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The Philadelphia Campaign: Volume Two: Germantown and the Roads to Valley Forge (Philadelphia Campaign) (Volume 2) Hardcover – May 21, 2007
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The Philadelphia Campaign is first-rate, an absorbing work of tenacious research and close scholarship. Thomas J. McGuire knows the time of the American Revolution and has been over the ground in and about Philadelphia in a way few writers ever have. But it is his empathy for the human reality of war and the great variety of people caught up in it, whether in the service of the king or the Glorious Cause of America, that makes this book especially alive and memorable. --David McCullough, author of John Adams and 1776
About the Author
Thomas McGuire teaches American history at Malvern Preparatory School near Paoli, Pennsylvania, and is the author of Battle of Paoli and Stop The Revolution.
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This approach results in very hard reading. One of the reasons is the constant switching among the styles of the original authors, every one of whom seems to have a unique theory of spelling, grammar, and punctuation (as was common to the era). The modern framework and the quoted material are run together, which was probably the only workable choice, but in the end you have an aesthetic muddle. The result is not confusion, but tedium.
On the other hand, the obvious breadth of the available materials that are included almost make this book a primary source compendium. I have found it very useful as a reference work, especially when I am focusing on a relatively small period of time, or a single event (such as one small part of a battle).
In summary, I would strongly recommend this book to anyone with a specific and significant interest in the subject it covers. If that describes you, you will not regret buying this book. But its primary use as casual reading might be to help defeat insomnia.
This book is an excellent addition to a very pivotal year in the American Revolution. I was surprised at how very close the Americans actually came to defeating the bulk of the British forces in America in 1777. Most of us are quite familiar with the result of the Battles at Saratoga, NY, but how many are familiar with the siege of Ft. Mifflin? I had heard of this battle and overviewed the site but what I did not fully understand was how important it was for the British to eliminate this American strongpoint. This strongpoint was essentially preventing re-supply of the entire British Army which was occupying Philadelphia and which was starving. They had won at Brandywine and won again at Germantown but they were essentially cut off in Philadelphia with Washington constricting the bag around them. If Ft. Mifflin had held out it is probable that Howe would have had to conduct a fighting retreat with a starving army back to his fleet.
I was also struck by the descriptions of the Battle of Germantown and how some things in the military never change through time and culture. Yet the reader is also given glimpses into how very different war and armies were back then, especially because of the social constructs of the time. Soldiering though is an eternal sameness going back to the ancients and forward to the present. These soldiers on both sides were very hard men and their stamina in the field and in marching would humble any modern army today. That they endured the lack of logistics and still managed to march and fight as they did with the pluck and spirit they had continues to be the untold story of the American Revolution. It is no wonder that Civil War soldiers held the Continentals up as the standard they were trying to match.
I was also continually struck by how they did fight these battles. Not so much on the operational or strategic level but at the tactical level. There was not as much standing shoulder to shoulder in straight lines and shooting it out as is too often portrayed. The dominance of a light infantry ethos especially among British troops will surprise many readers. They other great factor is the predominance of the bayonet as a weapon of decision. This was not the same British Army which would march against Napoleon though it is often portrayed as such.
The bibliography is excellent and will serve to foist many other titles onto my reading stack, in particular I have become interested in the writings of the Hessian Light Infantryman Johann Ewald. His observations seem quite adept given what he was experiencing.