During the time up to the winter strike against Trenton Washington recognizes the symptoms of the protracted war on his own forces
During the time up to the winter strike against Trenton Washington recognizes the symptoms of the protracted war on his own forces, the Continental Army was dwindling as well as morale, those within the army were coming close to the end of their obligated service contracts. Washington recognizing the need to achieve a victory that would restore public support and therefore increase recruitment into his ranks. This would come on Christmas Day 1776, with Washington leading the charge, crossing the Delaware River to strike Trenton and ultimately defeating the Hessian outpost. (Weigley, 1973, pp. 39-40)
By taking away the British Army’s will to fight, and to erode it’s peoples support for the war was the main focus and attack on the British Center of Gravity, “For there has never been a protracted war from which a country had benefited.” (Tzu, 1963, p. 73) In protracting the war, Washington strategy of avoiding large conflicts and only attacking smaller forces, attacks the the British strategy of a decisive win. The British never knew when Washington’s forces would attack and resorted to encamping themselves in major cities. As well as fighting the colonies the British defense of England would be tested, as the conflict with France and Spain would further drained resources and threaten the homeland. “…what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy;” (Tzu, 1963, p. 77)
Understanding what is occurring within the British political state and recognizing his most valued asset being his army, Washington avoids a major battle whenever possible and attacks only when it is advantageous to do so forcing the British into a protracted war of attrition. “He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.” (Tzu, 1963, p. 82) Washington knows by avoiding the British attempt to win decisively by using maneuver warfare as described by Sun Tzu, “He who knows the art of the direct and indirect approach will be victorious. Such is the art of maneuvering.” (Sun Tzu, p. 106) he will be able to control the flow of the War. This strategy would allow Washington time to build public support and bolster his Army while forcing the British to garrison in several major cities as they never knew where Washington’s forces would strike.
Washington’s steadfastness in his strategy of attrition and a clear understanding of himself and his enemy would pay off when Cornwallis pulled out of the southern campaign and would decide to encamp his forces at Yorktown. Washington, recognizing that this was a decisive moment, executed a plan to engage the British at Yorktown. In a deceptive move towards New York that threw the Northern British Army under General Clinton off-balance, Washington began the movements of forces towards Yorktown. Meticulous planning from Washington would ensure that every detail was considered. The French followed the orders and recommendations by Washington, and the two great armies converged on Yorktown. General Cornwallis conceded, surrendering his army October 19, 1781, the Revolutionary War was over. The British ministry under pressure from its recent loss and dealing with conflicts much closer to the homeland with France and Spain, lost the will to continue fighting in America, the very objective Washington maintained during this conflict. (Weigley, 1973, p. 39)