My American Revolution: A Modern Expedition Through History's Forgotten Battlegrounds

My American Revolution: A Modern Expedition Through History's Forgotten Battlegrounds

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by Robert Sullivan
     
 

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Americans tend to think of the Revolution as a Massachusetts-based event orchestrated by Virginians, but in fact the war took place mostly in the Middle Colonies--in New York and New Jersey and the parts of Pennsylvania that on a clear day you can almost see from the Empire State Building. In My American Revolution, Robert Sullivan delves into this first

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Overview

Americans tend to think of the Revolution as a Massachusetts-based event orchestrated by Virginians, but in fact the war took place mostly in the Middle Colonies--in New York and New Jersey and the parts of Pennsylvania that on a clear day you can almost see from the Empire State Building. In My American Revolution, Robert Sullivan delves into this first Middle America, digging for a glorious, heroic part of the past in the urban, suburban, and sometimes even rural landscape of today. And there are great adventures along the way: Sullivan investigates the true history of the crossing of the Delaware, its down-home reenactment each year for the past half a century, and--toward the end of a personal odyssey that involves camping in New Jersey backyards, hiking through lost "mountains," and eventually some physical therapy--he evacuates illegally from Brooklyn to Manhattan by handmade boat. He recounts a Brooklyn historian's failed attempt to memorialize a colonial Maryland regiment; a tattoo artist's more successful use of a colonial submarine, which resulted in his 2007 arrest by the New York City police and the FBI; and the life of Philip Freneau, the first (and not great) poet of American independence, who died in a swamp in the snow. Last but not least, along New York harbor, Sullivan re-creates an ancient signal beacon.

Like an almanac, My American Revolution moves through the calendar of American independence, considering the weather and the tides, the harbor and the estuary and the yearly return of the stars as salient factors in the war for independence. In this fiercely individual and often hilarious journey to make our revolution his, he shows us how alive our own history is, right under our noses.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A nostalgic, witty, and always informative topographic retrospective of the sites pertinent to the American Revolution takes Vogue contributing editor and journalist Sullivan (The Thoreau You Don’t Know) to the action seen by the middle colonies especially—New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Years of reflective walks and “site-inspired epiphanies” inform Sullivan’s research, as he traced Washington’s army crossing the Delaware, marching to engage the British at the battles of Trenton and Princeton, and into the winter refuge at Morristown, in the Watchung Mountains. In the second part, Sullivan discourses by turns on the seasons of the revolution, not in any chronological fashion, e.g., spring 1789 marked the inauguration of the new president in a vastly changing downtown Manhattan, which Sullivan reached by his own personal inaugural barge from Elizabeth, N.J., to Wall Street; summer sounded the anniversary of the disastrous rout at the Battle of Brooklyn; autumn ushered a rueful time of remembrance for soldiers and prisoners; and winter brings to mind the appalling hard winter at Valley Forge endured by the army. As infatuated by later decades’ of monuments, statues, and artist’s renderings of the revolutionary landscape as he is by the actual history, Sullivan delights in deep digressions into personal moments of discovery, such as viewing Larry Rivers’s controversial Washington Crossing the Delaware at the Museum of Modern Art or coming upon the lists of evolving early Dutch and British markets published by butcher turned street historian Thomas F. DeVoe. Sullivan’s historic anecdotes form a loose-limbed, irreverent, surprising take on American history, most fun in the footnotes. Agent: Eric Simonoff. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
In a roving, digressive memoir, Vogue contributor Sullivan (The Thoreau You Don't Know: What the Prophet of Environmentalism Really Meant, 2009, etc.) traces Revolutionary War history in and around New York and New Jersey. Looking down from the top of the Empire State Building, the author saw a war landscape he believed to be neglected. Inspired to bring the Revolutionary War history of his hometown into his own present, Sullivan embarked on a long, twisting journey. Though his motives were somewhat muddled from the beginning, his recreational, relaxed plan was to cross the Delaware River, venture into the mountains, and finish the journey by visiting sites and memories inside New York City. Readers are sure to learn plenty from his travels, including little-celebrated battles and long-forgotten soldiers whose stories never made history textbooks. Throughout, the author meanders through his recounting of history, never ignoring a possible detour. In one instance, the fact that a building bearing a Revolutionary War plaque now houses a Trader Joe's store leads to a footnote about colonists boycotting imported English goods and then ends in an anecdote about the kidnapping of Theo Albrecht, the now-deceased former owner of Trader Joe's. Much of the book reads like a journal edited to add more information rather than to streamline thoughts. Considering Sullivan's obvious passion for many of the tangential subjects--associated art and literature, for example--a book of essays might have been a more appropriate project for a general audience. Tailor-made for trivia lovers and readers who don't mind the scenic route. Those looking for a more straightforward narrative are likely to be frustrated.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429945851
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
09/04/2012
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
1,282,823
File size:
1 MB

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