Review: A Guide to the Battles of the American Revolution

A Guide to the Battles of the American Revolution, by Theodore P. Savas and J. David Dameron (New York: Savis Beatie, 2010. Paperback, 345 pages main text, 60 pages of preface and reference, 7 page appendix, 8 page index.  $19.95.

The writers of Battles of the American Revolution approached the Revolutionary War with the aim to catalog the battles of the war.  Unlike other familiar references, which break down the landmarks by states or alphabetically, Battles of the American Revolution presents the battles chronologically. The authors detail every major, and many minor, actions in the war providing what amounts to a standalone article for each.  And the authors did not restrict themselves to battles within the thirteen original colonies.  Ample space is allocated to the battles in Canada.  Naval actions in Europe and the Caribbean receive their due.  As do campaigns in the Mississippi valley, including Spanish operations.

Each of these battle articles begins with a header providing the basic facts: date, region, commanders, time of day, weather conditions, and description of opposing forces.  Those particulars set, the authors present the perspective of each side – operational and strategic objectives; situational awareness; issues and difficulties encountered; and general perception of the commanders.  In short, explaining what lead to the battle.  The authors spend a paragraph or two detailing the terrain on the field.  Then they offer a summary of the action, which varies with the size and complexity of the battle.  Often each battle article includes its own map illustrating the tactical operations.  Each article concludes with a notation of the casualties, summary of the outcome and impact of the battle, and suggestions for further reading.  The authors also offer a paragraph describing the battle site today, if there is anything worth stomping about for.  I found these articles well written and packed with detail considering the space.

In addition to these battle articles, the book offers about sixty pages of additional reference material.  The first few pages are dedicated to theater maps, portraits of principal leaders, and general overview.  However six pages are allocated to a discussion of the naval aspects of the war, including a list of vessels in the Continental Navy.

Furthermore, in this ample introductory section, the authors list the regiments in the British, American, French, and Spanish formations that saw action in the war.  This includes British regular, loyalist, Hessian, Continental line, militia, French and Spanish regiments.  The regimental entries briefly note campaign participation.  This reference section is most handy.  Consider that while most battlefield “stompers” might list the regiments of the famous “Iron” or “Stonewall” brigades by heart, few of those visiting a Revolutionary War battlefield will recall the battle honors of the 23rd Regiment of Foot (Royal Welch Fusiliers), 1st Rhode Island, 1st North Carolina, or the Maryland regiments.

This combination of reference material and battle articles makes the book rather useful out in the “field.”   Other Rev-War books in my field kit are well-worn and somewhat dated.  Symond’s Battlefield Atlas dates to the 1980s.  Boatner’s Landmarks of the American Revolution, originally published near the bicentennial, was last updated in the 1990s (and suffers from its share of hits and misses).  So Battles of the American Revolution is a welcome refresh in the category.

Earlier this fall I had the opportunity to “stomp” the Brandywine battlefield with this book in hand.  Enough space exists on that field for a visitor to make sense of the battle, and I found the map and narrative from the book an important reference on my visit.  I look forward to other trips, particularly revisiting the battlefields in the Carolinas, with this new reference offering additional perspectives.  The paperback fits well in a travel bag, and will not be dead-weight on the trail.  I recommend Battles of the American Revolution for those with an interest in that war or who are planning trips to the battlefields.