What could be a better time to read Joseph Ellis’s engrossing account of the events of the summer of 1776 than in the days leading up to the 237th anniversary of that momentous time? In this brief, accessible volume, Pulitzer Prize-winner Ellis (FOUNDING BROTHERS) offers what he calls “the story of the birth of the American Revolution,” making a persuasive case that in that long-ago summer, the fledgling nation’s fate hung in the balance, its destiny far from assured.
Ellis weaves together two strands to create his narrative. One is “the political tale of how thirteen colonies came together and agreed on the decision to secede from the British Empire.” The other is the “military narrative of the battles on Long Island and Manhattan, where the British army and navy delivered a series of devastating defeats to an American army of amateurs, but missed whatever chance existed to end it all.” Both “are customarily told as stand-alone accounts in their own right,” Ellis notes, but he demonstrates here that the understanding of one informs and enriches our appreciation of the other.
Of the two story lines, the second --- probably less well known to the casual student of history --- is by far the more compelling. Ellis frankly reveals how a healthy amount of luck and the irresolution of the British commanders allowed the Continental Army, “a motley crew of marginal men and misfits,” and one that was “neither continental in character nor an army in anything like the professional sense of the term” to escape what would have been a disastrous defeat at the hands of a far larger and militarily superior fighting force.
"REVOLUTIONARY SUMMER doesn’t break new ground, but it serves the general reader well as a lively introduction to these epochal events. There’s plenty here to whet the appetite of anyone who wants to dig deeper into our country’s creation narrative."
Fresh from the successful defense of Boston, George Washington led a dubious army of 25,000 men, some one-half of them u