Read the Revolution

curated collection of excerpts from exciting, thought-provoking books about the American Revolution

October 12, 2016

Financier of the Revolution

In journalist Charles Rappleye's hefty biography of Robert Morris, we learn about the rise and fall of one of America's founding fathers. Morris-a signer of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution-is largely remembered for his financial contributions to the war effort through his shipping and banking company, Willing & Morris. A member of the Pennsylvania Council of Safety and the Continental Congress, Morris used his merchant network to equip the Continental Army with gun powder, weapons, and other supplies. He is also credited with raising the necessary funds that allowed General George Washington to move the army to Yorktown in the fall of 1781. After the war, Morris invested heavy in several ruinous land speculation schemes, resulting in him spending three years in debtor's prison. He died in the spring of 1806 and is buried at Christ Church in Philadelphia.

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September 28, 2016

Grand Forage 1778

The year 1778 saw the entry of France into the American War for Independence and the exit of William Howe-Commander in Chief of the British Army in America since 1775. Taking over for Howe, Henry Clinton faced a bigger challenge than his predecessor, he was now fighting a global war against the rebelling colonies and their European ally. Receiving new commands from Lord George Germain, principal Secretary of State for American affairs, General Clinton was ordered to send troops to protect British interests along the Atlantic-from Nova Scotia to the West Indies. Further, Germain wrote to Clinton that an "attack should be made upon the Southern Colonies, with a view to the conquest & possession of Georgia and South Carolina." Needing to provision the army for the campaigns ahead, Clinton spent the summer and fall of 1778 foraging in the counties around New York City, including Bergen County, NJ and Westchester County, NY.

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September 14, 2016

The Internal Enemy

Alan Taylor’s The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 addresses the paradoxical and complex subject of slavery in a state dedicated to ideals of liberty and freedom, yet that still enslaved two-fifths of their population. As the book’s title suggests, white Virginians viewed their enslaved populations as an “internal enemy,” enticed by the British to run away from their masters and mount an armed rebellion against them during the American Revolution. Therefore, when the British returned to the Chesapeake during the War of 1812, invading plantations and freeing slaves, Virginians faced another wave of fear of this “internal enemy” that further deepened the state’s commitment to slavery in the early decades of the 19th century.

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August 31, 2016

Smallwood's Battalion

Military historian Patrick O'Donnell's Washington's Immortals: The Untold Story of an Elite Regiment Who Changed the Course of the Revolution tells the dramatic story of the First Maryland Regiment and the War for Independence. Known as Smallwood's Battalion, the First Maryland Regiment was present at many of the major battles of the Revolutionary War, including the battles of Trenton, Princeton, Camden, Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse, and Yorktown.

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women of the republic.
August 17, 2016

Women of the Republic

First published in 1980, Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America is now considered both a foundational text in the field of women's history and a defining work for the history of early America. In this groundbreaking study of women's letters, diaries, and legal records, Linda Kerber revealed new insights in how women exercised their rights as political beings and examined the rise of the "Republic Motherhood" ideology. From a woman's perspective the American Revolution was a "strongly politicizing experience," as women served the war effort as nurses, cooks, laundresses, and sometimes as soldiers and spies. In the wake of the war women found themselves in the new Republic without a clear political role and so they shifted their political energies to nurturing civic virtue in their sons and daughters.

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August 3, 2016

Valiant Ambition

Nathaniel Philbrick's Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution offers an intriguing look at perhaps the two most famous men to emerge from the Revolutionary War-one hailed a hero, the other a villain. The story follows Arnold's fall from one of Washington's greatest generals to America's most legendary traitor. We learn how Arnold's anger after being overlooked for promotion by the Continental Congress, coupled with the loss of his personal fortune and debilitating war injuries, led him to sell his loyalty to the British. Juxtaposed against Arnold's fall is the story of George Washington's rise, and Philbrick portrays the commander in chief as one whose greatest attribute was an "extraordinary ability to learn and improve amid...challenging circumstances."

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July 20, 2016

Benjamin Franklin in London

In George Goodwin's Benjamin Franklin in London: The British Life of America's Founding Father, readers are treated to a colorful and revealing account of Franklin's life on Craven Street–where he enjoyed the pleasantries of the cosmopolitan city and notoriety as an intellectual and a statesman. Goodwin's portrait of Franklin as a proud British citizen transformed into a "reluctant revolutionary," follows his first visit in 1724 to his extended stay from 1757 to 1775 and provides interesting glimpses into his daily habits and political motivations.

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July 6, 2016

The First Congress

The First Congress of the United States met from March of 1789 to March of 1791 and over three sessions, two in New York City and one in Philadelphia, the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives effectively “invented” the government that we know today. Dominated by powerful men such as James Madison, Robert Morris, Roger Sherman, and Oliver Ellsworth, the First Congress created the Departments of State, War, and the Treasury, established the Supreme Court, passed the Bill of Rights, launched the first national census, and located the permanent national capital in Washington DC. From the debates between the Federalists and anti-Federalists over Alexander Hamilton’s financial plan to the simple question of how we address president, The First Congress: How James Madison, George Washington, and a Group of Extraordinary Men Invented the Government, by Fergus M. Bordewich offers a compelling story of the First Congress.

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June 22, 2016

The Declaration of Independence

Opening with, "When in the Course of human events..." the Declaration of Independence boldly announced that the Thirteen Colonies were now "Free and Independent States' not just to Great Britain, but to the world in 1776. In the two hundred years since, over 100 other declarations-from Haiti in 1804 to Eritrea in 1993-have announced the independence of nations, regions, and peoples modeled on the ideals and language of independence, sovereignty, and human rights established by the American Declaration. David Armitage's, The Declaration of Independence: A Global History examines how this innovative 18th century document became a political and philosophical model for nations and people across the globe.

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June 8, 2016

Mapping the Revolution

Through a collection of sixty historic maps, Richard H. Brown and Paul E. Cowen's Revolution: Mapping the Road to Independence 1755-1783, charts the shifting territorial claims and geographic strategy behind military campaigns from the Battle of Fort Duquesne at the start of the French and Indian War (1755-63) to the Siege of Yorktown at the end of Revolutionary War.

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