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Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  2,467 Ratings  ·  349 Reviews
A distinctive portrait of the crescendo moment in American history from the Pulitzer-winning American historian, Joseph Ellis.

The summer months of 1776 witnessed the most consequential events in the story of our country’s founding. While the thirteen colonies came together and agreed to secede from the British Empire, the British were dispatching the largest armada ever t
ebook, 240 pages
Published June 4th 2013 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2013)
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Oct 20, 2016 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed Revolutionary Summer by Joseph J. Ellis. I've read quite a few books and biographies of the American Revolution time period and this is one of my favorites.

The best thing about Revolutionary Summer to me is its brevity. It focuses on the eventful summer of 1776 and the political and military hurdles overcome by the Americans. While it is brief this is a gem of a book.

On the political side, John Adams comes out as the unsung hero in this story because he was the civilian workho
John Vibber
Aug 03, 2013 John Vibber rated it it was amazing
What a scene! Revolutionary Summer takes you to the months of 1776 that have shaped our destiny and inspired all subsequent republics. The largest invasion fleet in history is sailing into New York City. General George Washington is frantically searching for a strategy that might allow his army to survive the onslaught. The Continental Congress is considering whether or not to unify as States in unique new country. Meanwhile, men and women in each colony are deciding whether they are British or ...more
Travis Blanchard
Jan 27, 2014 Travis Blanchard rated it it was amazing
There are some reviewers of this book who have stated that Joseph Ellis is retreading old ground here, but I am not sure what they are referring to. The fact that the book covers the American Revolution is similar to Ellis’s other work, but the similarities end there.

Revolutionary Summer covers the time period from about May-October 1776, with Ellis examining the period through his usual method, which involves a political and military lens with a balanced blend of macro- and micro-history, expan
Aric Cushing
Gripping from beginning to end. Howe's attack on Kip's Bay:

Washington's midnight escape across the Hudson (and Howe's brilliant undocumented response):

Oh yes, and our brilliant retreat, first to Harlem Heights, then to White Plains:

If you're a history buff, don't miss this one.
Aug 01, 2013 Jeff rated it liked it
I am often in the fence about the history of Joseph Ellis. He is an excellent writer, he anticipates some previous knowledge from his readers, and thus never simplifies the subject matter.

In this book Ellis tightens the microscope of his preferred subject, the Revolutionary period, and devotes his entire subject matter to 1776. Telling dual histories we follow the Continental Congress as well as General Washington as he awaits the British Invasion of New York.

The decisions of England's Howe br
Robert Melnyk
Jun 11, 2013 Robert Melnyk rated it really liked it
Very good account of the early part of the American Revolution. Very similar to David McCullough's 1776. So much history that took place just a few miles from where I have lived all my life. It is very interesting to consider what would have happened if William Howe had decided to attack Washington in northern Manhattan. He could have destroyed the Continental Army, and essentially ended the Revolution at its beginning. How would history have changed? Very good read for American history buffs, a ...more
I enjoyed this book, and felt like Mr. Ellis gives the reader a good feel for what many of the generals and founding fathers may have been thinking and what some of their motivation might have been as they were making important decisions that impacted the future of the American Revolution.
I do wish it had covered a longer period of time. This is a fascinating period in history, and, personally, it amazes me the many events that seem providential, almost miraculous.
Steve Smits
Jul 09, 2014 Steve Smits rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this compact account Ellis describes with remarkable clarity the political and military events of the summer of 1776 from the perspectives of the Americans and the British. The colonies were leaning ever more strongly toward independence as the radical views of Adams, Franklin and others came to dominate the moderate positions of those who believed reconciliation with Britain was desirable and possible. Ellis focuses quite a bit on John Adams whose strategy to move the colonies toward indepen ...more
Apr 01, 2013 Jerome rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

A good but somewhat superficial study of the summer of 1776 and the events leading up to the Declaration of Independence. Ellis writes very well. Ellis is good at providing portraits of the major figures like John Adams, but I felt he profiled too few of them.

Still, his portrait of General Howe was good. The Howe brothers had insisted on being named as peace commissioners, with wide-ranging powers to grant pardons and offer concessions. They had also, as members of Parliament, opposed many of th
Fredrick Danysh
Oct 14, 2016 Fredrick Danysh rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Ellis examines some of the political events, both in the American colonies and England, that led up to the American Revolution. He then discusses military actions and political decisions that occurred in 1776. Revolutionary Summer presents a different viewpoint of the war.
Jay Connor
Jun 22, 2013 Jay Connor rated it it was amazing
Joseph J. Ellis, who deservedly won the Pulitzer for his great “Founding Brothers,” equally deserves that accolade for this excellent “Revolutionary Summer.”

Ellis has done with a crucial moment in our Revolution Story, what Jay Winik did with our Civil War Story to such successful impact in “April 1865.” Each author took a laser focus on a moment in time that was not only a turning point in our collective history but also the convergence point of so many threads and personalities of the underlyi
George Paul
Jul 31, 2013 George Paul rated it it was amazing
 Joseph J. Ellis, Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence (New York: Alred A. Knopf, 2013). $26.95, 240 pages. Hardcover / Kindle

Although the American Revolution can be viewed from many perspectives, history books typically emphasize the political and military ones, and for good reason. The Revolution was a bid for political independence that needed to be secured by force of arms. Revolutionary Summer is the latest history book aimed at a popular readership that tells the story
Grady McCallie
A segment of the American reading public seems to have created a bottomless market for semi-scholarly narrative histories -- written for a popular audience but with rigorous sourcing and citations -- of the American Revolution. Revolutionary Summer is the latest entry, covering the period May 1776 through October 1776: the Continental Congress and George Washington's doomed defense of the city of New York. In his preface, Ellis claims that these two strands, political and military, have rarely b ...more
You know, it never hurts to brush up on history. I had begun to worry that I didn't understand the American Revolution and was mixing facts, making stuff up.
No, it turns out, I'm good. I know the basics: the flow of events, the major players, even some of the cities involved. I'm not as knowledgeable as I'd like to be but am probably good enough to be a standard American.
I know that because most of what I listened to, I actually remembered learning in Ms. Morrison's American History class and al
Jim Coughenour
Jun 25, 2013 Jim Coughenour rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american_history
A couple weeks ago I started reading 1775: A Good Year for Revolution by Kevin Phillips but was defeated, as I was in 2000 by The Cousins’ Wars, by the bog of historical detail. Phillips is rarely less than interesting but his research is exhausting.

Joseph J. Ellis, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian of revolutionary America, praised Phillips in his New York Times review despite the “rambling character of the middle chapters”:
This is a feisty, fearless, edgy book, blissfully bereft of academic
Bob Price
Oct 08, 2013 Bob Price rated it liked it
There comes a point in a person's publishing career where they have probably put into print virtually everything they have learned and they begin to cover ground they have already covered.

I think that is the case with Revolutionary Summer, Joseph Ellis' latest offering of Early American History.

I liked the fact that Ellis focused on the summer of 1776, albeit a slightly extended summer. In this, Ellis seems to want to counter Kevin Phillips notion in 1775 that independence had begun a year earl
Nov 01, 2016 Yerzhan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, the-usa
Joseph J. Ellis described both the political and military atmosphere of 1776 in a well-written manner.
I highly enjoyed to find Washington as hesitant as honour driven character he was, though, being able to take the right decisions and manage own fears for the sake of The Cause when just The Cause wasn't actually sufficient for young, inexperienced militia to confront the glorious British forces led by William Howe.

The plot behind the war covers the Revolution in different scales, e.g. why Thom
Mar 01, 2014 Jb rated it really liked it
This was a much faster read than I expected. Usually I'm skeptical that "official" college/university historians such as Ellis can write fluid prose. He writes, though, in the style of an "unofficial" historian, e.g., David McCullough. He focuses on the many make or break events during summer 1776 that determined American Revolution success or failure. Among them were military actions near New York City (then a town). The British, with a huge Army and Navy, sought to strike a devastating blow to ...more
Jun 14, 2013 Daniel rated it really liked it
Although I thoroughly enjoyed this week, I found it slightly disappointing in that Ellis seems here to skim over some of the important events of the summer of 1776 to highlight, what he believes to be, the salient points. The book is, to be sure, a wonderful read. And he clearly makes his case about the importance of that particular "revolutionary" summer to the survival of the cause of American independence. In many ways, the eventual American victory was born in the way George Washington manag ...more
Dec 05, 2014 Tom rated it it was amazing
While I firmly believe Ellis to be our finest historian right now (in spite of some formidable colleagues and favourites like Kearns Goodwin) and his prose is both enriching and engrossing, I was consistently uncomfortable with his fundamental misunderstanding of the dismissal of a constitutional monarchy as "top down." It's more complex as that so I groan at some of Ellis' comments. Still if you don't mind that - and a wee bit of unhealthy "American Exceptionalism" (though Ellis is hardly a sin ...more
May 20, 2016 Pete rated it really liked it
this got me from roughly columbus to somewhere in tennessee today. totally valid if slightly softbatch narration of how independence was being declaration-ed at the same exact time as the battles for new york almost annihilated the continental army. ellis is really good on recovering intentionality from historical personalities (his take on the role of honor in washington's command choices was neat). nothing groundbreaking or magical but very solid crispy US narrative history if that is your bag ...more
Dec 24, 2015 Robert rated it really liked it
The high level of historical quality and thought you come to expect from a Joseph Ellis book is here. Ellis takes one year (even less than that when you count the months) and explains why the political and military decisions of both sides were so intertwined it set the stage for the rest of the Revolutionary War.
Jul 28, 2013 Bruno rated it really liked it
Classic Ellis - well-researched, well-written, enormously entertaining in places. It was not his best work - for some reason it seemed not as tightly edited with events and conversations being repeated almost verbatim in different chapters. But - having said that - Ellis is like pizza. Even bad pizza is better than most anything else.
Oct 02, 2013 Mary rated it really liked it
Excellent overview of the major political and military challenges of the summer of 1776. It has been a while since I've read much about this and it was a nice review. I imagine anyone who has read much about this historical period would find this a bit too lightweight, but I enjoyed it.
Aug 16, 2014 Jackie rated it it was amazing
An excellent account of the summer of 1776, as our nation struggled to free itself. Surprisingly to me, during that summer, the Continental Army was not brave, George Washington was not decisive and the Continental Congress was not united. This is a story of how it all came together.
Dec 28, 2015 Valerie rated it it was amazing
I am honestly amazed we won the revolution given how ridiculous we were.
Heidi Holdridge
Sep 01, 2016 Heidi Holdridge rated it it was amazing
A great book on a very important year for our country! Did not want to put it down!
Dec 17, 2015 Zazzu rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015
Found it somewhat dull, informative but not terribly memorable.
John Noll
Mar 04, 2017 John Noll rated it really liked it
This was a great book describing the political and military events surrounding the Declaration of Independence. I have a whole list of notes from this book and am glad to have another list of books to read from Ellis' notes section.

In particular, I enjoyed the accounts of what could be considered the actual state of the soldiers in the Continental Army. Movies, for better or worse, shape popular perspective and makes it easy to imagine a group of ardent patriots resolute and stoic in the face o
Jan 21, 2017 Hannah rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
All too often it is taught and commonly believed that the war was one with minimal effort; that the odds were clearly in the favor of the Americans; and that the politics and leadership behind the movement were neatly defined from the day America declared its independence. Ellis, however, negates these fallacies by putting the very beginning of the Revolutionary War into a new and correct perspective. He weaves an engrossing picture of the struggle that was America's war, highlighting the lack o ...more
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Reading list before Boston 3 18 Aug 25, 2014 12:07PM  
  • 1775: A Good Year for Revolution
  • Blood of Tyrants: George Washington & the Forging of the Presidency
  • The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States
  • Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution
  • Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America
  • A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic
  • Reporting the Revolutionary War: Before It Was History, It Was News
  • An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America
  • Gettysburg: The Last Invasion
  • American Spring: Lexington, Concord, and the Road to Revolution
  • Flight from Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War
  • Through the Perilous Fight: Six Weeks That Saved the Nation
  • American Tempest: How the Boston Tea Party Sparked a Revolution
  • The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army
  • Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World
  • The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World, 1788-1800
  • George Washington: The Crossing
  • America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union
Joseph J. Ellis, a professor of history at Mount Holyoke College, is a nationally recognized scholar of American history from colonial times through the early decades of the Republic. The author of seven books, he is recipient of the National Book Award in Nonfiction for American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson and the Pulitzer Prize for Founding Brothers. He lives in Massachusetts.
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“If you knew how the journey was going to end, you could afford to be patient along the path.” 2 likes
“Washington not only fit the bill physically, he was also almost perfect psychologically, so comfortable with his superiority that he felt no need to explain himself. (As a young man during the French and Indian war he had been more outspoken, but he learned from experience to allow his sheer presence to speak for itself.) While less confident men blathered on, he remained silent, thereby making himself a vessel into which admirers for their fondest convictions, becoming a kind of receptacle for diverse aspirations that magically came together in one man.” 2 likes
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