Band of Giants: The Amateur Soldiers Who Won America's Independence
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Band of Giants brings to life the founders who fought for our independence in the Revolutionary War. Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin are known to all; men like Morgan, Greene, and Wayne are less familiar. Yet the dreams of the politicians and theorists only became real because fighting men were willing to take on the grim, risky, brutal work of war. We know Fort Knox, but what about Henry Knox, the burly Boston bookseller who took over the American artillery at the age of 25? Eighteen counties in the United States commemorate Richard Montgomery, but do we know that this revered martyr launched a full-scale invasion of Canada? The soldiers of the American Revolution were a diverse lot: merchants and mechanics, farmers and fishermen, paragons and drunkards. Most were ardent amateurs. Even George Washington, assigned to take over the army around Boston in 1775, consulted books on military tactics. Here, Jack Kelly vividly captures the fraught condition of the war―the bitterly divided populace, the lack of supplies, the repeated setbacks on the battlefield, and the appalling physical hardships. That these inexperienced warriors could take on and defeat the superpower of the day was one of the remarkable feats in world history.
Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 249. 6. Ibid., 249–50. 7. Terry Golway, Washington’s General: Nathanael Greene and the Triumph of the American Revolution (New York: H. Holt, 2005), 142. 8. Christopher Ward, The War of the Revolution (New York: Macmillan, 1952), 360. 9. Ferling, Almost a Miracle, 251. 10. Ibid., 252. 11. Nelson, Anthony Wayne, 59. 12. Ibid., 60. 13. Ron Chernow, Washington: A Life (New York:
the eighteenth-century equivalent of barbed wire. These veterans of the spade transformed Greene’s book knowledge into formidable defensive works. Greene issued strict orders for the men to perform guard duty according to the book and to avoid wounding “the Modesty of female decency” when bathing nude in local ponds. Even coarse language he deemed “unmanly and unsoldier like.”10 Brooklyn was then a small hamlet in the agricultural expanse of Kings County. The word derived from breuckelen, Dutch
to major general. He lacked Greene’s innate judgment, as well as his familiarity with the geography of Long Island. Two days later, on August 22, drums in the American camp beat “to arms.” The sound, after four months of waiting, sent an electric charge through the men. British transports were sailing across the placid waters of the bay to deposit eight thousand troops on the shore of Long Island. The redcoats quickly shoved back the rebel riflemen screening the shore. Now hidden from American
vex commanders until the very end of the war. * * * The army’s senior officers lived in houses in the area surrounding the Valley Forge camp. Some were joined by their wives. Martha Washington came in time for her husband’s forty-sixth birthday in February. She boosted the commander’s spirits. The soldiers loved her. She was “busy from early morning until late at night” knitting stockings and sewing shirts for the troops. Martha was no stranger to death, having lost her first husband, three of
Virginia militia, exhausted after their punishing forced march, held the left. Swamps protected both flanks. Two Maryland Continental regiments waited behind the lines as reserves. As light leaked into a nervous sky, Cornwallis ordered his men ahead in columns, regulars on the right, Tory militia to the left. The arrangement of the armies put two of the best regiments of redcoats directly opposite the Virginians, many of whom had never seen an enemy soldier before that morning. General Stevens