Patriot Battles – Book Review
Book Review – Patriot Battles, Michael Stephenson, $27.95 US/$34.95 Can, 448 pgs, HarperCollins Publishers, New York City, April 2007.
Wars are fought by men of all classes and walks of life. This fact could not have been truer for those that fought the American Revolution on both sides of the battle lines. American backwoods men fought along with sailors. German mercenaries fought with British redcoats. Officers came from the high and low classes of society. The Revolutionary War era armies were a motley crew.
Michael Stephenson’s book, Patriot Battles, explains with clear detail the differences in both American and British troops. He spares no expense in telling what type of breed the men were that fought, and how location determined how well men would fight. He explains the close ties of the American militia. He goes into detail the disgust commanders had of their men and the disgust that men had for their commanders. He tells of the home front motivation, as in, why many men would fight if the dangers got near their families, but deserted as soon as it moved to another area.
It tells of the might of the British Army. How the officers trained and drilled their men to perfection for open combat. How their trademark red coats acted to keep the moral of their men high. It tells of how Hessians, the German troops to serve under a foreign king, could go to war for a bit of money.
But, Patriot does not leave out the others who fought and died on either side of the conflict. These were the Indians, women, and the blacks. This book describes how both the British and Americans would wrangle loyalty from these minorities. It describes how they would dearly fight to prove that they were not just minorities, but a force to be reckoned with.
He goes into the fact that this was the first brothers’ war of America. How loyalties would drive fathers to shoot sons, or nephews to drill to kill their uncles. He tells of how loyalty can be one of the factors of the most ruthless type of warfare, especially in this conflict, where men stood up in long rows and fired at point blank range into the face of those trying to kill them.
But, he does not just talk about the soldiers. He talks about the weapons. Everything, from the musket to the cannon is discussed. The destructive nature of these ancient weapons can be clearly seen as one reads. He talks about how little modifications could make even the musket ball, deadly enough as itself, into an almighty weapon, the differences in how far the guns could shoot and how it affected the fighting of the time. There is also an interesting section on how much each type of gun cost to buy and how money truly drove this war.
But of course, what war book leaves out the essential ‘fun stuff’: combat? After all, war books are about warfare. About 40% of this book is given over to the blood and carnage of the fields of battle. By the time the reader reaches the battles, he has a sound understanding of the men behind the guns, and what each side was up against.
Patriot Battles delves into the intricate plans made by both sides and the tactics employed. It retells every major campaign, and how differences in even the weaponry could sway the battle to one side or the other. It takes the reader from one bloody field to another gore covered plain of battle, and will not let him go.
In short, Patriot Battles is the perfect book on the Revolutionary War to those who are interested in military, American history, a certain war, or just in weapons. Michael Stephenson has presented us all with a book that is worth the time spent to read it.