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Book Review

‘Revolutionary Summer’ is insightful confession


BookCourtesy of Beaverdale Books

Review by Harriet Leitch

Knopf Publishing Group

June 4, 2013



219 pp.

Pulizer Prize-winning American historian Joseph Ellis conducts an intensive study of the summer of 1776 in this great addition to the plentiful writings on the American Revolution, “Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence.” He studies the political atmosphere of the time, including the actions of the Continental Congress and its delegates and the military encounters of that summer.

Ellis’ research revealed details of the revolutionary fathers’ characters and actions that made many of them seem more human and less stereotypical. The Declaration of Independence was drafted and then scrutinized by a committee of the whole, all the while, Jefferson’s mind was much distracted by the health of his wife and the actions being taken back home in Virginia. Many delegates were also distracted by home state concerns and thus the commitment of troops to the Continental army came second to the protection of their individual states.

This summer saw the arrival of the British armada, the defense of the city of New York and the subsequent escape of the Continental Army to fight another day. The actions of Washington and British General Howe both contributed to the successful retreat of the Continental Army, but weather and miraculous timing also played a major role. After this it became clear that the American Revolution would become a long war, a war the Continental Army needed to avoid losing more than the British needed to win.

It is always a delight to read well-researched and well-told history. Mr. Ellis upholds his reputation as a talented story teller with a wealth of knowledge behind the scenes. CV

Harriet Leitch retired to enjoy her grandchildren, garden, dogs, flute and return to her love of books.

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