One of the images Americans hold most dear is that of the drum-beating, fire-eating Yankee Doodle Dandy rebel, overpowering his British adversaries through sheer grit and determination. The myth of the classless, independence-minded farmer or hard-working artisan-turned-soldier is deeply ingrained in the national psyche.
Charles Neimeyer here separates fact from fiction, revealing for the first time who really served in the army during the Revolution and why. His conclusions are startling. Because the army relied primarily on those not connected to the new American aristorcracy, the African Americans, Irish, Germans, Native Americans, laborers-for-hire, and "free white men on the move" who served in the army were only rarely alltruistic patriots driven by a vision of liberty and national unity.
Bringing to light the true composition of the enlisted ranks, the relationships of African-Americans and of Native Americans to the army, and numerous acts of mutiny, desertion, and resistance against officers and government, Charles Patrick Neimeyer here provides the first comprehensive and historically accurate portrait of the Continental soldier.
About the Author
Charles Patrick Neimeyer is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Central Oklahoma and former teacher at the Naval War College.
What People are Saying About This
-Historical Journal of Massachusetts,
"Neimeyer demythologizes the Continental army and very effectively demonstrates that it was an organization that evolved from its original relatively homogeneous make-up into a volatile, multicultural force that included many recent immigrants, African Americans, and Native Americans. . . . A testament to the propertyless, inarticulate, marginal individuals who actually secured liberty for later generations."
-Dr. David J. Fowler,The David Library of the American Revolution
"Neimeyer pushes to the next plateau the recent work of historians who have investigated the contributions of the Continental Army to the American Revolution. Because of his research and his synthesis of recent scholarship, the previously inarticulate common soldiers of the rank and file find their voices."
-James M. Johnson,author of Militiamen, Rangers, and Redcoats: The Military in Georgia, 1754-1776
"Thoroughly compelling. Neimeyer's research is superb, and his social history perspective has told us more than anyone about the origins of the Continental Army and the meanings soldiers attached to their service. This is a genuinely important book."
-Mark Edward Ledner,co-author of A Respectable Army: The Military Origins of the Republic
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Charles Neimeyer provides one of the first thematic accounts about the common soldier during the American Revolution. Neimeyer, retired U.S. Marine Corps officer and current adjunct faculty member at Regent University, is also the author of two books on the American Revolution. In this book, Neimeyer attempts to ¿demonstrate that those who served in the army as long-termed Continental soldiers were not those whom historians have traditionally associated with the defense of liberty¿ (xiv).The thematic quality of the book permits the reader to skip from the opening chapter on ¿The Social Origins of the Continental Line¿ directly to the chapter ¿The Soldier as Wage Laborer.¿ Continuing the thematic format, Neimeyer focuses on four main groups: the Irish, the Germans, African-Americans, and Native Americans and further breaks it down into the three colonial geographical regions: New England, Middle Colonies, and Southern Colonies. He follows this up by discussing the soldier as a laborer and concludes with mutinies in the Continental Army.While his sources are abundant some of his rhetoric may alienate his potential audience. The clearest example is in the preface where he speaks of separating ¿fact from fire-eating rhetoric of the rebel elite¿ (xiv). Throughout the book, he uses expressions that could have been substituted with factual, non-emotional words in order to keep the book on a more scholarly level. The author¿s use of emotionally charged terms or non-germane statements, such as discussing Adams¿ reluctance to go to Canada, or Washington¿s slaves, alert the reader that he may have a bias (xiii, 78). In another example that may illustrate a potential bias, Neimeyer discusses slave control in the south and mentions two individuals who ¿perhaps as a result of their experience with slave resistance¿became very active in revolutionary activities¿ (68). Later, he discusses the desertion of a group of soldiers stating, ¿they probably reasoned that a two-week extension would have brought them more of the same garrison duty¿ (118). In these instances, such subjective words as ¿probably¿ and, from the earlier example, ¿perhaps,¿ lack the evidentiary support necessary for inclusion in a scholarly work. At best, they should have been included as footnotes indicating Neimeyer¿s own observations.Neimeyer goes to some length to describe the American Revolution as an ¿¿Atlantic¿ phenomenon¿ and how the ¿presence of large numbers of non-white and non-Anglican groups¿ made the struggle an Atlantic one rather than purely a North American / British conflict (4, 7). Neimeyer proves this point throughout the book. Simultaneously in proving this point, he weakens his argument that these were poor, down-trodden men who had no choice but to join the military. The Irish, the Germans, and to some extent, the African Americans all had something to gain from an American victory and that was some semblance of liberty and the promise of land. His attempt to illustrate the poor being exploited by the rich and had little choice but to join the Army is not fully convincing. However, he does prove that the young and landless joined the Army but the author never explains why (18). He takes various anecdotes and many figures to show a link between poverty and enlistment. Yet there are no actual figures why various individuals joined the Army. It is a leap in logic to go from stating the poorest were in the military to contending that is the reason they joined the military (19).Perhaps one of my strongest disputes with the book is the author¿s seeming inability to grasp tone within the context of enlisted troops¿ writings. The author leans heavily on Joseph Plumb Martin and his narrative of the war; several times he refers to Plumb¿s own account of his ¿indenture.¿ The tone of Martin¿s narrative and the use of the word ¿indenture¿ versus the use of the word ¿enlistment¿ should not be taken to imply a servile attitude versus a patriotic attitude (133).Neimeye