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Washington's Immortals: The Untold Story of an Elite Regiment Who Changed the Course of the Revolution by [Patrick K. O'Donnell]
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Editorial Reviews

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Washington's Immortals

By Patrick K. O'Donnell

Grove Atlantic, Inc.

Copyright © 2016 Patrick K. O'Donnell
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8021-2459-3


Chapter 1: "Gentlemen of Honour, Family, and Fortune",
Chapter 2: Smallwood's Battalion and the Birth of an Army,
Chapter 3: Girding for War,
Chapter 4: America's First Civil War,
Chapter 5: The Otter,
Chapter 6: The Armada,
Chapter 7: Maryland Goes to War,
Chapter 8: The Storm Begins,
Chapter 9: The Battle of Brooklyn,
Chapter 10: Escape from Long Island,
Chapter 11: Manhattan,
Chapter 12: When Twenty-Five Men Held Off an Army,
Chapter 13: Fort Washington,
Chapter 14: The Crisis,
Chapter 15: Victory or Death—The Gamble at Trenton,
Chapter 16: Princeton,
Chapter 17: Brandywine,
Chapter 18: Wayne's Affair,
Chapter 19: Mud Island,
Chapter 20: Valley Forge and Wilmington,
Chapter 21: "A Damned Poltroon",
Chapter 22: Light Infantry,
Chapter 23: Despots,
Chapter 24: The Gibraltar of America—,
The Midnight Storming of Stony Point,
Chapter 25: Interlude,
Chapter 26: The March South,
Chapter 27: A "Jalap" and a Night March,
Chapter 28: Camden,
Chapter 29: "Lay Their Country Waste,
with Fire and Sword",
Chapter 30: Washington's Best General,
Chapter 31: The Ragtag Army,
Chapter 32: Hunting the Hunter,
Chapter 33: Cowpens,
Chapter 34: "To Follow Greene's Army to the End of the World",
Chapter 35: "Saw 'Em Hollerin' and a Snortin' and a Drownin'",
Chapter 36: The Race to the Dan,
Chapter 37: Guilford Courthouse — "A Complicated Scene of Horror and Distress",
Chapter 38: Hobkirk's Hill,
Chapter 39: Ninety Six,
Chapter 40: Eutaw Springs,
Chapter 41: "Conquer or Die" — Yorktown,
Chapter 42: The Last Battle,
Chapter 43: "Omnia Reliquit Servare Rempublicam",


"Gentlemen of Honour, Family, and Fortune"

Snow gently fell outside a Baltimore tavern on December 3, 1774, as thirty-two-year-old Mordecai Gist addressed the city's social elite. On his own initiative, Gist had gathered together a group of freemen, merchants, shipbuilders, and businessmen who were interested in forming the first independent military company in Maryland to protect their rights and potentially to break away from Britain.

At the time, Baltimore, one of the primary trading centers in the colonies, was a boomtown with a seedy, rough-and-tumble quality about it. One member of the Continental Congress described it as "infinitely, the dirtiest place I was ever in." Another piled on the accolades and called it "the Damndest Hole in the World."

A second-generation Baltimore native, Gist was the son of a prominent surveyor who had helped lay out the city's streets. His uncle, Christopher Gist, had served with George Washington in the French and Indian War, and on two separate occasions he had saved the future general's life. The younger Gist had already established himself as a sea captain and merchant, dealing primarily in textiles and firearms, which had earned him a sizable fortune. He was also a widower. Four years earlier, his first wife had died during the birth of their daughter, who then perished in infancy. At six feet tall, he was a man of impressive stature for his day. Others described him as having a "frank and genial manner." A natural leader known for his forceful opinions, Gist was among the colony's first agitators for independence and later emerged as one of America's most powerful Freemasons.

In October he had participated in the burning of the Peggy Stewart. In an incident reminiscent of the Boston Tea Party, a captain had brought a ship loaded with tea into Annapolis harbor despite a colonial boycott. Outraged Marylanders gave the Peggy Stewart's captain a choice: either burn his ship and all its cargo or be hanged at his front door. The captain chose to run his ship aground and torch it.

The Peggy Stewart incident occurred ten months after the Boston Tea Party, in which American demonstrators, some disguised as American Indians, had dumped an entire shipment of tea from the East India Company into Boston harbor to protest taxes levied by the British on the tea. It echoed the American cry "No taxation without representation." Many Americans demanded the right to elect the representatives who imposed taxes and passed regulations. The Crown had responded to the Tea Party swiftly with draconian measures that became known as the Coercive Acts or Intolerable Acts. Among other provisions, they allowed British officials to be tried in Britain for crimes committed in the colonies. Another of these acts required colonists to house and feed British soldiers in their homes.

British troops led by General Thomas Gage disbanded the elected colonial government in Massachusetts and shut down the port of Boston, throwing thousands of men out of work. The crisis in Boston escalated and fomented discord throughout the thirteen colonies, resonating strongly in Baltimore, where trade was the lifeblood of the community.

On that December night in the tavern, like-minded Patriots had gathered to hear Gist, whom they elected as captain of their company, read aloud the articles of incorporation for the Baltimore Independent Cadets. The charter called for sixty men — "a company composed of gentlemen of honour, family, and fortune, and tho' of different countries animated by a zeal and reverence for rights of humanity" — to voluntarily join and tie themselves together "by all the Sacred ties of Honour and the Love and Justice due to ourselves and Country."

Gist's gravitas and presence reverberated through the room as he read the articles:

We, the Baltimore Independent Cadets, Impress'd with a sense of the unhappy [state] of our Suffering Brethren in Boston, the Alarming conduct of General Gage, and the oppressive Unconstitutional acts of Parliament to deprive us of Liberty and enforce Slavery on His Majesties Loyal Liege Subjects of America in General,

For the better security of our lives, liberties, and Properties under such Alarming Circumstances, we think it highly advisable and necessary, that we form ourselves into a Body, or Company in order to [learn] the military discipline; to act in defence of our Country agreeable to the Resolves of the Continental Congress.

The cadets promised to march within forty-eight hours to the aid of any sister colonies that needed their help, to obey their elected commander, to purchase their own uniforms and equipment, and to submit to a court-martial for any default "contrary to the true Intent and Meaning of this Engagement." However, as true gentlemen, they would not submit themselves to corporal punishment.

The young merchant and the other newly inducted members of the company made history that day. Gist's independent company was the first of its kind in Maryland, but similar companies soon sprang up across the colonies. Unbeknownst to them at the time, the men in that tavern would become one of only a few core units crucial to the continued existence of the entire Continental Army throughout the Revolutionary War. At key points, their participation made a difference that allowed the army to survive — often at an enormous price. Sickness and privation of the most severe kind (including marching barefoot for thousands of miles over many years), British bullets, and the hazards of imprisonment would take their toll. Very few of the men who gathered that night at the tavern or those who joined them later would survive eight years of war, multiple campaigns, and dozens of battles unscathed.

The cadets, later quietly renamed the Baltimore Independent Company, formed a cadre that was incorporated into multiple companies and regiments that played a key role in many battles of importance during the American Revolution and fought in both the North and the South. Built on personal relationships with deep family ties that spanned decades, the Baltimore Independent Company was a tight-knit group of close friends who forged one of the most legendary units of the American Revolution.

One of those men crucial to the company was twenty-three-year-old Samuel Smith. A born leader, Smith was first elected sergeant within the company and quickly rose through the ranks as an officer. Like many of the cadets, he had been trained in the classics, studying Latin and Greek at school. As a young man, he had worked in his father's countinghouse and traveled to Europe on one of his father's merchant ships. He proved to be charismatic and a natural battle commander. Eventually, he would assume command of the Baltimore Independent Company and many other units. In time, he became one of the finest regimental commanders of the war.

Like Gist and Smith, many of the company's members were prosperous merchants. For them, the decision to join the company meant sacrificing their livelihood — the ability to trade with Great Britain. For years they had been on the sharp end of onerous taxes and restrictions that required the colonies to trade exclusively with Britain. Responding to the spiraling crisis in Boston, delegates from the American colonies met in the First Continental Congress. Formed at the urging of Benjamin Franklin and first organized in 1774 in Philadelphia, Congress comprised representatives from twelve of the thirteen colonies (initially Georgia didn't participate, since it felt that it needed British protection from hostile Indians). The Congress remained undecided on the issue of declaring independence from Great Britain, but its members firmly believed that King George III owed the people of the colonies better treatment. The representatives wanted their voices heard in London. On September 5, 1774, Congress adopted the Articles of Association, which declared that if the Intolerable Acts were not repealed by December 1, 1774, the colonies would boycott British goods. A provision in the articles also called for an embargo of British goods by September 1775 if the acts weren't abolished. It was a bold move: Americans struck at the heart of British trade, which heavily relied on the North American economy. The Continental Congress's actions were a serious challenge to imperial rule, essentially amounting to a declaration of economic war against the Crown.

The independent spirit that gave rise to this decision to rebel against Britain had been fomenting in Maryland since its founding. In 1632 the king granted the ownership of the colony to George Calvert, Lord Baltimore, a Catholic, who was designated the "proprietary." Unlike most of the colonies, which answered to the king or to locally elected governments, Maryland answered to the proprietary, who set up the government as he saw fit. The arrangement essentially created "an empire within an empire" and made it easy for the people who lived in Maryland to see themselves as independent of the Crown. This unusual form of government persisted until 1691, when Britain appointed a royal governor for the colony.

In the middle of the eighteenth century, the French and Indian War planted seeds of discontent in America and had an impact on many of the Maryland officers. Also known as the Seven Years' War, the war was a worldwide conflict between Britain and France that began in 1754. Both countries had extensive holdings in the New World, and disagreements arose over disputed territory and trading rights in the Ohio Valley. The governor of Virginia sent twenty-one-year-old Major George Washington and a small group of men to evict the French from the area, but the French refused to leave, pushing the two countries on the path toward war. On May 28, 1754, Washington led the British troops to victory in the Battle of Jumonville Glen, which is generally regarded as the first battle in the French and Indian War.

In the early days of the conflict, both sides developed irregular warfare techniques, such as the use of proxies and the use of ranging forces. The proxies included Rogers' Rangers, Americans who fought for Britain. The British and the French also developed light infantry, which were lightly armed forces known for their quickness, speed, and flexibility. More importantly, the colonists learned to train, organize, and move large numbers of men through untamed wilderness. Americans fighting for the British — including George Washington, William Smallwood, and Daniel Morgan, along with future Americans and British officers Edward Hand, Horatio Gates, and Charles Lee — gained invaluable battle experience in the conflict. They also learned Indian tactics. Many Native American tribes fought on the side of the French during the conflict. Unlike the Europeans, the tribes often struck in surprise attacks with small raiding parties that hit the enemy hard and then retreated before casualties could mount, and they fired from behind trees and other natural obstructions rather than out in the open. The seeds of an American way of waging war were planted.

By 1760 most of the fighting in North America had come to end, although battles continued to rage in the West Indies and Europe for some time. The North American portion of the war officially came to a close on February 10, 1763, when the two sides signed the Treaty of Paris. Five days later, they ended the European war with the Treaty of Hubertusburg. Under the terms of surrender, France gave up all rights to the mainland of North America but held on to its island colonies in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Spain, which had entered the war on France's side, agreed to cede Florida to Britain in exchange for regaining control of Cuba and gaining control of Louisiana. Britain was left as the primary power in control of Canada and the thirteen colonies that would become the United States.

While the British were victorious, the cost was exorbitant. The war had nearly doubled the empire's debt. To offset this enormous financial burden, the Crown began raising taxes on its colonies so that they would pay for their own administration and defense, allowing the government in London to put more money toward its war debts. When Parliament passed the Stamp Act in 1765, the colonists were primed to revolt. Extremely unpopular in the American colonies, the onerous act required that all printed materials, including legal documents and newspapers, use specially stamped paper produced in Britain. The colonists objected to this regulation on the grounds that they shouldn't be taxed without their consent. Although Parliament eventually repealed the Stamp Act, it passed a series of other laws and taxes that the Americans found objectionable, including a law that forbade the colonies from issuing currency and a fateful tax on tea.

Outraged by the new and oppressive laws, Massachusetts appealed to its sister colonies for support. In a show of solidarity, the Continental Congress agreed to ban the import of British goods. It went one step further, by placing an export ban on American commodities that were valued by the Crown, such as tobacco, rice, and a long list of naval products. The men in Maryland who joined the cadets certainly objected to the taxes, but for them the Revolution wasn't only about money. They were motivated by ideals of freedom and liberty, and they didn't want their daily lives and business decisions at the mercy of the bureaucracy in London.

While war seemed inevitable in hindsight, it was not a foregone conclusion, even as the various independent companies throughout the colonies began to organize. In fact, many of the colonies hoped for a diplomatic solution to the crisis that would keep them as part of the British Empire. The act of rebellion — if it came to that — would be a last resort.

With the clouds of war gathering on an uncertain horizon, the Baltimore cadets began to arm and outfit themselves with the best weapons and uniforms money could buy. This company of wealthy Baltimoreans went into battle carrying a "good gun" with a bayonet plus a brace of pistols and a sword. However, most of the other American units could not afford such expensive guns and supplies; many of their brothers-in-arms would fight with old hunting rifles or makeshift weapons. And while many Americans marched in the leather or homespun clothing they wore every day, Marylanders of this company wore "a Uniform Suit of Cloathes turn'd up with Buff, and trim'd with Yellow Metal, or Gold Buttons, White Stockings and Black Cloth half Boote." Emboldened by their example, numerous independent companies formed across Maryland for the defense of the state.

Shortly after the signing of the company's articles of incorporation, training began. Drilling occupied the bulk of each day. Cadets learned how to march and create battle formations. They also practiced loading and firing their muskets as a group and possibly engaged in target practice. Gist's men had their own drillmaster, a cadet named Richard Cary. Cary had previously served as a member of the Ancient and Honourable Artillery Company of Boston, which was commanded by John Hancock. Cary's high-quality training and the company's expensive equipment set Maryland's troops apart from those of other colonies as war unfolded and turned them into, arguably, the first elite infantry unit in the Continental Army.

Voluntary enlistment in these independent companies violated British imperial law. Doing so represented open defiance of Crown rule and constituted an act of treason potentially punishable by death. The sixty Patriots who first signed the articles of incorporation for the Baltimore Independent Cadets were effectively signing their own death warrants. That threat was quite real. When the British had put down an insurrection in Ireland around the same time, a judge decreed to the captured revolutionaries, "You are to be drawn on hurdles to the place of execution, where you are to be hanged by the neck, but not until you are dead, for while you are still living your bodies are to be taken down, your bowels torn out and burned before your faces, your heads then cut off, and your bodies divided each into four quarters."

Elite warriors throughout history have believed that willpower and determination can overcome all odds. This thoughtful, independent company of men ardently embraced their ideals, making a purposeful decision to sacrifice their fortunes, their livelihood, and possibly their lives for the promise of an idea with the risk of an unknown future. Gist, like many Patriots, believed that his men's fervor would help them overcome the much larger, better-equipped, and highly trained British army.

Gist was not alone in his belief. Among Gist's papers is a letter addressed to the Baltimore Independent Company. Full of classical allusions, the letter was signed by an admirer of the company who called himself Agamemnon, the name of the Greek king who united his countrymen to fight against the Trojans. After asking that his letter be read aloud to the group, he refers to Xerxes's army of Immortals and compares the Marylanders to the Spartans who stood against a much larger force at the Battle of Thermopylae. The letter explains, "About three hundred men who's hearts were warmed with patriotism, [held off] an Army of Twenty thousand." The letter writer believed that Gist's men, like the Spartans and other elite units throughout history, could play a crucial role in shaping the future of the new nation.


Excerpted from Washington's Immortals by Patrick K. O'Donnell. Copyright © 2016 Patrick K. O'Donnell. Excerpted by permission of Grove Atlantic, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

--This text refers to the hardcover edition.


Praise for Washington’s Immortals:

Winner of the Modern Patriot Award from the Sons of the Revolution
Winner of the Daughters of the American Revolution National Excellence in American History Book Award
Named one of the “100 Best American Revolution Books of All Time” by the Journal of the American Revolution
Finalist for the 2017 Library of Virginia People’s Choice Award for Nonfiction
An Amazon Best Book of the Year So Far (History)

“What makes Washington’s Immortals different from most Revolutionary War accounts is its seamless blend of tactical acumen and human drama . . . O’Donnell admirably blends a story of ardent farmers, merchants and mariners with a combat story of sharp, bloody engagements . . . [He] makes fluid use of letters, diaries, pension affidavits and early histories to bring home the carnage of war as the foot soldier saw it . . . Washington’s Immortals is an example of combat writing at its best.”Wall Street Journal

“A powerful narrative . . . a must-read for those with deep or casual interest in the American Revolution.”Journal of the American Revolution

“Well-written, and superbly researched . . . [A] compelling story of the Maryland Regiment . . . Intimate and often inspiring . . . O’Donnell is at the top of his game . . . A must-read for Revolutionary War and Maryland history buffs alike.”Baltimore Post-Examiner

“Gritty . . . a ‘boots on the ground’ account, with great storytelling verve . . . For readers who enjoy well-researched military history, this is the book for you.”—Washington Independent Review of Books

“[Washington’s Immortals is] nothing short of remarkable . . . O’Donnell has put together, with beautiful transitions, the compelling story of the Revolutionary War through the eyes of the regular soldier . . . You don't have to be a military history devotee to appreciate the book . . . It put[s] the whole Revolutionary War into sequential perspective.”Daily Press

“Compelling . . . Washington’s Immortals is well-researched and . . . lively.”Fayetteville Observer

“A boots-on-the-ground account that . . . personalize[s] brave men whose names have fallen into the crevices of history . . . A strong point of Mr. O’Donnell’s book is his adept skill in describing military tactical maneuvers.”Washington Times

“O’Donnell writes about war from the soldiers’ weary, battle-scarred perspective . . . At the same time, he describes and analyzes the strategic and tactical elements of battle with an even-handed regard to the wisdom and errors on each side . . . Through his vivid prose, we smell the sulfur in the gunsmoke and hear the fierce and often final cries of the combatants . . . Reveal[s] an important and little-known part of the sprawling history of the Revolution.”American Spirit

“An incredible book . . . I encourage all of you to get out and purchase this . . . I love the book . . . if you like military history, this is a great book.”—Rick Crandall, Breakfast Club, KEZW 1430 AM

“O’Donnell does a fantastic job telling the story of these men and their role in the war . . . A rich and compelling narrative . . . Definitely recommended . . . You don’t need to be a scholar of the Revolution to enjoy the book.”Historia Militaris

“O’Donnell deploys a fusillade of fact and fresh research in a Revolutionary War history rich in irony and event . . . Readers will admire O’Donnell’s exhaustive research, skilled organization of the material, and the high readability of the writing . . . With a firm grasp of tactics, strategy, and the sociopolitical landscape, O’Donnell captures the horror and absurdities of the war better than most.”Kirkus Reviews

“Using primary sources from both sides of the Atlantic, O’Donnell effectively traces the story of Maryland’s immortals, describing their battles authentically along with the precariousness of the American cause. This book will be of interest to both general readers and scholars interested in the military aspects of the American Revolution.”Library Journal

“O’Donnell . . . [spent] five years researching the Marylanders’ exploits, visiting every battlefield where they fought from New York to South Carolina and combing through archives in the U.S. and Britain. What he learned prompted him to dub those patriots America’s original band of brothers, men who continued the fight despite overwhelming odds and constant lack of food, clothing and equipment.”—Associated Press

“An epic story of heroism and devotion that begins with the formation of the unit in Baltimore during the winter of 1774”Breitbart

Washington’s Immortals tells the extraordinary story of the most important band of brothers, forgotten men who changed the course of American history. This is O’Donnell at his very best—a deeply moving, superbly researched page turner.”—Alex Kershaw, New York Times bestselling author of The Bedford Boys and The Longest Winter

“Patrick O’Donnell has pioneered the pursuit of dogged research and the collection of revealing oral histories to produce moving accounts of key moments in American history. Now he’s set his sights on the Revolutionary War. Washington’s Immortals is a fascinating story about an important and largely overlooked Maryland unit in that war. It will definitely keep you turning pages.”—Douglas C. Waller, New York Times bestselling author of Disciples: The World War II Missions of the CIA Directors Who Fought for Wild Bill Donovan and Wild Bill Donovan

Washington’s Immortals is an amazing tale of pluck and devotion among one of the U.S. Army’s first elite outfits, the Maryland Line. O’Donnell expertly brings the valiant citizen-soldiers to life with vivid prose and meticulous primary-source research. Highly recommended.”—Joseph Balkoski, author of The Last Roll Call, and director of the Maryland Museum of Military History

“Patrick O’Donnell is blessed with a rare gift for storytelling and a keen empathy for the realities of soldiers in combat. He walks in the footsteps of his subjects like few other historians are able—or willing—to do. In this impressively researched, well written book, he brings the world of the American Revolution to life with an immediacy that almost defies belief. By focusing on one group of stalwart soldiers who sacrificed so much for the sake of their ideals, O’Donnell sheds important new light on the motivation and actions of America’s most effective revolutionaries. Washington’s Immortals is a must read for anyone even remotely interested in the American combat soldier, regardless of the era.”—John C. McManus, Curators’ Professor of US Military History, Missouri University of Science and Technology; author of The Dead and Those About to Die, D-Day: The Big Red One at Omaha Beach, and Grunts: Inside the American Infantry Combat Experience

“Patrick K. O’Donnell’s newest work is not so much a forgotten page of our history as it is a truly untold story—a story that takes us into the lives of a unit caught up in a world-changing struggle to throw off the shackles of colonialism. The reader will learn things here about the American Revolution that were never taught in high-school history classes. O’Donnell’s admirably researched and gripping narrative is a tribute to these forgotten patriot-warriors, and a must-read for students of American military history.”—Will Irwin, Senior Fellow, Joint Special Operations University, author of The Jedburghs and Abundance of Valor

“Patrick O’Donnelll has written what portends to be the definitive history of the famous Revolutionary War era ‘Maryland Line.’ Long considered by historians as George Washington’s Continental Army shock troops, O’Donnell tells a thoroughly entertaining and highly readable story. From Brooklyn Heights to Yorktown, O’Donnell clearly shows why this particular band of brothers earned the title of Washington’s Immortals.”—Charles P. Neimeyer, Ph.D., Director and Chief of Marine Corps History, Marine Corps University, Quantico, Virginia

“Through a long war that was frequently on the verge of disaster, soldiers from Maryland repeatedly played a pivotal role in the Continental army’s narrow escapes and surprise victories. Washington’s Immortals is a soldiers-eye view of the Marylanders who fought in the Revolution’s most desperate clashes. O’Donnell weaves together first-hand accounts, many from archival sources never before published, to reveal the struggles and triumphs of this remarkable regiment and the men who were part of it.”—Don N. Hagist, author of British Soldiers, American War

“Patrick O’Donnell has written one of the most extraordinary books on the American Revolution that I have read. Every page brings unexpected personal stories and other historical treasures to vivid life. It’s unique!”―Thomas Fleming, author of Liberty!: The American Revolution

“Patrick O’Donnell brings us into the Revolution through the experiences of the officers and men of a crack Maryland unit that was in it from beginning to end. This is splendid history—intimate, immediate, sweeping, inspiring. You should, and you will, honor these men.”—Richard Brookhiser, author of Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, American

“General George Washington honored the soldiers of the 1st Maryland Regiment of the Continental Army for their service and sacrifice by calling them the ‘men of the old line.’ In continuing tribute to them, Maryland still proclaims its nickname as ‘The Old Line State.’ In Washington’s Immortals, noted military historian Patrick O’Donnell has written a gripping account of the men and units that made up the Maryland Line during our War for Independence who first earned that glorious nickname, and which the soldiers of the Maryland Army National Guard’s 175th Infantry continued to do so at places with names like Gettysburg, Normandy, and Iraq.”—Glenn F. Williams, author of Dunmore’s War: The Last Conflict of America’s Colonial Era

“Perhaps no war in American history has been more difficult to see through soldiers’ eyes than the Revolutionary War. Patrick O’Donnell brings their experiences to life for twenty-first century readers in a way that no other historian has managed to do, accomplishing for the Revolutionary War what Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers did for World War II. The 1st Maryland Regiment participated in some of the most important battles of the war, gradually progressing from ordinary to elite status. Its story is the story of how the people of the United States became free.”—Edward G. Lengel, Editor-in-Chief of The Papers of George Washington and author of Inventing George Washington
--This text refers to the hardcover edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0163BZ2E8
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Atlantic Monthly Press (March 1, 2016)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ March 1, 2016
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 11251 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 591 pages
  • Lending ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 1,010 ratings

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“One of the world’s preeminent military historians.”—Military Review, U.S. Army

Combat historian, bestselling author, and public speaker Patrick K. O'Donnell has written 12 critically acclaimed books that recount the epic stories of America's wars from the Revolution to Iraq. A Fellow at Mount Vernon, he is the recipient of numerous national book awards. O’Donnell is a premier expert on elite and special operations units and irregular warfare.

His books are described as “nonfiction that reads like fiction.”

O’Donnell’s newest book is THE INDISPENSABLES: The Diverse Soldier-Mariners Who Shaped the Country, Formed the Navy, and Rowed Washington Across the Delaware.

Dr. James Lacey praised the book, “the one indispensable book on the early and most trying days of the American Revolution.” And Edward Lengel states, “The Indispensables chronicles the exploits of one of the most important military units to take up arms in the service of the United States.”

About WASHINGTON’S IMMORTALS: The Untold Story of an Elite Regiment Who Changed the Course of the Revolution, the Wall Street Journal raved, “Combat writing at its best.” The prestigious Journal of the American Revolution named it, “One of the 100 best books on the Revolution of All Time.”

His other books include: THE UNKNOWNS: The Untold Story of America’s Unknown Soldier and WWI’s Most Decorated Heroes Who Brought Him Home, FIRST SEALS: The Untold Story of the Forging of America's Most Elite Unit; and DOG COMPANY: The Boys of Pointe du Hoc - The Rangers Who Accomplished D-Day's Toughest Mission and Led the Way Across Europe. His bestseller, BEYOND VALOR, portrays the gripping tales of WWII Ranger and Airborne veterans and won the William E. Colby Award for Outstanding Military History. O'Donnell's WE WERE ONE: Shoulder to Shoulder With the Marines Who Took Fallujah is required reading for Marines and appeared on the Commandant’s Professional Reading List, as did GIVE ME TOMORROW: The Korean War’s Greatest Untold Story – The Epic Stand Of The Marines Of George Company. His books have been Main or Alternate selections of Book of the Month, History, and Military History Book Clubs. Reviewers from media outlets as diverse as The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Jerusalem Post, C-SPAN, and National Public Radio (NPR) have hailed his publications.

O’Donnell is the leading expert on the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency and America’s special operations forces in WWII. His four award-winning books on the subject include: FIRST SEALS; OPERATIVES, SPIES, AND SABOTEURS: The Unknown Story of the Men and Women of WWII’s OSS; THE BRENNER ASSIGNMENT: The Untold Story of the Most Daring Spy Mission of WWII; and THEY DARED RETURN: The True Story of Jewish Spies Behind the Lines in Nazi Germany (also known as “The Real Inglorious Bastards”).

In 2012, at a ceremony attended by the leadership of America’s intelligence and special operations community, The OSS Society presented O’Donnell with the prestigious John Waller Award for exceptional scholarship in intelligence and special operations history.

O'Donnell not only writes about combat — he has experienced it firsthand. During the Iraq war, he was embedded with military units as the only civilian combat historian to volunteer and spend three months in Iraq documenting the experiences of troops in battle. He fought with a Marine rifle platoon (Lima Company 3/1) during the Battle of Fallujah, surviving several ambushes, and carried a mortally wounded Marine out of a firefight with Chechen insurgents, experiences he recounts in WE WERE ONE.

He has written for Military History Quarterly (MHQ) and WWII Magazine and is a frequent contributor to a variety of nationally recognized publications.

As an expert on WWII espionage, special operations, and counterinsurgency on the modern battlefield, the historian has assisted with the writing and production of scores of documentaries produced by the BBC, the History Channel, and others. His book THEY DARED RETURN is the source material for the award-winning documentary The Real Inglorious Bastards. He has appeared as a guest on countless television and radio shows on NPR, Discovery, and other networks.

O’Donnell also provided historical consulting for DreamWorks’ award-winning miniseries “Band of Brothers,” as well as for the billion-dollar Medal of Honor game franchise.

O'Donnell has been studying World War II and modern war since childhood and has a passion for finding ways to preserve the oral histories of America’s combat veterans for generations to come. Nearly two decades ago, he founded The Drop Zone, the first online military oral history project and virtual museum. This award-winning website contains many of the thousands of interviews O’Donnell personally conducted with veterans and their adversaries, making it one of the largest private collections of historical materials from elite and special operations troops.

The author’s skills and expertise have been tapped by private sector firms and government agencies, including DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). He has also been selected to lecture at numerous agencies and branches of the armed forces, such as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), U.S. Army Special Forces, U.S. ARMY, and USMC.

O’Donnell credits serendipity for leading him in the right direction. The stories he tells somehow always find him.


Represented by William Morris Endeavor (WME) for film, television, and literary rights.

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