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Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 4, 2013
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In Revolutionary Summer, the eminent historian Joseph Ellis describes the events surrounding the birth of America during the summer of 1776 (loosely defined as May through October of that year). Ellis's stated aim is to treat the military and political events of the period in tandem, and he skillfully establishes that there were two different sets of goals at stake: George Washington’s Continental Army considered independence an inevitability, while the Continental Congress considered it a last resort. A Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winner, Ellis recently retired as the Ford Foundation Professor of History at Mount Holyoke College. Reading Revolutionary Summer is like receiving a distinguished lecture from a man who has dedicated many fruitful decades to breathing life into our understanding of history—he makes Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and others of the era come alive for the reader. —Chris Schluep
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Ah yes, Phillips seems to say, but the events of 1776 played out within the strategic framework created in 1775.
Phillips says, rightfully, I think, that "If 1775 hadn't been a year of successful nation building, 1776 might have been a year of lost opportunity, quiet disappointment, and continued colonial status." In Phillips' view, "1775 is the crucial, early-momentum year of the Revolutionary era" - not 1776. Ellis, on the other hand, like other historians before him (for example, David McCaullough) looks to 1776 as the crucial year of the Revolution. But Phillips argues that this is a distortion and that we in the twentieth century are "excessively" immersed in 1776 "as a moral and ideological starting point." The Fourth of July says it all.
Phillips says he started out to prove that 1775 was as important as 1776 only to discover, the further he got along in his research, that 1775 was more important than 1776. Joseph Ellis, on the other hand, barely mentions 1775. He calls 1776 the "crescendo moment in American history" - particularly the five months between May and October.Read more ›
In a brief summary of the final steps leading to conflict, the author argues that there existed the basis for a possible compromise between colonies and the Crown. There may have been a majority in the Continental Congress interested in continued unity with England. British military initiatives, however, leading to battles in Lexington in April and at Bunker Hill in June of 1775 began to change hearts and minds. "The shift from a constitutional to a military conflict," advises Ellis, "altered the political chemistry forever."
In August, a Royal Proclamation dissolved the comforting fiction that the King did not support British military activity in America while publication in January 1776 of Paine's Common Sense spread and further inflamed the debate about independence. These developments set the scene for Congressional resolutions in May to replace colonial constitutions as well as the more famous Declaration in July.
On August 27, a British Army in which troops averaged 7 years of service humiliated the Continental Army (6 months average time in the field) at the Battle of Long Island. The Howe brothers, in command of British troops, believed that shock waves from this defeat would shake the foundation of the Rebellion. They did not pursue and destroy the struggling Continental Army. Ellis argues that the Howes saw themselves as peace commissioners as well as military commanders. There was no need to destroy the Continentals as the colonial army would disintegrate on its own.Read more ›
Ellis has taken this monumental moment of a time in our history when the American colonies stood poised to either wither or bloom and presented it in such a style that the reader can become engrossed with a story we all know how ends. He does this by giving vivid descriptions of the key figures in both the military and political realm without superfluous words.
In this book Ellis presents a look at both sides of the struggle, from Philadelphia where the Continental Congress met where thirteen individual colonies tried to hold common cause to the Parliament in Westminster, London. As well as the political attitudes Ellis covers the military tribulations of the summer of 1776 with a closer look at the commanders. From the problems that General Washington had to contend with such as commanding a rag tag group of inexperienced volunteers, to the over confidence Lord Germain placed in the British commanders Admiral Lord Richard Howe and General William Howe.
Those who hold political offices today need to be reminded what Adams had in mind for our constitutional government when he wrote "Thoughts on Government" in 1776, in particular what Ellis so clearly states "that political power flowed upward from its primal source in "the people" rather than downward from the king.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What a wonderful way Pulitzer Prize-winner Ellis has of distilling complicated historical events and people into a readable narrative! Read morePublished 10 days ago by Victoria Weisfeld
Most people when asked to recall the Spirit of '76 that led to American independence will most likely focus on the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Brian Indians Fan
The book described in detail the roles of the key founding fathers during the summer months of 1776. I learned many things about them I did not know.Published 4 months ago by Roseanne Bozzo
I have found that Ellis writes about familiar subject matter from a different perspective than have other authors.Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
If you are a student of American History, there is lots of information in this book you will not get in the average history book. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Virginia Sexton
An excellent summary of the traumas the founding fathers faced in the first year of the revolution. One gets an accelerant idea of how difficult the task of breaking ties with... Read morePublished 6 months ago by JULIAN D. PRINCE
Ellis writes fluidly and with insight. Interesting obseravtions on the Declaration(no one thought the first paragrphs were importnt, including Jefferson); Wahsington's struggle to... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Michael P. Maslanka
Joseph J. Ellis is one of the better historical authors for the American Revolutionary time period. He has written books on individuals (Washington, Adams, Jefferson) and on other... Read morePublished 6 months ago by CJG