Washington’s War of Attrition, Part II

Self has now reached a little less than halfway through Washington’s Immortals. At this rate, it’ll be another week . . .

What she’s gleaned so far is that Washington was an excellent guerrilla fighter. He cut his teeth in the woods and forests, and he had managed to get one Indian tribe, the Stockbridge Mohicans, on his side. Ranged against him were the British, American Loyalists, and five of the six nations that made up the Iroquois Confederacy: the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora.

Washington’s opponent was Lieutenant Colonel John Graves Simcoe, the son of a Royal Navy Captain, graduate of Eton and Oxford. Simcoe commanded a light infantry unit called the Queen’s Rangers which “participated in many brutal engagements.”

Washington was ambushed by Simcoe on August 31, 1778. Simcoe took the day, but the colonial officers escaped, “thanks to the courage of dozens of Mohicans.” The Stockbridge Mohicans were almost entirely wiped out. They lost their land, too. “Discharged by Washington’s orders in September 1778, the tribe received a paltry thousand dollars.”

In the fall of 1778, Washington moved the American army to White Plains, New York to keep the British pinned down in New York. He “ordered the creation of light infantry units, which had more flexibility and the ability to mount raids . . . they would counter the British light infantry operating in the area, harass their supply lines along the road network in today’s Bronx and southern Westchester County, and hamper their attempts to forage.”

Washington’s war of attrition worked, mostly because the British never got reinforcements. After 1777, they only received 4,700 troops, nowhere near the 19,200 that were lost.

Stay tuned.

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