O'Donnell (First SEALs: The Untold Story of the Forging of America’s Most Elite Unit, 2014, etc.) deploys a fusillade of fact and fresh research in a Revolutionary War history rich in irony and event.
A Band of Brothers–like account of the Maryland Immortals, the first elite unit of the Continental Army and one of the few to fight in both the North and South, the book is a thorough chronicle of the nine-year saga of citizen soldiers who fought valiantly but that history had all but forgotten. The author concludes that were it not for this core group's girding of the American Army and its efforts at critical junctures, the war likely would have been lost. He vividly describes a war marked by slaughter, brutality, incompetence, and extraordinary privation, as well as valor, restraint, resourcefulness, and endurance, putting paid to many oversimplified accounts of a complex struggle, especially with regard to the vicious battle between the Whigs and the Tories. O'Donnell also presents a well-delineated cast of unheralded Marylanders (Mordecai Gist, John Eager Howard, William Smallwood, Jack Steward, Otho Holland Williams, and Nathaniel Ramsey), the major American commanders (George Washington, Nathanael Greene, Daniel Morgan, et al.) and their British counterparts (Richard and William Howe, Cornwallis, Henry Clinton, and Banastre Tarleton). Although readers will admire O'Donnell's exhaustive research, skilled organization of the material, and the high readability of the writing, the multitude of armies, brigades, regiments, companies, and divisions, etc., whose exploits he relates can be difficult to keep straight. This is no less true of the differing aggregates of Maryland units that turned the tide in many a battle, not just the 400 men who saved the army from annihilation at the Battle of Brooklyn.
With a firm grasp of tactics, strategy, and the sociopolitical landscape, O'Donnell captures the horror and absurdities of the war better than most, but the density of detail may render it more appealing to confirmed military buffs than general readers.