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"Spirit of '76"

  • Aug 12, 2013
Rating:
+5
Not many folks today (aside from historians or history buffs) realize that the Revolutionary War might have been strangled in its infancy in the summer and early fall of 1776. The author has a well written book that takes two tracks: one that follows the military action, and one that follows the political action in Philadelphia that led to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

When the British were compelled to leave Boston because of Washington's gun emplacements overlooking their position, people were ecstatic, not really realizing the British Army had not really been defeated, but forced to make a strategic retreat. They would be back.

The Continental Army (if it can be called that) then moved South and West to defend New York, the obvious place for a new British attack. Even though Washington was informed that the city could not adequately be defended, he stubbornly stood his ground and ordered defensive works to be erected. Once the British arrived, it was only too obvious that Washington had made a strategic mistake, and the Continental Army was soundly thrashed in several places.

Even with these defeats, Washington's 18th century sense of honor kept him from retreating, as he felt it would stain his honor in the eyes of others. Once he was compelled to realize there was no other option, he agreed to the retreat, but by that time it was almost too late, and a very harrowing time began with the troops attempting to leave Manhattan island for White Plains.

There are excellent character sketches of the main personalities involved in both the military and civilian aspects of this book, and the ones on the British Howe bothers are especially compelling, for they give insight into why the Army was allowed to slip away, when it could have, and should have, been demolished at New York.

This is an excellent book that takes a very short period in our history and fleshes it out in a very readable manner for the average reader. It's definitely highly recommended.

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About the reviewer
Frank J. Konopka ()
Ranked #92
I'm a small town general practice attorney in the hard coal region of Pennsylvania. Books are my passion, andI read as many of them asI can. Being the President of the local library board for over … more
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In Revolutionary Summer, the eminent historian Joseph Ellis describes the events surrounding the birth of America during the summer of 1776 (loosely defined as May through October of that year). Ellis's stated aim is to treat the military and political events of the period in tandem, and he skillfully establishes that there were two different sets of goals at stake: George Washington’s Continental Army considered independence an inevitability, while the Continental Congress considered it a last resort. A Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winner, Ellis recently retired as the Ford Foundation Professor of History at Mount Holyoke College. Reading Revolutionary Summer is like receiving a distinguished lecture from a man who has dedicated many fruitful decades to breathing life into our understanding of history—he makes Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and others of the era come alive for the reader. —Chris Schluep

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