“Happy Birthday America”: New Reads on Revolutionary History 2023

While parades, BBQs, and fireworks are always on the menu as we gather to celebrate the birth of our nation on July 4th, days around Independence Day can also be a prime time to delve into the rich history of the people and places that make this nation special. As patriotic fervor surrounds you and you get hungry to learn more about the earliest days of our country — check out one or more of these nonfiction titles that shed some new light on American revolutionary history and about the war for independent America. American Inheritance : Liberty And Slavery In The Birth Of A Nation, 1765-1795 by Edward J. Larson Pepperdine University historian Larson explores in this solid account the interplay of liberty and slavery in the decades leading up to and following the American Revolution. Among other individuals and events, Larson spotlights enslaved Boston poet Phillis Wheatley, the 1772 Somerset v. Stewart ruling that American laws protecting slaveholders’ property rights did not apply in England, and Ona Judge, who ran away from President George Washington’s household in 1796. Elsewhere, Larson analyzes meanings of liberty in the writings of John Locke, Benjamin Franklin, John Dickinson, and others; and examines how the independence movement, born of opposition to the 1765 Stamp Act, employed slavery as its “activating metaphor”.  The result is an accessible and informative overview of the paradox at the heart of the American experiment. The Cause: The American Revolution And Its Discontents, 1773-1783 by Joseph J. Ellis Ellis takes a fresh look at the events between 1773 and 1783, recovering a war more brutal than any in American history save the Civil War and discovering a strange breed of “prudent” revolutionaries, whose prudence proved wise yet tragic when it came to slavery, the original sin that still haunts our land. The Compleat Victory : Saratoga And The American Revolution by Kevin J. Weddle A comprehensive study of the Saratoga Campaign of 1777. The Battle of Saratoga, which took place over three weeks, was really a series of two large battles and many smaller engagements along the Hudson River north of Albany, New York. As Weddle, a former Army officer who teaches at the Army War College, shows, the outcome was a stinging defeat for the British, whose commander, John Burgoyne, had not long before humiliated the American defenders of Fort Ticonderoga.  The Enemy Harassed : Washington’s New Jersey Campaign Of 1777 by Jim Stempel A superb and spirited account of the little remembered but pivotal contest for New Jersey in the aftermath of Washington’s famous Christmas 1776 Crossing of the Delaware. Combining detailed descriptions of the nineteen most noteworthy military engagements with explanations of Congress’ legislative efforts, Washington’s development as a military leader, and Britain’s ultimately unsuccessful attempts to pacify New Jersey, Stempel’s vivid prose is sure to captivate anyone interested in the all too often forgotten months between Trenton and the Philadelphia Campaign, ‘one of the most violent, bloody, and consequential periods of the entire American Revolutionary saga.’” The Founders’ Fortunes : How Money Shaped The Birth Of America by Willard Sterne Randall In this landmark account, a noted historian investigates the private financial affairs of the Founding Fathers, revealing how and why the Revolution came about and providing a new understanding of the nation’s bedrock values. George Washington : The Political Rise Of America’s Founding Father by David O. Stewart A fascinating and illuminating account of how George Washington became the single most dominant force in the creation of the United States of America.  Stewart makes the case that though George Washington went out of his way to hide it, he was a masterful politician who used his talents to advance the priorities he thought necessary for the fledgling United States.  George Washington And The Irish : Incredible Stories Of The Irish Spies, Soldiers, And Workers Who Helped Free America by Niall O’Dowd The Irish played a huge role in the American Revolution, not just on the battlefield but also in the field hospitals and in the framing of the Declaration of Independence. O’Dowd takes readers on a journey into the unexplored contributions of the Irish in the American Revolution and behind the scenes of the relationships of some of those men and women with the first president of the United States. The Great New York Fire of 1776 : A Lost Story Of The American Revolution by Benjamin L. Carp New York City, the strategic center of the Revolutionary War, was the most important place in North America in 1776. That summer, an unruly rebel army under George Washington repeatedly threatened to burn the city rather than let the British take it. Shortly after the Crown’s forces took New York City, much of it mysteriously burned to the ground. This is the first book to fully explore the Great Fire of 1776 and why its origins remained a mystery even after the British investigated it in 1776 and 1783. Uncovering stories of espionage, terror, and radicalism, Carp paints a vivid picture of the chaos, passions, and unresolved tragedies that define a historical moment we usually associate with “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In The Founders’ Footsteps : Landmarks Of The American Revolution by Adam Van Doren A tour through the original thirteen colonies in search of historical sites and their stories in America’s founding. Obscure, well-known, off-the-beaten path, and on busy city streets, here are taverns, meeting houses, battlefields, forts, monuments, homes which all combine to define our country–the places where daring people forged a revolution. The Indispensables : The Diverse Soldier-Mariners Who Shaped The Country, Formed The Navy, And Rowed Washington Across The Delaware by Patrick K. O’Donnell Tells the history of the Marblehead Regiment, led by John Glover, which fought at Lexington; on Bunker Hill, formed the Guard that protected George Washington; and conveyed Washington’s men across the Delaware River on Christmas night 1776. Liberty Is Sweet : The Hidden History Of The American Revolution by Woody Holton A celebrated