Tag Archives: c 1700 to c 1800

Thomas Jefferson: A Brief Biography

In this small jewel of a biography, readers will become acquainted with the mind and temperament of Thomas Jefferson as written by the greatest of Jefferson scholars. Dumas Malone, author of the unrivaled six-volume biography, Jefferson and His Time, brought fifty years of research and scholarship to the writing of this essay. It is a life story told with great respect and without hero worship.

George Washington’s Enforcers: Policing the Continental Army

A well-disciplined army was vital to win American independence, but policing soldiers during the Revolution presented challenges. George Washington’s Enforcers: Policing the Continental Army examines how justice was left to the overlapping duties of special army personnel and how an improvised police force imposed rules and regulations on the common soldier. Historian Harry M. Ward describes these methods of police enforcement, emphasizing the brutality experienced by the enlisted men who were punished severely for even light transgressions. This volume explores the influences that shaped army practice and the quality of the soldiery, the enforcement of military justice, the use of guards as military police, and the application of punishment.

Washington’s army, which adopted the organization and justice code of the British army, labored under the direction of ill-trained and arrogant officers. Ward relates how the enlisted men, who had a propensity for troublemaking and desertion, not only were victims of the double standard that existed between officers and regular troops but also lacked legal protection in the army. The enforcement of military justice afforded the accused with little due process support.
Continue reading

Flight from Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War

When Thomas Jefferson wrote his epitaph, he listed as his accomplishments his authorship of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia statute of religious freedom, and his founding of the University of Virginia. He did not mention his presidency or that he was second governor of the state of Virginia, in the most trying hours of the Revolution. Dumas Malone, author of the epic six-volume biography, wrote that the events of this time explain Jefferson's "character as a man of action in a serious emergency." Joseph Ellis, author of American Sphinx, focuses on other parts of Jefferson's life but wrote that his actions as governor "toughened him on the inside." It is this period, when Jefferson was literally tested under fire, that Michael Kranish illuminates in Flight from Monticello.

Filled with vivid, precisely observed scenes, this book is a sweeping narrative of clashing armies–of spies, intrigue, desperate moments, and harrowing battles. The story opens with the first murmurs of resistance to Britain, as the colonies struggled under an onerous tax burden and colonial leaders–including Jefferson–fomented opposition to British rule. Kranish captures the tumultuous outbreak of war, the local politics behind Jefferson's actions in the Continental Congress (and his famous Declaration), and his rise to the governorship. Jefferson's life-long belief in the corrupting influence of a powerful executive led him to advocate for a weak governorship, one that lacked the necessary powers to raise an army. Thus, Virginia was woefully unprepared for the invading British troops who sailed up the James under the direction of a recently turned Benedict Arnold. Facing rag-tag resistance, the British force took the colony with very little trouble. The legislature fled the capital, and Jefferson himself narrowly eluded capture twice.
Continue reading

George Washington: Gentleman Warrior

Shortlisted for the George Washington Book Prize 2013. 'I am a warrior'. These were the uncompromising words that George Washington chose to describe himself in May 1779, at the height of the Revolutionary War against Britain. It's an image very different to the one that he's been assigned by posterity – the patriotic plantation owner who would become the dignified political leader of his country. Stephen Brumwell's new book focuses on a side of Washington that is often overlooked: the feisty young frontier officer and the tough forty-something commander of the revolutionaries' Continental Army. It examines Washington's long and chequered military career, tracing his evolution as a soldier, and his changing attitude to the waging of war. Brumwell shows how, ironically, Washington's reliance upon English models of 'gentlemanly' behaviour, and on British military organisation, was crucial in establishing his leadership of the fledgling Continental Army, and in forging it into the weapon that won American independence. George Washington is a vivid recounting of the formative years and military career of 'The Father of his Country', following his journey from brutal border skirmishes with the French and their Indian allies to his remarkable victory over the British Empire, an achievement that underpinned his selection as the first president of the United States of America. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including original archival research, Stephen Brumwell paints a compelling and challenging portrait of an extraordinary individual whose fusion of gentleman and warrior left an indelible imprint upon history.

George Washington and the American Military Tradition (Mercer University Lamar Memorial Lectures)

In George Washington and the American Military Tradition, Don Higginbotham investigates the interplay of militiaman and professional soldier, of soldier and legislator, that shaped George Washington’s military career and ultimately fostered the victory that brought independence to our nation. Higginbotham then explores the legacy of Washington’s success, revealing that the crucial blending of civil and military concerns characteristic of the Revolution has been variously regarded and only seldom repeated by later generations of American soldiers.

Washington’s training, between 1753 and 1755, included frontier command in the Virginia militia, adjunct service to the British regulars during the French and Indian War, and increasing civil service in the Virginia House of Burgesses and Continental Congress. The result of this combination of pursuits was Washington’s concern for the citizen behind the soldier, his appreciation of both frontier tactics and professional discipline, and his sensitivity to political conflict and consensus in thirteen colonies in forming a new, united nation. When, in 1775, Washington accepted command of the Continental Army from the Continental Congress, he possessed political and military experience that enabled him, by 1783, to translate the Declaration of Independence into victory over the British.
Continue reading

George Washington and Benedict Arnold: A Tale of Two Patriots

From 1775 through 1777, George Washington and Benedict Arnold were America’s two most celebrated warriors. Their earlier lives had surprisingly parallel paths. They were strong leaders in combat, they admired and respected each other, and they even shared common enemies. Yet one became our greatest hero and the other our most notorious traitor. Why?

In the new paperback edition of George Washington and Benedict Arnold: A Tale of Two Patriots, author and military historian Dave Palmer reveals the answer: character. In this fascinating and unique dual biography, Palmer also shows:
How Arnold’s treason actually helped the Patriot cause
Why Arnold and Washington’s amazingly similar backgrounds, family influences, youthful experiences, and selfmade” status led to strikingly different results in their lives
How in four welldefined steps Arnold went from hero to traitor
Continue reading

Thomas Jefferson Travels: Selected Writings, 1784-1789

Thomas Jefferson has inspired countless books that explore his brilliant career, his political philosophy, and his extraordinary accomplishments as a gifted leader. Endlessly inquisitive, he was both a tireless writer and one of the most cosmopolitan men of his age. Yet this collection of Jefferson's reflections on his wide-ranging travels reveals a new side of the man.

Eloquent and powerful, Thomas Jefferson's letters and travel diaries from his years abroad as the U.S. minister to France spill onto the pages of this volume in wonderful detail, covering the full range of his interests and passions. Editor Anthony Brandt has sifted through the myriad of writings from this rich period of Jefferson's career to present not only the politician and diplomat but Thomas Jefferson the lover, the father, the farmer, the architect, the man about town, the scientist, the visionary. Jefferson emerges at the end a fully dimensional man, with all his virtues, his flaws, and his extraordinary brilliance fleshed out, standing vividly before us. Thomas Jefferson formulated many of America's highest ideals. Here we see the man himself, and glimpse the world through his eyes.