Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Yes, I've read it; and no, I can't write about it right now. So I figured I'd at least get a post up so y'all can start leaving your comments and I'll leave my thoughts in the comments section as well. Sorry...things are just crazy around here at the moment.


Mr. Mordecai said...

I really enjoyed reading this book. I must admit that some of it took my by surprise -- more so than it should have. For some reason, it hadn't dawned on me that the revolutionary war was as long as it was (eight years!). As I was realizing about mid-way through the book that the war wouldn't be over by its end, it made me wonder quite a bit about how the actual individuals must have been feeling -- never knowing how long the war would be.

I must admit also, that one of the deepest feelings that came to me as I read the book is how truly horrible war of any kind is. Perhaps it's party related to having read All Quiet on the Western Front recently, but it stood out very clearly in my mind that for every statistic you read in the book, there were real people with lives not unlike our own -- families, responsibilities, hopes and dreams. It helps to put into perspective comments like those on page 99, where after the siege at Boston, Mr. McCullough comments that it was such a total victory that: "Four men were killed by a single ball. But that was the only damage done." Indeed, an impressive victory, but even a single life is still a high cost.

Another theme that struck out to me as I read through the book is how incredibly complicated it must be to fight battles in the heart of existing communities. The problems with loyalists and 'rebels' always made it difficult for those on both sides. How could you ever possibly know who was really on your side?

As I was reading, I was reminded of wars that we (the USA) have participated in on other soil, such as Vietnam, Korea, and Iraq. In many of those cases, as in the book, "our shells raked the houses and the cries of the poor women and children frequently reached our ears." (Lt. Samuel Webb, page 92)

At what point should the line be drawn? Do you attack homes? Certainly not! What if they are occupied by those who are a threat? How can you guarantee that they are? How do you ever trust anyone?

I don't mean to imply that the revolutionary war shouldn't have happened, or that it was fought without cause, but what justifies war? The revolutionary war was, in truth, a civil war. The only reason we don't call it that is because we won. What, besides the fact that history is written by the victors, made it so right, while other similar wars have been deemed wrong? Why would a country founded by separating itself from its 'mother-land,' for example, fight so bitterly against secession a hundred years later?

Again, this book made me think a lot. I appreciate the opportunity to have read it and I learned a great deal about our past. I honor the dedication of those who held so strongly to their cause, and I'm grateful for the freedoms I enjoy.

Of all the things to take away from the book, the one I enjoyed the most was this: "we must. . . make the best of mankind as they are, since we cannot have them as we wish." (George Washington, page 66, repeated towards the end)

How wonderful it would be if we all took that the heart, not just with mankind, but with all our circumstances.

Shimmy Mom said...

I love that quote by George Washington as well.
War was fought so differently then and I can't imagine how scary it must have been to be in or near a battle.
This book reminded me that you have to study history. It's only through knowing history that you can prevent making the same mistakes in the future and I don't think we always do a very good job of doing that. ( Not that I think that the Revolution was a mistake. I think our forefathers were inspired men who did what they had to, but there were mistakes made in the name of the war and it call all be a lesson to us.)

The Allred Family said...

It is really sad to read about all the lives that were lost, even in a victory. And I agree with you guys about your thoughts on war, and whether or not it is ever justifiable. I suppose there are times when it is necessary, but I don't think anyone enjoys war.

I liked reading chapter two that went into detail on the character of some of the American army. It was pretty amazing that men from so many different walks of life would step up to claim there independence. They were put into "roles seemingly beyond their experiences or capacity." I thought it was interesting that a lot of them were not used to people telling them what to do, so they would come and go as the pleased. They also didn't see the sense of rules and regulations. It made me wonder if strict rules really help all that much in our own situations. I believe that we should have guidelines, and that there should be family rules, etc. But I also think that being too strict can be detrimental.

Having recently started homeschooling, and embarking on a leadership education of my own, I enjoyed the part about Nathanael Greene. He had a wonderful father who was a good man, but "his mind was overshadowed with prejudices against literary accomplishments." Nathanael told a friend that he could "feel the mist of ignorance to surround me". Sometimes I feel that way. I used to think that I knew plenty and I didn't need anymore education, but now that we are homeschooling and I have started a new chapter in my life, I often feel a little bit ignorant. I don't feel like I know enough about the things that really matter. But I have the ability to gain the education that I deserve, and like Nathaneal, I can be determined to educate myself by reading all I can, and searching out good mentors.

I need to run, I may add more later. I guess my comments aren't much about history, but my mind lately is always on the leadership education stuff, so it seems to stick out to me in everything I read.


Mrs. Brooke said...

It's so good to read others' comments about what I've read. I'm sorry I'm so late in posting this month...super crazy week, and I'm not sure if I even time to write this! :)

I thought this was a great book--it is so nice to read something that cites its sources, one of my pet peeves in today's conversations and the like.

Being reminded of the horrors of war is a good thing to me...I think we all need to be reminded and, especially with how impatient the American public is with the Iraq war, realize that war isn't just something that starts and finishes on the same page of a history textbook. The Am. Rev. was really long, and that's just how war goes sometimes.

Regarding the justifications of war...there was actually an instance of rebellion shortly after America gained its independence by some farmers and George Washington had the hardest time making the decision to send in military forces to squash it because he saw many parallels to the American quest for independence. He felt bad for repressing those farmers' rights to rebelling against perceived injuries, and only called in the militia when he justified it as being necessary for the integrity of the nation. War is a quirky thing.

I appreciated the author's honest approach to describing the main figures in the conflict--it was incredibly interesting to get to know Washington better and to see that he was indeed human. And I especially loved seeing the full-fledged American Dream in working order through the military appointments of men who would never have been chosen in any other country. You really can become anything you want to become in America, your birth and sometimes even your education won't bar you from achieving great things.

I've been reading a book about the war in Iraq lately; and, coupled with this book, it's really opened my eyes to the fact that people die in war. I know, it's an obvious fact, but to really get to know the individuals that give their lives for a principle they believe in...I need to take much better care of my liberties and appreciate this country so much more. So many have given their greatest sacrifices in the name of independence and freedom. It's rather humbling to compare myself...what have I done to show my appreciation for the nation in which I reside, a nation built upon the heroic efforts and dedication of others who gave what they had in order to secure the future for suceeding generations?

And the dismal situation of urban warfare...I am more and more amazed that we won that war each time I read more about it. (Especially after reading through the events of the Battle of Long Island...whoa.)

Bill Doughty said...

If you have a chance, please check out my review on Navy Reads, a personal blog I do in support of the Navy's Professional Reading Program. My biggest takeaway is how tenuous and fragile the beginnings of our country were. McCullough puts you right there and makes you see some of the characters come to life. See for yourself:
Navy Reads