Ways That Geography Affected the American Revolution
25 JUN 2018
On April 19, 1775, the Battle of Lexington and Concord broke out, signaling the start of America’s Revolutionary War. The revolution itself was a culmination of years of colonist frustration with British rules, such as taxation without representation. Where Britain was often flummoxed by the large distances and difficult terrain of the American continent, the colonists had adapted and considered it their home. British attempts to restrict and control where the colonists went and what they did would result in it eventually surrendering control of the fledgling nation.
1 Over the Sea
Britain was aware of problems inherent in administering its distant American colonies, which was made clear in the Quartering Act of 1765 that required British soldiers to live in the homes of colonists. The Atlantic Ocean separating Britain from the American colonies was a formidable obstacle for a small country trying to wield control over a much larger one. The journey required months at sea and meant that Britain was unable to supply troops, food and munitions at the pace needed to successfully win the war on the continent. Furthermore, all communications were about two months out of date. By the time waiting British troops had received their orders, the conditions on the ground had changed.
2 Movement Over Land
After the Treaty of Paris, France gave Britain an area of land bordered by the Mississippi River in the west and the Appalachian Mountains in the east. Britain was loathe to let colonists settle in this new land as the sheer distance from the eastern seaboard made administration difficult. According to the U.S. History website, the Royal proclamation of 1763 was an attempt to prevent the move of colonists west of the Appalachian Mountains. The colonists disregarded the proclamation and headed west anyway -- just one more nail in the coffin for a rapidly weakening British rule. The difficulty in moving British troops from east to west allowed the colonists victories in skirmishes such as the Battle of Point Pleasant on Oct. 10, 1774.
3 Fortifying the River
Gen. George Washington referred to the Hudson Highlands in New York state as the “key to the continent,” according to the Hudson Valley Network site. It was here that Washington created the riverside fortifications required to prevent a British "three-pronged attack" designed to sever New England from the other colonies. He was aided by the river itself, which narrowed and was banked by high bluffs.
4 Knowing the Local Climate
The U.S. climate played a pivotal part in the colonists’ eventual success against the British. Some of it was transient. For example, when Washington was cornered in a critical battle in Brooklyn, a foggy night provided the cover necessary for John Glover and the Marblehead fishermen to ferry troops safely across the East River. More decisive was the intense cold of the Northeastern winters, the warmth and humidity of the South, and the dry heat of the West. These all served to deplete the resources and destroy the morale of British troops more familiar with the mild and relatively climate found in Britain.