NES historians: recommended reading on the Revolutionary War?

Brewer

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Most American history I’ve learned was from high school (not much) and I always wanted to learn more. Lately found I love focusing on a period through conflict and biography audiobooks while driving or working around the house; enjoying Black Hawk Down now. This Memorial Day weekend I’m looking for recommendations to start digging into the Revolution and early America. Sure there are Amazon reviews but give me the NES perspective, especially to avoid liberal revisionist cancer. Sad how some want to wash out the ugly or even just what a liberal mind considers unfitting to their narrative. This will be the foundation for teaching my kids and checking what they are taught in school one day.

David McCullough’s 1776 sounds like a good start though some call it too brief and surface-level. I’ll read it for the broad context but not stop there. What else do you recommend reading or avoiding and why?
 

Picton

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I'm currently reading Rick Atkinson's trilogy, though only the first volume is out yet. It's good, mostly because it actually covers the things you don't learn about in American schools.

A brief word on "checking what they are taught in school one day:" I've taught US history for many years, and from that experience it is not possible to teach the Revolution as a NESer probably wants it to be taught. Put it this way: most US I courses run from 1763 to 1867 or so, and you've got maybe 120 hours to cover everything. And it's all important. I'm lucky if I'm able to spend more than three or four classes on the Revolution.

So a father who's a history buff (I'm one of those, too), especially a military-history geek like me, is always going to be disappointed by how the Revolution is taught in a general survey class, whether it's by a liberal or a conservative. If your kid is interested in getting more info, they can always take a college class or read a book later; that's the point of high school history. It's an overview. It's not designed for depth, except in certain areas.

The usual narrative of Paul Revere => Bunker Hill => Declaration of Independence => Valley Forge => Saratoga => Molly Pitcher => Yorktown is usually about all I have time to get through. Having read Atkinson, in the future I'll make a better effort to teach Arnold and Schuyler's attempt on Canada, and I now have a MUCH better understanding of how the British lost the South even before a shot was fired. But, again, I found all that out for myself.
 

BigTimber

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1776 was good. History channels Washington was well done Too imo. Good for a gen overview after that get more nuanced as things peak your interest.
 

Picton

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I'll add that the revisionists are sometimes right. The reason a lot of US history books gloss over Canada or Brooklyn is because they were complete routs by the British of the Americans, and very important ones too. But generations of US history was taught as this inevitable victory for the brilliant Washington and his scrappy heroes; that's not accurate, but it's how a lot of today's teachers learned their history when they were students.

Barbara Tuchman wrote a chapter on the Revolution in The March of Folly, and it was compelling: instead of focusing on why the Americans (and the French, who are also often left out of US history books) won, she addressed why the British lost. And she has a point.
 

C. Stockwell

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The Revolution is a very big topic. I'd try to narrow down to a specific sub-topic, like French involvement, the Siege of Boston, a specific front or campaign, etc.

Edit: one very unexplored area by most people is the pre-war legal issues. James Otis was the first Patriot, but is extremely unknown.
 

Loosh

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I'm currently reading Rick Atkinson's trilogy, though only the first volume is out yet. It's good, mostly because it actually covers the things you don't learn about in American schools.
Oh, $DEITY... just what my "to read" pile needs, another Atkinson trilogy.

For the OP, D H Fischer's "Paul Revere's Ride" is a good read, and the Appleseed folks draw from it in their clinics.
 

Picton

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The Revolution is a very big topic. I'd try to narrow down to a specific sub-topic, like French involvement, the Siege of Boston, a specific front or campaign, etc.

Edit: one very unexplored area by most people is the pre-war legal issues. James Otis was the first Patriot, but is extremely unknown.
Yeah, the fight over the Writs of Assistance is major, especially for those of us curious about where the Bill of Rights came from.

There's just no time to cover everything in class. None.
 

Mr. Malibu

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I recently listened (book on CD) to In the Hurricane's Eye: The Genius of George Washington and the Victory at Yorktown. It focused on the naval help from the French. No idea how historically accurate it is, but I found it interesting.
 

Junior314

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I read a good book on a unit out of Maryland that was relied on heavily by Washington throughout the war and were kind of used as a spec ops unit.

I’ll see if I can dig it out of my books.
 

FPrice

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I read "1776" a few years back and it got me to want to read other books on the subject.

Nathaniel Philbrick's "Bunker Hill, A City, A Siege, A Revolution" is also pretty good. I wish I could find the website which provided maps of the three assaults up Bunker Hill to go along with this. It might be on the West Point website somewhere, I'll try to look for it. Try this also: Battle of Bunker Hill - Wikipedia.

Another book I liked was "Red Dawn at Lexington" by Louis Birnbaum.
View: https://smile.amazon.com/Red-Dawn-Lexington-They-Begin/dp/0395388147/ref=sr_1_1?crid=RGHKXTMZ0J3J&dchild=1&keywords=red+dawn+at+lexington&qid=1590268011&s=books&sprefix=Red+Dawn+%2Caps%2C157&sr=1-1


There are a lot of good books I am sure, these are just a few from my personal library.
 

Varmint

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It's strange how growing up I wasn't interested in Revolutionary War history but now find it fascinating. Maybe cause it's never been more relevant.

My kid has to watch the Liberty Kids series for school so I've been watching that with him and helping him with the homework.
 

Varmint

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I read a good book on a unit out of Maryland that was relied on heavily by Washington throughout the war and were kind of used as a spec ops unit.

I’ll see if I can dig it out of my books.
Was it this unit?
 

Picton

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Yes, the Maryland 400 were famously butchered when local Danvers boy Israel Putnam got bent over by the British at Long Island and Washington didn't have a plan to reinforce him. This was nobody's finest hour, which is why you seldom see it taught in the US.

I notice the bulk of the recommendations are local: Revere and Bunker Hill, as I mentioned earlier, are the low-hanging fruit of Revolution knowledge. Though I agree that Philbrick's work on Bunker Hill is the new standard.
 

C. Stockwell

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Yes, the Maryland 400 were famously butchered when local Danvers boy Israel Putnam got bent over by the British at Long Island and Washington didn't have a plan to reinforce him. This was nobody's finest hour, which is why you seldom see it taught in the US.

I notice the bulk of the recommendations are local: Revere and Bunker Hill, as I mentioned earlier, are the low-hanging fruit of Revolution knowledge. Though I agree that Philbrick's work on Bunker Hill is the new standard.
This is an eastern Mass-heavy forum. If you asked a bunch of NH guys, the answers would include more John (and Molly) Stark and the Battle of Bennington. RI: Governor Hopkins and the Gaspee Affair. Vermont: Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys.
 
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This is an eastern Mass-heavy forum. If you asked a bunch of NH guys, the answers would include more John (and Molly) Stark and the Battle of Bennington. RI: Governor Hopkins and the Gaspee Affair. Vermont: Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys.
The story about Ticonderoga was one of my favorite growing up.
 

Picton

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This is an eastern Mass-heavy forum. If you asked a bunch of NH guys, the answers would include more John (and Molly) Stark and the Battle of Bennington. RI: Governor Hopkins and the Gaspee Affair. Vermont: Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys.
Of course. But my impression is that the OP is looking a little farther afield.
 

SgtHal75

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Most American history I’ve learned was from high school (not much) and I always wanted to learn more. Lately found I love focusing on a period through conflict and biography audiobooks while driving or working around the house; enjoying Black Hawk Down now. This Memorial Day weekend I’m looking for recommendations to start digging into the Revolution and early America. Sure there are Amazon reviews but give me the NES perspective, especially to avoid liberal revisionist cancer. Sad how some want to wash out the ugly or even just what a liberal mind considers unfitting to their narrative. This will be the foundation for teaching my kids and checking what they are taught in school one day.

David McCullough’s 1776 sounds like a good start though some call it too brief and surface-level. I’ll read it for the broad context but not stop there. What else do you recommend reading or avoiding and why?
Honestly, anything from the Revolutionary War is great reading. I’ve read a bunch from that era. A really good show to watch is “TURN”. It’s about spies that work for Washington
 

C. Stockwell

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Of course. But my impression is that the OP is looking a little farther afield.
To paraphrase John Adams, most people think of the war as the revolution. The war wasn't the revolution, merely a consequence of the revolution. The revolution began "fifteen years before a drop of blood."

If someone really wants to learn about the history of the Revolution, start in 1760 or with the French and Indian War and spend some serious time learning about its causes, not the war.
 
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I wrote a 7th grade paper on the Green Mountain Boys, nice learning experience. Also did one on late 18th and early 19th Century naval tactics.
I would never believe that Knox was able to bring those guns from Lake George all the way to Boston. I think he only lost 2? A real awesome story. We slapped the Brits, took their guns and powder, and hoofed them back whats that 300 miles through some of the nastiest terrain in New England in the Winter with Oxen and sleds!
 

Brewer

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To paraphrase John Adams, most people think of the war as the revolution. The war wasn't the revolution, merely a consequence of the revolution. The revolution began "fifteen years before a drop of blood."

If someone really wants to learn about the history of the Revolution, start in 1760 or with the French and Indian War and spend some serious time learning about its causes, not the war.
Great point. My favorite movie is The Last of the Mohicans and it got me thinking I need to learn more on the Seven Years War.
 

C. Stockwell

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Great point. My favorite movie is The Last of the Mohicans and it got me thinking I need to learn more on the Seven Years War.
Interesting topics from the inter-war period:

*Settling of the New Hampshire Grants
*James Otis and John Adams's early career
*Expulsion of the Acadians and the New England Planters of Nova Scotia
*Stephen Hopkins and the Gaspee Affair
*Weare Pine Tree Riots

Most of what I know about that period comes from 18th to 19th Century sources. I had a week or so to peruse the archives of my college's library to learn about the New Hampshire Grants, Weare, and Benning Wentworth. More accessible options include John Adams's papers and the Rights of the Colonies Examined by Stephen Hopkins:

The MHS Online Adams Catalog: Search

Adams Electronic Archive : Browse

The Rights of the Colonies Examined - Teaching American History

I also suggest visiting Stephen Hopkins's house.
 

Picton

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Great point. My favorite movie is The Last of the Mohicans and it got me thinking I need to learn more on the Seven Years War.
The history of our hunger for Canada, which Americans invaded several times, is a good topic to learn about.

Many of the men who led the Continental Army served there during the French War. Washington on the Monongahela gets all the attention (because Washington), but the capture of Quebec and the Siege of Louisbourg provided the baptism of fire of a number of our later leaders.
 

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"The Road to Concord" by JL Bell = Wicked Cool!!!
about how the locals swiped the 4 cannons from under the British' noses at the Gun House next to the Redcoat Encampment on Boston Common (whilst they were changing the guard), hid them in the schoolhouse next door, then smuggled them out of Boston in a manure wagon..... They ended up at Col. Barret's farm, but got scooted out of town a day or 2 before April 19th...
This book would make an awesome movie!

The Road to Concord - J. L. Bell - Westholme Publishing {Sometimes Mr Bell gives talks at Minuteman Pahk & local Historical societies... definitely worth seeing!}
 
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