A biography of the Founding Father’s service in the Continental Army.
You don’t have to have seen the Broadway musical Hamilton to know that its subject was deeply implicated in the events of the American Revolution. Historian Tucker (Death at the Little Bighorn: A New Look at Custer, His Tactics, and the Tragic Decisions Made at the Last Stand, 2017, etc.) rightly claims a place for Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) that many biographies overlook: George Washington’s chief of staff in the field. “From the beginning,” writes the author, “no one was better or more adept at translating Washington’s ideas into practical plans for his top lieutenants to execute on the battlefield and in the art of diplomacy, especially with the French Allies.” One important moment in the narrative occurs when a member of Washington’s military staff gets it into his head that he somehow deserves to replace his commander, an idea that some historians have deemed treason but most others simple hubris. As Tucker writes, Hamilton thereafter became known as Washington’s most loyal lieutenant. To read between the lines, this loyalty may have been a hindrance, since Hamilton itched to get into the field and distinguish himself in battle. The author writes convincingly of a few lesser-known points in Hamilton’s military resume, including the fact that he was an early advocate of using black troops in battle, as did the British, and that Hamilton was generous in advancing the careers of friends such as John Laurens at some expense to himself. The portrait that emerges is one of a powerful intellect with a solid military sense, but Tucker’s narrow focus will limit the readership, and the prose is sometimes ham-fisted—e.g., “despite now wearing Continental officer uniforms of blue, one of these promising men was destined to take the other’s life in a little more than a quarter century.”
Students of 18th-century American military history will find plenty of interest, but the broader audience of readers will find Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton (2004) to be more useful.