A British Perspective on "The American War."

THERE Are few campaigns in English history which have been more systematically misunderstood, and more deliberately ignored, than the American War between 1775 and 1783. The disadvantages under which the British troops laboured were many and great; they were not merely local, as in most English wars, but were magnified and intensified by the unpopularity of the campaign at home, by the positive hostility of a large party, including some of the most eloquent politicians, and by the inflated statements of the Government, which made the tale of disaster--when it came to be known--more irritating and intolerable.

The American War was at once unpopular and unsuccessful. When it was over, the nation seemed inspired by by a longing to forget it; it was associated in their minds with everything that was unpleasant; and the labour of searching for the points in it for the points in it which were worthy of being treasured was not appreciated. English historians have always been reluctant to pen the pages of their country's disasters; and their silence is at once characteristic of, and thoroughly understood by, the English people. There has even been a series of self-denying ordinance laid down by English writers, and spouted ad nauseam by English speakers, in which the whole blame of the war is accepted almost greedily and its losses painted in heightened colors as the legitimate consequences of national error. England was to blame--taxation without representation undoubtedly was unjust; but were American motives at the outset pure? It may readily granted that after the first shedding of blood the resistance of the colonists was prompted by a keen sense of injury such as might well animate a free and high-spirited people; but, before the sword was drawn, the motives of the Boston recusants no more deserve to be called worthy, than the policy of England deserves to be called satesmanship.

It is to be regretted that the silence of the one country's historians on the subject of the American War is not compensated by the undoubted loquacity and grandiloquence of the other's. The student is equally baffled by the former, and bewildered by the latter. Perhaps the pride and boasting of the young country is natural: perhaps it was to be expected that ere long the fact would be forgotten that without the assistance of France and Spain to distract England, their independence could never have been achieved; but when coupled with this forgetfulness, comes and exaggeration of petty encounters into high-sounding battles, and of defeats like that of Bunker's [Breed's] Hill into something of a victory to be celebrated by national monuments, the student may smile complacently at the enthusiasm of the conquerors, but must regret the dust which is thrown in his eyes by their boasting and party-feeling.

Duncan, Captain Francis, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery (London: 1872) pp 297-300, Volume I.