A Revolutionary People At War: The Continental Army and American Character, 1775-1783 / Edition 1

A Revolutionary People At War: The Continental Army and American Character, 1775-1783 / Edition 1

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by Charles Royster, Omohundro Institute of Early American Hi
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0807846066

ISBN-13: 9780807846063

Pub. Date: 09/09/1996

Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press

In this highly acclaimed book, Charles Royster explores the mental processes and emotional crises that Americans faced in their first national war. He ranges imaginatively outside the traditional techniques of analytical historical exposition to build his portrait of how individuals and a populace at large faced the Revolution and its implications. The book was

Overview

In this highly acclaimed book, Charles Royster explores the mental processes and emotional crises that Americans faced in their first national war. He ranges imaginatively outside the traditional techniques of analytical historical exposition to build his portrait of how individuals and a populace at large faced the Revolution and its implications. The book was originally published by UNC Press in 1980.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807846063
Publisher:
The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date:
09/09/1996
Series:
Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia Series
Edition description:
1
Pages:
463
Sales rank:
397,421
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.33(d)

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A Revolutionary People at War: The Continental Army and American Character, 1775-1783 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
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In A Revolutionary People at War: The Continental Army and American Character, historian Charles Royster searches for and analyzes the ¿American character prevalent during the War for Independence.¿ (vii) Royster finds that with regard to the Continental Army specifically and the Revolutionary populace in general, ¿allegiance to the `American¿¿side in the War for Independence was the prevailing sentiment¿ in the United States, and that this allegiance was based primarily on what he terms ¿a national character.¿ (viii) throughout the course of this book then, Royster chronicles the revolutionary character of America¿s soldiers, and how it changed markedly as the war progressed. One of his central questions concerns the ¿ideals espoused during the revolution,¿ and how the patriots¿ actions measured up to them. By 1783, Royster finds that the gap between ideals and reality was often significant. Eight years of war, it seems, ¿severely tested American¿s dedication to independence.¿ (3) Royster uses a prologue to define his terms with a useful essay on the idea character. The war would test Americans, especially those in their country¿s uniforms, and determine if they were worthy of victory. Eventual victory would of course demonstrate that revolutionary soldiers had the necessary virtue and selflessness to be deserving of such good fortune. Soldiers were keenly aware that the eyes of world were on them, and that their sacrifices would be remembered throughout the ages by countless generations of their descendents. Royster shows that Continental soldiers were inspired by religious beliefs, knowing that God was on their side. These men also employed the language of slavery to describe their predicament¿if they failed, they argued, Britain would not only enslave them, but their children as well. Thus, these men in arms had a sacred duty: ¿the struggle for independence was the greatest test of the chosen people. In it they bore the weight of both their heritage and God¿s promise for the future.¿ (9) In 1775, Americans began the war with high ideals in a period Royster denotes as the ¿Rage Militaire.¿ The Continental army went about preparing to defend America in a uniquely American way, reflective of the national character. Royster points to simplified drill manuals, short-term enlistments, soldiers in hunting shirts and civilian control of the military establishment as evidence that Americans would wage a war based upon their own terms, not simply by mimicking the British. Yet by the end of 1776, the ¿contrasts between the ideals of 1775 and the conduct of the war¿ were apparent, in the form of battlefield defeats and Continental army¿s ¿lack of discipline and decorum.¿ (58) Numerous desertions, for example, showed that not all American soldiers lived up to the ideals of patriotic sacrifice in the face of adversity. In fact, ¿not only did the Continental Army fall short of Americans¿ ideal of an army,¿ Royster notes, but recruiting difficulties created ¿a network of evasion and corruption that spread far into the populace.¿ (63) He asserts as well that as the virtues of the soldiers were called into question after reverses, desertions, and abuses, many revolutionaries distanced themselves from the army, and denied that it embodied the cause of liberty exclusively. By early 1777, the army was not seen by Americans as virtuous. Many civilians began to associate active military duty with a class of people¿the young, unattached, ¿shiftless¿ types who were more logically suited to the ardors of Continental service. This attitude greatly curtailed recruiting of army battalions to full strength. High enlistment bounties designed to encourage men to join the ranks attest to the fact that the spirit of sacrifice so widespread in 1775 was much reduced by the beginning of the campaign of 1777, as did unscrupulous recruiting officers, uncooperative civilians and unruly men in the ranks. Americans, Royster finds, were