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Flight from Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War Reprint Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199837328
ISBN-10: 0199837325
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

No great figures are now without multiple biographies, so why not slice up their lives into smaller subjects? Since that seems to be the current way, we're lucky to have a serious slice like this one. Kranish (a Boston Globe reporter and coauthor of John F. Kerry) focuses on Jefferson's much criticized yearlong governorship of Virginia during the last throes of the American Revolution. The British had invaded Virginia, the state militia was weak, and regular forces had not yet arrived. So Jefferson and the state legislature had to flee westward to avoid capture. By the time American forces, aided by the French, had forced a showdown at Yorktown in 1781, Jefferson's term in office had ended. Yet many held him responsible for Virginia's near disaster. That's allowed critics ever since to assail his behavior as cowardly and incompetent. Without making his book an open argument for the defense, Kranish relates the historical context and musters the facts that absolve Jefferson of the charges against him. It's hard to see how a stronger case could be made. Fluid prose makes the book readable; solid research makes it dependable. 21 b&w illus., 1 map. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"No great figures are now without multiple biographies, so why not slice up their lives into smaller subjects? Since that seems to be the current way, we're lucky to have a serious slice like [Flight From Monticello]... Fluid prose makes the book readable; solid research makes it dependable." --Publishers Weekly

"Thomas Jefferson's wartime conduct as governor of Virginia haunted him down the decades, and Michael Kranish has now brought this critical episode in American history to vivid life. Anyone interested in the Revolutionary War, in Jefferson, or in the formation of political character will find Kranish's book both delightful and instructive."--Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Lion

"My admiration for Flight from Monticello knows no bounds. Michael Kranish, one of America's best reporters, draws a brilliant portrait of Thomas Jefferson in turmoil. His analysis of Jefferson's strategic blunders is pioneering. Only Dumas Malone equals Kranish in dissecting Jefferson the Virginian. Highly recommended!"--Douglas Brinkley, author of The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, and The Great Deluge

"Michael Kranish has written a vivid and compelling account, with wonderful illustrative and often unfamiliar anecdotes, including descriptions of Benedict Arnold's wearing a British general's uniform and riding along the Duke of Gloucester Street in Williamsburg, and Jefferson's last-minute escape from Banastre Tarleton's troops. Flight from Monticello is an exciting account of a little-known but important chapter of revolutionary history."--Andrew Jackson O'Shaughnessy, director International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, professor at the University of Virginia, fellow of the Royal Historical Society

"Flight From Monticello succeeds superbly well in opening a new window on Thomas Jefferson during the Revolution. In this period of his life, he proved to be an incompetent military leader, poor planner and touchy and defensive Virginian. Kranish's suspenseful narrative illuminates Jefferson's shortcomings, and with great sympathy and skill reveals why this crucial moment of his life forever haunted America's favorite Renaissance Man."--Jonathan Alter, author of The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope

"Crisply written and well documented, this book is popular history at its best and will appeal to a wide readership. Highly recommended." -- Library Journal

"This is edge-of-your-seat history, meticulously researched and laid out, but written with such high drama and cinematic clarity that even well-known events of America's Revolutionary War are made to seem suspenseful-as if this time their outcomes might be different." -- ForeWord

"Students of Jefferson's life will want to read Flight From Monticello." -- Newsweek

"...superb narrative of the high-minded Virginian's turbulent wartime years." -- Wall Street Journal

"...a readable and surprisingly fresh take on Jefferson, the Revolutionary War, and Colonial Virginia...this is solid, entertaining history that debunks some myths while conveying the fog of war." -- Boston Globe

"...provides a fresh look at one of America's most revered historical leaders with an attention to drama that will keep readers trekking through to the very end." -- Roll Call

"The story of this seldom-told episode of our early history is dramatically told by Michael Kranish...Even people with broad knowledge of the Revolutionary period will gain from his diligent research, analytical insight and sparkling prose...Flight from Monticello is a worthwhile read." -- Washington Times

"A brilliantly narrated account of the British invasion and Jefferson's problematic response to it." --Wilson Quarterly

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (September 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199837325
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199837328
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.1 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,387,130 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael Gunther on January 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Flight from Monticello," by journalist Michael Kranish, is a narrative history of the worst year of Thomas Jefferson's life: 1781, his last year as governor of Virginia, when a British invasion forced the government of Virginia to relocate from Richmond to Charlottesville, and nearly resulted in the capture of Jefferson himself. Jefferson never lived it down, and even at the end of his life was still concerned to defend his gubernatorial conduct against charges of incompetence and even of personal cowardice.

Jefferson's governorship occupies the last 200 pages of Kranish's book; the first 100 pages recount Jefferson's history from his student days in Williamsburg through the Revolution, as background to understanding the events of 1781. Kranish adopts an objective tone throughout; rather than personally assigning blame or praise, he mostly lets Jefferson and his contemporaries speak for themselves. Kranish's own opinion acknowledges Jefferson's faults as a war leader but allows for extenuating circumstances. For example, when writing about the British invasion of Richmond (pp. 256-257), Kranish says: "Jefferson, who later would be accused by enemies of cowardice during the invasion, in fact remained in Richmond even as many other government leaders refused to show up... Whether the complaint [that Jefferson was a weak governor] had merit or not, the failure in Virginia went beyond Jefferson's lack of authority; legislators, councilors, and thousands of draft resisters shared the blame.
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Format: Hardcover
Today people are convinced that politicians all trail a cloud of scandal, and today people are starting to see the founding fathers that way, too, in particular Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was often beset by controversy, but the most enduring controversy in his public career during his lifetime had nothing to do with slavery or with Sally Hemings. It had to do with his service as governor of Virginia from 1779 to 1781, two of the most difficult years of the American Revolutionary War. As his second term was ending, the British invaded Virginia, sought to capture the state's government and its governor, and nearly succeeded. Did Jefferson show cowardice? Was he woefully inadequate to the job? Did he deserve the Virginia legislature's vote to hold an inquiry into his conduct -- or the shame-faced resolution of thanks that they later adopted instead of holding the inquiry?

Michael Kranish illuminates this turbulent and painful episode in FLIGHT FROM MONTICELLO, a well-written, solidly-researched, and thoughtful assessment of Jefferson's role in the coming the Revolution, his evolving political career, his attempts to balance his duty to his country with his duty to his family (in particular, his wife Martha, whose frequent pregnancies sapped her fragile health), and hsi struggles to stand by his political principles when increasingly some of them came to conflict with strategic and tactical reality. Kranish ably reminds us just how difficult it was in the late eighteenth century to fight a war with unreliable intelligence, inadequate sources of information, and a constitution that gave the governor a great deal of responsibility with pitifully little power to carry those responsibilities out.
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Format: Hardcover
For anyone interested in Jefferson, this book fills a really fascinating, and usually under appreciated time, of Jefferson's stress time as governor of Virginia when the militia in Virginia were under equipped and man power was limited while the British invade Virginia. As noted by the author, Jefferson was criticized by members of the Virginia Assembly for being ill prepared to defend the Commonwealth during the British invasion that not only took Richmond, Petersburg, Norfolk, and Portsmouth but also almost captured the legislature and Jefferson himself in Charlottesville and Monticello respectively. Although Jefferson took time to get his family under way, he returns to Monticello to gather papers narrowly missing the British cavalry under Tarleton. The author provides a brief early history and his association with Patrick Henry, who after the war becomes a life long nemesis. The author not only provides an excellent profile of Virginia during the war, the early heroics of Virginians chasing Lord Dunmore early on during the separation from Briton but also captures the burning of Norfolk by patriots to keep it out o British hands, detailing the weariness the wars effects had on the population, crippling the militia and supplies. In addition, of course, Benedict Arnold is a major part of the book as his greatest achievements as a British Officer is his time in VA. where he successfully travels up the James almost uncontested to Richmond opening the door for greater risk taking by the British leading to Cornwallis' arrival and command. Of note is Jefferson's fear that a governor could have too much executive power and assisted in limiting a post Britain governor's power that ironically haunts him as governor during the war.Read more ›
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