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Howe Lives...

What actually Occurred.

Perhaps the most well known theatre of the Seven Years War was the North American campaigns, and rightly so. Not only was service in this war partly responsible for the sense of self developing in England’s North American colonies, it also laid the foundations for the British Empire, as well as catapulting Prussia into a position of power that would ultimately lead to German unification.

In 1758, a British Army under General Abercromby was marching to battle at Ticonderoga. One of its leaders was a capable officer named Geroge Augustus, Viscount Howe. Lord Howe had been quick to see that the geography and specifics of war in North America necessitated serious alterations to conventional military thinking, and had ordered the men under his command to shed themselves of some of the more impractical accoutrements of 18th century war, such as cutting their coats short, not keeping their musket barrels polished to a shine etc.

Howe was an effective and talented leader of men, popular with those above him as well as those he commanded. His premature death on the way to Ticonderoga at a skirmish/battle-ette at Trout Brook demoralised Abercromby’s army, and removed a potentially vital source of military innovation from the British army.

What if Howe had survived at Trout Brook?

Point of departure and changes.

Its not hard to imagine that, given the inaccuracy of the firearms of the day, Howe is not shot through the heart at Trout Brook. His leadership and aggressive style catch the French unawares, preventing them from digging in and inflicting horrendous loses on the English at Ticonderoga, forcing them to retire in semi-confusion.

Where would the British go from here? Unless you ascribe a longer career for Pitt the Elder, then things would not unfold much different than they did in OTL. Britain still kicks the French about in India, the Caribbean and North America. Havana falls much more quickly and with significantly less loss of life under a promoted Major-General Howe. Britain still gives back those bits of the globe that it carved off the Spanish Empire when the peace is signed.

The real repercussion would best be felt in the American Revolution. Howe, as a young (33 during the Seven Years War) general, famous for his victories during the war, could very likely have found himself governor of one of the colonies. Add his peerage and the influence that it brought to the mix and you have a man of considerable pull in domestic politics at home in England.

So, we have Agustus Howe (as opposed to his brother) in situ in the colonies when tensions begin to rise. It is unlikely that he could have avoided the war, but it is likely that several of his reforms would have been adopted by regular regiments stationed in the colonies, perhaps stimulating the creation of significant light infantry formations long before their inception during the conflicts with revolutionary France.

Even if Howe had been recalled to England at some point, it would be highly probable that he would be given command at some early point in war. He would have had much more respect for the irregular colonial “rangers” that he had lead in the Seven Years War, not discounting their effectiveness as did the British leaders in OTL. After all, he did mimic a lot of their tactics and skills during the Seven Years War, it is hard to believe that he would forget all the lessons he so eagerly assimilated then.

So, we have a charismatic and effective general who knows the territory and the people in North America. Loyalist sentiment would have probably been slightly increased in whatever colony he governed/had governed. We cannot discount the effective generals like Cornwallis that were also assigned to the theatre; we can only assume that they would be even more effective under the overall command of a man like Lord Howe.

Given this command structure, it is very likely that the Continental Army is routed. Howe would not make mistakes like letting Washington escape in Brooklyn. It is likely that Washington would have been killed or captured as opposed to being allowed to create the havoc that he did. With Washington out of the picture, the revolution was dead in the water, and the crown keeps control of the colonies for a bit longer.

Would this result in permanent British domination and loyalty to the Crown? Unlikely, but it might alter aspects of whatever American nation emerged from British North America. Given loyalist sentiment, colonies like New York might have stayed loyal if another revolution broke out. A more centralized colonial attempt that succeeded may have resulted in a far closer union of the colonies than we see pre-American Civil War in OTL.

It is possible that no “American” nation appeared at all. Without a massive immigration influx from Europe, the thirteen colonies may have ended up as Dominions like Canada. Spanish/French loss of the area known as Louisiana was almost preordained in the future, leaving Britain with significant territories than may never have rebelled at all.

The biggest aftershock of a failed revolution in America has been explored and explained in depth. The likelihood of a French revolution is far less certain in this event, although it is probable. No Napolean. No War of 1812. These are important enough, but they are not the only results by far.

No United States means the cessation of slavery in 1833. There would be no Civil War as we know it, although the Southern States would almost certainly have risen up against the Crown at that point if they had not done so before.

No Civil War means a slow down of military technology; no field testing of Gatling guns, no wide-spread use of breech loading rifles, no repeating rifles, and no ironclads. Doubtless these things would eventually be incorporated into militaries everywhere, but I believe that we can reasonably place a twenty year or so delay.

There would also be a lot more Native Americans around without an aggressive and expansionistic United States fulfilling its “manifest destiny”. If an American nation did emerge at a later date, it would have given the Indians that much longer to multiply in numbers, adopt European weapons, and perhaps gain a closer and fairer patronage from Britain.

So, it all hinges on a musket ball shot at Trout Brook in July of 1758. Viscount Howe represented an adaptability and effervescence seldom seen in British generals at the time. There are no guarantees that he would have fundamentally changed North America and the British Army, but if anyone could have at that point in time, it was him.

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