Who was to blame for Britain’s failure to win a quick victory over the American rebels?


Who was to blame for Britain’s failure to win a quick victory over the American rebels: General Howe, General Burgoyne, or the ministers in London? Explain your answer.

American History

General Howe held the greatest responsibility for Britain’s failure to win a quick victory over the American rebels. During the Battle of Bunker Hill (1776), Howe’s army sustained a great number of casualties leading to a change of tactics in the forthcoming wars (Schecter, 2002). Howe had greatly underestimated the rebellion, which resulted to a great loss with over 1000 of his soldiers dead. Following the loss, Howe took a more conservative approach in the remaining battles, often opting out of strong enemy lines. This significantly hindered his ability to eliminate the rebels who had ample time to plan and orchestrate attacks (Schecter, 2002).

In 1776, Howe made great success in advancing his aims of taking New York when he emerged the winner at the Battle of Long Island. This pushed the American rebels back to Brooklyn heights (Bonk, 2009). Howe feared that by pursuing the rebels further, there could be more casualties. He thus directed his army to take siege of areas where Washington’s army had been defeated. This gave Washington’s rebels a great opportunity to retaliate in Manhattan. In September of 1776, Howe succeeded in taking New York from Washington, but was reluctant to pursue the rebels who simply went into hiding (Bonk, 2009). In the following year, Burgoyne proposed a plan to defeat the American rebels but they had become too strong.

In December of 1776, Washington begun launching major retaliatory attacks against Howe’s newly acquired territories in Princeton and Trenton (Bonk, 2009). Howe was reluctant to face these counterattacks, and instead opted to withdraw his army from such areas. He continued taking siege of the New York City, giving Washington’s army time to plan an uprising. The defeats at Trenton and Princeton had exposed Howe’s army weaknesses, giving American rebels hope that the British army could be defeated


Bonk, D. (2009). Trenton and Princeton 1776-77: Washington Crosses the Delaware. Oxford:    Osprey Publishing.

Schecter, B. (2002). The Battle for New York: The City at the Heart of the American Revolution. New York, NY: Walker & Company.


History of America between 1800 and 1860