A venerable historian of the American Revolution focuses on the events between the shot heard round the world and the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Ferling (History/State Univ. of West Georgia; The Ascent of George Washington, 2009, etc.) uses a transatlantic approach to show how the stone of revolution began its roll, accelerating until it reached the velocity necessary to crush both American reconcilers and a major portion of England’s colonial empire. Numerous characters (none really surprising) emerge in prominence as the narrative progresses: in England—Lord North (the Prime Minister), King George III, Edmund Burke, William Pitt, Charles James Fox; in America—Richard Henry Lee, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Robert R. Livingston. Although the author spends some time detailing the initial civilian and military clashes (the Tea Party, Boston Massacre, Concord bridge, siege of Quebec), he attends most carefully to the human stories: the loneliness of families separated by war and politics (he highlights the correspondence between John and Abigail Adams), the fear of those near the war zones, the frustrations of dealing with international relations in a time when communications were snail-slow and the egos and ignorance on both sides of the Atlantic. Sometimes Ferling points toward contemporary analogies. Writing of England, he notes: “Not for the last time would a government underestimate its enemy as it took its people into the costly, bloody wasteland of war.” Only occasionally is the author hobbled by a lack of documentary evidence, forcing him into multiple uses of probably and seems and their kin. He also reminds us the vote for independence was on July 2nd, not 4th.
A lucid, erudite account a period both terrifying and supremely inspiring.