Military History American War of Independence
by
Ricardo A. Herrera
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 May 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0011

Introduction

What had once been the preserve of popular writers trumpeting American battlefield prowess against British military conservatism has become an increasingly sophisticated field of study, albeit not without its professional challenges. Indeed, in the years since the rise of new military history in the 1960s and 1970s, academic historians have entered the fray and contributed deeper analyses and more sophisticated, critical, and nuanced narratives to the field. Three broad concentrations characterize histories of the American War of Independence. The first, a traditional vein, lends itself to the operational and institutional realms of the war, those of campaigns, battles, logistics, and of the armies and navies. Almost a Miracle by John Ferling (see Ferling 2007, cited under General Overviews) stands out for its breadth and its stress on the war’s contingent nature. Some works purposefully overlap with the other concentrations—political and diplomatic, and social and cultural. One landmark study, Charles Royster’s A Revolutionary People at War (Royster 1979, cited under Continental Army), considers military service within a cultural context, while E. Wayne Carp’s To Starve the Army at Pleasure (Carp 1984, cited under Continental Army) overlaps the political realm. Political and diplomatic emphases continue as a vibrant subset. One of the more significant works, Brendan Simms’s Three Victories and a Defeat (Simms 2009, cited under Diplomacy), places the war within Britain’s larger diplomatic and grand strategic context. Naturally, social and cultural histories have also played a role in the direction and shape of scholarship, such as in Caroline Cox’s A Proper Sense of Honor (Cox 2004, cited under Continental Army), which clearly evinces the impact of Royster 1979. Standing back, these three broad threads, each distinctive, but not without some degree of overlap, constitute the main thrusts in the history of the American War of Independence. Necessarily, any bibliography dealing with a subject examined so often, and so well, must be highly selective.

General Overviews

Surveys vary in scope and treatment. Middlekauff 2005 is a broad but sophisticated narrative of Revolutionary America. British conduct of the war is treated in Robson 1955 in chapters that might be read separately, while Mackesy 1993 analyzes the war through British strategic concerns, integrating ministerial politics. Middleton 2012 offers a fresh perspective on the war in an Atlantic context. For a thematic understanding of American military policies and practices, see Higginbotham 1983. For accounts emphasizing the contingent nature of the war, Ferling 2007, Griffith 2002, and Black 1998 are useful studies.

  • Black, Jeremy. The War for America: The Fight for Independence, 1775–1783. 2d ed. Burton-on-Trent, UK: Wrens Park, 1998.

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    A concise narrative history, this work challenges the assumption of an inevitable American victory and suggests that British leaders had the realistic possibility of achieving a negotiated peace early in the war. Organized thematically and chronologically, it is well illustrated and written for a general readership.

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  • Ferling, John E. Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    Well researched and wide-ranging, stressing the war’s contingent nature and its relationship to war in the early modern era. Devotes attention to leading characters and their roles in shaping decisions and outcomes.

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  • Griffith, Samuel B., II. The War for merican Independence: From 1760 to the Surrender at Yorktown in 1781. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002.

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    A solid, but limited synthesis addressing politics, diplomacy, and military affairs in North America. Strongest treatment in military concerns. Originally published as In Defense of the Public Liberty: Britain, America, and the Struggle for Independence—From 1760 to the Surrender at Yorktown in 1781 (New York: Doubleday, 1977).

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  • Higginbotham, Don. The War of American Independence: Military Attitudes, Policies, and Practices, 1763–1789. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1983.

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    Survey of American military policies and practices ranging from the late colonial period to the end of the war. Thematic and chronological organization integrating military, social, and political history. Emphasizes American society’s close connections and relationship to the states’ militias and the Continental army. First published in 1971 (New York: Macmillan).

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  • Mackesy, Piers. The War for America, 1775–1783. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993.

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    Analysis of war from the British imperial and grand strategic perspectives. Considers policy formulation and the execution and interplay of domestic and European politics, as well as the inability of British political and military leaders to grasp the nature of the rebellion. First published in 1964 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).

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  • Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763–1789. Rev. and exp. ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    Comprehensive narrative of the Revolution and the war giving thorough consideration to the political, social, and economic developments. Integrates the war within the fuller considerations of the Revolution.

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  • Middleton, Richard. The War of American Independence, 1775–1783. New York: Pearson, 2012.

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    Far-reaching synthesis of the war in its Atlantic-world context. Narrative and analytical, it weaves diplomatic, political, and military history together, noting British imperial and geopolitical overreach and giving due credit to French naval power and American independence.

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  • Robson, Eric. The American Revolution in Its Political and Military Aspects, 1763–1783. London: Batchworth, 1955.

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    Critical analysis of British aims and conduct of the war. Uneven editing due to the author’s death before final draft and submission.

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Reference Works

Numerous reference works of varying quality exist. The following sections—Encyclopedias and Dictionaries, Atlases and Battlefield Guides, and Bibliographies—represent a comprehensive selection of relevant and particularly useful guides.

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Greene and Pole 2000 and Gray and Kamensky 2013 contain well-crafted essays on broader themes for the era and the war. For short entries on virtually any aspect, figure, location, or event, see Selesky 2006. Biographical data on select Americans may be found in Heitman 1967, Claghorn 1988, and Greene 1984. For brief histories of American units, see Berg 1972. British, Provincial, and Hessian units’ information is given in Katcher 1973. Lesser 1976 is an important resource for the Continental army’s monthly strength reports.

  • Berg, Fred Anderson. Encyclopedia of Continental Army Units: Battalions, Regiments, and Independent Corps. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1972.

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    Comprehensive entries for units and departments of the Continental army, including dates of service, commanding officers, and brief organizational histories.

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  • Claghorn, Charles E. Naval Officers of the American Revolution: A Concise Biographical Dictionary. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1988.

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    Roster of over 3,500 Continental and state naval officers and privateersmen, listing names, dates of rank, vessels’ names, crews, and service records.

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  • Gray, Edward G., and Jane Kamensky. The Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

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    Wide-ranging, analytical compendium on the Revolution. Part 2: War is devoted to the conflict and its many aspects.

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  • Greene, Robert Ewell. Black Courage, 1775–1783: Documentation of Black Participation in the American Revolution. Washington, DC: National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 1984.

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    Biographical entries, including assigned units and enlistment data, engagements, vital statistics, and free or slave status.

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  • Greene, Jack P., and J. R. Pole, eds. A Companion to the American Revolution. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2000.

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    A wide-ranging and diverse collection of ninety essays by nearly eighty scholars addressing seminal events, developments, and concepts, including a detailed chronology. Seven articles address the war chronologically, the Continental army, irregular warfare, naval operations, and postwar defense.

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  • Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1783. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1967.

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    List of Continental army officers, American and French, including some militia and state officers. Dates of service and rank, and regiments.

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  • Katcher, Philip R. N. Encyclopedia of British, Provincial, and German Army Units, 1775–1783. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1973.

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    Thorough register of Crown and auxiliary forces, including dates of establishment, commanding officers, service in war, and notes on uniforms.

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  • Lesser, Charles H., ed. The Sinews of Independence: Monthly Strength Reports of the Continental Army. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976.

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    Comprehensive record of the Continental army’s strength throughout the war. Drawn from regimental returns, it provides monthly reports for soldiers present and fit for duty, sick, furloughed, and more.

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  • Selesky, Harold E., ed. Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. 2d ed. 2 vols. Library of Military History. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s, 2006.

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    Thorough two-volume revision and expansion of Mark M. Boatner III’s Encyclopedia of the American Revolution (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 1994), originally published in 1966. Considerable coverage on topics preceding and following the war. Complements Boatner 2006 (cited under Atlases and Battlefield Guides).

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Atlases and Battlefield Guides

Understanding the armies’ locations and routes of march, and the terrain of the battlefields, is invaluable in studying the war. Indeed, without understanding the topography, there can be no understanding of a battle. Basic information on battlefields and historic sites is given in Boatner 2006, while Symonds 1986 and Savas and Dameron 2006 provide basic maps and comprehensive sketches of the battles. American Revolution Atlas is a detailed representation of battles and major troop movements. See William Anderson’s American Revolution Sites, Events, and Troop Movements for routes and road networks as well as topographical maps, Revolutionary War Animated Maps for representations of select battles and campaigns, and John Robertson’s Global Gazetteer of the American Revolution for location coordinates and updates on sites. The Staff Rides page on the website of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, provides lesson plans and an analytical framework for teaching four battles. Moncure 1996 is a worthwhile guide to the battle of Cowpens.

Bibliographies

Sources, collections, and holdings for the War of Independence are far too large for a comprehensive listing. What follow, therefore, are some of the larger and more extensive bibliographies addressing the war. Gephart 1984 covers the Library of Congress’s holdings, including maps and other materials. The Naval History Heritage and History Command’s United States Naval History: A Bibliography is a specialized bibliography. Blanco 1984 contains several thousand entries. For a thorough listing of orderly books from Continental, Crown, and Hessian forces and their locations, see RevWar75. The David Library of the American Revolution’s Bibliography of Selected DLAR Holdings has downloadable lists on numerous subjects.

Textbooks

The texts listed here represent three possible approaches to teaching the War of Independence: Cogliano 2009 provides an accessible overview of the American Revolution, Ward 1999 is more focused on war and American society, and Lenman 2001 examines the war’s place in the larger, British imperial context.

  • Cogliano, Francis D. Revolutionary America, 1763–1815. 2d ed. New York: Routledge, 2009.

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    Concise work framing the Revolution in a broad chronological context. Thorough and accessible, it emphasizes the political developments and the effects on the population.

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  • Lenman, Bruce. Britain’s Colonial Wars, 1688–1783. New York: Longman, 2001.

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    Places war at the center of English and British imperial expansion, and explores Britain’s rise through warfare from the Glorious Revolution (1688) through the American War of Independence (1775–1783). Challenges assumptions over Whitehall’s preoccupation with colonial issues rather than Continental European affairs.

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  • Ward, Harry M. The War for Independence and the Transformation of American Society. London: University College of London Press, 1999.

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    Considers the struggle within its Revolutionary context and as a civil war. Thematically organized, it pays particular attention to the internal contradictions within the Revolutionary War effort, the Revolutionaries’ actions and ideology, and the effects of the war on the various elements of American society.

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Anthologies

Anthologies treat the war in short, focused formats and are well suited for classes. Shy 1990 examines the war and American society, as does Hoffman and Albert 1984. Loyalists are considered in Allen 1983. The American victory is examined in Ferling 1988, while Stoker, et al. 2010 approaches the war from the major participants’ strategic perspectives.

  • Allen, Robert S., ed. The Loyal Americans: The Military Role of the Loyalist Provincial Corps and Their Settlement in British North America, 1775–1784. Ottawa: National Museum of Man/National Museums of Canada, 1983.

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    Short essays analyzing Loyalist ideology, participation in the war, emigration from the United States, and Loyalists’ lives in Canada.

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  • Ferling, John E. The World Turned Upside Down: The American Victory in the War of Independence. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1988.

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    Eleven essays ranging from colonial foundations through the French contribution, war on the frontier, and the Royal Navy’s performance.

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  • Hoffman, Ronald, and Peter J. Albert, eds. Arms and Independence: The Military Character of the American Revolution. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1984.

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    A collection of “new military history” essays focusing on the political, social, and economic aspects of the war.

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  • Shy, John. A People Numerous and Armed: Reflections on the Military Struggle for American Independence. Rev. ed. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990.

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    Selection of essays from a leading scholar, focusing on the war and American society, and on the more profound social and political implications of the conflict.

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  • Stoker, Donald J., Kenneth J. Hagan, and Michael T. McMaster. Strategy in the American War of Independence: A Global Approach. New York: Routledge, 2010.

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    Essays examining the formulation and implementation of strategy from the major combatants’ perspectives. Puts military, naval, and diplomatic considerations into a global perspective.

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Primary Sources

A wealth of primary sources for the War of Independence exists. The selections here give a broad perspective on the war, ranging from collections drawn from pension applications, personal letters, and official correspondence from a variety of actors through those from leading individuals.

Collections

For all matters naval, Clark, et al. 1964–2005 is the collection to consult. There is nothing remotely similar for the armies. Balderston and Syrett 1975 provides insights into several British officers’ confidential views. Selected British rankers’ accounts are in Hagist 2012. For private and official Hessian accounts, see Burgoyne 1996, while Boyle 2000–2007 does so for the Continental army at Valley Forge. French writings are treated in Rice and Brown 1972. Enlisted men have a voice in Dann 1980 through their edited pension applications. Andrlik 2012 reprints selected newspapers and accompanying explanatory essays.

  • Andrlik, Todd. Reporting the Revolutionary War: Before It Was History, It Was News. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2012.

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    Colorful, illustrated collection of newspaper accounts with thematic and subject-specific essays by historians. Call-out boxes amplify or explain selected newspapers and their features.

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  • Balderston, Marion, and David Syrett, eds. The Lost War: Letters from British Officers during the American Revolution. New York: Horizon, 1975.

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    Candid and confidential letters written to the Earl of Denbigh, shedding light on military operations, politics, patronage, and officers’ views on the war.

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  • Boyle, Joseph Lee, ed. Writings from the Valley Forge Encampment of the Continental Army, December 19, 1777–June 19, 1778. 6 vols. Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, 2000–2007.

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    Correspondence from line and staff officers of all ranks, much of it unpublished. Provides a fuller impression of the army’s experience and its workings at Valley Forge.

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  • Burgoyne, Bruce E., ed. Enemy Views: The American Revolutionary War as Recorded by the Hessian Participants. Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, 1996.

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    Selected excerpts of diaries, letters, and official records from German auxiliaries, from embarkation in Germany through service in America and their return to Germany.

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  • Clark, William Bell, William James Morgan, and Michael J. Crawford, eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. Washington, DC: Department of the Navy, Naval History Division, 1964–2005.

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    Thorough, well-edited compilation of all things naval, drawing from assemblies, committees, the Continental Congress, personal records, logs, and periodicals from American, British, French, Spanish, and other sources. An ongoing series with eleven volumes published to date. Unfortunately, no comparable source exists for the armies.

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  • Dann, John C., ed. The Revolution Remembered: Eyewitnesses Accounts of the War for Independence. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.

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    Accounts from veterans’ pension applications in the 1830s. Includes viewpoints of enlisted men serving in the Continental Line, states’ militias, and volunteer organizations.

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  • Hagist, Don N. British Soldiers, American War: Voices of the American Revolution. Yardley, PA: Westholme, 2012.

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    Edited personal narratives by nine British soldiers. Short, contextual introductions precede each account. Includes examples of soldiers’ poetry and courts-martial transcripts.

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  • Rice, Howard C., and Ann S. K. Brown, trans. and eds. The American Campaigns of Rochambeau’s Army 1780, 1781,1782, 1783. 2 vols. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972.

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    Journals of French officers, the itineraries of the army’s Expédition Particulière (Special expedition), maps, and illustrations.

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Correspondence

Washington 1985–2010 touches on all aspects of the American war effort. For a senior Continental subordinate, see Greene 1976–2006. Significant insights into the British war effort at the ministerial level can be gleaned from Germain 1904–1910. Clinton 1971 provides a self-justifying perspective from the British commander-in-chief. See Cornwallis 2011 and Rawdon 1928–1947 for senior British field commanders’ correspondence. For the observations of a well-placed mid-grade Hessian officer, see Baurmeister 1957. Gilbert 1989 provides a personal perspective from a junior officer of the Massachusetts Line.

  • Baurmeister, Carl Leopold. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals 1776–1784 of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1957.

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    Correspondence and journals of a well-placed Hessian staff officer who served as adjutant to three Hessian generals and aide-de-camp to General Sir Henry Clinton.

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  • Clinton, Henry. The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton’s Narrative of His Campaigns, 1775–1782, with an Appendix of Original Documents. Edited by William B. Willcox. Hamden, CT: Archon, 1971.

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    Clinton’s defense of his participation, actions, and command during the war.

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  • Cornwallis, Charles. Correspondence of Charles, First Marquis Cornwallis. Edited by Charles Derek Ross. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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    Transcribed and edited correspondence from a senior commander in the British Army. Collection held in the National Archives, Kew Gardens, Surrey.

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  • Germain, George. Historical Manuscripts Commission, Report on the Manuscripts of Mrs. Stopford-Sackville of Drayton House, Northamptonshire. 2 vols. London: His Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1904–1910.

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    Invaluable resource on the formulation and implementation on British strategy from the minister most directly involved in suppressing the rebellion.

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  • Gilbert, Benjamin. Winding Down: The Revolutionary War Letters of Lieutenant Benjamin Gilbert of Massachusetts, 1780–1783. Edited by John Shy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1989.

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    Junior officer’s letters home during the last years of the war.

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  • Greene, Nathanael. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. Edited by Richard K. Showman, et al. 13 vols. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1976–2006.

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    Edited selected correspondence of Washington’s most trusted subordinate, serving as division commander, quartermaster general, and theater commander. Digital version containing full correspondence and abstracted material is planned.

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  • Rawdon, Francis Hastings. Historical Manuscripts Commission, Hastings Manuscripts, Report on the Manuscripts of the Late Reginald Rawdon Hastings, HMC 78. Vol. 3. London: His Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1928–1947.

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    Insights into the British war effort in South Carolina and Georgia in the war’s last years.

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  • Washington, George. The Papers of George Washington. Revolutionary War Series. Edited by Philander D. Chase, et al. 20 vols. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1985–2010.

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    Massive edited and annotated collection of wartime correspondence addressing issues ranging from individual soldiers’ appeals to strategy and diplomacy. A searchable and updated digital version with footnotes is available online.

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Memoirs, Diaries, Journals, and Narratives

Hessian and British officers’ observations are well treated in Muenchhausen 1974, Ewald 1979, and Peebles 1998. See Döhla 1990, Greenman 1978, and Martin 2008 for Hessian and American soldiers. Johnson 2011 gives an account of a Loyalist surgeon. Operations of the Queen’s American Rangers, a preeminent Loyalist corps, are covered in Simcoe 1968.

  • Döhla, Johann Conrad. A Hessian Diary of the American Revolution. Translated and edited by Bruce E. Burgoyne. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990.

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    Ansbach-Bayreuth soldier’s diary recording his service, surrender at Yorktown, and captivity from 1777 to 1783. Recounts military activities, impressions of life in America, view of the war’s causes, and opinions of commanders and enemy.

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  • Ewald, Johann. Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal. Translated and edited by Joseph P. Tustin. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1979.

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    Account of an observant and perceptive junior officer who served from the New York campaign through the surrender at Yorktown; includes his eventual repatriation in 1784. Well edited, it opens a window on a Hessian officer’s experience.

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  • Greenman, Jeremiah. Diary of a Common Soldier in the American Revolution, 1775–1783: An Annotated Edition of the Military Journal of Jeremiah Greenman. Edited by Robert C. Bray and Paul E. Bushnell. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1978.

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    Greenman’s service was extensive. His diary records experiences in the 1775 invasion of Canada, the Valley Forge encampment, and service in New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island.

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  • Johnson, Uzal. Captured at Kings Mountain: The Journal of Uzal Johnson, a Loyalist Surgeon. Edited by Wade S. Kolb III and Robert M. Weir. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2011.

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    Account of a New Jersey Loyalist who was captured in South Carolina and held prisoner for three months. Editors’ notes amplify Johnson’s often terse writing and trace his travels.

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  • Martin, Joseph Plumb. Ordinary Courage: The Revolutionary War Adventures of Joseph Plumb Martin. 3d ed. Edited by James Kirby Martin. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008.

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    Postwar reminiscences of a soldier who, save the winter of 1777–1778, served for most of the war. Clearly written, and not without humor, it gives the perspective of a long-term Continental soldier.

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  • Muenchhausen, Friedrich von. At General Howe’s Side, 1776–1778: The Diary of General William Howe’s Aide de Camp, Captain Friedrich von Muenchhausen. Translated by Ernst Kipping and Samuel Smith. Monmouth Beach, NJ: Philip Freneau, 1974.

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    Hessian aide-de-camp’s observations on service with the British Army. Matter-of-fact and well annotated, it gives a clear impression of the workings of Howe’s command.

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  • Peebles, John. John Peebles’ American War: The Diary of a Scottish Grenadier, 1776–1782. Edited by Ira D. Gruber. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 1998.

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    Detailed account from a company-grade British officer, detailing his duties, campaigns, and evolving view of the enemy. A window on regimental life and the composition and nature of the British Army.

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  • Simcoe, John Graves. A Journal of the Operations of the Queen’s Rangers. New York: New York Times, 1968.

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    Regular officer turned commander of Loyalist Queen’s American Rangers in Middle Atlantic and Southern theaters. Insights into the workings of a top Provincial corps and its commander. Originally published in 1787.

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Biographies

Biographies are a mainstay in popular history, but they also serve as entrées for undergraduate students and provide an insight into the war. Billias 1994 is a collection of focused biographical essays on leading military and naval figures. In order to understand better British conduct of the war at the strategic and ministerial levels, and the roles of personality and politics, see Brown 1963, Rodger 1994, and O’Shaugnessy 2013. The commands of the Richard Lord Howe and Sir William Howe are critically examined in Gruber 1972, and that of Sir Henry Clinton is the subject of Willcox 1964. Higginbotham 1985 connects George Washington to larger themes in the war and US history, while Thayer 1960 examines Nathanael Greene, Washington’s most trusted subordinate. Lockhart 2008 returns to prominence Baron von Steuben.

  • Billias, George Athan, ed. George Washington’s Generals and Opponents: Their Exploits and Leadership. New York: Da Capo, 1994.

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    Compilation of two previous collections. Focuses on qualities, accomplishments, strengths, and shortcomings of leading commanders.

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  • Brown, Gerald Saxon. The American Secretary: The Colonial Policy of Lord George Germain, 1775–1778. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1963.

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    Sympathetic biography of secretary charged with suppressing the rebellion. Like many in the colonial ministry, he failed to understand the Revolution’s nature and was committed to coercion.

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  • Gruber, Ira D. The Howe Brothers and the American Revolution. New York: Atheneum, 1972.

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    Landmark study of the Howe brothers’ politicking, commands, policies, relationship with Whitehall, and failure to win the war. Key study of personality, command, politics, and repute.

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  • Higginbotham, Don. George Washington and the American Military Tradition. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985.

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    Adapted from a lecture series, this volume concentrates on Washington’s development as a commander, including both his personal and military maturation, from the French and Indian War through the War of Independence.

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  • Lockhart, Paul Douglas. The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army. New York: HarperCollins, 2008.

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    Restores some of Steuben’s lost luster regarding his often doubted rank and title. Credits him with standardizing drill across the army and formalizing officers’ and noncommissioned officers’ roles and duties.

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  • O’Shaugnessy, Andrew Jackson. The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013.

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    Sophisticated examination of British political and military leadership and decision making through ten biographical sketches. British failure was not due to inept leadership, rather to the complex operational and strategic environments, faulty assumptions based on erroneous intelligence, and the Revolution’s popularity.

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  • Rodger, N. A. M. The Insatiable Earl: A Life of John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich 1718–1792. New York: W. W. Norton, 1994.

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    Credits Sandwich with instituting reforms in navy and ships’ materials, and with formulating a strategy to retain Canada and the West Indies and protect Great Britain. Highlights the nature of 18th-century ministerial politics.

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  • Thayer, Theodore. Nathanael Greene: Strategist of the American Revolution. New York: Twayne, 1960.

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    Dated but thorough biography of Washington’s most gifted subordinate. Field commander, quartermaster general, and department commander, Greene regained Continental control of the Carolinas despite battlefield defeats. His strategic and operational sensibilities outweighed his tactical ability, however.

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  • Willcox, William B. Portrait of a General: Sir Henry Clinton in the War of Independence. New York: Knopf, 1964.

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    Critical biography of General Howe’s successor as commander-in-chief. Clinton was intelligent, often competent, but frequently contentious, and Willcox concludes he suffered from neuroses.

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Journals

No scholarly journal is devoted to the American War of Independence. Nonetheless, the subject is fertile ground for scholars’ articles in several venues. Many of the parent organizations also convene regular conferences that feature papers and panels addressing the war. The leading peer-reviewed scholarly publication for military history is the Journal of Military History. War in History is chronologically and thematically wide-ranging. Students of early American history are advised to examine the William and Mary Quarterly, which occasionally publishes articles on the war. For the British Army, see the Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research. The peer-reviewed Journal for Maritime Research and the Northern Mariner are worth examining for their articles on the subject. The US Army Center of Military History publishes well-researched articles in Army History. For articles geared more toward a popular audience, see Naval History and On Point: The Journal of Army History.

US Government Open-Source Documents

Records dealing with congressional oversight of the army and navy and the support and maintenance of the forces are a significant element in Continental Congress 1904–1937 and Continental Congress 1976–2000. The War for Independence is a lively field of study within the Department of Defense. The vast majority of studies of the war are generated by official historians of the different branches of the military and by students in the professional military education system. The United States Army Center of Military History (CMH) features a section devoted to the “Revolutionary War” as well as links to works published by CMH historians and resources for researchers. Risch 1981 and Wright 1983 are unsurpassed institutional and organizational histories of the Continental army. Selig 2007 is a clearly written narrative of the 1781 Yorktown campaign. Large holdings of primary and secondary research material are available at the United States Army History and Education Center. The United States Naval History and Heritage Command has links to pertinent works, holdings, and museums, as does the United States Marine Corps History Division. Open-source documents can generally be found at Defense Technical Information Center Online. The Combined Arms Research Library contains a searchable database of student papers and other publications of interest. The United States Library of Congress and United States National Archives and Records Administration contain helpful links, references, and large holdings of research materials.

Diplomacy

Diplomatic histories are especially useful in understanding the war beyond North America. Simms 2009 is a sweeping examination of British grand strategy and diplomacy that concludes with the loss of the thirteen colonies. Dull 1975 considers the French navy as an instrument of diplomacy, while Dull 1985 reviews the broader scene. For France’s ally Spain, see Chávez 2002. Negotiations and the peace settlement are treated in Morris 1965. For a seminal work, see Bemis 1957.

  • Bemis, Samuel Flagg. The Diplomacy of the American Revolution. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1957.

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    A comprehensive and authoritative narrative still reckoned as a key work in the historiographic record. Originally published in 1935 (New York: Appleton-Century).

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  • Chávez, Thomas E. Spain and the Independence of the United States: An Intrinsic Gift. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2002.

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    Examines Spain’s calculation of its interests in the Americas and in Europe. Its greatest and most sustained effort was the four-year siege of Gibraltar.

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  • Dull, Jonathan R. The French Navy and American Independence: A Study of Arms and Diplomacy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975.

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    Thorough study of the Comte de Vergennes’s role in formulating and guiding French diplomacy and the use of the navy as an instrument of policy.

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  • Dull, Jonathan R. A Diplomatic History of the American Revolution. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985.

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    Locates the war within the context of European diplomacy and engagement. The European balance of power and antipathy toward Britain, rather than sympathy for the American cause, predominate.

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  • Morris, Richard B. The Peacemakers: The Great Powers and American Independence. New York: Harper & Row, 1965.

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    Detailed account of peace negotiations. American and French diplomats acted more often in their countries’ interests than as partners in an alliance.

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  • Simms, Brendan. Three Victories and a Defeat: The Rise and Fall of the First British Empire. New York: Basic Books, 2009.

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    Places the war in its grand strategic circumstances through the sweep of Hanoverian diplomatic engagement on the Continent (1714–1815). The European imbalance of power brought about by British preponderance after the Seven Years’ War is seen as a key factor in the country’s diplomatic and military isolation.

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Theaters and Regions of War

Quite naturally, histories of campaigns and battles dominate the historiography. There is a tremendous amount of literature dealing with the operational side of the war, some that is quite good, and much that is not. Because of the vast breadth of publications there will, of course, be some overlap with other headings. Indeed, some works might easily fall into other categories. Nevertheless, the division into theaters organizes some of the more important publications into manageable blocks.

New England

Boston’s occupation by British regulars in the wake of political disturbances is addressed in Archer 2010 and offers a window on armies as police forces. Gross 2001 examines the society, politics, and the militia in Concord, Massachusetts, on the eve of the war. The actions of Paul Revere, the Boston Revolutionary organizations, and opening engagements are covered in Fischer 1994. Lockhart 2011 considers the battle of Bunker Hill, the creation of the Continental army, and rise of George Washington. Waging war placed a strain on colonial economies; Buel 1980 analyzes the home front in Connecticut. Bratten 2002 offers an insight into the Battle of Valcour Island of 1776 through an archaeological study of a raised gunboat and its replica. The first Allied effort took place against the British garrison at Newport, Rhode Island, which is covered in Dearden 1980. Often ignored by historians, Maine, too, experienced the war, as recounted in Leamon 1993.

  • Archer, Richard. As If an Enemy’s Country: The British Occupation of Boston and the Origins of Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    Imperial civil-military relations are examined through the occupation of Boston. Social, political, and military history demonstrate how the British Army’s 1768 occupation of Boston drove a growing revolutionary fervor.

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  • Bratten, John R. The Gondola Philadelphia and the Battle of Lake Champlain. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2002.

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    Historical and archaeological study of 1776 battle through a detailed analysis of the recovered wreck and artifacts of the Philadelphia, and of the replica gunboat, Philadelphia II.

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  • Buel, Richard, Jr. Dear Liberty: Connecticut’s Mobilization for the Revolutionary War. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1980.

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    Detailed analysis of the Connecticut home front through political and economic interplay, popular support for war, and manpower strains. The state’s fortunes waxed in the early years and waned as the war continued and greater calls were made on its resources.

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  • Dearden, Paul F. The Rhode Island Campaign of 1778: Inauspicious Dawn of Alliance. Providence: Rhode Island Bicentennial Foundation, 1980.

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    Solid narrative of failed first allied operation of the war. Poor planning, short timing, and the inherent complexity of allied and joint operations compounded the difficulties presented by British defense and bad weather.

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  • Fischer, David Hackett. Paul Revere’s Ride. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

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    Scholarly narrative of Paul Revere’s life, the development of resistance networks in Boston, the battles of Lexington and Concord, and consideration of historiography and shifting popular views. Well illustrated, with exceptional maps.

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  • Gross, Robert A. The Minutemen and Their World. 25th anniv. ed. New York: Hill & Wang, 2001.

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    A social history of Concord, analyzing the political engagement of the town and its militia. Gross exposes the intersection of political consciousness, kinship and economic networks, and war.

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  • Leamon, James S. Revolution Downeast: The War for American Independence in Maine. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993.

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    Maine, then a Massachusetts district, is often ignored in histories. The region was marked by dramatic social and economic extremes, and frequently attacked, and few residents willingly served in the militia.

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  • Lockhart, Paul. The Whites of Their Eyes: Bunker Hill, the First American Army, and the Emergence of George Washington. New York: HarperCollins, 2011.

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    Narrative treatment of an iconic battle. Employs the battle as a device for considering George Washington’s rise to power and the creation of the Continental army.

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New York

New York has received historians’ attention for some time. The British campaign for the city is covered by Schechter 2002. Occupied New York was home to Americans of all political persuasions. Going beyond civil-military relations, their coexistence is detailed in van Buskirk 2002. In 1777, American forces forced a British army to surrender at Saratoga. Mintz 1990 employs dual biographies of the opposing commanders to tell the story, while Luzader 2008 offers a detailed analysis of the battle and Corbett 2012 suggests a political and social framework for understanding the fuller scope of the battle. The supporting British operation and Loyalist uprising in the Mohawk Valley receive full treatment in Watt 2002. American attention shifted toward the destruction of the Iroquois Confederacy in 1779. Fischer 1997 contends that while it failed to break Iroquois resistance, the army demonstrated a high degree of competence in planning. Mintz 2001, however, argues for the long-term success of the campaign.

  • Corbett, Theodore. No Turning Point: The Saratoga Campaign in Perspective. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012.

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    Places the battles of Saratoga and New York portion of Britain’s 1777 campaign within a social and political framework, contending that the battles were part of an ongoing conflict in the Hudson and Champlain River Valleys. Emphasizes social, economic, ethnic, and religious strife that preceded and followed the war.

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  • Fischer, Joseph R. A Well-Executed Failure: The Sullivan Campaign against the Iroquois, July–September 1779. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

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    Argues for the Continental army’s increased competence in planning and executing campaigns, despite failing to break the Iroquois Confederacy’s will or destroy its supply lines with the British. Compare with Mintz 2001.

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  • Luzader, John F. Saratoga: A Military History of the Decisive Campaign of the American Revolution. New York: Savas Beatie, 2008.

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    A political, strategic, and tactical examination of the campaign from British and American perspectives. Detailed maps support terrain and maneuver analyses.

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  • Mintz, Max M. The Generals of Saratoga: John Burgoyne and Horatio Gates. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990.

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    Engaging narrative of the campaign through a paired biographical approach examining opposing commanders, Horatio Gates and John Burgoyne. Argues that credit for the American victory should go to Gates.

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  • Mintz, Max M. The Seeds of Empire: The American Revolutionary Conquest of the Iroquois. New York: New York University Press, 2001.

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    Contends the Continental army’s 1779 campaign against the Iroquois Confederacy was ultimately successful in breaking the Iroquois’ will to resist and ending British support. Postwar treaties represented a culmination of the campaign’s long-term efforts. Compare with Fischer 1997.

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  • Schechter, Barnet. The Battle for New York: The City at the Heart of the American Revolution. New York: Walker, 2002.

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    An interweaving narrative account of the campaign for New York, informed by a profound knowledge of the present-day city. Argues forcefully for New York as the center of gravity in the war effort.

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  • van Buskirk, Judith L. Generous Enemies: Patriots and Loyalists in Revolutionary New York. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002.

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    Explores life and survival in occupied New York, where notionally hostile communities coexisted and cooperated, with personal connections trumping ideology.

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  • Watt, Gavin K. Rebellion in the Mohawk Valley: The St. Leger Expedition of 1777. Toronto: Dundurn, 2002.

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    Well-researched and detailed account of the operation in support of Burgoyne’s failed Hudson River Valley expedition.

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New Jersey

New Jersey first received serious scholarly attention in Lundin 1940, which laid much of the groundwork for future studies of the state’s place as the “Cockpit of the Revolution.” Lender 2005 marked a return to this theme, arguing for the state’s continued relevance as a central battleground. Located between New York and Philadelphia, New Jersey was very much a violent middle ground fought over by partisans and regulars, as noted in Kwasny 1996. The state’s civil war in Monmouth County is the focus of Adelberg 2009. The state’s soldiers and their shared traits with British regulars are the subject of Lender 1986. The best-known actions in New Jersey, the battles of Trenton and Princeton, form the basis of Fischer 2004, a critical narrative of key actions.

  • Adelberg, Michael S. “An Evenly Balanced County: The Scope and Severity of Civil Warfare in Revolutionary Monmouth County, New Jersey.” Journal of Military History 73.1 (January 2009): 9–47.

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    Examines the War of Independence as a civil war in one county, where support for the contending sides was nearly evenly split.

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  • Fischer, David Hackett. Washington’s Crossing. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    Looks at the larger implications of American victories at Trenton and Princeton. Provides narrative and analysis at strategic and tactical levels, with attention to historiography and popular imagery. Illustrated, with excellent maps.

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  • Kwasny, Mark V. Washington’s Partisan War, 1775–1783. Kent, OH: Kent University Press, 1996.

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    Focuses on the partisan war waged in the Middle States up through southern New England. Emphasizes the militia contribution and purposeful coordination in American strategy.

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  • Lender, Mark Edward. “The Social Structure of the New Jersey Brigade: The Continental Line as an American Standing Army.” In The Military in America: From the Colonial Era to the Present. Rev. ed. Edited by Peter Karsten, 65–78. New York: Free Press, 1986.

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    Quantitative and social-historical analysis of New Jersey Line. Revolutionary rhetoric notwithstanding, New Jersey’s soldiers had much in common with regulars in European standing armies.

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  • Lender, Mark Edward. “The ‘Cockpit’ Reconsidered: Revolutionary New Jersey as a Military Theater.” In New Jersey in the American Revolution. Edited by Barbara J. Mitnick, 45–60. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2005.

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    New Jersey’s geographic location and proximity to armies made the state the “Cockpit of the Revolution.” Success or failure was underscored by the ability to exploit both physical and political terrain. See also Lundin 1940.

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  • Lundin, Leonard. Cockpit of the Revolution: The War for Independence in New Jersey. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1940.

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    Solid account, bridging operations in New York and Pennsylvania between 1776 and 1778. Tells the story of the British underestimation of both the enemy and the task.

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Pennsylvania

The 1777 British invasion of Pennsylvania and the campaign against the American capital of Philadelphia are recounted in Taaffe 2003, a concise narrative ending with the Battle of Monmouth. War contributed to Pennsylvania soldiers’ politicization and forging of a joint identity, as detailed in Rosswurm 1987 and Knouff 2004. For the organizational history of the commonwealth’s Continental Line, see Trussell 1993. Jackson 1979 concentrates on Britain’s capture, occupation, and evacuation of Philadelphia. The winter of 1777–1778 is best known for the Valley Forge encampment, which is explored in a thorough analysis by Bodle 2002. Herrera 2011 examines the Continental army’s largest foraging expedition to relieve its hunger while at Valley Forge. War exacerbated existing tensions as land hunger continued and violence escalated, the focus of Moyer 2007.

  • Bodle, Wayne K. The Valley Forge Winter: Civilians and Soldiers in War. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002.

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    A study of war and society in southeastern Pennsylvania. The Continental army’s location bolstered a weak state government while projecting congressional authority and limiting the British Army’s operations.

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  • Herrera, Ricardo A. “Foraging and Combat Operations at Valley Forge, February–March 1778.” Army History 79 (2011): 6–29.

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    The Continental army was a field army executing combat operations and foraging expeditions while at Valley Forge. Both British and American armies and navies cooperated. Available for download online.

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  • Jackson, John W. With the British Army in Philadelphia, 1777–1778. San Rafael, CA: Presidio, 1979.

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    Examines the British occupation of Philadelphia, including interaction with the population, logistics, and daily garrison life.

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  • Knouff, Gregory T. The Soldiers’ Revolution: Pennsylvanians in Arms and the Forging of Early American Identity. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004.

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    A cultural history on the construction of an identity by common soldiers and veterans. The focus was intensely local, however, rather than national.

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  • Moyer, Paul B. Wild Yankees: The Struggle for Independence along Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary Frontier. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007.

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    Looks at the political and military struggle for land and rule in Wyoming Valley between Indians, Loyalists, Continentals, and militia. A continuation of prewar tensions and violence was enacted in the Revolutionary era.

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  • Rosswurm, Steven. Arms, Country, and Class: The Philadelphia Militia and “Lower Sort” during the American Revolution, 1775–1783. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987.

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    Militia service was the vehicle for popular political mobilization and the key to creating a state constitution. Issues of conflict were addressed through militia duty and in the public sphere.

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  • Taaffe, Stephen R. The Philadelphia Campaign, 1777–1778. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2003.

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    Scholarly narrative treating the campaign for Philadelphia, concluding with the Battle of Monmouth.

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  • Trussell, John B. B. The Pennsylvania Line: Regimental Organization and Operations, 1775–1783. 2d ed. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1993.

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    Examines the origins of Pennsylvania Line down to company level. Includes commanders, dates of service, amalgamations, and data on soldiers.

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Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia

As was the case with the other states, those of the Chesapeake encountered difficulties in recruiting soldiers and with their performance. McDonnell 1998 highlights the shortcomings of Virginia’s Minute companies, while McIntyre 2009 examines the rifleman myth against the experiences of a company of Maryland riflemen. Maryland Continental recruits are the subject of Papenfuse and Stiverson 1973. For the background of Virginia’s military formations, see Sanchez Saavedra 1978. War, slavery, and freedom through British service are addressed in Urwin 2008. The British Army maneuvered toward Yorktown, while the Allied Franco-American army marched toward it. The advance is recounted on the website Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route. The larger sea and land campaign for Yorktown is ably treated by Grainger 2005. Greene 2005 gives a detailed analysis of the siege and tactical operations that led to the British surrender.

The Carolinas and Georgia

British strategy in the South evolved from envisioning a quick and easy strike to a more measured campaign, which is the subject of Wilson 2005. Crown forces entered a region rife with violence. Lee 2001 offers an examination of the cultural norms underpinning backcountry violence. The second Franco-American expedition, like the first (see Dearden 1980, cited under New England), tested the alliance. Lawrence 1951 tells the story of the failed 1779 attempt against Savannah. In 1780, British strategy shifted toward an invasion and conquest of the Carolinas and Georgia. Pancake 1985 synthesizes existing works for an overview. The successful campaign and siege of Charleston are recounted in Borick 2003, which shows an apt understanding of the ground. American actions against British columns in the Carolina interior are the subject of Babits 1998 and Babits and Howard 2009. Both battles contributed to the British march to Yorktown and eventual surrender. Despite the threats posed by the invasion, not all men welcomed military service. Moreland and Terrar 2010 details South Carolina militiamen’s opposition to Continental service.

Canada and the Old Northwest

Violence was endemic in American colonial history, and nowhere more so than on the frontier. Griffin 2007 demonstrates how territorial expansionism and war against the Ohio Country’s Indians joined together joined in the process of state creation. Benedict Arnold’s expedition into Canada receives treatment in Lefkowitz 2008 and Huston 1968. The siege of Quebec is the focus of Manning 2009. The Revolution’s failure in Nova Scotia is the subject of Clarke 1995. For an understanding of Canadians’ responses to the rebellion, see Lanctot 1967.

  • Clarke, Ernest. The Siege of Fort Cumberland, 1776: An Episode in the American Revolution. Montreal: McGill-Queens’s University Press, 1995.

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    Explores the failure of Revolutionary ideology to take root in Nova Scotia and the failure of the rebellion through the siege of Fort Cumberland. Unlike colonists to the south, Nova Scotians focused their loyalty on Britain over their colony.

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  • Griffin, Patrick. American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and Revolutionary Frontier. New York: Hill & Wang, 2007.

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    Persistent warfare between Europeans and Indians in the Ohio River Valley was central to Revolutionary success in the region. Denied appeals for imperial war against Indians alienated settlers and drove their desire for independence.

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  • Huston, James A. “The Logistics of Arnold’s March to Quebec.” Military Affairs 32.3 (1968): 110–124.

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    Details the arrangement for, acquisition of, and transport of supplies. Tenuous lines of communication forced a reliance on Canadian sources through purchase and seizure.

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  • Lanctot, Gustave. Canada and the American Revolution, 1774–1783. Translated by Margaret M. Cameron. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967.

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    British and French policy exploited Anglo- and Franco-Canadian tensions and helped shape the Canadian response to revolution and invasion. French policy purposely thwarted American expansionism to maintain the British presence and check American power.

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  • Lefkowitz, Arthur S. Benedict Arnold’s Army: The 1775 American Invasion of Canada during the Revolutionary War. New York: Savas Beattie, 2008.

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    A narrative account for a general audience, with rudimentary maps.

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  • Manning, Stephen. Quebec: The Story of Three Sieges. Montreal: McGill-Queens’s University Press, 2009.

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    Straightforward, unscholarly tale of the three sieges—1759, 1760, and 1775–1776. Clearly written, albeit with inadequate maps and without footnotes.

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West Indies

Even before the French entry into the war, the West Indies were a vital theater in the struggle. O’Shaugnessy 2000 explains the loyalty of the West Indian colonies and failure of the Revolution to take hold. American privateering and the Sir George Rodney’s capture of Dutch St. Eustatius, an American entrepôt, are considered in Jamieson 1983 and Breen 1998. Perhaps the most difficult enemy faced was disease. McNeill 2010 examines the Carolinas as part of the Caribbean mosquito empire.

Armies and Navies

The instruments of policy, the armies and navies, have received a good deal of serious attention over the past years. Social, cultural, intellectual, and institutional history, among others, has contributed to deeper and more well-informed understandings of the forces.

British Army

Any examination of the British Army of the period must begin with Rogers 1977 and Houlding 1981, which take on the institutional side and training of the army. Its officers’ professional reading choices come under scrutiny in Gruber 2010. Despite the paucity of sources, Frey 1981 is an exemplary study of the rank and file. The army’s relationship with the American population receives close scrutiny in Shy 1965. Spring 2008 finds that the army’s 1776 training and later actions while on campaign established a case for a British tactical flexibility. The ability to sustain the army’s operations and to shape its campaign plans are best addressed by Bowler 1975 and Kaplan 1990.

  • Bowler, R. Arthur. Logistics and the Failure of the British Army in America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975.

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    Complements Syrett 1970 (cited under Naval) in studying army sustainment, transportation, and distribution of supplies.

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  • Frey, Sylvia R. The British Soldier in America: A Social History of Military Life in the Revolutionary Period. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981.

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    Bottom-up social history of common soldiers, their origins, their reasons for enlisting, and their lives. Refutes the notion of the soldiery as jail and gutter sweepings, and demonstrates a more diverse collection of weavers, farmers, and day laborers in search of a living.

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  • Gruber, Ira D. Books and the British Army in the Age of the American Revolution. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.

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    Considers over nine hundred books read by a sampling of forty-two British officers in the era of the American Revolution. Largely written by Continental Europeans, these works shaped British officers’ understanding of the war. In retrospect, this sparked the later 19th-century professional development of the officer corps.

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  • Houlding, John A. Fit for Service: The Training of the British Army, 1715–1795. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.

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    Examines the British Army’s training, expectations, and performance set against the challenges of myriad duties, including policing, in British, imperial, and European theaters.

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  • Kaplan, Roger. “The Hidden War: British Intelligence Operations during the American Revolution.” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 47.1 (1990): 115–138.

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    Early difficulties at gathering intelligence were overcome by 1781, after which British forecasting of American intent and future acts were highly accurate.

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  • Rogers, H. C. B. The British Army of the Eighteenth Century. New York: Hippocrene, 1977.

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    Examines officers’ and soldiers’ lives and duties within the army’s institutional framework in garrison, on campaign, and as an adjunct to civil authority. Perspective is largely from officers’ views.

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  • Shy, John W. Toward Lexington: The Role of the British Army in the Coming of the American Revolution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1965.

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    A study of civil-military relations, including the role, intended purpose, and conduct of the British Army in pre-Revolutionary America. Places the army within the larger social and political realms in 18th-century British and American societies.

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  • Spring, Matthew H. With Zeal and with Bayonets Only: The British Army on Campaign in North America, 1775–1783. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008.

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    Demonstrates that the British Army was adaptive and flexible, and viewed by the ministry as an instrument to effect political solutions.

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Continental Army

The history of the Continental army has been the beneficiary of increasingly sophisticated studies. Royster 1979 connected the army to larger cultural norms in America, whereas Cox 2004 focused on officers’ and enlisted men’s distinctions and shared sense of mission. Ward 2006 amplifies these distinctions in the application of discipline. The army as community is the basis for Mayer 1996. Martin and Lender 2006 is a cogent synthesis. The social make-up of the army comes into focus in Neimeyer 1996. Herrera 2001 examines American soldiers’ individuality and belief in self-governance. In an era as politicized as that of the American Revolution, it is no wonder that politics and ideology played a role in the army. Carp 1984 considers the role of political culture on army sustainment.

  • Carp, E. Wayne. To Starve the Army at Pleasure: Continental Army Administration and American Political Culture, 1775–1783. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1984.

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    Examines how a political ideology distrustful of standing armies and centralized authority as threats to liberty hampered efforts at supplying the army.

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  • Cox, Caroline. A Proper Sense of Honor: Service and Sacrifice in George Washington’s Army. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

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    Distinctions between officers and enlisted men manifested societal norms in Revolutionary America. A shared sense of identity and mission mitigated tensions and led to the rank and file’s acceptance of inequities.

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  • Herrera, Ricardo A. “Self-Governance and the American Citizen as Soldier, 1775–1861.” Journal of Military History 65.1 (January 2001): 21–52.

    DOI: 10.2307/2677429Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Soldiers maintained a belief in their right to exercise forms of independence or self-expression.

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  • Martin, James Kirby, and Mark E. Lender. A Respectable Army: The Military Origins of the Republic, 1763–1789. 2d ed. Wheeling, IL: Harlan Davidson, 2006.

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    Brief synthesis of the literature on the army, reviewing social, economic, and political factors underpinning the institution. Reviews historiography.

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  • Mayer, Holly. Belonging to the Army: Camp Follower and Community during the American Revolution. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996.

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    Social-historical examination of the army as a community. It evolved from mirroring American society writ small to a greater degree of self-awareness and exclusivity.

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  • Neimeyer, Charles Patrick. America Goes to War: A Social History of the Continental Army. New York: New York University Press, 1996.

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    Most of the soldiery was drawn from lower social and economic orders, immigrants, and a significant admixture of blacks and Indians, all seeking an economic footing in the postwar world. Economic motivations trumped ideology for most.

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  • Royster, Charles. A Revolutionary People at War: The Continental Army and American Character, 1775–1783. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979.

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    A cultural history of Continental army and its relationship to American society and identity. Once the initial popular enthusiasm for service waned, the Revolutionary cause depended on long-term soldiers in a standing army. The army saw itself, not the people, as the exemplar of republican virtue.

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  • Ward, Harry M. Washington’s Enforcers: Policing the Continental Army. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2006.

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    Describes the creation and enforcement of discipline within the Continental army. Brutality and inequity marked harsh discipline more akin to British than colonial military norms.

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French Army

Following the disaster of the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), senior officers remade the French army into a preeminent fighting force. Kennett 1977 delves into its institutional history and the effects of the reforms. The story continues in Scott 2003, which takes into account the results of the war on the army and its reaction to the French Revolution (1789–1799). A helpful and often updated collection of histories, sources, accounts, events, and links is available online at Expédition Particulière. Accounts of French participation are provided in Bonsal 1945.

Hessian Auxiliaries

War was business, and business was good for Hesse-Kassel’s prince. Ingrao 1987 credits the soldier trade with funding the enlightened despotism of Frederick II. In addition to being profitable, renting troops relieved population pressures on overpopulated rural locales, as determined by Taylor 1994. Atwood 1980 addresses the Hessian army as an institution. Selig 1993 focuses on the development of light infantry doctrine and partisan warfare as recounted by Johann Ewald. For Hessians as prisoners of war and American treatment of them see Krebs 2013.

  • Atwood, Rodney. The Hessians: Mercenaries from Hessen-Kassel in the American Revolution. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1980.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511523038Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A view of war through Hessian accounts. Incorporates political and military spheres as it examines soldiers, the army as an institution, and missions in America.

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  • Ingrao, Charles W. The Hessian Mercenary State: Ideas, Institutions, and Reform under Frederick II, 1760–1785. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

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    The soldier trade funded an enlightened absolutist regime, and revenue from rented soldiers reduced the tax burden, funded state projects, and relieved population pressures.

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  • Krebs, Daniel. A Generous and Merciful Enemy: Life for German Prisoners of War during the American Revolution. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013.

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    Careful examination of German (“Hessian”) prisoners of war, their treatment by American captors, wartime experiences, and exploitation by Americans for propaganda. Describes prison conditions, American attitudes toward prisoners of war, and the origins of modern war prisoner treatment.

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  • Selig, Robert A. “Light Infantry Lessons from America? Johann Ewald’s Experiences in the American Revolutionary War as Depicted in His Abhandlung über den Kleinen Krieg (1785).” Studies in Eighteenth Century Culture 23 (1993): 111–129.

    DOI: 10.1353/sec.2010.0301Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Looks at the development of Hessian jägers, with a focus on Capt. Johann Ewald’s experiences and his text on partisan warfare.

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  • Taylor, Peter K. Indentured to Liberty: Peasant Life and the Hessian Military State, 1688–1815. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994.

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    Examines state development an outgrowth of renting soldiers. Hessian rulers indentured the state and peasantry to British capital.

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Naval

In terms of projecting power, the navies of the age were preeminent. Gardiner 1996 relates the navies’ roles in all the theaters of war. In the realms of economic warfare and deterrence, the Royal Navy loomed large. Tracy 1988 locates the navy as an instrument of British diplomacy in the decade before the war and during it, and Syrett 1998 takes it into account in European waters. Its economic impact on the American economy comes to the fore in Buel 1998. The Royal Navy’s role on the North American Station comes under scrutiny in Tilley 1987, which examines it through the tenures of commanders-in-chief, and Syrett 1989, a study of organization and politics. Syrett 1970 examines the Royal Navy’s role in transportation, while Rodger 2005 considers its place within the larger sweep of British history. Britain’s defeat in North America was as much a naval affair as it was a military one. For a close study of Sir Samuel Hood and the battle of the Chesapeake see Pengelly 2009.

Loyalists

Loyalists not only lost in the war, they also lost in much of the history of the war. A number of studies entered the field in the 1960s, but the input largely subsided until the present. Nelson 1961 is the starting place for any study. Brief and clearly written, it frames much of the discussion. For a policy analysis and look at the ever-changing articulations of goals, see Smith 1964. Loyalist numbers are best examined in Smith 1968. Their social and economic standings are highlighted in Brown 1965. A superb clearinghouse for Loyalism is The On-Line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies. Links, unit histories, and transcribed sources are only a part of this resource. Piecuch 2008 addresses black, white, and Indian Loyalists in South Carolina, Georgia, and the Floridas. Bodle 2009 considers an uprising in rural Maryland and its lasting effects. Jasanof 2011 is concerned with the Loyalist diaspora. It frames the war as a civil war within the empire.

Indians

American Indians played substantial roles in the war, whether through active engagement or the decision to remain neutral. Calloway 1995 examines the choices of several communities during the war. No matter the choice, American victory meant Indian loss. Starkey 1998 is a synthesis of patterns of warfare and adaptation, while Lee 2007 focuses on self-imposed restraint and the escalation of violence. White 1991 takes the larger phenomenon of the war and studies it in its effects on smaller communities in the pays d’en haut. For an ethnohistoric history of the Iroquois, see Graymont 1972. Taylor 2006 is concerned with the division of Indian lands on the northern frontiers following the war. British inconsistency in policy and planning and the repercussions on the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Creek come into focus in O’Donnell 1973. The war was a civil war within the empire, but also in Iroquoia. Glatthaar and Martin 2006 examines the results for the Oneida.

African Americans

Studies of African American history during the war have undergone a transformative shift since the publication of Quarles 1961, which contended for black participation in the Revolutionary cause. Earlier studies, such as Jackson 1942 and Greene 1952, concentrated on black participation in the rebel cause, much to the neglect of their service for the Crown in the hopes of attaining freedom. Frey 1991 chronicles African American resistance and the struggle for personal freedom against Revolutionaries, Loyalists, and British soldiers. Gilbert 2013 expands upon the struggle for political and personal independence. The origins of Nova Scotia’s black population and Sierra Leone’s Anglophone community are addressed in Walker 1992, as Schama 2006 recounts the postwar, black Loyalist diaspora. Jones 1982 considers the roles of blacks in Hessian regiments. The most comprehensive study of African Americans in the age is Egerton 2009.

War and Society

War affected American and British society in a variety of ways and through a variety of means. It touched upon people’s lives through the direct experience with war, its economic impact, the ideology of liberty, and affected slave societies. Breen 2010 focuses on the creation of an American insurgency that challenged imperial authority, as Papas 2007 concentrates on the Loyalist community of Staten Island. Women’s roles and the war’s impact on them are the focus of Kerber 1980 and Norton 1980. Conway 2000 concentrates on Great Britain through regional case studies. For the war’s impact on different elements of American society, see Resch and Sargent 2006. Berlin 1998 and Morgan 1998 offer broad coverages of slavery in colonial and Revolutionary America.

  • Berlin, Ira. Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America. Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1998.

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    Traces the evolution of slave society through the Revolution. Part 3, “Slave and Free: The Revolutionary Generations,” is especially useful in addressing the impact of war on slaves’ lives and societies.

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  • Breen, T. H. American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People. New York: Hill & Wang, 2010.

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    Concentrates on the creation of a popular insurgency before the outbreak of hostilities. Addresses colonial resistance, motives, modes of resistance, and communications networks.

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  • Conway, Stephen. The British Isles and the War of American Independence. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    Thorough going analysis of the war’s effect on the British Isles. Case studies and analyses of military mobilization point to the war’s widespread impact. As Continental army service promoted a shared sense of American identity among the Revolutionaries, military service enhanced a wider feeling of British identity through men’s service with others from different regions. See also Resch and Sargent 2006, which contends the war exacerbated divisions among Americans.

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  • Kerber, Linda K. Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980.

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    “Republican motherhood” and the politicization of women’s lives and roles in raising republican sons and daughters. Concentrates on ideology. Read alongside Norton 1980.

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  • Morgan, Philip D. Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Lowcountry. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.

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    Comprehensive account of slavery as an economic, social, and cultural institution.

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  • Norton, Mary Beth. Liberty’s Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750–1800. Boston: Little, Brown, 1980.

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    The transformation of women’s lives and expansion of their roles through the social disruption caused by war. Focuses on women’s lives. Read with Kerber 1980.

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  • Papas, Phillip. That Ever Loyal Island: Staten Island and the American Revolution. New York: New York University Press, 2007.

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    Impact of the war on a staunchly loyal community. Locates war and its effects on Staten Island within the contexts of a civil war and a political revolution.

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  • Resch, John Phillips, and Walter Sargent, eds. War and Society in the American Revolution: Mobilization and Home Fronts. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2006.

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    Essays considering the experiences and choices of common Americans—men, women, black, white, Indian, soldier, and civilian. Authors argue the war aggravated existing tensions, unlike Conway 2000, which argues for a greater sense of unity among Americans.

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