I wanted to quickly mention a book that I just finished today – The First American Army by Bruce Chadwick. As explained in the subtitle, it is the untold story of George Washington and the men behind America’s first fight for freedom.
Here is an excerpt from Publisher’s Weekly:
In this novelistic treatment of the Revolutionary War, Chadwick (George Washington’s War, Brother Against Brother) uses the experiences of eight men to give the reader a “bottom up” look at the war. Drawing on their letters and diaries, he follows them through their years in and out of the war, from the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775 to the American victory at Yorktown in 1781. Although the horrors of battle are a main focus of their writings, everyday activities and concerns-romance, food, clothing, leisure and friendship-reveal much about these early Americans’ lives. Readers will find little academic analysis of the subjects; except for a few expansive chapter introductions, Chadwick keeps standard history writing to a minimum. Instead, he focuses on these men’s day-to-day and writes in lively prose, although some accounts push the limits of reconstruction and read like fiction.
I thought it was interesting to read about the war from the perspective of the common soldier. This seems to be a common theme in academic books – the generals and other famous people in wars have been written about to death and now writers are looking for a different perspective of wars – the common soldier. I don’t think this is a bad trend, but I think that there needs to be a balance of a history of a war by blending descriptions of the generals and the privates.
With all of that in mind, the average reader will enjoy the stories as told by the participants.
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