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Conquered into Liberty: Two Centuries of Battles along the Great Warpath that Made the American Way of War Hardcover – November 15, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Conquered Into Liberty is beautiful narrative history: The author is a poetic and evocative storyteller. But the book is also valuable for the lessons it imparts and the heritage it conveys. The experience along the Great Warpath has seeped into the American character and helped prepare subsequent warriors to appreciate Washington’s famous declaration: ‘If you wish for peace, prepare for war.’ The Great Warpath’s legacy helps our soldiers know that one of the obligations of citizenship is to understand the character of war.” –Josiah Bunting, The Washington Post

“Mr. Cohen has thus produced the opposite of a dry-as-dust academic tome, and it is full of surprises. . . . As "Conquered Into Liberty" memorably shows, one territory of the country knew little peace for more than a century.” —Wall Street Journal

“A brilliant history of our least-known wars on our most-ignored frontier -- our northern border with Canada.”
–Doyle McManus

“A delightful-to-read piece of American history.”
Kirkus Reviews

"Cohen, among America’s leading defense analysts and military historians combines his skills in this comprehensively researched, well-written analysis of the international conflict that more than any other shaped the U.S. way of war. . . . Even issues of contemporary concern, the problems of conventional forces facing irregular opponents and the belief that an adversary can be 'conquered into liberty,' were first confronted in these battles, as Cohen demonstrates in this original and illuminating study."
Publishers Weekly

“There has been no dearth of books that have analyzed America’s wars, primarily from a military and political viewpoint.  Yet Eliot Cohen has mined an unexplored third vein of influence, stemming from its pre-colonial and frontier past, which still echo today.  Conquered Into Liberty is an insightful and creative new exploration of the distinctively American approach to warfare.”
—Henry A. Kissinger

“Eliot Cohen’s Conquered into Liberty provides an illuminating account of America’s early struggles in the northeast border region from one of our nation’s foremost experts on military affairs. Insightful and penetrating in its analysis, this is not just a remarkable work of history; it traces the roots of the institutions and culture that continue to shape America’s armed forces in our own time.” 
—Condoleezza Rice, Professor of Political Economy, Stanford University and Sixty-Sixth Secretary of State of the United States

"Eliot Cohen has written a brilliant account of a little known, but important, period in our country's history. It is a riveting work that masterfully describes how pre-Revolutionary War events shaped our nation's approach to war. It is a must read for all Americans."
—General Anthony C. Zinni USMC (Ret.)

"Conquered into Liberty is a powerful and ingenious history--a story of prolonged, tribal war set within ideological conflict and superpower competition; of intense battles of regulars, militias, indigenous forces, and proxies including savage terror, kidnapping, and worse; and of coalition operations where strategic aims often did not match resources allocated and actual war requirements were not understood in distant capitals.  Cohen’s account at once explains an important period of American history and puts today’s wars in proper context."
—LTG (Retired) Jim Dubik,  Senior Fellow, the Institute for the Study of War and former Commanding General of Multi-National Security and Transition Command and NATO Training Mission, Iraq 2007-2008

"Eliot Cohen is the David McCullough of the American frontier. He has written a fascinating history of heroes, rogues and rugged individualists who almost united Canada and America. Cohen captivates the reader by recounting the battles and dissecting the 'what if’s?' of history that determined the courses both of America and Canada. A rich, page-turning tale of war and survival, of ambition and empire, of men who sought adventure and refused defeat."  
—Bing West, bestselling author of The Village, The Strongest  Tribe and The Wrong War

“Master strategist Eliot Cohen analyzes nearly three centuries of conflict, recounting battles both familiar (Ticonderoga, Fort William Henry) and perhaps obscure (Schenectady, St. Johns, Hubbardton). His account, at once both sweeping and fresh, offers strategic ‘lessons learned’ over three centuries on the Great Warpath that coalesced into the American way of war and peace.”
—Nicholas Westbrook, Director Emeritus, Fort Ticonderoga

"This fascinating book reminds us of the long history of antagonism in North America and how it could so easily have been different. The values, self belief and dynamism of the United States have been shaped by this story, so often one of war.  Eliot Cohen is exceptionally well qualified to make clear the relevance for today."
—Sir John Scarlett, Chief MI6 2004-2009

“Conquered Into Liberty provides an innovative approach to the telling of military history that helps the reader better understand the present. [The book] has a valued place in the library of anyone who wishes to understand the development of the United States and its approach to war.”
New York Journal of Books

Conquered into Liberty is a labor of love. Yet Cohen brings to this project far more than a history buff’s enthusiasm. He has spent lifetime writing about military affairs, and the results of his research and reflection are evident on every page of a narrative that does not hesitate to invoke modern comparisons to put the struggles of the past into perspective. [Conquered into Liberty] will serve to acquaint a new generation with some of the lesser-known battles that did so much to shape the early Republic.” —Max Boot, Commentary Magazine

“A fine, thoughtful treatment of a period of American history that rarely receives much attention.”—Seattle Times

“Impressive. . . Conquered into Liberty excels in its demonstration of the ways in which important components of the American military tradition emerged. . . The stories that Cohen recounts are valuable not only instrumentally—as keys to the origins of the American way of war—but also intrinsically. Simply put, the book contains much interesting . . . history that is likely to be unfamiliar to most readers. . . Conquered into Liberty deserves a wide readership that should certainly include anyone interested in American history or military history.” —The Weekly Standard

“Broad in scope and gripping in its narrative, Conquered into Liberty is as informative as it is captivating.” —ARMY Magazine

“A fine, thoughtful treatment of a period of American history that rarely receives much attention.”—Seattle Times

“Engaging...fast-moving prose—this book is a page-turner especially when it describes battles…Cohen fills the mind’s eye with vivid landscape.” —Walter Nugent, Parameters

“Conquered into Liberty is a good read for anyone interested in a fresh perspective on the particular wars it covers and the development of the American military tradition.” Strategy Page

About the Author

Eliot A. Cohen is Robert E. Osgood Professor of Strategic Studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of the Johns Hopkins University and founding director of the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies. From 2007 to 2009 he was Counselor of the Department of State, serving as Secretary Condoleezza Rice's senior advisor on strategic issues.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st edition (November 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743249909
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743249904
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #458,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"Charming" isn't a word you're likely to associate with military histories, but this one is. Just read the Prologue if you doubt it. Eliot Cohen writes with expertise but also with affection about the "Great Warpath," offering a fascinating account of the irregular wars waged among French and English settlers, Americans and their Indian tribe allies along the Hudson River Valley from Albany to Montreal and beyond over a span of two centuries. His familiarity with and obvious love for the area helps him evoke those days vividly. His experience as an academic, a military analyst and a former senior government official come to the fore in his thesis and many insights. "Conquered Into Liberty" is especially enjoyable for the latter, such as his observation that while Americans usually think of the oceans as what isolated our nation from the rest of the world before the age of air travel, the Atlantic was really what connected early Americans and Canadians with Europe. His argument that the battles along the Great Warpath shaped an "American way of war" echoed in today's conflicts, and from which Americans should draw lessons, becomes ever more convincing as the story unfolds. Best of all, this isn't just a handsome book but a great read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like all successful histories, Eliot Cohen's Conquered into Liberty is a serious book that entertains while it enriches our lives. Its topic, the two centuries of conflict that dominated life along "the Great Warpath" in the Champlain Valley corridor between Albany and Montreal, turns out to be central to the American story, no less important for being lesser known. To read Conquered into Liberty is to discover how insecurity, friction, and even terror characterized relations among the British, French, Indians, Canadians, and Americans on this early frontier of what today is the familiar and friendly space between the United States and Canada. As with his previous portrayal of four great wartime leaders in Supreme Command, Eliot Cohen weaves into the chronology of battles, individual stories of heroism and cowardice, competence and incompetence to show how "personalities often dictate [the] outcomes" that become our histories. He gives us in detail the campaigns in the North Country that made Benedict Arnold into George Washington's most courageous and capable commander in the first part of the Revolutionary War, and explains the provocations that turned Arnold into our leitmotif for treachery. It was in these wars on the frontier too that Robert Rogers of New Hampshire commanded Robert's Rangers on scouting and raiding missions that became the legacy of special operations and the Army Rangers that are such prominent elements of U.S. warfare today.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Was it Daniel Day-Lewis in "The Last of the Mohicans" that sparked your interest in the French and Indian Wars? Henry Fonda in "Drums Along the Mohawk"? Was it the novels of Kenneth Roberts, or the bracing histories of Francis Parkman? Or perhaps a visit to Ticonderoga? Whatever awakened your interest in the century of conflict on the "Great Warpath" between Albany and Montreal, you'll want to read this superb book. Here's why:

-- Military histories are usually organized by wars, campaigns, generals, or weapons. This is something rarer, focused on decades of struggle across one area. Lake George and Lake Champlain are now easily visited and hiked, but in the 1700s the strategically important area was remote and difficult wilderness.

-- Cohen does a good job describing campaigns from bottom to top -- by soldiers and commanders at Lake George and Lake Champlain, to commanders and council halls in Quebec, New York and Philadelphia, Paris, and London.

-- There's a consistent fine focus on the enormous difficulties of supply -- and shipbuilding -- in the wilderness. Modern logisticians will appreciate what was accomplished.

-- There are many profiles of leaders on both sides -- men as diverse as Ethan Allen, Robert Rogers, Montcalm, Frontenac, Bougainville, Stark, Lord Jeffrey Amherst, Burgoyne, McDonough, and many more. The author's looks at their strengths and weaknesses are candid and fresh. There's a fine short essay on Benedict Arnold. This book adds to the reputation of one man who was not there, George Washington, as he wrestled with threats and priorities during the Revolution, and it also brought home to me how many veterans of the French and Indian War led the Continental Army.
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For all denizens and lovers of American History and the Champlain Valley, I highly recommend this new book.

Not only does the author clearly and concisely illuminate the familiar events that transpired over two centuries on the Albany-Montreal axis by bringing to bear fresh insights, new penetrating research, and illuminating quotes, he weaves them into the broad tapestry of ongoing events elsewhere for which his distinguished career as a noted historian and adviser to presidents has superbly prepared him.

Cohen is not just an academic researcher on this topic - he has spent years walking the walk at not just the usual sites at Saratoga, Bennington, Ticonderoga, Valcour Island and Rogers Rock, but also the other lesser known but pivotal locations at Hubbardton, St. Jean, Isle le Noix, and many others. His assessments of Benedict Arnold's admirable performance, Vermont's flirtations with secession and Canada's obsession with the threat from the south well into the late stages of the 19th Century are particularly revealing.

This would make a wonderful gift to students of American history in general, and of the Seven Years, Revolutionary, and 1812 wars in particular.
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