Lessons from the British Defeat Combating Colonial Hybrid Warfare in the 1781 Southern Theater of Operations
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE FORT LEAVENWORTH KS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED MILITARY STUDIES
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United States Army doctrine asserts hybrid threats characterize the current and future operational environment. Hybrid threats integrate operations, and transition forces, among the regular, irregular, and terrorist domains of warfare. Analysis of Americans practicing hybrid warfare against the British in the South during the 1781 campaign provides insights to the dealing with hybrid enemies today. To defeat hybrid enemies, armies need an organizational culture that supports transition among the different modes of warfare, creates forces capable of transitioning among the modes of warfare, and recognizes that excellence in one mode at the expense of proficiency in others may prevent the defeat of hybrid enemies. The British operational approach in the 1780 southern campaign had defeated two continental armies and established Loyalist control over Georgia and South Carolina. The British were able to mobilize significant Loyalist and Tory forces throughout the theater. However, these forces were not intended to integrate into British and Provincial regular operations. Loyalist and British forces succeeded when they neutralized colonial ability to transition among modes of warfare. Further, British and Provincial regular forces succeeded when they integrated with Loyalist irregulars. However, the British failed in the 1781 campaign because they could not transition irregulars into the regular mode of warfare. The new Continental commander practiced hybrid warfare throughout 1781. He integrated forces across modes of warfare and leveraged tactical innovations, organizational innovations, and rifles to defeat the British and Loyalists. He used hybrid warfare to enable his operational approach. He transitioned forces among the different modes of warfare and succeeded in concentrating forces defeat the British in detail. One year after the British victories in 1780, the British were defeated in the Southern Theater.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics