Contest for Liberty by Seanegan Sculley

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: We should have lost.

Quick synopsis: A look at the American Revolution through how the U.S. military matured from the beginning to end of the war.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: Inflation of U.S. currency was so bad by the end of the war that many veterans spent their entire salaries just hitching a ride home.

Fun Fact for History Nerds: Soldiers used to pick their officers. Many times, your rank was entirely dependent on how many men you could talk into enlisting. It was…ineffective. 

My Take: How the hell did we win this thing?

Seanegan Sculley spends over 150 pages of text meticulously explaining the maturation process of the American Army during the Revolutionary War. It was a damn mess! People from different states (if they bothered to show up) were paid wildly differently. When they were paid (which was far from the norm) would get paid in worthless currency.

Discipline? Haha. Supplies? What are you, stupid? Many entries contain the phrase, “their uniforms were so worn away that they were naked.” Think this is just someone being dramatic? It’s literally in every book on the Revolution when mentioning the U.S. Army.

You walk away from this book with one very clear thesis. If not for George Washington, there is zero chance we win the Revolutionary War. This army started using British methods and Washington slowly instilled what we now know as “American values” into it. You can’t argue with the results.

Verdict: If you are an American Revolution nut (like me!), this is required reading. It covers things you only hear about in passing in other books and explains how the army survived long enough to win.

If You Liked This Try:

  • Nathaniel Philbrick, Bunker Hill and Valiant Ambition
  • Ron Chernow, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton
  • Thomas B. Allen, Tories
  • Robert Watson, The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn
  • John Oller, The Swamp Fox
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Contest for Liberty by Seanegan Sculley
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