are we confident that THIS time the situation and outcome will be different?