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Patriot Battles


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About the Author

Michael Stephenson is the former editor of the Military Book Club and the editor of National Geographic's Battlegrounds: Geography and the History of Warfare. He lives in New York City.


Stephenson (Battlegrounds) seeks to reinvent the wheel. His objective is to explain who fought the battles of the American Revolution, how, and why-topics better explained long ago in superior texts. Part 1 covers "The Nuts and Bolts of War," with chapters analyzing such topics as who constituted the various military forces involved, the equipment they carried, and the food they ate. Parts 2 and 3 describe the battles occurring in the North and South, respectively. Battles are described well enough, but there is little explanation of events transpiring in between. The result is a series of case studies with little context. Throughout, Stephenson is prone to injecting absurd phrases and strange references. He refers to some British officers as "deadbeat young twits," compares a burned-out soldier to a computer's frazzled motherboard, and draws a parallel between the Revolution's financier Robert Morris and today's Halliburton. The absence of a conclusion is another problem. Does the author not have a point he wishes to reinforce? This is not a bad book; it is merely unnecessary. Readers would do better to select one of the more standard secondary sources Stephenson references, such as Robert Middlekauff's The Glorious Cause. An optional purchase for public libraries.-Matthew J. Wayman, Pennsylvania State Univ., Abington Coll. Lib. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

A former editor of the Military Book Club, Stephenson (Battlegrounds) aims to strip away "the slow accretion of national mythology and popular history" that has "embalmed" the American Revolution. The result is a well-documented, entertaining and mildly revisionist military history in two parts. In the first, Stephenson examines "The Nuts and Bolts of War," answering basic questions about who fought, how and why. He concludes, unsurprisingly, that "the war was not revolutionary in any military sense." What's intriguing is how similar the American and British armies were-Stephenson notes that for each, "It was like gazing into a mirror." To analyze prosaic details like supply and transport, weapons and medical care, the author uses an array of statistics and technical data-muzzle velocities, shot weights, equipment lists, etc.-but wisely leavens them with anecdotes. In part two, Stephenson turns to an analysis of the major battles of the war, from the opening skirmishes at Lexington and Concord to the climactic showdown at Yorktown, and concludes that the Continental Army's victory was always predicated on its numerical superiority. This excellent popular history should attract a wide audience with its fresh perspective. 16 maps. (Apr.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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