Dr. Joseph R. Fischer wrote the 1997 book titled, A Well-executed Failure: The Sullivan Campaign Against the Iroquois, July-September 1779 (published by U. of South Carolina Press). Irritated as I was in learning the title of this book – due to my ancestor, Ensign John Barr, who was a soldier in that campaign – I obtained the book by Interlibrary Loan and read it. In fact, Dr. Fischer, a military historian, commended General Sullivan for a “tactical victory.” He rated General George Washington as leader of a “strategic failure.”
Why did Dr. Fischer, at first blush, seemingly condemn General Sullivan and his troops in the sub-title of the book? Was it a deliberate statement? Further research might be necessary, particularly to once again obtain the 1984 History doctoral dissertation at SUNY Buffalo describing the Sullivan massacres as an answer to the British and their Native allies (Mohawks and Senecas – ?) massacre of colonist villages. This Paul Stevens dissertation (not referenced in Dr. Fischer’s book) describes General Sullivan’s disgust at the time he resigned his commission in person before General Washington*.
Another conclusion to be drawn might be recognition of a diplomatic victory on the part of General Washington, without jeopardizing a soldier’s (Dr. Fischer) compulsion to support a military victory. I am no expert at all on military events. As a lay person, I would say the only means of a strategic military victory in 1779 would have meant genocide. Perhaps General Washington recognized this and worked to a diplomatic victory when the treaty was signed? A diplomatic victory is NOT a failure, but perhaps a military man had a need to put it this way? I speak gingerly regarding this issue as I acknowledge speculation on my part.
Fischer, J.R. (1997). A Well-executed failure: The Sullivan Campaign against the Iroquois, July-September 1779. Columbia, SC: U. of South Carolina Press.
Stevens, P. L. (1984). His Majesty’s “savage'” allies: British policy and the northern Indians during the Revolutionary War–The Carleton Years, 1774-1778. [Ph.D. Dissertation]. Buffalo, NY: State University of New York at Buffalo.
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