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The American Revolution – OverSimplified (Part 2)

This video was made possible by Brilliant: math and science done right. Keep watching until the end of the video to learn how you can get 20% off the annual premium subscription! Washington’s butt was sufficiently kicked (not licked), winter was here, his troops’ morale was low, some just up and left. Washington needed to do something; anything, to restore faith in the revolution. The British had spread throughout New Jersey and settled in for a winter of drinking cider and partying hard. Nobody expected an attack in the winter, so Washington started making plans for an attack in the winter. (Of course he did, He’s George Washington.) The British had hired a large force of Hessian mercenaries from the German states of Hesse-Kassel and Hesse-Hanau to fight the rebels. It was these mercenaries that were stationed across the Delaware River from Washington and his army. And there were more Hessian reinforcements incoming, but they made an unscheduled stop because their commander got thirsty. No, not that kind of thirsty, that kind of thirsty. 😉 It was Christmas Eve with a blizzard outside when Washington heard the Hessian defenses were down and he decided to attack. (Again, it’s George Washington.) He made a perilous crossing of the icy Delaware River with 2,400 men and marched nine miles to Trenton, where he caught the Hessian forces completely off-guard. After a short, but fierce battle the Hessian surrendered in droves. It was a much-needed victory that sent a clear message, not only to the British, but to Americans across the colonies; the war was far from lost. General Cornwallis led the British forces South to counter-attack the Americans, but in a series of battles, Washington’s defensive positioning and flanking maneuvers defeated the British three times in ten days, (There’s a taste of ‘Murica for you.) and the British decided to abandon Southern New Jersey for the rest of the winter. Washington finally set up a winter camp in Morristown, but for the Americans, there was much less partying than the British. Elsewhere, the British had taken Newport, Rhode Island because it was a good naval base. In the South, they failed to take Charleston, South Carolina, which left British loyalists unsupported and vulnerable to more harassment, and even mass expulsion. Congress sent Benjamin Franklin to France on a mission to convince them to join the war. And while the French generally loved any opportunity to hoodwink the Brits, they didn’t want to join unless it was a sure win. (That coward) So, for now, Franklin spent his days chilling out and chasing tail. (Really, Ben?) The British Parliament couldn’t believe the war wasn’t over yet, and the pressure was on to end it. So the British came up with a plan; General Burgoyne in Montréal and General William Howe in New York would advance through the Hudson Valley and meet in the middle, splitting the colonies in two, and thus screwing over the American communication lines. Burgoyne began his movement South and after taking Fort Ticonderoga quite easily, he then came across heavy American resistance. So he sent Howe a dingle-dongle, asking if he’d be showing up anytime soon. Meanwhile, Howe completely abandoned the plan and gone for all-out personal glory by capturing the American capital, Philadelphia. He defeated Washington and his army at Brandywine Creek by using the old hit-him-with-a-decoy-and-flank-him-from-behind tactic, and Philadelphia was now in British hands, forcing Congress to escape to York. (Oof rekt) But Burgoyne was left on his own to face the ever-increasing American force in Saratoga. American General Horatio Gates teamed up with our old friend Benedict Arnold to deal one final blow to Burgoyne’s army. Arnold wanted to take the fight to the British, but Gates wanted to wait for the British to come to them. After a heated debate, Gates, the senior officer, told Arnold to go to his room, but Arnold defied his orders and at the Battle of Bemis Heights, he charged at the British, and obliterated them. Great job, Horatio! By the way, what happened to that other guy who was in Saratoga? Who? Benedict Arnold. Never heard of him. Ouch. (So sad, Alexa play Despacito) Hey, George. Didn’t I do a great job? Taking Philadelphia and all? Hmm? Didn’t I- You’re fired. (lol) Both Burgoyne and Howe returned to Great Britain, leaving British General Henry Clinton to take charge of the war. And the war was about to take a nasty turn, because with the victory at Saratoga, the French were finally ready to join the Americans. Alright Benny, we’re in. Hey, isn’t this kind of funny? You know, ’cause you’re a republic trying to overthrow an absolute monarchy, and I’m an absolute monarchy helping you? Like, like could you imagine if your revolution inspired my people to revolt against me? And then they imprison me and all my family? And they chopped all of our heads off? (lol shut up) Could you imagine? That’s called foreshadowing! For now, in America, winter was here once again, which meant yet more disease, more starvation, and even a little mutiny. After losing Philadelphia, Washington’s job was again on the line. But suddenly, a Prussian guy with a very fancy name, hired by Benjamin Franklin, showed up out of nowhere and said, “Hey, I’m here to give your man a European military training.” And train them, he did! They learned how to shoot accurately, how to march in formation, where to poop and where not to, and strict punishments were handed out to any who didn’t comply. Washington’s army came out of the winter in 1778 a new and improved force, ready to take Philadelphia back from the British. In the end though, they didn’t have to. With the French entry into the war, the British ordered General Clinton to evacuate Philadelphia, and consolidate all of the British forces in New York. So Washington sent Benedict Arnold to reoccupy and secure the city, as he pursued the British through New Jersey on land, eventually finding a good opportunity to attack at Monmouth Courthouse. The battle took place on a sweltering hot summer’s day, and as many soldiers died from heatstroke as they did from battle. In the end, after some incompetent/borderline treason from Washington’s second-in-command, it was a draw, and in this war a draw is kind of a victory for the Americans. Next up, let’s talk about this guy. This is John Paul Jones. John Paul Jones is handsome, Scottish, and absolutely insane. When the war first broke out, everyone was like, “How do the colonies expect to stand up to the might of the British Navy with their meager fleet of converted merchantme-” Yep, try telling that to John Paul Jones. This guy sailed to the British Isles, somehow captured a British ship off the coast of Ireland, and brought it back to France. Then he returned, attacking more ships, raiding towns, and evading capture the entire time. These are basically pirate tactics, but hey, if it works, it works. In one incident, he captured a British ship and returned to a Dutch port without an official ensign, because his was lost during the battle. That’s a big no-no, and can have you arrested as a pirate. The Dutch helped him out by quickly creating a design based on Benjamin Franklin’s description of what the American flag should look like, and they entered it into their records as an official U.S. flag. What they came up with looks pretty cool! The whole campaign probably played heavily on British morale, and brought into question their ability to win the war. And, Fun Fact, he was so cool that one of the towns he raided in 1778 gave him an official honorary pardon in 1999. Keep rippin’ in heaven, John Paul Jones. You’re an angel now. What the Continental Navy was lacking resources, though, the French entry into the war made up for. The French began with naval skirmishes in the English Channel, and they sent a large fleet to America, although it sustained a lot of damage in a storm off Rhode Island. The Americans were hoping for a bigger commitment from the French, so John Adams went to France to help Benjamin Franklin continue negotiations. Oh good. You’re finally here. Check this out. Hey ladies. I’d like to fight you like a kite, cuz you’re electrifying! Isn’t this great? Is this… Is this what you’ve been doing? Yeah, why? We were sent here on a diplomatic mission to secure military support from France, not to philander with the locals. Wait, no, ladies come back! Ugh… Worst. Wingman. Ever. But the Americans would get some more help; the Dutch provided aid, although they never formed an official alliance. More significantly though, the Spanish, who had already been providing aid officially joined the war in June 1779. They would provide support in the Midwest and the Gulf Coast, campaigns that heavily impacted the Native American tribes in those areas. Both sides actually enlisted the help of Native American tribes throughout the war, sometimes even pitting those tribes against each other. In the summer of 1779, after a series of raids against the Americans by the Iroquois, Washington organized an expedition that burned down more than 40 villages, forcing the tribes to relocate to Canada for British protection. And another group that shouldn’t go unmentioned were African Americans, both free and enslaved. They joined both sides of the war, hoping to gain their freedom, but afterwards, many were simply returned to slavery, particularly those who had fought for the Americans. Despite owning slaves himself, Jefferson had written a condemnation of slavery in the Declaration of Independence, but out of fear of offending the southern colonies, this was removed from the final draft. For the same reason, the American Army stopped enlisting African American men in 1775, a policy that Washington, a slave owner himself, supported. But they were forced to reverse the policy after the British promised freedom to any slaves who joined them. In general, you stood a better chance of gaining freedom if you fought for the British. However, even those that left with the British after the war suffered mistreatment and discrimination in their new lives outside of America. Our good friend Benedict Arnold is now in charge of Philadelphia, having a good time, partying down with, and even marrying a member of the Philadelphia elite, the same elite that had partied down with the British when they controlled the city, and suddenly the people of Philadelphia, including the state governor, started accusing Arnold of having pro-British sentiments. To keep the people happy, Washington wrote a letter rebuking Arnold, calling his conduct imprudent and improper, and that was too many ouchies for Benedict Arnold to handle. He asked Washington to put him in charge of the fort at West Point, then he contacted the British, offering to hand the plans of the fort over to them and join their side. Our good friend Benedict Arnold is our good friend no more. Luckily, the treasonous plans were discovered on a captured British officer, but Arnold managed to escape before he was arrested. As a British Brigadier General, he would go on to lead raids against American cities, most notably his rate of Richmond, Virginia in 1781. His betrayal shook George Washington, who had once again set up camp at Morristown. His leadership somehow held the Continental Army together through the harshest winter of the war. We’re entering 1780, and Parliament was hopping mad that the war still wasn’t over. The British debt was soaring, and despite taking parts of Massachusetts in late 1779, the North was in a stalemate. So the British decided to make a major shift in strategy to the South, an economically rich area with a higher level of support for the British. Or so the British thought. A year earlier, they had captured the under-defended city of Savannah, Georgia easily, and a joint American French counter-siege failed. Now, they laid siege to Charleston, South Carolina. It fell within months, with thousands of American troops surrendering to the British, a costly defeat. The British quickly moved to take control, and they sent stereotypical Hollywood villain with a British accent Bannister “the Butcher” Tarleton into the back country, where he hunted down rebels and destroyed them with ruthless brutality. The British presence also inspired local loyalist militias in the back country to rise up against their persecutors. The British really seemed to be onto something with their new strategy, and the ball was very much in Washington’s court. I’m gonna send my most loyal general, Nathanael Greene, to the south to stop the British. Gonna have to overrule you there, George. We’re sending Hero of Saratoga and your biggest rival, Horatio Gates. Watch this, George. I’m gonna save the day again, everybody will love me, and I’m gonna get your job. Here I go! And he got into one battle with Cornwallis, got annihilated, and ran away. Alrighty. Let’s go with your guy. Nathaniel Greene knew the British outnumbered his own forces, and wouldn’t be defeated with conventional tactics. So he had to think outside the box. He split his army into two, said “Hey, Big Boy, look at me!” and then they went running in two different directions Cornwallis sent Tarleton after Morgan, and he caught up with him at Cowpens, where Morgan proceeded to kick Tarleton’s butt. Then the two led Cornwallis on a wild chase through North Carolina, his bigger and better equipped army, much heavier and slower than Greene’s quick and mobile troops. Greene led Cornwallis further and further from his supply line, then crossed the Dan River into Virginia, picked up some reinforcements, and turned back to face the now exhausted British. At the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, the two sides engaged in vicious close combat. Cornwallis, fearing loss, fired his big guns into the chaotic fighting, cutting down many of his own men. Greene retreated, giving Cornwallis the victory, but Cornwallis lost a quarter of his men in the fighting, so it felt much more like a British defeat. At this point, both sides desperately needed something to happen soon to end the fighting. The British were running out of money, while the Americans were again facing mutinies, as the men went without pay or even basic living needs. Fortunately, the French were now showing up in greater numbers and were ready to fight. After his encounter with Greene, Cornwallis decided the only way to win the South was to first prevent the Southern Continental Army from using Virginia as a supply base. So he abandoned the Carolina’s, moving to Wilmington, and on to Yorktown, a position the British believed would be easy to supply and support. On his march to Yorktown, he raided many farms, stealing horses and supplies from the locals, but also freeing thousands of slaves, many of whom joined him. The French saw Cornwallis’ new position as an opportunity to land a decisive blow on the British. Washington wanted to attack Clinton in New York, but the French said it was a really dumb idea, and, to be fair, it was. Instead, Washington sent out fake dispatches to make it look like they would attack Clinton, but secretly their combined force marched all the way down to Virginia. A large French fleet under the command of Compte de Grasse arrived and successfully cleared the British Navy out of the Chesapeake Bay. The combined land and naval forces then laid siege to Cornwallis’ army in Yorktown. The American and French forces tightened in around the city, raining artillery down on Cornwallis, who desperately appealed to Clinton for aid, but Clinton was unusually chilled out about the whole thing. Cornwallis held out for nearly a month before he had no choice but to surrender. Over 7,000 British troops were captured, a crushing defeat, and with that, Parliament had reached the end of its rope. The war just wasn’t worth it, and it needed to end now. The British still held New York, Charleston, and Savannah, but fighting between the two sides mostly ceased as peace negotiations opened up in Paris. The resulting treaty in 1783 saw Great Britain remove its troops from American soil, recognize U.S. independence, and cede territory up to the Mississippi River. In return, the Americans agreed to pay any debt still owed to Britain, and gave fair treatment to any colonists who remained loyal to the Crown. The Spanish got Florida, while the French got an economic crisis that led to its own revolution a decade later. (Best reward ever.) Washington retired to his home in Mount Vernon, wishing his men farewell by saying, “I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.” He hoped to live out the rest of his days in peace, but unfortunately for him, a number of people wanted him to be the first leader of the new country. And by a number of people, I mean literally everyone. The first election campaign in American history was basically a grassroots effort to convince Washington to accept the office. He was sworn in on April 30th, 1789, and he himself established many of the standards and limitations of what the American leaders should be. First of all, there was debate on what he should be called. Is he a king? Is he our glorious leader? In the end, they went for a word that, at the time, was pretty modest; president. Like the president of your local bowling club, or office bake sale committee. He set up a cabinet of expert advisors knowing that no president could know everything, no matter how much of a stable genius they claimed to be. He proposed major legislation to Congress, and gave an annual State of the Union address to keep his own power in check. He stated that the U.S. should remain neutral in foreign conflicts, and in the end he voluntarily gave up his power after just two terms. He could have made the presidency anything he wanted, but his careful and cautious actions helped set the precedent of an office that is powerful in its limitations, decisive through its diplomacy, and respected in its humility. And so the United States was born, and everything was perfect. It had no problems. Not a single one. Certainly nothing that would, I don’t know, cause such an extreme divide that it would lead to a civil war. Anyway, moving on. Quick quiz! Name the most American thing you can think of. Baseball? Bald Eagles? (Orange dude that wants to build a giant wall?) Calling the winner of an America-only sports tournament World Champions? (Sounds right.) Or maybe math and science? Wait. Math and science? That’s right. If you didn’t know, science is American as combining chicken with waffles. And don’t just take my word for it, ask Thomas Jefferson! Of course, to do that, you would need a time machine, and that would take some math and a lot of science. If you want to deeply understand math and science, say you want to calculate the age of the universe, take a crack at special relativity, or just train your critical thinking with some fun logic puzzles, then you’ve got to check out Brilliant. Brilliant guides you through a whole host of fascinating topics by breaking them down and getting you to actively solve problems in an experience that is interactive, addictive, and so easy to understand. This intuitive approach makes it appropriate for students, professionals, and enthusiasts all of the world. To support OverSimplified and learn more about Brilliant, go to brilliant.org/OverSimplified, and sign up for free. And the first 200 people to use our link, which can also be found in the description below, will get 20% off the annual premium subscription. So check it out now!
Video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtYC2jx1LM0

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