The American Revolution was no festive musical.
German-born historian Hoock (British History/Univ. of Pittsburgh; Empires of the Imagination: Politics, War, and the Arts in the British World, 1750-1850, 2010, etc.) asserts that this is "the first book on the American Revolution and the Revolutionary War to adopt violence as its central analytical and narrative focus." Over time, he writes, the Revolution's pervasive violence and terror have "yielded to a strangely bloodless narrative of the war that mirrors the image of a tame and largely nonviolent Revolution." In fact, he claims in this fresh approach to a well-trod subject, "to understand the Revolution and the war—the very birth of the nation—we must write the violence, in all its forms, back into the story." This he certainly does, examining both physical and psychological violence inflicted by all participants—British, German and colonial military forces, Patriot and Loyalist partisans and civilians, Native Americans, and free and enslaved blacks—on each other throughout the conflict. The catalog of misery includes battlefield atrocities, rape and plunder of civilians, inhumane imprisonment, lynchings and expulsions, and the scorched-earth destruction of crops, plantations, and entire towns. Hoock suggests that the conflict is best understood as America's first civil war rather than as a colonial uprising. He also considers at length the struggles by civil and military leaders of both sides to determine what levels of violence would be efficacious in achieving their objectives and acceptable under contemporary ethical standards, issues of continuing relevance today. Deeply researched and buttressed by extensive useful endnotes, this is history that will appeal to both scholars and general readers. The author presents his grim narrative in language that is vivid without becoming lurid. In urging an acceptance of historical accuracy over our foundational myths, he hopes to direct us toward "an approach to global leadership…more restrained, finely calibrated, and generously spirited."
An accomplished, powerful presentation of the American Revolution as it was, rather than as we might wish to remember it.