Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence
Joseph J. Ellis
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
A Washington Post Notable Book
A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of the Year
The summer months of 1776 witnessed the most consequential events in the story of our country’s founding. While the thirteen colonies came together and agreed to secede from the British Empire, the British were dispatching the largest armada ever to cross the Atlantic to crush the rebellion in the cradle. The Continental Congress and the Continental Army were forced to make decisions on the run, improvising as history congealed around them.
In a brilliant and seamless narrative, Ellis meticulously examines the most influential figures in this propitious moment, including George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Britain’s Admiral Lord Richard and General William Howe. He weaves together the political and military experiences as two sides of a single story, and shows how events on one front influenced outcomes on the other.
of the war, turned out to be examples of Washington’s excellent eye for talent. One was Nathanael Greene, a Rhode Island Quaker who was cast out of the Society of Friends because of his support for the war. In 1775 Greene was a private in a Rhode Island militia unit called the Kentish Guards. A year later he was a brigadier general, plucked from the ranks outside Boston on the basis of his conspicuous intelligence and dedication.13 The other was Henry Knox, one of the fattest men in the
practice of building up his networks of defense, both on Long Island and inside his own soul. As ominous as the British encampment on Staten Island appeared, it soon began to provide reliable intelligence, from British deserters and from American loyalists on the island having second thoughts. Greene obtained information about the size and arrival time of Admiral Richard Howe’s approaching fleet, plus General William Howe’s tactical plans to launch his main invasion on Long Island.9 These
ill-defined western borders of the states. Several states cited colonial charters that placed their western borders at the Mississippi, or even more preposterously in Virginia’s case, at the Pacific. A consensus in the congress held that these extravagant claims were based on charters that had been drafted before anyone realized the size of the North American continent. But there was no consensus on the question of whether the states or the new central government possessed the authority to decide
without pay”—was intended as a tribute to the long-suffering troops who had stayed the course. But it was also a caustic comment on a political pattern that had first congealed in the summer of ’76, and then only deepened and darkened over the ensuing years of the war: namely, that the Continental Army was kept on life support but was never provided the money and men Washington requested, even though the resources for a larger and better-equipped army were readily available.3 From the start, as
the Washington Papers and ranking expert on Washington as commander in chief; and Robert Dalzell, that wise man of Williams College, who moves across great patches of the American past with such easy erudition. Stephen Smith, editor of the Washington Examiner, is my long-standing critical eye in that crucial junction where substance meets style, a genius at noticing where a phrase, sentence, or paragraph does not quite say what it wants to say. Dan Frank of Random House came aboard as editor of