Most people believe the American Revolution ended in October, 1781, after the battle of Yorktown; in fact the war continued for two more traumatic years. During that time, the Revolution came closer to being lost than at any time in the previous half dozen. The British still held New York, Savannah, Wilmington, and Charleston; the Royal Navy controlled the seas; the states--despite having signed the Articles of Confederation earlier that year--retained their individual sovereignty and, largely bankrupt ...
Most people believe the American Revolution ended in October, 1781, after the battle of Yorktown; in fact the war continued for two more traumatic years. During that time, the Revolution came closer to being lost than at any time in the previous half dozen. The British still held New York, Savannah, Wilmington, and Charleston; the Royal Navy controlled the seas; the states--despite having signed the Articles of Confederation earlier that year--retained their individual sovereignty and, largely bankrupt themselves, refused to send any money in the new nation's interest; members of Congress were in constant disagreement; and the Continental army was on the verge of mutiny.
William Fowler's An American Crisis chronicles these tumultuous and dramatic two years, from Yorktown until the British left New York in November 1783. At their heart was the remarkable speech Gen. George Washington gave to his troops evcamped north of New York in Newburgh, quelling a brewing rebellion that could have overturned the nascent government.
Vivid descriptions of personalities from all camps and a spellbinding narrative prove that in the hands of accomplished author and academic Fowler (Empires at War: The French and Indian War and the Struggle for North America), history need not be dull. He thrusts readers into the center of political and military machinations after Cornwallis's 1781 defeat at Yorktown. The British still held some major cities; George III asserted he would abdicate rather than grant American independence; peace and a stable American government were not assured outcomes. But Congress had no funds to pay the army; members favoring a stronger national government encouraged the officer corps, "the only viable national institution," to agitate for their pay. Highlighting George Washington's pivotal role, Fowler relates events leading to Washington's unannounced and unprecedented appearance at a general meeting of officers in 1783, which aborted moves toward mutiny. Those present reaffirmed their allegiance to Congress and country, preserving the army's respect for civilian authority. Even readers familiar with details like the establishment of a republic in Vermont and its flirtations with Canada will find fresh insights in this superb chronicle. 8 pages of b&w photos; 2 maps. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
“'Huzzah!’ for William Fowler. His superb American Crisis brings to life, with great clarity and understanding, one of the least-known, most important chapters in the long struggle for independence, and leaves no doubt of how much, once again, was owed to George Washington for how things turned out.”—David McCullough, author of John Adams, 1776, and The Greater Journey “Bill Fowler is the author of many important works of American history, but with American Crisis he has written the book of his long and distinguished career. Chronicling one of the least known portions of the American Revolution—the two years between Yorktown and the actual end of the war—he has created a page-turner full of intrigue, drama, and countless unexpected twists. You will never think of George Washington in quite the same way after reading American Crisis.”—Nathaniel Philbrick, author of In the Heart of the Sea andMayflower “The Revolutionary War did not end with the Allied victory at Yorktown. Two uncertain and perilous years elapsed before the peace treaty that ended the war finally took effect. At last, there is a book that examines these critical war years in detail. William Fowler’s magnificent American Crisis treats General Washington’s preparations for more war, the woeful American economy, peace negotiations, and the politics of the Continental army. In rich detail and graceful prose, Fowler fleshes out an often forgotten part of the War of Independence, a time that shaped and prepared Washington for the political battles on his horizon.”—John Ferling, author of Independence: The Struggle to Set America Free and several books on George Washington
Fowler (history, Northeastern Univ.; Empires at War: The French and Indian War and the Struggle for North America, 1754–1763) artfully records the dangerous situation in the United States during the time between Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown in 1781 and the evacuation of British troops from New York two years later. Drawing from a wealth of letters, he describes General Washington's skill as a leader, his humble and respectful character, and his noble motives in fighting to keep the army organized and disciplined. It was imperative to prevent the British from taking advantage of American disorder and weakness caused by low morale that resulted in desertion, threats of mutiny, and power struggles. Fowler also addresses the ineffectiveness of Congress, paralyzed by insolvency amid a fragile and flawed system of government plagued by squabbles and intrigues. The activities and motives of the British officials in America and abroad complete the vivid picture of the realities that imperiled independence and the preservation of liberty after the war. VERDICT This well-documented and highly readable account will engage and enrich scholars and general readers alike.—Margaret Kappanadze, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY
William M. Fowler, Jr. is director of the Massachusetts Historical Society, consulting editor at The New England Quarterly, and honorary professor of history at Northeastern University. His books include Jack Tars and Commodores: The American Navy, 1783-1815 and The Baron of Beacon Hill: A Biography of John Hancock.