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Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  3,261 ratings  ·  420 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 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
Travis Blanchard
Jan 27, 2014 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
John Vibber
Aug 03, 2013 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
Joseph Sciuto
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Joseph Ellis is among a group of historians over the last fifty years who, in my opinion, have rewritten and revised American history, replacing fiction and semi-truths, with facts.

Mr. Ellis' "Revolutionary Summer," is simply another example of replacing fiction with fact. In this book, he takes a short time frame, May, 1776 until October, 1776, to give us a dual perspective of the birth of American Independence. Crosscutting between the Continental Congress and the Continental Army, he gives us
May 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Revolutionary Summer by Joseph J. Ellis looks at the summer of 1776 when some of the most consequential events in the founding of the United States occurred. Leading up to and the actual Declaration of Independence many momentous decisions had to be made on the run while the Continental Congress and Continental Army tried to stay one step ahead of the pursuing British army. The author examines the most influential figures in the colonies at that time including George Washington, John Adams, Thom ...more
Donald Powell
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, government
A detailed explanation and analysis of roughly May to October, 1776. Ellis dives into the events to explain the sentiments of the Americans, the British, the military players and the principal politicians on both sides. This level of detail illuminates much of how and why the revolution started and prevailed, in a way a wider view leaves unexplained. Mr. Ellis writes with clarity, insight and comparison of known facts to make his point. Any student of American History should read this short but ...more
Aug 01, 2013 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
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.
Wayland Smith
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
There's a lot that most people don't know about the Revolutionary War. One of the things that never really gets taught in basic history courses is how close the American side came to losing, several times. This book, focusing on the summer and early fall of 1776, shows the early days of the war, and the reasons behind many of the difficulties faced by the Continental Army.

George Washington is rightly remembered as a hero of American history. What isn't really known is the story behind several o
Brian Willis
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I will always recommend Ellis for those who want to brush up - or learn - basic American revolutionary era history and personas without having to read hundreds of pages to arrive there.

Like Ellis's previous work, this focuses tightly on certain ideas, and while just over 200 pages, does so in such a brief space with a lot of insight and depth. This time, Ellis covers the timespan of May-October 1776, and his focus is Philadelphia and Washington, the first a city and the second the man. While the
Apr 01, 2013 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
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
Rating Clarification 3.5 Stars

Ellis' narrative primarily focuses on the political and military agenda and perspective of both colonial American (Adams, Franklin, Washington, Greene) and British (Germain, Richard Howe, William Howe, Clinton) players during the crucial months leading up to the Declaration of Independence through the successful retreat of Washington's army from New York city; a "summer" period loosely covering June - October of 1776. The decisions made (or not made) from both sides
Robert Melnyk
Jun 11, 2013 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
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Revolutionary Summer is a concise telling of the events of the summer of 1776. The writing style is smooth and a lot of information is packed into such a small book. I really enjoyed it - Ellis shapes the individuals vividly and provides you with some insight into each of the key players, both British and American. I would recommend to anyone who enjoys reading about American History.
Bill Christman
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Another of Ellis' fine pieces of history. He set out to show the interplay of the Battle of New York and the Congressional movement to independence. Usually these stories for ease of narrative are told separately but Ellis is trying to have the reader experience a bit of the chaos and show neither the political nor military decisions were made in a vacuum. Ellis going through and tell the British side, especially the military and the Howe brothers, solidifies the work and his basic theme. Recomm ...more
Sep 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is one of the shortest non-fiction history books I have read. Focused solely on 1776. It was an interesting read. Now I want to read another George Washington biography — so interesting!
John Machata
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent well-written history of this momentous time.
Jay Connor
Jun 22, 2013 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 P.
Jul 31, 2013 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
Jim Coughenour
Jun 25, 2013 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 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
Yerzhan Karatay
Nov 01, 2016 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
Jun 14, 2013 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
May 20, 2016 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
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.
Jul 28, 2013 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.
Dec 24, 2015 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.
Aug 16, 2014 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.
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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.
“If you knew how the journey was going to end, you could afford to be patient along the path.” 4 likes
“The strategic center of the rebellion was not a place – not New York, Philadelphia, not the Hudson corridor – but the Continental Army itself.” 2 likes
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