Guest Historian Chris Oakley says, this thread was inspired by one of Dominic Sandbrook's articles in New Statesman. If you're interested in viewing samples of my other work why not visit the Changing the Times web site.
In 1777, the first contingent of French regular army troops arrived in America to support the Continental Army in its war for American indepedence from Great Britain; these soldiers were dispatched to the fledging United States under the terms of an alliance treaty that had been signed in Paris a few months earlier.
Double Jeopardy Part 10
French Reinforcements ArriveThe chief architect of that treaty, Benjamin Franklin, had already been famous for more than a decade thanks to his book Poor Richard's Almanac and his scientific experiments on electricity -- but the treaty itself would make him an immortal figure in American history. After the Revolutionary War ended in 1779, Franklin would return to Paris to establish the permanent American embassy for France.
With the brief and highly conspicuous exception of an estrangement during the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century, the Franco-American alliance would continue to endure for generations after the Revolution. In the Great European War of 1914-17, thousands of American troops fought in France's defense against the aggression of Kaiser Wilhelm II's Germany; during the Pacific War of the early 1940s French naval power helped ensure America's final victory over Japan.
In 1778, Britain's last hope for crushing the American Revolution was dashed when Lord Cornwallis, commander of the British expeditionary force in Virginia and the Carolinas, was killed by sniper fire during an assault on Continental Army regimental lines northwest of Charleston, South Carolina.
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Death of CornwallisCornwallis -- at that time the most experienced field general the British had in North America --had originally been sent to crush guerrilla activity behind the British lines but soon found himself facing Continental Army regulars. The precise details of Cornwallis' death are murky even to this day, but historians generally agree he was one of the last casualties in the fight for Charleston and fell at American hands.
Cornwallis' death broke the morale of the British troops under his command and drove them into headlong retreat; from that moment on until the Revolutionary War ended in August of 1779, the British Army in North America was almost totally on the defensive.
In 1779, the Revolutionary War ended with the final surrender of British forces to the Continental Army at Yorktown, Virginia.
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Battle of YorktownFor the American colonials this moment represented the triumphant conclusion of their four-year-long struggle for freedom from British rule; for the British themselves it was the ultimate grim evidence of their failure to tame the North American continent; and for the citizens of the Quebec Republic it meant a chance to further secure their own independence.
Ironically, the rise of Napoleon's dictatorship in France during the early 19th century would spark the establishment of an unlikely U.S.-Quebec-U.K. coaltion to stop Napoleon's quest for a global empire. In the Great European War of 1914-17, all three nations would side with France against Kaiser Wilhelm's Germany.
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In 1787, representatives of the thirteen original states met in Philadelphia to draft the first articles of what would eventually become the United States Constitution.
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Philadelphia ConstitutionThe so-called Charter of Confederation which had been governing the U.S. since the end of the Revolutionary War was increasingly being viewed as inadequate to meet the needs of what was even then a vast and steadily growing country; former Continental Army commander-in-chief George Washington was one of the first major public figures to advocate replacing the Charter with a more explicit delineation of the federal government's rights and responsibilities.
Later that spring the ten amendments which would form the cornerstone of the Constitution began to be ratified by the states. These amendments, collectively known as "the Bill of Rights", would later come to be seen as the most significant guarantee of individual liberties since the English Magna Carta was signed in 1215; the last of the ten would be ratified in early 1788. The Quebec Republic would use the U.S. Constitution as a guideline when its parliament revised Quebec's own constitution in the 1790s.
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In 1759, the struggle between Great Britain and France for control of the New World took a turn neither country could have anticipated: during an engagement between British and French troops on the Plains of Abraham just outside Quebece City, British commander General James Wolfe and French main battle force leader the Marquis de Montcalm were killed within seconds of each other.
Double Jeopardy Part 1
The Plains of AbrahamThe nearly simultaneous deaths of Montcalm and Wolfe seriously complicated battle planning on both sides and turned what had been a 15-minute clash into a week-long siege and meant that the conflict modern historians now call the Fifteen Years' War would drag on well into the 1760s.
A new thread by Chris OakleyWith the two most experienced field commanders in the North American theater gone, London and Paris were obliged to sharply rewrite their respective campaign strategies. The Fifteen Years' War left both a victorious Britain and a defeated France exhausted.
It also created a power vacuum in which advocates for the independence of Britain's colonies in North America could work with relatively little opposition from the powers that be back in London; by 1775 the thirteen colonies which today comprise the original states of the USA had declared their independence from Britain and the French-Canadian citizens of Quebec had thrown out the token British garrison which had attempted to occupy their homeland after the war ended.
In 1769, the Fifteen Years' War finally ended with the signing of the Treaty of Stockholm.
For both Great Britain and France the peace accord didn't come a minute too soon: the British wanted to consolidate the gains they'd achieved in the New World since the late 1750s, while the French were trying to keep their already strained armies from being bled still further white lest France's longtime Mediterranean adversary Spain be tempted to launch an invasion across the Franco-Spanish border.
Double Jeopardy Part 2
The Year of BloodIndeed, the French government was ultimately compelled to sue for peace by the ongoing deterioration of France's strategic position in continental Europe. There was also the matter of trying to keep a lid on the simmering internal discontent that had been building among the French middle and lower classes ever since the siege of Quebec City.
Although the Treaty of Stockholm's terms were later criticized as unnecessarily harsh in some respects, the French negotiating party felt they had little choice but to agree to those terms given the significant casualties the French army had endured both in Europe and in North America -- particulary during 1768, a time some modern French historians now call l'Annee du Sang ("the Year of Blood").
Ironically, Britain's real problems in Quebec would start well after French troops had left the province. Resentful of their new would-be rulers, the Quebecois wasted little time organizing a widespread resistance to British control; the British were driven out of Quebce by 1773. The success of the Quebec uprising inspired American colonists to seek independence from Britain themselves two years later.
In 1771, Quebecois rebel militias attacked the British garrison at Sherbrooke, starting one of the most significant battles of the Quebec Rebellion.
Double Jeopardy Part 3
Battle of SherbrookeOver the next five days rebel troops and British forces would fight tooth and nail for control of the garrison; early on the afternoon of the sixth day the British garrison commander was killed when a stray musket ball tore through his neck and severed his jugular vein. The disheartened remnants of the garrison then hastily retreated to Montreal, leaving all of Sherbrooke in rebel hands.
At the time of the battle it was thought a rebel gun had fired the fatal shot at the British commander; in 2003, however, an archeological dig near the original garrison site turned up startling new evidence the garrison commander might actually have been the victim of a friendly fire accident.
The rebel victory at Sherbrooke dealt a staggering blow to Great Britain's prestige in the New World. Not only did it embolden insurgent militias elsewhere in Quebec to mount still greater attacks on British outposts there, it triggered a surge in pro-independence sentiment among the people of what is today the eastern seaboard of the United States; by 1772 the most vocal advocates of American separation from Britain had formed a coalition known as the Brotherhood of Liberty to rally public opinion in favor of armed resistance to British rule. It was the Brotherhood that would finally launch the American Revolution in the spring of 1775.
In 1770, the tensions between Quebec's French-Canadian citizens and their British rulers reached the boiling point when a group of young men marched to the governor-general's residence in Montreal to demand the release of a friend who'd been arrested by British troops the previous night; in response, the governor-general ordered the soldiers guarding his residence to disperse the protestors, and a confrontation ensued which ended with the soldiers opening fire on the demonstrators.
Double Jeopardy Part 3
Montreal MassacreSix men were killed and two others seriously wounded in what would later go down in history as "the Montreal Massacre".
As word of the shootings traveled across the province the Quebecois were infuriated by what they deemed an act of unprovoked brutality on the part of the British; taking up arms against the colonial administration, they launched a three-year rebellion that would end with the expulsion of British troops from Quebec in the summer of 1773. Further south, American political leaders who advocated independence for their own homeland took note of the events in Quebec and would adopt many of the Qubecois revolutionaries' tactics when America's own fight to break away from Britain commenced two years later.
In 1772, a group of American independence advocates met in Boston to form the Brotherhood of Liberty.
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Formation of Brotherhood of LibertyThe most radical American political organization that had been established up to that time, the Brotherhood called for the citizens of the 13 colonies to engage in an armed insurrection similar to the rebellion that had been going on in Quebec for over two years; although at first the organization's numbers were small, they would steadily and swiftly expand in the face of Quebecois successes against the British occupation forces in Quebec and British acts of repression against American citizens. By the time the Quebec Rebellion ended in the summer of 1773 the Brotherhood had branches in every one of the 13 colonies, with the largest number of chapters operating in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Prior to the start of the American Revolution, the Brotherhood's most dramatic act of opposition to British colonial rule was the Boston Tea Party in August of 1773, when crowds of anti-British protestors stormed three British merchant ships and threw crates of tea into Boston Harbor. Outraged over this blatant act of defiance to the crown's authority(not to mention the loss of tons of high-quality tea), British colonial officials declared martial law throughout all of Massachusetts and sent troops to hunt down the Brotherhood's leaders. The hunt was still going on when the Revolution broke out in the spring of 1775.
In 1773, the Quebec Rebellion ended in triumph for the rebels as the tattered remnants of the British occupation forces in that province fled across the border to Ontario, then still a British colony.
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Britain abandons QuebecFor Great Britain the pullout from Quebec was the shameful climax to a long string of defeats its army had suffered in that region since the Battle of Sherbrooke; for the insurgents themselves it was the fulfillment of their longtime dream to liberate their homeland from British rule; for France it represented an opportunity to regain some measure of influence in the New World after being forced to concede thousands of square miles of North American and Caribbean territory in the Treaty of Stockholm; and for the Brotherhood of Liberty it constituted a sign Americans could fight and win their own guerrilla war against the British should circumstances render it necessary.
In fact, many of the first battles of the American Revolutionary War would see Quebec Rebellion veterans serve as advisors to George Washington's Continental Army; men who'd been too young to fight in the Quebec Rebellion came south to form volunteer militias supporting the American regulars, and at least two former Quebec insurgent commanders would serve on Washington's general staff in the course of the Revolution. A number of Quebecois fighters would be at Washington's side for the final British surrender to the Continental Army in 1779.
In 1773, on this day the Brotherhood of Liberty carried out its most dramatic pre-Revolutionary War act of defianace against British rule: the Boston Tea Party.
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Boston Tea PartyJust after 7:00 PM that evening Brotherhood members stormed three British merchant ships docked in Boston Harbor and threw hundreds of tea chests overboard in protest of the increasingly heavy taxes American colonists were being forced to pay to the British crown. Most of the participants in the Tea Party would go on to fight in the Revolutionary War, with some of them playing a significant role in the liberation of Boston by the Continental Army in 1775.
Despite British colonial authorities' most diligent efforts to locate and arrest the Tea Party's organizers, no one was ever caught; in fact one Brotherhood partisan actually suceeded in infiltrating the very British Army regiment deployed to apprehend him. In the post-Revolution era the tavern where the Tea Party plan had first been conceived would become a shrine to the struggle for American independence; around 1900 the U.S. Department of the Interior would declare it a national historic landmark.
In the early 21st century the phrase "Tea Party" would come into vogue as a metaphor for the emergence of a political movement sparked by what some Americans considered excessive spending and taxation by their government.
In 1775, the ongoing American protests against British colonial rule escalated into armed rebellion as citizens of the town of Concord, Massachusetts exchanged gunfire with a detachment of British soldiers sent to arrest the leader of the local Brotherhood of Liberty chapter; when the skirmish ended just twelve minutes later three Americans, six British, and a Quebecois emigrant farmer were dead.
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Battle of ConcordThe Battle of Concord, as the engagement would later be known, marked the beginning of the American Revolution-- a war that would end over four years later with the United States becoming independent from Britain.
The British defeat in the Revolution marked a major turning point in the Crown's relations with its former subjects on American soil; forced to deal with the newly sovereign nation as an equal rather than simply as one of its dependents, Britain strived in the post-Revolutionary War era to create more cordial ties with America. Those efforts would turn out to be invaluable to the interests of both countries when another Anglo-French war erupted in the early 19th century.
In 1775, the Continental Army liberated Boston from British occupation in one of the Americans' first major strategic victories of the Revolutionary War.
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Boston LiberatedThe victory came about partly as a result of a ruse devised by Continental Army commander-in-chief George Washington in which fake cannons were set up in the countryside overlooking the city to convince the British they were about to come under artillery bombardment; seeking to get out of the line of fire, the British forces began re-deploying to less exposed positions and promptly walked into an ambush set by American infantry.
By 10:30 that night most of the British occupation forces had either been killed or captured and the rest were fleeing to New York City; within a year, New York too would be in colonial hands as the Revolution gathered steam and volunteers from all parts of the original thirteen states-- along with veterans of the Quebec Rebellion - continued to swell the ranks of the Continental Army. By 1777 French regular troops were fighting side by side with Washington's men, tipping the balance for keeps in favor of the Americans. The Revolutionary War would end in August of 1779 with the surrender at Yorktown, Virginia of the remnants of the British Army's North American expeditionary force.
In 1776, on this day the Continental Navy achieved what up to that time was its most significant victory of the American Revolution, sinking the British man-of-war HMS Romulus off the coast of Maine just as Romulus was about to make an attempt to land a detachment of Royal Marines near the city of Bangor.
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Sinking of the RomulusWord of the sinking reached the Continental Congress in Philadephia on July 3rd, prompting its members to pass a resolution declaring July 4th a day of celebration in honor of the event. In the post-Revolutionary War era July 4th would be established by law and custom as America's official Independence Day.
The sinking of HMS Romulus also acted as a catalyst for the intervention of France and Spain on the American colonists' side in the later stages of the Revolution.
© Today in Alternate History, 2013-. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.