Read the Revolution

curated collection of excerpts from exciting, thought-provoking books about the American Revolution

Book cover of "Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring" by Alexander  Rose.
March 16, 2016

Washington's Spies

In the summer of 1778 George Washington authorized the formation of a secret chain of agents known as the Culper Ring. Operating in British-occupied New York, this spy ring gathered and shared military intelligence on the British Army’s tactical operations using a coded language and a disappearing ink dubbed the ‘sympathetic stain.’ Those involved in the Culper Ring did so at great personal risk to their lives and honor–covertly traveling through occupied territory and swearing oaths of allegiance to the king–all the while passing information to Washington.

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The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan.
March 2, 2016

The Road to Guilford Courthouse

The Road to Guilford Courthouse: The American Revolution in the Carolinas opens with the 1776 Battle of Sullivan’s Island where Patriot forces successfully defended the Charleston Harbor and concludes with the British victory at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in 1781. While these two events bookend this military history, the meat of the work is a battle-by-battle march through the skirmishes and battles of the Southern Campaign, culminating at Guilford Courthouse. The author, John Buchanan, examines not only the battlefield strategy and tactical decisions made in the Carolina back country, but also the personalities and military careers of the major characters of Daniel Morgan, Nathanael Greene, Francis Marion, Sir Henry Clinton, Lord Cornwallis, and Banastre Tarleton.

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Forging Freedom
February 17, 2016

Forging Freedom

With its emerging abolition movement, Philadelphia was an appealing locale for runaway slaves, free blacks, and Caribbean refuges in the decades before and after the Revolutionary War. In the city, free blacks worked to establish their own independent churches, form abolition and resettlement societies, and to secure their own livelihoods against a backdrop of growing white hostility into the nineteenth century. Gary Nash’s, Forging Freedom: The Formation of Philadelphia’s Black Community, 1720-1840, details this period in African American history as generations of free blacks pursued a secure and dignified existence based on self-employment and an intricate system of self-support

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black patriots and loyalists
February 3, 2016

Black Patriots and Loyalists

​Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War for Independence, by Alan Gilbert, brings a critical eye to the contradiction that while white American colonists were fighting for liberty and independence, thousands of black men and women were enslaved in the thirteen colonies. The book shows how the promise of freedom drew the enlistment and service of both free and enslaved blacks into the Continental Army and the British Army throughout the Revolutionary War. Through extensive documentary research, Gilbert raises significantly the number of African Americans known to have fought for either side as either free or enslaved men.

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January 20, 2016

West of the Revolution

The year 1776 typically conjures up images of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and Gen. Washington crossing the Delaware. Yet, this week's featured book provides us with another view. West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776, by Claudio Saunt, examines events in North America outside of the rebelling thirteen American colonies including land speculation west of the Appalachians and Russian and Spanish excursions on the West Coast. In shifting our perspective, Saunt reveals the implications that these global events of 1776 had for the future development of the United States.

In the first excerpt, we learn about an ambitious, yet illegal under British law, land scheme to settle a “fourteenth colony.” The second excerpt introduces how the settlement of Spanish missions in California and Russian fur trading posts in Alaska landed a Kumeyaay Indian named Diego in jail.

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January 6, 2016

Liberty's Exiles

American history tends to remember loyalists in the American Revolution simply as the defeated. Yet, Maya Jasanoff's book, Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World, shows us that while the victorious patriots were busy building a new country, loyalists refugees were helping to settle an empire. Those loyalists that chose to leave America after the war looked to Britain for help and the burgeoning empire facilitated their resettlement on a global scale. Jasanoff weaves the ups and downs of ten major characters as they endure the war and eventually seek asylum from Nova Scotia to Jamaica, Sierra Leone to India. The following excerpt features the two minor characters of Jacob Bailey and Louisa Wells and illustrates an exiled loyalist experience and what it meant to be an American colonist returning to the Great Britain after defeat.

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Collected Works of Thomas Paine
December 23, 2015

The American Crisis

Beginning with the immortal line, “THESE are the times that try men's souls,” Thomas Paine’s “The American Crisis, No. I” holds a revered place in American History. Composed as a patriotic rallying cry for a weary army, Paine published the first pamphlet in the series on December 19, 1776. It is said that on Christmas Eve of that year, George Washington ordered it to be read to his troops before the crossing of the Delaware and the pivotal Battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776.

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Revolutionary Backlash book
December 9, 2015

Born for Liberty

For women, the Revolutionary War resulted in more than American Independence, it became a watershed moment for the development of women's political expression. Rosemarie Zagarri’s Revolutionary Backlash: Women and Politics in the Early American Republic, is a study of the emergence, and eventual suppression of female political activity during and after the American Revolution. Zagarri concludes that the increased political activities of women during the Revolutionary period produced a backlash in their political participation in the 19th century, but set the stage for women’s popular participation in other forms, such as benevolent societies and social reform organizations.

The following excerpt explains how political leaders asked for women’s contributions in helping the Revolutionary cause and how women came to understand their own patriotism.

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November 18, 2015

Forged in Philadelphia

Growing up in Philadelphia, author Rebecca Eckfeldt Gibby frequently heard an intriguing story about her ancestor, Adam Eckfeldt. According to family lore, Eckfeldt produced the first coins for the United States with silver donated by Martha Washington! Was it true? Gibby’s drive to uncover the history of her Revolutionary-era ancestor led her to write this engaging work of juvenile fiction. It is a perfect holiday gift for young history lovers.

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November 11, 2015

The Last Muster

At the time of the invention of photography in 1839, America’s aged Revolutionary generation was quickly passing away. Historians and photographers sought to capture the images and stories of veterans and those who lived through that momentous period. Author Maureen Taylor’s book, The Last Muster: Images of the Revolutionary War Generation, complied over fifty extant nineteenth-century photographs and shares known biographical information for each person.

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