Germantown: A Military History of the Battle for Philadelphia, October 4, 1777

I have been trying to familiarize myself more with the Revolutionary War. I started a few years ago with Brandywine: A Military History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, September 11, 1777 by Michael C. Harris. I recently read another book by Harris, Germantown: A Military History of the Battle for Philadelphia, October 4, 1777.

As I stated in my previous review of Brandywine, Harris did a superb job of bringing that battle to life by stating the facts of the battle in a relatable writing style. However, Germantown misses the mark a little. It is a good read, but seems a bit disjointed at times as Harris tries to seamlessly incorporate quotes from various primary sources. At times, the text is a conglomeration of primary source quotes with no flow.

However, Harris does describe the battle and the actions leading up to and after it with great detail. The reader can easily follow along with the events as they unfold (a few well-placed maps help the narrative). Harris also objectively describes the actions of the Americans and British. He particularly puts much blame on Sir William Howe and his conduct of the entire campaign starting before Brandywine. His lackadaisical approach cost the British an opportunity to trap and destroy the American Army.

Harris is equal in praise and criticism of George Washington. Washington expertly kept the American army in one piece while trying to avoid British attempts to bring him to battle. However, this expertise did not translate to the battlefield – particularly with his passive approval of the assault on Cliveden (the British fortification of a stone house). This assault derailed the offensive and left the Americans more vulnerable to the British counterattack.

Although Germantown plods along at times, generally it is a good follow-up on Brandywine.

Arnold Kling on George Packer, David Hackett Fischer, Walter Russell Mead and America’s Four Traditions

Interesting discussion here from Arnold Kling:

In a recent essay drawn from a forthcoming book, George Packer says that American society has fractured into four groups. But David Hackett Fischer noticed these same four traditions, dating back to the first English settlers, in his carefully-researched book, Albion’s Seed. Fischer’s concept then became the basis of Walter Russell Mead’s book on tensions in American foreign policy, Special Providence.

George Packer rediscovers four traditions

Kling goes on to offer what he sees as the correlation between Packer and Fischer and Mead but he also offers his own take on the traditions. But I wanted to highlight his conclusions which is borne out of a frustration I share. How the libertarian perspective seems to be the bogeyman these days while ever increasing government never seems to be blamed for failure:

Free America has become the scapegoat of nearly everyone. Conservatives blame libertarians for social and economic disorder. Progressives blame libertarianism for inequality and injustice. Populists dream of taking power from the elites. But I believe that we will see in the rest of this decade that big government only exacerbates the disorder, inequality, and power imbalances that it purports to solve.

[vigorous nodding by me]

After Nationalism, Enjoying the Bible & The Politics of Catastrophe

Or, reviews of books I want to read…

One of the conundrums of book addiction is that you soon collect more books than you can hope to read but you have also built up a habit of reading book news and reviews which leads you to want more books. Rinse, repeat…

Allow me to share that problem with you by sharing reviews of books that I want to read.

Mark Melton reviews After Nationalism: Being American in an Age of Division by Samuel Goldman at National Review:

Since independence, citizens have bickered over who “we” are — the essential question of nationalism, which focuses on a people with a strong common identity — yet every attempt to maintain a cohesive identity has failed. Today in this concise book, Goldman responds to commentators who believe that citizens must return to some overarching identity and purpose. He argues that this task is difficult when the conditions that allowed previous unity no longer exist. Moreover, nationalists do not reasonably explain programs that could reignite a meaningful shared identity. In contrast, he favors the opposite course — accepting increased localism with smaller communities for a diverse citizenry.

Sympathy for Nationalists, but Little Hope

Over at Front Porch Republic, Zach Pritz reviews Matthew Mullin’s Enjoying the Bible:

We have become so conditioned to read every text as an instructional manual that we become frustrated when the meaning of poetry and Scripture are not clear. This diagnosis sets the stage for Enjoying the Bible. Recovering the art of reading Scripture requires teachers, pastors, and parents to train students to exchange their “Cartesian eyes” for the right pair of reading glasses. Mullins has lifted his lantern and taken the step forward to guide us out of the darkness of Biblical illiteracy.

Reading with Our Hearts: A Review of Enjoying The Bible

Lastly, at The American Conservative Jonathon Van Maren tackles Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe by Niall Ferguson

It is characteristic for conservative historian Niall Ferguson to have produced an exceptional history during a pandemic. Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe is a sweeping chronicle of global disasters large and small from the dawn of recorded history to the end of 2020; a detailed account not only of previous pandemics, but an embryonic analysis of the moment we are currently living through and “a diary of the plague half year.” For those seeking to ground themselves in historical context after the topsy-turvy events of the past year, Ferguson’s latest offering will prove invaluable.

Putting the COVID Crisis in Context

The worldview of liberalism is that there is a critical mass of benighted and dangerous people who believe “disinformation” that has been implanted in their brainstem by vicious religious ideologues, homophobic Russian gangsters, or awkward conservative uncles who remained unslaughtered by their clever nieces last Thanksgiving. The Big Brotherhood of national media outlets announces the expert consensus, and using the powers of social conformism on social media and just social censorship by social-media companies, the Ministry of Truth can help the smooth governing of the people toward their inevitable destinies out of the backward past and into the utopia where the arc of history finally lands like a rainbow terminating into a pot of gold.

Your life mistakes, like responding with your genuine thoughts to Google’s solicitation for comment on internal woke religion, or being crowned Queen of Love at some crackers Veiled Prophet’s dinner dance, will be ruthlessly unearthed by the media to make an example of you in the present. The media’s “mistakes” will be gently erased and amended, hopefully without anyone noticing at all.

The Media’s Memory-Hole Privilege