Suggested Resources on the American Revolution and Lord Cornwallis from the Archivist

by Mary-Jo Kline

Prof. Martin has written extensively on the American Revolution. Of his many books, the one most relevant to the essay you’ve just read is his collaboration with Mark E. Lender, A Respectable Army: The Military Origins of the Republic, 1763–1789, 2nd ed. (Wheeling, IL: H. Davidson, 2006), one of the first book-length studies of the subject to include the work of social historians who examine the experience of war for the soldier.

For several related topics, look at our issue of History Now from 2009 devoted to the American Revolution.

To which I’d like to add a few favorites of mine, with more of a focus on military matters:

  • Ferling, John. Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
  • Higginbotham, Don. The War of American Independence: Military Attitudes, Policies, and Practice, 1763–1789. 1971. Reprint, Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1983.
  • Royster, Charles. A Revolutionary People at War: The Continental Army and American Character, 1775–1783. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1979.
  • Shy, John. A People Numerous and Armed: Reflections on the Military Struggle for American Independence. Rev. ed. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990.
  • Online, G. Kurt Piehler’s “Revolutionary War Bibliography” (2003), mounted jointly by the Organization of American Historians and the National Park Service, is helpful.

The last decade has brought two very helpful books on the Yorktown campaign:

  • Greene, Jerome. The Guns of Independence: The Siege of Yorktown, 1781. New York: Savas Beatie, 2005. Perhaps more detailed and scholarly than your students want, but be sure to take a look at it for yourselves. By a retired National Parks Service historian, it’s based on a bicentennial era Park Service publication intended for park employees. Revised and updated here, it provides a scholarly and comprehensive account of the siege.
  • Ketchum, Richard M. Victory at Yorktown: The Campaign That Won the Revolution. New York: Henry Holt, 2004. This narrative by one of America’s best-known military historians will probably be better for classroom use.

For those who like to read online, the Army’s Center for Military History has mounted H. L. Landers’s 1931 history The Virginia Campaign and the Blockade and Siege of Yorktown 1781, including a Brief Narrative of the French Participation in the Revolution prior to the Southern Campaign.

These sites are specifically designed for Internet use:

  • The Xenophon site on Yorktown, which has some helpful maps and diagrams.
  • And the National Park Service’s Yorktown Battlefield site, where you’ll want to visit the “History and Culture” segment for sketches of the naval and military commanders, and good capsule descriptions of engagements on land and sea. Don’t skip “People, Places, and Stories”—oddly enough, this is where you’ll find an excellent contribution on the Battle of the Capes.

For British commanders in the Revolution, you’ll like:

  • Billias, George Athan, ed. George Washington’s Generals and Opponents: Their Exploits and Leadership (New York: De Capo Press, 1994). Biographical essays by prominent scholars (originally published as two separate volumes in the 1960s) sketching the lives of the American and British generals of the Revolution.
  • And online, Britishbattles.com has a good section on the American Revolution, with specific information on all the battles mentioned in this essay.

I can’t offer you the selection of book-length materials on Cornwallis that I’d like. This is about it:

  • Wickwire, Franklin, and Mary Wickwire. Cornwallis: The American Adventure. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1970.
  • Wickwire, Franklin, and Mary Wickwire. Cornwallis: The Imperial Years. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980. I know these volumes are old, but you don’t have many choices here. Do your best to get these volumes.
  • A very nice selection of  Cornwallis’s letters during the Revolution.

For other book-length studies of the British generals mentioned here, see:

  • Gruber, Ira D. The Howe Brothers and the American Revolution. New York: Atheneum, 1972, published for the Institute of Early American History and Culture at Williamsburg, Va. Reissued by Chapel Hill, 2011.
  • Hargrove, Richard J. General John Burgoyne. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1983.
  • Willcox, William B. Portrait of a General: Sir Henry Clinton in the War of Independence. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964.

This is a solid narrative study of Saratoga:

  • Ketchum, Richard M. Saratoga: Turning Point of America’s Revolutionary War. New York: Henry Holt, 1997.

For a more in-depth analysis, see the Saratoga chapters in James Kirby Martin, Benedict Arnold,Revolutionary Hero: An American Warrior Reconsidered (New York: New York University Press, 1997).

The National Park Service offers a good lesson plan on Saratoga.

These books will help flesh out your knowledge of the role of France in the American Revolution:

  • Dull, Jonathan R. A Diplomatic History of the American Revolution. New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press, 1982.
  • Dull, Jonathan R. The French Navy and American Independence: A Study of Arms and Diplomacy, 1774–1787. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975.
  • Kennett, Lee B. The French Forces in America, 1780–1783. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1977.
  • Stinchcombe, William C. The American Revolution and the French Alliance. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1969.
  • On the Internet, the Xenophon Group offers the very useful “French Naval Leaders and the French Navy in the American War of Independence.”

You have a good choice of studies of the Revolution in the southern states:

  • Alden, John Richard. The South in the Revolution, 1763–1789. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1957. Classic study.
  • Babits, Lawrence Edward, and Joshua B. Howard. Long, Obstinate, and Bloody: The Battle of Guilford Courthouse. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.
  • Buchanan, John. The Road to Guilford Courthouse: The American Revolution in the Carolinas. New York: Wiley, 1997. Well written and well researched.
  • Lee, Wayne E. Crowds and Soldiers in Revolutionary North Carolina: The Culture of Violence in Riot and War. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001.
  • Pancake, John S. This Destructive War: The British Campaign in the Carolinas, 1780–1782. University: University of Alabama Press, 1985. From the British perspective.
  • Piecuch, Jim. The Battle of Camden: A Documentary History. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2006. Good classroom tool.
  • Piecuch, Jim. Three Peoples, One King: Loyalists, Indians, and Slaves in the Revolutionary South, 1775–1782. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2008.
  • Wilson, David K. The Southern Strategy: Britain’s Conquest of South Carolina and Georgia, 1775–1780. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2005. Focuses on campaigns that led to Yorktown.

American commanders in the South have their biographers of course:

  • Carbone, Gerald M. Nathanael Greene: A Biography of the American Revolution. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.
  • Golway, Terry. Washington’s General: Nathanael Greene and the Triumph of the American Revolution. New York: Henry Holt, 2005.
  • Mattern, David B. Benjamin Lincoln and the American Revolution. Columbia, SC:  University of South Carolina Press, 1995.
  • Nelson, Paul David. General Horatio Gates: A Biography. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1976.
  • Rankin, Hugh F. Francis Marion: The Swamp Fox. New York, Crowell, 1973.
  • Online, the Smithsonian magazine offers a good 2007 article on Marion.

The collaboration between Washington and Rochambeau leading to the triumph at Yorktown is fascinating. Brace yourself for this citation, but English-language materials on Rochambeau are scarcer than hen’s teeth. In 2007, a conference in Vendôme, France, heard a talk representing acollaboration between Edward Lengel and Theodore Crackel, two editors of the Papers of George Washington. Fortunately, the conference proceedings were published in the Bulletin de la Société archéologique, scientifique et littéraire du Vendômois in 2008, now online in PDF format. See pages 47 through 52 for the English text of the Lengel-Crackel paper.

For more information on Washington, I refer you to the essay on Washington in our Fall 2007 issue on the Constitution. My suggestions for resources there should be a good starting point.

None of those sources, however, focus on Washington as a military commander. For that, expand your reading to include:

  • Lengel, Edward G. General George Washington: A Military Life. New York: Random House, 2005.

For Rochambeau, these are the most recent book-length publications in English:

  • Whitridge, Arnold. Rochambeau. New York: Collier Books, 1965.
  • Rochambeau, Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur. Memoirs of the Marshal Count de Rochambeau, Relative to the War of Independence of the United States. 1838. Reprint, 1971.

However, you also have this volume of translated and edited journals of officers in Rochambeau’s army:

  • Rice, Howard C., and Anne S. Kinsolving Brown, eds. The American Campaigns of Rochambeau’s Army, 1780, 1781, 1782, 1783. 2 vols. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972. The first volume contains the diaries kept by Jean François Louis Clermont-Crèvecœur, Jean Baptiste Antoine de Verger, and Alexandre Berthier, while the second provides itineraries, maps, and views.

Valuable introductions to those who made up the ranks of British and Continental forces include

  • Frey, Sylvia R. The British Soldier in America: A Society History of Military Life in the Revolutionary Period. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981.
  • Neimeyer, Charles Patrick. America Goes to War: A Social History of the Continental Army. New York: New York University Press, 1997.

For students who want to learn more about the “Hessian” mercenaries in the war, you have the choice of this book:

  • Atwood, Rodney. The Hessians: Mercenaries from Hessen-Kassel in the American Revolution. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980.
  • And this lengthy contribution from the Americanrevolution.org website.

The online sources for the French navy will serve you well on de Grasse. In print, there’s nothing newer than:

  • Lewis, Charles Lee. Admiral de Grasse and American Independence. Annapolis, MD: United States Naval Institute, 1945.

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