Reviews for Revolutionary Summer

by Joseph J Ellis

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

With his customary literary elegance and historical insight, Ellis (emer., Mount Holyoke College) weaves a complex and informative story on the beginnings of American independence in 1776, highlighting the intricate interweaving of the political and military dimensions of the Revolutionary War beginning at the Siege of Boston and ending with George Washington's final escape from the British army at White Plains, NY, in October 1776. For example, while the Continental Congress was declaring independence and states were creating new constitutions, British General William Howe's formidable invasion of New York was simultaneously unfolding. Ellis's emphasis throughout is how a problematic consensus for political independence materialized amidst such moments of extreme military peril, and how the summer of 1776 established the "strategic framework" of the entire war. While generations of scholars have well plumbed these critical months of 1776, students of the American Revolution will profit from Ellis's analysis and argument that the revolutionary summer was indeed the point of no return in what became a protracted war that the British could not win politically and the Americans could not win militarily. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers, undergraduates, graduate students, researchers, and faculty. D. L. Preston The Citadel

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

If we must have another work on this shop-worn subject, Pulitzer and National Book Award-winner Ellis (for Founding Brothers and American Sphinx, respectively) is the one to write it-his latest is now the definitive book on the revolutionary events of the summer of 1776. Ellis's prose is characteristically seductive, his insights frequent, his sketches of people and events captivating, and his critical facility always alive, even when he's praising Washington and faulting British military strategy. Lightly applying what we've learned from our own recent wars, Ellis argues that Washington knew what, for example, the North Vietnamese later understood: "His goal was not to win the war but rather to not lose it." Thanks to Washington's preservation of the Continental Army, which he accomplished through both sheer luck and brilliant command on Long Island and Manhattan in these critical summer months, the former colonies held on to a chance to win their independence. Another brilliantly told story, carried along on solid interpretive grounds, by one of our best historians of the early nation. 8 pages of color photos & 3 maps. 125,000-copy announced first printing. (June 4) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From May to October 1776 the Continental Army defended New York City and the surrounding region while the Continental Congress declared American independence and struggled to govern a group of noncohesive, autonomous states. With revolutionary-period expertise and extensive knowledge of the founders, Ellis (lecturer, Commonwealth Honors Coll., Univ. of Massachusetts Amherst; Founding Brothers) contends that American independence was born during this "long summer." He artfully documents the interconnectivity between largely improvised political and military events and discusses the motives and strategies of key players in the context of 18th-century ideologies and circumstances, all of which, he argues, established the framework for the Revolutionary War. He explains Washington's ill-advised, ill-fated decision to defend New York City and environs, and Howe's unreasonable decision not to annihilate the Continental Army, which might have crushed the independence movement. These decisions resulted in a prolonged war that superior British armed forces could not win, and that determined colonials would not lose. Ellis concludes that a decade of British imperial policies, topped with sending an enormous military and naval force to New York, guaranteed British defeat by intensifying American opposition to the expanded authority of Parliament. VERDICT This thought-provoking, well-documented historical narrative is packed with insightful analysis. It will attract general and academic readers.-Margaret -Kappanadze, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

A specious coherence marks narratives of 1776 in which the Declaration of Independence inevitably occurs while the Continental army's doughty defense of New York ensures that independence would become fact. Events are not, however, so tidily told, avers historian Ellis, who restores contingency to his account of the storied summer and fall of 1776. Identifying a central problem of the historical situation Was there any realistic chance for the British to win? Ellis recounts efforts of moderates within each warring party. On the American side was the rout of anti-independence John Dickinson by the radical John Adams, while Ellis portrays the British side as misunderstanding the colonial rebellion. The commanders George III sent believed in reconciliation with the Americans, and so William Howe conducted the battles of New York cautiously, negotiated futilely with a Ben Franklin serenely sure of American success, and never delivered the decisive blow against George Washington's army. Even had Howe destroyed the Continental army, Ellis suggests that the British still would have confronted strategic failure against an enemy determined to continue the war. With cogent argument and compact prose, Ellis augurs to attract the history audience. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Ellis commands a 100,000-plus print run for his latest installment on the American Revolution, tapping his popularity built on such standards as American Sphinx (1997), Founding Brothers (2000), and First Family (2010).--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2010 Booklist