Revolutionary roads Searching for the war that made America independent...and all the places it could have gone terribly wrong

Bob Thompson, 1950 August 28-

Book - 2023

"REVOLUTIONARY ROADS takes readers on a time-traveling adventure through the crucial places American independence was won and might have been lost. You'll ride shotgun with Bob Thompson as he puts more than 20,000 miles on his car, not to mention his legs; walks history-shaping battlefields from Georgia to Quebec; and hangs out with passionate lovers of revolutionary history whose vivid storytelling and deep knowledge of their subject enrich his own. Braiding these elements together into a wonderfully entertaining whole - and with a reporter's abiding concern for getting the story straight - he has written an American Revolution book like no other. The Revolutionary War is one of the greatest stories in all history, an eight-...year epic filled with self-sacrificing heroes, self-interested villains, and, more interestingly, all the shades of complex humanity in between. It boasts large-scale gambles that sometimes paid off but usually didn't, as well as countless tiny, fraught tipping points like a misunderstood order in a South Carolina cow pasture that could have altered the course of the war. The drama is magnified when you consider what was at stake: the fate of a social and political experiment that would transform the world. Yet we don't know this story as well as we should, or how easily the ending could have changed"--

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 973.3/Thompson Checked In
New York : Twelve 2023.
Main Author
Bob Thompson, 1950 August 28- (author)
First edition
Physical Description
viii, 436 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 413-419) and index.
  • "Something Different Is Going to Happen"
  • "You'll Have Noise Enough Before Long"
  • The Grassy Knoll of the Revolution
  • "A Middle Finger Raised to the Powers That Be"
  • "The Difference Between Life and a Frozen Death"
  • "Are You Here for the Knox Marker?"
  • Toward the Gap in That Brooklyn Ridge
  • Where the Hell was Charles Lee?
  • The Battle of the Rusty Pole
  • "It was One Afternoon in August-But It Made a Difference
  • The Accidental Battle that Won the Revolution
  • "We Didn't Mean You, Mr. Marquis!"
  • The Continental Army Does the Wave
  • "Which Side Would You Join?"
  • The British Were Coming-Again
  • The Drunken Bash that Saved the Revolution
  • Down the Benedict Arnold Escape Path
  • Over the Mountains, Kings of the Hill
  • "A Sweeping Guerilla War of Movement"
  • "Across the River, Just in Time"
  • The Midnight Ride of Jack Jouett
  • A Battle You Could Hear But Couldn't See
  • "Little Short of a Standing Miracle"
  • "Let's Take a Ride".
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Journalist Thompson (Born on a Mountaintop) mixes playful imagination and solid research in this episodic romp through the Revolutionary War. Among other turning points, Thompson highlights the Powder Alarm, a precursor to the confrontations at Lexington and Concord; the Battle of Bunker Hill, which was actually fought on Breed's Hill, where "building a redoubt... was like flipping the bird at the British Army"; and British general John Burgoyne's defeat in the Battle of Saratoga, "the Mother of All Turning Points." Elsewhere, Thompson recounts the Battle of Kings Mountain near the border of North and South Carolina, an "out-of-nowhere victory" for the patriots that "drove a stake through British hopes of mobilizing loyalists to win the war," and the crucial role played by the Marbleheaders, an interracial regiment of Massachusetts sailors and fishermen, in the battles of Brooklyn and Trenton. Throughout, Thompson enriches his well-chosen primary sources with entertaining profiles of museum curators and historical reenactors and down-home turns of phrase ("you can't swing a dead cat by the tail in Concord without hitting the home of a literary icon"). The result is an eclectic yet cogent and cohesive account of the American Revolution. (Mar.)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A spirited tour of the landscapes of the American Revolution and the panoply of characters who figured in them. Thompson opens with a set piece from the Battle of Cowpens. Fought on Jan. 17, 1781, "on the South Carolina frontier," the battle promised to be a decisive victory for the British under the dreaded Banastre Tarleton. Instead, the American soldiers wheeled from retreat and destroyed 80% of Tarleton's forces, sending the British reeling out of the South to Yorktown. "We almost never think about what would have happened if neither the rebels nor the British had won the war," Thompson muses, conjuring up an uneasy status quo. While what made the difference were the late battles in the Revolution, early victories at Lexington and Bunker Hill played their parts, too. The author turns up a number of lesser-known incidents such as the "Powder Alarm," which subverted post--Tea Party efforts on the part of Britain to clamp down on the Colonies; and Benedict Arnold's ill-fated attempt to invade Quebec and turn its French inhabitants against the British--an attempt that surely figured in Arnold's later turn away from the revolutionary cause. Thompson is knowledgeable on both the purely military aspects of the war and the alliances it engendered--for example, dividing Native peoples into pro- and anti-British or American factions that would later play out in the postwar history of westward expansion. There are some memorable scenes throughout, including the rather horrible image of the British at Yorktown slitting the throats of the horses they could no longer feed. One demerit is Thompson's fondness for flippant asides--e.g., "If you're feeling snarky, you could call Hamilton the 10-Minute War Hero"; "Among South Carolina's partisans, the Swamp Fox, Francis Marion, got his own Disney TV series; Andrew Pickens got the shaft, immortality-wise"--that add little to the narrative. Good reading for Revolutionary War aficionados and maybe Banastre Tarleton fans as well. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.