American Revolutionary War

The American victory in the Revolutionary War was one of the most stunning events of the eighteenth century. Although committed to the cause of independence, American patriots entered the conflict disorganized, ill-equipped and facing a formidable foe. Thus, the American triumph is a story of great leadership, sacrifice, and luck.

This module focuses on the military side of the American Revolution. The works listed here consist of an array of important primary sources as well as scholarly biographies about military men and monographs about military topics.

Questions to pose in a lecture and/or class discussion on the Revolutionary War:

1. What were the greatest challenges American revolutionaries faced at the conflict's start? What were the greatest challenges the British faced at the war's beginning?

2. Although not a profound political thinker, what strengths did George Washington bring to the American cause?

3. Was the Revolution won because of the support and determination of the American people? Or was the war won more by the tenacity and courage of the Continental Army?

4. Explain the relationship between the Continental Congress and Washington's Continental Army throughout the war? Why was the Newburgh Conspiracy so dangerous to the long-term health of our democracy?

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Module Items

online_libraries Online Libraries / Collections
  • American Revolutionary War Engagements

    This website summarizes some of the most important engagements of the American Revolutionary War.

  • American Revolution documents

    This site contains a variety of primary documents from the American Revolution. The documents particularly focus on military affairs.

  • Liberty: The American Revolution

    Summary of PBS Series: LIBERTY! The American Revolution is a dramatic documentary about the birth of the American Republic and the struggle of a loosely connected group of states to become a nation. The George Foster Peabody award-winning series brings…

  • Scholars Showcase -- American Revolution

    A collection of full-text histories about the American Revolution.

  • Art of the American Revolution

    This fine website reproduces a number of famous Revolutionary War-era paintings and provides detailed summaries about these paintings

  • Selected Works of Thomas Paine ( University of Virginia )

    A collection of some of Thomas Paine's works including the "American Crisis" and "The Rights of Man."

  • The Papers of George Washington ( University of Virginia )

    Summary: The Papers of George Washington, a grant-funded project, was established in 1969 at the University of Virginia, under the joint auspices of the University and the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union, to publish a comprehensive edition of…

books Books
  • The American Crisis by Thomas Paine

    The Crisis was a series of essays written by Thomas Paine during the Revolutionary War. Paine urged Americans to remain committed to the cause of independence and freedom against Great Britain. So moved was he by the first essay that…

  • Washington's Crossing (Pivotal Moments in American History) by David Hackett Fischer

    Six months after the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution was all but lost. A powerful British force had routed the Americans at New York, occupied three colonies, and advanced within sight of Philadelphia. Yet, as David Hackett Fischer recounts…

  • A Revolutionary People at War: The Continental Army and American Character, 1775-1783 by Charles Royster

    Publisher's Description: In this highly acclaimed book, Charles Royster explores the mental processes and emotional crises that Americans faced in their first national war. He ranges imaginatively outside the traditional techniques of analytical historical exposition to build his portrait of…

  • The Glorious Cause: the American Revolution, 1763-1789 by Robert Middlekauff

    Middlekauff's excellent history of the American Revolution is an entry in the highly-regarded Oxford University Press's American History Series. For information concerning the following particular episodes: See Chapter 4, "The Stamp Act Crisis," pp. 70-93, for information about this crisis.…

  • The American Revolution: A History by Gordon S. Wood

    Gordon S. Wood's The American Revolution, part of the Modern Library Chronicles series, is an erudite, concise summary of the events and circumstances surrounding the seminal conflict, both physical and philosophical, in American history. The Modern Library Chronicles are accessible-but-serious…

  • The Way of the Fox: American Strategy in the War for America, 1775-1783 by Dave Richard Palmer

    This excellent book argues that George Washington successfully and skillfully pursued a coherent strategy to outlast and defeat the British in America.

  • The War for America, 1775-1783 by Piers Mackesy

    Publisher's Book Description: The events of the American Revolution signified by Lexington, Bunker Hill, Valley Forge, Saratoga, and Yorktown are familiar to American readers. Far less familiar is the fact that, for the British, the American colonies were only one…

  • Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer

    Publisher's Description: Paul Revere's midnight ride looms as an almost mythical event in American history--yet it has been largely ignored by scholars and left to patriotic writers and debunkers. Now one of the foremost American historians offers the first serious…

  • Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence by John Ferling

    In this gripping chronicle of America's struggle for independence, award-winning historian John Ferling transports readers to the grim realities of that war, capturing an eight-year conflict filled with heroism, suffering, cowardice, betrayal, and fierce dedication. As Ferling demonstrates, it was…

  • A People Numerous and Armed: Reflections on the Military Struggle for American Independence by John Shy

    Publisher's Description: Americans like to think of themselves as a peaceful and peace-loving people, and in remembering their own revolutionary past, American historians have long tended to focus on colonial origins and Constitutional aftermath, neglecting the fact that the American…

  • Washington's Partisan War, 1775-1783 by Mark V. Kwasny

    Publisher's Description: George Washington embraced a strategy that depended on the effectiveness of the militia. He also encouraged the use of the militia as partisans. This work looks at the history of regular units, state militia and politics at the…

  • A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier: Some of the Adventures, Dangers, and Sufferings of Joseph Plumb Martin by Joseph Plumb Martin

    In this first-hand account of the Revolutionary War, Joseph Plumb Martin narrates his true adventures as an eighteen-year-old private in the Continental Army--and gives a rare glimpse of the earthy beginnings of our nation's history.

  • America Goes to War: A Social History of the Continental Army (The American Social Experience Series) by Charles Patrick Neimeyer

    Publisher's Description: 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…

  • General George Washington: A Military Life by Edward Lengel

    Publisher's Description: Much has been written in the past two centuries about George Washington the statesman and "father of his country." Less often discussed is Washington's military career, including his exploits as a young officer and his performance as the…

  • The Minutemen and Their World by Robert A. Gross

    Publisher's Summary: On April 19, 1775, the American Revolution began at the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts. The "shot heard round the world" catapulted this sleepy New England town into the midst of revolutionary fervor, and Concord went on…

  • His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis

    As commander of the Continental army, George Washington united the American colonies, defeated the British army, and became the world's most famous man. But how much do Americans really know about their first president? Today, as Pulitzer Prize-winner Joseph J.…

  • Light-Horse Harry Lee and the Legacy of the American Revolution by Charles Royster

    An excellent book that examines Light-Horse Harry Lee's exploits during the war as well as his political and personal difficulties in post-Revolutionary America.

  • George Washington and American Independence by Curtis P. Nettels

    Curtis Nettels' volume asserts that George Washington was an early and powerful advocate of American independence long before his first public statement in favor of it in October 1775. In fact, as soon as war began, Washington had determined that…

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  • Mary Silliman’s War ( Heritage Films )

    Film Summary: Mary Silliman's War is a unique, award-winning film on the American Revolution. Shot on location in Nova Scotia, the film relates the true story of a remarkable woman, whose husband, a patriot leader, was kidnapped from their home…

transcripts Transcripts or Manuscripts
legal_documents Legal Documents
  • Treaty of Paris, 1783

    Text of treaty between Great Britain and her former colonies which concluded the American Revolution. The main American Negotiators were John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and John Jay.

syllabi Syllabi
  • The American Founding by Jim Harrigan

    Course Objectives: Historians have long disagreed on the nature of the America Founding. The facts are easily accessible, but no definitive interpretation of the Founding has yet emerged. In this course we will examine a good number of the…

  • American Revolution and Early Republic, 1775-1820 by Phil Hamilton

    Introduction and Course Description: Image982|thumbnail|280px|right|Signing of Declaration of Independence How do we make sense of Thomas Jefferson as an American revolutionary? As a young man in 1776, he had stirred the world with the radical words "we hold these truths…

modules Modules
  • George Washington by Phil Hamilton

    Born into a modest Virginia gentry family, George Washington(1732-1799) emerged as the most important figure in America's revolutionary struggle. His accomplishments were twofold: 1) he bravely led the Continental Army to its military victory over the British in the War…

  • Declaration of Independence by Phil Hamilton

    The Declaration of Independence, authored chiefly by Thomas Jefferson, remains the central document of the United States of America. Influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment, Jefferson primarily drew from the natural rights principles of the English philosopher John Locke.…

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