April 1775, You are in command of all British forces, devise a winning strategy vs the Colonials!

Based on a question I posited in this thread: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=648499&page=2 On the merit of George Washington as one of Britain’s most formidable foe.

It is April of the year of our lord 1775. You are in full command of Britain’s armies and navies across the globe. Your king has had enough of these pesky colonials in the Americas and their tea partying ways, and has commanded you to bring them into submission.

Device a winning strategy for the British to bring the colonies back under British control and do not forget that Spain and France are watching too…

To align the thread better with great debates:

What could the British have done to win the War Of Independence? Was it a lost cause, or could the colonials have been brought in line?

Just to clarify the groundrules since you did mention global forces, do we need to take into account fighting the French, Spanish and Dutch simultaneously?

I think the best plan is just to blockade Colonial ports and wait it out. This would’ve been much cheaper then military invasion which would’ve made parliament less eager to pull out. It would’ve avoided the scene of British armies marching across New England which helped rally the Colonials. It would’ve avoided the possibility of military defeats, which helped encourage both the Colonials and other European powers to join the war.

And it would’ve hurt the Colonies. They certainly didn’t have the domestic economy to absorb all that cotton and tobacco, so there would’ve been a strong impetus for the South to cut a separate peace, leaving the Northern States isolated.

Forget about occupying cities. America was a predominantly agricultural country in 1775 and no city had an important enough role to force an American surrender.

And the American “government” was insubstantial. Don’t waste resources chasing the Continental Congress around.

What you needed to do was eliminate the Continental Army. Your best shot for doing that was in the summer of 1776. Washington overestimated his army’s abilities and committed them to a defense of New York City. The British were able to easily rout them. But Howe screwed up and let the Continentals escape after their defeat. Washington was able to withdraw the remains of his forces and rebuild in Pennsylvania.

Howe should have used the Royal Navy to block off Long Island and prevent the Americans from evacuating. Then he should have followed up after the Battle of Brooklyn Heights by attacking Manhattan. He would have captured pretty much the entire Continental Army along with Washington and his staff.

At that point, the American cause would have been hopeless and they would have accepted any reasonable surrender terms.

Not in 1775 you didn’t. European support for the American cause was pretty tepid until after Saratoga in 1777. The Europeans were waiting to see if the Americans were capable of fighting.

Forget about. It’s hopeless. When there’s an imperial power that wants to permanently occupy and control a certain nation, while the people of that nation are determined to fight for their freedom, the imperial power usually just can’t win.

From the imperial power’s perspective, involvement is a question of cost. If the benefit of keeping the nation as a colony is greater than the cost of fighting the war, then they’ll keep on fighting. But when the cost of fighting grows larger than the benefit of keeping the colony, then the imperial power will give up out of its own self-interest.

On the other hand, from the perspective of the natives, it’s fight for freedom. It’s worth dying for and it’s worth fighting endlessly for. Consequently, they will continue fighting for as long as it takes, and the cost to the imperial power will continue to rise. Eventually the cost will rise high enough that the the imperial power will pack its bags and go home.

That’s why the British couldn’t win the American Revolution. It’s also why the United States couldn’t permanently rule Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Iraq. It’s why the French eventually left Algeria, and why the Soviet Union eventually pulled out of Afghanistan.

Wait for the well off colonists to use up their remaining tea supplies. Repeal the stamp act, offer limited self government and suggest the colonies come back to the fold.

Such a Marxist interpretation is absurd. By this logic, the Confederacy should still be festering with rebellion after the American Civil War, yet it does not. The Thirteen colonies had strong emotional bonds to England (unlike say the USSR in relation to Afghanistan) and enjoyed extensive autonomy. The best bet is to listen to some of the colonial demands (such as getting rid of the Proclamation Line of 1763) while forming a North American Union of Colonies much as happened to Canada or Australia later on.

Non-starter at this point, because GB did not have the naval resources to do so and simultaneously meet their other commitments. This is the reason the French navy was able to intervene so effectively in North America in the first place. By dint of massive spending ( which in part helped set the stage for the French Revolution ) and alliance with the Dutch and Spanish, France had very briefly more than achieved naval parity.

The lack of sufficient resources was a problem even before France entered the war. To quote:

The two years of warfare in which the British faced only the Americans revealed a further important limitation of British arms. American seaborne contact with the outer world could not be checked. This was work for frigates and lighter craft and the British navy simply did not dispose of enough of them to set up an effective blockade of the long American coastline. A full naval mobilization in American waters was never contemplated, not only because of the expense, but for the two much more compelling reasons, that the English Channel had to guarded, and the such a step would undoubtedly have been treated as a casus belli by the French, who understandably would not have dared to leave their Caribbean empire unprotected when a large British fleet was loose in the Atlantic.

From Wars and Revolutions:* Britain, 1760-1815* by Ian R. Christie ( 1985, Harvard University Press ).

ETA: I think Little Nemo is on the right track.

The Stamp Act was repealed. In 1766, ten years before America declared independence.

simplicio, I can understand the thought process you use, but I think you get several major, and really important, facts wrong. First, the colonies had vitually no Navy and mostly were cut off from Europe. They had to sneak ships out more than they could openly use ports. Likewise, cotton hadn’t caught on, and tobacco, while important for trade, was not something they absolutely had to sell. They didn’t have to “absorb” the goods. They didn’t have to produce it at all, or if they did, they didn’t need to sell it.

In short, a blockade would have been laughable. To devote that much of its fleet, Britain would have effectively ceded everywhere else to everyone else, while accomplshing nothing whatsoever. In fact, it would have made the British look incredibly weak internationally, while in effect granting the nascent United States complete internal control and autonomy. Worse yet, it wouldn’t have even stopped trade effectively, because the south could simply have snuck ships down to Spanish Florida and then traded (legally) under the Spanish flag.

I agree with the spirit presented here, but not the specifics. I am not at all sure Howe even could have done this even with his fleet, not enough to stop people from getting across the relatively small stretch of water at night.

That said, even past this, the British needed to:
(1) Take and hold terrain. This would be changed greatly in the Civil War, but in this era of pre-Napoleonic war, it was absolutely necessary
(2) Prevent the colonists from retaking it.
(3) Demonstrate the uselessness of continued resistance.

The problem with all this is that it essentially requires more troops than the British could easily supply. It’s not impossible, but they would need to effectively control the entire coastline and all the cities, and then have the firepower left to dominate any Continental Army force in the hinterlands. To some extent, this is what they tried. With a better strategic sense, it’s possible it could have worked. It’d be damnably difficult, though.

A political settlement was certainly possible, but Lord Howe himself more or less nixed that idea (and the dominant Parliamentary faction were unwilling to bargain, anyway) just before the war began in earest. After that, the Colonials simply had nothing to gain by a settlement.

The “Southern Strategy” seems sensible. It failed, because the British simply ran out of men. With sufficient reinforcement, it might have worked.

Another variant I’ve read of is to start the Saratoga campaign from NYC and go up the Hudson, rather than start from the north and fight southwards. The southern part was already largely under British control, and was much better criss-crossed with roads. Easier going, and easier to control.

If the British had crossed the Delaware on that frosty Christmas, and raided Washington’s camp, the whole matter might have been over in a single stroke…

Early in the war, pursue-pursue-puruse-pursue the enemy when you have defeated them on the battlefield. Don’t let them regroup, don’t let them retreat. Use your reserves because at this stage you have them. Fighting one day and chasing them down when more convenient doesn’t work. Don’t overextend, but you have the troops to chase the main body. Use them.

The Continental forces were on the ropes constantly in the early year or so in the war. Some greater effort by the Crown forces would have spelled their end.

Would not have solved the underlying problem, mind you. So back home you need to start allowing the colonies a level of autonomy.

But that isn’t the way it started. Nobody in the colonies at the outset of war (with a few exceptions I’m sure) wanted to break away from England. They saw the rebellion as a means of enforcing their rights ** as Englishmen **. For instance, one of the first people to die in the Lexington and Concord battles named Jason Russell was killed in his front door after having proclaimed “an Englishman’s home is his castle.”

What percent chose to move to Canada? I’m sure you’ll offer an unbiased answer.

I’ve read some texts from the early part of the 20th century that implicitly assume this particular war was was largely won and lost at sea… British vs. French, Spanish, and assorted others. That general view seems to have changed somewhat since then. Anyway, here’s an important sea battle:

Make William Pitt the PM in 1774.

That was the plan or at least part of it. Howe was supposed to send troops north from New York City while Burgoyne brought troops south from Quebec (and there was a third smaller group under Saint Leger that was coming east from Oswego). Everyone was supposed to sweep the Continentals before them and meet up around Albany.

The problem was that Burgoyne and Howe had independent commands. So Howe decided he didn’t agree with Burgoyne’s plan and used his own plan of capturing Philadelphia instead.

Which one? Pitt the elder was in pretty poor health by 1774 (he died in 1778). Becoming Prime Minister again probably would have killed him quicker.

And Pitt the younger was only fifteen years old in 1774. Hard to imagine him running a government at that age. As it was, he was the youngest Prime Minister in British history when he got the job in 1783.

Give them seats in Parliament-that is all they wanted. Also, announce a general amnesty.
GB had a big problem-they were constantly worried that sending TOO big a force to North America would encourage a French attack upon Scotland. Had GB committed the full Royal Navy to North America, France would have been able to invade, and possibly break up the union with Scotland.
Then “Bonny Prince Charlie” would reign as King of Scotland…and Ireland would be next.

And then there was the matter of money. England (more or less, Great Britain having a not-so-great feel about it at the time) being deep in debt. Debts which were incurred in defending (in part) the Colonies during the French-and-Indian War. Debts which spawned many of the taxes which then drove the colonists, who felt they’d paid enough in blood and soldiering to be called and respected as English citizens.

And of course, the taxes were part of England’s commitment to the mercantilist approach, a common-sense solution to the economic needs fo a European power. An approach which was also ridiculously self-limiting, causing active economic harm. Which Adam Smith quite effectively demolished before the war. Then Smith’s largely free-commerce approach would be followed by the nascent United States, which managed to spark an off-and-on economic boom which turned it into the world’s wealthiest nation in a little over a century. And said economic boom, hyelped by Great Britain, might have helped pay off said debts…

The ironies of the Revolution were so thick you could cut them with a knife.

That wouldn’t really have worked. The American population was too different from the British one. And Parliament in 1775 wasn’t what it is today - most Britons didn’t have representation in Parliament back then, which is one reason London failed to appreciate American concerns.

What might have been workable was the plan that eventually developed in the British Empire after the loss of America: colonies having Dominion status with a local legislature that handled internal affairs while the London Parliament controlled foreign affairs and defense issues. (The smart move would have been to set up thirteen local legislatures rather than one united one. Keep them individually weaker that way.)

It wouldn’t have worked in the long run. With their own local governments and growing economies, the American Dominions would have ended up becoming de facto independent countries like Canada and Australia are today. Any ties with London would be symbolic only. But it would have delayed the breakup for a century or so and perhaps maintained that symbolic connection.