American Revolution Bookstore


Encyclopedia of the American Revolution  ****1/2  Mark M. Boatner covers just about everything.  Although the book is in encyclopedia format, I have read this book for hours on end.  In addition to campaigns and battles, the author covers military commanders and political figures.  Boatner evaluates commanders and compares sources to give as accurate of a picture as possible.  This book is indispensable for the Revolutionary War student or buff.


George Washington's Generals and Opponents   *****  George Billias edits this survey of the important commanders of the Continental and British Armies.  The strengths, weaknesses, and personalities of each general are well covered.  The importance of character flaws of the British generals are covered from Howe and Clinton having mistresses to Cornwallis' over-aggressiveness stemming from the death of his wife.  The enigmatic Continental general Charles Lee and the romanticist Anthony Wayne are especially interesting.


Turncoats, Traitors and Heroes   *****  John Bakeless masterfully wrote this book which deals with the vital contributions of Washington's intelligence service.  Included are Washington masking the weakness of his army at Morristown and his plots to assassinate the traitor Benedict Arnold.


 A Battlefield Atlas of the American Revolution  ****   In this concise work, Craig Symonds shows the course of the war in maps.  Force strengths are easily compared with uniform symbols which show approximately equal numbers of men.


The Long Fuse: How England Lost the American Colonies  *****  by Don Cook.  An excellent discussion of the British blundering that set off, then lost, the Revolutionary War.

Battle of Brooklyn 1776  ****1/2 by John J. Gallagher.  With excellent local knowledge and good insight on the battle, John Gallagher tells us not just what happened where, but why.  His occasional error of fact and his concept of "democratic warfare" detracts little from this very good, concise, and well written book.  Tourists will find the details on locations very useful.


Washington's Crossing (Pivotal Moments in American History)  *****  by David Hackett Fischer.  This is a rare book indeed.  It gives a detailed myth-busting account of the decisive battles of Trenton and Princeton along with excellent analysis of the events.  Ignored in other accounts, Fischer shows the importance of patriot risings in New Jersey which were caused by the harsh actions of some British and German troops.  The resulting British lack of control of the state greatly aided Washington's efforts.  The failure of other American troops to cross the Delaware is explained when the author details the unique ice conditions below the fall line at Trenton.  Although he doesn't deny the importance of great men and their decisions, Fischer shows that Washington had really no choice but to attack.  Further, he shows how Washington's handling of councils of war made for a command arrangement superior to aristocratic British methods.  More than previous authors, Fischer shows the hardships of the march on Trenton, the importance of the artillery, and vital but generally overlooked second battle of Trenton.  The British panic after Princeton and the forage war which followed is shown to have been vitally important in keeping the British under-supplied and largely immobile.  Finally, Fischer shows how succeeding generations have interpreted and celebrated Washington's crossing, in art and prose.     


Brandywine Battlefield Park: Pennsylvania Trail of History Guide  ****1/2  by Thomas McGuire.  This small book is an excellent explanation of the battle, and provides good insight - from the commanders' decisions to the actual combat.  Interestingly, he states that the British flanking column advanced in regimental columns then deployed into an open order for the attack.  I would have liked to have seen more detail, a tour guide, and photos of the site, so I hesitate to give it 5 stars.  I hope this book will become the basis for a more in depth treatment. 



The Philadelphia Campaign:Volume 1 Brandywine and the Fall of Philadelphia  by Thomas J McGuire.  I haven't read it yet, but if his previous books are any indication, it should be great!


Battle of Paoli  *****  by Thomas McGuire.  Accounts of the battle, or "massacre" have been mostly myth created by wartime propaganda and nineteenth century embellishment.  Thomas McGuire has used pension applications, recently found court martial documents, and invaluable local knowledge to create an accurate and interesting account of the battle.  The book has excellent maps for the campaign and battle.   I hope McGuire is hard at work writing more such books.      


The Surprise of Germantown: Or, the Battle of Cliveden, October 4th, 1777  ****  by Thomas J. McGuire.  This short book gives a very good account of the action around the stone house Cliveden during the battle of Germantown.  Visitors to the site would find the detailed descriptions very useful.  The description is lively and the maps useful.  The book deserves four stars instead of five only because other parts of the battle aren't covered in any significant depth.


Washington's Secret War: The Hidden History of Valley Forge  *****  by Thomas Fleming.  Although not based on original research by the author, much of the content in this popular history is not well known to the general public, and a wide variety of readers should find it to be an entertaining and fresh telling of the Valley Forge story.   The weather was not as bad as it is often portrayed, and the troops did not suffer as badly as is sometimes made out.  As a result, much of Fleming's book is not so much about Valley Forge but about Washington's political travails and development, specifically his defeat of the misnamed "Conway Cabal".  Adams, other members of the Continental Congress, and self-serving military commanders are rightly made to look very bad, with ambition and radical ideology interfering with reasonable efforts to correct the army's problems.  Pennsylvania radicals, for instance, believed that masses of state militia alone could overwhelm the Brits in Philadelphia.  Washington began to turn the situation around, however, and his lengthy 28 page report convinced many in Congress that he was not to blame for the army's problems.  Fleming is a great writer, and his small subchapters make the book easy to read.  The characters are not merely names, but come alive as real people, with Fleming treating us to great tidbits like Horatio Gates bragging that his son had contracted a venereal disease as well as Mrs. Loring's low-cut dresses and her later religious conversion and denial of immoral behavior. 


A Gallant Defense: The Siege of Charleston, 1780  ****1/2  by Carl Borick.  With only rare exceptions like Pearl Harbor, American military disasters are generally ignored - not commemorated and not studied.   Before reading this book, I didn't know how little that I knew about this campaign.  After a short re-cap of the war, the author briefly discusses a previous advance on Charleston from Georgia, which had been bluffed into retreat by an advance on the British rear.  With hopes of loyalist support in the South, for 1780 Sir Henry Clinton mounted a major amphibious expedition from New York to the fourth largest city in the colonies, Charleston.  The British landed in an unexpected area south of the city, in difficult terrain, but their advance was not contested.  The naval aspect of the campaign was new to me, but vitally important.  A substantial portion of the Continental Navy under Commodore Whipple was sent to defend Charleston, but Whipple failed to defend the bar at the harbor entrance, and unlike in 1776, the British then safely passed Ft Moultrie as they did not stop to engage the fort.  With naval access to the harbor, the British could continue the land advance, despite the handicap of having almost no cavalry.  After crossing the Ashley River, Clinton opened up siege lines opposite a formidable American line.  Even then, additional American troops arrived by crossing the Cooper River.  Although the Royal Navy never closed off the American retreat across the Cooper River, Clinton sent a detachment across which eventually captured the area north of the harbor, sealing the fate of the American garrison.  Because of civilian influence, Benjamin Lincoln, the American commander had remained in the city until it was too late.  The surrender was the greatest American disaster of the war and could easily have lost them the South.  But British treatment of civilians, combined with a rumored smallpox epidemic which had kept militia out of Charleston, kept American hopes alive.


Battle of Pensacola  *   by N. Orwin Rush.  Few people know of, or care about, the Battle of Pensacola, so finding a book about the siege is a pleasant surprise.  Unfortunately, this book very much has an unfinished feel.  Instead of integrating the stories of the participants, long passages are used.  The story does not flow well at all, and the numerous maps are nearly useless as they are too small to see.

Cowpens Battlefield: A Walking Guide *** by Lawrence Babits.  An earlier version of Babits' research, this guide is not as thorough and therefore not as convincing as his later book.  It is best used with his follow-on book.

A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens  *****  Lawrence Babits has used the most recent research on Cowpens, including pension applications, and he has come up with some remarkable and convincing revisions.  He believes Morgan had 2,000 men at his disposal, that his flanks were not in the air, and that both the American positions and the course of the battle were different from the traditional accounts.  This thoroughly researched, well written book gives revisionism a good name.  We can only hope he will give the same treatment to other Southern battles. 




The Battle of New Garden ****  For sale at Tannenbaum Park near Guilford CH, this small book by Algie Newlin gives a good account of the skirmishes on the morning of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse.  Myths of the location of the battle are dispelled, and local history and legend give insight unavailable elsewhere.  Newlin argues that the skirmishes were more important than have been recognized.



The Guns of Independence  ****1/2  by Jerome A. Greene.  Based on a bicentennial era Park Service publication intended for park employees, this updated version gives us the most complete account yet of the decisive siege.  In the first scholarly treatment of the siege in decades, the author uses numerous sources neglected in other studies, including archeological studies from the 1930s and 40s, and accounts by participants, foreign and domestic.  Unmatched in detail and scholarship, and chocked full of insight and information not found anywhere else, this book is a valuable addition to any Revolutionary War enthusiast's library.  After a brief overview of the events leading up to the campaign, Greene gives a detailed view of the thinking of the commanders and the decisions they faced, the methods of 18th century siegecraft, the progress of the siege, and little known events that had an important impact.  The reader will see the campaign in a whole new light, and understand it like never before.  Indeed, you cannot fully understand Yorktown until reading this book.  The book's excellent maps and battlefields photos not only help explain the siege, they beg the reader to pack his bags and go for a visit.  Only some minor flaws and lack of a map of the initial Allied approach keep the book from a five star rating.  Please see an excerpt from the book concerning Abercrombie's Sortie as an example of the scholarship and detail. 

The Guns of Independence: The Siege of Yorktown, 1781, signed by the author.   When ordering your signed copy direct from the publisher, please use the coupon code "John020530S" so that this website will receive a portion of the proceeds, helping defray expenses.  Thank you!    


Gibraltar 1779-1783  ***  by Rene Chartrand.  The author begins with the early history of Gibraltar and its capture in 1704, which is interesting enough, but we must wait until page 18 of a 95 page book to get to the 1779-83 siege.  Description of British fortifications is sparse, possibly so we'll buy the specialized book on Gibraltar in the Osprey fortress series.  Unfortunately, there are few maps, and the art is not as good as that in many other books in the campaign series.  The land approach was narrow, and the Spanish, and later the French, could not gain superiority over the British guns, although the reasons for this are not made entirely clear.  Much of the attention given to the landward side of the siege is directed toward the famed British sortie in November 1781.  The Spanish navy, with a convenient base at Cadiz, was key to the allied effort, but it failed to consistently block shipments of food and ammunition to the British garrison, which arrived in either individual ships or in massive relief fleets.  This re-supply effort virtually guaranteed British success.  Chartrand gives the most attention to the attack of the French floating batteries, the most dramatic event of the siege.  Reinforced with additional wooden planking on one side, and protected with armored roofs, the floating batteries seemingly had a chance to gain superiority over the British guns, which would have allowed the allied army to assault the British lines.  Hot shot, however, eventually destroyed the ships, which had been committed to battle before they were ready, dooming the allied siege.  This book, although flawed in some ways, is a decent introduction to the siege.






American Revolution  *****  by Bruce Bliven.  I bought this book at a fifth grade book fair years ago.  The artwork on the cover caught my eye - a gruff looking guy in an odd looking blue coat and tricorne hat.  I couldn't resist and eagerly read the book in my spare time, including during the long bus trips to and from school.  Twenty years later, I still love the American Revolution and world history, largely because of this book.


The American Revolution for Kids   *****  by Janis Herbert.  This book is an excellent introduction to the American Revolution.  Children will undoubtedly find it entertaining and activities like making a tricorne hat or hunting shirt enjoyable.  The American Revolution was one of the most important times in world history.   Readers will clearly grasp this, and along the way, they will be treated to amusing incidents or myths like Israel Putnam's powderkeg duel.  Although there are minor errors concerning the military aspects, they do not detract from the narrative.  The book's greatest strength is in dealing with the political aspect of the war, showing the origins of English liberty at the beginning of the book - and the framing of the Constitution at the end.         



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