Almost A Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence

Overview


In this gripping chronicle of America's struggle for independence, award-winning historian John Ferling transports readers to the grim realities of that war, capturing an eight-year conflict filled with heroism, suffering, cowardice, betrayal, and fierce dedication. As Ferling demonstrates, it was a war that America came much closer to losing than is now usually remembered. General George Washington put it best when he said that the American victory was "little short of a ...
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Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence

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Overview


In this gripping chronicle of America's struggle for independence, award-winning historian John Ferling transports readers to the grim realities of that war, capturing an eight-year conflict filled with heroism, suffering, cowardice, betrayal, and fierce dedication. As Ferling demonstrates, it was a war that America came much closer to losing than is now usually remembered. General George Washington put it best when he said that the American victory was "little short of a standing miracle."

Almost a Miracle offers an illuminating portrait of America's triumph, offering vivid descriptions of all the major engagements, from the first shots fired on Lexington Green to the surrender of General Cornwallis at Yorktown, revealing how these battles often hinged on intangibles such as leadership under fire, heroism, good fortune, blunders, tenacity, and surprise. Ferling paints sharp-eyed portraits of the key figures in the war, including General Washington and other American officers and civilian leaders. Some do not always measure up to their iconic reputations, including Washington himself. The book also examines the many faceless men who soldiered, often for years on end, braving untold dangers and enduring abounding miseries. The author explains why they served and sacrificed, and sees them as the forgotten heroes who won American independence.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Comprehensive and engaging...Grand stuff and sweeping themes...Ferling is particularly strong in recreating the relentless misery of the war in Georgia and the Carolinas, an essential theater that is overlooked in many popular recountings."--Washington Post Book World

"In his richly detailed battle-by-battle account of the war, Ferling succeeds where other military histories fail by providing helpful background for those who don't know their flanks from their feints. He also brings the military leaders to life, exploring their backgrounds, their dispositions, their willingness to take risks."--Christian Science Monitor

"Monographs on the military history of the American Revolution are beyond count, but Ferling (emer., Univ. of West Georgia) has put together new and old materials in a compelling way...Upon finishing the book, readers will understand how true the title is. George Washington's flaws, the intricacies of congressional relations with the army and navy, the tactics of guerilla warfare, and the horrors of the battlefield--all are presented in a readable and academically sound manner. The vignette and brushstroke fit together flawlessly. General readers and specialists alike will applaud this work. Highly recommended."--CHOICE

"John Ferling is a national resource, and Almost a Miracle is a splendid combination of subject with a superb historian writing at the peak of his powers. Ferling's brilliant book makes an important contribution to the scholarship of the Revolution while telling a gripping story that every American must know."--Michael Beschloss, author of Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America, 1789-1989

"Highly recommended. This very thoughtful book is informed by many years of teaching on the subject. Its judgments are balanced, mature, and enlightening."--David Hackett Fischer, author of Washington's Crossing

"No event in our nation's history is more important than the Revolution, and no historian has grasped this epic drama better than John Ferling. This fast paced narrative, anchored in exhaustive research reminds us that the American victory was never certain. A fragile, fractious coalition of thirteen weak states could easily have succumbed to Britain's might had it not been for the persistent courage and determination of the soldiers and sailors who fought in the patriot cause. Ferling is right our triumph was 'almost a miracle.'"-- William Fowler, Northeastern University and former Director of the Massachusetts Historical Society

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195382921
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/3/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 704
  • Sales rank: 182,407
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 4.80 (d)

Meet the Author

John Ferling brings to this book nearly forty years of experience as a historian of early America. He is the author of nine books and numerous articles on the American Revolution and early American wars, and has appeared in four television documentaries devoted to the Revolution and the War of Independence. His book A Leap in the Dark won the Fraunces Tavern Book Award as the year's best book on the American Revolution. He and his wife live in metropolitan Atlanta.

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Table of Contents

Illustrations and Maps
Preface
Introduction: "My Country, My Honor, My Life": Bravery and Death in War
Part One: Going to War, 1775-1776
1. "Fear Is Not an American Art": The Coming of the War
3. Choices, 1775
Part Two: The War in the North, 1776-1779
4. "Hastening Fast to a Crisis": June 1775-June 1776
5. Choices, 1776
6. "Knock Him Up for the Campaign": The Battle for New York, 1776
7. "This Hour of Adversity": To the End of 1776
8. Choices, 1777
9. "The Caprice of War": America's Pivotal Victory at Saratoga
10. "We Rallied and Broke": The Campaign for Philadelphia, September-December 1777
11. Choices, 1778
12. "A Respectable Army": The Grim Year, 1778
13. Choices, 1779
14. "A Band of Brotherhood": The Soldiers, the Army, and the Forgotten War of 1779
15. "We Have Occasioned a Good Deal of Terror": The War at Sea
16. Choices
Part Three: The War in the South, 1780-1781
17. "A Year Filled With Our Disgraces": Defeat in the South, 1780
18. "Southern Means and Southern Exertions": Hope and Despair, June-December 1780
19. Choices, 1781
20. "Bloody and Severe": The Pivotal Southern War, Early 1781
21. "We Are Suspended in the Balance": Spring and Summer 1781
Part Four: American Victory, 1781-1783
22. "America is Ours": Victory at Yorktown, 1781
23. Choices, 1782
24. "May We Have Peace in Our Time": Peace and Demobilization, 1782-1783
25. "Little Short of a Miracle": Accounting of America's Victory
Abbreviations
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2009

    Almost a Miracle

    I have read a lot of books about the American Revolution, some more detailed, some less detailed. Mr. Ferling pieces together all that I have read and, by the end of the book, I had a better understanding of the chronology of events, what went right, what went wrong and what was purely left to chance. For American Revolution fans, this is not one to miss. Alvin R. Gritz

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2013

    The Best Revolutionary War Book Ever

    Professor Ferlings' book "ALMOST A MIRACLE" is obviously a labor of love. His work transports you back into everything which transpired before, during & after the war. The book is very absorbing & simply superb! I highly recommend this book to history buffs. I'd give it ten stars if I could!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A superb telling of the story of the American Revolution

    This absorbing book by John Ferling is one of the finest presentations of the story of the American Revolution I have read. Its scope includes the origins of the conflict, explores the strategy and political background from the perspectives of both America and Britain. It provides excellent insights into strategic and tactical thinking and provides sufficient detail to capture the imagination of the reader. Combining the foregoing with vivid portraits of participants. great and small, Almost a Miracle is perhaps one of the best tellings of our Revolution under one cover.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    a fresh history of the Revolution

    Almost a Miracle is a very well written, one volume, and strategic history of the military action in the American War of Independence. In a little over 600 pages of text, Ferling attempts to show how and why the American forces won a war that at the beginning was beyond reasonable to expect. Being a strategic history, the book begins from 1775 onwards, toward the settling of peace in 1783. Many Revolutionary War histories include almost a prelude, with lengthy sections on the causes of the war, and the political consequences of the actions of those on the Imperial and the Patriot sides. By sticking to a strict military retelling of the conflict, Ferling avoids any distractions from the thesis of his book, which is that the American forces simply made the fewest mistakes over the eight years of conflict.

    A long time professor at West Georgia University, Ferling presents the familiar course of the war, from Lexington to New York, and ending up in the south at Yorktown, as a matter of difficult military choices. His conclusion for the British side that they were severely hindered by a decentralized command, on the front and at home, an ocean away, along with a total disregard for how to fight and win a conflict; stopped them from actually achieving any goal. His conclusion for the American side, that good leadership, geography and a willing populace led to the desire to see the war out, even beyond the economic ruin that the nation faced.

    Ferling shows that he has been immersed in the subject for years with good research. The maps are excellent for a book of this nature, as the reader will be able to follow every major battle and campaign visually, and understand why they happened the way they did. In telling a strategic history, Ferling uses character profiles of every major military officer, on both sides. General Washington is his central figure, and in a sense, Ferling shows why he became the embodiment for the American resolve to continue the war. Yet Ferling makes, what seem to be, fair critiques of the major characters. British General Clinton is heavily criticized for being slow. Lafayette and Hamilton for being syncopates. Most of all, since Washington is the central actor, Ferling critiques to extents perhaps not usual for books of this period, showing how Washington's strengths and weaknesses contributed to how the conflict turned.

    For this book, the Battle of New York City is really a turning point, for both sides changed their strategy, and committed to them, after this battle. About a third of the book is about the Southern campaign of 1779 - 1781. The strategy that Ferling emphasizes is that the British believed they had already lost the northern colonies by this point, and were simply trying to take as much territory as possible before peach talks began. I am not sure if the decentralized command structure of the Crown realized that was their strategy in 1779, but it makes sense in retrospect.

    This is simply a very well written, and enjoyable to read military history of the War for Independence. The general reader should come away with a definite feel for the horrors of that war, why it was fought the way it was, and with definite conclusions about why the militaries acted the way they did. Almost a Miracle is highly recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2008

    A reviewer

    I highly recommend this book to every American and those wishing to become an American citizen. This is by far the best book I have read on this subject. I have learned more in this book then I ever did in my formal schooling. The author's style provides the ability to put you into the text as much as possibly could. Once I started reading, I could not put this book down. A must read that should be included in all educational institutions so that all Americans understand what our forefathers sacrificed so that we may enjoy the liberties and opportunities that we enjoy in our country today.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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