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A Revolutionary People At War: The Continental Army and American Character, 1775-1783

4.1 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0807846063
ISBN-10: 0807846066
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Represents a quantum leap in our understanding of the Revolution.

Edmund S. Morgan, "New Republic""

It is a work of art. . . . No student of early American history should miss it.

"Journal of Southern History"

Represents a quantum leap in our understanding of the Revolution.

Edmund S. Morgan, "New Republic"

Review

Represents a quantum leap in our understanding of the Revolution. . . . [The book] is social history, intellectual history, institutional history, political history, and not any single one of them, which is to say that it is good history.--Edmund S. Morgan, New Republic



To a far greater extent than is true of most historical monographs, it is a work of art. . . . No student of early American history should miss it.--Journal of Southern History

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 452 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press (September 9, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807846066
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807846063
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #787,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is an excellent study of the Continental Army without which the Revolution would not have been won. Charles Royster is a first class historian and this is one of the best, if not the best, book he has written.
It is something of a social history and it gives a complete account of what the Continental army was like, its motivation, origins, and development, warts and all. I cannot think of another work that covers this topic as well as this one.
One of the most interesting facets of the book, though, is the appendix that covers statistics and the motivation of the Continentals. This gives a true and accurate picture of the Continentals and give them a human face. They weren't demigods, but soldiers who enlisted in an army that had a hard task ahead, and who sometimes failed, always endured, and finally won. In many ways it was the toughest, best army the US ever fielded. It definitely was the most enduring-no other American military force suffered from and finally overcame such an imposing set of obstacles. This book gives a much more accurate picture of the Continental Army than Charles Neimeter's American Goes To War. Charles Royster has a definite story to tell and he tells it with verve, panache, accuracy, and a definite empathy for his subject. This book is a definite must for any student of the American Revolution
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Format: Paperback
This is one of the key questions Charles Royster seeks to understand in this important analysis of the American Revolution. Following a chronological approach, Royster probes the ideology of revolution, the rise of an effective fighting force to conduct that revolution, and the control of that spirit of revolution. He concentrates on the intellectual issues that arose in the context of fighting the British Empire. He believes that the men in the Continental Army not only rebelled against the perception of British tyranny but also against the issue of militarism. Americans rushed to join the army in 1775 because of what he called a "rage militaire" that represented a disavowal of British colonical policies and rule. This reaction might have been virtuous and patriotic, but that emotion did not sustain the Continental Army over the long haul of difficult battles and hardships. So what did?

Royster asserts that the Continental Army both shaped and tested the ideals of the American Revolution. He notes that the vision of liberty and independence, freedom and eqality, and the desire to create a new promised land outside the authority of a staid Europe motivated the men of the army. Morale went up and down depending on their fortunes, but their faith in this vision remained. Royster's key point seems to be: "in the eyes of the revolutionaries, war put to the trial the military ardor and skill as well as the moral assumptions on which they based their hopes for American independence. To fail as defenders of ideals was to fail as Americans, to succeed was to give the victors, their country, and its liberty the prospect of immortality" (p. 3).

The Continental Army, in Royster's estimation, was both loved and hated.
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Format: Paperback
In A Revolutionary People at War: The Continental Army and American Character, historian Charles Royster searches for and analyzes the "American character prevalent during the War for Independence." (vii) Royster finds that with regard to the Continental Army specifically and the Revolutionary populace in general, "allegiance to the `American'...side in the War for Independence was the prevailing sentiment" in the United States, and that this allegiance was based primarily on what he terms "a national character." (viii) throughout the course of this book then, Royster chronicles the revolutionary character of America's soldiers, and how it changed markedly as the war progressed. One of his central questions concerns the "ideals espoused during the revolution," and how the patriots' actions measured up to them. By 1783, Royster finds that the gap between ideals and reality was often significant. Eight years of war, it seems, "severely tested American's dedication to independence." (3)
Royster uses a prologue to define his terms with a useful essay on the idea character. The war would test Americans, especially those in their country's uniforms, and determine if they were worthy of victory. Eventual victory would of course demonstrate that revolutionary soldiers had the necessary virtue and selflessness to be deserving of such good fortune. Soldiers were keenly aware that the eyes of world were on them, and that their sacrifices would be remembered throughout the ages by countless generations of their descendents. Royster shows that Continental soldiers were inspired by religious beliefs, knowing that God was on their side.
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Format: Paperback
Charles Royster attempts to dispel some of the many myths and legends of the American Revolutionary War in his book, A Revolutionary People at War: The Continental Army and American Character, 1775 -1783. While many Americans were raised with the notion that the "Spirit of `76" was prevalent throughout the sixteen colonies at the start of the Revolution, Royster shows the reader there were many conflicts within the revolutionary movement itself, like lack of desire for a standing army; theft by, for, and in the name of the army; proper use of discipline and executions; and many others. The book's timeline covers the entire war, from its birth in 1775 to the war's end in 1781. The text details stories not read in many history books: the drudgery of the soldier's life, the animosity the general population held towards the military and some of their tactics, and the general malaise of the American people regarding the length of the war. A Revolutionary People at War is well researched with over 30 pages of artwork, including portraits of some of the key figures of the time period. It does lack a bibliography and list of other noted works, which would assist the reader wanting to do further research.

Early in the struggle for independence, the American people experienced what Royster referred to as "...Rage Militaire...[what] the French call a passion for arms..." This was the result of perceived British injustices long before the battles of Lexington and Concord when American militias began mobilizing and training. This training did not reflect a mere duplication of the British model of warfare with parade and ceremony, but a uniquely American style that was adapted from "...Lewis Nicola's Treatise of Military Exercise and Thomas Pickering's `easy' plan...
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