Page|One Archive

September 2014

I was recently alerted to a book about the battles of the American Revolution — and it just came out. At 288 pages, I thought it a little slim to do justice to the eight years of the Revolutionary War, which is a big, complicated topic. The last full treatment, John Ferling’s excellent Almost a Miracle (2007), has nearly two and a half times as many pages.   » more »

 

July 2014

Thomas Jefferson was a shy man. While disarmingly charming among people he knew, he could seem cool and distant to others. At 33 he was the youngest delegate to Continental Congress. He did not participate in the rough and tumble of Congressional debate. As John Adams later recalled (Autobiography, part 1, ms. p.  » more »

 

In May 1776, while Jefferson was in Philadelphia working on drafts of a constitution for Virginia — new-modelling the form of Government — George Mason was in Williamsburg doing the same. He crafted his Declaration of Rights and wrote, with James Madison, a separate Virginia constitution.   » more »

 

When Thomas Jefferson’s mother died on 31 March 1776, he had already been absent from Continental Congress for three months, and now he would continue on at his Monticello plantation for one more. During these four months this obsessively disciplined writer wrote almost nothing. Not a single letter.  » more »

 

April 2014

Painter, soldier, inventor, naturalist, paleontologist, patriarch, museum impresario and businessman — Charles Willson Peale exemplifies the idealism of the American Revolution, the Enlightenment, and one man’s attempt to help found a virtuous republic. Like his friend Thomas Jefferson, he saw an historic opportunity for humanity to start anew.   » more »

 

January 2014

For anyone who enjoys visiting historic homes associated with the American Revolution and early American republic, there is a recent and wonderful book that will surely deepen the experience. I heard the author speak at the New York Historical Society, bought the book, and brought it with me on my November 2013 trip to Virginia.   » more »

 

December 2013

There are many stories to be told about the American Revolution. One that ought to be better known at this time of year is the story of George Washington’s return to Mount Vernon for Christmas at the conclusion of the war.   » more »

 

March 2013

On a trip to Lexington and Concord last Fall, a bit disoriented about how to get to the next historical site — back and forth on the one road several times in the car — I finally found the wonderfully converted mansion of the North Bridge Visitor Center far from the parking lot. On a clear warm day I walked the dirt path from the back of the mansion, down the still green hill, looping round and with yellow/gold leaves falling, to the famous, albeit rebuilt, bridge crossing the Concord River.   » more »

 

August 2012

What if the Anti-Federalists were right and the Federalists were wrong?  » more »

 

September 2011

Reading the Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin for the first time I was struck by the huge generational difference between Franklin and that other polymath of the American Revolution, Thomas Jefferson.   » more »

 

There is a symmetry between the folly of Burgoyne’s march south to Saratoga and that of Cornwallis’s march north to Yorktown. Military historians debate why Burgoyne risked marching south from Fort Edward in the same way that they question why Cornwallis advanced north beyond North Carolina into Virginia. Although Cornwallis had none of the outward vanity of Burgoyne, the two men were similar in that they were both junior generals and neither of them was commander in chief of the British army in America. Both blamed their subsequent failures on rigid orders and insufficient latitude. They both expected to march through predominantly friendly territory. They both ignored the chain of command and went over the heads of their superiors to communicate independently with Lord George Germain. They both allowed their supply lines to become overextended and their forces suffered harassment by enemy militia. They presided over the two most decisive defeats of the American Revolutionary War.

Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy
The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire (2013)