ANGEL IN THE WHIRLWIND by Benson Bobrick

ANGEL IN THE WHIRLWIND

The Triumph of the American Revolution

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A readable, comprehensive, but unsurprising history of the American Revolution. Bobrick (Knotted Tongues: Stuttering in History and the Quest for a Cure, 1995, etc.) admits in the preface that he walks familiar ground but, having ancestors who fought on both sides of the conflict, he says he wanted to retell the story his own way. That seems to mean approaching the Revolution as a good yarn, one in which the heroes are saved from one mortal peril after another, seemingly by an ``Angel in the Whirlwind,'' a phrase coined by Virginian John Page in a 1776 letter to Thomas Jefferson. Bobrick highlights the numerous points at which the revolution could have collapsed: if British commander-in-chief William Howe had struck the demoralized, poorly clothed, poorly fed and unpaid American troops in the winter of 1777; if, on numerous occasions, British ships had arrived sooner, or British commanders had acted more wisely; and most of all, if Congress had picked anyone else but George Washington to lead the army. Washington is the hero of heroes in this saga. He wins wars not just against the British but also against a feeble Congress, fractious colonies, and numerous fierce competitors for his job. Bobrick's narrative includes both revolutionaries and loyalists, and he does an excellent job of explaining why so many colonialists stayed true to the Crown--an aspect of the revolution given short shrift by many historians. Bobrick gives shorter shrift, however, to Native Americans, describing in detail atrocities attributed to them--they mostly fought on the British side--while offering virtually no context to their role. The sufferings of black slaves, used cruelly by both sides, are noted in passing. Readable, enlivened by many excerpts from the writings of participants famous and humble, this is a good primer on the revolution--but not a revolutionary one.

Pub Date: July 4th, 1997
ISBN: 0-684-81060-3
Page count: 560pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1997




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