2019_summer_book_suggestions

It’s official, Summer is upon us. Or at least it will be on June 21st when the solstice arrives.

That means long, relaxing days at the lake or beach, (or curled up on your couch with the AC on blast) with plenty of extra time to pick up a good book.

I wanted to offer some Revolutionary War book suggestions from my own personal library. Each selection is a well-researched work of non-fiction by some of the best and most respected historians and experts on the subject.

There’s no chronological order to the list below. But if you’re relatively new to learning about the American Revolution, or just a bit rusty on your knowledge, I suggest beginning with J.L. Bell’s The Road to Concord, which is a captivating, fun read, and sets a great tone for the rest of the books on the list.

The Road To Concord: How Four Stolen Canon Ignited the Revolutionary War

by J.L. Bell

In the early spring of 1775, on a farm in Concord, Massachusetts, British army spies located four brass cannon belonging to Boston’s colonial militia that had gone missing months before. British general Thomas Gage had been searching for them, both to stymie New England’s growing rebellion and to erase the embarrassment of having let cannon disappear from armories under redcoat guard. Anxious to regain those weapons, he drew up plans for his troops to march nineteen miles into unfriendly territory. The Massachusetts Patriots, meanwhile, prepared to thwart the general’s mission. There was one goal Gage and his enemies shared: for different reasons, they all wanted to keep the stolen cannon as secret as possible. Both sides succeeded well enough that the full story has never appeared until now.

The Road to Concord: How Four Stolen Cannon Ignited the Revolutionary War by historian J. L. Bell reveals a new dimension to the start of America’s War for Independence by tracing the spark of its first battle back to little-known events beginning in September 1774. The author relates how radical Patriots secured those four cannon and smuggled them out of Boston, and how Gage sent out spies and search parties to track them down. Drawing on archives in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, the book creates a lively, original, and deeply documented picture of a society perched on the brink of war.

John Adams

by David McCullough

The Pulitzer Prize–winning, bestselling biography of America’s founding father and second president that was the basis for the acclaimed HBO series, brilliantly told by master historian David McCullough.

In this powerful, epic biography, David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution; who rose to become the second president of the United States and saved the country from blundering into an unnecessary war; who was learned beyond all but a few and regarded by some as “out of his senses”; and whose marriage to the wise and valiant Abigail Adams is one of the moving love stories in American history.

This is history on a grand scale—a book about politics and war and social issues, but also about human nature, love, religious faith, virtue, ambition, friendship, and betrayal, and the far-reaching consequences of noble ideas. Above all, John Adams is an enthralling, often surprising story of one of the most important and fascinating Americans who ever lived.

Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution

by Nathaniel Philbrick

Boston in 1775 is an island city occupied by British troops after a series of incendiary incidents by patriots who range from sober citizens to thuggish vigilantes. After the Boston Tea Party, British and American soldiers and Massachusetts residents have warily maneuvered around each other until April 19, when violence finally erupts at Lexington and Concord. In June, however, with the city cut off from supplies by a British blockade and Patriot militia poised in siege, skirmishes give way to outright war in the Battle of Bunker Hill. It would be the bloodiest battle of the Revolution to come, and the point of no return for the rebellious colonists.

Philbrick brings a fresh perspective to every aspect of the story. He finds new characters, and new facets to familiar ones. The real work of choreographing rebellion falls to a thirty-three year old physician named Joseph Warren who emerges as the on-the-ground leader of the Patriot cause and is fated to die at Bunker Hill. Others in the cast include Paul Revere, Warren’s fiancé the poet Mercy Scollay, a newly recruited George Washington, the reluctant British combatant General Thomas Gage and his more bellicose successor William Howe, who leads the three charges at Bunker Hill and presides over the claustrophobic cauldron of a city under siege as both sides play a nervy game of brinkmanship for control.

With passion and insight, Philbrick reconstructs the revolutionary landscape—geographic and ideological—in a mesmerizing narrative of the robust, messy, blisteringly real origins of America.

Founding Finance: How Debt, Speculation, Foreclosures, Protests, and Crackdowns Made Us a Nation

by William Hogeland

Recent movements such as the Tea Party and anti-tax “constitutional conservatism” lay claim to the finance and taxation ideas of America’s founders, but how much do we really know about the dramatic clashes over finance and economics that marked the founding of America? Dissenting from both right-wing claims and certain liberal preconceptions, Founding Finance brings to life the violent conflicts over economics, class, and finance that played directly, and in many ways ironically, into the hardball politics of forming the nation and ratifying the Constitution—conflicts that still continue to affect our politics, legislation, and debate today.

Mixing lively narrative with fresh views of America’s founders, William Hogeland offers a new perspective on America’s economic infancy: foreclosure crises that make our current one look mild; investment bubbles in land and securities that drove rich men to high-risk borrowing and mad displays of ostentation before dropping them into debtors’ prisons; depressions longer and deeper than the great one of the twentieth century; crony mercantilism, war profiteering, and government corruption that undermine any nostalgia for a virtuous early republic; and predatory lending of scarce cash at exorbitant, unregulated rates, which forced people into bankruptcy, landlessness, and working in the factories and on the commercial farms of their creditors. This story exposes and corrects a perpetual historical denial—by movements across the political spectrum—of America’s all-important founding economic clashes, a denial that weakens and cheapens public discourse on American finance just when we need it most.

 

Grand Forage 1778: The Battleground Around New York City

by Todd W. Braisted

After two years of defeats and reverses, 1778 had been a year of success for George Washington and the Continental Army. France had entered the war as the ally of the United States, the British had evacuated Philadelphia, and the redcoats had been fought to a standstill at the Battle of Monmouth. While the combined French-American effort to capture Newport was unsuccessful, it lead to intelligence from British-held New York that indicated a massive troop movement was imminent. British officers were selling their horses and laying in supplies for their men. Scores of empty naval transports were arriving in the city. British commissioners from London were offering peace, granting a redress of every grievance expressed in 1775. Spies repeatedly reported conversations of officers talking of leaving. To George Washington, and many others, it appeared the British would evacuate New York City, and the Revolutionary War might be nearing a successful conclusion. Then, on September 23, 1778, six thousand British troops erupted into neighboring Bergen County, New Jersey, followed the next day by three thousand others surging northward into Westchester County, New York. Washington now faced a British Army stronger than Burgoyne’s at Saratoga the previous year. What, in the face of all intelligence to the contrary, had changed with the British?

Through period letters, reports, newspapers, journals, pension applications, and other manuscripts from archives in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Germany, the complete picture of Britain’s last great push around New York City can now be told. The strategic situation of Britain’s tenuous hold in America is intermixed with the tactical views of the soldiers in the field and the local inhabitants, who only saw events through their narrow vantage points. This is the first publication to properly narrate the events of this period as one campaign. Grand Forage 1778: The Battleground Around New York City by historian Todd W. Braisted explores the battles, skirmishes, and maneuvers that left George Washington and Sir Henry Clinton playing a deadly game of chess in the lower Hudson Valley as a prelude to the British invasion of the Southern colonies.

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