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A Son of Liberty and America's Forgotten Military Disaster
At the height of the American Revolution in 1779, Massachusetts launched the Penobscot Expedition, a massive military and naval undertaking designed to force the British from the strategically important coast of Maine. What should have been an easy victory for the larger American force quickly descended into a quagmire of arguing, disobedience, and failed strategy. In the end, not only did the British retain their stronghold, but the entire flotilla of American vessels was lost in what became the worst American naval disaster prior to Pearl Harbor.
In the inevitable finger-pointing that followed the debacle, the already-famous Lieutenant Colonel Paul Revere, commissioned as the expedition’s artillery commander, was shockingly charged by fellow officers with neglect of duty, disobeying orders, and cowardice. Though he was not formally condemned by the court of inquiry, rumors still swirled around Boston concerning his role in the disaster, and so the fiery Revere spent the next several years of his life actively pursuing a court-martial, in an effort to resuscitate the one thing he valued above all—his reputation.
The single event defining Revere to this day is his ride from Charlestown to Lexington on the night of April 18, 1775, made famous by Longfellow’s poem of 1860. Greenburg’s is the first book to give a full account of Revere’s conduct before, during, and after the disastrous Penobscot Expedition, and of his questionable reputation at the time, which only Longfellow’s poem eighty years later could rehabilitate. Thanks to extensive research and a riveting narrative that brings the battles and courtroom drama to life, The Court-Martial of Paul Revere strips away the myths that surround the Sons of Liberty and reveals the humanity beneath. It is a must-read for anyone who yearns to understand the early days of our country.
One of the half dozen most important books ever written about the American Revolution.--New York Times Book Review
"During the nearly two decades since its publication, this book has set the pace, furnished benchmarks, and afforded targets for many subsequent studies. If ever a work of history merited the appellation 'modern classic,' this is surely one.--William and Mary Quarterly
"[A] brilliant and sweeping interpretation of political culture in the Revolutionary generation.--New England Quarterly
"This is an admirable, thoughtful, and penetrating study of one of the most important chapters in American history.--Wesley Frank Craven
In his new book, Michal Jan Rozbicki undertakes to bridge the gap between the political and the cultural histories of the American Revolution. Through a careful examination of liberty as both the ideological axis and the central metaphor of the age, he is able to offer a fresh model for interpreting the Revolution. By establishing systemic linkages between the histories of the free and the unfree, and between the factual and the symbolic, this framework points to a fundamental reassessment of the ways we think about the American Founding.
Women, Crime, and Notoriety in the Early Republic
In 1823, the History of the Celebrated Mrs. Ann Carson rattled Philadelphia society and became one of the most scandalous, and eagerly read, memoirs of the age. This tale of a woman who tried to rescue her lover from the gallows and attempted to kidnap the governor of Pennsylvania tantalized its audience with illicit love, betrayal, and murder.
Carson's ghostwriter, Mary Clarke, was no less daring. Clarke pursued dangerous associations and wrote scandalous exposés based on her own and others' experiences. She immersed herself in the world of criminals and disreputable actors, using her acquaintance with this demimonde to shape a career as a sensationalist writer.
In Dangerous to Know, Susan Branson follows the fascinating lives of Ann Carson and Mary Clarke, offering an engaging study of gender and class in the early nineteenth century. According to Branson, episodes in both women's lives illustrate their struggles within a society that constrained women's activities and ambitions. She argues that both women simultaneously tried to conform to and manipulate the dominant sexual, economic, and social ideologies of the time. In their own lives and through their writing, the pair challenged conventions prescribed by these ideologies to further their own ends and redefine what was possible for women in early American public life.
Over the vast distances and rough terrain of the Revolutionary War, the tactics that Daniel Morgan had learned in Indian fighting--the thin skirmish line, the stress upon individual marksmanship, the hit-and-run mobility--were an important element of his success as a commander. He combined this success on the battlefield with a deep devotion to the soldiers serving under him. In a conflict that abounded in vital personalities, Morgan's was one of the most colorful. Illiterate, uncultivated, and contentious, he nevertheless combined the resourcefulness of a frontiersman with a native gift as a tactician and leader. His rise from humble origins gives forceful testimony to the democratic spirit of the new America.
Satire and Theology in the Early American Republic
At the close of the eighteenth century, Timothy Dwight--poet, clergyman, and, later, president of Yale College--waged a literary and intellectual war against the forces of "infidelity." The Devil and Doctor Dwight reexamines this episode by focusing on The Triumph of Infidelity (1788), the verse satire that launched Dwight's campaign and, Colin Wells argues, the key to recovering the deeper meaning of the threat of infidelity in the early years of the American Republic. The book also features the first modern, annotated edition of this important but long-overlooked poem.
Modeled after Alexander Pope's satiric masterpiece, the Dunciad, Dwight's poem took aim at a number of his contemporaries, but its principal target was Congregationalist Charles Chauncy, author of a controversial treatise asserting "the salvation of all men." To Dwight's mind, a belief in universal salvation issued from the same naive faith in innate human virtue and inevitable progress that governed all forms of Enlightenment thought, political as well as religious. Indeed, in subsequent works he traced with increasing dismay a shift in the idea of universal salvation from a theological doctrine to a political belief and symbol of American national identity. In this light, Dwight's campaign against infidelity must also be seen as an early and prescient critique of the ideological underpinnings of Jeffersonian democracy.
The Life Cycle of an Eighteenth-Century Woman
The journal of Philadelphia Quaker Elizabeth Sandwith Drinker (1735-1807) is perhaps the single most significant personal record of eighteenth-century life in America from a woman's perspective. Drinker wrote in her diary nearly continuously between 1758 and 1807, from two years before her marriage to the night before her last illness. The extraordinary span and sustained quality of the journal make it a rewarding document for a multitude of historical purposes. One of the most prolific early American diarists—her journal runs to thirty-six manuscript volumes—Elizabeth Drinker saw English colonies evolve into the American nation while Drinker herself changed from a young unmarried woman into a wife, mother, and grandmother. Her journal entries touch on every contemporary subject political, personal, and familial.
Focusing on different stages of Drinker's personal development within the domestic context, this abridged edition highlights four critical phases of her life cycle: youth and courtship, wife and mother, middle age in years of crisis, and grandmother and family elder. There is little that escaped Elizabeth Drinker's quill, and her diary is a delight not only for the information it contains but also for the way in which she conveys her world across the centuries.
The Culture of Appearance in Early America
In this path-breaking study of the intersections between visual and literary culture, Christopher J. Lukasik explores how early Americans grappled with the relationship between appearance and social distinction in the decades between the American Revolution and the Civil War.
Through a wide range of evidence, including canonical and obscure novels, newspapers, periodicals, scientific and medical treatises, and plays as well as conduct manuals, portraits, silhouettes, and engravings, Discerning Characters charts the transition from the eighteenth century's emphasis on performance and manners to the search for a more reliable form of corporeal legibility in the wake of the Revolution. The emergence of physiognomy, which sought to understand a person's character based on apparently unchanging facial features, facilitated a larger shift in perception about the meanings of physical appearance and its relationship to social distinction.
The ensuing struggle between the face as a pliable medium of cultural performance and as rigid evidence of social standing, Lukasik argues, was at the center of the post-Revolutionary novel, which imagined physiognomic distinction as providing stability during a time of cultural division and political turmoil. As Lukasik shows, this tension between a model of character grounded in the fluid performances of the self and one grounded in the permanent features of the face would continue to shape not only the representation of social distinction within the novel but, more broadly, the practices of literary production and reception in nineteenth-century America across a wide range of media.
The result is a new interdisciplinary interpretation of the rise of the novel in America that reconsiders the political and social aims of the genre during the fifty years following the Revolution. In so doing, Discerning Characters powerfully rethinks how we have read—and continue to read—both novels and each other.
The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859
In the decades before the Civil War, Americans debating the fate of slavery often invoked the specter of disunion to frighten or discredit their opponents. According to Elizabeth Varon, disunion was a startling and provocative keyword in Americans' political vocabulary: it connoted the failure of the founders' singular effort to establish a lasting representative government. For many Americans in both the North and the South, disunion was a nightmare, the image of a cataclysm that would reduce them to misery and fratricidal war. For many others, however, threats, accusations, and intimations of disunion were instruments they could wield to achieve their partisan and sectional goals.