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Patriot Battles: How the War of Independence Was Fought Hardcover – April 3, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A former editor of the Military Book Club, Stephenson (Battlegrounds) aims to strip away "the slow accretion of national mythology and popular history" that has "embalmed" the American Revolution. The result is a well-documented, entertaining and mildly revisionist military history in two parts. In the first, Stephenson examines "The Nuts and Bolts of War," answering basic questions about who fought, how and why. He concludes, unsurprisingly, that "the war was not revolutionary in any military sense." What's intriguing is how similar the American and British armies were—Stephenson notes that for each, "It was like gazing into a mirror." To analyze prosaic details like supply and transport, weapons and medical care, the author uses an array of statistics and technical data—muzzle velocities, shot weights, equipment lists, etc.—but wisely leavens them with anecdotes. In part two, Stephenson turns to an analysis of the major battles of the war, from the opening skirmishes at Lexington and Concord to the climactic showdown at Yorktown, and concludes that the Continental Army's victory was always predicated on its numerical superiority. This excellent popular history should attract a wide audience with its fresh perspective. 16 maps. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

By the standards of the Civil War or the two world wars, the Revolutionary War seems second-rate in the scope and magnitude of slaughter. As Stephenson documents, casualty figures were comparatively low, since the war preceded the era of "industrialized" warfare. Still, for the men who fought and the civilians directly in the path of the conflict, it was a searing experience. In this comprehensive and well-written study of the military aspects of the war, Stephenson illuminates how ordinary soldiers endured the hardships, but he also interweaves their stories into the broader strategic goals pursued by both sides. Rather than viewing the struggle as a civil war between two groups of Anglo-Saxons, he sees it as a colonial conflict comparable to the so-called wars of national liberation of the twentieth century. Some of the parallels he draws seem strained, but others deserve serious consideration; and in the end this is an interesting and easily digestible study appealing to both military-history buffs and general readers. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First edition (April 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006073261X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060732615
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,141,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 78 people found the following review helpful By T. E. Vaughn on May 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Of all the wars that Americans have fought my knowledge of the War for Independence was most lacking. I looked to this volume to fill that gap for me. It is obvious that there was a lot of research done, almost 20% of the book is notes, bibliography and index. And the information is staggering--everything from rates of pay, types of weaponry, the sort of shoes the contending armies wore, the food, medical care... the list goes on. The first couple of chapters are dry in the extreme but the author does better in the following chapters of the first section. The latter part of the book, with synopses of the various battles and thoughtfully provided maps, was interesting.

But, and it's a major "but" for what was supposed to have been a book on how a past war was fought, the author cannot resist throwing in statements that reflect his personal and modern ideologies. There are gratuitous swipes at the policies in Iraq and Vietnam, right wing talk radio, Christians, and the way Indians were treated by those living in the 1700's and later. Some comparisons might be valid, but this was not a "compare/contrast" book. It was marketed and titled to reflect how something was done in the past, a recitation of facts. The author's asides mean that it is not what good history should be: objective. The comments are not extensive but they are jarring and in context apprear snide. Applying contemporary standards to those living in the past can be instructive in a classroom setting to show how civilization has grown or declined. In books it's more problematic. History books should say simply "here's what happened as best as can be determined." Readers can draw their own conclusions.

Finally, the ending paragraphs are spoiled by poor editing.
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57 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Kevin F. Kiley on June 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This volume is a great disappointment. It had all the promise of an outstanding work that presented a different view of the War of the Revolution However, none of the opportunities available to pursue that approach to the war and the fascinating characters that populate the period on both sides were attempted.

The basic premise and outline are credible: the first half of the book concerns the armies, weapons, and such seldom covered topics as the women who followed the armies and the Indians. The second half covers selected battles more or less competently, but the book seems to be to be trying to combine the approach of two outstanding works on the Revolution: Harold Peterson's indispensable The Book of the Continental Soldier and WJ Wood's outstanding Battles of the Revolutionary War 1775-1781, and doesn't do it as well as either Peterson or Wood, and we are left with a second-rate account of the war.

The text is riddled with errors. Nathaniel Greene is accused of war profiteering with little or no proof. Monmouth is portrayed as an American loss. Numbers throughout the text are suspect-Rochambeau's French Expeditionary force that was sent to North America in 1780 numbered 5,000 French regulars; the author numbers them around 4,000 which is nothing but sloppy research. Lafayette's numbers in Virginia in 1781 are inflated to 5,000, which is again incorrect. The author's portrayal of the Continentals relies heavily on secondary accounts of what social class the rank and file came from instead of what type of soldiers they were and became. The expertise of the British regular is downplayed considerably, as are the military attributes of the assorted German mercenaries hired by the British government and sent to North America starting in 1776.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Peter Ford on June 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
Patriot Battles
How the War of Independence Was Fought
by
Michael Stephenson

As an editor of The Military Book Club, an editor and contributor to the National Geographic's "Battlegrounds: Geography and the History of Warfare", and as a coauthor of "The Nuclear Case-book", I had great expectations for this book. It was most disappointing that it did not rise to any where near my hopes.

As is all too common with books printed today, thanks to the use of Spell-Check rather than spending any money on a real live thinking editor, I found quite a number of grammatical and spelling errors - "it would too dangerous" (how about - "it would be too dangerous"), the use of "to", or "too" instead of "two", or (my absolute all time personal favorite found on page 284) the single word (no spaces): "particularlyoutspokenagainstwhathesawasadisastrouslyoverambitious attack".

But, passing on the cheapness of book publishers today, and speaking only of the author's efforts I found much to withhold applause on. Although stating very laudable goals, such as: Who fought; Why did they fight; How did they sustain themselves; With what did they fight; and, How did they fight? I had expected far better answers.

This book is just full of the author's rather dull opinions (like the magnificent Blenheim Palace that is visited by millions every year is, in his superior opinion, just a "lumpy and unlovely McMansion"). Like that has anything to do with the topic. And then there is his elusive "Tolstoyan" reference to explosive shells - I'm not quite sure what that means, considering the definition of "Tolstoyan"??? Or why it was elusive "for him", considering his background?
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