Read the Revolution

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

April 26, 2017

Sealed with Blood

Public celebrations of Revolutionary War battles and military heroes began even before the war was over. A commemoration for the Battle of Lexington and Concord took place in 1776.Major General Joseph Warren-who died at the Battle of Bunker Hill-was honored as a national martyr in poems, sermons, and a play shortly after his death. In Sealed with Blood: War, Sacrifice, and Memory in Revolutionary America, Sarah J. Purcell argues that Shared experiences of war and sacrifice offered Americans an opportunity to create a sense of national unity and identity during and after the war.

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April 12, 2017

April 19, 1775

In the early morning hours of Wednesday, April 19, 1775, British troops crossed Boston Harbor with the intention of marching to Concord, Massachusetts to seize military supplies stored in the town by Patriot militiamen. Anticipating the British actions, an alarm was raised throughout the countryside by American silversmith Paul Revere and dozens of other riders who warned the colonial militia and minutemen that the regulars were on the road to Concord. By 5 am, the simmering tensions between the American colonists and the British government would reach their breaking point. The events of April 19 would change the world forever.

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March 22, 2017

Belonging to the Army

Known collectively as camp followers, the "forgotten revolutionaries" of America's War for Independence were the many men, women, and children who provided support, supplies, and various other services to the Continental Army throughout the course of the War. While not officially enlisted in the Continental Army, camp followers gradually integrated themselves into its routines-forming a tight community around the Army that was fundamental to its success.

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March 8, 2017

Revolutionary Conceptions

"Procreation is Power" asserts historian Susan Klepp in her study of the long-term decline of birthrates in the United States titled, Revolutionary Conceptions: Women, Fertility, and Family Limitation in America, 1760-1820. Looking at the attitudes and practices surrounding fertility and procreation recorded in diaries, novels, letters, newspapers, and women's portraits, Klepp demonstrates the ways in which the political and social upheaval of the American Revolution ushered in new conceptions of procreation, childrearing, and womanhood.

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February 22, 2017

A Hessian Diary of the American Revolution

In 1777, Johann Conrad Döhla journeyed from Anspach-Bayreuth (a principality in present-day Germany) to North America to fight alongside the British Army during the American War for Independence. The young soldier was one of the about 20,000 German-speaking troops, collectively referred to as "Hessians," hired by King George III to help defeat the American Revolutionaries. Döhla fought from New York to Virginia and kept a diary of his experiences along the way. He recorded the daily activities of a soldier's life, anecdotes of his fellow soldiers, and many other unique observations about the foreign people and places he encountered.

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February 8, 2017

The "Swamp Fox"

Known for his cunning and resourcefulness, Francis Marion earned the moniker the "Swamp Fox" for his exploits during the Revolutionary War, which also inspired many colorful interpretations of his life and military career. From the first biography of Marion in 1809 to the short-lived Disney series of the late 1950s and the more recent 2000 Hollywood film, The Patriot, the legends surrounding Marion are generally more fiction than fact. In a new biography, titled The Swamp Fox: How Francis Marion Saved the American Revolution, journalist John Oller seeks to unpack and debunk some of the myths and folklore that have obscured the life of Marion.

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January 25, 2017

Citizen Sailors

Born in Connecticut to a seafaring family, Nathaniel Fanning served in the Continental Navy and was commander of an American privateer ship in the later years of the Revolutionary War. As a privateer, Fanning disguised his ship as a Royal Navy cutter to deceive enemy vessels. Not fooled by the disguise, British officers captured Fanning and his crew in 1782 and interrogated them about their origins. Fanning's crewmen were determined to be Irish and were executed, while Fanning was believed to be American and was imprisoned.

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January 11, 2017

Washington's General

With no formal military training, Nathanael Greene was an "unlikely warrior" according to Terry Golway in Washington's General: Nathanael Greene and the Triumph of the American Revolution. Yet the young Quaker from Rhode Island rose quickly in the ranks of the Continental Army to become one of Washington's trusted generals. He saw action during the early campaigns of 1776 and 1777 and served as Quartermaster General from 1778-1780. In 1780 Greene was appointed by Washington as commander of the Southern Army, replacing Horatio Gates after his defeat at Camden. Adopting unconventional tactics, Greene engaged General Cornwallis and the British Army in battles across the Carolinas. Although defeated at Guilford Courthouse, Hobkirk's Hill and Eutaw Springs, this series of Pyrrhic victories for the British Army set the stage for their surrender at Yorktown in 1781.

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December 21, 2016

The Valley Forge Winter

On December 19, 1777, Washington and his war weary troops marched into Valley Forge. The next six months proved to be turning point for the Continental Army. Wayne Bodle's The Valley Forge Winter: Civilians and Soldiers in War presents the story of the winter of 1777-1778 with details that may be new to most readers. Bodle moves beyond the myths and legends that besiege and blur the historical significance of the cantonment. Instead, he uses Valley Forge to explain the complex relationship between the American Army, Continental Congress, state governments, and civilian population during the Revolutionary War.

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December 7, 2016

George Washington's America

Throughout his life George Washington amassed an impressive personal collection of over ninety maps and atlases. Upon his death, a selection of those maps was bound together into an atlas (now owned by Yale University) and used as the foundation for George Washington's America: A Biography Through His Maps by Barnet Schecter. Twenty-six of his maps, depicting locations from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia to the western coast of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, have been reproduced in rich detail and full color. The maps highlight the prominent role of geography in shaping Washington's personal, military, and political outlook. In crafting this unique biography, Schecter interweaves Washington's maps with his correspondence and other writings to produce a narrative portrait that interprets his life as a surveyor, military commander, president, and finally private citizen and land speculator.

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