Read the Revolution

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

June 14, 2017

American Revolutions

A sequel to American Colonies: The Settling of North America, Alan Taylor's latest book, American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1802 strips away some of the rosy veneer associated with the American Revolution to reveal a violent civil war and a fragile new nation. In extending the timeframe and geographic boundaries in his book, Taylor broadens the narrative to include the "multiple and clashing visions" of the Revolution and its legacies by tracing the role of European empires, slavery, and Native American communities and westward expansion.

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May 24, 2017

Betsy Ross

As the story goes, in 1776 General George Washington visited Betsy Ross at her home to discuss the creation of a flag. Betsy, upon reviewing a sketch of the proposed flag's design, quickly suggested one major change-reducing the points on the stars from six to five. After quickly folding a piece of paper and with the snip of her scissors, Betsy Ross demonstrated with ease her five-pointed star design and helped create the nation's first flag. This family legend, recorded and promoted by her descendants in the late 19th century, turned the Philadelphia upholsterer into a national heroine, widely celebrated for her small part in America's founding.

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May 10, 2017

American Crisis

For two years after the American victory at Yorktown in October of 1781, the Continental Army -along with their Commander in Chief-remained in the field. Peace with Great Britain, while on the horizon, was still uncertain. By March of 1783, Continental Army officers and soldiers in Newburgh, New York were eager to go home. They were growing increasingly impatient with Congress over back pay. Discord at headquarters was rampant. With peace negotiations underway, an inflammatory address circulated at camp suggesting that if Congress did not act, the officers of the army would challenge Congress's authority. General Washington had to respond. In an address that brought tears to the eyes of those present, he delivered the famous 'Newburgh Address,' quelling calls for mutiny and restoring confidence in Congress and the young nation.

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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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