In Pursuit of Liberty: Coming of Age in the American Revolution
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In Pursuit of Liberty: Coming of Age in the American Revolution

by Emmy E. Werner
     
 

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The voices of the children and teenagers who witnessed the events that transformed the colonies to an independent nation have seldom been heard in historical accounts of the American Revolution. This book tells the story of the forgotten youngsters who engaged in the boycott of British goods and the battles that led up to the Declaration of Independence; the story

Overview

The voices of the children and teenagers who witnessed the events that transformed the colonies to an independent nation have seldom been heard in historical accounts of the American Revolution. This book tells the story of the forgotten youngsters who engaged in the boycott of British goods and the battles that led up to the Declaration of Independence; the story of their courageous exploits in eight years of warfare on land and sea, and the story of the social forces that shaped and transformed their post-war lives. The Revolution challenged the notions of patriarchal authority. It introduced serious risks and disruptions in the lives of the young, but it also gave them an unprecedented degree of autonomy and a sense of responsibility that allowed them to seize the opportunities that they gained with their independence.

The book is based on the eye-witness accounts of one hundred children and teenagers who were between the ages of five and sixteen when they first observed the events recorded in their diaries, journals, letters, or memoirs. One-third of the accounts are from girls, most of whom lived in cities; two-thirds are from boys, most of whom lived rural areas. They include reports from black as well as white boy soldiers, from teenagers imprisoned on land and on prison ships, from slave children and youngsters held hostage by Indians, and from children of loyalists and pacifists who opposed the war with Britain for political or religious reasons. Also included are the viewpoints of Hessian teenagers who fought in the American Revolutionary War for the British. The book follows the chronology of the American Revolution across two decades from 1770, when the boycott of British goods throughout the American colonies gained momentum, to 1789, when George Washington was sworn in as the first president of a new and independent nation. It sets the experiences of the children and teenagers who lived and wrote in that time in a historical context. It focuses on the major milestones of the American Revolution, and the contribution of young people to its progress and ultimate success.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Werner has written a history of children's participation in the American Revolution from the Boston Massacre and Tea Party in the 1770s through its military phase, 1775–81, ending with the signing of the Peace of Paris in 1783. The author uses children's eyewitness accounts—letters, diaries, and memoirs—drawn from printed published sources as well as US and German archives. . . . General readers/public libraries." - Choice

"[E]xamines the era of the American Revolution (1770-89) through the eyes of 100 children who were between the ages of five and 16 during the conflict. Drawing on diaries, journals, and letters (more by boys than girls), Werner provides a fascinating primary angle on the Revolution. For instance, included are the stories of two young men who were with Washington at Valley Forge and young Emily Geiger, who risked her life to carry a message through British territory to General Greene….[r]ecommended for academic and large public libraries." - Library Journal

"In a series of well-received works, Emmy E. Werner has examined the factors that help children bounce back from adversity. To explain why it is that some young people succeed in overcoming hardship, stress, pressure, and disappointment, Werner not only conducted longitudinal studies of poor children in contemporary United States, but also burrowed into the past, exploring how earlier generations coped with the trials and tribulations posed by war and migration… The first- hand accounts included in the manuscript bring the period to life in a way that few other sources do. Especially noteworthy are excerpts from the diaries of Hessain teenagers who fought in the Revolution and accounts of Loyalist exiles." - American Studies The University of Kansas

Peter N. Stearns

PRAISE FOR THE HARDCOVER EDITON:

“This is a really interesting contribution to the history of children, showing individual young people as active agents, of various sorts, during the American Revolution. Children were also acted upon during the Revolution, and this testimony is revealing as well; but the extent of active involvement, and the sources this involvement generated, provide the most telling analysis.”—Peter N. Stearns, provost, George Mason University

Glen H. Elder Jr.

“In this book, Emmy Werner, a lifelong student of human resilience, tells a remarkable story of the Revolutionary War from a much-neglected perspective—that of young children and youth from the colonies. . . . This memorable book will alter views of the Revolutionary War by highlighting the many contributions of ‘boy soldiers’ to winning America’s independence.”—Glen H. Elder Jr., Howard W. Odum Distinguished Professor of Sociology, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill
Choice

“A history of children’s participation in the American Revolution [using] children’s eyewitness accounts—letters, diaries, and memoirs—drawn from printed published sources as well as U.S. and German archives.”—Choice
Washington Times

"A compelling history that is both clearly written and a riveting experience for both adults and young people who are interested in Revolutionary War history from a different perspective. . . . Read this book before you pass it on to a young friend."—Washington Times
Journal of Social History

“The cumulative effect of the many and varied young persons’ accounts of the war is a fresh perspective, and one which should inspire further exploration of its implications.”—Journal of Social History

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780275993061
Publisher:
ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
Publication date:
10/30/2006
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.50(d)

What People are saying about this

Glen H. Elder Jr.
"In this book, Emmy Werner, a lifelong student of human resilience, tells a remarkable story of the Revolutionary War from a much-neglected perspective—that of young children and youth from the colonies. Most enlistees in the American army were aged 15 or younger; some were even as young as eight years! With biographical documents on 100 young Americans and a small number of young Hessians, Werner writes about their extraordinary experiences during this eight-year war, often revealing acts of great courage in overcoming adversity. Where possible, she also explores the longer term impact of the war on their lives in what Seymour Martin Lipsit describes as the first new nation. This memorable book will alter views of the Revolutionary War by highlighting the many contributions of boy soldiers to winning America's independence."
Peter N. Stearns
"This is a really interesting contribution to the history of children, showing individual young people as active agents, of various sorts, during the American Revolution. Children were also acted upon during the Revolution, and this testimony is revealing as well; but the extent of active involvement, and the sources this involvement generated, provide the most telling analysis."

Meet the Author

Emmy E. Werner is the author of A Conspiracy of Decency: The Rescue of Danish Jews during World War II (2002), Through the Eyes of Innocents: Children Witness World War II (2000), and Reluctant Witnesses: Childrens' Voices from the Civil War (1998).

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