June 29, 2010 by Reader's Connection
I know that some alternative-historical novels have been written about the American Revolution. Mike Resnick´s Dragon America, for example (Now the British are coming and General George Washington will need all the help he can get to free the American colonies from their oversea rulers. Washington calls on his old friend Daniel Boone – master woodsman and marksman – to gather together the strangest allies the colonists have yet called upon: a dozen of the most monstrous dragons yet known, trained to attack on his command) , and Two Crowns for America in which author Katherine Kurtz portrays such famous personages as George Washington and Bonnie Prince Charlie–both candidates for the crown of Colonial America–as pawns in a struggle for power by Freemasons.
These sound interesting, and they may be riveting novels, but in anticipation of the 4th of July I´m reading a couple of 2010 histories which make me think that dragons and Masonic plotting are unnecessary devices. The story is already so strange.
Thomas Kranish’s Flight from Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War covers more ground than the title might lead you to believe. I’m on page 162 out of 331, and only now is Benedict Arnold attempting the invasion of Virginia which will lead to Jefferson’s flight.
That event–the then Governor of Virginia’s hasty departure from his home–is invariably described as the “nadir” of Jefferson’s career, according to author Kranish, who does a remarkable job of bringing the period and its conflicts to life.
It’s hard to inflate with July 4th feeling and cheer on the revolutionaries when the enemy combatants are in some cases American slaves to whom the British have promised freedom. And if you’re into government cover-ups, don’t miss the chapter on the destruction of Norfolk, Virginia, which was accomplished largely at the hands of the revolutionaries but was blamed on the British. A Virginia commission released a report that helped to set the story straight, but The report was so potentially politically damaging that it was immediately surpressed. If word leaked out that the Americans themselves were responsible for so much of the burning of Norfolk, it might undermine the cause of revolution.
A different slice of the weird revolutionary story is offered in Declaration : The Nine Tumultuous Weeks When America Became Independent, May 1-July 4, 1776. William Hogeland looks at some figures who are familiar to me and some who aren’t–at some who want to free the colonies from British oppression and some who want to fundamentally change American life, so that males of property aren’t the only ones with rights.
The focus is on political machinations, which are plentiful and sometimes extreme, rather than on military events. I’m only a little past the halfway point in the book and shouldn’t make pronouncements, but I don’t think Hogeland likes John Adams. Perhaps I should read an admiring biography and try for some balance.
A few posts back, I said that they never stop publishing books about our national game. Same goes with our revolution, and I’m grateful for both of these new titles.
May your holiday be as loud or as quiet as you want it. If, like me, you have lunatics in your neighborhood who set off their firearms, I send my sincerest wishes that no damage be done.