Monday, July 13, 2015


The Fourth of July or Independence Day celebrations include parades, fireworks, picnics and festivals, but July is also a perfect time to retrace the history of the United States.  David McCullough’s book 1776 chronicles the intensely human story of those who marched with General George Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence.  Based on extensive research in American and British archives, this dramatic story captures the story of Washington and the many men and women caught in the path of war.
            Declaration by William Hogeland tells the story of nine tumultuous weeks when America became independent.  May 1 to July 4, 1776 were fast paced weeks essential to the American founding, but little known today.  The activities of Samuel and John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Dickinson and other patriots during that turbulent time is presented in a gripping and vivid portrait of passionate men and thrilling events that gave birth to the USA.
            Political commentator Cokie Roberts has written two books that pay homage to the heroic women whose patriotism and sacrifice helped to create a new nation.  Founding Mothers and Ladies of Liberty are both colorful blends of biographical portraits and behind-the-scenes vignettes that chronical the women’s public roles and private responsibilities.  Roberts uses personal correspondence, private journals and other primary sources to flesh out the stories of the often overlooked women of the early history of our country.
            A Leap in the Dark by John Ferling is the story of the struggle to create the American Republic.  Ferling traces the history of the Revolutionary era from the first rumblings of colonial protest to the volcanic outburst that was 1776.  He details the seismic struggles of the new nation through the bitterly contested election of 1800.  Each side is represented in this readable history of the early days of the new country.
            A People’s History of the American Revolution skillfully weaves diaries, personal letters, memoirs, and other primary sources into a first-person account of the Revolutionary War from the viewpoint of everyday participants.  The voices of the rank-and-file rebels, the women, Native Americans, African Americans, loyalists and pacifists are heard in this important look at how the masses survived the Revolution.  The role of these lesser-knowns illuminates the story of what life was like during this volatile period.
            Thomas Fleming is a distinguished historian and the author of many novels and non-fiction titles that capture history and make it more understandable.  His novels Time and Tide, Liberty Tavern and Dreams of Glory are fictional accounts of the early days of the United States and Revolutionary War period.  Liberty! The American Revolution is the companion volume to the six-part award winning PBS miniseries by the same name. 
Fleming has recently written Duel-Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and the Future of America.  Most everyone is familiar with the fatal duel that Hamilton and Burr fought in 1804 in Weehawken, New Jersey.  The success of the French Revolution and the proclamation of Napoleon as First Consul for Life had enormous impact on men like Hamilton and Burr.  Their own political fantasies and hunger for fame were enhanced by a perceived weakness in the Federal government and turbulent times.  From that poisonous brew came the tangle of regret, anger and ambition that drove the two men to their murderous confrontation.
Fleming also captures the conflicts of those early years in The Great Divide.  History has a tendency to cast a glow of camaraderie across the infant years of the United States, but there were many conflicts between the Founding Fathers.  The most important being the disagreements between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.  Their disagreements centered on the highest and most original public office created by the Constitutional Convention: the presidency, but also involved the nation’s foreign policy, the role of merchants and farmers in the republic and the durability of the union itself. 
Spies have always played an important role in conflict, but the identity of spies and their exploits are not often publicized.  Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger spent years researching the role of the Culper Spy Ring.  These six individuals saved the American Revolution.  Their identities were so well hid; one of them, a woman called Agent 355, is still nameless today.  George Washington’s Secret Six is the story of these five brave men and one woman who infiltrated British operations with such effectiveness and, in their own way, played a pivotal role in the fledgling country’s success.
Joseph J. Ellis is a Pulitzer Prize winning author who has focused on the Revolutionary period in much of his work.  American Creation recounts the triumphs and tragedies of the founding of the Republic.  From the first shots fired at Lexington, the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the negotiations for the Louisiana Purchase, Ellis details the decisive issues in the founding of the United States.  The fact that the Revolution was brought about by a group of individuals made it so extraordinary and different from other revolutions in other countries.  He contends that this evolution is one of the reasons the country has been so durable and such a success.
Ellis’ Revolutionary Summer recounts the moment in American history that brought about the most consequential events in the story of the country’s founding.  He weaves together the military and political experiences of both sides of the single story showing how events on one front influenced outcomes on the other. 
Much has been written about the Revolutionary heroes, but those on the other side of political fence are often overlooked.  Maya Jasanoff explores the story of the American Loyalists in the Revolutionary War in Liberty’s Exiles.  On November 25, 1783, when the British troops pulled out of New York City, Patriots celebrated their departure.  For tens of thousands of American loyalists, the British evacuation spelled worry not jubilation.  60,000 loyalists-one for every 40 U.S. residents left their homes to become refugees elsewhere in the British Empire.  The story of this remarkable global diaspora and those who fled is eloquently told in this narrative history.
Edward J. Larson has compiled a groundbreaking look at the forgotten years of George Washington in The Return of George Washington.  After commanding the Continental Army to victory, Washington shocked the nation as he retired and returned to his beloved Mount Vernon. Four years later, he rode from Mount Vernon to lead the Constitutional Convention; he was the one American who could unite the rapidly disintegrating country.  This book tells the little known story of Washington’s personal sacrifice to save the nation he loved.

--Pam Christensen, Library Director

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