Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence

Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence

Joseph J. Ellis

Language: English

Pages: 288

ISBN: 0307946371

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A Washington Post Notable Book
A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of the Year

The summer months of 1776 witnessed the most consequential events in the story of our country’s founding. While the thirteen colonies came together and agreed to secede from the British Empire, the British were dispatching the largest armada ever to cross the Atlantic to crush the rebellion in the cradle. The Continental Congress and the Continental Army were forced to make decisions on the run, improvising as history congealed around them.

In a brilliant and seamless narrative, Ellis meticulously examines the most influential figures in this propitious moment, including George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Britain’s Admiral Lord Richard and General William Howe. He weaves together the political and military experiences as two sides of a single story, and shows how events on one front influenced outcomes on the other.

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army, the epitome of everything Americans were rebelling against. Moreover, allegiances were still provincial rather than national, meaning circumscribed by local and at most state loyalties, so all the political incentives favored service in the state militia, and in most states the pay rates were higher as well, making the Continental Army the choice of last resort. Creating an officer’s corps de novo, especially at the senior level, also presented a unique set of problems. In the British

armies disappear, so they could get on with their splendidly ordinary lives. But at the moment, political control rested with the more actively involved local leaders and citizens. And if their words are to be believed, their conversion and subsequent commitment to “The Cause” was a choice literally forced on them by the nonnegotiable policies of George III and that approaching flotilla of redcoats and foreign mercenaries. JOHN ADAMS COULD NOT have imagined a better outcome. As the

which the momentous events now cresting in Philadelphia were a mere sideshow. Based on his correspondence of May and June, it appears the imminent battle at New York never even crossed his mind.21 Almost exactly a year earlier, he had made what might be called a provincial version of the grand entrance, arriving in Philadelphia aboard an ornate carriage called a phaeton, drawn by four horses and accompanied by three slaves. Within the carefully calibrated hierarchy of the planter class in

he chose not to send the letter. He conveyed the impression of a prophet who knew which way history was headed. And if you were on the wrong side, as Howe clearly was, no sentimental attachment could bridge the gap between the two political camps.38 Franklin applied the same rigorous standard to his own son, William, an illegitimate child whom he had raised as a full-fledged member of his family. William Franklin had been appointed the royal governor of New Jersey, then sided with Great Britain

and down the chain of command by men with little or no military experience, then internalized until routinized. This was not a natural act for the kind of men in the Continental Army. The truth was that a “New Establishment” could not be created overnight except on paper. The fact that the war was going to be long meant that the army would have time, on a trial-and-error basis, to work out the all-important details. The Continental Army, it would seem, was destined to be a permanent work in

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