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Thread: casualty rates in revolutionary war

  1. #1
    One of the Undutchables Member The Stranger's Avatar
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    Default casualty rates in revolutionary war

    I was checking some wiki pages about the revolutionary war (after watching http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2543328/?ref_=nv_sr_3)

    and the casualty reports seem very low, definitely compared to wars that broke out a few decades later. I've noticed that this seems to be the case for alot of wars fought in the late 17th and 18th century, atleast in the americas. Were weapons so innacurate at that time?

    My first thought was that this is because weapon technology increased dramatically within that time. But that seems not to be the case since battles fought during the french revolution also had low casualties, while the napoleonic wars had alot higher casualty rate. Same for the american civil war.

    a few examples:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Trenton
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Fort_Washington
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Millstone
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Valmy

    casualties are around like 1%

    compare this to earlier or later wars:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Stoke_Field
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Austerlitz
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_...%C3%B6ngrabern
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Inkerman

    casualties are more around 10% or upwards (depending on which side ur on XD)

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  2. #2
    Needs more flowers Moderator drone's Avatar
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    Default Re: casualty rates in revolutionary war

    Most of the battles were skirmishes, so there were fewer "stand in formation and volley fire each other til one runs" fights, the force sizes were smaller and the logistics were tougher. But even the big fights had very few casualties (Yorktown for instance). My guess is that most commanders weren't keen on attrition, since heavy losses on both sides would be difficult to replace, so they were more open to retreating or surrendering when the battlefield situation went south.
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  3. #3
    Clan Takiyama Senior Member CBR's Avatar
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    Default Re: casualty rates in revolutionary war

    At Trenton the losing side was totally unprepared and was overwhelmed quickly, Millstone was a small skirmish and Fort Washington was superior numbers running over the outposts and leaving the enemy no chance but to surrender. Only Valmy can be classed as a set-piece battle but the German commander had no real reason to keep on attacking in a situation that was too uncertain: Hier schlagen wir nicht

    Obviously there are other examples of low casualty battles but some counter examples would be 18th century battles like Blenheim, Kunersdorf, Torgau and others.

    Technology has little to do with it and it is more a combination of terrain, generalship and what was at stake.

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  4. #4
    master of the pwniverse Member Fragony's Avatar
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    Default Re: casualty rates in revolutionary war

    A change of mindset, a total war is an exchange of casualties, it wasn't fought like that. It was more about making sure the enemy was sure they couldn't possibly win. Hence the low casualty rate. They made up for that in the civil-war though, nasty

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