America Goes to War: A Social History of the Continental Army

Overview

One of the images Americans hold most dear is that of the drum-beating, fire-eating Yankee Doodle Dandy rebel, overpowering his British adversaries through sheer grit and determination. The myth of the classless, independence-minded farmer or hard-working artisan-turned-soldier is deeply ingrained in the national psyche.

Charles Neimeyer here separates fact from fiction, revealing for the first time who really served in the army during the Revolution and why. His conclusions are...

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America Goes to War: A Social History of the Continental Army

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Overview

One of the images Americans hold most dear is that of the drum-beating, fire-eating Yankee Doodle Dandy rebel, overpowering his British adversaries through sheer grit and determination. The myth of the classless, independence-minded farmer or hard-working artisan-turned-soldier is deeply ingrained in the national psyche.

Charles Neimeyer here separates fact from fiction, revealing for the first time who really served in the army during the Revolution and why. His conclusions are startling. Because the army relied primarily on those not connected to the new American aristorcracy, the African Americans, Irish, Germans, Native Americans, laborers-for-hire, and "free white men on the move" who served in the army were only rarely alltruistic patriots driven by a vision of liberty and national unity.

Bringing to light the true composition of the enlisted ranks, the relationships of African-Americans and of Native Americans to the army, and numerous acts of mutiny, desertion, and resistance against officers and government, Charles Patrick Neimeyer here provides the first comprehensive and historically accurate portrait of the Continental soldier.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
We have all known from before grade school that The American Revolution was won by a classless citizen army made up of farmers and artisans burning with patriotism and determination. Neimeyer (Naval War College) reminds us that being absolutely certain of something does not make it true. He finds that the upper classes generally neglected to sign up, and that the army was primarily composed of African-Americans, Irish, Germans, Native Americans, laborers-for-hire, and white men without fixed addresses; they rarely cared anything about the high ideals being spouted in the drawing rooms and conference halls. They adamantly refused to enlist for the duration of an open-ended war, mutinied, deserted, and resisted officers and government. They were, he demonstrated, real soldiers. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the Publisher

"Fascinating."

-Historical Journal of Massachusetts,

"Neimeyer demythologizes the Continental army and very effectively demonstrates that it was an organization that evolved from its original relatively homogeneous make-up into a volatile, multicultural force that included many recent immigrants, African Americans, and Native Americans. . . . A testament to the propertyless, inarticulate, marginal individuals who actually secured liberty for later generations."

-Dr. David J. Fowler,The David Library of the American Revolution

"Neimeyer pushes to the next plateau the recent work of historians who have investigated the contributions of the Continental Army to the American Revolution. Because of his research and his synthesis of recent scholarship, the previously inarticulate common soldiers of the rank and file find their voices."

-James M. Johnson,author of Militiamen, Rangers, and Redcoats: The Military in Georgia, 1754-1776

"Thoroughly compelling. Neimeyer's research is superb, and his social history perspective has told us more than anyone about the origins of the Continental Army and the meanings soldiers attached to their service. This is a genuinely important book."

-Mark Edward Ledner,co-author of A Respectable Army: The Military Origins of the Republic

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814757826
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/1997
  • Series: American Social Experience Series
  • Pages: 268
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Patrick Neimeyer is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Central Oklahoma and former teacher at the Naval War College.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
Prologue 1
1 Few Had the Appearance of Soldiers: The Social Origins of the Continental Line 8
The Colonial Military Tradition 9
Social Origins of the Enlisted Men 15
2 The Most Audacious Rascals Existing: The Irish in the Continental Army 27
Recruiting the Irish for the Continental Army 34
3 A True Pell-Mell of Human Souls: The Germans in the Continental Army 44
The Germans and America 45
Recruiting Germans for the Army 47
4 Changing One Master for Another: Black Soldiers in the Continental Army 65
Prewar Resistance 66
Recruiting African Americans for War 72
5 Scalp Bounties and Truck Houses: The Struggle for Indian Allies in the Revolution 89
6 To Get as Much for My Skin as I Could: The Soldier as Wage Laborer 108
7 Running Through the Line Like Wildfire: Resistance, Punishment, Desertion, and Mutiny in the Continental Army 130
Conclusion 159
Notes 167
Selected Bibliography 221
Index 239
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