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Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence [Kindle Edition]

John Ferling
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (256 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In this gripping chronicle of America's struggle for independence, award-winning historian John Ferling transports readers to the grim realities of that war, capturing an eight-year conflict filled with heroism, suffering, cowardice, betrayal, and fierce dedication. As Ferling demonstrates, it was a war that America came much closer to losing than is now usually remembered. General George Washington put it best when he said that the American victory was "little short of a standing miracle."
Almost a Miracle offers an illuminating portrait of America's triumph, offering vivid descriptions of all the major engagements, from the first shots fired on Lexington Green to the surrender of General Cornwallis at Yorktown, revealing how these battles often hinged on intangibles such as leadership under fire, heroism, good fortune, blunders, tenacity, and surprise. The author paints sharp-eyed portraits of the key figures in the war, including General Washington and other American officers and civilian leaders. Some do not always measure up to their iconic reputations, including Washington himself. Others, such as the quirky, acerbic Charles Lee, are seen in a much better light than usual. The book also examines the many faceless men who soldiered, often for years on end, braving untold dangers and enduring abounding miseries. The author explains why they served and sacrificed, and sees them as the forgotten heroes who won American independence. Ferling's narrative is also filled with compassion for the men who comprised the British army and who, like their American counterparts, struggled and died at an astonishing rate in this harsh war. Nor does Ferling ignore the naval war, describing dangerous patrols and grand and dazzling naval actions.
Finally, Almost a Miracle takes readers inside the legislative chambers and plush offices of diplomats to reveal countless decisions that altered the course of this war. The story that unfolds is at times a tale of folly, at times one of appalling misinformation and confusion, and now and then one of insightful and dauntless statesmanship.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Ferling, professor emeritus at the University of West Georgia, caps his distinguished career as a scholar and popular writer on the colonial/revolutionary period with arguably the best, and certainly one of the most stimulating, single-volume histories of the American Revolution. Exhaustively researched and clearly written, it stresses the contingent aspects of a war where victory depended on making the fewest mistakes. Despite chances to end the war in battle, by negotiation or by international conference, Britain failed for lack of manpower, the decision to wage limited war and an ineffective central government—and above all, comprehensive underestimation of American military effectiveness and political resolve. America's cause, ironically, nearly foundered on reluctance to support a standing army, and a government that wasn't strong enough to plan and execute a concerted war effort. That popular enthusiasm never broke owed much to a stable French alliance and to George Washington, who was a good diplomat, a better politician and an excellent judge of character. Steadily growing into the responsibilities of commander in chief, he achieved legitimate iconic status by the war's end. Ultimately, Ferling demonstrates that independence was won through the endurance of the American people and their soldiers, who held on for that last vital quarter of an hour. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Ferling, a history professor, is the author of nine books on the American Revolution and early American wars. In his new book, he posits that the War of Independence was so vast that hardly anyone living east of the Appalachian Mountains was untouched. Many civilians were killed, including Indians and the residents of some coastal towns, both of whom were deliberately targeted, and countless others fell victim to diseases that soldiers on both sides spread unwittingly. He points out that his book seeks to explain why America won the war and why the British, despite their many advantages, lost it. One of the book's many well-developed themes is that the war came much closer to ending short of a great American victory than many now realize. It also looks at how wars were waged in the eighteenth century and explores how soldiers and civilians experienced the war. Ferling admits that he came to see both more flaws and greater virtues in Washington's leadership, that he gained a deeper appreciation of General Nathanael Greene, and that he saw General Charles Lee as a tragic figure. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 3608 KB
  • Print Length: 693 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0195181212
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (June 4, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,244 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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242 of 259 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Book, with pro-Southern Biases August 8, 2007
Historian John Ferling sets out to define the causes for American victory in the War of Independence on the broad canvas of his magnum opus, Almost a Miracle. The author uses a remark General George Washington made after Yorktown - that American victory seemed almost a miracle - as a starting point for his dissection of just how the American rebels were able to defeat the greatest empire on earth. Almost a Miracle is a very well-written, well-argued historical work that sets out not only to narrate facts but to ascertain what they mean and whether or not the actual outcome was indeed a miracle, or only seemed that way at the time. The author handles this material deftly, but there are two issues of bias in his approach that may cause readers familiar with this subject to bristle. First, the author has a tendency to emphasize defects with familiar heroes of the Revolutionary era (Washington, Hamilton, Lafayette, Franklin), while praising men (Lee, Gates) who ended up with less than stellar records. Second, the author - who lives in the south - tends to exaggerate the importance of the south while neglecting to mention colonial demographics, that the percent of the population in the Carolinas and Georgia was small. Overall, Almost a Miracle succeeds in laying out a well-argued explanation for the American victory and if readers can overlook some of the author's bias, they will find a very satisfying intellectual look at why the American Revolution turned out the way it did.

Almost a Miracle consists of four main parts (Going to War, 1775-1776; the War in the North, 1776-1779; the War in the South, 1780-1781; and American Victory, 1781-1783), which are sub-divided into 25 chapters. The book also includes 25 maps, an 8-page bibliography and 75 pages of footnotes.
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92 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Epic Chronicle of the Revolutionary War June 24, 2007
Bringing to this book nearly forty years of teaching and writing experience, John Ferling is one of the premier authorities on the history of early America.

Ferling is the author of numerous books and articles on the American Revolution, including Setting the World Ablaze: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and the American Revolution; The World Turned Upside Down: The American Victory in the War of Independence; and A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic (2003), which won the Fraunces Tavern Book Award as the year's best book on the American Revolution.

In Almost a Miracle, Ferling, professor emeritus at the University of West Georgia, has written an engrossing, fast-paced military history of the Revolutionary War, from the first shots fired at Lexington and Concord to the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.

At the end of this eight-year war, George Washington remarked that the American victory was "little short of a standing miracle."

How did America emerge victorious?

Ferling's assessment of George Washington is a double-edged sword. Often out-generaled, Washington made several egregious blunders that, had the British commander (Howe) acted aggressively, would have ended the war almost before it began. Washington also was slow to recognize the importance of Britain's "Southern Strategy," believing that military action in the "backwater" South was of small importance.

And yet, Washington's Fabian strategy and tactics (employing frequent "hit-and-run" retreats and a defensive war of posts), held the tattered American forces together, through brutal winters at Valley Forge and Morristown, to live and fight another day.
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perspective on the War of Independence June 18, 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Almost A Miracle is terrific telling of the Revolution, including its details, strategies, participants, daily human realities, the roles of luck and chance, and the might-have-beens of history. As a New Yorker I could actually picture Ferling's recreation of Washington's eight-abreast march down the Post Road as it proceeded from place to place and finally to Broadway as the last Continentals, black and white, re-took York Island in November 1783. That's good writing. I finally learned why a small city in South Carolina would be named for a Rhode Islander. Buffs and newcomers alike will enjoy the flow and perspective in Ferling's version of this oft-told tale. No Founding Era collection could be complete without it.

Reviews require criticisms too, and I have two: a book like this would benefit greatly by an Appendix or two that included a timeline and a cast of characters (sort of like White's Bitter Ocean). Secondly, all books have typos and grammatical faux pas - this one has too many.
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51 of 59 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not one of Mr. Ferlings finest June 28, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I know my mediocre review of this book is against the mainstream and I understand that Mr. Ferling's attempt to cover such a vast topic in just one book is a difficult task, but having said that, I found the book a little disjointed and lacking the detail I have come to expect from Mr. Ferling's other books. A simple example is The Battle of Brooklyn where the moraine running along (Guana Heights and Flatbush Pass) is barely touched upon. This battle as well as the others, are so fascinating that to just brush on them does no justice to the battles nor the hardships the "rebels" faced. This is NOT a book where the reader will sit with the map and be able to follow every step of the battle-far from it.

The topics are too fascinating, at least for me, who has read many detailed accounts of The Revoluton, to accept a summary approach with a few quotes stuck in for authenticity.

I could go through the same as it pertains to Ticonderoga, NJ, etc. but you get the picture.

If you are looking for a general overview of the Revolutionary War this is as good as it gets, but if you are looking for a book that involves you in a "being there" perspective wanting a copy of the map by your sided so you can literally follow the treks of the armies over and around the geographical and often geological obstacles, this is not it.

Mr. Ferling, also, in my opinion, throws in many quotes that I found out of place and somewhat slowing the reading process.

In summary, while I respect Mr. Ferling as much as any contemporary in early American History, this book is a far cry from his others, particularly A Leap in the Dark.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A clearer understanding
Good historical read: a clearer understanding of the revolution era.
Published 17 days ago by Larry A
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book really gives you the history from start to ...
Excellent book really gives you the history from start to finish. One of the best I have read on this subject
Published 21 days ago by William Seymore
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
excellent and provocative a must for the seriously interested
Published 1 month ago by david a caputo
5.0 out of 5 stars The title describes the events leading to the colonist gaining ...
The title describes the events leading to the colonist gaining their freedom from England. You can leave "almost" off and it's pefect.
Published 1 month ago by Shauna L. Phelps
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I have a hard time putting it down. Very thorough.
Published 1 month ago by joe
5.0 out of 5 stars irc
What a Mircle it was that we could build such an army in so little time and beat the greatest Army in the world at that time! It must have been ordained!
John D. Solomon
Published 1 month ago by John D. Solomon
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book!
This was used as my textbook in my Revolutionary War class. Well written and easy to read. I would recommend this book to students and historians alike.
Published 1 month ago by Timothy Mckenna
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Great read big book certainly not boring
Published 2 months ago by Bruce
5.0 out of 5 stars A complete history of the triumphs and tribulations of the ...
A complete history of the triumphs and tribulations of the American War of Independence. Very well written in all the details.
A must read for all history buffs. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Vladimir Pilar
3.0 out of 5 stars I have found that John Ferling while a wonderful writer has fallen...
I have found that John Ferling while a wonderful writer has fallen into the trap that so many historians have when it comes to some of the facts regarding the Revolutionary War, he... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Fred
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More About the Author

John Ferling is a leading authority on late 18th and early 19th century American history. He is the author of many books, including Independence, The Ascent of George Washington, Almost a Miracle, Setting the World Ablaze, and A Leap in the Dark. To learn more, please visit his website:

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