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Monday, October 7, 2013

READ THIS: REVOLUTIONARY SUMMER: The Birth of American Independence by Joseph J. Ellis Our Coverage Sponsored by Maine Woolens

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"He was convinced throughout the remainder of the war that New York was the divinely ordained place where he would return to redeem his earlier mistakes and deliver the decisive blow that ended all pretensions of the British Empire in North America.  He was obsessed with New York as the place where the climactic battle would occur, because New York was the place where 'The Cause' had nearly died, so it stood to reason it should be the place where it would ultimately triumph." (p. 174)
And who was he?  Washington.  We know you wanted to know what he thought of New York....
Manhattan, a battlefield?  That's right, and if the thought surprises you, you ought to brush up on your American history, the best history in the world.  We're not going to pretend to be unbiased, and you know who is superproud to have earned a BA in American History from Boston College, the most Irish Catholic school in America regardless of what Regis and his alma mater may think.   Even Peachy learned quite a bit that she never knew in Revolutionary Summer.  

 Though we are complete Anglophiles, we are more proud to be American and Joseph J. Ellis absolutely excels in his rendition of American History in Revolutionary Summer, which has earned our highest recommendation.  You'd think in the last two hundred years plus all the points of American History during the Revolution would have been examined over and over, but what is incredible about this work is that Ellis has a whole new take on one of our favorite subjects.  It also includes essential military history which we find incredibly intriguing.  Such history is not typically taught in schools and it paints such a clear picture of cause and effect that has endured.

Ellis intelligently puts two main ideas together: the first is of the political tale of the thirteen colonies and their unification and decision to leave the British Empire, and the second is the military story of the battles on Long Island and Manhattan where the British soundly delivered defeats of the American army of amateurs, however, the fact that the British did not extinguish the flame of that bright, determined American army is what made all the difference.  And here we are today! Ta da.

The British Army may have been invincible, but the American idea of Freedom was even more so.  While the British model of an army took inspiration from the past, the American model foreshadowed what would be the British Commonwealth.    Common Sense by Thomas Paine proved to be a major catalyst, published in January 1776: An island cannot rule a continent.

The summer of 1776 was the major turning point of all of this action, and we can all look at the American Revolution today and paint clear pictures, but what's interesting to note that Ellis chimes in with is that America did not yet exist during the Revolution.  It was the idea of freedom and the birth of our country that was the result of these battles and while it was happening it was presumed that the colonies were temporary arrangements.

We all know about the Battle of Bunker Hill from that stellar work featured earlier (get excited for Ben Affleck's Warner Brothers rendition of it), and Revolutionary Summer is the ideal follow up read.

There are a lot of obvious problems with American government today which we will leave out for now, but know this is not something new.  We love the quote on page 5 from Washington himself:
"Washington himself, once he learned of those atrocities, let it be known that he had lost all patience with the moderates in the congress who were-it became one of his favorite phrases- 'still feeding themselves on the dainty food of reconciliation.'"  In short, you can't reason with unreasonable people and sometimes pacifism has no place-we'd agree with Washington.  "The Continental Army, under Washington's command, regarded American independence as a foregone conclusion...The Continental Congress regarded American independence as a last resort."  We all know the final result is British disbelief of the tactical skills of the great Washington, but you will love reading Revolutionary Summer to see how it all happened.  Where do you think Washington Heights here got its name?!?!  Read this to find out.

Everyone puts so much emphasis on the 4th of July, but in essence that was a "thunderous epilogue" (p.18) to the resolution of May 15th and more.  Reading Revolutionary Summer is like unwrapping a fantastic present as you learn about what you never knew about the American Revolution.  Ellis paints vivid pictures with superfun word choices:
"As Long Island loomed larger in Washington's mind as a likely invasion route, he assigned the construction of its defenses to Nathanael Greene, who, true to form, began to turn Brooklyn Heights into a honeycomb of connected forts, redoubts, and trenches, a kind of Bunker Hill on steroids." (p. 41)

We learned that Connecticut is a bit like Australia-where the British put away convicts.  "Eventually it was decided that all straddles should be treated as loyalists and jailed, and the most suspicious characters should be transported to Connecticut in order to prevent their liberation if the British should occupy the city." (p. 76)  This included the royal governor of New Jersey, William Franklin-a dangerous Tory.  Oh, to imagine what tabloids could have been in 1776!  

Silas Deane is much more than just a highway in Wethersfield, and we learned also there was a fire that destroyed one whole third of New York City in 1776.  
And did you know that Benjamin Franklin -generally regarded as the most accomplished prose stylist of the time- was the most obvious choice to draft the Declaration of Independence, but did not.  And Adams, another natural choice, did not (but he was the lucky duck who got to be America's first minister to the Court of Saint James in 1785!  what a trip that must have been...), and Jefferson did, by default?  The American Dream is the Jeffersonian Dream.  We hope it can continue to be alive for today's Americans and Americans to-be, provided today's politicians get their act together.  Our ancestors did great work in laying down the smart foundation of this great nation and it's up to today's Americans to honor them and honor America by upholding freedoms that make our nation great and not pollute with unnecessary legislation, laws and gridlock. This is the land of the free, after all.  We applaud life, liberty, smart hard work and the pursuit of excellence, of course.  That produces happiness.

If you find history even half as exciting as we do, Revolutionary Summer deserves 100% of your attention.  It's one of the best ways to extend this summer...

Our esteemed panel adds:

We all know how this one ends. But the denouement, the plot development, and the clear-as-a-bell storytelling will grab you from the first page. You may be an astute survivor of Sister Mary Helena's American History class, but you've never heard our history like this. It could be because the author is a Pulitzer prize winner. Not to say that winning a prize is a guarantee of talent. But Joseph Ellis will make you so involved in the "Birth of American Independence" that lightbulbs will go off in your head at every turn. With his list of books written about various patriots and politicians, King and colonial alike, within the historical context of this period, Mr. Ellis puts forth his knowledge of his subjects, and not just of the subject matter. In the powder keg that was the Eastern Seaboard that summer of 1775, we know the whys, the losses, the missteps of a government who sought to control a group of people forged by the new land they had claimed as their own. England blew it, simple and straightforward, but you may not have known why or how. Read this book, and you'll get every nuance, because this man can write. Now I'm going to go buy every single one of his books, so I can truly understand more about this land we call America. 

Ever since I was a schoolgirl, the summer of 1776 has been ingrained in my mind as the summer America declared its independence from Great Britain and the time when the Revolutionary War began. In Revolutionary Summer, author Joseph J. Ellis delves far deeper than the typical American textbook, and provides a detailed look at the events of that summer. He breathes new life into the central figures of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and many others, making them well-rounded, three-dimensional people instead of simply names associated with famous quotes or deeds. He also describes the challenges of the Continental Army in a great amount of detail. Since we are living here, in the 21st century, as Americans, it's easy to think that the outcome of the Revolutionary War was a foregone conclusion. In reality, though, it was not. The Continental Army was far over-matched by the British Army (and the foreign mercenaries they hired), both in manpower and training. And I had no idea that, while George Washington was rallying the troops in New York against the impending British invasion, the members of the Continental Congress were duking it out over whether the states should unite as one country after the war, or remain separate, sovereign entities! Not everyone was behind forming the United States of America, so that was another, internal battle that needed to be won. A fascinating and insightful read from start to finish, Revolutionary Summer is highly recommended for any lover of American history!

I've always been fascinated by American history. I love to visit historical places...places where you walk in and can literally smell the history. "Revolutionary Summer" by Joseph J. Ellis is written so vividly that you'll be able to "smell" the history as you read. A wonderful book focusing on the summer months of 1776, Ellis gives the reader an in-depth look at some of the most crucial, important events in the story of the founding of America. Providing an informative, detailed narrative, "Revolutionary Summer" is a book that any history buff will want to devour. Mr. Ellis writes in such a way that the reader feels transported back to the time of George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. The reader is able to experience the unrest that comes with the birth of a new nation and it is powerful! Focusing solely on May-October of 1776, Mr. Ellis allows the reader to essentially re-live history. I highly recommend the informative and intriguing "Revolutionary Summer" by well-known, Pulitzer Prize winning author, Joseph J. Ellis. 

Revolutionary Summer by Joseph J. Ellis has earned Whom You Know's Highest Recommendation.


Joseph Ellis’s ability to bring our founders to life—to strip away the cobwebs, mythology, and hero-worship and to show them as real people whose failures and frustrations merit the same examination as their enormous successes—has made his books national bestsellers and earned him a National Book Award (for American Sphinx) and a Pulitzer Prize (for Founding Brothers). Now in REVOLUTIONARY SUMMER: The Birth of American Independence (to be published by Knopf on June 4) he turns to the most dramatic few months in the story of our country’s founding.

Ellis weaves the political and military events of these months into one seamless narrative and by doing so brings this period to light in a new way. As he writes, “the political and military experiences were two sides of a single story, which are incomprehensible unless told together. They were both happening at the same time, events on one front influenced outcomes on the other, and what most modern scholarship treats separately was experienced by the participants as one.”

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