Read the Revolution

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

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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November 23, 2016

A Revolution in Eating

In A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America, James E. McWilliams takes the reader on a culinary tour of Colonial America - from the British West Indies to the regional cuisines of the Thirteen Colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries. The meat of the book focuses on the many ways British colonists, Native Americans, and African slaves influenced and adapted to new ingredients, landscapes, cooking methods, and attitudes about food. We also learn about the evolution of regional American foodways from the self-sufficient farms of New England to the establishment of rice as the staple cash crop in the Carolinas.

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November 9, 2016

Revolutionary Friends

Based on real events from the Revolutionary War, this children's book tells the story of the enduring friendship between George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette. The story begins with their first meeting in the summer of 1777, and follows Washington and Lafayette as they encounter a parade in Philadelphia, review the troops together, and fight at the Battle of Brandywine-where Lafayette was wounded. Filled with full-page, color illustrations and excerpts from Lafayette's writings, this book is suitable for grades 3 and up!

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October 26, 2016

The King's Three Faces

This week's featured book explores the relationship between colonists and their king in colonial British America beginning with the Glorious Revolution in 1688. By looking at colonists' daily lives, annual celebrations, and writings, Brendan McConville argues that there was a strong emotional attachment to Great Britain's monarchs during this period that has been overlooked by earlier historians. By focusing on this relationship between king and subject, the book traces the colonists' growing disenchantment with King George during the 1760s and 1770s-culminating with the events of 1776.

In the following excerpt from The King's Three Face: The Rise and Fall of Royal America, 1688-1776, we learn about the physical and symbolic destruction of objects associated with the Monarchy. These actions signaled the tragic and radical rupture with the King and royal America.

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October 12, 2016

Financier of the Revolution

In journalist Charles Rappleye's hefty biography of Robert Morris, we learn about the rise and fall of one of America's founding fathers. Morris-a signer of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution-is largely remembered for his financial contributions to the war effort through his shipping and banking company, Willing & Morris. A member of the Pennsylvania Council of Safety and the Continental Congress, Morris used his merchant network to equip the Continental Army with gun powder, weapons, and other supplies. He is also credited with raising the necessary funds that allowed General George Washington to move the army to Yorktown in the fall of 1781. After the war, Morris invested heavy in several ruinous land speculation schemes, resulting in him spending three years in debtor's prison. He died in the spring of 1806 and is buried at Christ Church in Philadelphia.

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September 28, 2016

Grand Forage 1778

The year 1778 saw the entry of France into the American War for Independence and the exit of William Howe-Commander in Chief of the British Army in America since 1775. Taking over for Howe, Henry Clinton faced a bigger challenge than his predecessor, he was now fighting a global war against the rebelling colonies and their European ally. Receiving new commands from Lord George Germain, principal Secretary of State for American affairs, General Clinton was ordered to send troops to protect British interests along the Atlantic-from Nova Scotia to the West Indies. Further, Germain wrote to Clinton that an "attack should be made upon the Southern Colonies, with a view to the conquest & possession of Georgia and South Carolina." Needing to provision the army for the campaigns ahead, Clinton spent the summer and fall of 1778 foraging in the counties around New York City, including Bergen County, NJ and Westchester County, NY.

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