Review The British are Coming by Rick Atkinson

AWP

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Rather than try to remember bits and pieces for an end of book review, I'm starting this thread for periodic updates.

The book starts with some background on the run up to the war. It doesn't go into great detail, but it does provide enough for context along with a pretty solid profile of King George III. Short version: the king was obsessed with details, minutiae, even wrote down the time he received a note or letter. Atkinson paints the British reasons for pushing the war as a matter of pride, keeping the empire together and setting an example for other nations, plus they flat out took the Iraq 2003 appraoch and decided they could steamroll the colony.

Yeah, nah....

The book has selected text from speeches and private letters. It also focuses on Lord North and Edward Gibbon, he of the The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The war wasn't the most popular item in England, even Lord North had private doubts but was a loyal friend and subject, however they pressed forward anyway.

Some character profiles of selected American players are presented: Franklin, Revere, Hancock, Adam, Washington, Putnam, etc. which are detailed without being lengthy. I'm up to the winter of '75 and the Candian debacle, the Brits having had intercourse with a canine in the early months resulting in their leadership getting sacked and replaced. Atkinson does a solid job of breaking down the battles without being tedious and is fair in his criticism of everyone involved. To that point, he does the same with the political aspects as well, so his writing isn't a grand flag-waving 'Merica exercise.

He does provide some human detail to keep the story alive and some things I'd never read before: Loyalist governors actually fled to English ships because of the threat to their lives and their families. I don't recall the leader, but when he moved into a recently vacated house it took his staff a week to scrub the blood away because it was used as a hospital.

Great book, I'll try to make future posts a bit shorter and easier to read.
 

AWP

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So....ugh. Sorry for the lack of participation in my own thread.

I finished the book a few weeks ago. It is outstanding. The rest of the book reads like I posted above. Great detail, descriptive without bogging down, neutral tone, etc. He really brings the story to life with letter and diary excerpts from leaders as well as junior officers and common soldiers. The detail and quality are excellent.

I did not know how close we came to losing the war in the first year. GW....not a good general in those first 18 months. British caution, arrogance, and some dumb luck saved us. I also found it interesting to see Continentals who were former members of the British Army, even as recent as 1773/ 1774.

Ben Franklin was a pimp. He was the original American player and I'm surprised he saved some pussy for the rest of us.

The war was very brutal, "no quarter" level of brutal. Sometimes the sides just didn't take prisoners, the Hessians in particular favored using the bayonet on POWs. The amount of suffering by both sides was also pretty staggering. Food shortages, the weather, supply shortages, clothing shortages, disease... just horrific.

The Brits assumed they could feed their army locally, but that didn't work out. They then assumed their navy could resupply the army...that didn't work out either. Distances, storms, and American privateers put an end to that notion. Our "navy" in 1775/1776 was more pirate than professional. A lot more, but it did the job.

Again, great book. If this period of history interests you, go buy it now.
 

Gunz

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Concur with all the above.

A new, great military history of the Revolution was long overdue. Knowing this author's track record, I'm sure the next two books will be just as good.

One of my favorite battle narratives--of any war--is Thomas Fleming's Now We are Enemies, a fascinating account of the Battle of Bunker Hill...and I highly recommend it for those who liked The British are Coming. Something to enjoy while waiting for Atkinson's next volume.

Amazon.com: Now We Are Enemies: The Story of Bunker Hill (9780984225668): Thomas Fleming: Books
 
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SpitfireV

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I might have to pick this one up myself. There is a real problem- from writers in both nations- to look at things from this era with a terrible bias. I have a book on the 1812 war by an American author and some of his language used is...emotive to say the least. I've flipped through books by British authors in the bookstores and found a similar thing. Thanks for the review.
 
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