The First American Army by Bruce Chadwick

I wanted to quickly mention a book that I just finished today – The First American Army by Bruce Chadwick. As explained in the subtitle, it is the untold story of George Washington and the men behind America’s first fight for freedom.

Here is an excerpt from Publisher’s Weekly:

In this novelistic treatment of the Revolutionary War, Chadwick (George Washington’s War, Brother Against Brother) uses the experiences of eight men to give the reader a “bottom up” look at the war. Drawing on their letters and diaries, he follows them through their years in and out of the war, from the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775 to the American victory at Yorktown in 1781. Although the horrors of battle are a main focus of their writings, everyday activities and concerns-romance, food, clothing, leisure and friendship-reveal much about these early Americans’ lives. Readers will find little academic analysis of the subjects; except for a few expansive chapter introductions, Chadwick keeps standard history writing to a minimum. Instead, he focuses on these men’s day-to-day and writes in lively prose, although some accounts push the limits of reconstruction and read like fiction.

I thought it was interesting to read about the war from the perspective of the common soldier. This seems to be a common theme in academic books – the generals and other famous people in wars have been written about to death and now writers are looking for a different perspective of wars – the common soldier. I don’t think this is a bad trend, but I think that there needs to be a balance of a history of a war by blending descriptions of the generals and the privates.

With all of that in mind, the average reader will enjoy the stories as told by the participants.

About the author

Jeff Grim

Jeff Grim has been a reader all of his life. He has had a particular interest in military history, any war at any time. His fascination with military history has brought him to an interest in historical fiction where the history comes alive with fictitious heroes and villains. Recently, Jeff has become interested in historical mysteries set in various time periods.

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2 Comments

  • Jeff, this is a period of interest for me, too. I have tried several popular historians (none of them revisionists per se) and have found one I really admire. He writes history. That is the record of what really matters for a people.

    David Hackett Fischer has been around a long time. I began with his ‘Washington’s Crossing,’ which is rather complex. Still Fischer manages to bring in every level of individual, from militia man to the General. His ability to synthesize the experiences of so many is rather startling. The reader experiences the ground level view of the Battle of Princeton, while seeing the thinking of the British, the Hessian, other American troops who wanted to participate. (So many American volunteers!) Fischer opens with the story of the famous painting of the Crossing and gives flesh and blood to the myth. It is a myth more true than our present academics will admit.

    Fischer’s earlier ‘Paul Revere’ is even better. I’ve used it to illustrate our American beginning for foreign friends. It should be taught in most school civics’ courses (were such still offered in 2007’s US public school systems). It is simply brilliant, the best book I read in 2006.

    Fischer’s work (I’m just starting the influential ‘Albion’s Seed’) makes one wonder what other academic historians are about. Why are they not giving us spell binding narrative based upon innumerable public and private accounts in order to recreate other of the major events in American history?

    That’s what great historical writing makes the serious reader ask.

  • Jeff, this is a period of interest for me, too. I have tried several popular historians (none of them revisionists per se) and have found one I really admire. He writes history. That is the record of what really matters for a people.

    David Hackett Fischer has been around a long time. I began with his ‘Washington’s Crossing,’ which is rather complex. Still Fischer manages to bring in every level of individual, from militia man to the General. His ability to synthesize the experiences of so many is rather startling. The reader experiences the ground level view of the Battle of Princeton, while seeing the thinking of the British, the Hessian, other American troops who wanted to participate. (So many American volunteers!) Fischer opens with the story of the famous painting of the Crossing and gives flesh and blood to the myth. It is a myth more true than our present academics will admit.

    Fischer’s earlier ‘Paul Revere’ is even better. I’ve used it to illustrate our American beginning for foreign friends. It should be taught in most school civics’ courses (were such still offered in 2007’s US public school systems). It is simply brilliant, the best book I read in 2006.

    Fischer’s work (I’m just starting the influential ‘Albion’s Seed’) makes one wonder what other academic historians are about. Why are they not giving us spell binding narrative based upon innumerable public and private accounts in order to recreate other of the major events in American history?

    That’s what great historical writing makes the serious reader ask.

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