Men of the Revolution

How a lying poseur from Prussia gave America its army

There was a kernel of truth in the drama. Friedrich von Steuben was a Prussian soldier who had served with distinction in the Seven Years’ War and had become an aide-de-camp to Frederick the Great. But he had never advanced beyond the rank of captain. Read more >>

The Forgotten Revolutionary Conquistador Who Saved Louisiana

Imagine, for a moment, an alternate ending to the American Revolution. The thirteen rebel colonies sign a peace of exhaustion with Great Britain in 1783. Read more >>

He was Irish, but with neither the proverbial charm nor the luck. Generals are not much known for the former quality, but the latter, as Napoleon suggested, is one no successful commander can be without. And John Sullivan was an officer whom luck simply passed by.

He was Irish, but with neither the proverbial charm nor the luck. Generals are not much known for the former quality, but the latter, as Napoleon suggested, is one no successful commander can be without. And John Sullivan was an officer whom luck simply passed by. Read more >>
Like many another well-to-do young man of his day, Joseph Reed seems an unlikely revolutionist. His background, money, education, marriage—all these, one would suppose, would have placed him firmly on the side of the status quo, kept him loyal to the Crown. Read more >>

Vain, snobbish, distinctly upper-class in his libertine social habits, Gouverneur Morris nevertheless saw himself justifiably as "A Representative of America"

Of all the remarkable men who forgathered in Philadelphia in the spring of 1787 to revise the Articles of Confederation, and perhaps to do even more, Gouverneur Morris was certainly the most talkative. Read more >>
A few months after the shooting began, the besiegers and the beleaguered of Boston became aware of a new presence on the scene. Read more >>
Of the British officers who served in America during the Revolution, the names Howe and Clinton, Burgoyne and Cornwallis, are the ones that echo across the years. Read more >>
When one of the wealthiest men in the Colonies sided with the Patriot cause, he was called a “wretched and plundered tool of the Boston rebels.”
Like Abou Ben Adhem, his name led all the rest. Read more >>

The brothers were expected to perform an almost impossible task, subduing a people of the same flesh and blood and heritage.

Wars are more often lost than won, but in 1775 a man who predicted British defeat in the Revolution would have been taken for a fool. Read more >>

Courageous and resourceful, the Marquis was bred for better things than defeat at the hands of rebellious provincials.

In war the final defeat is the one that counts. Yet there are wars and wars, and only rarely do historians conclude that a particular surrender was not only a cessation of fighting but a watershed marking the end of one epoch and the start of another. Read more >>

Credited with shouting “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!” at Bunker Hill, he was perhaps the most experienced general in the American army. But “Old Put” was not without his faults.

In the early summer of 1775, when the time came to appoint major generals to serve with George Washington in the Continental Army, Congress voted unanimously that Israel Putnam was to be one of them. Read more >>

Clark’s career was like the passage of a meteor—a quick, fiery moment that lit up the heavens for all to see and wonder at, then vanishing in oblivion.

It is of a piece with the rest of the story that the portrait of George Rogers Clark which his son described as “a Masterpiece” was painted long after the events that made him famous, when he was in the throes of his final illness, embittered and forgotten. Read more >>
Common Sense was a bestseller and turned the tide of public feeling toward independence, but for its author fame was followed by ingratitude.
The whole history of America affords examples of men who fitted precisely the needs of a particular moment, only to be cast aside, forgotten or traduced when the tide of events they created or manipulated waned and time passed them by. Read more >>
To read Thomas Jones’s acerb History of New York during the Revolutionary War is to behold the outward man of the portrait—prim, carping, easily outraged, a nob who looks as though he had sniffed something odious. Read more >>
The British Prime Minister for most of the Revolution was fiercely loyal to King George, but had no stomach for war.
Given the necessities of the times, the prevailing mood of the country, and the configuration of political power in Great Britain, the selection of Frederick, Lord North, as prime minister to His Majesty George in was no surprise. Read more >>
When British dragoons captured this brilliant and ambitious general, it put an end to his ambition to replace Washington as commander-in-chief.
One acquaintance nicknamed him Naso, for the long beak that dominated his dark, pinched face. Mohawk warriors, with whom he lived during the French and Indian War, called him Ounewaterika, or “Boiling Water”—a name that only partially suggested his disposition. Read more >>

The British commander-in-chief at the beginning of the Revolution was popular and conscientious, but events were beyond his control.

On October 10, 1775, Lieutenant General Thomas Gage took his last salute as commander in chief of His Majesty’s forces in North America and the next day sailed for England aboard the transport Pallas . Read more >>

Warren took the lead in creating the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. Refusing to leave Boston like the other radical leaders, he died in the fighting on Breed's Hill in 1775

Personal charm and affability are traits not commonly issociated with revolutionaries, and rarely has an agent of social upheaval been held in such universal esteem by his contemporaries as was Dr. Joseph Warren. He seems to have been a man nearly everyone liked, and his qualities come down to us in those dignified adjectives of the eighteenth century—gentle, noble, generous. So it is difficult to know if it was because of these characteristics or in spite of them that he was one of a handful of provincials most feared by British officialdom. Read more >>
Overcoming painful ailments, Greene emerged from the Revolution with a military reputation second only to that of George Washington.
The American who emerged from the Revolution with a military reputation second only to that of George Washington was a Quaker with a physical affliction that had caused him to be rejected as an officer by the men in his militia company. Read more >>

In which John Jones, né Paul, invades both England and Scotland, despoils a countess, and defeats a British sloop—all in less than forty-eight hours

Skillful money-juggling by America’s first financier aided the new nation but led Morris himself to utter ruin

Stickler for a point of honor, the General marched to defeat and helped to lose a war

Not long alter the distressing events—from a British standpoint—at Concord and Lexington, and while heavy reinforcements were pouring into Boston to aid the beleaguered General Gage, one ship was observed to have brought an indeed notable cargo. Read more >>