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John Stark: Maverick General Hardcover – March 17, 2007
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From the Publisher
Though we live in a time of unprecedented interest in the character of our founding fathers, many of the American Revolution's most important leaders have been overlooked. One of those forgotten is John Stark, a brilliant battlefield tactician from New Hampshire, whose decisive action at key points in the War of Independence helped determine its outcome.
In his biography, author Ben Z. Rose focuses on a handful of key people in John Stark's life in an effort to gain insight into his motivation and character. These include his wife, Elizabeth "Molly" Stark, who hailed from a prominent Puritan family; his oldest son, Caleb, who enlisted in the Continental Army at the age of 15; Robert Rogers, founder of the colonial ranger force that bears his name; Seth Warner, the Green Mountain Ranger who fought for Vermont's independence; fellow-New Hampshire Revolutionary War General John Sullivan, who fought alongside Stark at the Battle of Trenton; and Horatio Gates, who rivaled George Washington for leadership of the Continental Army.
John Stark inspired the phrase "Live Free or Die" in a letter to the citizens of Vermont almost 200 years ago during a Battle of Bennington reunion. Stark's sentiment at the time was clearly intended to warn against another British invasion, which occurred a short time later when the British burned down the US Congress during the War of 1812.
As we live in an age where the pendulum swings between concerns over the intrusion of government in our daily lives and fear of foreign enemies, Stark's words speak to us with the same relevance as he did more than 200 years ago.
From the Author
Staunchly independent and deeply suspicious of authority, John Stark disdained politics and was considered something of a renegade, even among his friends. Like General George Patton of a later era, Stark was brash, outspoken and suspicous of politicians who meddled in military affairs. I am hopeful that this modern interpretation of John Stark helps restore his stature among the most important generals of the War of Independence.
Top customer reviews
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Somebody should make a movie about Stark. General John Stark would make Rambo look like a sally.
As with any book there are strengths and weaknesses in John Stark. Rose does a good job at staying neutral to both Stark and to those that Stark is in contact with. However, several times he uses anecdotal evidence, generally referenced as `according to stark family tradition'. Though the anecdotes may well illustrate Rose's point, they aren't an actual reliable source. On a positive note, however, Rose does always mention that it is according to tradition, allowing the reader to understand that what follows may nor may not be historically accurate. He may use the anecdote but he never makes the claim that it is fact.
Another weakness in the book is that Rose tends towards sloppy sentence structure and there are spelling errors in the book. This doesn't specifically reflect on the content of the book; however, it does tend to distract the reader.
Unfortunately what does reflect on the content is that Rose tends towards secondary sources. He does include many letters written by the people themselves, however, the bulk of his sourcing comes from other books. He quotes primary people but instead of using a primary source, like George Washington's actual letter, he quotes the letter from another book.
The book is well researched, and the author makes his case the General Stark was a unique figure among the American Revolutionary military leaders. Because of the weakness, however, John Stark is a good place to begin research on General Stark, but it is not a place to end. Rose does include references to other sources, which is helpful, as well as a list of primary source letters from the era.
The recommendation, at this point, is that this book is good for a causal reader interested in some of the Forgotten Founders, but an historian truly interested in the details of John Stark's life (that comes from primary sources) would need to look elsewhere.
As a character study the book was good. It gave a lot of information about the people and events that helped shape Stark through his life. Firecely proud, patriotic and independent all at the same time, Stark is a character worth study. If you are looking for a character study on a Patriot, this is not a bad book to have.
Where I felt this book fell short was in the detail given to the battles he was involved in. For the battles in which Stark was involved there was little detail when compared to other Revolutionary war books. There was not a lot of information on the terrain, the strategy or the people involved. The Battle of Bennington, is perhaps the one exception to this. It was covered fairly well, but I was disappointed that a book specificly about Stark has less information on the battle than several other books I have read. Other battles, including his role at Breed's Hill and as support on the Canada mission were touched briefly and left me wanting.
For a casual reader on the war, a person looking more for character study than detailed participation this is a good book. Those more serious about studying the battles he was involved in will not find much of use here.