The Revolution 1776 To 1787


(1930; Books for Libraries Press; out of print) is a remarkable memoir of an Irish-born British army officer’s active duty from 1775 to 1781. It is filled with acid and perceptive comments about participants on both sides. Mackenzie was no admirer of Gen. Henry Clinton, and after the arrival of a French fleet in America, he wrote: “So extraordinary an event as the present, certainly never before occurred in the History of Britain! An Army of 50,000 men [i.e., Clinton’s force], and a fleet of near 100 ships and armed vessels, are prevented from acting Offensively by the appearance on the American Coast of a French Squadron of 12 Sail of the line and 4 Frigates, without Troops.”

For insight into the experiences of a private soldier in the Continental Army, one of the best surviving accounts is that by Joseph Plumb Martin. Edited by George F. Scheer, Private Yankee Doodle (1962; Signet) chronicles Martin’s service from 1776 to war’s end. Writing of the cruel winter of 1779–80, he said, “It snowed the greater part of four days successively, and there fell nearly as many feet deep of snow, and here was the keystone of the arch of starvation. We were absolutely, literally starved.… I did not put a single morsel of victuals into my mouth for four days and as many nights, except a little black birch bark which I gnawed off a stick of wood.… I saw several of the men roast their old shoes and eat them.…”