Battles of the American Revolution - 1779
Great Britain changed its strategy after France entered the Revolutionary War and rather than attacking in the North, they concentrated on conquering the colonies from the South. British leaders believed that most Southerners supported the king. Although the British failed to find as much loyalist support as they expected, they defeated the Americans in several important battles. The patriots were forced onto the defensive in the South but they attacked successfully in the West and at sea.
Fighting in the West broke out because land-hungry colonists crossed the Appalachian Mountains and settled on Indian territory. During the Revolutionary War, Indians raided white settlements in the wilderness with British encouragement. In 1778, Virginia had sent militiamen, led by Lieutenant Colonel George Rogers Clark, to strike back at the British. Clark captured several settlements in what are now southern Illinois and southern Indiana. The British recaptured the settlement at Vincennes in Indiana but Clark and his men fought their way back to Vincennes across flooded countryside and took its British and Indian defenders by surprise in February 1779.
The first stage of Britain's Southern strategy called for the capture of a major Southern port, such as Charleston, S.C., or Savannah, Ga., which Britain could then use as a base for rallying Southern loyalists and for launching further military campaigns. After its army moved on, the British expected loyalists to keep control of the conquered areas. Britain assumed it could more easily retake the North after overcoming resistance in the South.
Britain's Southern campaign had opened late in 1778 when, on December 29, a large British force sailed from New York City and easily captured Savannah. Within a few months, the British controlled all Georgia.
Congress named Major General Benjamin Lincoln commander of the Southern Department of the Continental Army. In October 1779, Lincoln and Admiral d'Estaing failed to drive the British from Savannah. Afterward, d'Estaing returned to France, and Lincoln retreated to Charleston. A joint operation by French and American forces had again ended in failure, and Georgia remained in British hands.
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