On this 4th of July, I managed to finish reading The Story of the Revolution by Henry Cabot Lodge. This is probably the best book on the American Revolution I have ever read. I highly recommend it. Because this book was printed in 1898, it is not easy to find at your local used bookstore.
For your information, I blew through the 600+ pages in under 4 days. This book is well written and very thought provoking. The author did a great job of keeping bias out of the book. However, what I liked was how he was sure to put some thought provoking questions within the history text which caused you to stop and think. I would recommend that this book be required reading for any American over the age of 12. As far as that goes, I could imagine some younger boys enjoying hearing their parents reading them this book.
It is important to remember that July 4, 1776 is neither the beginning or the end of the story of American Freedom. July 4th is an extremely important day, but there is much that happened before that date in the fight for freedom and a lot that happened after that day in order to obtain the freedom that the political minds desired.
First off, a little about the author. Henry Cabot Lodge was a historian who became a United States Senator. He was a good friend of Theodore Rosevelt. However, he is best know for his battles with Woodrow Wilson over Congress having the right to declare war, and he made sure that the United States did not enter the League of Nations. However, this is not a book report on the life of Lodge, it is just important to understand that the author of this book was a Harvard Ph.D. who loved freedom and understood proper roles of government. I am looking forward to reading a couple of other books written by Lodge.
Many Americans really do not understand how long the American Revolution was. However, the spark of the American Revolution was not immediately felt by everyone. Even up until 1770, most Americans would not have thought it beneficial to separate from England. Most historians credit Thomas Paine’s Common Sense as being the catalysts to sparking the hearts and minds of Americans towards liberty.
The American Revolution really started germinating after the 7 years war. England had spent a lot of money on that war and they thought that the Americans should pay for it. Parliament did something that they had never done before, they passed a tax upon the colonies. The Colonies understood that they were accountable to the king since it was the king that gave them their charter to operate. They did not feel that they were accountable to Parliament because they had no representation in Parliament. While the Americans felt that they were not subservient to Parliament, Parliament did think that the Colonies were subservient to them and they acted accordingly.
It was not until 1774 that America finally decided to establish a congress so that the colonies could negotiate with the king on a united basis. By 1775, the British troops started to confiscate the Americans powder so as to restrict their ability to fight against the British attempts to impose their authority over the colonies.
It was in 1775 the America militia and British regulars first meet on the field of battle. We all know the stories of Lexicon and Concord. Shortly thereafter the British fought the bloody battle on Bunker Hill so as to ensure that they controlled the city of Boston. It was about this time that Washington was named General of the American Army. Over the winter of 1775, Washington surrounded Boston and he managed to bring over cannons from another fort to eventually force the British to abandon Boston.
It was after this exciting year that Congress finally decided to declare its independence from the motherland. These political leaders knew that when they were signing the document that they could lose their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. They put everything on the line when they signed the Declaration of Independence.
It was in the summer of 1776 that the British started to focus their efforts on New York. Washington was outnumbered 3/1. First Washington was forced to retreat from Long Island, then New York City, then White Plains, then he lost Fort Washington and Fort Lee, and he was beating a path across New Jersey. However, after a summer and fall of strategic retreats, Washington went on the offense and won the battles of Trenton and Princeton.
There was hope in America that they might once again have their independence.
If you think that this is the end of the story of the American Revolution, you have a lot to learn about the War for Independence. In the Henry Cabot Lodge books, you are only at page 223 of over 600. This is only the first third of the battle for Independence. There is still much more that was going to happen.
The British tried to cut the United States in half but Washington was successful in beating back the British. By the time we won the battle of Saratoga, the British had basically given up on the North and decided that it was time to start the Southern campaign.
The British initially had great success in the South and within a short period of time, we see Georgia completely under British control. The British then started to control South Carolina and the state had pretty much fallen to the British. However, it was at this time that the British made a huge mistake. Rather than rule over the South Carolinians, they hung, shot and plundered the citizens regardless of whether they were loyal to the crown.
This behavior of the British in South Carolina ended up reigniting the patriot spirit in the South and all of a sudden the swamp fox started harassing the British supplies and started to slow the British march up to North Carolina. (For my movie lover friends, the Swamp Fox is the character Mel Gibson plays in the movie Patriot.)
Finally, Congress names Nathan Greene as the commander of the American Army to fight the British in the South. However, while Greene had a commission, that is all he really had. Greene was forced to raise his army, raise money to support the army, and of course, raise supplies to outfit his army.
Greene was a tactical genius who managed to outmaneuver the British Army every step of the way. Greene may not have always won the battle, but he managed to always come out ahead of the British. Battle after battle, Greene out thought Cornwallis. From the battle at King’s Mountain or Cowpens, Greene came out ahead.
Eventually, in-between Washington from the North and Greene from the South, they trapped Cornwallis in Yorktown and the war was all but over.
What is interesting that Benedict Arnold’s betrayal of the nation did not come until 1779, at a time when the war was starting to wind down. Benedict Arnold was a famous Revolutionary war leader who had helped George Washington on numerous occasions. However, Benedict Arnold did not feel that Congress treated him properly and the seeds were planted for him to be disloyal.
In the summer of 1778, Benedict Arnold met a pretty 18-year-old daughter of a British loyalist. Arnold married this young lady and as such, he spent a lot of time hearing the arguments of why the nation should not be independent. Because Arnold had not been paid properly, and because he was a gambler, Arnold found himself in a difficult financial situation and the tables were set for Arnold to attempt to betray the cause that he had so diligently fought for.
However, the betrayal of Arnold was discovered when Arnold’s British contact was captured by some independent mercenaries. They found the plan in the contacts shoes and rushed the message off to Washington so that Arnold’s betrayal did not come to fruition. The betrayal of Arnold really hurt Washington because if he could not trust Arnold, who could he trust?
Arnold betrayed his country because he had his pride hurt, he got mixed with the wrong crowd, and he had financial problems that led to the point that he was willing to take great riches from England in order to betray his country.
While the story of the American Revolution resolves with Franklin, Adams, Jay, and others negotiating peace in London, it is important to know that the battle for American liberty is never over. The Revolution may have been fought and won, but the enemies of liberty never stop. We cannot sit back and take our liberties for granted because the enemies of liberty are waiting for any opportunity to attack and enslave us.