Sunday, 5 September 2010

5 September 1781

Imagine, if you will, what might have happened had some other Admiral, such as the incompetent Graves been in charge of the British Fleet at the Battle of Chesapeake. Lord Rodney's brilliance in breaking the French Admiral de Grasse's strategy is credited quite rightly with allowing Lord Cornwallis to turn around an awful situation at the Battle of Yorktown/Gloucester, which may have cost the British Empire the whole of the Americas rather than the Nine Independent American States. Who knows, with defeat at Yorktown, perhaps Benedict Arnold's capture of Richmond may have been in vain.

Worse, a treaty might have prevented British Access to the Louisiana Territory, so ably captured from the French by Wellington in the war of 1812. While that might have left Britain free to help the Continental Powers resist Bonaparte's advances on the continent, it may well have left France, rather than England as the dominant power on the High Seas, and for all the aid we gave the Germans and Russians, we may have found ourselves helpless before the might of a resurgent French force. Our fate could have been that of Poland after saving Vienna from the Turk.

Fortunately, of course, it was Lord Rodney, whose statue even today stands high on Rodney's Column in Chesapeake Square, who won the day and with it, gave Cornwallis and Arnold the power to wrest the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia from the rebellious Colonists and retain an Imperial Presence that served as a Springboard for the later conquest of South America.

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