Band of Giants: The Amateur Soldiers Who Won America's Independence

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Band of Giants brings to life the founders who fought for our independence in the Revolutionary War. Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin are known to all; men like Morgan, Greene, and Wayne are less familiar. Yet the dreams of the politicians and theorists only became real because fighting men were willing to take on the grim, risky, brutal work of war. We know Fort Knox, but what about Henry Knox, the burly Boston bookseller who took over the American artillery at the age of 25? Eighteen counties in the United ...
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Band of Giants: The Amateur Soldiers Who Won America's Independence

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Band of Giants brings to life the founders who fought for our independence in the Revolutionary War. Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin are known to all; men like Morgan, Greene, and Wayne are less familiar. Yet the dreams of the politicians and theorists only became real because fighting men were willing to take on the grim, risky, brutal work of war. We know Fort Knox, but what about Henry Knox, the burly Boston bookseller who took over the American artillery at the age of 25? Eighteen counties in the United States commemorate Richard Montgomery, but do we know that this revered martyr launched a full-scale invasion of Canada? The soldiers of the American Revolution were a diverse lot: merchants and mechanics, farmers and fishermen, paragons and drunkards. Most were ardent amateurs. Even George Washington, assigned to take over the army around Boston in 1775, consulted books on military tactics. Here, Jack Kelly vividly captures the fraught condition of the war--the bitterly divided populace, the lack of supplies, the repeated setbacks on the battlefield, and the appalling physical hardships. That these inexperienced warriors could take on and defeat the superpower of the day was one of the remarkable feats in world history.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
George Washington, Henry Knox, Nathanael Greene, and Anthony Wayne are names written indelibly into the history of the American Revolution, yet they all started out green, working their way into legend by learning and adapting on the battlefield. Journalist Kelly (Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards, and Pyrotechnics) opens this fast-paced military history in 1754 as the young Lt. Col. Washington, devoid of formal military training, prepares to confront the French over control of North America’s Western frontier. Following his account French and Indian War, Kelly’s fast-forwards to the volatile years of the 1770s when businessman Greene and bookseller Knox meet in Boston to discuss the colony’s rapidly deteriorating relationship with England. By early 1775, both men had taken up arms against the mother country. Knox would develop a genius for artillery and Greene would go on to command the Southern campaign. Kelly smoothly recounts the major and most familiar battles of the war, from Lexington and Concord to the incursions into Canada to Brandywine to Charleston. Kelly is stingy with attendant political and foreign-policy matters—hewing closely to all things military—and there are no fresh insights into either here, but the writing is lively, and he offers a serious reminder of the brutality of the American Revolution. Illus. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
Journalist and historian Kelly chronicles the poorly trained but determined men who fought with George Washington and other commanders to free the North American continent from British rule in the late 18thcentury.In an oft-told but still inspiring saga, the author opens his popular history in 1754, as a young Washington was becoming seasoned in battles against French troops seeking to encroach on British territory. After that introduction, Kelly moves the action to 1774, as Washington commands a bunch of ragtag soon-to-be Americans against the British monarchy, which had lost favor due to high taxes, among many other transgressions. Kelly is fascinated by the details of specific battles, but he is well-aware that without finely wrought character sketches of those carrying out the fighting, military history can fall flat on the page. As a result, the author has carefully chosen his heroes and villains, using both primary and secondary sources to explain their paths to battle. A combination of psychobiography, lively prose and generous foreshadowing keeps the narrative moving from battle to battle, year after year, until the story ends in 1783. In the final chapter, Kelly looks back from the year 1824 at the remarkable victories of the revolutionaries; it was the 50thanniversary of theself-styled patriots’ encounter with the well-equipped British musketeers at Lexington Green. “Then began a celebration,” writes the author, “such as the nation had never seen: dinners, galas, speeches, salutes, parades, fireworks. At the Lafayette Ball…five thousand guests wandered through a fairyland dominated by thirty-foot-high transparencies showing Lafayette, Washington, and the marquis’ French estate at La Grange.” The hardships the patriots endured—lack offirst-rate equipment, food, clothing and protection from severe weather, among other problems—were seared in the memories of the celebratory survivors and those who followed in the experiment of American democracy.A rousing account of bloody sacrifice.
From the Publisher
"[T]he writing is lively, and [Jack] offers a serious reminder of the brutality of the American Revolution." —Publishers Weekly
The Wall Street Journal

Lively narrative of the Revolutionary War realistically assesses the motley collection of men who led the military struggle against Britain, revealing both their strengths and weaknesses.
author of Liberty! The American Revolution Thomas Fleming

With vivid details and incisive characterizations, Jack Kelly tells how unlikely young Americans--an asthmatic Quaker with a limp, an overweight bookseller, a barely literate backwoods wagon master--discovered in 1776 an ability to outthink and outfight the generals and soldiers of the best army in the world. Readers will finish this fascinating book with a sense of awe--and a renewed faith in America's ability to overcome daunting challenges.
award-winning Founding Fathers biographer-historia Willard Sterne Randall

Armed with the latest research burnished by a bright, brisk writing style, Jack Kelly has done a masterful job of retelling the story of the Revolutionary War. This book is highly recommended for anyone seeking to understand the birth of the United States.
What Would The Founders Think?

"Band of Giants is a book about great characters who overcame, what seems in retrospect, nearly insurmountable odds, and went on to beat the world's foremost military and naval power... Jack Kelly takes the reader through the War of Independence from start to finish, lingering here and there to illuminate some of the fantastic characters who achieved the seemingly impossible."
author of The Whites of Their Eyes Paul Lockhart

Jack Kelly has managed to accomplish something remarkable in Band of Giants: to give a concise and accurate overview of the Revolutionary War without losing the intimacy and detail that go into a good yarn. And in doing so, Kelly shows us the essence of the Revolutionary miracle -- that America owes its independence to a group of military amateurs...talented and tough, but amateurs all the same.
Richard Snow

Jack Kelly's shrewd novelist's eye and the narrative velocity that propels his writing should make any student of history delighted that he is turning his formidable gifts to telling the great founding tale of the American republic.
Library Journal
In this pithy volume, journalist (American Heritage; Invention & Technology) Kelly surveys the military history of the War of Independence, a battle in which the novice soldiers brought to bear "determination and perseverance…the Americans' most important resources." While the Revolutionary War is often viewed as secondary to major political events such as the drafting of President Thomas Jefferson's great Declaration of Independence, without the hard-fought, grinding victory, all the haughty rhetoric of freedom would have been to little benefit. Kelly's fast-paced work is packed with anecdotes of noteworthy generals including the duplicitous Benedict Arnold, the cunning Nathanael Greene, George Washington's chief of artillery Henry Knox, and the freethinking hero Ethan Allen; all of whom were making it up as they went along. VERDICT Kelly's brief overview of the conflict, while adding little to the scholarship, is useful for those unfamiliar with the military aspects of the revolution and is a highly engaging read. Readers looking for a more nuanced, scholarly treatment of the Revolutionary War should try George Athan Billias's George Washington's Generals and Opponents or John Shy's A People Numerous and Armed.—Brian Odom, Birmingham, AL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781137278777
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 9/9/2014
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 69,811
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Jack Kelly is a journalist, novelist, and historian. He has contributed to American Heritage, American Legacy, Invention & Technology, among other national periodicals, is a New York Foundation for the Arts fellow in Nonfiction Literature, as well as author of Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards, and Pyrotechnics: The History of the Explosive That Changed the World. He has appeared on The History Channel , been interviewed on National Public Radio , and conducted book signings across the country. He lives near Kingston in New York's Hudson Valley, where much of the action of the Revolutionary War took place.
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Knowledge of the Military Art - 1754
Chapter 2 Blows Must Decide - 1774
Chapter 3 The Predicament We Are In - 1775
Chapter 4 Learning to be Soldiers - 1775
Chapter 5 Precious Convoy - 1776
Chapter 6 Sudden and Violent - 1776
Chapter 7 Valcour Island - 1776
Chapter 8 An Indecisive Mind - 1776
Chapter 9 Your Country is at Stake - 1776
Chapter 10 A Continual Clap of Thunder - 1777
Chapter 11 Fight As Well As Brag - 1777
Chapter 12 Something More at Stake - 1777
Chapter 13 The Discipline of the Leggs - 1778
Chapter 14 The Boldest Conduct - 1779
Chapter 15 The Fate of Battle - 1780
Chapter 16 Downright Fighting - 1780
Chapter 17 War is an Intricate Business - 1781
Chapter 18 America is Ours - 1781
Chapter 19 Our Troops - 1782
Chapter 20 The Large Hearts of Heroes - 1824

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 17, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Giants Among Men

    This is a very stirring portrayal of the people and events that won independence for the thirteen American colonies. I liked the fact that the book went into details of the personalities of both the American and British leaders. Men like Henry Knox, who taught himself the intricacies of artillery and heavy ordinance from books in his store in Boston. He went on to become one of George Washington’s most respected generals. Daniel Morgan, the rugged, rough hewn backwoodsman, and his frontier sharpshooters, would time and again leave their frontier homes to win the day for the Americans. Benedict Arnold, the obstinate, hard fighting officer who led his American troops to victory only to be overlooked repeatedly for promotions by a Congress more concerned with protocol and political maneuvering than with military ability and natural leadership. He was overlooked once too often and turned his back on the colonies betraying them to the British. The book is full of many fascinating details that bring this exciting period of our history to life. From the highest ranking generals to the lowliest private, all are represented in this entertaining book. This book was provided for review by the publisher.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 17, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Enjoyable read

    Well written short history of the men who led the armies of the Revolution. Doesn't break any new ground but is interesting and entertaining.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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