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    The Contributions of Poor Hygiene and Soldier Moral to the Defeat of the British During the American Revolution

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    After reading about how the British Empire had better disciplined soldiers, better equipment and a cabinet full of four-star generals, I found it strange that they were defeated by what started out to be backwoods yokels. I understand that there was more to the British defeat such as guerrilla warfare, harsh weather conditions and brooding locals, but the British had the supplies and the soldiers that would allow any army to bounce back from defeat. So, this brings me to my question: Could poor hygiene and soldier moral be the factors that caused the British war effort to fail against the American Colonists?

    After the French and Indian wars, a large army of British soldiers stayed in the colonies and was there for the entire duration of the Revolutionary War. A task given to them was to reinforce the regiments with new soldiers and maintain them with the limited rations that were given during peace time. The army could squeak by on such supplies, but eventually poor conditions caused altercations to start with the local colonists, usually over an unpaid tab at the bar. Skip to the point that open conflict was becoming common for the British regiments and their supplies had changed little since the opening shots.

    As the conflict intensified, the British began to rapidly grow their army through forced means to compete with the American’s home advantage leading to shortages of supplies for British regiments, and a future army of Hessians didn’t help the situation either. The British began to lash out at American operations which caused their armies to spread themselves thinly across the colonies, limiting supplies more. Yet, battles were still being won against impossible odds by the British.

    The interesting caveat with the British army was that many a soldier would rather die for his regiment than flee the battlefield and even more strange, this was not borne from fear of being court-martialed and hanged for desertion, but rather a distinct regimental identity. The citizens of Great Britain knew that any job within the military was a life of misery until death, but there was no doubt the culture saw that the military life could strengthen one’s character and bring honor to the family’s title. The common belief in British military culture was that the glory of battle was shared within the entire regiment and that its heroes were immortalized within its ranks. No doubt that military culture until after WW1 was still inspired the same way ancient Greeks and Romans fought – for glory and a legacy – worse than death was being forgotten.

    British camps were probably worse than being out on the battlefield. Hygiene was at an all-time low when away from British held cities, and a small cut could send the reaper for soul collecting. With its forces scattered across the entirety of the Colonies (even some stranded in Canada), there was no way to supply so many soldiers in so many locations with the appropriate supplies. The situation was so dire, starvation and disease were becoming common and reeking more havoc than the American forces constantly accosting the regiments leading to eventual defeat.

    Without a proper supply line for the duration of the conflict it wouldn’t take long for the British army, even with their military disciplines, to fall – not because of lack of soldiers, not because of a lack of guns – but because soldiers were marching disease- ridden and starving.

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    The Contributions of Poor Hygiene and Soldier Moral to the Defeat of the British During the American Revolution. (2022, Nov 27). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/thecontributions-of-poor-hygiene-and-soldier-moral-to-the-defeat-of-the-british-during-the-american-revolution/

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