Read the Revolution

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

November 5, 2013

Revolutionary Characters

In Gordon Wood's book Revolutionary Characters, he proclaims Thomas Paine to be "America's First Public Intellectual." In this excerpt, Dr. Wood parses Paine's famous pamphlet Common Sense to explain the philosophical origins of his radical thinking.

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October 22, 2013

An Unexpected Gift

In Jodi Daynard's novel The Midwife's Revolt, main character Lizzie Boylston inhabits a richly-imagined world of women enduring the tumultuous years of the American Revolution. The book opens with Lizzie confronting the harsh reality of widowhood after the death of her husband in the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775.

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October 8, 2013

A Confession

After Benedict Arnold officially took up arms with the British in the fall of 1780, he made a public declaration explaining his reasons for this change in loyalty. The text is included in The American Revolution: Writings from the War of Independence, a compendium of letters, diary entries, newspaper articles, and public documents from the era.

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September 24, 2013

The Other Side

In The Men Who Lost America, Andrew Jackson O'Shaughnessy surveys the strengths, failings, and quirks of ten British leaders whose actions shaped the outcome of the war. In this excerpt we focus on one of the lesser-known figures profiled in the book, British Admiral Sir George Rodney.

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September 10, 2013

A Sinister Plot

Laurie Halse Anderson's book Chains—winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction and a National Book Award finalist—tells the story of a thirteen-year-old slave girl named Isabel whose sale to a Loyalist family in New York City coincides with the start of the Revolutionary War.

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August 27, 2013

The American Mind

In American Scripture Pauline Maier provides a glimpse into "the American mind" and how it elevated what could have been a mere rebellion into the creation of a radical rethinking of government and citizenship that would lead to America's great experiment in democracy.

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August 13, 2013

Women's Work

Esther Reed, the wife of Pennsylvania governor Joseph Reed, rallied her fellow ladies of Philadelphia in an extraordinary capital campaign to support the troops. Mary Beth Norton shares their story in her book Liberty's Daughters.

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July 30, 2013

Silent Retreat

The Battle of Long Island erupted on August 27, 1776. The Continental forces faced near certain defeat until Washington decided to coordinate a risky retreat of his remaining troops. As Joseph Ellis explains in his book Revolutionary Summer, the success of this maneuver likely saved the fledgling nation.

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July 16, 2013

Memoir of a Revolutionary Soldier

Joseph Plumb Martin, a young man raised by his grandparents, left home at age 15 to serve in the Continental Army. He fought alongside important people and witnessed historic battles, chronicling them in his 1830 book, Memoir of a Revolutionary Soldier. In this selection, Martin describes his thoughts as he enlists.

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July 2, 2013

Fear on the First 4th of July

Independence Day wasn't always a time of celebration. On July 4, 1776—the day the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Second Continental Congress—the prevailing mood was trepidation and fear. In Our Lives, Our Fortunes, and Our Sacred Honor, author Richard Beeman reminds us that the original Independence Day was not viewed so much as a new beginning but as a prelude to full-scale war.

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