History / Nonfiction

Revolutionary Summer: the Birth of American Independence by Joseph J. Ellis

Revolutionary-SummerPulitzer-Prize-winning historian Joseph Ellis is no stranger to the history of the American Revolution.  He returns to the topic in Revolutionary Summer with a fresh look at the critical period of May – October 1776.  Instead of a reinterpretation of the time, he provides a synthesis of the political and military history, arguing that we can gain a better understanding of the period by studying them together.  All of the expected characters are here, devoted to “The Cause” of American independence, which was seen as foreordained by God.  As such, the Continental Congress looked upon military defeats as minor setbacks.  Those defeats specifically involve the invasion of New York by the Brothers Howe (Admiral Richard and General William).  This campaign was designed to crush the Colonial Rebellion in its infancy.  However, the brothers saw themselves more as emissaries of the Crown sent to negotiate a settlement with the colonists.  It’s fortunate for history that they did, because the Continental Army was in “conspicuous disarray”, and its military efforts were “hapless” and “hopeless.”  Despite Congress’ efforts to compel the states to provide soldiers, the states feared a free-standing army and resisted.  Ellis is a masterful storyteller, and the reader comes to appreciate the Divine favor the colonists enjoyed, as well as the inherent contradictions of the cause.  Those who want a clear picture of this critical period of the Revolution would do well to read this book.

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